Archive for December, 2011

2012: New Year of Struggle for the Five

December 31, 2011

A time for reflection, and hope for the Five’s freedom in 2012

Greetings from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five
Dear friends:

As the new year approaches, we want to close 2011 with greetings to the many friends and supporters of the Cuban Five.
This year saw the 13th anniversary of the vengeful and unjust imprisonment of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René, men who are in U.S. prisons because the love for their homeland brought them to the United States to protect their people.
Their dignity and principled stance, in the face of the U.S. government’s cruelty, has inspired more and more people to support their cause worldwide and in the United States. We are committed to continue fighting for the Five, until they are all home, safe and free.
We ask for your continued support of our work and the Five’s struggle in the New Year 2012! If you can, please make a donation to help us continue our work.

  DONATE   :,

Public support actions
 From our Jan. 2011 Tribunal in El Paso, Texas against the terrorist Posada Carriles, featuring Ramsey Clark, where the Cuban Five’s cause received considerable coverage, to the many forums and actions we have organized throughout the year, including the struggle for the Cuban Five’s freedom in the Occupy movement, the Five’s anti-terrorist mission and their struggle for freedom has reached many new people.
We continue to maintain the most visited Cuban Five website on the internet. It features the latest developments on their case, along with extensive legal, audio and video resources. This year we greatly expanded the reach of the Five with the creation of our Facebook page. Hundreds of posts have gone out to our 3,275 Facebook friends, allowing them to spread the message to their friends (more than 1.3 million of them!). If you are not yet following the National Committee on Facebook,

click here:,  And if you are, please remember to share our posts with your friends.

The National Committee’s Media Work
 The National Committee continues to organize important press events to keep the Five in the media’s focus, with regular press conferences and updates. In one example this year, the Washington Post published an informative article, ) by foreign affairs correspondent Karen DeYoung, based on our Sept. 12, 2011 tele-press conference on the anniversary of the Five’s arrest.
Our press work gives voice to the Cuban Five and provides an important opportunity to their Legal team to explain the case. Associated Press published a national news story, — along with other media — based on our March 22, 2011 conference, quoting Gerardo Hernández and his affidavit of innocence, which was filed in federal court.
We have been interviewed many times on radio, TV, newspaper throughout the year. We are a recognized and important source for journalists, who rely greatly on our committee’s resources and highly informative website,,
Our research on the U.S. government payments to Miami media
2011 has been a critical year for the Cuban Five’s Habeas Corpus appeals. We are fully aware of the extreme obstacles for the Five in the “justice” system of the United States.

 (Click here, to read Antonio’s profound words on the 10th anniversary of the Five’s sentencing.)
But every legal process available to them must be utilized to the fullest, as part of the battle for their freedom.
This year, with the help of many people, and the invaluable work of The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, our Freedom of Information Act petitions and research, exposing the Miami journalists’ secret collaboration with the U.S. government, has been vital to the appeals of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René

(Read about it here, ). The Miami journalists on Washington’s payroll saturated the Miami public with highly inflammatory coverage against the Five.
We especially want to thank those who have helped on research, analysis, legal work and translation: Juanita López Rodríguez, Sue Ashdown, Mara Ochoa, Salvador Capote, Chris Banks, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Carl Messineo, Keith Pavlik, Rosa Peñate, Leila Allahham, Sarah Sloan, Brian Becker, Radhika Miller, Tom Power, Andrés Gómez, Kendra Johnson, Michelle Schudel, Sarah Carlson, Cindy O’Hara, Ben Becker, Frank Lara, Clarissa Lara, Antoinette Marquez, Alexandr Satanovsky, Heidi Boghosian, Gloria La Riva and Steve Patt (photos below). Our work is not over! And 2012 will be a most important year for the Five’s appeals. We are happy to contribute to the indispensable work of the defense attorneys, who have worked tirelessly for 13 years to free Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.

The upcoming Washington Post Ad
 We have been working very hard — along with many friends in the U.S. and internationally — to collect the more than $50,000 for a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, directed to President Obama. We are happy to say we will submit the Ad in early January! The publication date is not set, for that lower-than-normal (!) rate, the ad will be placed when a full page is available. As soon as we know the date of publication, we will announce to everyone and post to our website.
The ad is only possible because of the faith and generosity of many friends, whom we will acknowledge as soon as the ad is published!


