Ricardo, my unforgettable friend
By Max Lesnik
May 3, 3033
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
“You look Death in the face”, Ricardo Alarcón once told me on one occasion, at a time when we were both in grave danger, in the face of an attack by the Batista police in the midst of a student riot, descending the university steps with the leader of the FEU, José Antonio Echevarría.
And that is how Ricardo Alarcon left the world of humans, looking death in the face, to enter the altar of the Cuban homeland as a worthy revolutionary of Mambisa lineage, for the “De Quesada”, an independentista family that has left only glories and sacrifices and never unworthy betrayals.
I did not have the opportunity to give a final embrace to my dear friend who had in me the affection of a brother as Alfredo Guevara, Eusebio Leal, Jesús Montané and Manuel Piñeiro Losada were in life, all of them deeply Martiano and Fidelista until the last breath of their fruitful existences.
When I arrived in Havana last Thursday, April 28, Ricardo was already in a very serious condition. I was unable to give him a goodbye hug. His daughter Margarita -whom I love as one of my daughters- told me with sorrow that Ricardo was already in a death trance, the man who said like Marti “that death is not true when the work of life is fulfilled”.
His daughter Margarita and his grandson Ricardito, my godson by baptism, who in spite of his short years already has the vigor and the natural intelligence of the grandfather who was gone, who saw in him, as the prolongation of his existence on earth, are left.
His fruitful diplomatic career as Cuba’s delegate to the United Nations, of whom it was said at the time that he was the most brilliant ambassador of the multitudinous international forum of the UN at the time, as well as in Cuba, his very skilful presidency for more than two decades of the Cuban Parliament, also remain for history. of the Cuban Parliament.
One of the greats of the “Centennial Generation” has died. A devoted Martiano and faithful Fidelista. For me, he will always be simply “Ricardo”, my unforgettable friend.
April 25, 2022
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Brothers and sisters: For months the extreme right has fiercely attacked the Miami caravan against the blockade and the Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love movement. They have branded us as “communists”, “agents of the Cuban government”; lately they have also accused us of being “counterrevolutionaries”. Yes, just like that. The traditional anti-Cuban right-wing has achieved a strange communion with some characters who call themselves “revolutionaries” and attack our movement equally.
They have tried many offenses aimed at getting us out of the way. But without success. Every day more and more people raise their voices to demand the end of the blockade against Cuba and the construction of Bridges of Love between the peoples of Cuba and the United States.
Now the Miami right-wing, articulated by Maria Elvira Salazar, Mario Diaz-Balart, Channel 41 and the hating YouTubers, are trying to use a new tactic.
They resort to ill-intentioned people and try to create confusion and chaos in the Miami Caravan. The latest thing they have come up with is to hold a “revolutionary” counter caravan. Yes, as you read it: “revolutionary”. It is difficult to understand this puzzle, but opportunism plays unusual cards.
Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind: the creation of this contra caravan is carried out by the same hands that pull the strings of confrontation and rage against the Cuban family. [They are] the same hands that have no scruples in engendering in Washington all the plans and proposals aimed at adding more fire to the pressure cooker in an attempt to make it explode at once, to make Cuba burst.
Now they are using extremists and sectarians who call themselves “leftists”.
In this war against the people of Cuba, and against the caravans, it seems that anything goes. From Miami, with photos of leaders of the Cuban Revolution as a backdrop, they try to legitimize their divisive discourse. While they brand us as “counterrevolutionaries”, they shamelessly appropriate the messages of Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love. The tactic of confusion of symbols and false flags is not new. They attack, denigrate, defame and intimidate anyone who supports #PuentesDeAmor.
Our caravans are part of a diverse and inclusive movement, centered on the love of family, made up of people of diverse faiths and ideologies. It is not a political movement but a citizen and humanitarian movement. The saboteurs want to make this a reason for “suspicion” because they do not tolerate diversity.
They go as far as xenophobia and rant against someone like Peter Seidman, an experienced fighter for civil rights in the U.S., and one of the organizers of the Miami Caravan. They slander him because he is “American” and “Jewish”. They have even accused Max Lesnik, founder of the Alianza Martiana and an old revolutionary, of being a “CIA agent”. What could they not have said against me? My status as a veteran, a combat medic in the Iraq war two decades ago, is used as proof that the leader of Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love is a “war criminal”. The goal is to “defame him so that something remains”.
To confuse even more, they claim that the caravan movement and Bridges of Love have a secret agenda to carry out a “soft coup” in Cuba and overthrow the government. Things are true Sancho!
In the face of this barrage of attacks we declare:
Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love is a movement and organization created in the United States, which seeks to educate the American people and the elected politicians in this country, about the need to lift the sanctions that weigh on the Cuban people. Our goal is to end the blockade of Cuba.
Puentes de Amor welcomes all those who, beyond ideologies, want the blockade to be lifted and Cuba’s national sovereignty to be respected. Neither Puentes de Amor, nor the Miami Caravan, had, has, nor will have any intention of interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs.
We alert our followers and friends, Cubans in the United States and around the world, journalists and social communicators: the counter caravan that they want to orchestrate for May 22, 2022, in Miami pursues only one goal: to undermine the Miami Caravan, disarticulate its members and weaken the #PuentesDeAmor movement.
We invite Cubans and non-Cubans to join the caravan against the blockade that will take place on Sunday, May 29, 2022. People from all over the United States will travel to Miami to give their support to those who raise their voices there to end the criminal blockade that weighs on the people of Cuba.
They will not divide us! They will not confuse us! We will not stop until the blockade on Cuba is lifted! Our priority is love! The family is sacred!
Cuba yes, blockade no! Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love!
Organizer of Puentes de Amor/Bridges of Love!
April 25, 2022
(Taken from Carlos Lazo’s Facebook account)
UNEDITED TRANSLATION OF COMMENTS ON CUBADEBATE:
All our support to the professor and the good Cubans in Miami!!!! We know that this “revolutionary leader” is a friend of Maria Elvira, he doesn’t mess with Otaola and company, besides he has a lousy moral conduct. And as my grandmother used to say, a lazy person is a thief’s apprentice. In this case, since he has not wanted to work, he has sold himself to the highest bidder using the false image of a revolutionary inquisitor. We will not be fooled by this puppet. Long live the bridges of love! Thank you Professor Carlos Lazo for so much effort.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 17:18/ REPLY
You are clear brother. Edmundo’s behavior is out of the question. Every time I see him in a direct throwing dirt on bridges of love and Lazo and our president Diaz Canel and and Soberon, I remember how he came out with an immoral video, a guy alienated and does all that under cover of a photo of our commander. Lazo is right, that is paid for and inspired by the Miami right wing.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:27/ REPLY
Carmen Glez said:
all movements and caravans to be done with a good purpose. End the blockade. Lifting of the sanctions. Remove Cuba from the expury list of countries welcome the revolutionary caravans And let’s stop defaming Edmundo Garcia. He has always been exposed to the greatest defamations. He has been fighting against this mafia for years and years. Without giving up his Revolutionary principles. Loving and following the Legacy of our Undefeated Commander. They have no evidence to the contrary. . Let’s be serious.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 5:41
You are correct brother. Edmundo “revolutionary leader” is a person with unparalleled moral rot. He attacks Lazo, Israel el de Buena fe, Soberon, our president Dias Canel, and he does it with a photo of the commander in chief in the background, he is pitiful and disgusting. Here we are alerted to this character. Here they already know him.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:33/ REPLY.
The whip said:
EXCELLENT COMMENT,MR. USUAL BUM,AND NOW OPPONENT TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WANT TO WORK AND THE BEST WAY TO LIVE WITHOUT WORKING HERE IN MIAMI,IS CASHING CHECKS FOR DISUNITING AND ATTACKING EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD FOR CUBA.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:36/ REPLY
Much clarity in his words. It is very unfortunate that a gentleman who chooses to call himself a revolutionary before as is edmundo Garcia is the bearer of so much rottenness of the ultra-right in Miami against the Cuban people and bridges of love. How is it possible that this gentleman does not attack the people who call for strong sanctions against Cuba and only attacks bridges of love.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 23:20/ REPLY
My previous comment was not published I am going to tone down my comment haber si me publican.
I live in Holguin Cuba I am daily on social networks and YouTube directs, defended the revolution, I have many direct cuts in which channels that drive today Carlos Lazo, the host of the channel, denigrate the revolution and Fidel.
I really don’t understand anything
26 APRIL 2022 AT 9:37/ REPLY.
Alexei, false very false what you say. The channels that denigrate the revolution are those of Reinaldo Tinima Tv where you participate, those of Edmundo Garcia, where you participate, those of Otaola, Eliecer, Felipe, eñ Protestón, Lazo does not participate in those channels. I also live in Holguín. If you really support our process and the Cuban people, stop following those channels that denigrate the revolution and join those who fight for the Cuban family, the Guajiro, Doctors Cordoví, Pellizcando. And yes, it seems that you do not understand anything. Edmundo denigrates the revolution, right now he is attacking Cubadebate, Soberón, Cuba and threatening to go to the Miami media. Take off your blindfold brother, so you understand what is at stake here.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 12:28
EL LÁTIGO said:
Alexei,is it serious what you are saying?on what channel are you always on?Reynaldo Escobar ring a bell?here don’t come here to lie and try to defend the person who you have also attacked him,or do you have a bad memory?LONG LIVE THE BRIDGES OF LOVE.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 16:45
Otto Anibal said:
If you do not understand anything you call yourself revolutionary and do not get out of CONTRAREVOLUTIONARY channels, eye, and even with key in them, then what do you think how are we ??. Right now Edmundo and since yesterday, he is trying to denigrate Cubadebate, he blatantly lies about this media, he offends….well, you better than anyone know how he gets, then ??, you will go and tell him why he attacks, you don’t understand him at all ????
26 APRIL 2022 AT 19:26
The truth that us haters no longer have nothing to invent, a “revolutionary” caravan. You have to have a lot of cynicism, chutzpah and lack of ethics. I support our brothers of Puentes de Amor who beyond the borders fight against the genocidal blockade that suffocates their people and for the union of good Cubans wherever they are. Bravo to them!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 17:23/ REPLY
Susana de la Flor said:
… “Bridges of love”…, yes, true, we need many bridges made with love, that unite and save us….
