Tuesday August 8, 2006
OK, so he wasn't Fidel Castro's biggest fan and he wasn't exactly famous for behaving himself. But nobody expected the Cuban poet, novelist, playwright and bad-boy Reinaldo Arenas to emerge from his grave and start haunting "el Comandante" just as the latter began to show signs of mortality.
Spain's El País newspaper, however, yesterday dug out a previously unpublished piece from Arenas, who fled Cuba after being persecuted for the "crimes" of homosexuality and free-thinking.
His "Elegy to Fidel Castro", written a few months before his death in 1990, came as the old eastern bloc ditched communism.
"Fidel Castro has been criticised for refusing to accept any kind of change, or anything that smells of perestroika or democracy," wrote the man whose autobiography, Before Night Falls, was turned into a film by Julian Schnabel with an Oscar-nominated performance by Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
"I, on the other hand, perhaps because of my contrary spirit, will not criticise the 'Maximum Leader' but will, instead, enumerate his virtues," he wrote. We reprint Arenas' observations below:
"Intelligent economist. Thirty years of rationing has prevented inflation, given that there is hardly anything to buy anyway.
Famous farmer. He managed to get a cow called White Udder to produce more than 100 litres of milk a day. The poor cow exploded. Milk remains rationed.
Expert sexologist. He has prepared a magnificent army of youths to work as tourist guides and translators while kindly attending to [the desires of] invitees, be they men or women.
Profound philosopher. He has made his subjects understand that material existence is meaningless, to the point that, in Cuba, no material goods exist and the suicide rate is the highest in Latin America.
Hard-working pupil. He has followed Stalin's example, getting rid of anyone who could overshadow his glory, such as Huber Matos, Carlos Franqui, Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto "Che" Guevara ... Fidel publicly backed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the (Soviet) invasion of Afghanistan and the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square.
Wise statesman. Castro knows full well that a dictator should never call a plebiscite, unless he wants to be thrown out. This explains his angry reaction against all those intellectuals, (including six Nobel prize winners) who have asked him, in a civilised fashion, to call elections."
Ouch! Sharp-tongued Arenas was never your typical Miami anti-Castrista. His appeal, in fact, is more to the kind of leftwing readership enjoyed by El País than your typical Bush-loving Cuba-basher.
New York became his final home. There he contracted Aids and committed suicide, his hatred of Castro still intact. "I end my life voluntarily because I cannot continue working. Persons near me are in no way responsible for my decision. There is only one person I hold accountable: Fidel Castro," the 47-year-old wrote in his suicide note. "Cuba will be free. I already am".