I swore never again to speak of that gentleman with the well-trimmed beard and the olive-green uniform who castrated* filled every day of my childhood with his constant presence. I underpin my decision not to refer to Fidel Castro with more than one argument: he represents the past; we need to look forward, to that Cuba where he no longer exists; and in the midst of the challenges of the present, to allude to him seems an unpardonable distraction. But today he once more gatecrashed my life with one of his characteristic outbursts. I feel obliged to focus on him again after his declaration to the journalist Jeffry Goldberg that, “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
If my memory doesn’t fail me, they expelled many Communist Party members for lesser or similar phrases, and purged innumerable Cubans who served long sentences. The Maximum Leader systematically pointed his finger at those who tried to explain that the country wasn’t working. And not only were the nonconformists punished, but we were all forced to don the mask of subterfuge to survive on an island he tried to remake in his own image. Pretense, whispers, deceit, all to hide the same opinion that the “resuscitated” commander now flippantly tosses out to a foreign journalist.
Perhaps it is a fit of honesty, as assaults the elderly when it comes time to assess their lives. It could even be another desperate try for attention, like his prediction of an imminent nuclear debacle or his late mea culpa for the repression of homosexuals which he came out with a few weeks ago. To see him acknowledge the failure of “his” political model, makes me feel like I’m watching a scene where an actor gesticulates and raises his voice so that the public won’t look away. But as long as Fidel Castro doesn’t take the microphone and announce to us that his obsolete creature will be dismantled, nothing has happened. If he doesn’t repeat the phrase here in Cuba, and, in addition, agree not to interfere in the necessary changes, we’re back to square one.
Yesterday, on hearing the news, I wrote a brief tweet: “Fidel Castro joins the opposition, telling the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Shortly after a dissident friend to whom I’d sent the same message by text called me. His words were ironic, but true: “If He has joined the opposition, I’m moving over now to the official side.”
*Translator’s note: The original text was dictated over the phone and there was an error in the transcription, hence this correction.