El Supremo / Fernando Rodríguez

The Supreme One

The latest Papel Literario dedicates its central pages to a fragment from the kilometric interview Fidel Castro, biografía a dos voces, conducted with the eminent leader by Ignacio Ramonet, with an introduction by the genuflecting—undoubtedly, count the adjectives and hyperbole—director of Le Monde Diplomatique.

It is all part of a book to be published soon by Editorial Debate. Surely the book will be talked about, at least around these parts, where we are so fraternally close to the subject in question. So much that one is amazed to read he was the one who was able to revert the unfortunate April 2002 coup via telephone, or that a firing squad refused to shoot against Chávez, something not even Chávez has mentioned, he who is so fond of publicizing the until now imaginary assassination attempts against him. From what we've seen, this interview has already provided much to discuss abroad, because of its curious literary method of answering questions in such an intimate conversation with entire paragraphs taken from earlier speeches by the octogenarian, as a very disconcerted Armando Coll informed us in an editorial note to the interview in Papel Literario.

But I am amazed by the brilliant argumentation Ramonet uses to justify the autocracy Fidel has exercised in Cuba for almost half a century. Ramonet is a master of these palatial matters. Fidel “exercises an absolute authority in his environment…wherever he is one can only hear a single voice: his…

He is the one who makes all the decisions, small or large.” He leads through kindness, then, something we already knew.

But it turns out nothing is more opposed to his angelic and democratic vocation for dialogue: “I discovered in this way an intimate Fidel, almost timid, well-mannered and gentlemanly, who pays attention to each interlocutor…always attentive to others and especially to his collaborators…I never heard him utter a command…he consults and reveals himself as very respectful and formal with the political authorities that direct the Party and the State…” How does one explain such a contradiction between that Franciscan soul and the exercise of absolute power? Here we come to the brilliance I alluded to earlier. He has to govern as he does because “There is no one, since the death of Che Guevara, inside the circle of power in which he moves, with an intellectual caliber close to his.” If only his voice is heard and he has to make decisions it is “because of his crushing personality.” Understood? What fault is it of the giant’s if he is so astonishingly large and those who surround him are so small? Moreover, such a condition is not comfortable because it obviously leads him to the sadness of solitude—something similar to what must happen to the one God, nonpareil. “In this sense he gives the impression of being a solitary man. With no intimate friend, nor an intellectual associate of his caliber.” Perhaps, one wonders, the proximity of Ramonet could mitigate slightly that cruel exclusion, biography in two voices.

Definitely an autocrat, yes, but by necessity, by constitution, by the grace of God. Bravo, bravísimo.


“Though the groves of the Tamarit
The dogs of lead have come…”

wrote Federico García Lorca shortly before dying, in his final and dramatic collection—perhaps among the greatest work he produced.

Premonitions of a country already destined for the horror of civil war. These days, in Caracas, such dark signs seem to walk among us they've made me remember those verses.

Death, hatred, fear, corruption. Let us hope they’re not made of lead, let them not be Lorca’s dogs. And may the sleeping and sick soul of the country awaken so as to put an end to this incessant night.

{ Fernando Rodríguez, TalCual, 10 April 2006 }

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