In Memoriam
 Leonard Weinglass
Preeminent civil rights attorney
Defender and Brother of the Cuban Five

Tony Llansó
Member of the leadership of the Antonio Maceo Brigade
President of the Alianza Martiana Coalition
Contact us:
Or call: 415-821-6545
Free the Cuban Five Now!
Allow the families’ visits!
Grant entry visas to Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva!

National Committee To Free The Cuban Five | 2969 Mission Street | San Francisco | CA | 94110

Cuban oil exploration – the revolution digs deep

December 30, 2011

from Helen Yaffe

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 -December 2011/January 2012

‘I asked Che, if you think there’s oil in the Gulf, why don’t we go and investigate? He told me that we can’t because the technology doesn’t exist.’ Juan Valdes Gravalosa*


Today, the technology to which Che aspired is steaming across the oceans towards the northern coast of Cuba in the form of Scarabeo 9; a $750 million investment by the Cuban government in one of the world’s largest semi-submersible oil drilling rigs. Drilling on exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico will begin before the end of 2011.

In mid-November 2011, Rafael Tenreiro, head of exploration for the state-owned oil company Cubapetroleo, stated: ‘It is not a matter of if we have oil, it is a matter of when we are going to start producing.’ JOSEPH ESKOVITCHL reports.

Economic and social benefits for Cuba

The October 2008 announcement that Cuba had discovered significant offshore oil reserves in its ‘exclusive economic zone’ (EEZ) around the Gulf of Mexico alarmed the US establishment. The US Geological Survey estimates reserves of around 5 billion barrels and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, However, Cuban sources place reserves closer to 20 billion barrels. In 2009, Cuba consumed 169,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). With domestic production from existing oil wells at around 50,000 bpd, Cuba still relies on 120,000 bpd in imports.

Successful extraction of commercially-viable reserves, even at the lower end of the estimates, will make Cuba energy independent. If the higher estimates prove correct, Cuba will sit between China (20 billion barrels and 14th world ranking) and the US (19 billion, 15th world ranking) in terms of world reserves. In an era where oil and energy supplies become ever more crucial, the potential for the Cuban revolution to secure its future development and decisively break the crippling half-century blockade by US imperialism is increasingly realistic.

This does not mean, however, that a consumerist society, or the vast inequalities seen in many oil-exporting nations, will emerge in Cuba. The socialist process will ensure that future oil wealth is invested in social and economic development. Furthermore, Cuba’s welfare and developmentalist internationalism will extend these benefits throughout the oppressed world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean through ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

A history of economic warfare

Depriving Cuba of access to oil has been a key tenet of the US blockade. In 1960, the US government pressured US and British oil refineries on the island to refuse to refine imported Soviet crude. The Cuban Revolution removed this obstacle by nationalising the refineries. The US responded by imposing the blockade. Cuba depended on Soviet oil imports. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, Cuba fell into economic crisis and political isolation. The Cold War was over, but the US tightened the noose further, using the Cuban Democracy Act (1992) and Helms-Burton Act (1996) to reinforce the blockade and penalise foreign companies dealing with Cuba, preventing them from operating in the US. Under the blockade, countries and companies are prohibited from selling goods to Cuba in which more than 10% of components are made or patented in the US. This raises the costs of trading with or investing in Cuba and puts off potential trade partners. Legislation introduced under the Bush administration, ‘Plan Bush’ 2004 and 2006, intensified efforts to prevent any funds or resources flowing into Cuba. Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $20 million to be ‘invested’ in fostering counter-revolution. Cuba’s deep-sea oil exploration will increase the incentive for US imperialism to destroy the socialist revolution. Returning the island to its pre-revolutionary status as a semi-colony of the US would contribute to the US’s fuel security, offsetting instability and threats to its domination in other oil-exporting nations.

A 2006 World Security Institute report, Cuba, Oil and National Security, described the US blockade as ‘successful in relegating Cuba’s energy development schemes to less-than-world-class status’. While US engineering represents: ‘the leading edge of oil exploration technology…explicit in all of its foreign sales are export control stipulations that none of that technology can be sold or transferred to a short but well known list of countries: Iran, North Korea, until recently Libya, and of course, Cuba.’ The report recognises this as ‘technology denial’.

