April 26, 2000

Fidel's victory

Max J. Castro. Published Wednesday, April 26, 2000, in the Miami Herald

Max J. Castro, Ph.D., is a senior research associate in the Dante B. Fascell North-South Center at the University of Miami.

As if someone had turned off the sound, the chit-chat in the conference room of the politburo of the Cuban Communist Party stopped abruptly at 2:47 a.m. Fidel Castro strode to the head of the table, trailed by Fernando Remirez, Cuba's chief diplomat in Washington, who had flown in for the meeting. The dozen or so men, all members of Cuba's political elite, had been summoned for a midnight conversation with the commander-in-chief ``to discuss the current situation.'' They had no idea what it was about, but it was an invitation they couldn't refuse. They knew Fidel would be late, but they had arrived on time just in case. It was a gathering of Cuba's top U.S. experts in the intelligence service, the foreign ministry and academic community.

Now they were scrambling for seats as a stern Fidel looked around, nodding at Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba's top U.S. hand. By the time Fidel started talking, the sweat glands and stress hormones of the audience were active.

``Comrades,'' he began in a barely audible, hoarse voice. ``We have just scored a great victory over imperialism.'' (Castro speaks in the royal we.) ``Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see a day like this. I admit we always hoped one day we would wave the Cuban flag and fly the American one upside down, even burn it in Guantanamo, that piece of soil they stole from Cuba. But not even in our wild revolutionary youth did we imagine we Cubans could accomplish that on American soil.''

They were sitting a bit more comfortably. Then Castro said: ``But we are not here to celebrate or to congratulate ourselves.'' There was an endless silence. A couple of the attendees barely controlled the urgent need to relieve themselves. Castro looked around, savoring the moment. ``I see concern on faces. Don't worry, comrades. We are not here for self-criticism or to call anyone to account. We are here to ask you to undertake a mission that is vital to the survival of the fatherland.'' They managed to contain their curiosity.


Fidel went on: ``For a long time I thought this Elian thing had been our luck, a gift courtesy of the blindness of the Cuban Mafia in Miami, their disarray after the death of their leader and so forth. They took on the worst cause in the world, got between a boy and his father, and ended up fighting us, their own allies here in Cuba, even the American people and their government. Unbelievable.

``But now I know it's too much to blame on the sheer stupidity of the enemy, and I am worried.'' Now they, too, were worried.

``Imagine, comrades, that mobs burn tires on the streets of Havana. Imagine someone seeks to paralyze the city with a general strike. Imagine someone says the most disgusting things about the commander-in-chief and other leaders, even threatens them. Imagine they ignore the law, dare us to come and enforce it, assemble a crowd to prevent it, then when we ignore their bluster and do just that, they complain and want to investigate us and overthrow us. Whom do we blame? We blame the counterrevolution, the Americans.''

He stood up. It was clear Fidel Castro was about to conclude. ``Now, I ask myself, and I ask you: Who are these Cuban revolutionaries who are doing these things we never dare dream of doing to the Americans on their own soil? I have asked everybody, Alarcon, Remirez, the comrades from the Interior Ministry. Nada. Nobody controls these people. No one seems to know anything about it. Yet, if this continues, the Americans are going to blame us like we would blame them. We don't want to be another Yugoslavia, comrades! We must identify these reckless revolutionaries and discipline them! Give them a medal if you want. But above all let's make sure they ease up. These Americans have incredible patience, but it's not endless.''

Copyright 2000 Miami Herald



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