Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago Mariela Castro (MC) was interviewed by Salim Lamrani on a number of issues regarding homosexuality in Cuba and related government policies there. I think this was one of the worst things MC has offered the public – her fans included. I say this because this exposure given to MC is really so absurd and erratic that it sounds like a poorly told children’s story.
It’s not all her fault, though. It’s hard to say something attractive under the questioning of Lamrani, a peripheral French professor and political gigolo at the service the worst of the international left.
The guy has a particular talent for getting people to say the most nonsensical things, and I think MC couldn’t resist his charms.
The statements by Mariela Castro form the script of a typical Venezuelan telenovela: there’s a patriarch who’s fair and well-intentioned, but who’s focused on larger problems that prevent him from realizing the machinations of some hired hands terrorizing the hacienda’s employees.
And then she appears, just like the patriarch, confronted by those foremen and facing various dangers, until life itself moves events so these end up demonstrating that she was right, which is when the patriarch finally descends to do justice and everyone ends up together in a closing celebration. In the present case, everyone is swept away in a gay pride parade.
Through her interview we learned that the UMAP farm work camps was a project for the integration of “marginal” youth (sons of the bourgeoisie, religious believers, gays, bitongos, etc.) into the revolutionary goal. A well planned attempt, but poorly implemented.
The elimination of these camps was the responsibility of their creators, the military, of which her father was the head. Therefore the error was, following her logic, in the implementation of UMAP by the Interior Ministry (MININT).
She recognizes that abuses were committed against homosexuals (not to do so would be cynicism of the height of author Daniel Chavarria’s recent statement) but she doesn’t place the blame on the revolutionary leaders headed by Fidel Castro – a Quixote, she says, in placing blame. Rather, (in addition to MININT’s sergeants) she points to Catholic tradition, the nation’s Spanish roots, and the prevailing homophobia in the world (a world, she says, where the situation of homosexuals was “similar, sometimes worse” than in Cuba).
All this convoluted reasoning doesn’t exclude an invitation from the photogenic director of CENESEX to “critically analyze what happened in Cuba.” But I fear that with so many previous buffers, we have no choice but to lay the blame on MININT’s sergeants.
Obviously, there are things Mariela can’t explain. For example, if basic formal discrimination was eradicated [as she claims] from the penal code and social-sectoral policies as early as 1976, and her father and her uncle have always shown a commendably righteous attitude, how was it that the campaign against emigrants from Mariel in 1980 was based on homophobic insults?
How can she explain that being gay was equivalent to being “scum,” and both were good conditions for earning a square meter of space on crowded boats crossing the strait?
At least she tells us at one point about the fault held by leaders of the neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), possibly the same MININT sergeants in charge of the UMAP camps, now aged and retired in their neighborhoods.
She also notes that discrimination against homosexuals has continued for decades in the system’s public policy and discourse – at least informally.
In this way, being homosexual was a sufficient condition for one’s demotion, expulsion or at least not being promoted in many workplace and social spheres.
It’s unfortunate this interview occurred. I think MC is a person who does positive work in Cuba. While other children of the elite have spent their existences chasing less altruistic objectives, MC has worked in a complex field where she has been able to contribute to the happiness of thousands of Cubans, making life better not only for the victims, but also the perpetrators.
One can make many criticisms of her work at CENESEX, but I think in the end her algebraic sum is positive – and that’s commendable.
MC’s position is complicated, because ultimately she belongs to the ruling family. She’ll possibly remain a factor of power for a long time in her capacity as a member of that political and economic clan.
Her own political fate depends on the fate of her family, of which she’s the public relations rep, its best face. But when she tries, as now, to wash the face of the fabled Castro clan to show its merits, she reaches even below what Fidel Castro himself has said, offending the intelligence of her readers.
Incidentally, she glosses over the memories of thousands of victims of homophobic repression, which was indeed official policy and must be condemned as such in the name of the truth.
I think Raul Castro’s daughter missed a chance to say something respectable. Or, she could have stayed silent – since silence has a value in politics, like in music.
She could have at least looked for a more gifted interviewer. There are some in all the provincial newspapers. And besides, Lamrani gives off bad vibes. He’s like a King Midas, but one that turns everything into crap, lots and lots of crap. And if anyone doubts this, see how this interview (in Spanish) with Mariela Castro ended.
(*) Published originally in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.