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What Is the General Plotting?

What Is the General Plotting? / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides
Posted on June 3, 2015

Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 26 May 2015 – From a distance I saw
them arguing. They were father and son—they could not be heard, but
their animated gesticulations spoke volumes. The son, already in his
60s; the father, a captain in the Sierra, who escaped from the Party a
while back, is a person I’ve always gotten along with, although we are
not intimate friends. Finishing the discussion, the son was telling him,
as I approached, “I will not forgive you for that.” And the captain,
catching up with me, replied, “Because you’re blind.”

Unexpectedly, he asked me if I believed in the sincerity with which
Obama and those people from the () were accepting the
“skeleton deal” that Raúl had sprung on them, “unless Raúl is also
partaking of those magic powders of Belarmino’s,” he remarked sadly.

As he was also on his way to the farmers market, hopeful of finding a
little bunch of lettuce, at least, or a carrot, and because my columns
tend to focus on the national situation not from my own viewpoint but
rather from what people are saying on the street, I listened to him
intently. Given his age, his “Belarmino” quip might be considered a
flight of senility, but in the captain’s account, it was quite realistic.

When Belarmino would arrive at a dance, some girl would soon disappear
in the darkness for a while, and so would Belarmino. A thirty-something
jabao [light-skinned mixed-race man] with a gold tooth, and sporting a
linen guayabera even when going down to the river to bathe, Belarmino
was the proprietor of the town funeral home. The term “funeral home”
here is generous, because in that little shack, nobody ever lay in
state. People would come and buy the coffin—built by Belarmino
himself—to take away by horse or wagon.

In the town where Belarmino was previously established, and from where
he had to flee under protection from the rural , he “damaged”
fourteen teenage girls, and took to his bed everyone and their mothers
for he had some magic powders that made him irresistible. In the brief
time in which he resided in the captain’s town, he had no chance to use
them because very soon the girls were being hidden by their parents or
sent to relatives up in the hills; and a lovestricken quinceañera [a
girl celebrating her 15th birthday], resisting being sent away, hanged
herself. Belarmino became invisible. He was never heard from again.

Perhaps, the captain did not deny, there are in politics powders that
have equal powers of seduction to those used by that Belarmino of his
childhood. Why did the captain say this? He began to list the reasons:

Upon nationalization [taking possession of foreign-owned properties,
businesses and industries in the Revolution’s early years], Fidel and
Raúl left the Americans living in Cuba—and the priests, and most Spanish
merchants, as well—without even the laces to tie their shoes. They took
down God from His altar, implanted a political system that is the
negation of everything that had been known in these parts, agitated the
political henhouse of the region (because this America of today is not
the same as in the 1950s), and now—as if none of this had taken
place—suddenly, almost 60 years on, the United States gives in, the EU
gives in, the Pope smiles, and Raúl continues to make demands. Besides
removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and
reestablishing diplomatic relations, the USA now has to return the naval
base in Guantánamo and lift the —and maybe even indemnify it.
Could this be understood?

As psychiatrists do, I responded with another question. “Where are you
going with this?” And he, in psychiatric fashion, asked me if I believed
in the power of Belarmino’s magic powders. He was laughing at me. In any
case, for him, the situation was very clear: Whereas the super-powerful
United States could impose on Cuba the “skeleton deal”—as in his
straightforward way of speaking privately Raúl Roa characterized this
relationship—Cuba couldn’t do the same with the US, nor with the EU. And
so given that Raúl doesn’t possess anything similar to Belarmino’s magic
powder, nobody here should lose hope yet. Nobody, affirmed the captain
resolutely. Another thing: Hadn’t Fidel kept until the right time the
secret that the Revolution was Communist?

At the farmers market there was nothing green to be found—except for
some mangoes going for five pesos per pound, which were already under
the effect of some evil liquid that in two hours makes them look ripe on
the outside, but on the inside they are acidic and greenish, and ready
for pitching into the trash 48 hours later, covered by then with a white
mold resembling a sinister cobweb. The captain mourned them, recalling
the mangoes of his childhood, when the best of them—the fragrant mango
bizcochuelo—cost two cents, and others—including the Toledo mango—could
be purchased by the bag, filled to the top, for a nickel. But he did not
ask for my view on his theory regarding the Raúl-Obama-EU-Pope Francis
issue. Having undergone his catharsis, what could my opinion matter to him?

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: What Is the General Plotting? / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides |
Translating Cuba –

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