Admiring the Leader

Yusimi Rodriguez

Fidel Castro at the Cuba Book Fair in February 2012. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — On Monday, August 13, the perennial leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, celebrated his 86th birthday. Just the day before, the 2012 London Olympics concluded.

One of the last members of the Cuban delegation to compete (the winner of the bronze medal in wrestling), dedicated his victory to Fidel on the eve of his birthday.

Over the years I have seen our journalists repeat the same question to the medalists in international events: “To whom are you dedicating this medal?”

I’ve gotten to the point of wondering if this is a mandatory question, or just a lack of imagination on the part of the journalists.

This also made me ask whether it’s part of the athletes’ training to dedicate their medals to not only their mothers, husbands or wives, but also to the commander-in-chief.

I’m not a great admirer of Fidel Castro, I doubt that his strengths outweigh the many mistakes he committed and that we still suffer.

This feeling (my lack of admiration for him) sometimes gives me a deep sense of guilt. I listen to people of previous generations and to young people from other countries who feel indebted to him and I feel a genuine sadness.

I experienced this on Monday, August 13, while reading the Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba. All of page 8 was filled with views about Fidel Castro as expressed by Cubans and foreigners who have known him.

They were more like anecdotes, with each aimed at showing us a virtue of the leader. I couldn’t help but to be moved by the story of track legend Ana Fidelia Quirot, the “Storm of the Caribbean.” El Comandante visited her personally in the hospital immediately after she suffered a domestic accident in the early ‘90s.

The leader was beside her, wearing one of those green gowns that doctors have to wear in operating rooms.

That story was enough to make me love, more than admire, our eternal leader. But I kept reading.

There was a brief account of Brigadier General Juan Escalona Reguera. On one occasion, Fidel sent him to Angola to speak with General Leopoldo Cintra Frias to convey to him the following message: “Tell him that if winning the war in Angola means losing him, it’s not worth winning. Tell him that he needs to cease his madness, that he needs to withdraw from the front line, that he needs to be careful.”

This is when I lost it. So those who died in that war and those who returned maimed weren’t our own? They were people we could afford to lose to win the war in Angola?

I always thought if there was some admirable quality in a military commander, it was their courage to be out in front of their troops, on the front line of combat, such as our independence leaders Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez, and like our national hero Jose Marti at Dos Rios, even though Marti wasn’t a soldier.

Does it now turn out that there were valuable lives and disposable lives in the war in Angola? Who determines the value of one life over another?

My brother was sent to Angola when he was 18, during his military service. Wasn’t his life valuable? What was my brother in Angola: cannon fodder in a faraway war attempting to show Cuban internationalism to the outside world? He was fortunate to come back in one piece. He didn’t experience any glorious death.

I guess I missed something. Where was the part of the story about why I should admire the El Comandante?



26 thoughts on “Admiring the Leader

  • August 20, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Veronique, why would you take such a cheap shot? I am on your side. I was trying to make a certain point about the steady degradation of our US culture due to monopoly capitalism.

    The next time you are inspired to jump at someone like a tarantula, please think it through first. You should not see what a progressive person says in opposition to an anti-Fidel bullshit article as your opportunity to go on a racially-charged tirade.

  • August 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Hello from New York City, NY, in the USA. A leader is supposed to be accessible to the people he or she leads. I hope you get the opportunity to speak in person to the Leader. My best wishes to you.

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