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Brazzil - Nation - June 2003

Brazil and Cuba: More than Good Friends

Chief of Staff, José Dirceu, says that the generation who came to
power with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in debt with Cuba.
Dirceu also reminds us that the Brazilian Left, during the years of
the military regime, could always count on Cuba—on its solidarity,
its "friendly hand" and its "strong arm". "I consider myself a Cuban
Brazilian and a Brazilian Cuban", he says.

Janer Cristaldo
 

Does anyone remember the 1970s, when you could be labeled an 'imperialist pig' for denouncing Cuba as the financier of the so-called 'revolutionary movements' in Brazil? The connections between Cuba and the Brazilian left—not only Cuba, by the way, but also Moscow, Beijing, Algiers and Prague—were obvious, but one was doomed and immediately blacklisted by the Left for daring to state the obvious. If you wrote for a living, publishing houses suddenly vanished. If you were a journalist, newspapers disappeared.

A literary genre was actually born at the time—Cuban travel journals. Bookstores built special shelves to welcome it. The vein started with Fernando Morais, in 1976, with A Ilha (The Island), a book that became the icon of the Left and quickly hit the bestseller list. Of course the book never mentioned Castro's assassinations, torture, dictatorship or the thousands of political prisoners.

Later, Fernando Morais also wrote Olga, supposedly a biography of a female officer in the Red Army who was posted in Brazil by order of Stalin. The author saw Olga as a hero and a martyr—a victim of Getúlio Vargas and the Nazis. Morais collected a handsome profit with his literature, very much appreciated at the time. His editors, too—after all, there is no law in this country against publishing books containing lies. Now we hear that Morais is writing a biography of right-wing senator Antônio Carlos Magalhães. What's wrong with that, if it pays well?

But I was talking about Cuba. It was also in very bad taste at the time to say that somebody was an agent of the Cuban government. Or that Cuba supplied arms and training to Brazilian guerillas. Of course that was then. Right now, however—surprise!—we have a known agent of the Cuban security services, José Dirceu, who took office as the president's Chief of Staff, declaring loud and clear that the generation who came to power with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in debt with Cuba. Dirceu also reminds us that the Brazilian Left, during the years of the military regime, could always count on Cuba—on its solidarity, its "friendly hand" and its "strong arm". "I consider myself a Cuban Brazilian and a Brazilian Cuban", he says.

To be more precise: the Chief of Staff of the Brazilian presidency admits, for the whole world to listen, that the ascension of the PT (Workers Party) to power is due to the good efforts of the oldest dictatorship in the continent. He forgot, of course—or purposefully declined to mention—that even before the military took power in Brazil, Cuba was already sending arms to our guerrillas. This is actually the touchstone of the PT. One should never admit that the intervention by Cuba happened before 1964 [year of the revolution in Brazil, when the military took power]. For the PT to admit such a fact would be to have its argument crumble to the ground—that the guerilla was a reaction to the military regime. In fact, however, what happened was the exact opposite.

Nothing like power to loosen the tongue of the people holding it. The timing is tragically significant, too, with the news of the 78 Cuban "dissidents" arrested last March, now convicted and facing prison terms ranging from ten years to life. Dissidents, of course, is the press's favorite euphemism to designate political opponents, human rights' militants, independent writers and journalists. (If you read newspapers, you must have noticed that dissidents exist only in socialist countries).

Diplomats and foreign journalists have tried to obtain permits to watch the proceedings in Havana, but they were denied access to the courts. This is the Cuba to which our PT owes its victory, according to our Cuba-Brazilian José Dirceu. The same Cuba who sends to prison any person opposed to the regime. In Europe and in the U.S. there is protest coming from both the press and human rights' organizations against the escalation of the dictatorship. In Brazil, however, there is a deep silence.

As if it were not enough to watch the heartfelt homage rendered to the Cuban dictatorship by our Chief of Staff, the news from the Berlin film festival is that Oliver Stone has just launched the most recent hagiology to the dictator, entitled Comandante. During three days, the American filmmaker followed the dictator—pardon me, the 'Cuban leader'—around, and the result is a 90-minute documentary. Questioned about the practice of torture in Cuba, Castro denied its existence. Would the filmmaker ever expect el Comandante to admit being a torturer?

The question should, instead, have been answered by the so-called dissidents, but these are characters that Stone did not bother to interview. As to his status as a dictator, something the Brazilian press barely dares mentioning, Castro seems ready to admit to it. "Is it that bad to be a dictator?"—is the question at the end of the movie. El Comandante thinks not. "I have seen States become very good friends with some dictators". A favorite icon of the press, Castro can now permit himself the luxury of admitting to it. He is untouchable.

As if the piece from Oliver Stone—a film to be surely seen and cheered by the great friend and admirer of Castro, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—were not enough, the Brazilian people are about to finance Os Diários da Motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries), the new road movie from Walter Salles. When the time comes to secure the money to produce his movies, this gentleman, who comes from a family of bankers, doesn't go to Daddy's bank for financing—instead, he goes to the pockets of Brazilian taxpayers.

The screenplay is based on the book De Moto pela América do Sul (South America on a Motorbike), a memoir about a trip taken by Che Guevara throughout the continent at a time when the future Argentinean apparatchik under Moscow's orders, then 23 years old, could never even dream that one day he would be celebrated as a saint, San Ernesto de la Higuera. If you ever feel like reading a compilation of failures, please read a biography of Che. This is a man who failed in all his projects, except in Cuba—this same Cuba which, half a century after its struggle, keeps sending to prison anyone who dares to oppose the will of the island's sovereign. In other words, Che's sole victory resulted in a colossal disaster.

As if this homage to the collector of flops, which will surely be used as pedagogical materials for the Comunidades Eclesiais de Base (Grassroots Church Communities) and for the Catholic guerillas of MST (the Landless Party), were not enough, Ediouro (publishers) is releasing Outra Vez (Again), a continuation of the journal of the man who, not content with bringing an island to disaster, wanted to drown the whole continent. The journey begins in 1953, in Bolivia, and ends up in Mexico, where Che would meet Fidel Castro, in 1956. In these days of the PT in power, it now looks like we'll have a revival of the 70s. With African History becoming a mandatory subject in our schools, it would not be surprising to see some nostalgic widow proposing a new school subject—Cuban History—to help wash the brains of emerging generations.

Ours is a sad country. It has been 14 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and 12 years since the crumbling down of the Soviet Union. Extraneous to the history being made under their noses, our elites insist in worshiping the last petrified residues of a doctrine that caused the death of a mere hundred million people during the last century.

 

Janer Cristaldo—he holds a PhD from University of Paris, Sorbonne—is an author, translator, lawyer, philosopher and journalist and suffers São Paulo. His e-mail address is cristal@baguete.com.br  

Translated by Tereza Braga, email: tbragaling@cs.com  

 

 



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