25 APRIL 2022 AT 17:28/ REPLY
Worry and occupy 70 said:
The truth will prevail. When the feeling for Cuba is genuine, lies and hate, fall to the deepest. Long live the sons and daughters who love their homeland. Down with the blockade!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 17:33/ REPLY
It is worrying, I have always felt fear for the integrity of the Bridges of Love movement, the haters in their perverse actions are capable of anything, they do not have an ounce of dignity or shame
Thank you for your love
25 APRIL 2022 AT 17:57/ REPLY
The movement of solidarity and friendship with Cuba, including the caravans, marches, rallies against the criminal US blockade, IS ON MAXIMUM ALERT. Solidarity and Friendship all over the world… Unite! May they not steal our speech, our terms, our words, our verb and strategies of defense and denunciation, our revolutionary language. May they not rob us of our sure, firm and well-defined steps, our certainty of victory and confidence in a beautiful future. Solidarity, cooperation and disinterested help, friendship, altruism, generosity, kindness, detachment, selflessness, fraternity, comradeship, brotherhood, communion, are words that opportunists, profiteers, lackeys, traitors and bootlickers in the service of the empire do NOT know how to pronounce or use. They combine it all with money, with mercenarism. Let us NOT be fooled and let us NOT take the initiative, brothers in solidarity! let us unite in a single bridge of love and tenderness, a bridge that unites the peoples of the United States and Cuba, the Cuban families separated by visceral hatred, lies and rancor designed from that monstrous, perfidious and horrendous place that is Miami, a single bridge of love, affection and affection that extends through valleys and mountains, rivers, seas and oceans, forests and prairies, between rainbows and clouds and unites all the peoples of the world. Greetings.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:09/ REPLY
Ernesto Martinez said:
You could see that coming. The one leading these attacks is Edmundo Garcia. From counter-revolutionary to revolutionary and now he has even become an opponent of the Cuban government. The sad thing about this is that he launches all this venom against Lazo and against bridges of love and has confused good people. The confusion occurs because Edmundo does this work under the cover of photos of the commander in chief. Fidel, from his grave, must be very upset with this character. Don’t be discouraged professor, the people of Cuba love and respect him.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:14/ REPLY
Gloria Hardwig said:
100%agree with you!!!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:41/ REPLY
Prof. Lazo did not say the name, but we know that the quitacolumnista, the traitor is Edmundo Garcia. Sad and demoralized character that one. It is common knowledge that Edmundo gives his tongue to Maria Elvira Salazar. This guy is poisonous and betrays even his mother. Don’t worry Lazo, Edmundo is not fooling anyone anymore. Here we are alert.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:20/ REPLY.
Gloria Hardwig said:
THESE REFLECTIONS CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE, ARE WORTHY OF DEEP ANALYSIS! LONG LIVE THE BRIDGES AND CARAVANASSS FOR OUR PEOPLE!!!!!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 18:34/ REPLY
We support you Carlos for your courage, honesty without limits and intelligence. The values that you stand for are pure and have to triumph. Take care of yourselves from evil and hatred. We support you with all our strength from Cuba
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:01/ REPLY
Vivan los Puentes de Amor viva la familia cubana abajo lis odiadores como el Inmundo Garcia.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:02/ REPLY
Diana Rosa Hernandez Aguilar said:
It is incredible to see how the enemies of the people of use all kinds of unscrupulous actions to eliminate those who try to support us, to help us.
The Blockade is Real.
So is the anti-Cuban mafia.
Bridges of Love, regardless of the circumstances, the attacks, the discrediting against them, seek to unite the Cuban family, seek what every Cuban with love for his homeland should do, fight against this criminal blockade until it is destroyed.
On the 29th with Bridges of Love in caravan and against the sanctions that weigh on my country.
On the 29th I go with Bridges of Love.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:05/ REPLY
Thank you, love will always unite us, no.matter distance.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 20:39/ REPLY
Miguel Fernandez Sierra said:
It is shameful that Cubans who were akin to the REVOLUTION in recent times have twisted the path. I have been participating in these caravans the last three times in Miami and I can affirm that we are all against the BLOCKADE and in favor of good relations between Cuba and the USA! Down with the BLOCKADE and long live the bridges of LOVE! Greetings!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:05/ REPLY
Vivan los Puentes de Amor viva cuba Viva la familia cubana El tal inmundo es un odiador y opositor del pueblo de cuba y su gobierno.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:05/ REPLY
I would like to know the sense that those who try to sabotage a gesture of kindness do not tell him a revolutionary taste valla, pq.many are not but humanism will never be well seen who condemns or attacks it, as it will not be well seen who uses it as a facade.
Rivers have always had clear waters and murky waters but in the end both end up in the same sea.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:14/ REPLY
Daniel Andres said:
My respect for them , the way is love , not building walls but building bridges of love , the Cuban family needs it , why can’t relations be normal , despite the differences between the two countries , by their fruits you will know them , those who love and build , those who hate and destroy
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:29/ REPLY
Those who truly love Cuba are not going to be misled by that crude maneuver. All my support for Puentes de Amor.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:44/ REPLY
Professor all the love in the world is not enough to thank you. On behalf of the Cuban family, thank you and a thousand times thank you! Fuerza Puentes de Amor!!!
25 APRIL 2022 AT 19:55/ REPLY
“the homeland rises on the united shoulders of all its children. One does not have the right to isolation: one has the right to be useful” José Martí.
Bridges of love is a good project that seeks to influence to lift the criminal blockade that makes the homeland suffer, which is laudable, but if we look at the media supports of this project as was the Protestón, creator of the Miami caravan, and the youtube channel “Pellizcando” leave much to be desired by the positions assumed and the sometimes grotesque way of treating those who think differently from them.
There is a marked protagonism of the leader of this movement, which many do not like given the positions he assumes, at times, with important people of this movement who brand the revolution, our government as a “dictatorship”. This does not please the revolutionaries in spite of the laudable objective.
If it is said that it is not a political movement, without ideology, inclusive, these manifestations should be on the margin of the movement because they undermine, create doubts.
This proclamation, this declaration, although it intends to alert about the contenders who intend to boycott this project and take a parallel path: the important thing would be not to give reasons to question this noble purpose and to analyze the causes of why it is questioned and to eliminate everything that casts doubt on the good and legitimate intentions.
Any action that contributes to the lifting of the blockade is praiseworthy, wherever it comes from, but it is necessary to follow clear paths to prevent censorship and disqualification: everyone has the right to defend what they believe to be just.
“There are no two ways to go if you want to succeed” and “whoever asks for love must inspire respect” José Martí.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 20:21/ REPLY
Maria Cristina said:
What kind of thing bro. Pellizcando en Vivo collects refills for people in Cuba, helps the Caravanas, and you dare to defend and not mention a denigrating and denigrated man who attacks our president Diaz Canel and you say that Pellizcando says rude things. How sad brother, you may be good people but you are very confused and do not see that one of the biggest traitors in the Cuban emigration is Edmundo Garcia. I am glad Cubadebate exposed this. Here in our country people are clear. Don’t try to confuse us.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:28/ REPLY.
Recharges? How many recharges according to the money they receive? Here families recharge their families. Those recharges you talk about 99% are “earned” by the same person. Have you seen a financial report of what is collected? What did these riffraff do when they were fighting against the blockade, not embargo as they call it. According to them “blockade” is the internal blockade of Cuba. Dale, bring out your evidence.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 9:02
Luciano, you are the Herald journalist, counter-revolutionary who has not visited Cuba for 30 years. Luciano, Herald journalist liar, advisor to Edmundo now campaigning to create a dissidence of “revolutionaries” in Miami. Look how the “unknown” contributions rained down on Edmundo yesterday, he collected almost a thousand dollars, there is a lot of money in Miami to attack Cuba. We here know who you are and who Edmundo Garcia is, wolves of the same anti-Cuban pack. long live Cuba! long live the revolution! long live the bridges of love!
26 APRIL 2022 AT 10:33
Dear Maria Cristina, I state my opinion from what I see, what I hear. Nobody is absolutely right. Neither you nor me. I opine by evidence: ask Victoria a Cuban living in Havana if she was not offended. Whatever the reasons, there is no reason to denigrate anyone.
How does recharging help: only to connect to the internet or to sell the balance, no more.
It is not admissible that they brand the government as a tyranny, they do it; that Fidel has already passed, that he is in a stone, that now there are other circumstances: they marginalize his legacy. Do we have to accept that? Besides, it is inadmissible to use milk donations in tones of bachata, laughter, double meaning. Can you imagine what Fidel would have done if he had seen these demonstrations? Can you imagine? He would have dispensed with them: “The manner of giving is worth more than what is given” (Pierre Corneille). Solidarity is based on the purity of intentions, of acts, and does not admit this type of manifestations. Imagine if the solidarity aid that our country gives to others were acted in this way: Do you think we would be credible? Cuba is credible because of the seriousness of its actions; because of the principles it upholds; because of an exemplary and respectful practice of solidarity since 1959 until today. Nothing justifies, not even the tons of milk given, to use them in a tone of laughter, of amusement: to say things like: “milk on top, milk underneath; milk everywhere” and I say no more. I don’t find that funny, and I don’t think anyone can find that funny. He who serves with love, respects and even more so in the circumstances we live in. I do not criticize, I point out. You cannot cover the sun with a finger and as Martí said: “what is, is”.
