Well Always Have Havana


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By early spring, Chester was retired and staying at a hotel at Sarasota, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He had asked a waiter to bring him a beer. When the waiter brought him two beers, he turned around to say something to the waiter, but discovered insteadLila. Mais livros de George Buford Ver tudo. The Witches of Outremer.

The Horse Warriors. Draft Dodging. Perhaps that's why the people are so jubilant, forgetting somewhat the toil and sweat that still lie ahead. One of the nation's main desires, a reflection of the past horrors of the repression and the war, is the yearning for peace, for peace with freedom, for peace with justice, for peace with rights. Nobody wants peace on other terms: Batista talked about peace, about order, but no-one wanted that peace, because its price was subjugation.

Perhaps the greatest joy at this moment is felt by Cuban mothers. Mothers of soldiers, mothers of revolutionaries, mothers of any citizen, are now basking in the knowledge that their sons are finally out of danger APPLAUSE. The worst crime that could be committed now in Cuba, would be a crime against the peace. Anyone who acts now against the nation's peace, anyone who threatens the peace of mind and happiness of millions of Cuban mothers, is a criminal and a traitor APPLAUSE. Anybody who is unwilling to give up something for the sake of peace, who is unwilling to give up everything for the sake of the nation's peace at this juncture, is a criminal and a traitor APPLAUSE.

Since that's how I see things, I say and I swear before my compatriots that if any of my comrades, or our movement, or I myself, prove to be the slightest obstacle to the nation's peace, from this very moment the people may do with all of us what they will, and tell us what we must do APPLAUSE. And those to whom I should speak first are the revolutionaries, in case of the need - or rather, because of the need - to get the message across early.

The decade following the Machado's fall is not far behind us. Perhaps one of the greatest evils of that struggle was the spawning of bands of revolutionaries, which promptly started shooting at each other APPLAUSE. And as a result, what happened was the arrival of Batista, who stayed in power for 11 years.

When the 26th July Movement was organized, also when we started this war, I thought that although the sacrifices we were making were great, although the conflict would be long - and it has been: over two years, two years that were no picnic for us, two years of hard struggle, from when we restarted the campaign with a handful of men, until we arrived at the capital of the Republic.

It seemed that, this time, a large, powerful organization would be able to calm the anxieties of our people, and would forestall the terrible consequences of the proliferation of revolutionary organizations.


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I think we should all have belonged to a single revolutionary organization from the outset, either ours or someone else's - the 26th, the 27th or the 50th or whatever. Ours was simply the first; our was simply the one which fought the first battle at the Moncada barracks, the one which landed from the 'Granma' on 2nd December APPLAUSE , and which fought alone against the tyranny's entire force for over a year APPLAUSE ; which had a mere 12 men, kept the rebel flag flying, showed the people that it was possible to fight and to win; which put paid to all the false notions in the country about revolution.

Because here everyone was conspiring with the corporal, with the sergeant, or bringing weapons into Havana, which were seized by the police APPLAUSE , until we arrived and showed that that wasn't the way to fight, that a different approach was needed, that new tactics and strategies had to be invented, that it was the strategies and tactics which we had put into practice which led to the most remarkable victory in the history of the Cuban people APPLAUSE.

And another question: the 26th July Movement had a clear majority of the people's support - is that true or not? And how did the struggle end? All the regiments, all the significant military strongholds, were in the hands of the Rebel Army. And nobody gave them to us; nobody said to us:"Go there, go there, go there".


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Does this mean the others didn't fight? Does this mean that the others deserve no credit? Because we all of us fought, because the whole people fought. There was no Sierra in Havana, but there are hundreds of dead comrades, murdered for doing their revolutionary duty. In saying this, all I'm doing is putting things in context: the role of the 26th July Movement in this struggle, how it guided the people in those moments when elections and electioneering were talked about here.

