Tuesday, April 25, 2017

During the postwar European years, in the late 1940s, I read Albert Camus and then spent some periods of time in Paris where I experienced the perplexity and expectation of young people who saw their future full of the past.

Later, as Rector of the University of Granada (1968 - 1972), I was very curious to know who Comandante Castro was and what represented, with Che Guevara, arousing so much admiration in those generations that, quite rightly has been seen later, were reluctant to let themselves be shaped by the post-war powers (so “warlike”!).

It also contributed to my crescent interest in knowing more about this issue
the fact that Francoist Spain was the only access to the "isolated island": Madrid-Havana...

I realized then - and I had the opportunity to know him more closely in the era of glasnost and perestroika - of the enormous influence of Fidel Castro in a submitted Latin America, for which the Cubans represented the dream of liberation. In fact, Cuba was the only Latin American country that did not suffer the immense and guilty "Condor Plan" that started in 1975, which substituted the established powers by dictators and military juntas and murdered without fear of punishment... We should not think about Castrism without having taken into account the tragic reality of dependence and submission experienced in those countries.

When talking about Fidel's noncompliance of human rights, excessive time in power and the absence of democratic guidelines, I think the island was a dump with Fulgencio Batista... in “markets’” reverence  to  countries in which power is inherited by atypical decision and does not express the popular will nor the most basic human rights are respected. It is embarrassing to think that when there will be negotiations with China, the Universal Justice Law is eliminated beforehand... and when the talks are held with Saudi Arabia, human rights and, in particular, women's rights, are excluded from the agenda...

At present, in the last stages of the drift of a system that changed ethical values ​​by stock exchanges and the United Nations by plutocratic groups (G6, G7, G8, G20), we are astonished how harassment and demolition of alternative-countries, as important as Argentina and Brazil, take place, through authentic coups duly “disguised”.

In 1978-81, when I was the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, I had the occasion to appreciate the rapid solidarity that Cuba was carrying out. I am especially thinking of the fall of Somoza, in July 1979. I called President Adolfo Suarez, of whom I was counsellor at that time, and I told him of the convenience of sending a few teachers quickly to contribute to the educational normalization of Nicaragua. Three days later hundreds of Cuban teachers arrived with tents and outstretched hands. And the same can be said of Haiti, with urgent and efficient humanitarian and medical assistance... and in many parts of Africa.

Already then I could appreciate the comparative development of education in Cuba: faced with intolerable percentages of illiteracy in most countries of Latin America, Cuba was in the vanguard. And in health care and biomedical research also ranked first.

I have also heard very critical voices about the executions and death penalty practiced during Castrism. As President of the International Commission against this cruel and intolerable State action, I join this criticism ... but moderated by the decision he adopted in 2003: from then on Fidel not only stopped ordering and accepting executions but "death rows" were eliminated. On the other hand, in the United States 34 States, the vast majority of them with Republican Party governments, are still retentionists today and have been keeping the horror of "rows" for many years.

As far as his homophobia is concerned, it is another mistake, no doubt... but that there are still some people even in Spain with these feelings based in ideological or religious reasons, and certainly in many countries that, for short-term interests, we do not censure. Speaking of phobias and racism, the European reality and the American perspective are frightening and deserve a categorical reprobation of all citizens.

I have witnessed the extraordinary affection that Latin American peoples had for Fidel Castro. I remember that in 1991 the "essay" of the V Centennial of the Ibero-American "Summit" was held in Guadalajara. As Director-General of UNESCO, together with Prof. Urquidi, I tried to avoid adverse reactions from the very rich original cultures, inviting all of them to participate in the Summit. King Juan Carlos and President Felipe González were especially comforted by the deafening exclamation "Fidel, Fidel, Fidel!" that was heard throughout the route of the authorities to the City Hall. When he appeared on the balcony, I was next to the only woman, Violeta Chamorro, President of Nicaragua, the crowd only repeated, "Fidel, Fidel!" Not a compliment to the lady, or grievance or amend to the other presidents...

