To Dialogue or Not To Dialogue

Friday, May 8, 2009
Reinaldo Arenas was a widely-respected Cuban poet, novelist, and playwright.  His writings and openly gay lifestyle brought him into increasing conflict with the Castro regime.  He was arrested on multiple occasions and convicted of 'ideological deviation' for publishing abroad without official consent.  His autobiography, Before Night Falls was on the New York Times list of the ten best books of the year in 1993.  In 2000 this work was made into a film, in which Arenas was played by Javier Bardem.  Just a few months prior to his death in exile, he wrote about dialogue with the Castro regime:
It is unbelievable that many exiles, even many of those who consider themselves intellectuals, are in favor of establishing this dialogue.  Such a view completely ignores Castro's personality and ambition.  Of course, Castro himself has created pro-dialogue committees, and their members pass themselves off as presidents of human rights committees. On the one hand, there are agents of Castro, operating in and out of Cuba, busy on his behalf; on the other, ambitious people looking for any position of prominence; and there is yet another group, the scoundrels, who are into this business of dialogue strictly for personal gain. 
One day, eventually, the people will overthrow Castro, and the least they will do is bring to justice those who collaborated with the tyrant with impunity. The ones who promote dialogue with Castro, well aware that Castro will never give up this power peacefully and that a truce and economic assistance are what he needs to strengthen his position, are as guilty as his own henchmen who torture and murder people. Those who are not living in Cuba are perhaps even more to blame, because inside Cuba you exist under absolute terror, but outside you can at least maintain a modicum of politically integrity.  All the pretentious people who dream of appearing on TV shaking Fidel Castro's hand and of becoming politically relevant should have more realistic dream: they should envision the rope from which they will swing in Havana's Central Park because the Cuban people, being generous, will hang them when the moment of truth comes.  The only consolation left for them will be to have avoided bloodshed. Perhaps such an act of justice would be a good lesson for the future, because as a country Cuba has produced scoundrels, criminals, demagogues, and cowards in number disproportionate to its population.

New York, August 1990