In July, 1963, with the proceeds of my first book, “The Two Hundred Days of ‘8 /2’”, I used my French passport to travel to Cuba, which was already off-limits to Americans. Having recently become part of the fourth estate, via the French News Agency’s Rome bureau, I wanted to find out whether the corporation I had joined met my standards for truth-telling. Everything I had read in the international press, whether American, French or Italian, had been negative, but French free-lancers with whom I’d worked on stories in Rome were telling a very different story. I had to find out who to trust.
The story of what turned into an almost two year stay on the Island of the Red Devils, complete with conversations with all the members of the 1964 government, (several each with Fidel, Raul, Che and a valued friendship with Celia Sanchez), is told in “Cuba, 1964: When the Revolution was Young”, and I’m probably the only writer to have received her first classes in Marxism from that indomitable quartet. It had taken me three weeks to reach Fidel and before deciding whether to grant my request to do a (non-political) portrait of him for the French weekly Paris-Match he wanted to know how I lived, in particular what things I owned. When I told him that my sole possessions of any value were a Fiat 600 and a typewriter, he rightly figured that I would be sympathetic to the Revolution (always spelled with a capital R in Cuba).
In Cuba, my passion for the cinema took a back seat to what became a total immersion in the East/West conflict which, as I have written in many blogs, continues to this day. After leaving the island in 1965 for Poland, then Hungary, I did not return until 2011, when the Italian version of my book was presented at the 20th International Havana Book Fair, whose theme that year was Latin America The two week-long event coincided with the revolt in Tahrir Square, which I watched from time to time on television in my bed-breakfast in Old Havana. While Hosni Mubarak was being ousted after a U.S. backed thirty year rule that had no pretense of being democratic, Fidel Castro met with about twenty Latin American writers in a live six-hour televised conversation.
Washington’s refusal to entertain normal relations with the Cuban government would have gone on indefinitely if American power had an indefinite lease on life. What is striking is that America’s fifty-year long Cuba policy coincided with its period of world supremacy. The fact that President Obama chose this moment to end the ridiculous standoff is probably not due to a need to rescue his disastrous reputation as perhaps the worst President in American history. Nor is it a gesture toward the Latino community that will be crucial to Hillary’s campaign. I believe it is a way too late attempt to regain the South American hemisphere as a consolation prize, as the BRICS join China’s new silk roads and even Europe, our sixty-five year old junior partner begins to question American hegemony. The ill-fated Ukraine adventure makes clear that Washington never gave up on the goal of dismembering Russia, putting Europe once again on the front line.
Nor is it any coincidence that Obama’s declaration coincides with the European Parliament’s recognition of a future Palestinian state. Obama will not win over Netanyahu any more than he won over Fidel and Raul Castro. And although the day I thought would never come for Cuba has arrived, it is a bittersweet end to 2014, as the world Uncle Sam built heads for even greater trouble than it did in 1914, before America became too big for its boots.