Cuba: the Invented Country

Veronica Vega

Huber Matos

HAVANA TIMES — I have never understood that device so often used in the popular soap operas, whereby the romantic protagonists who have finally managed to get together after numerous reverses (and chapters) are then separated again through the machinations of a rival.  There’s always such a simple strategy employed: a dubious letter, a supposed infidelity, a coarse piece of gossip that can’t be proven.

It seems to me a cheap recourse and a mockery of the most basic intelligence. Maybe the viewers don’t protest because they already know the formula: the lovers will meet again in the last chapter, and if there are a hundred left to go that only means more hours of entertainment.

But – When it happens in real life?  And when the thing at risk is the physical and psychological integrity of a real person of flesh and blood?  When irretrievable years are lost to a fiction that we accept as if we were an unflinching television audience?

Finding out about the recent death of Huber Matos has left me with that bitter taste.

Despite having fought side by side with those who today fill the walls of our schools and offices, or stare at us with frozen eyes from marble pedestals, he is never mentioned in the Cuban history books. Those who knew him could identify him in a group photo or in those faded videos where you see the happy bearded guerrillas enjoying their moment of glory.

Twenty years of jail and exile are enough to dissolve the doubts, the rumors, the airy reproaches.  They’re enough to convert light into darkness, truth into falsity, presence into nothing.  After all is said and done, history is drawn in the sands of time, and one single lick of the ocean leaves the surface wiped clean and ready for new tracings.

Matos was condemned in a public trial where he wasn’t even conceded the right to speak. Why didn’t that incensed multitude, instead of shouting: “firing squad!” demand that he also have his turn to speak?  Why, just like the bad imitations that try to copy real art, did the audience content themselves with only one version?

When I look at recent examples, it pains me to admit that in five decades nothing has changed in this sense.

The same thing occurred with the poet Maria Elena Cruz Varela who disappeared in another cloud of exile and lost memory; ditto with the victims of the Black Spring and with Orlando Zapata who died in prison while the official media ridiculed the motives for his hunger strike.  None of them were interviewed for the television or newspapers.  They were never offered their turn to speak.

Yoani Sanchez. Foto: Kelly Knaub

It happened to Yoani Sanchez, who is only mentioned in the official media as a cyber-terrorist or a betrayer of her country with the vile advantage of absence and imposed silence; with the State of Sats Project; with Oswaldo Payá who received official existence when he hadn’t any voice left to defend himself with.

It’s happening right now to the news about Venezuela, received through a channel where the voices of Henrique Capriles or Leopoldo Lopez are not heard, or heard only after extensive editing.

Aren’t we thinking beings? To want to know what the opposition (or the accused) thinks, to have their version in order to finalize our own judgment  – isn’t that simple common sense?  Who will guarantee that tomorrow we ourselves won’t be victims of the gag or of the reconstruction of the story?

A monopoly over information is power.  I don’t doubt this, but the truth has its own wings. When I come to feel that we’re in an invented country, where mountains of drowned voices wander in the fog of omission, I recall the movie “The Truman Show”. And I remember that only those who don’t search for the truth will content themselves (forever) with a fictitious island, admiring a sunset….made of cardboard.

13 thoughts on “Cuba: the Invented Country

  • …it’s alright JG, I didn’t really expect an answer from you. My argument simply exposes your lie ….or delusion. Not sure which is worse.

  • Interesting video of pre Castro Cuba. Obviously a tourist propaganda film. However if you turn down the sound and LOOK at the images of Havana and El Malecon you will see a vibrant modern and clean society. Now go and LOOK at similar images of the same places in Havana and El Malecon today. …it looks like a 1980 Beirut war zone. Communist Cuba can’t even manage a fresh coat of paint

    Pre Castro Cuba

    A drive down El malecon as shot by a tourist

  • John you say: ” the Cuban economic and electoral systems have a very good chance of democratizing”.
    I disagree on both counts.

    The recent movement in the Cuban system has been characterized by a concentration of economical power in the hands of the few: the military – Raul led – oligarchy. Other “clans” – like the one around Ricardo Alarcon – were eliminated. Of the three pillars of the Cuban economic system (Raul / Fidel – “parliamentarians” of Alarcon – Raul / Military) all is now concentrated in the hand of Raul and its military gang. The few indecisive and ineffective changes that the regime reluctantly put in place to absorb as much as possible the rising unemployment created by their “reforms” (which may rise to 10-20% of the working population) are of no real meaning.
    Castro’s draconian reforms are just transferring the burden of the care for hundreds of thousands of Cubans – and their families – to the “gusanos and their remittances.