Once I had to write an article from Mexico entitled "Frente a Todos", because we were at odds with the general opinion, defending our revolutionary manifesto, the strategy of this revolution, which was drawn up by the Movement; and the culmination of this revolution, which was the crushing defeat of the tyranny, with its key strongholds in the hands of the Rebel Army, organized by the 26th July Movement. The 26th July Movement not only devised the guidelines for war but also established how the enemy was to be treated during the hostilities. And another thing: this is the only revolution in the world which has not produced a general APPLAUSE or even a colonel, because the rank I took or my comrades assigned to me was that of comandante [major], and I haven't changed it, despite our having won numerous battles and having won the war; I'm still a comandante, and I don't want any other rank APPLAUSE.

And the moral effect, the fact that we who started this war chose a particular rank within the military hierarchy, was that no-one dared to rank themselves above the level of comandante - although by the look of things, this has resulted in a surfeit of comandantes. I think the people agree with my not mincing words, because having fought as I have for the rights of every citizen at least gives me the right to tell the truth out loud APPLAUSE.

Does everyone have the same moral right to speak? I say that those to whom more credit is due have more right to speak than those less meritorious. I think that men who seek equality of moral prerogatives should first earn equality of merit. And if that's the way things are, no-one has the right to object. First and foremost, merit must be recognized; those who do not recognize merit are mere upstarts APPLAUSE , lacking the merits of others but seeking the same prerogatives.

The Republic, or the Revolution, is entering a new stage. Would it be right for ambition or the cult of personality to emerge and threaten the destiny of the Revolution? What is it that interests the people, because it is the people who have the last word here? They are interested first and foremost in freedoms, in the rights they were deprived of, and in peace. What do the people want? An honest government.

An honest government: isn't that what the people want? What do they want - young and honest men as ministers in the revolutionary government? They have them here: examine the ministers of the revolutionary government one by one, and tell me whether there's a thief or a criminal or a scoundrel among them SHOUTS OF "No! There are many men eligible to be ministers in Cuba by virtue of their integrity and ability, but they can't all be ministers, because there can be only 14, 15 or And here the important thing is that those who've been appointed have those qualities, and not whether so-and-so is in or out, because the so-and-so's don't matter a damn at this juncture, to the Revolution or to the Republic APPLAUSE.

We'll Always Have Havana

Can anyone, aspiring to be a minister, seek to shed blood in this country? Can any group, having been denied three or four ministries, shed blood in this country or undermine the peace? If the governing team which the Cuban people have now is no good, the people will have the opportunity of throwing it out - not voting for it at the polls, but ousting it in an election APPLAUSE. Not doing what Batista did, 80 days before an election, saying that he was fighting the government and making a series of accusations against that government, saying that it was his mission to get rid of it and that this was the patriotic thing to do.

These things need to be said, to prevent the emergence of demagoguery and misinformation and attempts to divide us; to ensure that the first sign of vaunting ambition by anyone is recognized at once by the people APPLAUSE. And for my part, I say that since who I want to command is the people, because they are the best troops, and that I prefer the people to all the armed columns put together; I say that the first thing I will always do when I see a threat to the Revolution, is to call on the people APPLAUSE.

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Because by talking to the people, we can avoid bloodshed. Because here, we should call on the people a thousand times before firing a shot, and talk to the people so that the people, without shoot-outs, solve the problems. Because public opinion has tremendous strength and has tremendous influence, especially when there's no dictatorship. Under dictatorship, public opinion is nothing; in times of freedom, public opinion is everything, and the guns must yield and kneel before public opinion APPLAUSE.

How am I doing, Camilo? I am speaking to the people in this way because I have always liked to look ahead, and I think that talking to the people ahead of events can protect the Revolution from the only remaining future threats; while these are not great, I want to make sure that the Revolution can take root without the shedding of another drop of Cuban blood APPLAUSE. My main concern is that abroad, where the Revolution has caught the imagination of the whole world, it must not be said that, within three weeks, or four weeks, or a month, or one week, more Cuban blood has been shed to consolidate this Revolution, because in that case this Revolution would not be an example APPLAUSE.

I would not have talked like this when we were a group of 12 men, because when we were a group of 12 men all we had to look forward to was fighting, fighting, fighting. And in those circumstances, fighting was right. But now, when we've got the planes, the tanks, the artillery and the immense majority of men under arms, and a navy, several army companies and enormous military power SHOUTS OF "And the people!