International co-operation undermines the US blockade

Despite the most sustained campaign of economic terrorism ever imposed by one country on another, the Cuban operation in the Gulf is testimony to its growing stature in the international arena and the bankruptcy of the US strategy of isolation.

The Scarabeo 9 is owned by Italian oil giant Saipem; it was designed with the aid of Norwegian engineers; built in the shipyards of Yantai, China; fitted with advanced technology in Singapore and has been initially contracted by the Spanish company Repsol. In line with blockade regulations, the huge rig, capable of prospecting to depths of 12,000 feet, contains less than 10% US-made parts. Cuba’s EEZ is divided into 59 blocks and agreements for exploratory wells have already been reached with state oil companies and conglomerates from China, Russia, Angola, Vietnam, Venezuela, Malaysia, Norway, Canada and India. Despite the punitive operating costs incurred as a result of the blockade, and political threats emanating from Washington and Florida, the economic and strategic advantages of trade with Cuba are clearly significant enough for the opprobrium of a crisis-ridden US to be weathered.

The Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) bid for Californian oil company Unocal in 2005 was withdrawn under pressure from the US establishment and its ‘national security’ concerns. Now, CNOOC will drill in five blocks at the western edge of Cuba’s EEZ within 100 miles of the Florida coast. Cuba has already strengthened its infrastructure and technology as part of Petrocaribe, a strategic alliance between Venezuela and Caribbean nations to promote regional socio-economic development based on the exploration, refining and distribution of oil. Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA invested $1 billion in a joint venture with CUPET, its Cuban equivalent, to repair, expand and build new refineries in Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas. The latter will refine crude oil extracted from the Gulf of Mexico waters and shipped from an upgraded super-tanker facility at the port of Matanzas. Cuba’s Mariel port is being developed with Brazilian capital to serve as the base of EEZ drilling operations. A Chinese company is to be the contractor for a $6 billion expansion of the refinery in Cienfuegos.

Pressure grows over US response

Splits are growing within the US ruling class over how to contend with Cuban developments. Between April and July 2010 the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster saw nearly five million barrels of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of that disaster, as Robert Sandels points out ‘The US dilemma starts with the contradiction inherent in maintaining a blockade to destroy the same government which the United States now depends upon to help protect the Gulf and coastal states from another platform disaster’ (‘An Oil-Rich Cuba?’, Monthly Review, September 2011).

Growing numbers of environmentalists, anti-blockade groups and business interests are calling on the Obama administration to increase engagement and co-operation with the Cuban government. While in 2006 President Bush ordered Cubans attending a meeting with US oil executives on environmental issues to be ejected from a hotel in Mexico City, Cuban officials were invited to a conference in Florida during the BP disaster. The January 2011 report of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill called for negotiations between the US and Cuba, possibly brokered by Mexico, on regulatory oversight as well as containment and response strategies in the case of another spill.

Co-author of that report, William Reilly, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, was among a group of oil industry and environmental experts to receive licences from the Obama administration to travel to Cuba to discuss safety plans. He was impressed with Cuba’s awareness of the risks and knowledge of the latest international safety measures. This assessment has been unanimous. After visits in 2010 and 2011, Lee Hunt, president of the Texas-based International Association of Drilling Contractors, expressed confidence in the Cubans’ ability to drill.

The restrictions imposed by the US blockade mean that in the case of a spill from Cuban waters, the government would have to turn further afield for help with the resources and experience needed for a clean-up. ‘In the event of a disaster we are talking a response time in terms of equipment of four to six weeks as opposed to 36 or 48 hours. This is a serious impediment’, warned Hunt. Co-operation is vital to avoid such a crisis scenario.

Countering the calls for co-operation, the powerful Cuban-exile lobby

in Florida, a key swing state in next year’s presidential elections, calls for increased pressure to obstruct drilling operations in Cuban waters. Most recently, on 9 November 2011, Democrat Senator Bill Nelson introduced a bill which would allow claimants to sue foreign companies responsible for any oil spill without limit. The Financial Times’ John Paul Rathbone described this as ‘not so much an environmental measure. It’s more of a stick with which to beat Cuba – or rather, as the sponsors admit, to discourage companies from drilling for oil there’ (22 November 2011).

