Sept. 19 – In the second half of the 1970s, the military junta of the Argentine Republic broke the grain embargo imposed by the United States and sold wheat to the Soviet Union.
The USSR, under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, expressed its gratitude by awarding The Order of Lenin Medal to several high-ranking Argentinean junta generals, with no thought to the thousands of leftist militants that were being held in the concentration camps of Argentina. These men were being savagely tortured and then thrown into the Plata River from low-flying airplanes, disappearing forever into a wet variation of the Auschwitz ovens.
The Argentinean generals responded in kind. They awarded the medal of José de San Martin to a group of high-ranking Soviet government officials who traveled to Argentina for the occasion. Money is money.
Those of us who were Argentineans exiled in Cuba, listened to Fidel Castro’s interminable discourses year after year waiting for some word of protest. Not once did he denounce the practices of the fascist government in the land that had once been the land of his best friend, and by his own description his most valued guerrilla leader, Ché Guevara.
Fidel’s silence had been bought for a handful of rubles.
Occasionally he denounced the abuses of “the fascist governments of Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, and “others.” “Others” became his new name for Argentina — a nonoffensive moniker that would not risk a halt to the flow of currency.
My friends had no idea why we were exiles in Cuba. My explanations were met with looks of disbelief. It appeared our government in Argentina was not sufficiently evil to justify our exile. How to explain my father’s 8 ½ years of incarceration in Argentina or the 30,000 people who disappeared, double the number of dead in Chile, to people who had never heard Fidel mention such injustices?
For many years and for reasons of family loyalty and, perhaps, some leftover indoctrination, I abdicated my right and my freedom to speak of what I had seen. I have been silent, and in that silence I have risked becoming an accomplice to evil.
I owe nothing to the Castro regime. It separated not only the Cuban nation
from the world, the Cuban people from one another, but it also affected my family with the repugnant hypocrisy and corruption that Fidel left in all he touched, including myself.
When Orlando Zapata, a Cuban dissident, died in a Cuban prison on March 9 after going on a hunger strike, many of the intellectuals who had spent their lives defending or ignoring the brutality of the Castro government said, “Enough.” They could no longer give Fidel the benefit of the doubt just because he had declared himself a champion of the poor of the world.
This must have bothered Fidel, because throughout his life he has been able to behave badly without risking the disapproval of the progressive intellectuals of the world. Their declarations against his treatment of Zapata must have been worrisome for his government’s image. In this day of instant communication, image is of the essence to a government that wishes to also become a family dynasty.
Why is it so difficult for us to condemn any excess, crime, violent act or abuse committed by self-proclaimed leftists, revolutionaries or communists? What part of our brain falters or becomes anesthetized when the time comes to protest against these injustices?
In any case, it appeared that Fidel was approaching his hour of shame. If there is anything that Fidel hates worse than not being the center of constant attention it is losing face. He cannot bear for anyone to know the truths of his life. He doesn’t want the world to know that he drinks Castilian wines that cost more than 200 euros a bottle every day, even as he asks his people to sacrifice all for the revolution.
Concerned about his place in history, he came up with the idea of instituting the cruelest capitalism, in order to befriend the current fashion. It will be a system that pits Cuba’s severely impoverished people, who after years of being supported by the state have no ability for business and little knowledge of technology, against the investors of the world who have been longing to make a profit on the island.
The Cuban workers have no power. The Cuban labor unions have no experience working in a free market. The Cuban worker who works for a foreign investor has fewer rights than an Indian. None.
The vigilance required now is extreme. We need to see what repressive measures the government will use as soon as there is any type of discontent expressed by the Cuban people when changes begin to affect them, and we must guard against the acquiescence of the international community, which is likely to be infinitely more concerned about the success of their investments and the profit they generate, than about the welfare of the Cuban people.
Martín Guevara is Ché Guevara’s nephew. He was expelled from Cuba by the Council of State and is currently writing his memoir in collaboration with Adrianne Miller, a Cuban Pedro Pan.