Cuba’s battle shy cowardly dictator couldn’t find the entrance

It was always others who shed their blood for the dream of a democratic revolution, never the power mad psychopath bent on destroying the island of his birth.

From Translating Cuba, by Angel Santiesteban, Cuban dissident writer, blogger, and political prisoner.

The “Hero” Who Couldn’t Find the Entrance
by Angel Santiesteban

A great truth was revealed at the VIII Conference of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC, by its Spanish initials).

We have to admit when our detractors speak the truth. There’s no other option than –for the sake of honesty– to accept how right they’ve been. Therefore, I have to admit that, yes, “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”*. It’s impossible to state it any clearer, for we know well the political, human, logistic, and leadership failures that the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 symbolized, when the immature and terribly suspicious Fidel Castro stationed a select group to practice their aim in Santiago de Cuba. With neither suitable arms nor adequate preparations to confront the army, he sent them to a certain death.

How can intellectuals pretend not to recognize Fidel Castro’s cowardice, who — in spite of having gone to school in that city and having planned the attack — couldn’t find the entrance to the barracks, when those who had never been there were able to get behind its walls?

It is infuriating to watch that documentary where Fidel Castro, leaning on a car of that era, explains how he was unable to find the entrance, yet the cars traveling ahead and behind him managed to penetrate the garrison, whose entrance is of such a size that a blind man could find it! But we already know that there’s nothing worse than one who doesn’t want to see what’s in front of him.

That wasn’t his only mistake. We know that, throughout the entire struggle of the Rebel Army, he never participated in a single battle; and he advised Raul Castro to do likewise: while leading his comrades in the midst of combat, the latter would abandon the fight only to appear days later when the town square had been taken. Fidel Castro not only couldn’t find the entrance, he was unable to follow the sounds of gunfire on that fateful morning, nor could he redirect himself towards other posts during the shootout. On the contrary, he remained huddled, waiting for the end, and when he learned his soldiers were dead or captured, he sought shelter in a hole in order to finally turn himself in to the Catholic Church (which he never thanked for saving him), and reemerge as the hero.

Certainly, seen as a failure (the only way to comprehend this event), without a doubt, as the president of the UNEAC, Miguel Barnet, put it: “The UNEAC is the Moncada of culture”. He’s never been more right.


Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Compound. April, 2014

* Santiesteban is referring to the speech by Miguel Barnet at the opening of the VIII UNEAC Conference.

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

Sign the petition so that Amnesty International will declare the Cuban dissident Ángel Santiesteban a prisoner of conscience.


For further reading, I highly recommend The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution by Antonio Rafael de la Cova available at Amazon.


Twitter Campaign: #FreeTheCuban11Million

Poster courtesy of Cuban artist Rolando Pulido
Poster courtesy of Cuban artist Rolando Pulido

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

The Castro regime remains intent on coercing the U.S. with its “Free the Cuban 5” (spies) campaign.

But the real focus should be on having the Castro regime free the 11 million Cubans captive under its totalitarian dictatorship.

If you have agree, join the #FreeTheCuban11Million Twitter campaign.

When Christ goes bananas – a case for more explicit Church leadership in Cuba

I just read the piece that Alberto linked to in this post… and then I left a pretty lengthy comment on the article at National Catholic Register. When I was done, I figured I might as well share that comment as its own post here.

Please note: I am one of the organizers of the One Cuba campaign petitioning Pope Benedict XVI to meet with activists and others in Cuba, but the thoughts below don’t necessarily reflect the views of my fellow One Cuba organizers. I’m wearing my Babalú hat right now (which needs to be broken in anyway).

As a Catholic of Cuban descent, the way the Church deals with Cuba is painful to watch.

It’s in large part because of my Catholic faith that I understand freedom as being just as important to our fulfillment of God’s will (and our ability to become closer to Him) as any of our physical needs—and neither should be sought at the expense of the other.

It’s also why I believe that faith without works is dead.

That’s why, when faced with real problems, the Church feels compelled to offer real solutions. When there is epidemic, where is the Church? At the operating table. When there is famine, doesn’t the Church take to baking bread? And where there is war, the Church makes peace its clear objective.

But somehow, where there less tumultuous state tyranny (which is just as damaging to the spirit), the Church sometimes seems to err on the side of subtlety and stability. Where people are not free to become the authors of their own destinies (and of their own relationships with God, their families and their neighbors… that is, with the whole of the Church and the human family), the Church seems intent to take less direct approaches. If I… If we… can’t turn to the Church for clear leadership on these less tangible (but no less important)  moral imperatives… if the Church can’t stand up directly (peacefully, of course) to a tyrant who not only banned religious celebrations, but replaced them with celebrations of himself…

Well… then to whom are we supposed to turn for that leadership?

At one time, witnesses say, Fidel Castro’s regime literally directed school teachers to instruct their young students to close their eyes and pray to God for goodies. When they opened their eyes and there were none, those children were instructed to pray to Fidel. Of course, the treats appeared. It was the beginning of a long process that stripped Cuba of much of its faith. Not just in God, but in itself.

Even now, Raul is literally inserting himself into His Holiness’ Mass. Never missing an opportunity to remind the people of who he believes that island’s real “almighty” is.

And the message from the Church is one of “patience” and “reconciliation”? I understand and appreciate that the Church isn’t about to ask people to take up arms. But this is also not a system with which I or any person should be prepared to reconcile. Any and all compromise on God-given freedoms should be coming from the deniers of those freedoms, not God’s representative on Earth. And to demand anything less just doesn’t seem Christ-like.

Pope Benedict XVI could address all this with a simple meeting. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. Just him… and some of the most devout in his flock… in the same room. I’ve been racking my brain for a (good) reason a Pope wouldn’t do this tiny thing… and I’ve come up with nothing.

After all, Jesus himself went absolutely bananas—flipping over tables and generally stirring up what might be history’s holiest arroz con mango—over far less than the Cuban regime has done to offend Him.