The Five Favorites
The letter published on her Facebook page by Olga Salanueva, the wife of René González, caused quite a stir in relation to the Cuban electoral process.
René González was one of the five spies accused by the US of being behind the Cuban Air Force’s downing, on February 26, 1996 of two small planes belonging to the exile organization Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue), and the killing of their four pilots. The spies were sentenced to prison and only returned to Cuba, in the case of René González and Fernando González Llort, after serving their sentences. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino, meanwhile, did so as a result of the negotiations that gave rise to diplomatic relations between the US and Cuban governments, announced in December of 2014.
For a decade and a half the Cuban government waged a major campaign for the freedom of those it called “the Five Heroes,” whose most emblematic image consisted of a star with the faces of the jailed spies on each of its five points. Mario Manuel de la Pena, Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa and Pablo Morales, the pilots with the organization Brothers to the Rescue killed in 1996, remained unknown on the Island, precisely to sustain the ignorant veneration of their killers.
The reason for Olga Salanueva’s letter was to censure the National Candidacy (CCN)’s for excluding from among the candidates three of the five spies, including her husband. According to her, René González had been proposed by the Culture union, but when the final list of candidates selected by the CCN appeared, his name had been omitted. The final list is composed of a set of officials and Castroist loyalists, rounded out by a few delegates from the neighborhood, until the necessary number to be sent to Parliament is reached. This list constitutes for the citizen not an opportunity to choose from among several candidates, but rather to ratify those proposed, which only requires one vote over 50% of the valid votes cast. It is, then, an endorsement, not an election.
If René González had been selected, and ultimately validated by the citizens, he would have been nominated by a union, screened by a small group of officials, and finally approved, but never elected. Olga Salanueva’s complaint, however, was not to condemn this system, which makes a mockery of the public’s participation, as indicated by an astute statement issued by the #Otro18 Citizen Campaign. Rather, she complained that her husband and the other two absent spies were improperly passed over. She demanded legitimacy from a system that is illegitimate down to its foundations, not for the good of the Cuban people, but for that of her narrow circle of friends.
In contrast to the regime’s institutional abandonment of the “Five Heroes,” decried by Olga Salanueva, the final list of candidates reveals the good graces enjoyed by a new group of five members. The people in question were those who helped to foment the collective hysteria fanned by the Cuban State during the last summit of the Organization of American States (OAS), in 2015 in Panama. They were members of entities advanced as civil society associations, their role being to prevent participation by any organizations that did not support Castroism, on the island or in exile, at the meeting of Latin American civil society groups, a forum regularly preceding the summit of heads of state.
One of the members of this set of favorites is Susely Morfa, the “millionaire of Panama,” who garnered her nickname after telling Miami television journalist Mario Vallejo that she had travelled to the country on her own savings, earned as a psychologist. She failed to mention, of course, that she also just happened to be the Second Secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC).
Her actions won her the favor that René González was ultimately denied. When she arrived in Cuba she was promoted to the First Secretary of the UJC, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), and she had the honor of nominating Raúl Castro at the 7th Congress of the PCC for his reelection as general secretary of the organization. Susely Morfa now appears as a candidate for re-election as a deputy, as she was embedded in the legislative body in December 2016.
Another Cuban whose star is on the rise is the journalist Yoerky Sánchez Cuéllar. Upon his return from Panama he was promoted to a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, at the 7th Congress, and he recently rose to sit on the editorial staff of the Juventud Rebelde newspaper as well.
Aside from some poems that could prompt comparisons to those of Jesus Orta Ruiz, the journalistic work of Yoerky Sánchez is scarce and insignificant. He did not fail, however, to dedicate some verses to René González when it behooved him to; that is, when he was still in the US. He wrote then: “René threw off the chain/of the jail. But/he cannot, for a long time/return to Cuba. Who deprives him/of his freedom? Who condemns/the patriot in this way?/It is the system that distorts/justice to suit its desires/and blindfolds/making evil its norm “(“The privilege of being Cuban”).
The third point of this new star was Elier Ramírez Cañedo, a researcher from the State Council whose career specialized in Cuba-US relations, but who decided to get the spotlight turned on him by belting out at the Panama event that catchy rumbita that goes “Machete, que son poquitos.”
Not content with the results, he threw himself into a controversy by raging against intellectuals who refuse to comply with the editorial dictates of Granma and Cubadebate. These were precisely the media outlets that printed his article “The third way, or political centrism in Cuba”, in which, thanks to that fuel for theoretical production that is the social climbing, he portrayed the history of Cuba as a story of bad guys, the not-so-bad guys, but still bad (among them, those endorsing what he called the “third way”) and the good guys, including, needless to say, himself. And now we see him as a candidate for Parliament, but let us keep an eye on this young man, because his aspirations are great, and we should expect more such gems from him.
The fourth point of this star is occupied by Yusuam Palacios, nominated by the province of Camagüey; more precisely, Sagua de Tánamo. Yusuam Palacios likes to talk so he excelled and really stood out in Panama. His rhetoric is reminiscent of that of Hassan Pérez Casabona a decade ago, hurried and without pauses, chock full of quotes from Martí, Fidel, Marx and even Salvador Allende, in that order. José Martí comes before Fidel because the young man is the director of the Fragua Martiana and president of the Movimiento Juvenil Martiano organizations.
The fifth point of this star is Enrique Alemán Gutiérrez, doctor and president of the Federación de Espiritistas de Havana (Federation of Spiritists). He rose to fame at the protest rally organized in Panama. According to his deputy bio, on which we must rely, in the absence of other sources, his awards range from a “Gold Diploma” in 1992 when he earned his medical degree, to a pre-nomination for a Grammy in the Multimedia category [sic], in addition to Gitana Tropical and Giraldilla de Cuba awards.
In light of this avalanche of Castroist merits it is understandable (Olga Salanueva was blinded by her emotional ties) that the CCN gave preference to the aforementioned candidates. Consonant with the schemes of Castroism, the only thing she reveals is something that everyone already knows: formerly celebrities, due to their imprisonment, once they were free, they ceased to be useful. In fact, they even became an awkward presence, because the campaign for their liberation made them famous in a Castroist system in which others’ relevance is just a nuisance. And becoming such an irritation can be dangerous: there is the dubiously “accidental” death of Camilo Cienfuegos and the murder of Arnaldo Ochoa to prove it.
I am unaware of the details of the policies governing the promotion of Castroist minions, but it is clear is that rabble-rousers are now preferred over spies.