Sean Penn: Spokesman For Drug Lords And Generals / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on January 25, 2016
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 25 January 2016 — They say they talked for
seven hours, sharing cups of tea and glasses of wine. On one side was
the American actor Sean Penn, staunch critic of the system he lives
under, and on the other side, Raul Castro, newly appointed president of
a country where just a few people have shaped the political course for
almost six decades.
The prominent artist came from a Hollywood that disgusted him and a
nation where anyone can yell at the government until they're blue in the
face. The general, almost an octogenarian at the time, had seen and
approved the downfall of many intellectuals simply for looking askance
Raul Castro must have looked with suspicion and cunning on this wealthy
tantrum-throwing progressive. Unable to read aloud without committing
innumerable errors, typical of people with few books and many orders,
the former Minister of the Armed Forces in Cuba knows that behind every
artist hides a critic of totalitarianism who must be neutralized and
silenced, or at least an attempt must be made to buy them off.
That appointment in Havana in 2008, brokered by Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, had only one objective: to sweet talk the irreverent Penn
so that he would repeat the "virtues" of a system under which eleven
million Cubans live. And so, the conversation was entirely a dance of
conquest, with no outbursts, no guns on the table. The star of Mystic
River must not suspect a thing, must not be afraid.
It is probable that the meeting proceeded amid knowing glances, paused
words, in the style of "I never liked the idea of giving interviews,"
offered by the younger of the Castro brothers. The makeshift reporter
had to feel he was accessing the hidden soul of a hardened guerrilla,
when in reality he was falling in the web of an adept totalitarian. The
trap worked perfectly.
Penn not only left assuring us that "in fact 'Raulism' is on the rise
along with a recent economic, industrial and agricultural boom," and
also passed on from his interview – without questioning it – the 'fact'
that reports about the violation of human rights in Cuba published in
the media in the United States "are very exaggerated and hypocritical."
A journalist would not have lost the opportunity to slip in a hard
hitting question and try to get at the truth.
However, Sean Penn didn't even flinch. His reason for being there was
not to question the words of General – as an 'inconvenient' reporter
might have done – but to use Cuba as the point of the sword in his
personal battle against the United States government. We were nothing
more than numbers before his eyes, figures that should explain why the
Cuban "model" was superior to that emanating from the White House.
As a crumb, Penn later admitted that if he "were a Cuban citizen" and
had to do an interview like that one, he could "be imprisoned." But he
said it as one recites the Lord's Prayer before stealing from a
neighbor; he clamors for transparency and then puts on a hood; brays for
freedom and shakes hands with a dictator. He says it in a way that is
Years later, Penn would repeat the same modus operandi. He would
interview, in the back of beyond in Sinaloa, a fugitive from Mexican
justice, a blood-stained drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, El Chapo. The
caviar-progressive with his private planes would fall again,
surrendering at the feet of power, becoming the ventriloquist for a
story told by another famous culprit who wanted to clean up his image.
This time, the scene also developed like a mating dance, where the one
who was in control the whole time managed his naïve prey who believed he
was dictating the pace of the encounter. El Chapo also sweet talked the
winner of two Oscars, as Raul Castro had done years earlier in Havana.
The actor-journalist gave himself up to the interviewee, joking with
him, offering his hand. In their conversation, it is the other who sets
the pace and dictates the topics. The idea is presented of the
bloodthirsty criminal as a product of a corrupt society, someone who has
been shaped by external causes and turned to violence as an act of
However, far beyond the adversities and the context, there was a moment
when both Raul Castro and El Chapo Guzman could have questioned the harm
they were doing, the unhappiness and pain they left in their wake. The
greatest failure of the condescending reporter was not to delve into why
there was no repentance in either man, only the frigid stubbornness of
Again, Penn missed the opportunity to be a journalist and became,
instead, a sad spokesman for drug lords and generals.
Source: Sean Penn: Spokesman For Drug Lords And Generals / 14ymedio,
Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba -