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The natural human vocation of trying to guess a riddle led me to make a prediction about who would constitute the new State Council of the Republic of Cuba, the only obvious clue being the absence of Fidel Castro.  It never occurred to me to publish my prediction, but now that we all know the answer I must confess that I was completely wrong.

I calculated that Raúl Castro would occupy the highest leadership position in the Party and that the office of President would be in the hands of someone like Carlos Lage, who would have as his first vice president someone relatively young like Felipe Perez Roque or a historical figure like Juan Almeida.  I thought that in the event Raúl was chosen for the presidency, Lage would be the natural first vice president and probably the post of chairman of the Council of Ministers would be occupied by someone else, so as not to concentrate power. I dared not gamble a single peso (in national currency) on my prediction, but was almost certain I was right.

The election of Jose Ramon Machado Ventura to first vice president of the councils of state and government I think is the worst news.  His reputation as a man reluctant to introduce reforms supports the idea that there won’t be any illusions that changes will be even cosmetic, or if there will be any changes at all, even in hairstyles.  The people of my generation are very familiar with their tastes in this area.

The second unpleasant note was the parliament’s unanimous approval to authorize the newly elected president to consult with his brother on the most important decisions in relation to defence, international relations and the socio-economic development of the country.  That he might do so in private I would feel is normal, as it is normal to consult with a relative on any decision.  But to institutionalize this consultation in a way that undermines the authority of the office is an unacceptable method of placing a person above an institution.

As for the long-awaited “package of measures,” one had to be satisfied with a cryptic presentation in which nothing was substantive and there was no clear timeline.   He gave the impression that it has only been since yesterday that those with their hands on the rudders of power had begun to think about the matter.  They returned to buy time, we must continue buying patience.

Fortunately, in the same speech Raúl Castro restored the right to dissent, which I applaud and take advantage of in these lines.

After the long uncertainty about the return of Fidel Castro and his duties as the head of Cuba, the news that he would decline to be elected President of the State Council in the upcoming elections on February 24, has given the impression that he has retired from power.

However, in his message dated February 18 but published on the 19th, he merely states that he will not accept reelection to the posts of Chairman of the State Council and Commander in Chief.  He says nothing about the detail that he is also the first secretary of Communist Party of Cuba which, under Article 5 of the Constitution, “is the leading force of society and the State.”

It is significant that in this message Fidel Castro doesn’t even allude to the Party in any of paragraphs where one would suppose he would have had to mention it, for example, where he recalls the proclamation of July 31, 2007, when he also handed over to his brother Raúl in a “provisional” form his responsibility as head of the PCC [Communist Party of Cuba], or when talking about the organizations that have been built up over the years.

The fact that this announcement was made just five days before the election gives the impression that the proposal from the Electoral Commission, which was being taken up with the 614 people elected as deputies to the new parliament, already excluded his name.  Had it not, it would have been necessary to revisit the consultation on the candidates for the Council of State.  Who then is the first name that will appear on the ballot?  Many are betting on Raúl Castro, but one can expect surprises.

It has become a commonplace among civilized people to renounce the personal attack when discussing ideas, whether scientific, aesthetic or political.  This bad habit from the past persists, however.  I remember once during an event on the critique of the plastic arts, in the middle of a discussion about the value of a work that was being defended and attacked with equal vehemence by two experts, one of them, having already exhausted his arsenal of debating points, said to the other: “With that squint of yours better you should dedicate yourself to studying music.”

The personal attack is the remedy chosen by those who do not have strong arguments.  At the end of the day, to disqualify an opponent through mudslinging intended to demoralize him is to somehow recognize that he is right.  We have heard many times, “So-and-so doesn’t have the moral standing to talk about this because he has this-or-that defect.”  Wouldn’t it be better to dedicate oneself to proving that the underlying thesis lacks logic?

