Fidel Castro’s Irreversible Impact on My Life

By Alberto N Jones

Alberto N. Jones in the year 2000.
Alberto N. Jones in the year 2000.

HAVANA TIMES — I can venture to say, that until July 25, 1953, not many people in Cuba or around the world had ever heard the name Fidel Castro, which changed dramatically on July 26.

As previous summers living in Guantanamo, we were invited by the Payares family to share with them Santiago de Cuba’s renowned Carnival, which usually began with a dance at the Hatuey Beer gardens that went on until 3:00 AM.

When we tried getting home there was no taxi so we had to walk and sing our way home, which took us alongside the walls of the Moncada garrison, which was just 4 blocks away from home.

As we were ready to get in bed we heard explosions which most assumed were fire crackers.  When they intensified many neighbors rushed to their doors and looked toward the garrison where many believed it to be a conflict between Santiago based soldiers and the reinforcements from Havana.

The intense shooting lasted until around 7:00 AM and many teenagers moved daringly close to one of the garrison entrance.  There was an intense in an out movement of army jeeps which were followed by sporadic gunshots,  that turned out to be prisoner executions after being tortured.

A subsequent curfew shut down the city and random home searches, beatings and detentions terrorized everyone.  At noon on Monday the curfew was lifted and as my family headed towards the station to return to Guantanamo, we came across approximately 40 stinking, leaking coffins covered with swarms of flies, laying in a blazing sun on the sidewalk near the garrison.

Fidel Castro was captured a week later and he miraculously saved his life because Afro Cuban Lt. Sarria disobeyed orders to kill him on sight, was court martialed and imprisoned.  The trial took place months later and Fidel Castro’s powerful self-defense, “History Will Absolve Me”, was sneaked out of the courts, and became the recruiting manifesto of the July 26th movement.

Thousands of youths joined the movement and in his ignorance, Batista turned them into his enemies because of his persecution, incarceration, torture, murder and leaving their bodies by the roadside to rot.

Guantanamo was horrified with the murder of student leader Omar Ranedo, which led to a city uprising that was harshly squashed and prompted many youths to seek safe heaven on the GITMO Naval Base in the summer of 1958.

On GITMO other Cuban workers and myself supported the insurrection by collecting cash and used military garments.

I quit my job on the US Naval Base on October 22, 1962, the beginning of the Missile Crisis.

The Cuban government had created the University Scholarship System in 1960 which covered student’s needs, but I had not completed my High School studies making me ineligible.  A good friend in Medical school kept me abreast of every development in education and when the Agriculture Faculty offered an entry exam, 700 hundred applied and miraculously, I was among the 128 lucky ones.

I had a hard time during the first two years, but I recovered in the third year when we and fourth year students were temporarily transferred to the Engineering Faculty at the CUJAE. We and a large engineering registration created a massive classroom disruption, indiscipline and a mess hall management crisis and the Faculty administrator Silvia Sanchez commissioned me to fix.  After setting up a complex rotating system that angered most but solved the problem, earned me Silvia’s gratitude and respect.

Fidel instructed our director to train twelve fourth year students in the German Language to travel and receive urgent special training in exotic diseases in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Alberto N. Jones in 1959.
Alberto N. Jones in 1959.

Although I was in my third year and had no knowledge of the German language, I was asked to replace a last minute drop-out. During our nineteen months stay in Germany we received language classes and basic Epizootiology training in catastrophic animal diseases, which I applied five years later during the first outbreak of African Swine Fever in Cuba in 1971.

I had a number of opportunities to corroborate Fidel Castro’s photographic memory.  He visited the University frequently at night in 1967-68, where he discussed with students international issues he could not talk about during his mass gatherings.  Once I posed a question to him which he responded, how do you know about that?  When I answered he said, are you one of those who went to Germany?