Years passed and in October 1995 the Summit was held in Bariloche, Argentina. I had not come since Barcelona, ​​1992. But Enrique Iglesias called me warning me that it was on education and I could not miss it. I travelled to Buenos Aires from where, at dawn, I went to Bariloche with the Secretary General of the United Nations at that time, Boutros Boutros Ghali. As we approached the hotel, surrounded by a large crowd, the lovely Boutros said excitedly: "Federico, it is encouraging to see the people's regard and appreciation for the United Nations." His feelings were seriously displeased when, when we arrived and opened the windows, it was only heard "Fidel, Fidel!”...

In March, 1995, Fidel Castro travelled to Paris and officially visited UNESCO's Headquarters, and then went on to the Social Development Summit -the first meeting on "social" development in 50 years!- which took place in Copenhagen. In the records of the Organization appeared that there has never been so much public and expectation accumulated within UNESCO’s premises and in its surroundings.

I met with the Commander several times (always late at night). It must be said that privately, he listened too. We agreed on many issues and we also disagreed with many others. One morning we argued up to the point that he said, "You're tired. I'd rather not follow this conversation”. I returned to the hotel ... and when I was having breakfast he appeared with a smile commenting: "I was more tired than you. Excuse me". And he accompanied me to the entrance door of the plane…

I remember vividly the times when I met in Cuba Gabriel García Márquez, previously visiting the School of Cinematography... and with Oswaldo Guayasamín, "the painter of Latin America" ​​... and with Eusebio Leal, Alfredo Guevara, Armando Hart, Héctor Hernández Pardo, Abel Prieto....

Another aspect that I must emphasize of Commander Fidel Castro
is his permanent availability to facilitate the Peace Processes. In order to restart Guatemala’s one in 1992, I counted, as had happened before with President Vinicio Cerezo, who restored democracy in his country, with the mediation of the Commander and five guerrillas, led by Rodrigo Asturias, son of the Nobel Prize for Literature Miguel Ángel Asturias, attended the first meeting that I programmed in the Montes de Heredia, in Costa Rica.

In 2016, I attended a meeting with the FARC in Havana at the end of January, which had already reached very important agreements with the government of President José Manuel Santos, always with the discrete action of the Norwegians whom we all owe special gratitude for what and how they proceed in these cases….

Fidel Castro a protagonist of the XX century. We all stop being. Some, like him, remain legend. One day history will make a balance and will judge him. It is totally improper to judge him now. And, above all, to claim the power to "acquit" him or not ... It has been written that "his death clears the road to democracy." It is very desirable ... but towards what democracy? Towards to Trump's democracy? Towards the one of the "markets" that have had the shamelessness to designate in Greece, cradle of the democracy, a government without elections, without urns? We are in the height of the digital revolution. For the first time in history, human beings know progressively what happens on a planetary level and can freely express their points and views. But, above all, woman -the "cornerstone" of the new era according to President Nelson Mandela- are quick to assume their crucial role in decision-making.

Cuba, 200 miles away from the US, is David in front of Goliath. Fidel Castro never knelt down and became a world example of resistance.

Fidel Castro is dead but his ideas remain. Now it is necessary to follow what must be followed, even against the wind. And modify with good sense what  must be modified. Because, although those who are clinging to inertia do not want to recognize it, a new era will come "We, the peoples ..." - as the United Nations Charter so lucidly stated -  will take the reins of destiny into their hands and with the lessons, among others, of Castrism and neoliberalism, reread the Constitution of UNESCO and the Earth Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ... to proceed with audacity, firmness and rigor to invent the future-to-come (por-venir) which, luckily, is to be done. And do it with urgency, because we can reach points of no return which would constitute an inadmissible intergenerational sin.

As Fidel did in many cases, let us follow José Martí who, addressing to  young people, said: "The solution is not to imitate but to create”...