Monday, December 26, 2011


Earlier this week the Cuban government announced a pre-Christmas release of 2900 prisoners, including many political prisoners, as a gesture of goodwill in anticipation of the Pope’s visit to the island in March. Articles appeared in the press suggesting that the prisoner release, made shortly after the liberalization of the rights to buy and sell vehicles and real estate, is a sign of a general liberalization of control over Cuba’s citizenry and a suggestion of further democratic reforms to come. However, the December 16th verdict of a court in Cienfuegos, a city in the middle of Cuba, sending Ariel Castillo Chacón to prison, makes me skeptical that anything at all is likely to change.

The court found that Castillo is a social misfit because he does not participate in activities organized by the block committee for the street where he lives. These committees are known as “Block Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.” Castillo was further deemed a misfit because he fraternized with known homosexuals and had “too many relatives living in the United States.” Castillo was found to be socially dangerous and “pre-criminal” and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Apparently, fifty years of the US embargo has done nothing to rid Cuba of the socially dangerous laws. I wonder, what good has it done at all. Last night I was looking at the website for the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. That beautiful old building is featured in my novel, The Death of the White Rose. In chapter 11 there is the following description:
          The Hotel National de Cuba was built in 1930 and was a luxurious blend of Moorish and Beaux Art architecture. Eight stories of white stone formed the base for two ornate towers suggestive of those of a European cathedral. There was a large swimming pool surrounded by a veranda where there was an open-air bar. The main floor had high arched windows that formed a wall of the lobby. The latter’s interior was lit by crystal chandeliers that might have once adorned a czar’s palace. Across the Bay, the mouths of black canons stuck through the brilliant white battlements of El Morro y La Cabaña, the ancient fortress.

          The main dining room had Tiffany-style leaded glass chandeliers hanging over white linen covered tables. A black and white tile floor looked like a giant checker board. Maria, the female protagonist in my novel, was seated at a table set for four. The restaurant was not busy at 3 o’clock when the meeting was to take place. Some customers sipped tall iced drinks or nursed their cigars. The lunch crowd had long ago dispersed.

I read the hotel’s English language website to see how it was being marketed to the non-Cuban world of potential guests. What I discovered were a series of malapropisms and misspellings that made the hotel something of a grammatical joke. For example, “Dinning & Cocktails” probably could do with one fewer “n.” A section of the hotel’s history reads: “The land where today stands the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, was part of the area which in the early centuries of colonial rule was called Monte Vedado, since a decree banning the Spanish Government that this area be opened paths to the beach.” I think I know what they mean, but it really should be easier to understand what exactly was the decree that the language describes.

My first thought was here was an opportunity for my darling Ruby, who translates for me as well as business throughout the world, to offer her services to help the hotel seem less comical. But then I remembered the embargo. If Ruby were hired to revise the website, it would be a felony in the United States. So the hotel will continue to have a ridiculous website, until a Canadian or English translator with entrepreneurial spirit elects to contact the management and offer his or her services. The monies paid by the hotel will thus go to another country, and the small contributions that such a consulting fee would add to the US GNP will benefit another competitor in the world market. The magnitude of such fees is tiny, but if you multiply it by the tens of thousands of opportunities for American business to participate in, which include projects far larger than a translation fee, the calculation becomes more meaningful.

The US foreign policy continuing this non-productive embargo is about as silly as the spelling of “dining” on the Nacional’s website. It is past time for a change.

I hope all of my readers are enjoying the holidays, and I wish you all a very happy new and healthy new year. I note that this blog has passed the 8000 page-view mark and has 59 to 62 regular readers, depending on the week, from Russia, Latvia, UK, Germany, Israel, Venezuela, and of course the US. Thanks for reading the blog. I hope to hear from many of you in coming year. May it be a prosperous one for all of us.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cuban-American Grinches Who Almost Stole Christmas this Year

The Republican Grinch, Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), nearly stole all the presents from under the Cuban Christmas trees this year. In an effort to leverage the extension of the unemployment benefits bill and the threatened shut down of the US government due to the need to extend the debt ceiling, Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) temporarily convinced the  Republican leadership to insert a provision that would have severely restricted the ability of Cuban-Americans to send support and visit their relatives in Cuba. The Democrats dug in their heels and refused to be bullied. The Republicans finally saw the light of day and killed the Díaz-Balart amendments. These two south Florida Republicans are intent on continuing the failed policy of the embargo and attendant travel restrictions, apparently thinking that if the policy hasn’t worked in 50 years, another half-century of insanity is just what is needed to free Cuba from its Communist dictatorship.

The myopia of Díaz-Balart makes me wonder if his political views are not colored by his personal family situation. His aunt, Mirta Díaz-Balart was Fidel Castro’s first wife. That marriage ended in divorce, but produced a son, Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart, also known as Fidelito. Fidelito is the presumptive heir to Fidel and Raul Castro and Balart’s first cousin. When Fidel became very ill six years ago, Fidelito implored his mother to leave Spain, where she was looking after her second husband who was suffering from Altzheimers, and come to Fidel's bedside. She came to be with Fidel and her husband then died. Could the personal animosity of Balart toward his family members who are leaders of the dictatorship that has exploited the Cuban people since 1959 be responsible for the blinders that prevent a fresh approach being taken to deal with the Cuban government?

I would be interested in seeing an explanation that demonstrates what changes have occurred in Cuba that makes those who advocate a continuation of the embargo believe that its continuation will produce any likely meaningful change in the structure of Cuban government. I certainly understand that a discontinuation of the policy is no guaranty of success, but 50 years of failure is a pretty convincing evidence that continuing the same is no solution at all.

For the millions of unemployed in the United States, I am happy that the South Florida Republican Grinches have been given coals for their stockings. Hopefully, the Cuban children who receive gifts from their American relatives this year will have positive thoughts about the adoptive country of their expatriate family members.

Monday, December 12, 2011


With the weekend off from writing, it was fun just doing whatever I wanted to. That consisted of attending the simulcast of Faust, live from the Met, followed by lunch at BJ's Grill (an unfortunate name, I think). For the past three weeks I have been under siege by a kidney stone stuck in a ureter. Consequently, the long hours of sitting were a bit uncomfortable. Surgery is scheduled for December 28th, so I wil enter the new year pain free, hopefully.

The Met broadcast would have been more enjoyable on radio, as the sets left me cold and confused. The production is updated to the 20th century, although the words that were sung were the same. However, the super title translations were altered, and the difference was disconcerting.  For example, at one point Mephistopheles, dressed in an Al Capone-era pin-striped suit, warns Faust that the horses are waiting and are impatient to leave. Furthermore, the super-title translation of Mephisstopheles's description of his hat, "la plume au chapeau" became "my Panama hat."

Yesterday, we went to an old Japanese/American orchard where persimmons abound. The orchard employs two unusual processes. One is the production of "vodka" persimmons. They take a normal, non-Fujye fruit and place 5 drops of vodka on the stem when the fruit is in a box. Each persimmon gets a dose. Then the box is put in a plastic bag and stored for a week. The result is a softening of the flesh, and a flesh that does not make the lining of the mouth feel like cotton fibers. The second process involves stringing the persimmons from a rack and drying them in the sun. Each day, a worker massages the individual fruits. The effect of this is to produce an incredible candy like flavor. Here are some photos:

Here's one that was left on a tree, a treat for the bluest of blue birds that I have ever seen:

Sometimes, life is good if you're a bird.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Novel Is Done! Now What?

I am happy to report that The Death of the White Rose is now a completed work and is, for the time being, out of my hands and on its way along the hurdle-strewn way toward publication. I’ll be posting about its progress as it finds its way toward seeing the light of day. I’m taking a deep breath before plunging into the next project.