That was the period in which Fidel was obsessed with the development of agriculture and the cattle industry.  He invited to Cuba the most outstanding researchers in these fields from around the world.  When Dr. Bonna Dona visited Cuba he was impressed with Fidel’s deep understanding of the issue and the first class national Artificial Insemination system he created.  Shortly after he invited Dr.Andre Voisin to Cuba who marveled with Fidel’s knowledge and commitment, when he saw the massive development his pet project “Intense Cattle Pasture in the Tropics” in Cuba.

At Dr. Voisin farewell, Fidel shower him with praise in a powerful speech recalling his enormous contributions to mankind and how his work produced more health than health professionals.  His heart could not resist so much accolades and he suffered a massive heart attack. His widow decided to bury him in Havana, a country he came to love dearly.

While I was still in my fourth year, Silvia Sanchez again enlisted me to be her veterinarian for four experimental farms that Fidel personally oversaw.  It was terrifying and I feared coinciding with Fidel frequent visits and his questions.  I learned through the administrators of these sites, that he knew that I was the veterinarian in charge.

Upon graduation and completing my residence, I became Director and Pathologist of the province of Oriente, but that did not keep me out of Fidel’s reach.  Maria Antonia owns one of Cuba best cattle farms and I was instructed by my boss to oversee her veterinary needs. Maria Antonia was very demanding, but she always expressed appreciation and respect for my work.  I later learned that she was Fidel Castro childhood friend and confidant that was just a phone call away.

With hundreds of threats on Fidel Castro’s life, four days before a visit to Bayamo during one of his cross country inspections, two pigs died suddenly at the farm house he was supposed to stay.  Everyone thought the worst after another veterinarian made a premature diagnosis of an outbreak of deadly Antrax.

I investigated all animals, took many samples and based upon my findings I concluded it was not Antrax, but in my youthful inexperience I declared the facility safe, instead of having them re-route his tour.  Weeks later I received his Thank You through the guards of that facility.

I achieved many professional successes, respect, envy and was forced to confront a burgeoning corruption within Veterinary Medicine, which earned me more enemies than I could handle.  I was blacklisted and later accused of horrendous crimes against the nation for which the DA requested 30 years in prison, I was found guilty in a kangaroo court and sent to prison for eight years and released after 4 ½ years.  One of my accusers is today a distinguished speaker/collaborator of the 2506 Brigade in Miami, invaders of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Upon my release, I sought justice at the highest level of every legal and political institution in the country to no avail.  I migrated to the US in 1980 and was able to visit Cuba 12 years later.  Surprisingly in 1994, I was invited to a huge solidarity meeting at the height of the Special Period at the Havana Convention Center.  Before closing this 2 day event, all participants were invited to a reception that evening at the Palace of the Revolution.

The event began at 8:00 PM and we stood in a single line to access the reception.  A personal security officer told everyone that Fidel was waiting in a large hall and that when we met him, we should identify ourselves and he usually gave females a hug and males got a handshake.

When it was my turn and I approached Fidel he was flanked by the Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina and Sergio Corrieri President  of the Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP).  He extended his hand and gave me a warm handshake.  When I told him my name while shaking my hand he murmured Jones, Jones as if he was trying to remember something, then Sergio Corriere said to him, he is Dr. Jones from Bayamo.

He looked into my eyes in dismay and said, How could that happen? Without thinking I responded, that the only thing that matters now is to save the Revolution.

He squeezed my hand so tight that my wedding ring hurt my adjacent fingers, erasing then and there forever, the treacherous, false accusations that tarnished my image and landed me in jail in Bayamo in 1974.