South Florida’s Republican representative to Congress, Illena Rohs-Lehtinen has introduced three ‘no-drill bills’ this year. These would impose punitive measures against Cuba’s foreign oil partners, including stripping executives of US visas and withholding US drilling concessions. An outspoken supporter of Cuban-exile terrorists, Rohs-Lehtinen is chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. Together with three other Cuban-American congressional representatives, she wrote a letter to Obama at the beginning of November 2011, stating: ‘we are extremely concerned over what seems to be a lack of a co-ordinated effort by the Administration to prevent a State Sponsor of Terrorism, just 90 miles from our shores, from engaging in risky deep sea oil drilling projects that will harm US interests.’

Spanish Repsol, the first company to lease the Scarabeo and the only private company involved which has significant commercial operations in the United States, has been pressurised and intimidated. Rohs-Lehtinen and a bipartisan group of 34 representatives wrote directly to Repsol’s chairman calling on him to ‘reassess the risks inherent in partnering with the Castro dictatorship, including the risk to its commercial interests with the United States’, warning that the company could face liability in US courts.

The Obama administration is also applying pressure on Repsol. In early June, the US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, leading a delegation of top US government officials, met with Repsol’s general director of exploration and Spain’s Industry Minister. A US State Department press release said the aim was ‘to engage industry and the international community in a dialogue on safe and responsible offshore oil and gas development’. In fact it was to warn Repsol over its partnership with Cuba. In response Repsol agreed to allow the US Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to inspect the Scarabeo rig. However, they also insist that the operation complies with all the unilateral US blockade legislation and will continue as planned. We can expect further pressure to be applied on Spain since the return of the conservative and historically anti-Cuban Popular Party in general elections on 21 November.

The US administration will be less able to assert pressure on state-owned companies, for example from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Venezuela and Vietnam. A growing exasperation can be sensed. At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in October, Michael Bromwich, the director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, admitted that despite Repsol’s offers to co-operate, the US had no legal authority to inspect the rig once it begins drilling on site in Cuban waters. ‘It’s not optimal, Senator,’ he responded to a question from one Republican, ‘There’s no question that we can do a better and more full-bodied inspection once the rig is on site. But this is a lot better than nothing in our judgement, and we think it is the best way to protect US interests as best we can given the limitations’ (Energy Week, 24 October 2011).

How the tables have turned! And all the while, the Scarabeo continues steaming towards Cuba, and the socialist revolution prepares to dig deep.

* Cited by Helen Yaffe, Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, p184.

L’Humanite with Cuba’s Mariela Castro

December 29, 2011

The French newspaper L’Humanité recently ran an interview with Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). Today we bring you a translation courtesy of Marce Cameron and his website Cuba Socialist Renewal.

L’Humanite: The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the late Vilma Espin, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, Mariela Castro Espin, 49, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), is a tireless campaigner for the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals, who have suffered discrimination for a long time. She is the initiator of important changes that concern them.

L’Humanite: For many years now you’ve been struggling for the freedom to express one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba. What is the current situation regarding these freedoms?

Mariela Castro: This is a good moment. It’s the result of several years of work. Since the creation of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in the 1960s, the road was opened to gradually doing away with prejudices related to sexuality and gender. This work has allowed us to tackle other forms of everyday discrimination in our culture and society.

It’s not easy to change the thinking of society as a whole about homophobia. But each initiative can succeed through educational work that is supported by the media, TV and radio, as part of a complex strategy. We have to reach out to everyone. This implies the existence of the political will to carry out all these changes, which will be embodied in a specific law, explicit, to deal with this problem.

L’Humanite: You have prepared a draft for this law. Is there any progress?

Mariela: One of our legislative proposals is related to the Family Code, a civil law compendium that was put forward by the FMC and was discussed widely before being approved in 1975. This Code works, but for more than 15 years now we have participated, as an institution, in the struggle of the FMC to modify it so that it better upholds the rights of women, children, the handicapped and the elderly. To this end, CENESEX proposes the inclusion of a new article on freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity. We’re not talking about an obligatory Code, but one that would serve to instill values within the family.

Once this Code is approved [by Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power], it will include other elements, because many other laws are going to change as well. With the new law, transsexuals will have the right to modify their identity documents. This presupposes access to gender reassignment surgery. In 2008 we managed to establish, under the Health Ministry, a number of specialized health care procedures needed by transsexuals, including gender reassignment.

