By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – When I watched that video on Cuban news about an opposition leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, which had clearly been manipulated, it made my stomach turn and made me ashamed.
I couldn’t stop thinking that the same thing might happen to any opposition member, journalist or social activist outside the government’s circle, and that they would fall victim to this fact-twisting apparatus supported by their hegemonic power over national media.
Among all of the absurd and repulsive things that were said, it was also mentioned that because Ferrer had met with the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Havana, Mara Tekach, that means that he was receiving orders from her to subvert what they call the “established order in Cuba” by the Communist Party.
That really bothered me because I have also met the diplomat on one occasion, and we had a brief conversation. It might have even been the same time she went to visit Ferrer’s UNPACU, I’m not sure. All I know is that judging by the facts, I could have been judged in the exact same vile way, if the media had used a photo of us sitting together and a false accusation.
It all happened in February this year. Ms. Tekach was traveling on a tour through different provinces and she passed through Holguin on the 23rd, when she proposed a meeting to get to know me. It was her press and schedule assistant that got in touch with me. I thought about it and accepted it without any problem.
In spite of the stigma of “mercenary” that hangs over any person who disagrees with the government, who hypothetically, can’t think for themselves and can only be responding to the “enemy’s” orders, I didn’t think there was anything stopping me from going to the meeting. Cuba and the US had the same diplomatic relations they do today, and it was just an invitation to meet each other.
So, I went without any qualms, after agreeing to meet in a public space. We met at a cafe on the ground floor of the Pico Cristal, a building next to Calixto Garcia park in the center of the capital city. My wife accompanied me because she needed to buy shampoo and there wasn’t any in our city of Mayari.
My father (who in political terms is what he continues to call a “revolutionary”), didn’t think there was anything wrong with me going but he warned me that the CIA was about to launch a recruitment campaign. The thing is the poor man has been trained to be suspicious and think like this for decades.
I must also admit that those ideas fleeted through my mind, as an aftershock of this collective manipulation and a reflection of how the government has conditioned our thinking. “Be ready in case they try to recruit you and don’t give in,” the old man insisted. But he also gave me this very same warning when I traveled to Spain a couple of years ago. “I will never be anyone’s undercover agent because I’m not very good at double dealing and the only people who have ever tried to recruit me are Cuba’s very own State Security,” I answered, trying to calm his nerves.
My chat with Mara Tekach and her assistance lasted just under the hour. There was no need for translation because she understood Spanish quite well, apart from a few phrases. I was surprised to learn that she knew my work on Havana Times quite well, which she follows, more than my work for Diario de Cuba. She praised my articles. She spoke very little, she rather wanted to hear my opinion about her country’s policy towards Cuba, about my concerns with regard to the support they offer Cubans.
There wasn’t a trace of tutelage, guidance, much less a proposal to become a spy. Nothing at all. There was absolute respect, as there should be. At the end, she told me: “If you ever need my help, you can get in touch with me without any trouble.” It was her only offer and she was clearly referring to a spike in repression against me and the need for denouncing violations, shelter or exile. The only “payment” she made was for a “Tukola” brand soda which she insisted on paying as courtesy for accepting the invitation.
It’s pretty certain that a State Security agent was sitting just a couple of meters from our table and filming our meeting. I believe it now, and I believed it back in February when I decided to accept the invitation. But to tell you the truth, it doesn’t really matter to me because it isn’t a crime nor was I doing anything wrong. I know that they illegally tap our phones and even our Internet connections, which goes against all ethics. That is definitely wrong.
I also know that if they needed to show this photo in a manipulative video, just like they’ve done to Ferrer, with the voice-over of a party-line journalist with no principles falsely accusing me of receiving money from the Empire for “mercenary work” they would; and even for telling me what to write my articles about. I don’t doubt it. Unfortunately, this is how low the Communist Party government stoops to try and silence dissident voices.
I can’t talk for anyone else, nor can I pretend that I know everything about Ms. Tekach, but from the impression I got, from the respectful dialogue she had with me and her eminent attitude of solidarity with all of us suffering government repression, I would dare to say that she must be as clean and ethical with every Cuban dissident she meets with.
That’s why I believe it is absolutely manipulative that conclusions without any grounds be deduced and there are claims about her giving instructions and exercising tutelage, just because the diplomat had a friendly chat with UNPACU members, just like she did with me. Or worse still, that she is encouraging chaos within our society. There is no proof, only speculations or openly false conclusions. Lies which can only be presented as the truth because of their media monopoly.
That was my experience with the US Chargé d’Affaires and these are the conclusions I’ve been able to make after meeting her and comparing our conversation to what has been disseminated in that manipulative video against the opposition leader from Santiago de Cuba.
Here’s the video presented by the Cuban government on their monopoly media.