Solidarity is not only an act of love, but also an act of respect.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 14:11
Watching the bulls from the sidelines said:
Dear, if we remember well so much detail about Marti’s platforms and phrases, well we should equally remember that Fidel, clarified that in Cuba there was a dictatorship, it is the dictatorship of the proletariat. As for the intensity of offense meter, clearly, to send to hell the president of any country, ranting about the youth of that country, in reference to prostitution, among other things said by Ed. G., will agree that it is much more outrageous and denigrating, for those offended revolutionaries, than the use of the word dictatorship. The Pellizcando en Vivo platform lent the channel to promote the caravan at a time when there was no platform for it, but its primary objective is not to promote the caravan. Watching the bulls from the sidelines, since no disqualifications have ever been said about the Cubans and the leaders of the island, from the mouth of the leader or leaders of the bridges of love. Grotesque, however, is what is done from platforms such as those that you Quindo, subtly and unintentionally legitimizes (intentionally or not) the right to rant (right to free speech), using as an instrument to do so the disqualification of the Pellizcando en Vivo channel, establishing a manipulative parallelism with the Protestón platform. The Pellizcando Platform has thousands of things to improve, as any work, however it is obvious that it is completely and diametrically different from the Protestón platform. Please, before issuing criteria, it would be good to try to be truly impartial, investigate the causes and evolution of why we have reached this situation and only then delegitimize, criticize or praise, but always with substantial arguments. Let us always use the power of well and honestly crafted argument and not the argument of power or our preference.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 2:03/ REPLY.
Mr. cute. Or Kindongo. I don’t give 3 shits how you think. Pinching live of which fills me with pride and pleasure to be a member. It brings more to our project of bridges of love and to the Cuban people. Than many revolutionary debtors like Edmundo Garcia and many of his confused followers. He is not only a revolutionary and patriot who hides behind a picture of the Comandante on his back and attacks the current president and many of the leading apparatus in Cuba and serious and honest people who believe that love is what unites. Which side are you on? The one that wants to live off history and cover up the present and the future? History is respected and kept in the soul. But the present and the future are carried in the mind every day to seek a better welfare for our people. You do not know the reality of certain YouTube that when hoisting an image their thinking is in the limelight and the interests of feeling indispensable that is EDMUNDO GARCIA. Pellizcando is an entity of respect and love. Where a group of friends and Cubans without selfishness and taboos, neither political nor religious. We share as a family what little we have with our people and you have never heard in this group that the Cuban government should make changes, that is a problem of the Cuban government to make reforms and take the people forward as it has always done. Join real projects and limit yourself to judge. A hug we wait for you in bridges of love and united to the topic pinching. To fight side by side to lift the sanctions.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 10:33/ REPLY
Dear Mario, the first thing you should do is to treat others with respect. Do you think it is civic to treat others this way: “Mr. Cute. Or Kindongo. I don’t give 3 shits how you think”. You can think, have an opinion different from mine: give your arguments that is what counts, not this aggressive language that does not give you more reason: it makes you ugly. Arguments are what is valid, the rest is superfluous. I excuse you.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 14:07
Carmen García Gutierrez said:
All our support , dear friend Carlos Lazo Thanks to all those who demand love Cuba and are in solidarity with our people .Down with the Genocidal Blockade. And Criminal imposed by the U.S. government to Cuba.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 20:40/ REPLY
How can we help them from Cuba?
25 APRIL 2022 AT 20:44/ REPLY
Juan Carlos Subiaut Suarez said:
Dear Carlos Lazo:
Many times, when there are no more elements to discern on which side is the truth and choose a criterion, one relies on seeing the opposite side, who attacks him, who is against what is being raised, who in one way or another, is allied with the enemy, even if he uses false flag criteria, even if he uses phrases and positions of our patriotic referents. The fact that they have done it and are doing it against him and against the movement he represents is, no doubt, evidence of his growing success and the fear of our enemies that he will continue to reap them.
A few days ago, in response to what was said by several forum members, I commented on the matter:
¨I respect the opposing positions, but, like any struggle, this one is heterogeneous, as heterogeneous is the composition and interests of the groups that participate in it. I am a Cuban from here and I have more grounds to fight against the blockade, because I suffer its consequences daily, so I try to see, above the differences of criteria, a position, which is the fight against the blockade, and based on it, to achieve a united front. The effectiveness of all these initiatives, without forgetting the value, more in the spiritual than in the material sense, of sending donations, is to achieve an increase in the awareness of the issue in the American society. The blockade is part of a set of legislations, regulations and other measures, so its deactivation will occur when the elimination of these measures begins to be debated and approved by the U.S. government. Then, I applaud any initiative, which may have nuances, even internal struggles for positions, leaderships, etc., but whose direction coincides with the struggle against the blockade. This is the main task.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 20:56/ REPLY.
For me it is clear that whoever attacks Puentes de amor, under whatever banner, is serving the interests of Cuba’s enemies.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:06/ REPLY
Thank God at last !!!, thank you CubaDebate for echoing these words of Professor Carlos Lazo, it is good enough that these pariahs hiding behind the images of the Commander in Chief, and wearing a false uniform of Revolutionary attack with impunity the leaders of the Revolution, branding them as ignorant, influence peddling, corrupt, clumsy, bunglers and I do not know how many more adjectives, denigrating both the current leaders of the country and the movement of Bridges of Love….
25 APRIL 2022 AT 21:07/ REPLY.
The world upside down. If we follow the guideline raised among the good Cubans in Miami must be the youtuber “Protestón Cubano”, the unmentionable Erick Concepcion, other youtuber like the famous “Captain etc” who says that “Pozada Carriles” is innocent, who disrespects our Sara González and her song “A los héroes” by the way that we are still in the April of Girón, or the no less ineffable Liber who refers that our FIDEL is in a stone and that he is part of the past. All close collaborators of Mr. Lazo and his “bridges”. All of them accusing those who reject them for being what they are, GUSANOS and that they find a space in a site like this one to continue doing their work with the support of those who should take the trouble to look for public and abundant information on these subjects. I hope you publish this comment. I am Cuban and revolutionary. It would be a disappointment for me not to see this opinion while others may say things to the contrary. Greetings
25 APRIL 2022 AT 21:07/ REPLY
No amigo. Proteston decanted from the movement and betrayed, as did Edmundo Garcia who attacks our president, not only Lazo and Soberon and Israel Rojas and Johama Tablada. A demoralized drug addict, a sexual aberrate, who when he saw that the cause was bigger than him, he sided with Otaola and Maria Elvira. Why is he attacking our president and not attacking Otaola? Why is he attacking ICAP and not attacking Maria Elvira? Why is he trying to destroy the caravans and not trying to destroy the blockade? Edmundo Garcia is a traitor to the people of Cuba and if you follow him you are well screwed.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:17/ REPLY
Bring out the proof that he is paid or supported by Maria Elvira or OtaOla, but bring them out and bring out the proof that everything that has been said about Carlos Lazo’s gusanera is false because it’s all in videos. Dale get your proofs out.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 9:07
False very false what you imply. Edmundo Garcia attacks our president Dias Canel, Fernandez Cosio, Soberon Johana Tablada and you still defend Edmundo. This article is not about the protester who killed himself, it is about Edmundo Garcia and his attack against the caravans and against the people of Cuba. And if you are on Edmundo’s side, you are not a revolutionary,
APRIL 25, 2022 AT 22:33/ REPLY
You can be a revolutionary but at no time lose perspective. It is true that all those you mention in your writing at times have had those pronouncements, however that does not prevent them from agreeing with the idea that unites us all and makes us equal. All of them, beyond their ideologies or different ways of thinking, support the Cuban family of which you and I are a part, just as they all demand the lifting of the U.S. blockade. And that is the achievement of Bridges of Love, it brings together Cubans of different ideologies and thoughts with the one and only objective of demanding the lifting of the blockade imposed for more than 60 years.
APRIL 26, 2022 AT 6:51/ REPLY
That is the idea, all those who love Cuba and the Cuban family should be united in this objective. Creating division among us is the goal of the enemy to continue crushing the Cuban people.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 11:03
Puentes de amor should be respected by all good Cubans inside and outside. You don’t have to be a communist to respect the laws of a country. They say we are children of the Lord. Lord that none of us know and respect. Bridges of love is a light where at least we can have political or religious differences but it is for the common good of our people. Our people our elders and children. From town to town. Governments come and go. The Commander was a worthy and humane son. Raul was a continuity and a great leader is DÍAS CANEL whom his people and all follow him except for a few behaviors. Each people is the one who chooses. Let us respect our people. Who is Edmundo Garcia? Who is Ota Ola ? Who is Eliezer and comparsas ? I am puentee de amor soy tim PELLISCANDO I am neither communist nor catholic or religious. I am an atheist but with a heart in the center of my chest to love and respect my people and my country whoever runs it. My duty is to support what my people decide. Long live bridges of love viva cuba viva your government who will know how to get your people ahead.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 7:53/ REPLY
Everything you express I have been able to see in the channels that support Carlos Lazo, in which he himself participates with some frequency. I am also Cuban (in Cuba) and like everyone else I live in spite of the blockade. One thing is clear to me, those who have arguments to defend their positions can challenge any person, just as the latter can demonstrate their truth. We all want the blockade to end and to have relations with the whole world but the first and fundamental thing is to preserve the ethics and morals that have allowed this small country to be the future longed for by many in the world. Without them the revolution would be mortally wounded, and they can remove the blockade at any time.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 14:24/ REPLY
And to think that many believe that they really say they want the best for Cubans. Yes the best ….. hypocrisy and chutzpah. How they do everything possible and impossible to axficiarnos. Their democracy is completely confused, they act in a contrary and illogical way.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 21:21/ REPLY
Alejandro Martinez said:
Well said, bridges of love! Edmundo is a dissident.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:09/ REPLY
Sigo la Lógica said:
reality is the only criterion of truth, if the caravan and bridges of love is in favor of Cuba and the improvement of relations with the elimination of the blockade, who is served by an attack on that movement, things are almost always simpler than they seem.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:30/ REPLY.
Brother lazo they will never be able to divide us as in 63xyears they have not been able to with the Cuban revolution we believe more love bridge know why they do that because they are failed and they are always like that some low and miserable free homeland or motir by sovereign Cuba and independent of yankee ingeremcia.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:33/ REPLY
the truth is defended with actions, and whoever puts his chest to danger as does bridges of love deserves all our respect and support, the column removers will always be to destroy the work of the revolution, no need to say the name of those who have lost honor and dignity, they do not deserve a minute, just look at the coven even with photos of the commander, what little shame has that sr.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:45/ REPLY.