The most damaging thing about the use of personal attack occurs when the victim fights back, creating a vicious circle.  That’s when our ancestral culture of “wooden shoes and dirt floor” starts to take over!  There is the rancor that almost always comes from envy; the base passion that ignores restraint, much less mercy; the shamelessness to exaggerate and the sordidness to lie; the sadism with which a person without virtue tramples the virtue of another into the mud; and libel, which is where it always ends!  Finally, nobody remembers what was being discussed but all are suspected of insult.

The best way to confront a personal attack is to have the superiority to ignore it, behaving as if it had not occurred.  Of course this is my subjective personal impression, because I must confess that I have no experience in these matters; I realize I have never been the victim of this type of abuse.

After Lichi Diego published his report against me (1996), there were many who took a self-critical look at their own conscience but, as always, the most interesting thing was not the phenomenon itself, but the difference in degree between one person and another.

There are those, literally, whose hands are stained with blood, the innocent blood of others; there are those who took up (and aimed and fired) their weapons to defend a cause they then believed deserved the maximum sacrifice; those who put their face, their name, their prestige, who gave everything, their talent, their youth and its golden opportunities, fantasizing a utopian society that they envisioned overflowing with justice.

From this hypnotic state each was awakened at the moment when he was tapped to receive the slap that announced the end of the game.  True, there were people who never let themselves (or who were slapped at the outset) but among them were not only the most lucid, but also those who never had an illusion, like my friend Felipe, who always knew that his parents were the Magi [i.e. Santa Claus] and spent his life repeating, “Some are born to fuck and others are born to be fucked.”

One can only repent when he feels guilty about something, never for having been a victim. The only fault of the victim is to have been innocent, the guilt of not having gotten the picture, of not having seen the obvious.  Assaulted in a dark alley in the middle of the night, the victim repents his recklessness, but the true fault is the assailant’s.

Let those repent, then, who have reason to; as for the others, let’s protest.

I learned to identify the simulators after reading Simulation in the Struggle for Life, the formidable essay by the Argentine philosopher José Ingenieros. Turning 60 this year, I have come to the hasty conviction that, in the Cuba of those times, similar imposters were not anything but simple counterrevolutionaries.

Wearing a mask for an excessively prolonged period can result in a person identifying with the mask more strongly than with their own face.  So those “irreconcilable enemies of the revolution,” masked with their militia uniforms, behind an extremist position, always agreeing and applauding without cease, finally come to a point where they crack up inside.  The mask begins by eating their face and ends by devouring them totally.  They are converted.

On a great number of occasions converts arrive at this condition through violence. Simply recall the epoch of the inquisition or the way in which African slaves took to Catholicism.  Perhaps this is why many converts keep the stigma of their former idolatry well hidden; they simulate obedience so well they manage to make it appear as an authentic faith; they may come to form a valiant army, efficient and ruthless, but they never earn the full confidence of their feudal lords.

It is this type that sooner or later appear on the long list of those taken for traitors.  In reality, they never were traitors (to themselves) when they joined the impetuous train of the revolution, without conviction, from fear, from an understandable need to survive through pure opportunism.  I don’t include here the naïve who believed everything, that is to say, I don’t include myself.

In the times we live in, on the eve of so many changes, one begins to envision a certain cracking of the makeup, the odd deterioration in the old masks of the simulators.  Touching on the naïve believers today the noble assignment is to understand them.  It will have to be done until, pleased with themselves, they finally return to being themselves.  With what we’ve learned in all these years, perhaps we can manage to make simulation no longer be a part of our everyday life.

Link to Original Blog in Spanish

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Reinaldo Escobar (1947), an independent journalist since 1989, writes from Cuba where he was born and continues to live. He received his degree in Journalism from the University of Havana in 1971 and subsequently worked for different Cuban publications. His articles can be found in various European publications, and in the digital magazines "Cuba Encuentro" and "Contodos."

Desde Aquí/From Here is a personal undertaking born from the need to write about those topics that fill my head every day but that cannot find a space in the official Cuban media.

reinaldoescobar@desdecuba.com

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