    The whole Cuban “electoral system” is set up to ensure that no real democracy can ever exist. Candidates at the local level have to be voted on in open meetings controlled by the same organization that was set up to monitor compliance with the system: the CDR. At national levels all candidates need to be proposed and approved by institutions controlled by the regime. All the above makes the ballot irrelevant.
    Only a new electoral system where people can freely stand to be elected in truly secret ballots will ensure democracy in Cuba.

  • “…the Cuban economic and electoral systems have a vey good chance of democratizing.” How so John? I see no such evidence. Can you point to any? In fact if you had an understanding of the Cuban revolution, it’s players and it’s history, you would know the Castros only wanted power. As Che and Castro have been quoted as saying ….”so what’s wrong with a dictatorship.”

    As for its economic system, I believe Castro dot it right when he said the system didn’t even work for Cuba anymore.

    And John, the revolution was not meant to bring socialism to Cuba, it was meant to remove Batista from power and reinstate the 1940 constitution. That was its aim. So when you say hold on for 8-10 years it’s an insult to every Cuban who wants change, who wants to bring Cuba into the 21st century and the modern economy. You should read up on Cuban history.

  • You missed her point entirely Walter. That you would focus on Yoani and ignore the obvious parallels drawn between the Truman show and omission of information, specifically on the deaths of Huber Matos, shows your willful blindness.

    I very much like Veronica’s comparison of Cuba and The Truman Show. Both manipulate reality and very carefully control what information so that only the directors version of reality is made available to its audience.

    The question you should be asking Walter is why Cubans can’t freely access

    …and by the way the use of Molotov cocktails through by the protestors, both in Kiev and Venezuela, has been all over the news. Otherwise you wouldn’t be aware of it Walter.

  • “Obama and Kerry have publicly criticized the violence on both sides of the protests in both the Ukraine in Venezuela.”

    Right, because politicians, NEVER use double-speak. (sarcasm) Watch this, and maybe you’ll have a different opinion. You can check all the sources of information there, including the leaked conversations of the State Dept.

    By the way, your claims of Walter idolizing the Castros is a bit hypocritical, since you always seem to give the impression that the US government can do no wrong. Look Moses, both sides are lying and self-interested (whether we’re considering Cuba, Venezuela, Ukraine, or whatever other political game). The trick is to find some truth in the middle.

  • Well said.

  • There is a saying “there is no fool like an old fool”. I take this to mean that one is most foolish when one compounds their ignorance with the notion that believing something for a very long time somehow makes that something more likely to be true. You have long been a Castro supporter. You seem to assume that those of us who do not share your unquestioned idolatry of the dictatorship are therefore manipulated or dishonest. By inference, only those who share your views are free of manipulation and honest. You accuse Yoani Sanchez of being a liar? She is writing about her personal experiences and observations! Who are you to judge what she has experienced? Both Obama and Kerry have publicly criticized the violence on both sides of the protests in both the Ukraine and in Venezuela. You chose to hear only what your predispositions wanted to hear. You attempt to justify the lack of freedoms in Cuba by asserting that freedom is limited in many countries? So because I can not scream “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater in San Francisco, Kim Jong un is justified to deny free speech in North Korea? That’s a crappy argument and no one is buying it.

  • Veronica Vega, obviously on this site, you can write just about any opinion. I read and write here myself for just that reason, and because the subject is Cuba and by necessary default as John Goodrich pointed out below, the role of “my” government in trying before and ever since the revolution to destroy any chance of it succeeding, at the cost of trillions of dollars (extracted from both US citizen’s and Cubans) and thousand of lives and countless suffering.

    So while I am not Cuban, I am involved, just as you show concern for the Venezuelan people. But that brings up the central question that continues to divide many in both countries, as John suggested, either one considers the well-being of all the people, or one selects a lesser portion. After 78 years of trying to figure out why adults were so stubbornly blind to both their own oppression and the ways they oppressed their neighbors, I have learned some of the explanation. Besides the dishonest ideologs on all sides of the many battlefields, most people are reasonably truthful and while they are all somewhat products of their times and circumstances, they will tell you more or less honestly what they see and think. However, does that mean they are accurate? All informed scientific observation tells us that most people are a little off from reality a great deal of the time.