These operations are totally free and are included in the state budget. Ours is the only country to have made such procedures completely free of charge. However, it’s still the case that one’s official gender identity does not change unless one has undergone the surgical procedure. This is what the new law aims to change. It’s already drafted and only needs to be put forward for political debate.

L’Humanite: You haven’t faced any obstacles of a political or religious nature?

Mariela: The obstacles are not the prejudices of the population as a whole. In this heterogeneous society in which we live, in the churches, and even in other institutions, there are people who support us and people who don’t. There are religious leaders who agree with us and others who don’t.

There is no confrontation with Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and its Ideological Department, or with its liaison who has been most attentive and respectful. We have presented our case to them and they themselves have discussed it with religious leaders who were not in agreement.

There is no discomfort, concerns yes, but no unease. We’ve talked about our own concern that we don’t run ahead of people, that we don’t upset them. Only dialogue can resolve disagreements. But there are things we won’t concede, such as gender reassignment surgeries. We consider these to be a question of health care and we won’t compromise on this. They have to be done, it is a right.

We know that several churches do not approve of same-sex marriage. Before we create a category of same-sex marriage, which is not necessary, we propose a legal union that would guarantee the rights of people of the same gender. They should not be discriminated against or excluded. The aim is that they have the same rights as heterosexual couples, above all in terms of property and inheritance.

Our proposal is for consensual unions: same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples. There [should be] no difference.

Adoption is another question. Even this could be considered, but I think it would come up against resistance. As our population advances in terms of gender equality, this will not be a concern. We’ve observed the progress of the legislative process in other countries, including in Europe, and they had to proceed in the same way: start with one thing and then move on to another. In our case, we’re proposing neither same-sex marriage nor adoption. We’re making progress in the acknowledgement of the rights of the population and gender rights.

L’Humanite: Is this a struggle for emancipation in the framework of the Cuban revolutionary process?

Mariela: Of course! This is the framework, the context. I have Marxist training that allows me to understand the society in which I live and how we conceive of socialism. A society in transition to socialism, such as Cuban society, must be vigilant against reproducing the pre-existing mechanisms of domination.

I see this struggle for the full dignity of people as being in harmony with the process of social transformation for the emancipation of human beings that is socialism. We cannot lose sight of this idea; without it we would just continue to reproduce the same attitudes towards women, gays or immigrants.

For the first time in the history of the PCC, sexual orientation rights are mentioned in the draft document that will be presented to the party’s National Conference in January 2012. This is being discussed by the general public. We at CENESEX have made several suggestions, particularly the inclusion of the concept of gender identity and not only that of sexual orientation, because with this concept of identity people will have gender rights.

L’Humanite: You speak of respect for the human being and of full and integral rights. Aren’t there other struggles to be fought for freedom of expression?

Mariela: Nobody can stop us saying what we think. This is a myth. Nobody can shut us up in Cuba. The Spanish colonial system could not silence us, nor US colonialism, not even the military dictatorship[s] imposed by the US. We have always spoken our minds. Each one of us is the master of what we say, what we do, and must also be responsible for what we say and how we act. Freedom means accepting freedom’s responsibilities, risking one’s all and making decisions. This has universal validity.

Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), photo by Kaloian from Alma Mater Magazine

In terms of press freedom, I’m tempted to say that is doesn’t exist anywhere. It depends on who controls the media, the owners, the financial institutions, the shareholders, the editors, state policies. In Cuba there are a great many independent blogs and thousands of interesting bloggers who are courageous in their criticisms and who assume their responsibilities, without receiving money from a country [i.e. the US] that wants to control us and harass us.

In fact, only a small number of these bloggers receive money from the US government to make up stories to discredit Cuba. For more than 50 years we’ve suffered a real ideological war aimed at destroying the Revolution. The media campaign against Cuba grows stronger day by day.

The US State Department has allocated more than US$20 million to this campaign. With this money it pays bloggers, US and European journalists to discredit us. But who really knows, and not through disinformation, the everyday reality of Cubans and their capacity to move forward? With regard to Cuba, I would like to see a more critical press that does real investigative journalism. Criticism does not mean disrespect if it is carried out according to journalistic ethics.

L’Humanite: Is it enough to have only one party dominating Cuban politics?

