by Yusimi Rodriguez
HAVANA TIMES — I recently read, in the Diario de Cuba news bulletin, that Cuban activists were asking US President Barack Obama to grant a presidential pardon to anti-Castro militant Eduardo Arocena.
For those of us who see Castroism (there’s no better way to call this regime which has been imposed on the Cuban people since the Castro dynasty took over power and has occupied the country for over five decades, taking away Cubans’ most basic freedoms) as the atithesis to democracy, it’s almost inevitable that we feel somewhat identified with somebody described as anti-Castro. However, is it enough to share the same desire of overthrowing a dictator, to share their methods? Does the end justify the means?
Arocena was given a life sentence in 1984 for a number of terrorist attacks committed between 1975 and 1983. He belonged to the Omega 7 group, which, according to the news article, attacked Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center, the Cuban and former USSR UN missions, and businesses which negotiated with Havana, amongst other targets. The FBI held him responsible for over thirty bombings which took place in different US cities and at least two murders. Furthermore, he was charged with the murder of Felix Garcia Rodriguez, a diplomatic attache at the Cuban Mission at the UN, in 1980.
Nothing in the article hints at the fact that he could be innocent of these crimes. In fact, his defense attorney doesn’t claim that he is innocent, but rather that he’s a “hero”, whose intentions at the time were “the same (…) as the US’, to free Cuba from Communism.”
The violent means employed to reach this objective and which ultimately failed, aren’t the only things to make this argument void. Subordinating everything to his success would be to legitimize Fidel Castro’s own means, who was successful in liberating Cuba from a dictator… only to fill his shoes himself.
According to many Chileans, Pinochet was also a good man because he freed Chile from Communism. But at what price?
Arocena’s success and others who opted for a violent path, wouldn’t have compensated for all those lives cut short on the way. How many people would have had to die in order to save us from Communism? And what would have happened to those of us who didn’t want to be saved? Would they have been killed too?
Luis Negron, leader of the Eduardo Arocena Freedom Campaign, demands that Arocena receive the same deal that “the five Cuban spies who carried out their sentence in the US for acts of espionage and who were freed” received. With this statement alone, he establishes the differences that exist in both cases: it isn’t the same thing to be charged with acts of espionage (and even conspiracy to commit murder, a charge which Gerardo Hernandez had on his head) than to be charged with murder and acts of terrorism.
However, at 73 years old and with poor health over time, diabetes and a stroke suffered four years ago which means he can’t walk properly anymore, this man is no longer a threat to US society. Releasing him would be the humane thing to do, not for a hero but for a sick man, who history passed over: today, the majority of the Cuban opposition disapproves of terrorism (wherever it comes from).
Miroslav Djilas suggests that the end does not justify the means in his book “The New Class”. “…nothing better proves the rightfulness of an end goal than the means used to achieve it.”