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The latest heroism publicized by State Security starred Agent Emilio who worked under cover as the independent journalist Carlos Serpa. One of the missions assigned to this soldier of the Revolution was to infiltrate the Ladies in White (not disguised as a woman) to try to get some information that would serve to discredit this group of relatives of the political prisoners. In his televised appearance he didn’t manage to show conclusive evidence to that effect.

What Agent Emilio did show was the daring and audacity with which he faced the camera as it filmed him lying to a radio station (Radio Martí). The purpose. To demonstrate to naive viewers that what independent journalist say is a lie, a matter “totally proven” because he was lying.

Operation “Flim-Flam Man” was a complete success.

28 February 2011


It’s been many years since I saw an Australian film whose title I chose for today’s post. It told of a romance between a white city girl, lost in the middle of the desert, and a young native. I don’t agree with how the story ended, but I haven’t forgotten the distress of those characters in having to interact with someone so different.

Last Friday, the 18th, the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) for the upper floors of the building where I live invited all residents to attend the discussion of the Guidelines for the VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. The summons emphasized the need for Party members and members of the Young Communist League to attend. I was the first attendee to arrive at the 10th floor lobby where the meeting was to take place. The only ones there were the CDR president, the Party head for the zone, and two instructors from the Party Municipal Committee. Bit by bit more people came, eventually making up a group of thirty.

I will not try to recount my contributions here, which were few and moderate, nor the combative spirit with which they were energetically rejected, as if they were attempts at provocation. I am obliged, however, to say that everything transpired without violence, civilly, one could even say in a democratic spirit. What I wish to relate is the sense of a “meeting of two worlds” that characterized the two-hour meeting.

I must confess I was surprised by the vehemence with which a young man demanded to add the concept of “free” to education, in Section 133 of the Guidelines which touches on this point. He was vividly disturbed, fearing that this accomplishment would disappear. I was seized with a strange feeling seeing a neighbor worry about Guideline 162, which provides for the eventual elimination of the ration book that, to him, “guarantees a minimum every month,” and I was absolutely sure that neither the uniformed officer from the People’s Revolutionary Army (FAR), nor the one from the Ministry of the Interior dressed in plain clothes, were faking it when they invoked the irreversibility of socialism in Cuba.

I wonder how either of these people would feel if they accepted an invitation to the regular gatherings we have from time to time in our home, or in that of other friends, to discuss alternatives and possible scenarios for change in our country. What would be their astonishment to see the ease with which we talk about a possible transition and the unviability of socialism in Cuba.

No one should be unaware, much less deny, that on this small island there are at least two worlds coexisting, each convinced of its prevalence over the other, its numerical or moral superiority. The first to understand this reality should be our leaders who continue to insist that all opposition is mercenary and pro-imperialist, and that all those who are against official policy are enemies of the fatherland, anti-Cuban. But nor are we who distance ourselves from the official doctrine entitled to believe that on the other side there are only opportunists or thugs in the pay of the dictatorship. This is the time to realize, if we really want to find a solution to our problems, that we need civilized dialogue.

This dialog, of course, will be impossible as long as difference of opinion is not decriminalized and that step must be taken by those who govern.

21 February 2011

In the subject Political Culture, my tenth grade son has been assigned to analyze the work of Karl Marx from the point of view of Lenin. The specific theme that Teo must develop with his team is referenced in an article Vladimir Illich titled Marxism and Revisionism, published more than a century ago.

The first problem to be overcome was to find the book, because in the school library the three volumes of the Selected Works of the Russian author had a long line of readers undertaking similar assignments. As I’ve lived in this 144-apartment building for 25 years, I more or less know who has books at home and, among them, who is likely to possess this kind of political literature.

It seemed that the eleven neighbors whose doors we knocked on had all agreed: “Me, I already go rid of that, nor do I agree with what’s in those books. Lenin, who agrees with him?” was more or less the common response. Finally I had to leave the neighborhood and cross the city to find a copy at the home of my friend, the blogger Dimas Castellanos.

With complete good faith I helped my son understand Lenin’s jargon, full of labels and epithets. We searched the encyclopedia for the names of almost all the thinkers mentioned and even dusted off Rodental’s old philosophical dictionary to “clarify” the concepts. At the end, a terrible question overshadowed the effort: How is it — in the light of the explosive concept — that the new elements of the revolutionary pantheon of our times are so far removed from the old doctrine? How would Lenin classify the revisionist Hugo Chavez with his unknown “Socialism of the 21st Century”? What would he say about the indigenous coca farmer Evo Morales, or about Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution? Even more, to what basement would he relegate the economic reforms of China or Vietnam?

Two possibilities: Either the revisionists won the battle, or the label did not have the eternal durability of philosophical category awarded to it by its creator. It will have to be dialectical, or better yet ambiguous, so that no one feels offended. As it’s never known with what one gains or loses, when I go to return to my friend Dimas Castellanos the book he lent me, I will put a cover over it, as we both are already too ideologically suspect to want to add more fuel to the fire.

In the late 1960s I was on the point of changing my career. Extremely excited by what I’d read in the magazine Critical Thinking, I decided to enroll in the Department of Philosophy. But it was a closed shop and I lacked the qualifications. At that time, Fernando Martínez Heredia was the director of that publication, which was finally closed by Raul Castro in 1971.

Thanks to Fernando I learned there was another way on interpreting Marxism, especially from reading Louis Althusser, that brilliant intellectual who “spoke the language of Marx.” On more than one occasion I wondered what his response to Heredia would be on this or that issue, attributing to him, although without any proof for it, a clear anti-dogmatic tendency and some level of personal courage.

This year I’ve become reacquainted with that court philosopher because he is one of the personalities to whom the XX Havana Book Fair is dedicated. I have him on my TV screen giving a speech at the opening session. At one point he says we are, “A people formed during a heroic act, a people who were living with next to nothing, neither employment, nor public health, nor schools, caught between disbelief and apathy…” and I have to ask myself if I was wrong about Fernando, or if perhaps they gave him a lobotomy.

How can a respected intellectual say that there had been a time in Cuban history when there was no work, no public health, no schools? Had he studied abroad? Or did he only learn to read after the Revolution? A statement like that is something not even Randy Alonso could accept, though as director of the Roundtable program he can be expected to come up with all kinds of nonsense. In fact I’ve even lost my desire to visit the Fair.

February 13 2011

Link to Original Blog in Spanish

Please help translate

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.

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