To die of laughter. It is true that this gentleman of the “bridges” has them saying nonsense to the four winds. None of them has ever been in danger. Except in Faluja Iraq where he went to commit genocide as part of the yankee army and from which he was decorated. It is a pity that so many people follow the saint of bridges without doing a minimum exercise to verify all the sources. It is their right and they are respected, respect then the right to our heresy.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 9:38/ REPLY
Carmen Martinez said:
Edmundo has lost his way and is trying to do harm. He uses the same methods of Otaola giving directions and sending mobs to attack whoever contradicts him. I believe that you are the ones who live manipulated by this gentleman. Just last night he published a photo of Carlos Lazo’s house. In these turbulent times where hatred is imposed to encourage attacks against a person is an act the least undignified.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 13:36
Otto Anibal said:
You are in all of them, I imagine already where you are coming from. Haber follower of edmundo garcia (all lower case letters intended) when was your leader in danger ?, how many attacks did he escape from ?, how many scars does his body exhibit (surgery for appendicitis doesn’t count) after so many years in “danger” ??. I will only repeat one thing said by him, he was a good friend of Más Canosa, he is currently a good friend of María Elvira and that friendship is already long, with only these two and there are many more, do you think that Edmundo has ever been in danger in Miami, as you say, don’t make me laugh.
26 APRIL 2022 AT 14:55
Otto Anibal said:
To be more exact I would say that NEW maneuvers are being prepared against the caravans and the Bridges of Love project because for quite some time now, all kinds of actions are being generated to totally destroy such initiatives created by emigrants who love their Homeland. Edmundo Garcia’s Youtube program is very similar in image to Radio and TV Marti, these two monsters use the figure of the Apostle, this other one the Commander in Chief, with an unparalleled and incredible sound they attack the Cuban people and its Revolution. The height of brazenness is that this filthy character, lacking all morals, shame, modesty, dignity, honesty, principles and other attributes present in a normal citizen, takes as a reference precisely that quality of the dignity of the human being to name his already defeated caravan. Just as we did not accept the “aid” that came from the open right wing in Miami, we will not support this “caravan” that comes from the hidden right wing. VIVAN puentes de Amor, Somos de Patria o Muerte.
25 APRIL 2022 AT 22:48/ REPLY
Otto the ones I have seen in very good vibes with the unpresentable Eric Concepcion have been you and the cortege of the saint of bridges. In the public eye are the videos where he sang patria y vida in Panama minutes before sharing the stage with the bona fide. I don’t know what you mean when you say that you are from “Patria o Muerte” and you have such a close friendship with that individual. If that is the case now, I will only tell you that in my case I am guided by the imprint of FIDEL and CHE: Not even a little bit like that to the worms.
APRIL 26, 2022 AT 9:29/ REPLY
Agustin, that same discourse you use is that of the dissidence that wants to divide our process. Do not use the name of our undefeated comandante to legitimize your words. You are doing the same thing that Edmundo Garcia does, putting Fidel in the background to confuse. Fidel wanted unity among all good patriots and he must be turning over in his grave knowing that people like Edmundo and you are using him to sow a sisaña among the ranks of the revolution. That is the plan of the Miamense right but here we are no fools. Viva Cuba! Fatherland or death!
26 APRIL 2022 AT 10:40
By Max Lesnik
March 01, 2022
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
We can learn from history and thus avoid repeating past mistakes by seeking to replicate the successes only.
The crisis between Russia and Ukraine that has led to an open war between these neighboring countries, with the invasion of the territory of the latter by the former, leading to a very serious situation that could lead to a disastrous nuclear catastrophe for all mankind.
How was the so-called “October Crisis”, which almost led to a nuclear holocaust between the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union, resolved in 1962?
Diplomacy and not arms resolved the dangerous conflict that almost turned the “Cold War” into a “Hot War” that would have turned the world into a planetary cemetery at that time.
Cuba, already harassed by the United States since the triumph of its Revolution, was threatened by the “Colossus of the North” with invasion of its territory in Imperial response to the courageous attitude of the small Caribbean island that dared to defend its independence and sovereignty at whatever price was necessary.
It was then that another world power, the Soviet Union, rival of the United States in the so-called “Cold War”, in an attitude of solidarity and with the acquiescence of the revolutionary government, installed rocket batteries with atomic capacity on Cuban soil in order to respond militarily to the United States, in the event of an American invasion of the rebellious Cuba.
The world was on the brink of atomic war. But dialogue and diplomacy prevailed. An exchange of messages and letters ensued between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ￼ and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a dialogue that led to an honorable agreement between the conflicting parties .
The Soviets would withdraw the rockets which, according to Kennedy, because they were only a few miles from U.S. territory, threatened the security of his country. A solid and convincing argument.
In addition, Cuba would not be part of the so-called “Warsaw Pact”, a military alliance of the communist nations of Europe, equivalent to NATO, which unites militarily the United States with the nations of Western Europe.
In reciprocity, the United States would withdraw the atomic rockets they had in Turkey, which, because of their proximity to the territory of the Soviet Union, threatened the security of that nation. A solid argument that also convinces.
And most importantly. The United States accepted the commitment not to attack Cuba militarily. No invasion.
The so-called “Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact” saved the world from a nuclear holocaust.
In the current political-military crisis between Russia and Ukraine, the parties in conflict should seek a compromise to resolve their differences diplomatically, as was done during the October Crisis of 1962.
The Russians withdraw from Ukrainian territory and undertake not to invade neighboring Ukraine in the future. For its part, Ukraine renounces to be part of NATO and commits itself that in its territory, so close to Russia, atomic weapons that threaten Russian security will never be deployed. A solid argument that convinces.
This time Putin is in the role of Kennedy and Biden in that of Nikita Khrushchev.
I believe that Putin understands and would accept this commitment to world peace.
Will President Biden understand it as President Kennedy understood it then?
To be or not to be. That is the question!
By Carlos Rafael Dieguez
February 02, 2022
Photos by Michell Casanova
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Max Lesnik is one of my heroes. A good Cuban, a good father, a good husband, a good friend. The other day I met him again in the Miami Caravan, raising his voice against the blockade. So old and yet so young, Max! I felt that his smile bore the accumulated joy of many decades, the same as when he was just a young boy and participated in the student struggles at the University of Havana against Batista’s tyranny.
He hugged me and I felt again the great pride of sharing History, in capital letters and alive. In his eyes, I perceived the same stoicism, the same rebelliousness and transparency that he showed in 1960, when he left Cuba because he disagreed with the direction the Revolution was taking. Max has always been an honest man, without mincing his words.
Many years after that departure, his friend Fidel Castro would ask him, “Why did you leave?”. Max replied. “I didn’t like that Cuba was aligned with the Soviet Union.”
It is a privilege to be able to thank a man like him, a 90-year-old giant who is still in battle, coherent. The same Max who founded Réplica magazine in Miami. The “man of the two Havanas” -the “small” one in Miami and the big one on the island. The same Max who, in the United States, survived numerous terrorist attacks in an attempt to assassinate him, silence his message and overthrow his struggle. In him, always the same obsession: Cuba, Cuba, Cuba! Then and now.
This Sunday I embraced the founder of the Alianza Martiana. Decades ago, in the United States, Max Lesnik and others founded that organization of diverse women and men. Since then, they dreamed of “a better relationship between the U.S. government and the peoples of Our America”. They opposed the blockade. In the Alianza, no one is rejected or discriminated against for reasons of creed, “race or political philosophy”. I embraced him knowing that he is a precursor of these #PuentesDeAmor through which we travel today and in which Max goes, ahead, removing weeds, opening possibilities, bringing Cubans together.
Max radiates that light carried by those who never stop fighting.
February 2, 2022
By Jorge Gómez Barata
January 7, 2022
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
At 91 years of age, Max Lesnik (b.1930), is the living Cuban, akin to the revolutionary process, with the longest career and political experience. Active in politics for 77 years, almost all of them accompanying Fidel Castro whom he met in 1948, with whom he was a militant in the youth of the Orthodox Party and whose slogan of armed struggle he joined in 1957, Max reinvents himself as an asset of Cuban foreign policy.
When the Revolution triumphed in 1959, Max returned to journalism and soon differences with the process arose due to reservations about the prominence of the leaders of the Popular Socialist Party (Communist) and the alliance with the Soviet Union, options he did not share. In 1961 he went into exile in the United States, where he was arrested.
In Miami, Max did what he had done all his life: politics, with the difference that instead of allying himself with the counterrevolution, he continued to fight, now not only the Batista hangovers, but also U.S. policy against Cuba. To that end, he created his own radio program and founded the magazine “Replica”.
In 1976, summoned by Fidel, he returned to Cuba, renewing political and emotional ties. political and emotional ties.
Taking advantage of his access to then-President James Carter, he participated in the promotion of the dialogue with the Cuban community abroad. In the promotion of the dialogue with emigrants in 1978 headed by Fidel Castro, and given his relations with Fidel Castro, and given his relations with the Catholic hierarchy, he influenced the rapprochement with the Church and State and participated in the visit of Pope John Paul II to the island in 1998, who received him in Havana in a private audience in Havana.
“The man of two Havanas”, as his daughter, filmmaker Vivian Lesnik, baptized him, Vivian Lesnik, in a film of the same name, is an asset to Cuban foreign policy.
Max is, after Fidel Castro, the man linked to the process who survived the most attacks, about ten. His work has not met the same fate. The magazine Réplica, started in 1968, was closed in 1989 in the midst of a terrorist wave against it. An attempt was made to re-publish it again in 2000 but there were no resources or support to sustain it, something that may be happening with the Alianza Martiana, virtually the only surviving organization of what was the political base of the progressive Cuban community abroad.
Seemingly recovered from three major losses: Fidel, Eusebio Leal and Mirian, Max rises to his feet and, in reinventing himself, makes three suggestions associated with the dispute with the United States.
