My Fears


Left: Kim Jong-Un. Right: Alejandro Castro Espin.

A solitary man sweeps the dry leaves on the wide avenue where not one car is traveling in either direction. He lowers his head and avoids talking with the cameraman. Perhaps it’s a punishment for not applauding with sufficient enthusiasm at a meeting, or not bowing with theatrical reverence before a Party member. The scene of the sweeper on his desolate street is captured in a documentary about North Korea that has circulated on our alternate information networks. A painful testimony, with people all dressed the same, grey depersonalized buildings, and statues of the Eternal Leader on all sides. Hell in miniature, which leaves us with a sense of relief — at least in this case — for not having been born under the despotism of the Kim dynasty.

When Fidel Castro visited Pyongyang in March 1986, almost a million people greeted him, among them thousands of children waving flags with suspicious synchronicity. Cuban television reveled in the chorus that sounded like one voice, in dancers who didn’t differ from each other by even a hair out of place, and in those little ones playing the violin with surprising mastery and anomalous simultaneity. Months after this presidential trip, on the artistic stages of Cuban elementary schools they tried to emulate this robotic discipline. But there was no way. The girl next to me threw the ball seconds after mine had already fallen to the floor, and some abandoned shoe was left behind on the stage after every performance. The Maximum Leader must have felt disillusioned by the chaotic conduct of his people, so different from those syncopated genuflections before the Secretary General of the Workers Party in North Korea.

On Monday the images of thousands of people crying in the streets over the death of Kim Jong-Il called to mind those perfectly timed children. Although our tropical experiment never managed to “domesticate us” like them, we did copy something in the Korean model. In these parts, as well, genealogy has been more determinate than ballot boxes, and the heritage of blood has left us — in 53 years — only two presidents, both with the same last name. The dauphin over there is named Kim Jong-un; perhaps soon they will communicate to us that over here ours will be Alejandro Castro Espin. Just to think about it makes me shudder, as I did one day before those long rows of little girls throwing a ball at the exact same millisecond.


35 thoughts on “My Fears

  1. I am THE only foreigner who has the right to talk about Cuba.

    Thank God I can recognize a hypocrite when I see one.

  2. After all, the world is littered with failures of their meddling in the lives of other people. Let us just look at Iraq and Afghanistan a decade after they invaded these countries with their deranged ideas about “freedom” and “democracy”.

    How successful are those deranged delusions?

    Not at all.

    To an intelligent person no further convincing is needed. But the team “yoani” do have their “baggage ready for an adventure into the “real freedom”.

    Which, might I remind everyone, they RUN AWAY from a few years back because there was no job for Cuban “dissidents” speaking no German, French or Italian whatsoever, and then in Spain there was no job for Spaniards, let alone for Cuban “dissidents”.

    So, Cuba suddenly became the “paradise” in comparison with the “free democracies” where no life could have been made.

    I recognise this sort of behaviour as a pure hypocrisy.

  3. And it is even more sad to see that foreigners, who have no right whatsoever to do so, join in here to bash a foreign country that has nothing to do with them.

    Brought here by military trucks too, I’d imagine.

    I mean, we all understand that the economic and political situation in the usa is horrible, unemployment rampant, the national debt growing steadilly at an unsustainable rate of over 15% per year – leading to an inevitable death by design defaul of “some kind of pragmatic capitalism”, but still?

    Certainly there are more pressing things to do than “fight” for some elusive “democracy” concept that isn’t even working for them.

  4. For a look at what Canetti was talking about, see Humberto’s last link. Take them away from the mob and the military who protect them, and see how their behavior changes.

    Another thing, how rich do you have to be in Cuba to throw eggs at someone? And were those neighbors or were they brought in on that army truck?

  5. Hank,

    You’re right that from the viewpoint of the individual victim it is all the same. Doesn’t matter to us if our families are killed here by criminals, or by the government of Cuba or North Korea. We suffer the same.

    The scale thing is the viewpoint of the bystander who sees a regime that kills millions as worse than one that kills tens of thousands. The bystander doesn’t want to be a victim.

  6. Apparently some deranged individuals think that Damir is here to do this: “he enlightens all of us about what misguided slimeballs we are”.

    I do not do that, you yourselves do that when you write stupidities that I have never said’ like this one for example: “It’s (Cuba) his socialist paradise.”…

    You MUST be a moron with no brain to say that Damir said that.

    Or, this one: “He also has the amazing ability to see the entire population of a city at one time.” How ridiculous is the statement…?