Cuba and the US continue to be like two cats in a bag, continually clawing at each other and benefiting nobody. The latest evidence of this is a decision of the US Treasury Department not to grant a special license to Hilton Worldwide to allow its hotel in Trinidad-Tobago to host the triennial conference of CARICOM because Raúl Castro is planning to host the conference. CARICOM is an international organization of Caribbean nations that meets every three years to facilitate improved relationships between regional countries. It includes Cuba, Trinidad-Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and ten other countries. Presidents of all its members will be attending the conference.

US regulation enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the US Department of the Treasury prohibit US citizens and business from engaging in commercial transactions with Cuba that would benefit the government. These regulations require a US business to ask for permission to enter into a transaction with Cuba. Ali Khan, general manager of the Hilton in Trinidad issued a statement reporting that Hilton was informed that a license would not be granted.

The conference will take place at a conference center owned by the government of Trinidad-Tobago. Raul Castro will be in attendance with his entourage together with the heads of state of all fifteen CARICOM countries. It appears to me that the net effect of these regulations is zero as far as Cuba is concerned and a multi-million dollar loss for a US based business. At a time when the US desperately needs foreign trade dollars it is difficult to imagine our government doing a better job of shooting itself in the foot.

I was struck by a comment that I read to a news account that appeared in The Trinidad Express Newspapers: “We live in a greedy capitalist country [Trinidad-Tobago] where there is no consideration to equality and communal living virtues upheld by the Cuban and South American revolution. Trinidad and Tobago is disgraceful in comparison. Good relations with America is desirable but friends don't exploit and bully their friends. Time to explore stronger relations with Cuba, Venezuela and others.” In three sentences, the commentator illustrates how the US regulations have the opposite effect than what is their intended object. The US government is driving other countries into Cuba’s orbit by such heavy handed policies, aided by the benefits underwritten by Venezuela’s oil-based financing (supported in great part by US purchases of its oil).

The Hilton hotel in Trinidad is a wonderful showcase of US business accomplishment. I stayed there many years ago and still remember the breathtaking view of the bay from the lobby, which is at the top of a cliff. Guests take elevators from the lobby down to their rooms all of which hang over the ocean and are built into a cliff with unobstructed views. It’s a shame the CARICOM leaders and their staffs will not be enjoying its hospitality.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Further Look at the Recent Reforms Permitting Sale of Private Residences

Now that the dust has settled in Cuba after Raul Castro’s “liberalization” of private real property transactions, it’s worthwhile to look at how the new policy works.

The average salary in Cuba is $17 per month, and there are no financial institutions that grant mortgages. There are now approximately 500 properties for sale in Havana according to the Miami Herald. The prices range from $14,000 to $280000. If an owner wants to sell, both the buyer and the seller must pay 4 percent of value of the transaction to the government. Value is defined as the higher of declared value by the parties, or the value established by a government architect, whichever is higher. Of course, the profit would be also subject to income tax.

So where is the money going to come from to buy the homes? Only one place--relatives living abroad who are willing to send their family members dollars. The explanation for this is obvious. As Deep Throat advised Woodward and Bernstein: follow the money. Cuba is desperate for foreign currency to pay its international obligations that are presently in default. Any sale that takes place will result in a substantial share going to the government, in addition to the normal income tax that it already would be set to receive.

For the average Cuban family, it is unlikely that the new liberalization will produce any noticeable improvement. That it will now be legal to buy and sell both a home in a town and also in the countryside will have an equivalent impact of permitting the acquisition or sale of property on the moon.

in The Death of the White Rose, the revolution’s promise of democracy and its delivery of something else is exposed. The lie devastated the middle class that supported Castro  and the M-267 revolutionary forces and tore apart families and lives in the process. A revolution which imposes the will of a leader on its people, rather than the will of the people on its leader, only serves to change the identity of the leader and fails to improve the lot of the led. William Butler Yeats said it succinctly when he wrote:

Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot,
Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
The beggars have changed places but the lash goes on.

Friday, November 11, 2011



Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half with Doris Matsui (D-California) my local member of Congress. I sat next to her at a meeting of twelve business owners that was organized by the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. During the meeting we tried to answer the question that the Congresswoman presented: what can government do to make it easier for small businesses to create jobs and help the nation’s economy recover.

When it was my turn to speak, I told her that there were three things on my mind. As a lawyer, I have seen countless people lose their homes to foreclosure because they owed more on their house than it was worth. They had mortgages with interest rates more than twice the current rates of interest on mortgages and the banks refused to renegotiate. The current voluntarily HAMP program is cumbersome, bureaucratic and non-responsive to borrowers’ needs. I told her that the bankruptcy code needs to be revised to give judges the power to modify the terms of the first mortgages on peoples’ homes. The courts already have the power to modify or strip off second mortgages, but as of now, nothing can be forced down the lenders’ throats in terms of first mortgage modifications.
I also told her that with the government anxious to stimulate exports, I did not understand why the economic embargo of Cuba continued. Particularly since the United States appears to be the only country that is observing the embargo. Spain and other European countries actively trade with Cuba. Mexico and Canada are also active in developing commercial ties with Cuba. All other countries’ citizens can travel freely to Cuba.

Finally, I told her that the Congress should enact the bill sponsored by Barney Frank of Massachusetts that would legalize and tax Internet gambling. Somehow the UK seems to get along just fine with such legalization. The government is starved for income, but ignores a significant source of revenue by pretending that outlawing Internet gambling will somehow prevent people from gambling. Anyone visiting Indian, Nevada, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania casinos will find that the places are not exactly empty.

The Congresswoman agreed with my first two points and ignored the last one and did not comment on it. Two out of three was not bad.

Today, it was interesting to note the Twitter storm that is going on involving Dictator Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, and the cyberspace world of Twitter. Mariela is known as the sexologist in chief of Havana. She has made recent visits to Amsterdam’s red light district and has determined that Havana has to class-up its brothels. Here are three pictures of a new one, the Malecon de Amsterdam:

Mariela is new to Twitter. In addition to promoting prostitution, she has stood up for the rights of homosexuals and transgenders. Yoani Sanchez, writer of my previous blog, tweeted, asking Mariela when it would be legal for others to come out of their closets and speak freely. Mariela shot back a tweet asking if Sanchez and other tweeters who were critical of the Cuban government were being paid by their employers in the US to mount a cyber campaign to topple the Castro government. Mariela wrote, "Despicable parasites. Did you get orders from your employers to reply to me as one, and with the same pre-set script? Be creative."

 I suppose, she is not used to criticism.

I note that the readership of this blog is increasing with over 5300 page views since it started. What is particularly interesting to me is that many of the readers are from Germany. I have not received any e-mails or posted comments from there, so I wonder who are you? Are you German readers originally from Cuba, or are you just interested in Cuban matters in general? If you have a moment, I’d love to hear from you. Similarly, there are quite a number of page views taking place from computers in the UK. I’d love to hear from you, too.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Yoani Sánchez, Cuban Blogger, Describes the Lack of Freedom in Cuba

Yesterday, Yoani Sanchez, a blogger living in Cuba posted about a recent experience she and her husband Reinaldo had when they tried to board a sightseeing boat to see Cienfuegos Bay. They purchased tickets, but were denied access. Why? Because they were Cuban nationals and the revolution does not allow the workers the same freedom as visitors. I hope the words of this brave woman are illuminating.
To me it is remarkable that in a country where censorship rules, there is a small army of bloggers who are able to get their words out to the world. Here is her post, taken from, with permission, in its entirety:

Reinaldo took the side of yes and he insisted and insisted. I, however, am of the generation that thinks ahead of time that nearly everything is prohibited, that they are going to scold me at every step and prevent me from doing anything that occurs to me. So this time the matrimonial discussion was intense. He claimed that we could board that boat to see Cienfuegos Bay from the swells of its waves; while the little voice inside me shouted that so much enjoyment could not be available to nationals. For a couple of hours I believed in my husband’s optimism and like a tropical Candide he got away with it. We went to the marina office near the Jagua Hotel and an official there sold us two tickets for the coveted boat trip. We never hid our breakneck Havana accents, nor tried to pass ourselves off as foreigners, but no one asked for identification. We felt there were already a pair of seats on board the yacht “Flipper” with our names on them and the murmur of skepticism faded in my head.

