by Julio Antonio Fernandez Estrada (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – A few months ago, I caught wind of the rumor that Facundo would be leaving Vivir del cuento. Our days are full of bad gossip and much of it is nothing more than perfect premonitions or legendary fairytales.
Facundo has left the show. I swear that when I watched the first episode of the new series that kicked off in December 2019, I thought it was a joke. I waited right up until the last minute for the neighborhood representative’s shiny bald patch, which is as much the soul of the program as Panfilo’s dignity in the mischievous way he pokes fun.
Vivir del Cuento, or just Panfilo, is the most serious political analysis show on Cuban TV, and some episodes of Mesa Redonda are an example of top-score comedy; this is the Cuban way, there is nothing strange about this contradiction. It is the program about the old man who defends the rations booklet, a historic TV show, for viewers and because of unprecedented things such as the special appearance of former US president, Barack Obama.
Nobody watched the show Obama figured in to discover the solution to Cuba’s problems. If they had, they would have realized that they are in checkmate, and that the benevolent winds of peace and prosperity would soon die down; with a light puff from the colorful suit-wearing President, Donald Trump.
The good news came to an end, and the crisis appeared. The Special Period’s ghost began dragging its chains, taking shape today with the tragicomic name “Temporary Situation”.
Censorship, which has always been present, has made a comeback with full force. Political persecution, extremism on both sides of the Florida Strait, truth distortion, manipulation, repression of those who think differently, journalists under siege at home, citizens banned from traveling outside of Cuba, university professors kicked out of the classroom, just because they encourage freedom of thought; have all escaped as if Pandora’s box had been opened, making our reality bitter.
Panfilo’s show is the only thing that understands what it is we experience on a daily basis, our poverty, our weariness with corrupt, indecent, uncultured, unworthy and inefficient leaders. That’s why Facundo is on the show or was on the show, up until recently. Now, Facundo and his bosses above, show us the ordinary and common bureaucrats, that we know about ever since we can put 2 + 2 together.
But Facundo was too offensive or somebody got tired of his character. He has disappeared as if he had been hunted down a narrow and dark alleyway, for no reason whatsoever, so that Felipito doesn’t even get to think about succeeding him (he didn’t appear in the second episode of the new season by the way).
If this is democracy, then I’m Bruce Lee. If this is popular TV, then believing in the Three Kings or Dorothy’s flying house is the same thing.
Cuban bureaucracy needs to understand that TV doesn’t belong to them, that TV belongs to the people, and that it can’t be privatized, by constitutional order, which includes the State and its bureaucrats; it can’t be seized from the people.
As a result, if TV shows are to have owners, then these are the artists who hold the intellectual property rights over their work; but never the bureaucrats, who organize, manage, run, and censor, which we have accepted God knows why. Getting rid of a character on this comedy show, is like taking a dead person out of Picasso’s “Guernica”, or like they recently did during Havana’s 500th anniversary celebrations, kill a Carlos Varela song with treachery.
Censorship in capitalist businesses is exercised for this reason or another; when a character is taken out of a series, the actor or actress knows how to deal with this in their country where there is Rule of Law. But in socialist Cuba, TV belongs to the people and the Cuban people haven’t asked for Facundo to leave the show.
I demand, as a citizen of the sovereign people of Cuba, for the Cuban people to be asked whether Facundo should stay or leave, because it’s the people that control the media; and not even that can go against the legally-binding work contract that Andy Vazquez must have, the actor who plays Facundo and two other important characters, which must have flown away in the same balloon as Matias Perez.
There is only way that I’ll accept Facundo leaving the show, and that’s if all the leaders like him here in Cuba promise to also leave.
It seems that our bureaucracy and enemy to democracy, doesn’t understand what socialism or Rule of Law means, but we’ll make sure they remember; and in order to help them, we’ll go ahead and say that we don’t want them to get rid of the rations booklet either, in case they have this macabre idea in their heads.
That really would be the icing on the cake, this would be the end of Panfilo: without Facundo, the immoral and affectionate leader without any real importance; and without the rations booklet with which Cubans receive, a measly amount of the basics, but fair until it ends.
I vote for Facundo to return to the show, even if it’s to endure with him what we really need to disappear from our country.