You’re No Longer My Hero, Rene

Erasmo Calzadilla

Rene Gonzalez.

That’s a joke of course; the Cuban Five were never my favorites. I felt bad to see them trapped in the teeth of that macabre machinery, as well as ad nauseam over the government’s constant public relations campaign around them.

Though already not very high in my personal rankings, Rene (the one who was recently released) fell precipitously in the wake of his recent statements.

Since his release from prison six weeks ago, I was curious to see how this man whose face I have carved into my subconscious would confront his new role as a public figure. I wanted to see if in his words and gestures Rene was the type of person with his own mind or merely a puppet.

I imagined that he was in an awkward situation. I had the preconception that as a agent of Cuban State Security — because of always having to follow opaque orders that they can’t discuss or understand— he couldn’t develop independent thinking or a unique identity – essential qualities in a people’s hero.

In any case, Rene finally opened his mouth and sent a letter to Fidel and Raul Castro (see the October 18 edition of the Granma newspaper).

Towards the end of that letter he states:

“I will continue in the same combat that you recruited me for, and I will go to the end until justice is done, following orders and doing what has to be done.

So I say to you Fidel and Raul: Commanders — the two of you — give the orders!”

So far he has not proven to be a person breaking with the predictable role of a good soldier devoted to his superiors. And his superiors, I’m sure, are thrilled with this show of blind faith to them.

Rene may have been very courageous in infiltrating violent radical elements in Miami, and that is something to be valued. But to be a popular hero that is not enough, he would also have to be his own man.

Reflecting on the matter I can only remember Camilo Cienfuegos, a guy who despite his public reverence to Big Brother, people loved him as a hero. But in Camilo one could feel an independence of character and pride, which according to the “evil” tongues cost him his life.

12 thoughts on “You’re No Longer My Hero, Rene

  • Rob presents an excellent example of the thinking and argumentation of the more shallow right-winger. Those who are reading these comments with inquiring minds, don’t just dismiss Rob. Note instead how he projects what are the essential traits and behaviors of the more anti-intellectual Right, on to his imaginary and selective description of the Left. The first distortion necessary to ultra conservative thought and beliefs is that when they hold doctrinaire or religious beliefs, they do so in a mostly free and respectful manner. He accuses the Left generally of anti-heretical thought, not distinguishing the many forms and quality of Left and Right political thought. He probably knows, but chooses to ignore that historically it has been religious and nationalistic philosophies and practices that gave the word heretical its essential meaning. True the Left has often fallen for the same human weaknesses of absolutism, sectarianism and dogmatism, but if you compare the two, Left and Right on a social, psychological and philosophic basis – without a bias for any particular thought system other than the most objective social science methodologies – it is clear that there are significant differences in degree in terms of both openness to new facts and improvement when comparing the Left and Right, especially these days. Rob is unlikely to try to understand what I am saying or consider the several other efforts to comment on his post. So I am mostly replying for the readers who are reading here in an open and critical mind. My point? Don’t feel bad if the Ron’s don’t get it, speak more productively to the bigger audience of others who are not seeking a rationalization for greed and fear, but want to understand more about what is going on in such complex social-political-cultural experiments as in Cuba today.

  • Rene is indeed a willing soldier in a collective struggle to defend his country against terrorists backed by a criminal and revanchist empire. That’s why his conscious subordination to the discipline of the force in which he fights represents no lack of freedom.

    Erasmo, however, with his bourgeois individualistic outlook, despises any such discipline or authority outside himself and smugly identifies his own fatuous individualism with “freedom” and his own style of self-importance with self-respect.

    Ironically, he is himself, independent of his will, a small propaganda cog in that same imperial cold war machine which is ceaselessly conspiring against his country’s security and independence. He can only imagine he is (in contrast to Rene) “his own man” by ignoring the objective historical and political conjuncture which defines him and frames his activity. He can perceive his own political activity as “free” only because he looms so large in his own eyes that the wider context is rendered invisible.

    In short, his freedom is as illusory as his pretended moral superiority. Expressions of contempt from such a one for Rene only do the man credit.

  • Erasmo, have some empathy! Rene has lost more than a decade of life, rotting in the dungeons of the beast! Just because he spouts slogans is no reason to condemn him. Even to spend a little time in prison–let alone 12 years–can be traumatizing. Even now, the true pettiness and retributiveness of our government continues, since he is still not allowed to return to country and his family, but must spend additional years in a so-called “half-way house” for released prisoners. Besides, The Cuban government needed to keep an eye on the right-wing political thugs in Miami (I’m not talking about most of the expatriate Cubans, who have migrated mostly for economic reasons). Those thugs have demonstrated in the past, be it the blowing a Cuban airliner out of the sky, or murdering any compatriot in Miami who dared to suggest establishing trade and travel relations with Cuba, that they have no reservations about using violence. Your bitterness towards the injustices of your own government and system causes you to swing wildly, like a Sonny Liston, rather than scientifically, like a Muhammad Ali. Before you say anything, you should count to ten, take a few deep breaths, and re-read what you have written the next day. I’m not talking about censoring yourself. I’m talking about asking yourself the questions: “Does this really need to be said?” Does it really add anything to the discussion?” or is it just for affect?