We arrived at the dock half an hour early. The sun-burnt tourists began to board the boat. Rei and I reached the spectacular corner from where we took photos of that bay as big as an ocean. The dream lasted barely five minutes. When the captain heard us talking he asked if we were Cubans. He shortly informed us that we had to go ashore, “boat rides are prohibited for nationals at every marina in the country.” Rage, anger, the shame of carrying a blue passport makes us guilty — in advance — in the eyes of the law of our own nation. A feeling of deception on comparing the official discourse of a supposed opening with the reality of exclusion and stigma. We wanted to cause a scene and cling to the railing, to compel them to remove us by force, but what would it have served? My husband dusted off his French and told the group of Europeans what was happening. They looked surprised, whispered among themselves. None of them disembarked — in solidarity with the excluded — from that coastal tour of our island; none of them found it intolerable to enjoy something that is forbidden to us, its natives.

The Flipper sailed, the wake of apartheid was visible for a few seconds and then was lost among the dark waters of the bay. The face of the musician Benny Moré on a nearby poster seemed to have exchanged its smile for a sneer. On one side of his chin was the famous refrain from one of his songs: “Cienfuegos is the city I like best…” We left that place. Reinaldo defeated in his illusion and I sad that my suspicions had triumphed. We waked along the road to Punta Gorda while an idea took shape in our minds: “If Benny had lived in these times, he too would have been thrown off — like a mangy dog — from that yacht.”

Friday, November 4, 2011


The Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington, D.C. is calling for a weekly vigil outside the Cuban Interest Section in the nation’s capital. At first blush, it would seem that the White House would be a better venue for such a vigil. What do you think? Here is the press release from JCRC that was released yesterday:


Washington, DC – December 3, 2011 marks the two-year anniversary of the incarceration of American Alan Gross in Cuba. Beginning next Monday, November 7th, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) and The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington will hold a series of Monday scheduled vigils outside the Cuban Interests Section (2630 16th Street NW, DC) to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds. Local organizations and houses of worship will “adopt” a Monday to organize a vigil. The local Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW) is proud to “adopt” the first vigil for Alan Gross’ freedom on Monday, November 7th, at 12:00 pm. Stuart Kurlander, President of JFGW said, “We are proud to be the first local organization to sponsor the vigil and remain steadfast in our determination to see Alan come home.”

Alan Gross, a resident of the DC area, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while working with the small Jewish community there to improve their internet access and create an intranet for them. He languished in prison for over a year until he was finally charged by the Cuban government, subsequently convicted by a Cuban court of crimes against the state, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Alan’s appeal to the Cuban Supreme Court was denied, exhausting all of his legal options. His only remaining avenue is commutation of his sentence by President Raúl Castro.

Revered Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of the IFC, said “This cause is important to the interfaith community and all people of conscience. Alan has been a humanitarian and development worker for over 25 years, and devoting his life to fulfilling the Jewish value of repairing the world, a value that all people of faith admire. It is time for the Cuban leadership to let him come home.” President Harvey Reiter said, “Alan has devoted many years of his life not only to bettering the lives of those in the Jewish community and but to improving lives in the broader global community of which we are all a part. We, his friends and neighbors, must stand up for Alan and advocate for him to come home now.”

Reacting to today’s announcement, Alan’s wife, Judy Gross said, “On behalf of Alan and our family, I want to thank the IFC, JCRC, and JFGW for their continued efforts. We are touched by the ongoing support we have received from friends and strangers alike, and we have come to rely upon it to keep our hope alive that our family will soon be reunited.”

For more information, contact Adina Remz at or 301-348-7361.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) is the public affairs and community relations arm of the Jewish community representing over 100 Jewish organizations and synagogues throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The JCRC focuses on government relations, Israel advocacy, inter-group relations, and social justice.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The US Embargo Creates Still Another Opportunity for Iran in Cuba

One unintended consequence of the US Embargo of Cuba appears to be creating an opportunity for Iran to make its influence felt less than 100 miles from Florida. According to newspaper accounts printed in Teheran today, Iran has just issued a 500 million Euro credit line to Cuba for the reconstruction of Cuba’s energy network. I wonder how many jobs that this is creating in Iran, which inevitably will be supplying equipment to Cuba for this infrastructure improvement.

There is something very disconcerting seeing pictures like this. We appear to be continually shooting ourselves in our collective feet and then wondering why our feet hurt so badly. It is time to re-examine the US embargo of Cuba that only the US is observing. Even Canada, our closest ally, does business in Cuba on a daily basis. What has to happen before Congress takes the time to hold hearings on this subject?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


For the twentieth year in a row the United Nations General Assembly voted last week to condemn the US embargo of Cuba. Only the US and Israel voted against the resolution. Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained in the 186-2 vote. I know that the embargo was established with hopes that it might bring change to the political repression of the Cuban communist regime. After 48 years, if it hasn’t worked and the rest of the world all feels different, save Israel whose citizens are free to visit and invest there, I wonder what purpose is being served by maintaining the US embargo.

I know that this is a hot item for the Cuban immigrant community in the US and I am anxious to hear from any member of that community who believes that the embargo should remain in effect and why. Please write and share your thoughts about the embargo.

Today, I finished the third draft of The Death of The White Rose. Writing a book is like making cheese. After you’re done, you have to let it sit to ripen. Hopefully, when I read it from beginning to end after letting it rest it will be a story that is entertaining. Of course, sometimes one can make a cheese that stinks to high heaven when it’s ripe. I suppose that the readers will ultimately make that decision. I hope they’re kind.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In Memoriam, Laura Pollán, a Leader of the Ladies in White

In 2003, the Castro government imprisoned 75 dissidents for political activity it deemed to be counterrevolutionary. Some of the prisoners were sentenced for terms as long as 28 years. There was an international condemnation of the Cuban government’s action. A group of women, the wives, mothers and sisters of the prisoners, began to demonstrate against their loved ones’ captivity, dressed in white. They became known as the Ladies in White. One of the leaders of the protest group, Laura Pollán, died on October 14th under mysterious circumstances. There is a website that discusses her contribution to political discourse in Cuba. See,

That in turn has links to two YouTube videos showing the history of the movement. The bravery of these Ladies in White is an example for all who love freedom. The protests resulted in some of the prisoners being released. In 2010, the Catholic Church was instrumental in obtaining the release of the final 50. Even after all of the prisoners were let go, Laura Pollán and many of the other ladies in white continued to protest for political freedom. She died at age 63, according to the government of dengue fever and complications of her diabetes. So much for modern Cuban medicine.

There is reason to be suspicious of the cause of death, however. According to Mary O’Grady, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, whose reporting appears in Fausta’s Blog,, the onset of her illness began on September 24 when Pollán was attacked leaving church by a mob. Her right arm was badly scratched, twisted and bitten. For the past year, the other members of the Ladies in White had complained being attacked and stuck with needles, causing them to feel nauseous, feverish and dizzy. Pollan complained of similar symptoms. She was treated at a hospital and released. Several days later, she complained of shortness of breath. She had chills and was vomiting. She was readmitted on October 7 and the next day was put in intensive care and put on a respirator. When her family went to visit, they were denied access until October 10th. Then, only her daughter was permitted to see her and she found that her mother’s bed was surrounded by state security operatives who appeared to monitor the activities of medical personnel. She died on October 14th. When her family went to view her body, it was again surrounded by state security personnel. A one hour wake at midnight was permitted, but that, too, was done in the presence of state security agents. I wonder what warranted the presence of state security during this final illness. Did the government fear she would recover, or did they want to make sure she didn’t?