    Very. It suffice to read the original post, from which this “statement” was squeezed out of context to realise the level of despair of people who do this.

    I comment on the team “yoani” posts. Unlike the pioneers who are hell-bent on badmouthing EVERYTHING in Cuba, yet have never even seen a photo of the island, judging by the outdated cia-styled propagandist nonsense from the 60′ and 70′ they spill here.

    But, do not stop because of me. The world needs to se and understand the brainwash you have been subjected to in order to do the job for your “white gods” job.

    After all, that is why they keep you in their sewage, right.



    YOUTUBE: TURBAS CASTRISTAS USAN HUEVOS Y PIEDRAS CONTRA OPOSITORES PACIFICOS (Castro supporters mob use eggs and stones against peaceful demonstrators who are filming arrests)

  8. Help,

    I thought the Washington Post article was good too. I don’t know anything about “crowd power” or how legitimate the mourning we have been shown is, but it is an interesting idea. Your post in #3 made me think about the differences and similarities that exist between Cuba; North Korea; and Cambodia under Pol Pot. The only difference I see is one of scale. If a political prisoner in Cuba dies in prison because he is starved of food, deprived of water, poisoned or worse, what’s the difference between him and the political prisoner/dissident in North Korea who is summarily executed? Their lives both end miserably at the hand of the state. I don’t see any difference in degree or scale. The Cuban dynastic dictatorship accomplishes exactly the same thing as its North Korean equivalent: maintaining power through fear, extortion and coercion. Just like organized crime.

  9. Hank, that was a good Washington Post article. I get what the writer is saying, but it scares me more to think the mourners were sincere than acting out of fear.

  10. JE JE JE!! LEAVE IT TO THE GUYS FROM SOUTH PARK! TO MAKE SOME SENSE OF THE DEATH OF KIM JONG IL! This is a scene from the movie Team America, when Hans Blix from the UN comes to inspect Kim Jong Ils palace to see if he has weapons of mass destruction. Good Quality and Swedish subtitles. Yes Swedish! for Damir! JE JE JE!

    YOUTUBE: Kim Jong Il in Team America – Hans Blix

  11. pamela,

    Let him/it/they answer. I don’t normally engage. It has been a long time since I have because it is pointless.

    Below is a link to a very interesting article published in the Washington Post yesterday about the phenomenon of “crowd power” and unrestrained emotion. I think the frenzied outpouring of grief we have been shown is a combination of orchestration and a self-feeding feedback loop mechanism that builds upon itself. It is interesting to watch because this select group of North Koreans has been allowed to express themselves publically in mass rallies. Just the sort of thing a totalitarian regime fears. I wonder what has been going on in the countryside. The author expresses this much better than I do.

  12. REUTERS: Cuba mourns death of North Korean leader

    HAVANA, Dec 20 – Flags flew at half-staff on Tuesday as Cuba began three days of official mourning for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a show of solidarity with its fellow communist state.

    The Council of State decreed the mourning period without comment and said flags would be lowered at all government buildings and military installations.

    A book of condolences was opened at the North Korean embassy in Havana, with a big photo of the dead leader and flowers in the entrance.

    Cuba and North Korea are two of the world’s last communist nations and have maintained good relations since establishing diplomatic ties in 1960, the year after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution on the Caribbean island.

    They were both on the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism until North Korea was removed in 2008.

    Jong-il, 69, died of a heart attack on Saturday and his son Kim Jong-un has been anointed the “Great Successor, continuing a line of succession that began with grandfather, North Korean founder Kim il-Sung.

    Cuba is facing its own succession issues as it approaches a generational leadership change without much new blood waiting in the wings.

    Cuba was ruled for 49 years by Fidel Castro, 85, who was succeeded by brother and then first vice president Raul Castro in 2008.

    Under the constitution, if Raul Castro were to leave office tomorrow, 81-year-old Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, current first vice president of the ruling Council of State, would succeed him until 2013, although he could be replaced sooner.

    Government opponents said they feared Cuban leaders could circumvent the constitution and follow North Korea’s lead by quickly replacing Machado Ventura with a Castro family member.

    “I hope that way of thinking does not take hold on the island,” said human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez. “But it could be that there are people thinking of that type of dynastic scheme with the children, grandchildren etc.”

    “In these parts, as well, genealogy has been more determinate than ballot boxes, and the heritage of blood has left us, in 53 years, only two presidents both with the same last name,” wrote dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez.