And then there are the leaders of other organizations, equally prepared. And there's another thing: the bodies of fighting men, the men who fought and who were motivated solely by ideals, the men who fought, in all the organizations: they are figures of high patriotism, with strongly revolutionary, noble sentiments, who will always think the way the people think; I'm sure that whoever commits the lunacy of trying to spark a civil war will incur the condemnation of the entire people APPLAUSE and will lose the support of the rank-and-file fighters, who will not follow him.

And it would be lunacy indeed, to challenge not only our forces in their present condition, but also to defy reason, the law of the land and the entire Cuban people APPLAUSE.

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And I'm saying all this because I want to ask the people a question: I want to ask the people a question that interests me greatly, and interests the people greatly; so tell me: To what end, at this juncture, are clandestine weapons being stockpiled? Why are weapons being hidden in various parts of Havana? What are weapons being smuggled in for, at this juncture?

Unexplained brain injuries afflicted dozens of American diplomats and spies. What happened?

What for? All the arms captured by the Rebel Army are in the barracks, where not a single weapon has been touched, nobody has taken any home, or hidden any. They are in the barracks under lock and key. Nobody has loaded up trucks with weapons to hide them anywhere: these weapons are in the barracks.

I'm going to ask you a question, because speaking frankly and analyzing problems is how you solve them, and I'm ready to do everything in my power to solve them as they should be solved: with reasoning and intelligence, and with the influence of public opinion, which is in charge, and not with force. Because if one believes in force, if problems had to be solved by the use of force, there would be no need to talk to the people, or to put this problem to them, but to go and look for those arms APPLAUSE.

And what we must try to do here is persuade the revolutionary fighters, the idealists, who could be misled by such machinations, to turn their backs on the treacherous honchos who are involved in these activities, and align themselves with those they serve first and foremost - the people.

I'm going to ask you a question: Weapons for what purpose? To fight whom? To fight the revolutionary government, which has the support of the entire people? Is the Republic's present Urrutia administration the same as the Batista administration? Weapons for what purpose? Is there a dictatorship here? Now, when the whole people can assemble freely? Now, when there's no torture, no political prisoners, no murders, no terror? Now, when there's nothing but joy, when all the traitorous union leaders have been sacked and we're on the point of holding elections in all the unions?

When all the citizen's rights have been restored, when elections are to be called as soon as possible - arms for what? Hiding arms to what end? To blackmail the President of the Republic? Happily, the American journalist and writer Mark Kurlansky is braver and more Havana-savvy. Kurlansky has dug down through the literature and mildew to produce an exquisite portrait of the city, Havana: A Subtropical Delirium.

Through Kurlansky, a remarkable tale emerges of wealth and ruin. Havana was established in , and grew rich on the stolen treasures of Peru. It had telephones and railways long before Spain, and, by , more cars per capita than New York City. But the Atlantic would always bring trouble: cyclones, sharks, mould, pirates, VD, and then, eventually, Americans. First across the straits were men who tried to buy Cuba, followed by marines in and then gangsters such as Lucky Luciano. Right at the end of the American era, we spot Frank Sinatra, crooning away to these windborne crooks.

Even now, however, it survives in music son and rumba , sorcery, status and attitudes to race. But, from this corrupted morality, the Habanero emerged. Even the city itself is affectionately scorned. Amongst Habaneros , few great figures are respected but some are sacred.

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Adoration of Che is almost a matter of law even though Castro made him president of the National Bank because he was having too many people shot. Oddly, all three men encouraged or arranged their own demise. The city has often made a lasting impression on visitors. But not everyone was thrilled. Josephine Baker was refused a room at the Nacional for being black while Allen Ginsberg was deported for having improper thoughts about Comrade Che. He immediately relocated the novel he was working on originally set in Estonia , to become Our Man in Havana. In this short, deftly edited book, the selected stories are often quirky and yet oddly revealing.

Not everyone will be happy with this.

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