Last December 29, Max recalled his wedding with Mirian in 1955. Among the witnesses were some of Cuba’s liberal elite at the time: Raúl Chibas, Millo Ochoa, Roberto Agramonte, Miguel Angel Quevedo, Pelayo Cuervo Quevedo, Álvaro Barba, Raúl Rivero, José Manuel Gutiérrez Gutiérrez Planas and José Antonio Echevarría. The great absentee was his friend Fidel Castro, who was in exile in Mexico, with whom he met the day after the ceremony. Though it was not his intention, Max presents credentials to those who know him little.
1-According to Max, social networks report the existence of a high number of detainees in Cuba as a result of the “Guarimbas” who are in jail due to the United States, from whom they expect support. In a way, Max recalls the history of the defeated invaders in the Bay of Pigs who were exchanged for food. Max believes that there can be a formula and quotes an old saying: “What is equal is not a trap. a deal is a deal and any agreement is preferable to a lawsuit”.
2-Because it is highly unlikely that U.S. policy toward Cuba will change in the immediate future, he believes that: “The best thing the Cuban government can do is to turn the page in terms of waiting for the U.S. to give up its ambitions. There should be no illusions. Cuba must continue on its own path with its own efforts. It is better to walk alone than to be badly accompanied by a powerful and ambitious neighbor, who is still bent on its imperial dreams”.
3-Max tells me that Ben Rhodes, a former advisor to President Obama, prominent in the reestablishment of relations with Cuba, described Biden’s policy towards the island as clumsy and “Trumpist”, which nobody expected from the vice president of that country. Although senior officials at the time disagreed with Biden’s Cuba policy, they remain silent as they wait for Obama to cast the first stone. Max believes that in this regard it would be necessary and the former president should be encouraged to speak out on current Cuba policy. Let Obama speak! Who’s going to bell the cat?
A mutual friend with whom I discussed the suggestions told me: “El Duende (a pseudonym that they say conceals Max’s identity) is on a tight leash…”. The same thing would have been said, I replied, if someone had suggested that that in 1978 Fidel would hold a dialogue with emigrants and as a result would free thousands of political prisoners… Neither would I have believed that El Duende, would talk privately with the pope. Because I enjoy his friendship and have collaborated in some of his projects, one day I will ask him: What did you talk about?
Imaginative Cuban politics and Max Lesnik are not predictable. Something is up to something. See you there.
By Salim Lamrani
August 15, 2021
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Photo, Carlos Rafael Diéguez
“In reality, the United States expects a total and definitive surrender from the Cuban people.”
Born in 1930 in Cuba, in the small town of Vueltas, to a Polish Jewish father who fled the anti-Semitic persecution of his country and a Cuban mother, Max Lesnik became involved early, at the age of 15, in political militancy. He frequented the ranks of the Orthodoxo Party founded by Eduardo Chibás, a symbol of the struggle against government corruption, and quickly became the national secretary of the Orthodoxo Youth in the 1950s.
Max Lesnik acquired fame throughout the country and became friends with Fidel Castro, whom he met at the University of Havana. Fidel was also a member of the Orthodoxo Party and even presented his candidacy in the 1952 elections for the Congress of the Republic before Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’état put an end to constitutional legality.
Lesnik, like many young Cubans, revolted against the military dictatorship of Batista, supported by the United States and was part of the leadership of the Second Front of the Escambray, led by Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo in the activity of ideological, political and propaganda work.
At the triumph of the Revolution, on January 1, 1959, Lesnik was the first revolutionary leader to be interviewed on television by journalist Carlos Lechuga. With the installation of the new power, Max Lesnik resumed his work as a journalist, publishing chronicles in Bohemia magazine and hosting a daily program on the National Radio Station Cadena Oriental de Radio.
But Lesnik began to criticize the hegemony of the communists in power. He opposed the alliance with the Soviet Union. According to him, Cuba should be independent from Washington and also from Moscow. Total sovereignty.
In 1961, the situation was critical and Max Lesnik was forced to go into exile in the United States. But he did not join the ranks of the supporters of the old regime, nor did he accept the perks of the CIA, which sought to recruit political figures from exile in order to organize a movement aimed at overthrowing the Cuban Revolution. When he heard the news, Fidel Castro tried to convince Max Lesnik to return to Cuba through their mutual friend Alfredo Guevara, to no avail.
In Miami, Lesnik created his radio program in which he denounced the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 17, 1961 and accused the participants of being mercenaries in the pay of a foreign power. The next day, he was visited by several armed individuals who coerced him into making a live apology to the audience. Max Lesnik refused and saved his life thanks to hesitation on the part of the assailants who decided to leave the studio without carrying out their threat.
In the mid-1960s, Max Lesnik decided to found the tabloid newspaper Réplica, which would become a magazine a few years later with weekly print runs that could reach 100,000 copies. This professional adventure allowed him to acquire great notoriety in the Cuban and Latino community in the United States, as well as a certain economic tranquility.
In the late 1970s, Max Lesnik played an essential role in establishing a dialogue between the Cuban community in the United States and the authorities in Havana. He returned to Cuba and saw his friend Fidel Castro again after 17 years. The rapprochement with Havana was not to the liking of Miami extremists. Max Lesnik was the victim of a first bomb attack in 1979. In all, he was the target of eleven similar attacks. His magazine did not survive the intolerance and the last issue came out in 1990, after the abandonment of the main advertising sponsors, also threatened by the violent exiles from Florida.
Max Lesnik was also involved in the rapprochement between the Catholic Church and the Cuban Revolution and in the origin of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba in 1998. “The man of the two Havana’s”, referring to the Cuban capital and Miami’s “Little Havana” where he resides, is today director of Radio Miami.
In these conversations, Max Lesnik talks about the history of Cuba, his personal trajectory, his ties with Fidel Castro and the Cuba of today.
SL: When did you meet Fidel Castro?
ML: I met Fidel Castro at the University of Havana, at the then Plaza Cadenas, in front of the Law School. We met on a bench where students met to talk about current political events and to organize demonstrations against the governments of the time, whether against the increase in the prices of basic necessities, the price of electricity, the price of public transportation.
I entered the University in 1948. Fidel was already in the Faculty and was politically involved in student life. I wanted to meet the different youth leaders who maintained a vertical position in the face of the corruption and gangsterism of the time.
Fidel was a young rebel with political concerns. I understood from the first moment that this was someone who would be the future leader of a different Cuba or a martyr. I believe I was not mistaken. Fidel entered the Pantheon of Latin American liberators during his lifetime.
SL: What were the main characteristics of Fidel Castro?
ML: Fidel was at the same time a politician of great magnitude, a thinker and a lucid visionary. He managed to build a different Cuba and a different Latin America. It is hard for us Cubans to realize that we are the engines of an emancipation process, with our successes and our mistakes. But there is a constancy in the path pointed out by José Martí at the end of the 19th century. Fidel Castro managed to catalyze the enthusiasm and frustrations of several generations to build a revolutionary Cuba.
SL: Could you tell us an anecdote that illustrates Fidel Castro’s personality?
ML: I remember that at the University, on this famous bench in front of the Law School, we fraternized in the foundation of a committee called “September 30th Committee against Gangsterism”.
It was the year 1949, under the presidency of Carlos Prío Socarrás, marked by clashes between violent gangs that fought in the streets of Havana for hegemony within the State bureaucracy. These groups came from the revolutionary elements that participated in the struggle against Machado and Batista. Then, they began to confront each other to get crumbs of power.
In order to obtain social peace, the Government established the “Pacto de las pandillas”, granting well-paid positions in the administration -botellas, as they were called at the time- to the leaders of those groups, who allowed themselves to be bribed. These groups then threatened the students of the University and the members of the Orthodox Youth, who were the only ones to denounce government corruption.
The University was the banner of the values of the Republic, inherited from Julio Antonio Mella, founder of the Cuban Communist Party and Antonio Guiteras, the soul of the Revolution of 1933. The Government wanted to crush this university resistance, using gangsters against the students. There were even some student leaders who allowed themselves to be bribed.
SL: What was the role of this committee?
ML: Its role was to publicly denounce the gangsterism and the threats against the university. We gathered an Assembly where all the student presidents of the departments were present. This Committee had a collegiate leadership made up of the leaders of the Orthodoxo Youth – of which I was a member – and socialist youth leaders.
Fidel Castro was a member of the September 30th Committee and assigned to denounce who were the ones receiving money from the Government. Fidel was always very skilled at uncovering what was behind the scenes. In this precise case, Fidel Castro took the floor on behalf of the September 30th Committee and denounced one by one all the corrupt and government-sponsored gangsters, even revealing the nature of the “botella”.
The gangsters were close to the University and found out the reality. It was a courageous denunciation on the part of Fidel, who listed names and showed documents to back up his claims. The bandits were enraged and informed the Committee members that they were going to pay with their lives for the denunciation. Fidel received the news as he spoke. But, far from keeping quiet, he spoke more virulently, insisting on the names of each corrupt person.
SL: What happened next?
ML: This generated an enormous scandal because we had unmasked the bandits. When the Assembly ended we met to find out how we were going to get out of the University. I was a leader of the Orthodoxo Youth and I had a certain prestige because I was linked to Eduardo Chibás. We had to save Fidel Castro, who was in danger of death. I knew that they would not take the risk of assassinating Fidel if he met me. Eduardo Chibás, the leader of the Orthodoxo Party, was alive at that time and had a Sunday radio program that all Cubans followed. Assassinating Fidel at the risk of killing the leader of the Orthodoxo Youth was too dangerous for the government. Finally we were able to leave the University without much trouble, although Fidel had to stay hidden in my house for several weeks.
SL: Where were you when the attack on the Moncada Barracks took place on July 26, 1953?
ML: I was in Havana, with two of Fidel’s friends, Dr. Aramista Taboada and Alfredo Esquivel. There was a lot of speculation about Moncada. Some thought that Colonel Pedraza had carried out a coup d’état, while others claimed that there had been an uprising by the garrison.
