Exile Returnee Urges Washington To Be 'Sensible'
- (Menoyo in Cuba says he doesn't work for the U.S. and is in
Cuba "Demanding a space for the independent opposition)
Inter Press Service
CUBA: Exile Returnee Urges Washington to Be 'Sensible'
HAVANA, Sep 1 (IPS) - Former Cuban rebel commander turned
exile leader Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo is calling on the United
States to enact a policy towards Cuba that is "correct" and
"more sensible", one that would lead to a "good neighbour"
relationship between the two nations.
"They have spent more than 40 years in confrontation and it
hasn't resolved a thing. The U.S. stance does not contribute
to the democratisation of Cuba," Gutiérrez Menoyo, 68, said
in an interview with IPS.
In his opinion, the successive U.S. governments have not
only been wrong, but they have also allowed policy towards
the socialist-run island to be dictated by an "elitist"
group of Cubans exiled in the United States, many of whom
are vehemently opposed to Cuban President Fidel Castro.
"I think it's time that the United States say to that group
that the nation's policy is drawn up by the State Department
and according to the interests of the nation," he said.
The dissident, who is considered a moderate within the
movement, stressed that a good neighbour policy "could
contribute, through good offices, towards developing an
independent opposition" on the island.
Just over three weeks after announcing his decision to
remain in Cuba after arriving for a visit, and demanding
legal political space to fight for change from within,
Gutiérrez Menoyo has not received an official response.
But the authorities have not hassled him either. The
opposition movement in Cuba operates illegally.
"I have come to stay, and they know that I am willing to
reach the ultimate consequences," said the leader of Cambio
Cubano (Cuban Change), an organisation he founded in the
United States in 1993 that advocates dialogue with Cuban
Gutiérrez Menoyo recognises that his goal is "quite
ambitious", but says he hopes that "intelligence" will rule
the day and that the authorities will realise that his
proposal "is a way out and a solution for the country."
," he said, stressing, ''I reject any kind of destabilising
movement or those that work for the interests of foreign
powers or governments."
He confirmed that Cambio Cubano has no ties to and receives
no backing from foreign interests. "I have come from the
United States, but the Cuban authorities know very well that
if I had wanted to turn into the 'golden boy' of the North
Americans, I would have done so.
"They know that I have had more offers than just about
anyone. But the line I am following is an independent line,
which does not mean that I don't have good contacts in the
United States and other countries.
The opposition activist believes that if the legal space he
is asking for materialises, "it would be the beginning of a
democratisation so real that it would have the backing of
the international community."
"It could even alter the positions not only of the European
Union, but even those of the United States," which could
make confrontation futile," he said.
Gutiérrez Menoyo, who was born in Spain in 1934, moved to
Cuba with his family in 1948. He was granted Cuban
citizenship for his participation in the fight against the
Fulgencio Batista regime (1952-1958), the overthrow of which
paved the way for the Castro-led armed insurrection.
As a result of disagreements about the political line taken
after the triumph of the insurgents in 1959, Gutiérrez
Menoyo went into exile, but returned to Cuba in 1964 at the
head of an armed group to fight the Castro government.
That cost him 22 years in prison. After his release in 1986,
thanks to the intervention of the Spanish government, he
again went into exile. From foreign soil, he defended his
position that "change is possible without bloodshed."
Since the mid-1990s he made several trips to the island
accompanied by his wife, Gladys, and their three children.
On that first visit, in 1995, Castro met with him, and in a
long chat with the president the activist expressed his
desire to return to Cuba.
But ''things did not move forward along the right path...
The years went by, and our meetings with Cuban officials
failed to forge the legal space that Cambio Cubano is
demanding,'' he said shortly after his return to Cuba last
On this, his last trip, he sent his family back to the
United States without him.
"The farewell was a very difficult moment," he admits,
adding that he told his wife and children of his decision to
stay in Cuba once they were already at the airport. "I speak
with them on the telephone every two days. Gladys is more
accepting of the decision now, and even makes jokes."
Nor did Cambio Cubano know about his intentions. "Nobody
knew. I couldn't allow there to be a leak of information
about a matter that I do not yet know how it will turn out,"
Gutiérrez Menoyo denies that there was some sort of deal
with the Cuban authorities. "If there had been, great. I
would simply arrive on vacation, speak with Castro like I've
done on other occasions, and announce that I had been
granted the possibility of staying in the country."
In his opinion, Castro is "an intelligent man" and
"eminently political", a pragmatist who accepted foreign
investment in Cuba when it was necessary, as he did the
circulation of the U.S. dollar.
"Just like there was 'dollarisation', when the time comes
there can be political changes," he says philosophically.
The dissident admits that he might be perceived as "a
dreamer and naïve."
A chain-smoker by habit, Gutiérrez Menoyo has had to adjust
his tastes to the cigarette brands sold in Cuba, where he
said he was also caught off guard by the "suffocating heat",
poor public transportation, and other problems.
"It's important to talk to people, make contact with them
and see how they live, which can be hard to comprehend...
how a worker with a family can survive on near starvation
wages, especially those who don't receive remittances from
family abroad," he said. (END/2003