Mariela: Well, the inspiration for the idea of a single party wasn’t Fidel, but [19th century independence leader] Jose Marti. In the face of external threats, there was no other option but to unite the will of the Cubans in what Marti called the Cuban Revolutionary Party. The PCC is the heir to that Revolutionary Party founded by Jose Marti.

Thanks to the unity expressed in this sole party, independence from Spain was achieved, but it was thwarted by US intervention. The Cubans united once again to win their sovereignty [in the 1959 revolution].

It is for this reason that the PCC is a party of great diversity, including religious diversity, and with different viewpoints. But it is united around the principles of national sovereignty, the defense of this sovereignty and the development of the country on the basis of social justice and equality. This is the project. The Cuban people have what they desire. The PCC does not nominate candidates in our electoral system, it is the people in the neighborhoods that nominate and decide who the candidates will be.

L’Humanite: What does your father Raul Castro mean when he says, “We must move forward one step at a time?”

Mariela: Any abrupt change could be very irresponsible. The process of construction [of the new socialist model] and of changing opinions takes time, much more than carrying out a popular consultation. When he says “one step at a time”, he means consolidating each step that is taken, not being superficial and not leaving anyone behind. Several times he has counseled me to try to educate the population before putting forward a proposal for a new law; otherwise it will never gain support.

This is what we have done; we have raised awareness among Cubans and the National Assembly deputies. This is how he works, and I think he’s a good strategist. There are people who would like Cuba to hasten the changes. He responds: “I would like to hurry, but I cannot make impositions.” We have to achieve a certain consensus, or at least have the support of the majority.

L’Humanite: What are the priorities for Cubans today?

Mariela: A great many! Above all, to strengthen our economy so that it is self-sufficient. To some extent tourism can help us make progress.

Despite the US economic and commercial blockade of Cuba, American tourism has surged. Americans want to visit Cuba; many come indirectly to avoid being penalized in the US when they return. By the way, the fact that they are punished by the laws that enforce the blockade [embargo] is a violation of the rights of the US citizens and of their Constitution. So yes, we have to move forward, create new mechanisms.

And this is coming!(*) Cuba always surprises, we even surprise ourselves.

L’Humanite: After his election, Obama had raised some hopes with regard to Cuba, but nothing changed…

Mariela: Obama has not renounced the responsibilities of his position [as CEO of US imperialism]. The US remains hegemonic. They’re the world’s cops, they control all of us. I note that Europe has followed in their footsteps by establishing a common position against Cuba. How very cynical! This shows that they are subordinated to US policy.

L’Humanite: You are the daughter of Raul Castro and the niece of Fidel. Is it too hard to live up to this legacy?

Mariela: Sometimes yes, sometimes no! No, it’s up to all of us to try to live up to this family legacy. Some people imagine a responsibility to this legacy that they’d like to see me take on, but which is not for me. Others would like me to be a future Cuban president. If they knew me well they wouldn’t wish for that! I have no such aspirations whatsoever. On the other hand, I receive many gratifying comments about them in Cuba and abroad. People have said very beautiful things, full of admiration, respect, affection and gratitude. They’ve told me anecdotes about my parents that I was unaware of. So I feel proud of the family to which I was born. They have instilled in me values, ethics. If I’m a rebel, it’s not my fault, it’s theirs. [Fidel and Raul] have been much more rebellious than I am, and they still are, which is why I admire them so much. But no, I don’t want to be like them.

L’Humanite: Raul as seen by Mariela…

Mariela: First of all, I must say that my Dad is very nice, a fun person to be around. He has a way of saying things that is very direct. I’ve had a lot of fun with him and I’ve also been upset with him, but with much love. We’ve come to understand each other. I’ve never been afraid to tell him what I think, even when he doesn’t agree. I’ve learned from him that one has to be like this in life and take the risks involved. He is very methodical, very organized. He likes to dialogue, to work in a team, and he doesn’t waste time.

Things are the way they are and he doesn’t like to embellish them. Thanks to my mother, he has supported me in my struggle; she laid the groundwork. I’m not just my father’s daughter. Consequently, I do things attentively and carefully. But I inherited from him a tendency to tell it like it is.

*Here, Mariela appears to be referring to changes to Cuba’s foreign travel and immigration policies foreshadowed by President Raul Castro

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