We analyzed the situation and wondered where Fidel was. We knew he was very bold. The “Chinese” Esquivel went to the house of Mirtha Díaz-Balart, Fidel’s wife, who informed us that her husband had not appeared for three days. At that moment, we were certain that Fidel Castro was involved in one way or another in the Moncada attack.
We then became active everywhere to prevent the dictatorship from assassinating Fidel and his comrades. He was captured and imprisoned for two years.
SL: Did you have any differences with Fidel Castro at that time?
ML: I had no disagreement in principle with Fidel. The problem was that he had carried out the Moncada coup on his own, without notifying anyone. It was a conspiracy that he organized alone, in which I was not involved. Until the last moments, very few people knew what they were going to do -I am talking about the participants-, maybe Raúl Castro, Jesús Montané, Abel Santamaría, that is, a very limited group. Fidel was always very discreet and his comrades had great confidence in him.
When he got out of prison, Fidel Castro began to meet with some people. I had introduced him to Alvaro Barba, who had been President of the Federation of University Students (FEU), as well as to José Antonio Echevarría, of the Revolutionary Directorate.
SL: What was your role in the struggle against the Batista dictatorship?
ML: When Fidel Castro disembarked on December 2, 1956, the political opposition was paralyzed by the great repression unleashed by Batista. The persecution was very strong and there was no space for civic and peaceful political activity.
I had formed a strong friendship with some elements of the Orthodoxo Party who had revolted in the Sierra del Escambray, in the center of the island, and who had formed the Second Front of the Escambray. When I arrived in the area, there was a division between the Revolutionary Directorate and the Second Front formed then by elements of Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement that had risen up, in which my friend Roger Redondo and Lázaro Artola, who was head of the Orthodoxo Youth in Camagüey, were included.
After the attack on the Presidential Palace on March 13, 1957, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo arrived in the Escambray area to establish a guerrilla front to strengthen those who had already risen up there. I was appointed in charge of propaganda for the Second Front. I went back and forth to Havana to look for economic resources.
SL: Fulgencio Batista fled the country on January 1, 1959. How did you hear the news?
ML: I was in Havana when Batista fell. I had an important mission to accomplish as a plane loaded with weapons from the United States was to supply the Second Front. I was clandestine and a friend of the Orthodoxo Youth, Lucas Alvarez Tabio, nephew of a Supreme Court magistrate, informed me of the news. When Batista left power, he wanted to give a constitutional form to his departure and appointed Magistrate Carlos Piedra.
SL: What did you do after the triumph of the Revolution?
ML: Many tried to get a position in the new power. This was not my case. I dedicated myself to my profession as a journalist and wrote in Bohemia. I also had a radio program. José Pardo Llada, who was the most listened journalist in the history of Cuba, had his program after mine at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Then the Revolution was radicalized and the Communist Party began to establish its hegemony in all sectors. The United States opposed the new power from the beginning and this hostility led to its radicalization.
I was very critical on my radio program. I stated that I was against U.S. imperialism but I was not a communist either. I did not want to have an ideology imposed on me.
SL: Were you against an alliance with the communists?
ML: I was resolutely against an alliance with a group that had collaborated with Batista in 1944 and had not played a key role during the insurrectionary struggle against tyranny. The communists began to push aside all those who had taken a different position.
SL: Did you have relations with Raul Castro?
ML: We had common friends like Alfredo Guevara, father of the New Latin American Cinema, and Léster Rodríguez, who participated in the Moncada. Raul was Fidel’s younger brother. I remember that during my honeymoon in Mexico, on December 30, 1955, it was Raul who came to pick up my wife and me at the airport, Raul was not yet second in command. Fidel was very careful about hierarchies. He did not want any privileges for his brother. Raul later earned his positions fighting in the Sierra Maestra and the Second Eastern Front to become President of the Republic.
SL: Did you meet Che Guevara?
ML: I never talked to him but I know he had a negative image of me. He had been told that I was a dangerous guy. We met once from car to car but nothing more. It wasn’t my place to go to him and tell him he was wrong. It was not my style. I regret it because I think that if I had met Che in the Sierra del Escambray, things would have been different.
SL: Let’s talk now about your departure from Cuba, why did you decide to go into exile in the United States?
ML: In my radio program I was very critical of the communists and the security apparatus was in their hands. I had become a target and I could not stay in Cuba.
I decided then to leave Cuba clandestinely together with the leaders of the Second Front of the Escambray in January 1961. Actually, I think that someone in the intelligence services who was aware of our departure let us go. When we arrived in the United States, the authorities imprisoned us for several months in Texas.
SL: Was Fidel Castro informed of your departure?
ML: When Fidel learned that I was in prison in the United States, he sent Alfredo Guevara to tell my mother to send me the following message: “Let him cross the Mexican border and return to Cuba. He has no problem here”. I received the message later but, in any case, I would not have returned. But I will always thank Fidel and Alfredo for that.
Likewise, Fidel Castro intervened to allow my wife and daughters to leave the country. The Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs at the time, Carlos Olivares, refused to issue the passports because I had not signed the permission to leave the country, something I could not do since I was in Miami. Fidel personally phoned Olivares to give him the instructions.
SL: Were you at that time in ideological rupture with Fidel Castro?
ML: Not with Fidel, but with the process, yes.
SL: Did you meet with exiled political leaders in Miami?
Yes, with the Prío family, for example. I have an anecdote about that. The Prío family were close friends of the comedian Guillermo Álvarez Guedes. When a brother of Alvarez Guedes died in Miami, at the Caballero Funeral Home on 8th Street and 27th Avenue, we met there for the funeral. I knew Guillermo from Cuba. I went to greet him and offer my condolences. He was at the door of the funeral home with Antonio Prío, the brother of former president Carlos Prío Socarrás and we began to talk. An elderly lady arrived, who had been Orthodoxo and who knew me since my time as a youth leader, recognized Antonio Prío, who had been a candidate for mayor of Havana and Minister of Finance. He had been involved in a big scandal and had been accused of having stolen 7 million pesos, which at that time was equivalent to $7 million dollars and which today would be about 70 million dollars. It seems incredible, Max Lesnik, Orthodoxo leader, you are here with Antonio Prío Socarrás, the thief who stole 7 million pesos, who was punished by the people of Cuba, since he lost the mayoralty to Castellanos”. The lady gave us a tremendous speech.
Then Antonio put a hand in his pocket and said, “Madam, please, I am going to ask you a question: how many millions of inhabitants did Cuba have in 1950, which is when you accuse me of having stolen 7 million pesos?” The lady replied, “Well, seven million inhabitants”. Then Prío replied: “Well, take your peso and don’t fuck with me anymore”.
SL: You played an important role in the establishment of a dialogue between the Cuban community in the United States and the Government of Havana in 1978. Could you tell us the genesis of this historic process of reconciliation?
ML: In 1976, James Carter, former Democratic governor of the State of Georgia, won the presidency. He was a friend of Alfredo Durán, a Cuban involved in American political life, who became Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. I knew him from my profession as a journalist and editor of Réplica magazine. All the politicians in the United States constantly asked me for an interview because our magazine was not sectarian and gave the floor to everyone, without distinction, open to democratic debate and a plurality of ideas. It was the Spanish-language magazine with the largest circulation in the United States.
One day, Durán asked me and explained to me that he was supporting a candidate for the presidency of the United States named James Carter. He was due to stop in Miami and Durán was in charge of his tour in the city. When Carter visited Réplica, I interviewed him and asked him what his Cuba policy would be. Surprisingly, he replied that he would establish communication with Cuba to improve human rights. It was the first time that a U.S. politician had such a constructive discourse towards Havana.
SL: How did the process unfold?
ML: Carter was elected president of the United States and began a process of discreet rapprochement. Diplomatic representations were opened in both capitals, which illustrated Carter’s willingness to establish direct contact with the island’s authorities and put an end to twenty years of confrontation.
Bernardo Benes, an eminent banker who was part of Carter’s delegation during his visit to Miami, traveled to Panama to see his friend Alberto Pons, a Cuban who had a successful guayabera business. A brother of Pons, who lived in Cuba, was also present and a discussion was opened on Cuba-U.S. relations as well as the human rights situation. Pons had read the interview with Benes in Replica about it and said the following to him, “Why don’t you talk about it with Fidel Castro?”
Benes laughed and replied that he was willing to talk to Fidel Castro. When he returned to Havana, Pons’ brother informed the authorities. Benes, for his part, brought this conversation to the attention of a prominent CIA agent in charge of Latin America, who was based in Mexico. As a banker, Benes had many contacts. He had worked for the U.S. Government at the Inter-American Development Bank. He was a very open man, with relationships all over the place.
The CIA agent informed the U.S. Government. Benes made contact with Bob Pastor, a close collaborator of Carter and got permission to explore the possibilities of rapprochement with the authorities in Havana. With Charles Dascal, a Cuban-Jewish president of Banco Continental, where I had all my accounts, Benes met several times with Fidel Castro and obtained the release of 3,500 political prisoners involved in the counterrevolutionary war in the 1960s.
SL: When did you return to Cuba?
ML: During one of those meetings with Benes, Fidel told him that he was inviting me to travel to Cuba. The whole thing was a secret operation because the extreme right in Florida was opposed to any idea of normalization. Only both governments were aware of it.
In 1978 we took a private jet from Fort Lauderdale to Havana. I was with Benes and Dascal. We landed discreetly at José Martí Airport. We were met by Abrantes, a general in the Ministry of the Interior, deputy minister of MININT and head of Fidel’s bodyguard, with him was José Luis Padrón, one of his top aides. I had known Abrantes since pre-revolutionary times, we lived in the same neighborhood in Old Havana, although we were not friends.
SL: How did your meeting with Fidel Castro develop?
ML: The next day, Abrantes came looking for me to tell me that Fidel wanted to see me. We went to the Palace and Fidel showed up. I remember asking him, “What’s the deal?”. It was about the President of the Republic and I had to respect protocol.
Notice that he answered me: “For you, Fidel”. The framework was then established. We began a dialogue that lasted several hours because we had not seen each other since 1960. We talked about the past, about our university days. Fidel likes to recall anecdotes.
