Letter from Olga Salanueva
Posted to Facebook, January 24, 2018, 9:39 PM
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
This is corrected from the previous posting of this letter.
Since his return, as soon as I leave the house or any other place with my husband, I am witness to the many and continuous displays of affection, admiration and also gratitude shown by all those who feel patriotic and come across Rene. I always get this impression, because of the way they approach him, that it’s like when you suddenly meet on the street a childhood friend or a brother that you have not seen for a long time but is always on your mind. Some call him ‘brother’, some [women] ‘handsome’; some say, ‘take care, we love you, we love you, ‘you are us’, ‘God bless you’, ‘Cuba needs you’. So, what can I say… There was even one who wanted his wife to kiss him. And photos… so many of them.
I say all this because I am very sure that these people feel represented in them [the Five] and that is how they express it.
For several days many people on the street, and some from the media, have been asking us – and others taking for granted– that the Five would be candidates for deputies at the Assembly in these elections. I want to clarify that I say US because they also ask me daily. I guess this also happens to the rest of the family members of the Five.
Since the list of candidates was posted, an explosion of opinions and questions have reached us, and I can assure you that I have no answers to many of the questions.
Thus I have decided to answer the ones I can, and tell you all I know about René González Sehwerert and these elections.
I would like to clarify to some friends who are putting forward explanations for the non-inclusion of three of the Five [in the list of candidates] that they are mistaken.
René González returned to Cuba in 1961 and since then, under Cuban law, he is Cuban because that was the decision, first of his parents, and then his own.
As a Cuban, he spent three years in military service and then voluntarily spent 2 years in Angola as a soldier for his country. As a Cuban he was called to fulfill his mission in the United States and he remained there as a US citizen by birthright. We all remember that he renounced his US citizenship in order to return to his country, his people and his family 23 years later. Having explained this there is no reason to think that René is not Cuban.
Others have had doubts about [some of the Five] not willing to be deputies and representing their people at the Assembly.
It hurts deeply just thinking that someone may have come up with such an idea. René never hesitated a second to prove his readiness to represent his people in the bowels of the Miami mafia, risking his life, and leaving his wife and six-year-old daughter in 1990 with the shame of being [considered] a deserter’s family. The rest of the story is well known.
One day a representative of the Culture Workers Union (the Union Rene belongs to as he works as Vice-President of the José Martí Cultural Society) came to see him at the office. He left him a model-form to fill out with his personal data and explained that he had been proposed by this Union to be a candidate for deputy at the Assembly. Rene filled it our and handed it over. The rest of the Five were approached in the same way in different places.
This is as much as we know. He was not consulted again, or called, or approached to ask for an opinion or view.
René continued working as he has always done, in the way I have seen him do for 35 years in each task that has been assigned, giving body and soul; with the tremendous joy and optimism that everyone who knows him well recognize always accompany him; with his great transparency taking action against things done wrong. All in spite of the fact that this present task has nothing to do with his vocation, and that he cannot exercise the profession he loves.
So far [that is] all I know. Yesterday, suddenly, the list of candidates was made public and the avalanche of questions came.
My answer: Please ask the commission. I cannot find any reason why all Five cannot be deputies. In the first place they deserve it; they are more tested than chocolate; Cuba needs them too. It is in very bad taste to try to establish differences between the Five, when the Empire tried with all its might and failed. They will always be brothers and proven revolutionaries.
A friend on Facebook says: “I doubt that any candidacy committee has excluded them just because…for no reason at all. These commissions are made up of good people. I doubt anyone can ignore the Five, because they are the very heart of this Island. There must be, I suppose, some other reason … “
Compañera, I’m sorry to tell you that there is no mistake. Three of the Five were ignored by the commission. This represents, in my opinion, a new and great injustice against the Five Heroes of the Republic of Cuba.
Olga Salanueva Arango.
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
The multiple crises affecting Donald Trump’s administration from the day the real estate multi-billionaire entrepreneur arrived at the Oval Office of the White House has not spared the State Department.
An article by journalist Gardiner Harris, correspondent for the The New York Times at the White House, discusses the serious situation the diplomacy of the superpower has been going through since that day. He predicts it will tend to grow more serious in tune with the vices inherent in Trump’s administration, even when, in this case, it is Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, the first-acting figure.
Harris describes what has been happening in the upper ranks of the State Department as “a parade of dismissals and early retirements”. Tillerson’s intense campaign to clean out the State Department has called upon each office of the Department to contribute to this goal.
The guarded optimism that greeted the arrival of Rex Tillerson to the post of Secretary of State soon gave way to concern about the lack of communication between the boss and his subordinates.
By midyear, Tillerson’s reiterated focus on issues such as inefficiency and the need to reorganize foreign policy provoked increasing anger and concern about his performance within the department.
Now, the estrangement is in the open. Diplomats going out the door are making their feelings known and a number of members of Congress have raised questions about the impact of these firings and resignations on US foreign policy.
In a recent message addressed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee of Representatives, citing what they said was the “exodus of more than 100 Senior Foreign Service Officers of the State Department since January “, expressed concern about what “appears to be the intentional hollowing out of our senior diplomatic ranks.”
Tillerson, a former chief executive of the EXXON corporation and a supporter of fundamentalist capitalism, has made no secret of his belief that the State Department is a bloated bureaucracy. He regards much of the day-to-day diplomacy that lower level US diplomats conduct (and he now leads) as unproductive.
Even before Tillerson’s appointment was confirmed by the Senate, his team of assistants fired 6 of the State Department’s top career diplomats, including some who had been appointed during governments headed by Republican presidents. None were given any reasons for their dismissals.
Secretary Tillerson announced a reorganization to be carried out in the following months. He stressed that this would be the most important action that he would do while in office. He hired two consulting companies to lead the process.
Since he announced, before arriving at the State Department, that he would slash its budget by 31%, many in the Department have always seen the reorganization as a smokescreen for drastic cuts.
Tillerson has frozen most hiring and offered $25,000 buyouts, hoping to get about 2,000 career diplomats and civil servants to leave their positions by October 2018.
His small group of assistants has managed to fire some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted, or taking their duties away altogether.
Among those fired or sidelined there is a high proportion of Latino and African-American diplomats, as well as women. These were important to maintain the Department’s troubled diversity balance.
Gardiner Harris quotes Nancy McEldowney, a career diplomat and former ambassador who retired last June after 30 years as a US Foreign Service Officer, “There is a vacuum throughout the State Department and the junior people now working in these top jobs lack the confidence and credibility that comes from a presidential nomination and a Senate confirmation.”
An example of the trend being followed in the State Department was seeing during the farce against Cuba about “sonic attacks” (which never existed and were probably the result of Senator Marco Rubio’s initiative to promote his image as the probable future Republican president). One of the episode’s first outcomes was the reduction of the staff at the US Embassy in Havana to such an extent that it practically brought to a standstill the consular relations between both sides of the Florida Strait.
January 23, 2018.