11 thoughts on “Fidel Castro’s Irreversible Impact on My Life

  • Dr. Jones, you obviously have a forgiving spirit. You seem willing to give the tyrant Fidel Castro a free pass for fomenting an environment where false accusations were encouraged that could cost a man so dearly as the price that you paid. Don’t you realize that your experience, albeit tragic, was repeated thousands of times? Fidel encouraged Cubans to watch other Cubans and report what they saw and even what they thought they saw. If innocent Cubans were inadvertently harmed by this vigilance, Fidel believed it a small price to pay for the benefit of keeping him in control. Perhaps you misread his reaction when he greeted you in 1994. Perhaps, having witnessed how his decisions had thrusted Cuba into the throes of his self-named Special Period, his conscious was finally engaged. Then to warmly shake hands with an innocent man whom his regime had imprisoned may have been too much for even a tyrant’s heart. We will never know. Again, I give you the benefit of the doubt for your forgiving spirit.

    Reply
  • I hate to say this for I appreciate both Carlyle and Moses for their sincerity in expressing their opinions, but truly their arrogance knows no bounds. What they both seem incapable of understanding is the reality of imperialism and the challenges of building a society that stands independent of the empire, based on human solidarity. Where is the democracy if the majority of resources are owned by companies based in foreign countries? Where is the democracy if the president of your country must do as commanded by a foreign country? With Fidel, Cuba tried, and is still trying, to stand independent of such anti-democratic imperial forces, that there are set-backs just goes to show how difficult such a course is.

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    • George, when you speak of democracy you exclude Cuba for it has been under the communist dictatorship of the Castro family regime for 58 long dreary destructive years. Don’t bother talking in response about Batista who was also a dictator. The main difference between the Castros and Batista is that he knew when to bale out. Sadly for the people of Cuba, the Castros didn’t.
      You refer to “set-backs” under the Castros. I guess you include repression, indoctrination, censorship, food rationing, crumbling infrastructure and the fourth highest level of incarceration in the world.
      Speaking of “anti-democratic imperial forces” I guess that you are including the al-Asad invasion of Israel and the Castro military involvement?
      If you wish to write of arrogance, then you cannot exclude Fidel Castro, Vladamir Putin, Mao Tze Dong, Josef Stalin, the Kim family in North Korea, Pinochet in Chile, Franco in Spain and in the USA Donald Trump. Currently the people of Aleppo are suffering the arrogance of the al-Asad family and Putin.
      I am sure that Moses like me, would readily admit that we both think that we are correct in condemning the Castro dictatorship for its oppression in Cuba and scorn those who sitting under the freedom of expression in the capitalist world are able to express their admiration for the oppression of others.

      Reply
      • Carlyle, I believe you are genuine in your wish to see Cubans live a better life and your sustained campaign to destroy the Cuban Revolution is motivated by your understanding of the world or lack thereof. As I said, what you as yet are incapable of grasping is imperialism and for this reason alone your words will fail to convince the majority of Cubans. You try to present yourself as a representative of universal values, not realising that you are trapped in a box whose walls you cannot even see. This is not your fault. The West does not have a free media to present you with the facts. The only source of truth is the alternative media and being alternative this is naturally up for suspicion. For example, do you know the origin of the name “Bikini” for that item of clothing? I guess you are vaguely aware that it is named after an island in the pacific. In fact it was explicitly named after the genocidal nuclear experiments on the people of that island. It is akin to naming an item of lingerie “Auschwitz”. No the West does not have a free media, and your claims to universality are deluded. There is a basic assumption that the West is “free” and Cuba is “oppressed”, the West is a “democracy” whilst Cuba is a “dictatorship”. In other words “Good” and “Bad”. You keep repeating this black and white dichotomy placing yourself far from universality and deep within the box of imperialism. You are unfortunately what we used to call a “running dog” or “lackey”. The reason we do not do that anymore is that we have moved away from black and white thinking and tried to embrace relationships that operate on a human level. Your “freedom of expression” that you so value is nothing more than the freedom to repeat the propaganda that is fed to you daily without you even realising it. And the reason for this is because you sit benefiting from imperialism rather than suffering under its yoke. Until you come to understand how Western imperialism works, you will never be able to share humanely with those whose lives it has blighted. Thank you.