    “The dauphin over there is named Kim Jong-un; perhaps soon they will communicate to us that over here ours will be Alejandro Castro Espin. Just to think about it makes me shudder,” Sanchez said, referring to the son of Raul Castro.

    But other Cubans discounted the possibility that the government would put another Castro in power, saying the Cuban system would not permit it.

    “It is not possible that someone we don’t know can be president only because they are the son or daughter of Raul or Fidel, it’s impossible,” said public employee Manuel, who did give his full name.

    “It doesn’t work that way here,” he said.

    (Reporting by Nelson Acosta, Rosa Tania Valdes and Jeff Franks; Editing by Kevin Gray and Eric Walsh)

  13. pamela, they were all educated in free state public education system where they learned critical thinking skills. The type Damir uses to explain Cuba to us.

    Hank, Damir travels the world making it a better place. He recently told us he went to the French Riviera and bought a Che t-shirt, and then traveled to Cienfuegos where he paid a prostitute a lot of money to sing the praises of Raul Castro.

  14. C’mon Hank, he enlightens all of us about what misguided slimeballs we are, schools us on the “evils” of capitalism, constantly reminds us that we are “nazist pigs”, and corrects us when we call ourselves Americans. (He rejects that, we are to be called “usanians.”

    He also plays the role of Damir, roving boy reporter, who “vacations” in Cuba, and is therefore an expert. It’s his socialist paradise. He also has the amazing ability to see the entire population of a city at one time. He called Yoani a liar because she wrote a post indicating that she was in Cienfuegos, a city of 150,000 people. He claimed to be there on the same day, and said that she couldn’t have been there, because he didn’t see her. Isn’t that downright amazing?

    Oh, last but not least, he is a bona-fide expert on the laws of the United States, insisting that we cannot organize meetings here without the permission of the police! Brilliant, no?

  15. Damir,

    Just curious. What have you personally done to make the world a better place? Do you volunteer your time and efforts anyhwere? If so, where?

  16. I MUST kill off the truth. My deranged and outdated comments were at least written in the 90’s.

    Now I’m going to start woking on learning how to spell teh words work and the.

  17. Just a quick reminder to all what a load of lies teh team “yoani” write on a daily basis:

    “A painful testimony, with people all dressed the same,…”

    One quick look at the images running on TV day and night (who is ourning departure of teh dictator in the West? It seems EVER TV station, given the ad nauseam repeated coverage, 24/7…!!!) and we can CLEARLY SEE that the people are all dressed DIFFERENTLY.

    It has been like this for the last ten years, but for the :white gods” that the team “yoai” cherish so much and obey blindly by writing this nonsense here like there’s no tomorrow, the TRUTH is so INCONVENIIENT, it must be KILLED OFF.

    Else their brainwashing nazist propaganda wouldn’t work. Even for themselves.

    Wel, the good news is: it doesn’t work at all.

    Might as well give it up and rent some land to produce some food in Cuba.

    After all, if you really want “some kind of pragmatic capitalism” in Cuba, start woking on it.

    Your bullshift isn’t going to make it happen. Particularly when you post deranged and outdated comments that have been written back in 1970’s and even then they didn’t work well.

  18. PROTECTION ONLINE (a project of Protection International):Ivonne Malleza and Ignacio Martínez, human rights defenders: resume their hunger strikes in protest at their continued detention

    On 12 December 2011, human rights defenders, and husband and wife, Ms Ivonne Malleza Galano and Mr Ignacio Martínez Montejo resumed their hunger strikes in protest at their continued detention.
    Ivonne Malleza Galano and Ignacio Martínez Montejo were violently arrested on 30 November 2011 for taking part in a peaceful protest in Fraternity Park in Havana.
    On 10 December 2011, Ivonne Malleza Galano, who had initially been held incommunicado, managed to place a call to Ms Mayra Morejón, member of Damas de Blanco, and informed her that she was being held at the VIVAC Processing Centre on Calabazar Street, in Havana, where her husband is also being held.
    On the morning of 12 December 2011, several family members of Ivonne Malleza Galano and Ignacio Martínez Montejo were allowed to visit the human rights defenders in the presence of an unnamed security agent who told them that the defenders had been charged with public disorder and that the investigation could take up to 60 days. Ivonne Malleza Galano and Ignacio Martínez Montejo informed their relatives that they had been on hunger strike from the time of their detention on 30 November until 10 December. In the presence of the official who supervised the brief visit, they declared their intention to resume the hunger strike on 12 December 2011. Front Line expresses its concern for the physical integrity of both human rights defenders, who are both reported to suffer from serious health problems.
    According to the Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation) more than 300 persons were arbitrarily detained since 5 December 2011 in order to prevent them from participating in events to mark Human Rights Day on 10 December. Whilst welcoming the release, on 12 December 2011, of human rights defender and former political prisoner of conscience Mr José Daniel Ferrer García, Front Line reiterates its calls on the Cuban authorities to release all those human rights defenders and activists who remain in detention, including Ivonne Malleza Galano, Ignacio Martínez Montejo, and former political prisoner of conscience Mr Ángel Moya Acosta.


