Alfredo Guevara In His Own Words

A recent interview published in the magazine Letras Libres, reveals Alfredo Guevara’s mood months before his death. The meeting, that came to be thanks to filmmaker Arturo Sotto, brings us closer to a man conscious of being on the last stretch of his life. His words try to find, or give sense to his existence, to justify some horrors and exalt some achievements.

Caustic but careful, Guevara ventures in topics of the past such as the divisions within the 26 of July Movement and its clashes with the forces of the Popular Socialist Party . Between one anecdote and the next, he reveals—perhaps without intention—details of a power taking shape among betrayals and rivalries. The scene of Celia Sánchez who lived with Fidel Castro in a house in El Vedado and would ask Guevara to expel the old communists from the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) “by kicking them in the ass,” slips through his words, he lets it go just like any other story.

Reading the interview took me back immediately to a Sunday morning in the year 2013 in which I received a phone call. They were telling me about a police search in the home of the recently deceased Alfredo Guevara. Before dawn, several police cars and a minibus from the Technical Department of Investigation (DTI) had arrived responding to an alleged complaint about the traffic of art works. In the house there were only the housekeeping lady and an elderly man remotely related to Guevara.

A few minutes after receiving the news, we went over to verify what was happening. A few burly men, some in uniform, and a lady who could barely form any words because of fear, made up the scene we were able to glimpse when they open the mansion’s door a few centimeters. Using the old trick that we were looking for a “handyman,” we rang the bell, and were able to see that something very serious was going on inside. The news spread rapidly and the official voices were quick to explain the case as one of theft of the national cultural heritage. Nevertheless, some of us were not totally convinced by the story.

Through the testimony of those who witnessed the police raid, we learned that the officers placed particular emphasis in the search for documents. They took great pains to disassemble ceilings, to dig under mattresses, to explore drawers and file cabinets full of papers. Were they looking for some document or writing treasured by Alfredo Guevara? I have asked myself this question thousands of times since that day. The interview in the Mexican magazine Letras Libres confirms some of my suspicions.

We are before a man yearning for lasting relevance, and with valuable information in his hands; an elderly man who is able of realizing the re-writing that has been done to history to make it seem more heroic, more sublime. When he refers to Fidel Castro’s memoirs, Guerrillero del Tiempo, he states: “I think that he has his version and I have mine, but I don’t want to create any contradiction. I want to be very careful, I am afraid…” A man like that probably shields evidences of how things really happened. Some of them he lets slip in the excellent interview in Letras Libres.

However, the largest evidence that Alfredo Guevara leaves us is neither a photograph, nor a piece of paper signed by hand by someone, much less an official document extracted from some obscure archive. His main testimony is the deception perceived in his words, the bitter touch in his stocktaking, the final clarity of not knowing with certainty if history will absolve him or condemn him.


2 thoughts on “Alfredo Guevara In His Own Words


    VICE NEWS: Meet the Couple Behind Cuba’s New Dissident Website – by Rafael Castillo

    Move over Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban government.

    There’s a new player in town in the homogenous media landscape of the communist island that is already testing the limits of the government’s strict controls on the digital sphere, and VICE News spoke to its editor, Reinaldo Escobar.

    The outlet is called 14ymedio, or “14-and-a-half,” and is the brainchild of the dissident blogger — and constant thorn on the side of the Castro brothers — Yoani Sánchez. 14ymedio launched on May 21, and was promptly cyber-attacked in its first day of existence.

    To get a sense of what the site has planned, VICE News reached out to Escobar, editor of the site and Sánchez’s husband, for a phone interview.

    “From the perspective of language and official logic, we are an opposition journal, but we ourselves do not identify as such,” Escobar said on Tuesday. “We believe that the opposition’s complaints are the reality. We are not writing reviews on the opposition, we are speaking about Cuba.”

