Havana. April 8, 2009
Reflections of Fidel
THE morning was stormy, humid, cold. A strong wind was blowing and the sky was clouded. It was not a spring day, or warm.
Barbara wanted to visit the ELAM [Latin American School of Medicine], where 114 young people from the United States are studying Medicine.
The official aircraft that brought them to Cuba had advanced the return flight 24 hours; they were leaving at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, rather than Wednesday.
I did not attempt a meeting with all of them because I do not have enough space for the seven of them, plus an interpreter and the minister accompanying them. I asked her to visit me with two other legislators selected by the group. Thus I could meet with her once again.
On this occasion, circumstances had changed a lot. The Congressional Black Caucus represents a sector of significant weight in the United States.
The long struggle for equality and social justice was illuminated by the life and example of Martin Luther King, whose thinking and work today captivate millions of people in the world and was what, in my judgment, explains how – in a time of profound crisis – a Black citizen could attain the presidency of the United States.
Hence, for me, in personal terms, another meeting with the Black Caucus would acquire special importance. I knew about the details of their stay in Cuba via the compañeros who looked after them during their visit, the basic ideas of the congressional organization and the opinions of its members.
Raúl also transmitted to me the magnificent impression that they left on him during his meeting with them, which extended to nearly four hours last night, Monday.
When Barbara Lee arrived at the house accompanied by Bobby Rush, Democratic congressman for Illinois, and Laura Richardson, for California, together with the CITMA [Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment] minister, José Miyar Barrueco, who was secretary of the Council of State for many years, it was 11:35 am; the sky had cleared and a radiant sun was beaming down on the patio. I was really happy to see Barbara again and have the opportunity to personally greet Bobby and Laura, whose names were already familiar, for their words at the meetings with Raúl, Alarcón, Bruno, Miyar and the families of the five heroes.
The meeting with me lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to the clock; in reality, half a minute, if I go by the speed with which it went by and the desire to listen to them.
I briefly related to them my experiences of two years and seven months of hospital confinement and the activities to which I am now dedicating. I explained what I had learned in that time of obligatory reclusion; above all, my great interest in what was happening in the world and particularly in the United States, as I compiled news and concentrated on studying.
I remembered that I had invited them to listen to them and I was beginning to forget what most interested me: to know their opinions. The interest and depth with which they expounded their points of view, the sincerity and quality of their words, simple and profound, was comforting. The three reflected transparency, pride in their work, their organization, their struggle and their country. It is evident that they know Obama and reflect confidence, security in and warmth toward him.
Barbara is proud of presiding over the Black Caucus, of actively participating in the politics of her country with a new spirit and optimism, of her son, who was far from being born when the Revolution triumphed in Cuba, and of her five grandchildren. She had voted alone against Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq. That was insuperable proof of her political bravery. She merits all honors.
She especially recalled Dellums, who brought her to Cuba for the first time, when she was his assistant and they were with me in a cay talking for hours. He is no longer a legislator, she told me, but is the mayor of Oklahoma, attending to a population of 400,000 inhabitants, and she also told me about the ex-congresswoman who visited Cuba with Dellums, who is now 98 and sent effusive greetings.
Laura is a congresswoman in California, for the Long Beach district; she spoke with particular pride of the port of California which, as she explained “is the third in the world.” I really couldn’t resist making a joke and, bearing in mind that she is an active defender of the environment, I said to her: “Laura, if the polar ice cap melts, your third port in the world will be under water.” In the atmosphere created she wasn’t at all upset, and continued saying interesting things.
Then it was the turn of Rush, the oldest and most experienced member of the delegation, a radical fighter in his early years, whose life has been an incessant growth of political and human knowledge. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee. For a period of 15 or 20 minutes I listened to him without any interruption. He explained that, in his youth, he read the works and writings of important modern revolutionary thinkers, which were the starting point for his later political maturity, through observation of and meditation on what was taking place in his country and the world. He mentioned by name Mandela, Che and other exceptional people who sacrificed themselves for others. As is a generalized truth among leaders of the Black Caucus, passages from the Bible are quoted, as Martin Luther King used to do to sustain his points of view; “The word justice is mentioned on 2,000 occasions in the Bible, almost as many times as the word love,” he told me. He spoke about his health, the battles that he waged to preserve it and survive a carcinogenic illness.
He knows Obama personally, given that he has had close dealings with him for years, even as an adversary on occasions, expressing a high and sincere opinion of him; he described him as an honest and good person who wishes to help the U.S. people.
He expressed admiration for the health services available to the population in Cuba and the research centers devoted to fighting disease.
I could have listened to him for hours as an inexhaustible spring of knowledge and maturity.
I asked him a question on the meaning of his affirmation: “Obama can improve relations with Cuba, but Cuba has to help Obama.” We were not the aggressors nor did we threaten the United States. Cuba did not have any alternative that would allow it to take the initiative. We were starting from the certainty that his [Obama’s] words were sincere and we had affirmed that publicly before and after his election. At the same time, we were expressing the belief that the objective realities were, in the United States, more powerful than Obama’s sincere intentions.
Finally, I asked him which were the best works published in English in the United States on Martin Luther King and if they had been translated into Spanish. He spoke of the three in Taylor Branch’s trilogy as among the most interesting, among them, “Letters from Prison.” They weren’t sure about their translation into Spanish and promised to send me the pertinent material.
It was a magnificent meeting.
Fidel Castro Ruz
by Granma International