    FRONT LINE DEFENDERS: Cuba: Violent arbitrary arrest of three human rights defenders and incommunicado detention of Ms Ivonne Malleza Galano – Posted 2011/12/8

    On 30 November 2011, human rights defenders Ms Ivonne Malleza Galano and Ms Blanca Hernández were violently arrested for initiating a peaceful protest in Fraternity Park in Havana.
    Ivonne Malleza Galano is currently being held incommunicado and, as such, her whereabouts are unknown. Ivonne Malleza Galano’s husband and fellow human rights defender, Mr Ignacio Martínez Montejo, was also arrested and is being held at the Acosta Police Station in Havana. He was filming the protest action on a video camera which was confiscated from him by police. Blanca Hernández was subsequently released.
    These violent arrests form part of an ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders in Cuba, particularly against the Damas de Blanco. In recent months, peaceful protesters have been beaten and arrested on an almost daily basis. Of particular note is the violent attack on approximately 50 protesters in Palma Soriana on 2 December 2011. According to reports, the protesters were heavily beaten by security forces, before being forced onto buses. A number of those arrested remain in detention, including human rights defenders and former political prisoners of conscience Messrs José Daniel Ferrer García and Ángel Moya Acosta.
    Given the reports of beatings Front Line is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity and security of those human rights defenders who remain in detention. Front Line is especially concerned for the security of Ivonne Malleza Galano considering that she is currently being held in incommunicado detention, which greatly increases the risk that she may be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.
    Front Line believes that the arrests of the aforementioned human rights defenders are directly related to their legitimate work in defence of human rights, particularly with regard to the peaceful protest which they initiated in Fraternity Park. Front Line is concerned that there could be an escalation in the crackdown on human rights defenders by the Cuban authorities in advance of and around Human Rights Day on 10



    Tweeting Under Castro | Twitter bajo Castro – by ColumbiaJournalism – 12/21/11 7:00 AM

    Columbia Journalism School presents a revolutionary webcast – our first ever webcast in Spanish – with Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez (@YoaniSanchez) to discuss how social media breaks down the walls of censorship in Cuba and elsewhere. She will be calling from Havana and talking with Prof. Mirta Ojito (@mirtaojito), author of “Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus”… Please email your questions to e-mail on site and use (subject=Cuba) or call in live! (646) 915-9583

    Tweeting desde Cuba: Acompañenos en una charla revolucionaria – nuestro primer webcast en español – con la bloguera cubana Yoani Sanchez, que nos contará cómo rompe las barreras de la censura con social media. Estará con nosotros la profesora Mirta Ojito.…..der-castro


    Tweeting Under Castro | Twitter bajo Castro – by ColumbiaJournalism – 12/21/11 7:00 AM

    Columbia Journalism School presents a revolutionary webcast – our first ever webcast in Spanish – with Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez (@YoaniSanchez) to discuss how social media breaks down the walls of censorship in Cuba and elsewhere. She will be calling from Havana and talking with Prof. Mirta Ojito (@mirtaojito), author of “Finding Manana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus”… Please email your questions to (subject=Cuba) or call in live!
    Tweeting desde Cuba: Acompañenos en una charla revolucionaria – nuestro primer webcast en español – con la bloguera cubana Yoani Sanchez, que nos contará cómo rompe las barreras de la censura con social media. Estará con nosotros la profesora Mirta Ojito.


    HERALD SUN: Good riddance to evil legacy – Patrick Carlyon is a senior writer

    IF Fidel Castro cares for notions of the afterlife, he might think about dropping off before Sunday week.

    The advice might also apply to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, the idiot geriatric who is to his country’s future what Hitler was to equality.

    If you have blood on your hands, it’s an opportune time to die. Hell appears to have reached its quota for 2011.

    The line to get in ought to be longer than the wait at Melbourne Airport Customs, what with Muammar Gaddafi still stamping his feet, saying he won’t go anywhere without his entourage of babes and his gold gun, and Osama bin Laden complaining that every one of his 72 virgins look like Roseanne Barr.

