Open Debate on Cuba Divides Intellectuals Across the World

Castro's old friends in Latin America, Spain and Portugal condemned the imprisonment and execution of dissidents, while others denounce an anti-Cuba campaign
After the execution of three men who hijacked a ferry in a failed attempt to flee to the United States, many prominent leftist intellectuals from Europe and America criticized for the first time in 44 years of revolutionary ruling, Castro's decisions on dissidents. Susan Sontag, the Portuguese Nobel Prize winning novelist Jose Saramago, the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the Spanish singer Joan Manuel Serrat among others, took part in the polemics.

Castro's main supporter in the cultural field, the Colombian 1982 Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, tried to mediate in the controversy. Even when he did not condemn Cuba's executions, made clear to the Argentine press that he does not support "capital executions, no matter the country is instrumented".

Garcia Marquez, whose novel "Autumn of the Patriarch" is considered as the classic account of the Cuban leader, refused to join the position of other historical Castro's supporters as the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes and Eduardo Galeano. Both condemned Cuba's crackdown on dissidents, but Garcia Marquez tried to keep himself out of the controversy. The US writer Susan Sontag, for instance, had defied him through the press saying that it was "unpardonable" for him not to have spoken out over the question. "I don't answer unnecessary and provocative questions", replied Garcia Marquez, author of best sellers like "Nobody Writes to the Colonel" and "100 Years of Solitude".

As Fidel Castro believes the US Government is planning to attack Cuba "either by killing me or through a military invasion", moral support from such respected figures is highly valued by the Cuban Government. It is the intention of Cuba to keep close ties with opinion leaders across the world to defend its Revolution on the international scene.

However, the most unexpected withdrawal from Castro's lines was the strong opposition of Jose Saramago to Cuba's crackdown. The Portuguese writer condemned the execution and the imprisonment of dissidents and threatened with resigning to his Communist affiliation. In Spain, the prominent singers Joaquin Sabina and Joan Mauel Serrat also stood against Castro.

Notwithstanding the above, many other intellectuals, including four Nobel Prize winners, warned Thursday about an eventual US aggression on Cuba.

"At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion. Therefore, we call upon citizens and policy makers to uphold the universal principles of national sovereignty, respect of territorial integrity and self-determination, essential to just and peaceful co-existence among nations", reads the statement titled "To the conscience of the world". The document, signed by a number of respected figures, including the Nobel Prize winners: Rigoberta Menchu, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Nadine Gordimer, was released in Havana on Thursday.

There is, therefore, an open debate in the intellectual field about the human rights situation in Cuba and the US alleged plans to put down Castro's regime. Both, condemnable, have to be carefully analyzed and openly discussed by the international public opinion.

Photo: The Cuban leader Fidel Castro together with the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez; a lasting friendly relation

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Author`s name Michael Simpson