What’s Expected of a President

Photo: Radio Rebelde

By Giordan Rodríguez Milanés

There are no photos. I maintain it was a fact. The plain and simple fact that the President of Cuba pulled over at a bus stop very early in the morning and allowed as many people as he could to hitch a ride in his motorcade.

I wasn’t there; all I have is the testimony of several Internet users. One of them assures me that somebody told him it was all staged, and that those who got on the cars were personal security staff previously taken to the P1 bus stop. I have the story of a couple of former schoolmates, who are so committed to the opposition that they fear they could lose the trust of their employers by telling me they saw something inconsistent with their discrediting views of Cubans and their leaders.

Nearly eight months ago there was a video alright. But there was no fact. Or the fact was misrepresented and it went viral. Tons of bytes were written with all sorts of theories and arguments about the rejection of the President in Regla. I was there, not by chance, but because I had gone there to help. Based on that, and not on anyone’s account colored by their doctrines or uncritical attitudes, I can say there was a video in which the President apparently fled. But there was no fact, nor such flight.

Honest and coherent people expect to find that same coherence in others, and they place their belief in the honesty of others. Acknowledging that a people can be –and indeed is– imperfect, sometimes clumsy, and prone to extremes and fanaticism, should not drive us to impiety or lack of faith in those around us. A faithless people is not a wise people; it’s just an unhealthy gathering.

Imperialist ambition is, in my opinion, the biggest issue, the begetter of the whole assortment of problems we Cubans have. Since I would have to write a treatise in order to demonstrate such a proposition, I don’t even go to all the trouble of refuting the views of those who, in all their right, believe the opposite. I believe in that through faith, and faith is not debated in the realms of philosophy or science.

You either believe in something, or you don’t.

And I believe that the number one goal of right-wing ideology in Cuba is to deprive us of any spiritual refuge. It’s not only about tracking down financial transactions, or fining banks that grant us credit, or penalizing shipping companies that transport our fuel, while, at the same time, allowing their companies to sell us food we have to pay for cash down so that their soldiers of hate may shout on the web ‘What blockade?’. Meanwhile, hundreds of small entrepreneurs see their businesses affected by the travel ban on cruise ships, or the pediatrician of a hospital in Manzanillo has to decide which patient gets the last dose of Octanate left in stock.

It is the task of the right wing in Cuba to make us morbidly question each other and distrust the honesty of those next to us. They seek that, when we look in the mirror, we see ourselves incoherent and absurd, without hopes or dreams, with friends becoming foes and foes disguised as friends.

I also have faith that, if there was a Christ who multiplied the loaves and the fishes, and an Antonio Maceo who put his rice and chicken in the cauldron where the soup for his soldiers was stewing, and a Silvio Rodríguez who sings for the poor of this earth in their neighborhoods, there can be a Díaz-Canel who stops the presidential motorcade to pick up a few of his compatriots. Even though we know a lot more is expected from the President of a country. It’s even expected that he and his government staff may avoid the worsening of our already injurious crisis.

There’s belief in him when maintaining that the exclusion of diverse thought can only stir even further the hatred among Cubans. There’s support for the President when he is asked to request the resignation of a deputy minister who is clumsy at political communication. He is asked to give a response to Dr. René Fidel and force the Attorney-General of the Republic’s office to deal with the fair complaints of this citizen. The President is asked every day that he make institutions serve all Cubans equally, whatever their views and whatever their pronouncements.

While faith is necessary for the health of peoples, fanaticism and extremism, spitefulness and hatred, and catharses that prey on collectivity and solidarity, kill us as a nation. The only things to be defended at any price in life should be love for our neighbor and respect for those who practice it. That’s why, among others, I respect Christ, Antonio Maceo and –I now add– Díaz-Canel. And I do not forget that the latter still keeps me waiting for his answers. I don’t need photos of what happened at that P1 bus stop. That’s what’s expected of a President.

(Translated from the original)