Fidel asked me many questions about Réplica. He wanted to know all the details, the print run, the distribution, the technique, the publicity, its influence. It’s one of Fidel’s characteristics. He is very curious. Then, suddenly, he asked me: “But why did you leave Cuba?”. I explained that I did not agree with the Cuban communists and that I was opposed to an alliance with the Soviet Union. With much wisdom Fidel told me the following, “If you had held my position, you would have done the same thing to save the Revolution and prevent Cuba from losing its sovereignty.”
I think Fidel was absolutely right. Looking back on the events, I must say that his analysis was true. I had been wrong. If what I had wanted had been done, that is, to keep Cuba out of the alliance with the USSR, Washington would have crushed the Revolution. If Fidel had not accepted the hand of the Russians, the Revolution would not have survived.
I remember that when we said goodbye, Fidel gave me a painting of Portocarrero, which I still have in my living room and he said something like “you don’t look so old, but you are wiser”.
SL: What did Fidel Castro think about James Carter?
ML: About Carter, Fidel thought he was capable of carrying out the reconciliation process. The prospects were then encouraging.
Unfortunately, the Mariel migratory exodus in 1980 and the political crisis that followed put an end to the bilateral dialogue. People opposed to any normalization with Cuba gravitated around Carter. Zbignew Brezinsky, of Polish origin, a staunch anti-communist, was Carter’s Security Advisor. For him, no diplomacy with the communists was possible. He opposed dialogue and Secretary of State Salius Vans, who was in favor of a rapprochement with Cuba.
Then, when a group of Cubans forced their way into the Peruvian embassy, causing the death of a Cuban guard, the diplomats refused to hand over the refugees to justice. The Cuban authorities then decided to withdraw the custody protecting the embassy and the newspaper Granma published a note saying that all those who wanted to leave the country could do so through the Peruvian embassy. Thousands of people then entered the embassy. Brezinsky took advantage of the occasion to influence Carter and forced him to make that famous statement inviting Cubans to travel to the United States.
Fidel Castro then felt betrayed because the conflict was with Peru and not with the United States. He replied by saying on television that all Cubans who wanted to travel to the United States could do so through the port of Mariel. In total, 120,000 people left the island.
The story is well known. Reagan came to power and ended the policy of rapprochement with Cuba.
What were the consequences on a personal level?
ML: I was the target of the right-wing Cubans because I published articles and chronicles in Réplica in favor of dialogue. In the same way, I had denounced the horrendous crime committed in October 1976 against a Cuban civilian airplane that took the lives of 73 people. Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch had planted a bomb on board. I denounced these terrorist acts while the extreme right applauded them.
I was then the victim of several bombings, like other supporters of dialogue. In total, the terrorists carried out eleven attacks against Réplica. Nobody defended our right to freedom of expression, neither the Miami Herald nor the Inter-American Press Association. The only one who defended us was the Miami News, which does not exist today. We had to put an end to the Réplica venture because we no longer had advertisers.
SL: In 1994, another migratory crisis generated tensions between Cuba and the United States. You acted to avoid an escalation, could you remind us of the events?
ML: I was in Havana with Alfredo Guevara and Eusebio Leal. I expressed my concern about the crisis that could lead to a larger conflict. Clinton was a weak president and could get dragged down. Carter could be the solution and I could contact him through Alfredo Duran.
Eusebio Leal asked me to return to the hotel and wait for his call. At three o’clock in the morning, he called me and said, “Your college friend says to do whatever you want”. It was Fidel. I then informed Duran of the situation and asked him to contact Carter urgently. When I returned to Miami, we met in my office with Durán. On my side, I was on the phone talking to Alfredo Guevara who was with Fidel, and Durán, for his part, had Carter, who was in Atlanta. The former president then sent a message to Clinton.
SL: Let’s talk now about the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998.
ML: The pope had named Jaime Ortega a cardinal. I knew the apostolic nuncio in Havana, Monsignor Benjamino Stella. There was a tense situation with the Church. In addition, Ortega had been invited to Miami. In this regard, Fidel told us in a meeting in Havana that after Ortega’s visit to Miami, he was going to return as a counterrevolutionary. I remember saying to Fidel: “Why don’t we give him the benefit of the doubt? I will be there and I will tell you”, I told Fidel.
Fidel found out that I was going to attend the reception given by the nuncio the following day. He then asked Eusebio Leal and Alfredo Guevara to be present as well. The following day, during the reception, to which all the members of the Government were invited, only Isabel Allende, who was at that time Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, showed up.
At two o’clock in the morning, when the reception was over, the nuncio regretted the absence of the government authorities. I then told him that Fidel Castro had personally sent Leal and Guevara and that he wished to normalize relations with the Church. I told him everything, without betraying any secrets. I even turned to Jaime Ortega to tell him: “Fidel thinks you are going to come back from Miami as a counterrevolutionary”. But notice that Ortega behaved well in Miami and that opened the way to a rapprochement between the Vatican and Havana.
During the Pope’s visit in 1998, the Apostolic Nuncio invited me to Cuba. On the day of his departure, the pope received us privately with three other friends, journalists Alfredo Muñoz of Agence France Presse, Luis Baez and the historical commander Manuel Piñeiro Losada, also friends of the apostolic nuncio. The nuncio told the Pope: “Lesnik is from the house”. I remember telling him that I was not Catholic but Jewish and that I was not a practicing Jew. I also told him that my mother was Cuban and my father Polish. The pope said with a certain sense of humor: “God bless all Poles”. Of course, since he was Polish too….
SL: Let’s move on to another topic. As a Cuban journalist living in Miami, what do you think about freedom of expression in Cuba?
ML: It is worth remembering some elementary truths. Freedom of expression is directly linked to the security of the State. I am not referring to the police apparatus or the intelligence services. When a State feels secure, when there is no external or internal force capable of destabilizing it, freedom of expression is total. As soon as there is an internal or external threat – in this case, an external threat which is the United States and an internal threat which is the dissidents supported by a foreign power – restrictions on freedom of expression begin.
Take the case of the United States, which is the most powerful nation in the world. Despite the crises, it is still the richest country. It is said that there is full and absolute freedom of the press in the United States. I am a journalist. I know the subject. In reality, freedom of the press is in the hands of the media owners, controlled by capitalist forces to defend their interests. Media concentration has been reinforced in recent years. Before, a newspaper was owned by the publisher, as was my case. Today, the shareholders of the press belong to the military-industrial complex. Then, when a State feels threatened, it reduces freedom of expression, as was the case under McCarthyism, when fundamental freedoms were violated while nobody threatened the United States.
In Cuba, as the State sees the disappearance of external or internal threats promoted from outside, I am convinced that the space reserved for critical debate will expand.
SL: In a word, the degree of freedom of expression in Cuba depends on the degree of U.S. hostility towards the island.
ML: Exactly. As tensions ease and the U.S. stops using the internal opposition to destabilize the state, there will be more freedom of expression in Cuba. But it already exists. Of course, with its limits, but there is more freedom of expression in Cuba every day.
There is another problem. For years, Cubans, in the name of defending the Revolution, hid their mistakes so as not to threaten national unity. They thought that criticizing the defects of the system weakened them in the face of the enemy, when in fact it is a demonstration of strength. On the other hand, the enemy uses this facade of unity as an angle of attack. When an incompetent leader is criticized, the man is criticized, not the Revolution. Open and healthy criticism from the revolutionary camp to improve the system and denounce corruption does not weaken the process. Raul Castro is the perfect example.
I consider that one of the most important critics of the Cuban press has been and is Fidel Castro himself.
SL: What do you think of the single party in Cuba?
ML: The debate around the single-party and multi-party systems is interesting. Democracy does not arise from parties. It should be a process in which all points of view are debated, even if there is only one party or none. The party has nothing to do with democracy, which is more than 2,000 years old while the political party was born in the 19th century as an institution.
It is said that Cuba is a dictatorship because there is only one party. This is a simplistic reading. There are dictatorships in the world with a multi-party system. Under Batista, there were many parties and yet it was a dictatorship.
SL: What do you think of the opposition in Cuba?
ML: Unfortunately, since the triumph of the Revolution, the opposition is under the control of the United States. I would like there to be a true patriotic and independent opposition in Cuba. But, from the beginning, Washington financed the dissident groups.
If we take a look at history, through the whole Cuban revolutionary process, from the wars of independence to the struggle against Batista, no insurrectionary group was financed by a foreign power. It is important to point out this reality. Cubans fight for a noble cause, for patriotism, not for money. There were never people financed during the war of 1868, nor during the war of 1895, nor during the struggle against Machado or against Batista.
Since 1959, the United States has considered Cuba a threat, before the Revolution declared itself socialist or signed a strategic alliance with the Soviet Union. At that time, the “Revolution was as Cuban as the palms,” as Fidel Castro put it. Washington then began to finance internal groups. That was the opposition’s undoing because Cubans cannot understand that a fellow countryman would accept money from a foreign power to oppose their government. That is why the opposition is insignificant in Cuba and incapable of rallying the population around it.
SL: But there are dissatisfied sectors in Cuba that do not receive money from the United States.
ML: I am not saying that there are not dissatisfied people in Cuba. They must be substantial, especially since the Special Period following the demise of the Soviet Union. But transforming this discontent into political opposition against the government is not easy, because Cubans want to preserve their system and improve it. The vast majority do not want another model.
An honest political opposition must be in favor of national sovereignty and against U.S. economic sanctions. It must be willing to defend José Martí’s dream of a free and independent Cuba. It must seek Cuban solutions to Cuban problems and not look to the North. It must rid itself of its inferiority complex and of being submissive, which consists of believing that it always has to ask Washington’s permission to undertake an initiative.
SL: Why are there no revolts in Cuba, as there are in Europe and the rest of the world?
ML: The media dissidents cannot benefit from popular support. They have neither a defined program nor a leader. The fabricated opposition is caught in a contradiction. To fight for freedom, one must be free. However, the dissidents are prisoners of U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba. The day the annual budget of $20 million that Washington dedicates to it disappears, that opposition will also disappear.