The Ladies in White were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament, but were prohibited from traveling to Strasbourg, France to accept the award. For a general discussion of the Ladies in White movement, see the Wikipedia entry at

The middle class of Cuba who supported Fidel when Batista was in power were promised a return to Constitutional government and democratic freedoms. The Death of the White Rose is the story of that support and the eventual realization that the promises were empty and manipulative. After more than 52 years, those promises have yet to be kept.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Hope That They Don't Make Senators Like This Any More

I just received a book I had sent for that was written by Jules Dubois, the Chicago Tribune journalist who arranged for the Ed Sullivan interview with Fidel Castro. I wrote about it in an earlier blog posting. If you haven’t read it, see the August 30th entry. You can find the archives on the left side of the blog main page. The title of the Dubois book is Fidel Castro. I had hoped it would have provided some more background on the Ed Sullivan interview.     

Unfortunately, that episode is not mentioned anywhere in the text. However, I did come across another American who was interviewed in Havana on December 13, 1958, sixteen days before Batista fled, and Che Guevara marched into Havana.
Senator Alan J. Ellender, Democrat of Louisiana, came to Havana for a fact finding tour.

The American government had suspended arms shipments to Batista, hoping that would result in his voluntarily giving up power. The senator took exception to the policy of President Eisenhower. He said it was strange that Belgium, France, Italy and the UK continued to supply the Cuban army. He said, “Of course I don’t know much about it, but if a nation requires weapons to maintain internal security, I personally cannot understand why they cannot be shipped. But if there were a raging civil war going on, my answer to this question would be an emphatic no.” He explained that the army needed the weapons to stop “bandits burning the sugar plantations.” He said it would be terrible for Cuba to become embroiled in a civil war, since “Cuba is too prosperous and too wonderful a little island for such a thing to happen. I am hopeful that nothing will occur.”

I wonder what the senator was thinking had been happening for the past six years. He couldn’t possibly have thought the Cuban Revolution, which had been going on for years, was merely some bandits burning fields. And I wonder what his constituents were thinking when they elected him each term from 1937 to 1972 when he died prior to the election. Even after his death, ten percent of the electorate still voted for him! It makes me wonder about the sanity of voters of Louisiana. At least the state has the best cooking in the US. Ellender Gumbo is still on the menu of the U.S. Senate dining room.

I would have enjoyed some tonight, except that it would have exceeded my 400 calorie allotment that I limited to these days. Need to keep up energy to finish the third draft of the novel. I have finished about half the draft and hope to finish it sometime this coming week.

I learned this week that in November to December 1958 the rebels received substantial shipments of war surplus guns by air drop. Convairs and DC-3s flew from Puerto Rico and other nearby places with weapon shipments. In The Death of the White Rose, Pedro, the hero, runs guns in a sailboat. Because of the air drops, I had to write a rationale for the voyage. It all worked out, but took some time to clean up the details and make it all make sense. 
The population of registered blog readers has increased to fifty-one with seventy-three following on Twitter.  Thank you all for being there. There are others who have stopped by to read as there are over 4600 page views so far. Hopefully, the universe of blog readers will continue to expand. Be sure to click on the upper left of the main page to hear some wonderful Cuban music while you read the blog. Let me know if there is anything about this project that you would like to hear about.

I hope everyone has a very happy Halloween. Send pictures of your costumes!

Monday, October 24, 2011


Although The Death of the White Rose takes place during the Cuban revolution, it is inevitable in researching the events of 1952-1959 that I should have run into stories about developments that are taking place in Cuba today. One such story is that of Alan Gross. Mr. Gross is an American who was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Havana and convicted in 2011 in Cuba for actions relating to electronic equipment that he had smuggled into Cuba. The equipment is alleged to have been brought there to permit the minute Jewish community  to communicate with Jews outside of Cuba. His predicament is the subject of a recent Washington Post editorial demanding his release.

His trip to Cuba and the equipment that he brought with him was funded by a $6 million contract between USAID and an American contractor, Development Alternatives, Inc. The purpose of the contract was to promote democracy in Cuba, according to one of the comments to the Post editorial. He failed to report to Cuban customs that he was bringing in satellite telephones and computers to allow for Internet access. In looking at the comments to the news coverage in the Washington Post, it is unclear to me exactly what Mr. Gross brought in. The recent Post editorial refers to satellite phones. A comment describes them as B-Gans transmitters, capable of sending encrypted files. I looked at Development Alternatives, Inc.’s website and discovered that it provides many humanitarian services all over the world. Here is a link to their webpage that describes their work in Latin America: . It is interesting to note that while USAID is listed as a client, there is no mention of contracts to develop democratic institutions in Cuba.
Evidently, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has been trying to broker a deal to exchange Gross for four Cubans who are in a U.S. prison and another who has been released on parole. The four are serving  long terms for placing anti-Castro activists in Florida under surveillance and for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit espionage, using false identification and twenty other charges. The American government has offered one of the Cubans who has completed his prison term, but who is currently on probation for three years. Cuba turned down the offer.

The Cuban trial was not open to the public (no great surprise). As a result it is difficult to understand exactly what Gross was doing in Cuba. The explanation that he was providing Cuban Jews with Internet service sounds pretty silly to me. I doubt that USAID, assuming that it was their money that funded Mr. Gross, ever imagined that taxpayer funds would be used for such a purpose. Does anyone know of any American Congressional hearings examining the details of this contract? If so, it would be enlightening to hear about them. If the contract was used to fund only Gross’s activities it is particularly strange. The current Jewish population is estimated to be 1500. That would mean USAID was spending $4,000 per Jewish Cuban to improve their connectivity. It is a bit odd.

Speaking of odd things, here is a brief progress report about my novel. I am on the third draft now and am working on chapter 6 (there are 18 in total).  I made some reasonable progress over the past weekend, but once again, the day job is interfering with its completion. I am very happy with the ending—it is suspenseful and a page turner. Making each page like that is a continuing challenge. I hope when you have an opportunity to read the whole story, you will feel the same about each chapter.

Monday, October 10, 2011


The rains have started in Northern California and their arrival is a pleasant change from the unrelenting sunshine we have enjoyed since June. The nice thing about rain is that it makes me perfectly content to be inside at my desk. When the sun is shining and the temperature is in the 80s, it's hard not to be outside enjoying the pool, walking the dogs or just driving around with the convertible top down on the Chrysler. Today was definitely not convertible weather, as can be seen by the dogs’ attire:

I have been reading Havana Nocturnes, a non-fiction account of the development of gambling in Cuba by the American mob, under the guidance of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. I had no idea that the plan to develop casinos was formed in the early 30s in the fertile imagination of Lansky. Unfortunately, the Depression and the war stopped his implementation of those plans until after 1945. It was back in the 30s that he had first bribed Batista, then a sergeant in the army, but someone who Lansky had decided would eventually be someone whose influence would be key to the plan. The bribery continued right up until Batista’s departure at the end of 1958.

What really surprised me was to learn that during the war Luciano was serving a long prison sentence in upstate New York with no hope of parole. US Navy intelligence discovered that the Germans had infiltrated the New York dockworkers and shipping information was being leaked to Germany, resulting in a huge number of U-boat attacks on freighters coming out of New York. The navy approached Lansky, who was a known mobster and asked if he would help combat the Nazis. Lansky being Jewish had every desire to help defeat them. He told the navy that the person who could really help was Luciano.

Lansky met with navy intelligence and Luciano in a prison in Albany to which the navy had caused Luciano to be brought. Luciano agreed to help with no preconditions. As a result, the dockworkers informed on the foreign agents and they were arrested. The number of freighter sinkings declined. After the war, the navy told Governor Dewey of Luciano’s assistance with the war effort. He granted executive clemency to Luciano, upon the condition that he be deported back to Sicily. Luciano felt betrayed, but he had no choice and boarded The Italy and sailed back to the old country. From there he traveled to Mexico and then landed in Cuba. There he met Lansky to plan the development of the Cuban casino industry.