    Both, of course, are babies in the pantheon of evil. Bin Laden killed only a few thousand people, even if the seed of his hateful rhetoric may keep spreading in the more barbaric reaches of Muslim extremism.

    Hitler would have him for breakfast; Idi Amin might have him for tea, with fava beans on the side.

    Gaddafi apparently got the sort of earthly send-off that doubles as a fine introduction to an eternity of damnation. A knife up the bum, filmed for the world to ogle, wouldn’t do a lot for the ego of a James Bond impersonator.

    He may want to stay clear of Hitler, if you believe the really bad books that proclaim, despite the slightest hint of evidence, to reveal the truth about the Fuhrer’s sexuality.

    Bin Laden and Gaddafi are midgets compared to hell’s latest arrival, even if Kim Jong-il was shorter than most jockeys, even with the bouffant and platform shoes.

    His claim to being the zaniest dictator since Napoleon ponced about in dandy pants was reinforced by his constant need to wear Sir Les Patterson’s suits and Audrey Hepburn’s sunglasses. As a late night talk show host has said, “that is one angry lesbian”.

    There was also the small matter of his poor people. When Kim wasn’t murdering Ls, he was chucking people in concentration camps for high crimes, such as complaining that they were really, really hungry.

    Kim can claim an estimated two million dead, largely due to his depraved indifference to his people’s plight. Famines, he seemed to say, are boring. Nuclear weapons and karaoke are fun.

    Hell’s gain is humour’s loss, of course. The Team America scene featuring Kim and Hans Blix should be required viewing in every Asian history course. Osama, too, was among the world’s great figures of parody. South Park won’t be the same.

    Comedy has helped identify patterns in dead and dying tyrants. Dictators all look like they’d have bad breath. They all claim the people’s adulation, even when hordes are scaling the palace walls.

    They’re all delusional and easy to caricature: or perhaps humour is humanity’s defence against the charge that we still collectively allow such misanthropes to scuttle millions of lives.

    Yet there are others, too, who according to your perspective may have descended to hell this year. Take Amy Winehouse. Or the bloke who helped pioneer computer chess.

    America’s Christian Right may conclude that Dr Death, Jack Kevorkian, is now hanging out with his sinful clients.

    Anyone who hasn’t seen Gallipoli but has been strapped to a couch and forced to watch Muriel’s Wedding may assume that Bill Hunter went the same way.

    Those who read Christopher Hitchens’ attack on Mother Teresa but missed his good stuff might condemn the writer, sober and bored, to one of Pol Pot’s self-criticism classes.

    Steve Jobs died this year. The Apple visionary changed lives with thingies that lots of us use and don’t really understand. Since his death, Jobs has been outed as greedy, bullying and partial to the odd lie, from corporate bastardry to denying paternity of his own child.

    Heaven or hell for Jobs? Perhaps it depends not only on your attitude to black turtlenecks, but whether the pointless app you just downloaded works properly.

    Then there’s Bubba Smith. He is better known as the character Sgt Moses Hightower. As a star of the Police Academy movies, he long ago cemented his perch alongside Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.

  23. YOANI SANCHEZ TWITTER @YoaniSanchez = 185,998 Followers

    FIDEL CASTRO TWITTER @ReflexionFidel = 168,323 Followers


  24. Anonimo, I was just writing that tongue in cheek for all the critics who want Yoani to write about positive things happening in cuba. In fact, Yoani frequently has written about positive changes happening in her articles, such as small private businesses opening.

    I get the point of Yoani’s article, but I don’t think Cuba ever sunk to North Korea’s depth, or was as bad as under Cambodia under Pol Pot or China under Mao Tse Tung. Maybe if Che had ruled instead of Fidel, things could have sunk to that level for a while.

    Anyways, it’s true that the Castros are a ruling family, like the Duvaliers were in Haiti.

  25. I didn’t see much positivity about Cuba in Yoani’s post. She seemed to illustrate how Cuba is like North Korea, in the only way that matters (no free elections) than how it is different.

  26. I agree with Yoani, Cuba is a better place to live than North Korea. I’m sure she’d also prefer Cuba to Iran. I certainly would even if I could live much better in Iran.

    So another positive article about Cuba from Yoani, and another positive post about Cuba from one of her supporters.

    I wish Fidel and Raul could feel as positive about Cuba and allow free elections.

Comments are closed.