    Yohandry Fontana, a blogger who is typically supportive of the Cuban government, has on several occasions accused Sánchez of receiving prizes thanks to her secret support of the CIA. Fontana has never offered proof to back up these claims, but the allegation hovers over Yoani Sánchez, particularly among her skeptics.

    Sánchez has previously defended herself against such accusations by describing them as a strategy of the Cuban regime to defame her character.

    Lupi, the translator who once defended Sánchez’s back as her collaborator, is now raising doubts about her, saying twice this month that she has been rude to him and “only cares about money.” I asked Escobar about Lupi’s motives.

    “It is an unexpected reaction, you would really have to ask him,” 14ymedio’s editor said. “Everything seems to indicate that since Sánchez has become so busy with the journal, perhaps she has been unable to continue sending the articles that she had been writing for La Stampa, and maybe that bothered him, or affected him economically. This is just speculation, but I don’t have a logical explanation for it.”

    For now, the most significant display of outside support for the digital platform is a letter posted by the website that was signed by 28 writers and journalists. This is from a campaign spearheaded by Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, which appeals to Cuba’s government to respect Sánchez’s freedom of speech.

    In the letter, the signees “call upon the Cuban government to respect this platform’s right to exist and be disseminated. We ask them to not restrict our freedom of expression and the citizen’s right to information.”


  2. Alfredo Guevara’s words: A Communist who understood the problem in Cuba: ignorance, centralization, not enough virtuous citizenry committed to creating a Socialist Democratic Republic in Cuba.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now, the greatest crime we could commit would be to accept that ignorance occupies leadership posts, ignorance embodied in people, that ignorance has power over others. There’s still too much ignorance in our state and social organisations, including the Communist Party, there’s too much ignorance with power over people. I think this is a state crime, and it’s a crime that we must fully rectify: No to ignorance! To be able to have power over others one must have, above all, true knowledge about what one is going to lead and, of course, an ethical training. I’ll dwell for a moment on ethical training and I’ll try to finish up so I can hand over the floor to you.

    We constantly talk about cadres here and there, of a crisis of values, of the neglect of certain formative values. I share this concern, and I think everyone has to be concerned about this and put as much emphasis as possible on the solution to the problems implicit in this. But it has to be said: the problem is not talking about a concern, the problem is finding solutions. Of course, one of the ways is addressing, in a most serious manner, education from the bottom up, from primary education and even at the preschool level. […] An education that is not only patriotic but I’d say an education for civility, for living in society.

    Our country, thanks to this enormous effort we’ve made during the past half century, with mistakes but with some virtues and this is one of them: we’ve reached this point where it can be considered feasible to have citizens, not just people who vote in elections if there are elections, or that give an opinion somewhere, and I hope that such opinions are acted on, because one of the principals to arrive at true citizenship is that People’s Power is no longer simply popular but has real power

    I think we can hope that the proposed changes in the social fabric, that need not be eternal, can be modified and enriched and they must be modified and enriched permanently, the social fabric of popular power already exists, and for what purpose? I don’t know where you all live, but I’m sure that if your parents or you yourselves actively participate in your neighbourhood, if someone contacts their People’s Power municipal delegate it’s because they’re an extreme optimist, because the poor delegate is a poor devil who has had the courage to accept the role of delegate because surely nobody in the neighbourhood would want to be a delegate and do it under Party discipline, or state discipline or whatever, because he or she knows that it serves no purpose and all the citizens know it’s useless.

    But if we reinvigorate this fabric that is actually embedded throughout society, if we reinvigorate it and instead of being People’s Power it would be popular and have real power, I believe that we’d be taking a critical step towards socialist democracy which cannot be top-down, or bottom-up but constrained by 17,000 transmission belts. The transmission belts [i.e. the discouragement of grassroots initiative by Communist Party or state directives via a highly centralised administrative apparatus — translator’s note] have become, instead of transmission belts, given that they encroach on everything, a true hindrance. In other words, a thick jungle in which nothing can be cultivated. I think this is the right moment to change this

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