One day in January, the young man Eliécer Ávila, a student at the University of Computer Science, attends a meeting to present a set of questions to Señor Ricardo Alarcon, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the National Assembly of People’s Power. A little nervous and with a bullet-proof honesty—according to my intuition as a peasant—he asked for reasons that he didn’t have, “to reject certain claims, to defend certain ideas” and “to have a perspective on the immediate future of what will happen with that which one is defending.” Questions that, with few variations, many Cubans have been asking and are asking while I write these lines. Questions that, so I inferred, were responded to briefly in some instances, and in others avoided, and in general in a way that gave little satisfaction.
And I say I infer because I haven’t seen the recording by anonymous hands that made it to the BBC and that since then has spread across the internet. Fifty-two minutes long, it has been the source from which the answers of the President of the National Assembly are quoted. Quotes that speak of his perfect ignorance about the dual monetary system and the ban on Yahoo, that don’t speak to the ban on citizens staying in hotels, and that offer numbers showing that many more Cubans stay in hotels than in 1959. And finally, it’s very significant that in response to the question about why the people of Cuba can’t travel to certain places in the world, Alarcón argued that travel cannot be seen as a right, that if all the world, all the inhabitants on the planet wanted to travel, there would be tremendous aerial congestion. If the quotes are true, it would be good if Alarcón would move the chronological surveyor’s pole a few years ahead–I’d be happy with the ’70s, let’s go—and the geographical one down a little, nearer Cuba.
Saving the necessary distance, this mess of materials leaked to the press reminds me of the mysterious “Deep Throat” who informed the journalists during the investigations of President Richard Nixon. Our own “deep throat” has managed to start the year off in a lively way, a point of overlap with what happened at the beginning of 2007, which was dubbed, among other things, with the name Pavongate.
And while the video broadcast by the BBC to the world and various media has echoed in the news, inside the country another, briefer, recording is beginning to circulate (one of 16 minutes and 44 seconds to be exact), with the curious overprint saying “Live,” as if it were a television broadcast, that contains only Eliécer’s side of the discussion without the answers from Ricardo Alarcón.
On February 8th, our well-known Yohandry Fontana Guethón published an article on the site KAOSENLARED.NET, with the unmistakable haphazard and incoherent prose to which we’ve become accustomed. He assures us that there is a “media show” mounted behind the video of the University, brings to light new conclusions that are reaffirmed in the material, in spite of which he repeatedly doubts their authenticity, and says that one could draw a thousand more. And one can also draw several commas, superlatives and adjectives left over, I say. And his idea that the video is manipulated, to appear incomplete, confirms the existence of a longer version with answers: “because until they put him in [the Spanish newspaper] El País, Alarcón does not finish expounding on his ideas.”
As a national accompaniment, two days later an article by Pablo Valiente appeared in [the Cuban newspaper] “Rebel Youth” where, as is also the custom, he refers to the misrepresentation of the debate about the Cuban reality on the part of various world media, without mentioning the word “video,” “UCI,” or the names of Eliécer and Alarcón, much less the questions from the former and the answers from the latter.
And, as expected, they started rumors about the possible detention of Eliécer Ávila and spread unconfirmed news in which they mixed up the families of Eliécer, human rights activists, Counsel of State agents (this is new, but those of State Security are permanent and no longer impress), and even a son of Carlos Lage. I confess I was beginning to be a little worried about the fate of the young man but, for my peace of mind, he has already appeared on the national news, alive and kicking. A few dark circles, it’s true, but that’s not abnormal for a student.
Eliécer, who seems to have read Yohandry, assures us that it’s all been a media campaign, pure opportunism to sow chaos and disunity. He tells us that they neither burned the mattress nor made an act of repudiation and that he was working in order “to contribute in a conscious way to the project.” The same project that “we are sure it exists, we would like to know what it is.” I’m happy for him, because I feel that he has managed to overcome his doubts and to continue defending the ideas he’s ready to kill or die for. Or it could be that they have already explained to him what the project consists of. If so, please, tell me, where are we going, Eliécer?