Vladimiro Roca: "Many just saw me as the son of Blas Roca" / Cubanet,
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello
Posted on November 23, 2015
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 16 November 2015 –
Vladimiro Roca Antunez is one of "the old guard" group of dissidents who
is still in Cuba. He holds a degree in International Economic Relations,
and was a MIG fighter pilot in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He served
5 years, from 1997 to 2002, in Ariza prison in Cienfuegos, as one of
a group of four dissidents who wrote "The Homeland Belongs to Everyone."
Vladimir will be 72 on December 21. His family, friends and neighbors
call him Pepe.
Martha Beatriz Roque: What were your years as a MIG fighter pilot
like? Where did you learn to fly these planes?
Vladimir Roca: I have always considered the years I spent as a pilot,
both as a fighter and in transport, as the best of my life, because the
profession of pilot is entirely vocational. Anyone who doesn't feel a
passion for flying can never be a good pilot, and not just a good one,
not even an ordinary one.
Speaking of my years as a pilot is something that fills me with
emotion. The day that I flew solo for the first time, it was the
greatest feeling of freedom I have felt in all the days of my life. It's
very hard to describe.
I studied in the former Soviet Union. I was in the first group of young
rebels who studied aviation in that country. We went for a quick course
that was supposed to last a year, but then there was a change of plans
and they divided up the group of pilots into those who would end up
flying the MIG-15, those who passed to flying the MIG-19, and a group
that was going to fly the Il-28 tactical bombers. I was in the last
group, as a bomber navigator in those planes.
During the Missile Crisis, the bombers were retired. When I returned to
Cuba, I went to a base in the Holguin area, which was under the command
of then First Lieutenant Rafael del Pino. He put me to flying the MIG-15s.
Martha Beatriz Roque: People associated with politics locate you on the
left. From the ideological point of view, what is your position?
Vladimir Roca: It is a definition that comes from our founding of the
Democratic Socialist Current, with many people who defined themselves as
leftists. As for me, from the practical point of view I define myself
more as center left, with a tendency to the center, because according to
physics the equilibrium is in the center, and this is precisely what I
seek. The extremes are, in my opinion, pernicious.
Martha Beatriz Roque: How and when did you make the transition to the
opposition? What projects have you participated in?
Vladimir Roca: My transition to the opposition was quite long, because
it started at the end of the sixties. By that time I was serving in UM
3688 in the Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR)
Aerial Transport Brigade. I began to see events, things that were
happening in the military, that didn't correspond to what I knew of
Marxism, but I thought that I was the one who was mistaken, or that I
didn't have a good understanding of what I had been taught in the
textbooks. So I started to re-study the classics, Marx, Engels, Adam
Smith, David Ricardo, Robert Owen, Saint-Simon, Hegel, Feuerbach and
others to understand where I had gone wrong and to be able to rectify it.
Reading these authors led me to decide that I was not wrong, that things
in the country were not going well, especially the economy and that if
we continued along this path, the vicissitudes in the society would go
from bad to worse.
At first I worked to change the situation from within and to the extent
that I saw I couldn't accomplish anything, the more I was looking for
trouble; and many saw me as a freak, or someone who did what he did
because he was the son of Blas Roca. I then started to disassociate
myself from the system to make ever more open criticisms, until in 1990,
following the call for the 4th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party
(PCC), in the discussion of the document in the Department where I
worked, I openly expressed my opposition, stating that if this system
had an "ism," in my opinion it was fascism.
I had participated in the founding of the Democratic Socialist Current,
the Democratic Agreement, the founding of the Cuban Social Democrat
party, in the Internal Dissidents Task Group for the Analysis of the
Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, better known as The Group of Four, which
was made up of Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, René Gómez Manzano, you
and me. This project led me to prison for five years, because we wrote
the document "La Patria es de Todos," (The Homeland Belongs to
Everyone), which I consider historic.
I was also in Todos Unidos (All United) with, among others, Oswaldo Payá
Sardiñas, in the Agenda for the Transition, the Cuban Network of
Community Communicators, and currently I participate in Espacio Abierto
(Open Space) and the Unity of Democratic Action Roundtable.
Martha Beatriz Roque: What role do you play right now in the opposition?
Vladimir Roca: First, I'm trying to rebuild the base of the Social
Democratic Party of Cuba, as most of the members we had emigrated as
Second, I help by offering counseling and advice to opponents who
ask. And third, by supporting, within my capabilities, citizens who want
to start their own businesses, either by giving them ideas or
collaborating on projects.
Martha Beatriz Roque: Have you had an opportunity to participate in any
international event for democracy in Cuba?
Vladimir Roca: Yes, I have participated in three such events. In Mexico,
the two meetings of Roads for a Democratic Cuba in December 2014, and in
Cuernavaca in June 2015, both prepared by the Christian Democratic
Organization of America (CADO) and the regional office in Mexico of the
Konrad Adenauer Foundation. I also participated in the Cuban National
Meeting held in Puerto Rico in August 2015, organized by United Cubans
of Puerto Rico.
They have been two more efforts to try to unite the democratic Cuban
opposition from both shores, which I believe are having positive
results. Although little is done to put the focus of attention on the
Cuban people, who are the ones who have, in my opinion, in the final
instance, the ability to bring the changes we all crave in that seem to
be so far off.
Martha Beatriz Roque: Is there any difference between this opposition of
the twentieth century and that which has a greater role now?
Vladimir Roca: I think the only difference is in age. That in the
twentieth century began with people over 40, on average, and currently
it is people much younger. Those of the twentieth century mostly had had
the experience of living in a democratic republic, those currently only
know it by reference. Otherwise we all agree that the system doesn't
work and we have to change it.
Martha Beatriz Roque: What is your vision of what is happening between
Cuba and the United States of America?
Vladimir Roca: I think that is the result of lengthy negotiations that
began under President Jimmy Carter, and that respond to the interests of
the American people and the need to put an end to a conflict that has
gone on too long without concrete results for the benefit of the Cuban
This confrontation has served only to make it so that Castros' tyranny
was able to keep the people on a war footing in order to deny them the
most basic rights.
Martha Beatriz Roque: Do you think that the resignation of Abelardo
Colome Ibarra (Furry) is the beginning of the end of the gerontocracy,
to make way for a younger generation?
Vladimir Roca: It could be, but I wouldn't venture to give a judgment,
knowing the misrule of our country, it could be signaling something and
doing the opposite. This is what they have done since the year 1959.
Martha Beatriz Roque: How do you see Cuba within 5 years?
Vladimir Roca: I do not know. The interesting thing about life is that
you do not know what will happen in the next 10 minutes and you have to
live it if you want to know what will happen. I don't even know if I
will be alive in 5 years.
Source: Vladimiro Roca: "Many just saw me as the son of Blas Roca" /
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello | Translating Cuba -