The first draft of The Death of the White Rose is complete and I am 70 pages into the rewrite. With luck, I should get through it by the end of this month.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Here is the first page of a letter that is the property of the US government held in US Archives (ARC#30240 Record), written by Señor Fidel Castro at age 14. The letter is transcribed after the photocopy of the page pasted below. It would be interesting to discuss the implications of this letter with a psychiatrist, to see if it foretells his future behavior. Perhaps he hated America so much because FDR failed to send him the $10 he so clearly needed to have. Interesting, too, that he offered to take FDR to see an iron mine in Oriente Province, the seat of the M-267 movement, to make Cuba's natural resources available to the United States for ship building prior to the US entry into World War II. Finally, it is particularly interesting that Fidel lied about his age. In 1940 when the letter was written, he was 14, not 12 as he stated.

I suppose the combination of failing to earn $10 or sell iron ore to the US, coupled with his failure to conquer Hollywood six years later (see prior blog), must have contributed to his alienation and descent into the antithesis of capitalism. 

Part of the joy of writing is the research and the discovery of historical artifacts that did not make it into the history books when I was in school. By the way, the letter was discovered in 1974 among 8 billion documents that had been overlooked at the National Archives.

Part of the joy of writing is the research and the discovery of historical artifacts that did not make it into the history books when I was in school. By the way, the letter was discovered in 1974 among 8 billion documents that had been overlooked at the National Archives.


Santiago de Cuba

Nov 6 1940

Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States.

My good friend Roosvelt I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo). I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States. If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.

My address is:

Sr Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente Cuba

I don't know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.

(Thank you very much)

Good by. Your friend,


Fidel Castro

If you want iron to make your sheaps ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When did Fidel Castro Become a Communist?

Although it is not a question I attempt to answer in The Death of the White Rose, I have been intrigued by the question of how did Fidel, a lawyer, become a communist? I had always assumed that he fell under the influence of the Soviet Union after the revolution, much as Ho Chi Minh turned to communism after the west shunned his advocacy of an independent Indo-China at the peace treaty negotiations at the conclusion of World War One. It is now quite apparent that Fidel became a communist in the beginning of the 50s. His brother, Raul, was indoctrinated into communism when he went to Moscow years before the revolution.
But this begs the question, what turned Fidel toward communism? I’m sure there are some scholarly tomes that have addressed this question. So far, if they are in English, they have not come across my desk. I had heard that in the 40s he had tried to become an actor in Hollywood. Last night, under the loosest definition of research, I watched Easy to Wed, starring Lucille Ball, Van Johnson and Esther Williams. Lucille Ball stole the show. The movie was released in 1947. The plot involved a millionaire duck hunter whose daughter, Esther Williams, was slandered by a NY newspaper while she was on vacation in Mexico City with her father. Father instructs his lawyer to sue the paper for $2 million. The newspaper hires a former reporter, Van Johnson, whose primary skill was the seduction of women. They want him to marry Lucille Ball and then get Esther Williams to seduce him, creating the ability of Lucille Ball to sue Esther for alienation of affection of her spouse. That lawsuit will be used to negotiate a settlement of Esther’s suit against the newspaper. For this service, Van Johnson is to be paid $50,000. Now, it must be remembered that there always had to be a swimming pool scene so that Esther Williams could display her Olympic athletic talent in a pool. The resort they were all staying at had a huge pool with an enormous ramp that appeared much like a ski jump. Esther descended the ramp on a luge and skipped across the pool until gravity stopped her close to the far end, allowing her to swim to the ladder.
Since the pool was at a fancy resort, the pool area was populated with very fancy people sipping tropical drinks and listening to live Latin music.  Seated at a poolside table, wearing only a bathing suit, a drink in his hand, is none other than Fidel Castro! Of course, at that time he did not have Brillo hair and a scraggly beard. While a student at Havana University, he earned extra money doing bit parts. I can only wonder if the superficiality of life in a democracy where people sue for $2 million and are paid $50,000 to gain a negotiating bargaining chip, and where hotel guests in a tropical climate are seen wearing furs, may have made him wonder if there is a sensible alternative to capitalism!
I know it made me wonder why some producer paid real money to the writer to produce this piece of garbage.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Batista's Departure

To clarify my prior post about Fidel's speech on January 9, 1959, I did not mean to imply that Batista left on that date, too. He departed about midnight on December 31, 1958 from Camp Columbia, a military air base. At the time, Castro was in Oriente province in far eastern Cuba, having just defeated Batista's army. He began a caravan on January 1, 1959 from Santiago de Cuba west to Havana, arriving there to speak on January 9th.

I read a joke on an English language blog written by Rebeca Monzo from Cuba:

A teacher asks her students what is the future tense of the infinitive "to protest?"
Without hesitating a second, Pedro raises his hand and answers, "prison."

So much for democracy in Fidel's Cuba.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fidel Castro's Speech to Citizens of Cuba, January 9, 1959

In the course of doing research I came across the speech given by Fidel upon his arrival in Havana after Batista left for the Dominican Republic. During the speech, a white dove came and perched on his shoulder, a staged showing that Providence was smiling on him. With the hindsight of 62 years, it is painfully clear that the democratic elections promised in the speech were illusory and that the Cuban people traded one despot for another, only in the process the middle and upper classes, and with them the relative prosperity of Cuba, were decimated. Here is the speech in its entirety. Reportedly, it took 9 hours to deliver.

Fellow citizens:

I beg of you to maintain order.  Are they not revolutionaries,
those who are here?  Are there not many rebel soldiers here?  Are there not
many army men here?  Then we must have discipline here, and everyone must
keep silent.  It is my duty to speak here tonight.  I am faced with one of
the perhaps most difficult of my duties in this long process of struggle
which began in Santiago de Cuba on 30 November 1956.  The people are
listening.  The revolutionary fighters are listening, and the soldiers of
the army are listening.  Their fate is in our hands.

I believe that we are at a crossroads in our history.  The tyranny
has been overthrown.  The happiness is tremendous, but nonetheless much
remains to be done still.  Let us not deceive ourselves in believing that
what lies ahead will all be easy.  Perhaps all that lies ahead will be more

To state the truth is the duty of every revolutionary.  To deceive
the people, to awaken in them deceitful illusions will always result in the
worst of consequences, and I believe that the people must be warned against
an excess of optimism.  How did the rebel army win the war?  By telling the
truth.  And how did the tyranny lose it?  By deceiving the soldiers.

As we were faced with the duty, we made this clear over the Rebel
Radio and warned all the comrades, so that the same would not happen to
them.  This was not the case with the army, in which all of the troops fell
into error, because the officers and soldiers were never told the truth,
and this is where I wish to begin.  Or rather I wish to continue in this
pattern, that of always telling the people the truth.  A period of time has
elapsed, which perhaps will represent a considerable advance.  Here we are
in the capital, in Columbia, the revolutionary forces are triumphant.  The
government has been established and recognized by many countries in the
world.  Seemingly peace has been won, but, however, we should not be
optimistic.  As we proceeded here today, while the people laughed and
expressed joy, we were concerned, and the fact that the crowd which
gathered to welcome us was most unusual and the happiness of the people was
so great made our concern the greater, because it made our responsibility
to history and to the people of Cuba the greater.

The revolution is no longer confronted with an army ready for
combat.  Who, in the future, can the enemies of the revolution be?  Who,
since the people are victorious, can be the enemies of the revolution in
times to come?  The worst enemies of the Cuban revolution in the future may
be the revolutionaries themselves.  On one occasion I said to a rebel
fighter that when we are not faced with the enemy, when the war has ended,
the only enemies the revolution can have will be we ourselves, and for this
reason I always say that we must be more demanding of the rebel soldiers
than of anyone, because it will depend on them whether the revolution
triumphs or fails.

There are many kinds of revolutionaries, and many kinds of
revolution.  We have been hearing talk of revolution for a long time.  Even
on 10 March, there was talk of revolutionaries.  We have heard talk of
revolutionaries for a long time, too.  I recall my first impression of
revolutionaries.  Later, study and some maturity gave me an idea of what a
revolution really was, and what a revolutionary really was.  But my first
impression of a revolutionary goes back to childhood.  So and so was in
this or that battle, and such and such was a revolutionary.  In the name of
revolution a caste was created, and there were revolutionaries then who
wanted to live off the revolution.  And it is possible that those who talk
the most were those who had done the least, and it is certain that they
went to the ministries to seek public posts, hastening to profit from the
revolution.  And we cannot fall into this, or else we would be throwing
away, as they did, the revolutionary ideal.

I recall, from my first impressions as a boy, those
revolutionaries who went around wearing 45 pistols in their belts and
wanted to do things their own way.  One had to fear them because they were
capable of killing anyone.  They went to the officers of high officials,
threatening them in order to obtain what they wanted, which these officials
had to give them.  And in fact, one wonders: where is the revolution they
undertook?  Because there was no revolution and there were very few
revolutionaries.  The first question those of us who undertook the
revolution must ask ourselves is what our intentions were in doing so, and
whether an ambition, an ignoble desire, was hidden in any of us.  We must
ask ourselves if each of the combatants in this revolution had a firm and
heartfelt idea or thought because of some egotistical goal or in the
pursuit of other unknown but inadmissible goals.

If we undertook this revolution thinking that if only the tyranny
were overthrow, we could enjoy the advantages of power, planning to mount
the throne and live like a king, in a little palace, expecting life to be a
lark for us from then on, if this was why we became revolutionaries, if we
thought of removing one minister in order to impose another, to remove one
man to impose another, it would not have been worth the trouble undertaking
the revolution.  But I know that in each one of us there was a real spirit
of sacrifice.  I know that in each one of us there was a desire to do this,
expecting no reward.  And if we were ready to give up everything in
advance, we were ready also to carry out our duty as sincere

This question must be asked because the fate of Cuba, of ourselves
and of the people, may depend to a great extent on this examination of our
consciences.  When I hear talk of columns, of battle fronts, of troops, I
always reflect.  Because here our strongest column, our best unit, the only
troops capable of winning the war alone are the people.

No general can do more than the people.  No army can do more than
the people.  I was asked what troops I would prefer to command, and I
answered I would prefer to command the people.  Because the people are
unconquerable and it was the people who won this war, because we had no
army, we had no fleet, we had no tanks, we had no planes, we had no heavy
guns, we had no military academies or recruiting and training teams.  We
had neither divisions nor regiments nor companies nor platoons, but we have
the confidence of the people, and with this alone we were able to win the
battle for liberty.

The people have won this war.  And I say this in case anyone
believes that the people have been deceived.  And therefore, the people are
more important than anything.  But there is something else: the revolution
does not serve my interests as a person, nor those of any other commander
or captain.  The interests the revolution serves are those of the people.
Those who win or lose by the revolution are the people, and it was the
people who suffered the horrors of these years, the people who had to
decide if in ten, fifteen or twenty years they and their children and their
grandchildren would still by suffering from the horrors to which the people
of Cuba were subjected under such dictatorships as those of Machado and

It is of great concern to the people whether we will do well by
this revolution just completed, and the one before that, etc., and thus it
is the people who will suffer the consequence of our errors, because there
is no error without consequences for the people.  There is no political
error for which one does not pay sooner or later.  Today's circumstances
are not the same as those of yesterday.  For example, as of the present
there is a greater opportunity than ever for the revolution to fulfill its
destiny fully.  This is perhaps why the joy of our people today is so
great.  But there is much more to be added.  One of the greatest desires of
the nation, as a result of the errors from which it suffered thanks to
repression and war, was that for peace, peace with freedom, peace with
justice and peace with law.  No one asks for another kind of peace, because
Batista spoke of peace, spoke of order, but no one wanted that peace and
that order.  Away with him, because this would have been peace at the cost
of subjection.  We here want peace as it is: to the benefit of the people.
Peace without dictatorship, without crime, without censorship, without
repression.  Perhaps this is the joy which is most keenly felt now.
Perhaps this is the joy of the Cuban mothers, the mothers of soldiers or
revolutionaries, the mothers of any citizens who are today aware that their
sons are finally free of danger; thus the greatest crime which could be
committed in Cuba today would be a crime against peace, and this no one
would pardon -- it would be the plotting, by anyone against peace.  Anyone
today who does anything to threaten peace in Cuba, anyone who puts the calm
and happiness of a regime of Cuban freedom in danger is a criminal and a
traitor.  Those who are not prepared to sacrifice something for peace,
those who are not prepared to sacrifice everything for peace are criminals
and traitors.  As this is my belief, I say and I swear before my fellow
citizens and all of my comrades that our movement is the best safeguard for
peace in Cuba.  From this moment on, the people can be sure of, are
guaranteed, a regime of respect, progress and peace, because I am a man who
has indeed sacrificed something, as I have proved this on more than one
occasion in my life, because I have taught this to my comrades, and
therefore, I presume to have sufficient moral authority and strength to
speak at a ceremony like this.  And the first among those to whom we must
speak of this are the revolutionaries, and if it were necessary, or rather
because it is necessary, I would say here: that decade which followed the
fall of Machado is not so far off.  Perhaps one of the worst evils in that
struggle was the proliferation of revolutionary groups which soon destroyed
each other, and as a result what happened was that Batista came and was
left master of the revolution in Cuba.

When the 26 July Movement was organized, and even when we
undertook this war, I believed that if indeed the sacrifices we were making
were very great and the struggle would be very long (and it only lasted two
years), they were for us but a step, two years of hard combat from the time
we began the struggle again with a handful of men until the time we reached
the capital of the republic -- despite the sacrifices which lay ahead, I
was comforted by one idea, that the 26 July Movement would have popular
support and sympathy.  It was obvious that the 26 July movement had the
support of the Cuban young people.  It seemed that this time a great and
strong organization would take up the concerns of our people.

I think that everything went well for us from the very first, with
a single revolutionary organization -- ours or any other, that of 36, 27 or
50, whichever.  Because when all is said and done it was the same men,
those of us who fought in the Sierra Maestra or in the Hscambray or in
Pinar del Rio, and we were the same men, all of us supported a single ideal
and revolutionary organization.  Ours was simply the first, that which
waged the first battle at the Moncada Barracks, that which disembarked from
the "Granma" in the month of December and which fought alone for more than
a year against the tyranny, when we had no more than 12 men holding high
the ban etc., until we came to show that this was not the struggle, that it
must be different.  We had to invent tactics in so doing, and it was we who
had to lead the struggle effectively to the achievement of its ideal, and I
want the people to tell my honestly if this is or is not the truth.

There is,-moreover, another question.  The 26 July Movement was a
majority movement.  Isn't this true?  And how did the struggle end?  When
the tyranny fell, we had taken all of Oriente, Camaguey, almost all of Las
Villas, Matanzas and Pinar del Rio.  The struggle ended with the forces
which had reached Las Villas, because we rebels had in command Major Camilo
Cienfuegos and Major Guevara in Las Villas.  On 1 January, because of
Cantillo's betrayal, Camilo Cienfuegos had orders to advance on the capital
and attack Columbia, and Major Ernesto Guevara in Las Villas also had
orders to advance on the capital and seize La Cabana, and every military
fortress of any importance fell to the rebels.  And finally, it was our
efforts, experience and organization which enabled us to win.  Does this
mean that the others did not fight?  No!  Does this mean that the others
were not worthy?  No!  Because we all fought as the people fought.  In
Havana there were no mountain battles, but hundreds were killed.  In Havana
there were no mountain battles, but the general strike was a decisive
factor in making the triumph of the revolution complete.

In stating this, the only proper thing is to put things in their
place.  The overall effect of the movement in the struggle was not here and
not there exclusively.  It was the product of the joint efforts of all.
Someone should write an article entitled "Against Everything," explaining
the strategy which this revolution developed and which culminated with the
26 July triumph and the overwhelming defeat of the tyrant's forces, which
surrendered to the forces of the rebel Army.  Not only did this serve the
ends of the 26 July forces, but it also taught how it is necessary to deal
with the enemy in war, because this was perhaps the first revolution in the
world in which no prisoner of war was murdered, no wounded soldier
abandoned, no man tortured, because this was the conduct maintained by the
Rebel Army, and, moreover, this was the only revolution in the world which
did not produce a single general.  Not one, because the rank I took for
myself, which my comrades assigned me, was that of Major, and I have not
changed it, although we have won many battles. i still want to be a major.
And there was a moral result which promotions will not produce, because our
highest rank is that of major, although there are more than one can count.
To judge from appearances, I believe that the people approve of the way we
fought, and because I have fought as I have for citizens' rights, I take
for myself the right to speak the truth even if it hurts, and also because
we are defending the interests of the fatherland, and will not compromise
with the threats which may hang over the Cuban revolution.  Although others
have the same moral authority as I to speak, I would say that they
nonetheless have less merit, as I believe that for men to have equal
prerogatives, they must earn them in practice, against negative moral
conditions, they must prove worthy of merit. I believe that the revolution
has been completed, now that Major Cienfueges, after a month and several
days of battle, is in command in Columbia, now that Alnejeiras, who has
lost three brothers in this war, is chief of police and now that Major
Ernesto Guevara, who landed with the "Granma" and is a veteran of two years
and one month of battle in the highest and most rugged mountains of Cuba,
is in command of La cabana, and now that we have placed in charge of the
various regiments in the different provinces the men who have sacrificed
and fought the most in this revolution.  If this is the case, no one has
the right to challenge them.

We must honor merit, because those who do not are but ambitious
creatures, those who do not honor the merits of others, who challenge them,
seek to deceive in order to assume their prerogatives.

Now the republic and the revolution are entering a new phase.
Would it be just for ambition or egotism to threaten the destiny of the
revolution here?  What serves the interests of the people?  Because it is
the people to whom it is of interest to avoid this danger.  Our freedoms,
the rights they have won, peace, inner interest?  Because currently the
people have all the freedoms, all the rights, and all the pace they have
wanted.  Does an honest government serve the interests of the people?  Is
it not an honest government which serves the interests of the people?
Well, today they have one.  In the President of the Republic we have an
honorable official.  Does honest and open army leadership serve the
interests of the people?  Well, today they have it.

What is important to the people here is that their leaders be
honest men, not just anyone.  What matters here is that those appointed
have these qualities, for haphazard appointees are not worth anything to
the people of Cuba.  Has any of our appointees tried to cover the country
with blood?

Has any of our ministers covered the country with blood and
disturbed the peace of this nation?

If the team of leaders the present government has does not prove
worthy, the people have the right to out them, not to approve them, I mean
in elections, because when everyone knows that they are not worthy, this is
the final recourse: elections.  We have finished forever here with coups

We must make this clear so that demagogy and confusion will not
arise, and with the first evidence of ambition to appear, we must be
merciless.  Nor my part, I tell you that the only thing to heed is the
people, and the people have all the armed columns.  This is because in
order to wage a free revolution we called upon the people, because by
talking with the people it is possible to avoid bloodshed and it is
necessary to call upon the people, so that they can help to resolve the
problems.  I who have profound faith in the people and believe I have shown
this, tell you that the people want to be counted on this country, but for
public opinion to make itself felt, it is necessary to have extraordinary
strength.  In an era of dictatorship, public opinion is nothing, but in an
era of freedom, it is everything and the official authorities must express
their views to the republic.  They must speak to the people, because
always, by this means, by speaking wisely with the people, the revolution
can avoid many threats.  And I tell you that these treats are not so great,
because it should not be necessary to shed more Cuban blood to consolidate
the revolution.

I must say that we are working to consolidate this revolution,
because otherwise it would not exist, nor would I have been speaking here
before this vast crowd.

I could not have spoken thus when we were a group of 12 men, when
all we had was the duty to fight, to struggle and to win merit in the eyes
of the people.  But now that we have heavy guns, weapons, a navy and
tremendous strength of a military nature, and in the people, our great
concern must be not to fight, because there is no merit in fighting thus,
because to fight now with tanks, heavy guns, etc., has no merit.  What I
ask of the people in order to combat all ambition is their cooperation in
condemning the ambitious, in order to eliminate any emerging ambition from
hereon.  I am not going to make an attack of a personal and specific
nature, because the triumph is too recent to permit embarking on polemics.

However, when the time comes to do so, I am ready, because I have moral
authority enough to do this (applause).  And this is because I believe in
the mass of the fighters, in the majority of the men, and I cite as an
example Carlos Prio Socarras, who told me that he wanted to contribute to
the revolution, without any personal aspirations, that is to say,
unconditionally, and he proved this by protesting not at all, by never
expressing the slightest objection or complaint to the cabinet.  And I have
found the same readiness in other organizations -- those of combatants, men
who fought and struggled, and the other organizations must have the feeling
of the free revolutionaries who have always thought of the welfare of the
people.  And I am certain that if anyone were to come to combat civil
revolution in Cuba they should do so very carefully, because all they would
achieve would be the desertion of all the combatants from their ranks,
because they would not follow them.  One would have to be mad to challenge
the reason, the right, the peace and the history of Cuba.

I say all this because I want to ask the people a question the
answer to which interests me greatly.  Why are they amassing weapons
secretly now?  Why are they smuggling weapons in currently?  I tell you
that currently there are members of revolutionary organizations who are
stockpiling weapons and smuggling them.  All of the rebel army weapons are
in the barracks, and no one has taken them home.  They are in the barracks
under lock and key!  This is true in Pinar del Rio, just as it is in
Havana, Matanzas, Camaguey and Oriente, because these weapons should now be
in the barracks.  And I will give you this warning: I am prepared to do
whatever I have to do to resolve this problem with the help of public
opinion, and I want to count on the strength of the people alone to
safeguard the weapons.  I suggest that these revolutionaries abandon the
false positions into which they are slipping and get back in tune with the
freedoms and peace of the people.

Weapons for what?  To fight against whom?  Against the
revolutionary government, which has popular support?  Weapons for what?  To
fight against the revolution?  Is Urrutia the same as Batista?  Now there
is no censorship, the press is free and you can be sure that censorship
will not be reestablished, ever.  Today there is no torture, assassination
or dictatorship.  Today there is only happiness.

All of the leaders are organizing their trade union organizations,
all of the rights of the citizens have been reestablished.  Weapons!  What
for?  To blackmail the President of the Republic?  To threaten peace?  So
that we can watch gangsterism and daily skirmishes flourish?  Weapons for
what?  Well, I say to you that two days ago, members of a certain
organization entered the San Antonio barracks, which was under the command
of Camilo Cienfueges and myself, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces,
and took 500 machine guns and other weapons.  And I honestly hope that they
have not decided to engage in any other provocation, because to violate
what has been achieved like this is knavery.  If they were seeking
provocations, what they lacked was not guns but only men of the people to
support them.

Because the combatants with true ideals are capable of fixing the
responsibility for this deed with those who have none, and so we have
remained calm, and no one fears that we are going to become dictators.  He
who does not have the people with him, he who is not in the right, has no
strength, and we have seen such human and total affection in the hearts of
the people because we have never acted in such a way as rudely to impose
ourselves where we were not wanted, because we have won and produced
something in waging this struggle against the people and we do not need
force because on the day that the people look with disfavor upon us -- only
this -- we will leave, because we regard this task as a sacrifice, not
pleasure.  We are working honestly, because it will bring us nothing
personally, and the people will never see me granting privileges to anyone,
nor committing injustices, nor plundering nor abusing, because we regard
the exercise of authority as a sacrifice, and we believe that if it were
not thus, if it were not for the demonstration of affection received from
the people, the least we could do would be to withdraw and retire,
particularly since it is a duty, and if it were not for this duty, what I
would do would be to say goodbye and take with me the gift of the love
which I have won in the hearts of the people, and wait for them to call
upon me in the same words as they have done today.

The tasks which duty imposes upon us not represent a difficult
path full of dangers.

And there is also another reason force does not interest us,
because on the day someone rises up to use force here I will make bold to
call him an enemy.  I will tell him to take that force, and again I would
depart, and they could see how long this lasted.

I believe that these are reasons enough to show everyone that ...
The President of the Republic has appointed me commander-in-chief of all
the air, land and sea forces in the republic.  This is not an honor I have
earned, because to me it represents a sacrifice, and so I am not proud or
thankful for it, and I want the people to tell me I should assume this
duty. I believe that if I created an army with only 12 men and if I
commanded a military force which never abandoned a wounded man, nor harmed
a prisoner, we are the men who should command the forces of the republic,
filling the armed institutes with men not a one of whom has ever struck,
tortured or killed a prisoner, and moreover, we can serve as a bridge
between the revolution and the military.  Because these soldiers will have
the duty of continuing to belong to the armed forces, and I also say that
those who have murdered will never save anyone.

And this is the case because all of the revolutionary combatants
want to belong to the regular forces of the army of the republic, have a
right to do so, since... but there are other more important problems to
resolve.  The doors will be open to all the revolutionary fighters, because
they have fought and produced good for the country.  And if they have
confidence in the country, in the government, if the doors are open to all,
what reason is there to stock weapons?  I want the people to tell me if
they want peace, or a kind of war.  I want to be told if the people agree
that each has a right to his own private army, in order to promote discord,
if we can have peace in the republic this way.

And these are the problems I have sought to control, so that the
guns could disappear from the streets as soon as possible, because when we
are not confronted by the enemy, there is no need to fight anyone, and if
one day it is necessary to do so, because they come to oppose the
revolution, it will not be just a few who will fight, but all.  No one has
a right to have a private army.  These elements have been seen engaging in
suspicious maneuvers.  Perhaps they have taken the pretext that I have been
appointed commander of the army, and they have talked of a political army.
Is this a political army?  That which has the support of the people?

And I want to tell the people and the mothers of Cuba that I will
resolve all problems without shedding a drop of blood.  I tell the mothers
that they will never, because of us, have to weep.  I want to ask the
people, all responsible men, to help us to resolve these problems and when
we are threatened with an action... this is immoral.  I say here, moreover,
that we will not access to these threats, because this would be to dishonor
the revolution and to compromise its success and consolidation.  Let those
who are not members of the regular forces of the republic return the
weapons to the barracks, because there are more than enough weapons here
now, and it has been proven that weapons are only needed when one has to
defend the right and the people.  They are not for committing misdeeds.

I want to tell the people that they can be sure that the laws will
be respected, because there is no egotism or partisanship here.  However,
on the day the people order that weapons be taken up to guarantee their
law, their peace and their right, then these weapons which are under my
jurisdiction will be taken up again to fulfill their duty.

Let no one think that we will full into temptation, because we
have too great a responsibility to prevent the shedding of a single drop of
blood, so that we cannot allow ourselves to be corrupted or confuse the
issues of life.  Thus, let no one fear, because when our patience is
exhausted, we will seek new patience, and when that is finished, we will
seek still further patience.  And this must be the slogan of the men who
have weapons in hand, and power in their hands: they must never become so
exasperated as to take up weapons.  They must resign themselves to all
sacrifices, except when there is an attempt to endanger the security of the
law and the rights of the people.  But we will make use of the weapons when
the people so demand.  What I want to do now is simply to warn the people
of this danger, so that this revolution, which has cost us so much, can be
kept pure and useful to the citizens.

It is true that all peoples, after such struggles, have had others
and yet more.  This seems to be an exception, and would that it should even
more so, because there could be no one who wants the firing of a single
further shot here.  I am proud of the discipline and the spirit of the
people because if something really excellent has been accomplished it is
the demonstration of their dignity and civic conscience.  Sacrifice for
such a people is well worth it.

As of the present, the military battles have ended.  Tomorrow we
will have another day of peace like all the rest.  We have become
accustomed to war.  For a long time, we did not know what peace was.  But
we must learn to work to pay the rent, the electrical bills, etc.  I know
that the young people are deeply imbued with the enthusiasm which will
change the republic.  I am certain of it, and also of the fact that there
is a president who has the confidence of the people, because no danger
threatens.  The position of the president is established, and has now been
recognized by almost all the nations in the world.  Nothing can threaten
him, and he has the support of the people, our support and that of the
revolutionary forces.  This is true support, support without revolution and
without danger.  For us, this step is above suspicion because we have
fought without ambition and full of the greatest hopes, faith and without
the slightest doubt.

Thus, now we must work hard.  For my part, I will do all I can to
the benefit of the country.  And I with all of my comrades stand with the
President of the Republic and all the other Cubans.  I hope that the
triumph of consolidation will not be long in being achieved.

I see an extraordinary spirit of cooperation in all sectors of the
people, among the journalists and in all the other sectors of the country.
We will make a tremendous advance.  The Republic will be free of all petty
politicking, vice and gambling.  And now it is the Republic which will
resolve all the problems...  Because I am not a professional military man
or an army careerist.  I was a military man as short a time as possible.  I
am not going to engage in military war undertakings with neighboring
countries, because if it is desired to fire shots, I believe that there is
plenty of room here in Cuba to do so.

If we do not resolve all these problems it means an incomplete
revolution, because I believe that the basic problem of the Republic,
following the triumph, is work, and this is the way to resolve the

But this is not all, comrades.  There are thousands of other
things.  But as you can imagine, we are not going to deal with every
subject in a single evening.  We are ending a long day.  Although I am not
tired, tomorrow morning a day of work must be begun.  I promised to attend
the program "With the Press" tonight and I see that it is 1:30 and I cannot
go.  You will have other opportunities to hear me on the radio, in the
press, etc.  Also we will meet in the schools, the neighborhoods and
everywhere, anyone can talk with me.  The demands of all will be met.

The Council of Ministers is made up of great revolutionary
elements.  The President of the Republic chose the Prime Minister, and when
he asked our cooperation, we granted it.  As I have said previously, we
cannot do everything in one, two or three days.  Moreover, I have told the
people during other ceremonies that they should not expect these ministers
to know how to be ministers.  These are new tasks for them.  We knew
nothing about war, either, nor did Che Cuevara know anything about
strategy, or anything like it.  He knew nothing of military matters.  Why?
Because he had not studied them.  Possibly the same will be the case with
the ministers, but I am sure that within a month, they will know more than
enough.  The most important thing is the desire they have to learn, to
serve the people, and to do their jobs well.  How will they know how to do
this?  Morality, honesty will teach them, because although there are no
sages here, there are indeed honest men.  The majority of them are members
of the 26 July Movement, but if they do not serve the purpose, others, the
men of 27 or 28 July, will replace them.  The 26 July veterans have a right
to try to serve the Republic.  And this must be all for today.  Really, I
have said all I wanted and if there is something else, I will leave it for
another time.

I realize now that what I have not said is that I believe that all
of the people of Havana are here today.  The vast crowd gathered today,
this astonishing multitude, will be seen in photographs.  And I believe
that the people have done too much, because this is more that we merit.  I
believe that never again will we see a crowd such as this, although I am
sure that on such will gather again when we go to our grave, because we
want to merit the gathering of such a crowd, since we will never deceive
our people.