        Reply
      • When reading this garbage from Carlyle I had trouble keeping my breakfast down. The Socialist path being taken by the people and Government of Cuban will long out last the lives of these two characters {Moses & Carlyle}. The American Capitalist System is the one in deep crisis and they know it. Their future is dark and uncertain. I’m not worried about the future of Cuba. They have many friends around the world and they’re on the right path.

        Reply
    • George,
      Cuba has had to develop against a background of appalling aggression from the nearby superpower.
      There have been successes and many failures.
      Despite lofty ideals, one of the big failures has been the agricultural sector.
      Cuba, with its fertile terrain, should be heading for self sufficiency.
      After the relative failure of following the Soviet model, the way forward must be to re-incentivise, to re-marketise.
      This is happening to a degree.
      I am very familiar with rural Cuba.
      Although a simplification (it is a complex issue), more market reform regarding food production must surely be the best way forward.
      One of the obvious successes of The Revolution is the fact that for all it’s problems is that Cuba has sovereignty over its territory and will make its own decisions.

      I would agree with you that Mr Patterson and Mr MacDuff are surely sincere in their stated viewpoints.
      However this is obviously a shortfall regarding objectivity.
      Clearly there is a specific and somewhat narrow agenda.
      There are nearly 200 countries in the world.
      There are many different cultures, practices, systems of governance, good points, bad points etc across and within these many different countries.
      It is always good to be objective and to look at things in context.

      Reply
    • It is hardly arrogance to criticize dictatorship. While Castro eschewed US interference, he embraced his Soviet patrons and, later, gladly accepted Venezuelan charity. Castro obviously cared little for Cuban independence. His regime is designed to maintain Cuban DE-pendence on the Castros.

      Reply
  • Thanks for sharing your fascinating story, Dr. Jones! In the end, despite your unjust imprisonment, thanks to your “oceanic view” of reality, you were able to transcend the lies and slanders of your accusers. The story of your encounter with the attack on Moncada reminds me of my friend, Pedro-Pablo, whose childhood home was hard by the presidential palace. When the Student Directorate attacked, it, in 1957, he and his family had to lie in the floor of their apartment for several hours as the battle raged in the streets outside.

    Reply
  • I think that Dr. Jones became a touch confused twice between anthrax and a US railway train.. I can recall a veterinarian in Dumfries, Scotland who having unfortunately contracted the disease, committed suicide. The idea of Fidel Castro personally over-seeing four experimental farms perhaps explains why Cuban agriculture sank into becoming an economic morass.

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  • I just finished watching the most interesting Netflix 8 part series “Cuba Libre” and Dr Jones’ experience was very typical of the time.

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  • First, I wish to make my position clear, that sharing my experience with our readers was intended solely highlight human shortcomings, egoism and betrayal, not as a justification, condemnation nor seeking sympathy from anyone.

    Knowing what I know now, if I had to do it over, I would do exactly the same without changing an iota. Life and the world is far more important than how it is measured by some of our readers, who thinks and focus solely on their personal benefits and advantage.

    I have lived long enough to see tens of people released after decades in US jails, condemned for crimes they never committed, yet, they are not asked to leave the US nor to denounce its government.

    Far worse than my personal experience is what happened to Tuskeegee black soldiers experiment with Leprosy, Guatemalan subjected to sexually transmitted diseases to prove penicillin nor American soldiers exposed to A Bomb radiation in Arizona.

    While all of these and other heinous crimes are ignored, excused or hidden by brother Moses and Carlyle, they reminds us constantly of every failure Fidel Castro made, but are again silent with the enormous successes Cuba accrued under his leadership, that has made Cuba, the strongest, safest and more promising country except Canada in the Western Hemisphere.

    I am at peace, grateful for what Cuba thought me and I have been able to share with others in New York, Florida and wherever life takes me, for which I call upon my friends, to look at the state of the world and rather than attempting to bring down Cuba, let’s build upon their successes, discard its failures, denounce its wrongdoings and together, create that better world that is still possible.

    Reply

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