SL: How do you analyze the changes in Cuba’s economic model?
ML: To answer your question, I must first define myself from an ideological point of view. I have always been and am a socialist. As a socialist, I consider that capitalism does not distribute wealth in society, but [gives] privileges to the richest. When capitalist society is transformed into a statist Revolution, as in Cuba where almost everything is in the hands of the State, the capitalist bureaucracy, which is efficient, is replaced with a party bureaucracy, which in many cases is inefficient.
Today, the Cuban process allows Cubans to work on their own and favors the cleansing of the State of this unsustainable bureaucracy that impedes development. But Cuban society should favor, in addition to individual work, cooperatives. In other words, socialism is not State capitalism. Socialism stipulates that the means of production must be in the hands of the workers. The role of the state is to carry out this process over the long term. When a license is given to a person to establish his trade, it is a positive step. But the State must be bolder and turn the enterprises over to the workers and transform them into socialist cooperatives.
The problem in Cuba, with the bureaucracy and paternalism, is that everyone considers that everything belongs to them. That is why there is so much theft in hotels and state enterprises. The administrator, in charge of the proper functioning of the structure, in certain cases is the first to steal. There is only one way to break this vicious circle: by bringing criminals to justice and, above all, by socializing the means of production. In a cooperative, theft is no longer possible because the workers are members and will not allow this type of criminal behavior. If a member of a cooperative, let us say of a restaurant, wants to take a ham home, it will be impossible for him to do so because he will run up against the opposition of his fellow members. Thus, the property of the cooperative will be better protected.
SL: Should the State leave the entire economy in the hands of cooperatives?
ML: No, the State should keep control of the big companies, of the country’s basic industry, as well as tourism and nickel. It should keep control of the nation’s strategic resources.
On the other hand, barbershops, restaurants and other small businesses should be out of state control. Economic reform should not be limited to small private enterprises but should also include cooperatives. This is a fundamental objective. I am quite optimistic about this and I hope that Cubans will feel, with each passing day, more proud of their nationality.
SL: What are the main obstacles to these changes?
ML: They are of two types: internal and external. Externally, the United States will take advantage of the new situation of free enterprise to use it against the Revolution and to destabilize the country. This is the first risk.
Then, Cuban leaders should not let the bureaucracy fabricate phantoms to preserve their power. They must differentiate an efficient official from an incompetent bureaucrat who pretends to scare the State in order to keep his position. Those are the two challenges.
SL: What do you think of the way the Western media portrays Cuba?
ML: I have been a journalist for more than half a century. It is clear that there is a double standard when it comes to Cuba. Some time ago, the media reported the story of an opposition leader arrested by the police and released a few hours later. That same day there was a demonstration in the Dominican Republic. The police fired and three people were killed. The Western press did not say a word [about that]. An event that goes unnoticed in the rest of the world becomes news when it comes to Cuba.
SL: Why does the United States continue to impose economic sanctions on Cuba, more than a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War?
ML: Initially, the economic sanctions were imposed following Cuba’s decision to nationalize some U.S. companies. But it is worth remembering that U.S. hostility, or at least distrust, of Fidel Castro predates the triumph of the Revolution. Washington did everything to prevent Fidel Castro from coming to power and supported Fulgencio Batista until the last moments. After the dictator fled, the United States imposed a military junta but it lasted only a few hours and was destroyed by the popular and revolutionary wave. It is important to remember this historical reality.
Since that time, the Revolution has been in power and the United States has taken every possible and imaginable measure to try to overthrow it. All the diplomatic rhetoric elaborated since 1959 to justify the state of siege against Cuba is a succession of pretexts that do not stand up to analysis. Washington thus evoked the nationalizations, then the alliance with the Soviet Union, then Cuba’s aid to revolutionary movements throughout the world, then the single party, then human rights. In reality, the United States expects a total and definitive surrender of the Cuban people, something that has not happened in more than half a century and which, in my opinion, will not happen.
SL: However, Washington normalized relations with China and Vietnam and ended sanctions against these countries. Why is it different with Cuba?
ML: The policy of sanctions against Cuba – the objective of which is to starve the Cuban people – has failed. And I think the United States is having a hard time being clear-headed about this and admitting this reality. The maintenance of the sanctions is aimed at preventing the country’s development and the neighbor to the North refuses to recognize its mistake and maintains an obsolete and cruel state of siege that arouses the opprobrium of the international community, even of the United States’ most faithful allies.
I believe that sooner rather than later the United States will have to lift the sanctions against Cuba. Even President Barack Obama has spoken out against those sanctions and now it will be up to the U.S. Congress to take the initiative by interpreting the sentiments of the U.S. people.
SL: What is the impact of the economic sanctions on the Cuban community in the United States?
ML: The economic sanctions constitute not only aggression against the Cuban people but also affect the American people. Preventing a U.S. citizen from traveling to a country 90 miles away is an attack on a constitutional human right.
Likewise, the Cuban community in the United States suffers because in order to travel to Cuba, the land of our ancestors where more than 80% of the Cubans living in American territory were born, one must face a whole series of administrative obstacles imposed by Washington.
For example, under George W. Bush, U.S. Cubans could only travel to their country of origin for two weeks every three years. This, at best, was because a permit had to be obtained from the Treasury Department. To obtain such authorization, one had to prove that one had a direct family member in Cuba. For everyone, an aunt, cousin or nephew is a direct family member. But the Bush administration gave a definition of family that only applied to Cubans. Thus, only grandparents, siblings, children and spouses were part of the family. So, a Cuban from Coral Gables who only had an aunt in Cuba could not travel to their country of origin. Imagine the impact it had on the Cuban family when we know that the family is the basis of society. In Cuba, the concept of family is important and broad because not only those who are linked by blood are part of the family, but also those who are linked by friendship.
This political aberration had the support of the Cuban extreme right-wing in Florida, which has a visceral hatred for the people of Cuba. It is not only a question of a desire for revenge towards the Castro brothers but of a real aversion towards the Cuban population since the majority of them support the Government.
SL: How do you respond to those who say that the economic sanctions are simply a bilateral issue between Cuba and the United States and that Havana can develop its commercial relations with the rest of the world?
ML: Those statements do not stand up to analysis even for a moment. To say that Cuba can trade with the rest of the world is to ignore the extraterritorial character of the economic sanctions. Let me give you some examples. Since 1992, any ship entering a Cuban port is prohibited from entering a U.S. port for six months. What is the consequence for Cuba? It must pay astronomical sums, above market rates, to convince international carriers to bring it goods. Remember that the United States is the world’s largest market.
Likewise, if a foreign company wants to export its products to the United States, it must prove to the Treasury Department that its products do not contain a single gram of Cuban raw material. How then can Cuba export its products to the rest of the world with such obstacles? Likewise, Cuba cannot import anything from the rest of the world that contains more than 10% U.S. components. Given the technical and technological leadership of the United States, they have a monopoly in many sectors. The most emblematic example is the medical sector. The United States is the world leader in this field and Cuba cannot import any medicine or medical equipment produced in the United States or containing more than 10% of U.S. components. Take the case of the aeronautical sector. The vast majority of aircraft contain U.S. products and cannot operate in Cuba. That is the reality.
SL: According to Washington, the sanctions policy is the best way to restore democracy in Cuba.
ML: It is ridiculous to think that economic sanctions can have positive results for the United States. It is a criminal weapon against the people of Cuba and will not have any favorable outcome. There will be no political changes in Cuba orchestrated from the outside. Cubans will never accept it. Even during the period of the Soviet Union, Moscow could not control Cuba’s domestic and international politics. To claim that sanctions will change the position of the Cuban leadership is ignorant. Changes in Cuba have taken place since 1959 by the natural law of life, but they have been made only by the will of the Cubans themselves.
As for democracy, what kind of democracy does the U.S. want to export, that of Miami where vice, corruption, vote-buying and selling are rife, where lobbies choose who will be the next president? I am sure Cubans do not favor this kind of democracy. They already experienced that when Batista was in power.
SL: Cuba has not compensated the nationalized U.S. properties.
ML: Let the United States present the account. The Cubans will also present the account of the damages caused by the economic sanctions and the policy of aggression since 1960 and we will get the true account of it all. I think it will be Washington’s turn to draw the check.
SL: What would be the benefits for the American people in the event of the lifting of economic sanctions?
ML: First, U.S. citizens would regain their right to travel to any country in the world. They have been deprived of this constitutional right for more than half a century. Next, it would restore the fraternal ties between the two peoples that a political dispute that divides the two nations has broken. U.S. citizens will discover that Cuba is undoubtedly the only country in the world where an American flag has never been burned. U.S. diplomats in Cuba walk the streets of Havana without the need for protection. The Cuban people have always shown goodwill towards the American people.
From an economic standpoint, American businesses would be the great beneficiaries of removal of sanctions and could enjoy the opportunities offered by a country of 11.2 million people 90 miles from Key West.
SL: The U.S. regularly brings up the human rights situation in Cuba.
ML: To talk selectively about human rights in Cuba as a political and propaganda tool is absurd and grotesque. Not a day goes by without massive human rights violations in the world, including in the United States, without any possible comparison with what could happen in Cuba, without any reaction from Washington or the Western media.
When a police officer in the United States commits an outrage against a citizen, the responsibility lies with the municipal services. On the other hand, when it happens in Havana, they immediately accuse the government of the “Castro brothers” and blame them. This double standard is not acceptable. A magnifying glass is used to dissect Cuba’s defects and we purposely forget that these same defects exist in the greatest Western democracies.
What moral authority does the U.S. have to lecture on the issue of human rights when it has set up a torture center in Guantanamo, secret prisons all over the world and carries out extrajudicial executions in Iraq and Afghanistan? All this is public.
SL: What is the main achievement of the Cuban Revolution?
ML: Without a doubt, sovereignty. If Fidel had to change its name, it would have to be called Sovereignty. For the first time in its history, Cuba is sovereign and independent.