  • erasmo, cheer up comrade. these morons commenting here are simply proving an old point that people of the left have had to deal with for decades, that you cannot be even a little heretical. left politics is a bit like religion, if you take a slightly different opinion on any one of the lefts pre conceived beliefs you shall be branded a heretic or traitor. best not to worry about such piffle. one feels much better after having left the church.

  • Mark G,

    You should note that Fidel has retired and no longer issues orders and in fact, refrains from involving himself in that which his brother Raul is involved.

    As one who monitors right wing radio in the U.S I know that Rush Limbaugh still thinks that Fidel runs the country and that China is communist so your thinking on this is not surprising.

  • Erasmo,

    Certainly freedom is important to me and more so democracy which is the ultimate expression of freedom(s).

    Is it and was it not the wish of the vast majority of Cubans that the Five do what they did in trying to stop terrorist attacks on Cuba from succeeding?

    Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are essentially meaningless in the United States in that the media is owned and controlled by the dictatorship of the dollar.

    A failure to fend off the U.S. attempt to overthrow the admittedly faulty but likely reformable Cuban revolution is a prelude to a complete loss of freedoms and the probable reforms that are now underway in Cuba.

    Those reforms are no less necessary than are the efforts of the Five but neither negates the validity of the other.

    Would you have the Cuban government not undertake the measures it did to discover plots against the revolution?

    I think you need to separate the freedoms on which we both/all agree are needed to be in Cuba and the very responsible efforts of the Cuban authorities to protect the revolution.

    I often find it necessary to have to explain to opponents of Cuba’s revolution that the U.S is making a very determined effort to destroy it and has for over fifty years.

    I should have thought that you would acknowledge this fact and the necessity of operations for which the Five are now paying dearly.

    We may disagree here but the disagreement in no way diminishes the great respect I have for your thinking and your invaluable writing at HT.

    Many thanks,
    In solidarity,


  • Paul Greene, you are the one committing fallacies. I never said that Rene was a dummy or lacked intelligence. Indeed, he must have been very smart to do what he did.

    The lack of autonomy of thought (which is relative, because everyone has even at least a little) is a prejudice (not an unwarranted one) that I have against military spies from any country in the world. I was not talking specifically about Rene, but the fact that in his letter to Fidel and Raul he almost confirms my prejudice.

    Of course he must be under tremendous pressure from the media and should be given the opportunity to break from the role they wish to assign him.

    You, who seem to understand that logic, should know that criticizing the author for a statement claiming that it detracts from the argument itself, is one of the most popular logical fallacies. It is called the ad hominem argument.

  • John Goodrich, I have nothing against Rene Gonzalez in particular; rather, I’m against the attitude of submission to a leader. The expression “Commander-in-chief give the orders” is not just any expression, it not a phrase that has lost its content. It’s an attitude to life for millions of Cubans who left the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of men, and — as could be expected — those men ruined everything. It is a very submissive attitude that I don’t approve of at all, yet it’s the slogan required of our schoolchildren.

    Mr. Goodrich, isn’t freedom important to you?

  • Gonzalez is a Cuban state security agent who gets caught. Even after his imprisonment and release, he continues to pledge loyalty to and follow orders from the Castro brothers. I think Erasmo’s description of Gonzalez is bang on.

  • I think that Erasmo has been so disgusted and embittered by the bureaucratic state monopoly system in Cuba that he can’t always think straight.

  • Erasmo,

    You are one of the more erudite and politically knowledgeable commentators at HT but I fail to see your problem with Gonzalez.
    The man went into enemy territory to find out what the terrorists were planning to do to Cuba and was caught and did hard time.

    The man IS a hero.

    That he is loyal to the people who sent him there for very good reason is no sin.

    That he is just back from imprisonment and getting back to a normal life should be also taken into consideration.

    Perhaps I missed something else that he has said since his release but in not putting that quote in your article, you leave me mystified as to what your problem with him is.

    I’m not saying that you are incorrect but you need to flesh out your argument so that I and others can comprehend what SEEMS to be an unjustified dislike for Mr. Gonzalez.

    What would you have him do?

    Can you elaborate?

  • Erasmo: the philosopher/pharmacist. What better combination to know how to commit the pre-emptive logical fallacy of poisoning the well.

    Gonzalez “doesn’t understand”; he “can’t think independently”; he relies on “blind faith” – in short, his problem is his lack of intelligence to “be his own man.”

    Clearly Rene is no dummy, yet anyone who thinks differently from Erasmo must be?

    Come on.

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