    So what I have learned is that manipulating the majority is a lucrative enterprise and has been so for thousands of years. Also, the number of communities where reason and collective well-being is a high and workable priority have been the exception, especially in modern times. Now you use the title “an Invented Country” as if it means only a lie. Sorry, each time we humans imagine how the day will go and set out to make it happen, we are inventing. Sometimes it even works out according to plan. Especially if we know what we are doing and are somehow protected against the manipulators, big and small. And also of course if our internal computer hasn’t been hacked or whacked too badly.

    So here comes Cuba, another people pushed beyond endurance and blessed by some very brave and smart leadership, and at many levels. But when did it happen that all the poisons of the preceding thousands of years and the accumulation of deadly forces simply vanish? Well if you care about the human success of any revolution and measure it in terms of the whole people’s welfare, then you must care about both the external and internal corrupting of the revolutionary experiment.

    For example, beside the obvious military and covert forces thrown Cuba’s way, you cite as a victim Yoani Sanchez! I find that amazing, if you really think that is so. Because that would mean you see her as being both essentially a truth teller and a victim of the Cuban government. I have read much of her writings and I find neither truth nor suffering. I concede she gets to decide what she thinks is true and to measure her own anguish, but since she is mentioned as a public example, I am allowed to form my own opinion about whether she demonstrates a great sin of the revolution or is herself a sinner. By the way, I agree with your implication that free speech even that with an apparently irresponsible or negative tone should be allowed, because as you will be quick to point out, who should judge. But why is some forms of speech restricted? (In just about all countries if you haven’t checked.)

    Well since you advocate more information on events such as more reporting in Cuba on the right-wing and US government supported “rebellion” in Valenzuela, which I agree should be available, then you should also be equally against any censorship by manipulation through control of mass media. If you actually don’t know or worse doesn’t care that much of the world’s mass media is owned and manipulated by less than 1% of the population, then we simply are worlds apart in our understanding of what these issues are really all about.

    I will give you one easy test. Why did Obama and Kerry not mention the Molotov cocktails thrown by the “peaceful demonstrators” in Kiev and now I see starting to happen in Venezuela? Why? As democrats and anti-communists (anti-socialist too) they always honor the safety of police and would certainly support any US policemen who shot dead such protestors in my country. Can you answer this question?

  • Veronica,
    You might want to remember that the United States government, under orders from the very wealthy who own the U.S. government have been trying to destroy your revolution because of its socialist nature and despite the fact that it is NOT a socialist ( democratic economy) country.
    Unless you would throw out all the social programs that make life possible and better for the poor than in the capitalist developing world, you.d best support the bad system you have because once the U.S. war ends ( within 8-10 years IMO and for very involved reasons too lengthy for here) the Cuban economic and electoral systems have a very good chance of democratizing.
    If you revert to capitalism, you can forget any hope for a democratic society because capitalism is so heavily totalitarian that it carries over into government as it has in the U.S. and elsewhere and you will then have no chance for achieving a democratic society.
    You Cubans have fought the U.S. for over 50 years .
    Hang on for 8-10 more and you will win and have that chance for democracy .
    Then is the time for introspection and self-criticism and not in the middle of a war that threatens your existence.
    Finally, a question for you:
    Do you not think that the U.S. is out to overturn your revolution or that they are somehow not an existential threat to Cuba’s sovereignty ?
    From the way you write , it seems you’d want to go back to everything the revolution fought against .

  • the suppression of private enterprise has held back Cuba for over 50 years. state control and state capitalism doesnt work. china found this out; why cant Cuba?

  • After speaking out matos spoke out against the growing influence & presence of Communists in the new Revolutionary government. In October 1959, Fidel sent the popular commandante Camilo Cienfuegos to arrest Matos. It was during his return trip to Havana that the plane carrying Camilo crashed.

    In one day, two rivals to Fidel were elimated.

  • “Real life” in Cuba is repression and scarcity.
    People like Yoani help to inform us.
    People like Huber Matos help us to never forget that the real aim of the anti-Batista revolution was freedom and not another dictatorship.

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