The fate of Cuba up to its people, say two counter-revolutionaries
MIAMI — Maria Elena Alpizar corrects anyone who calls her a Cuban “dissident”. She prefers the term “counter-revolutionary”.
Her outspoken criticism of former President Fidel Castro and his regime forced her to endure nearly five decades of arrests, beatings and intimidation, she said.
Alpizar left Cuba for the United States in 2007. So when she found out last weekend that 90-year-old Castro’s life was over, Alpizar poured herself a rare glass of Sangria in her loft in Miami. She then toasted her disappearance.
She and other opponents of Castro “are not happy with the death of a human being,” Alpizar said.
“But we rejoice in the death of the symbol because Fidel Castro is the symbol of the destruction of our homeland,” Alpizar said. “It was a monster that devoured the island of Cuba, morally and economically.”
His reaction was similar to that of many Cuban Americans who had long awaited Castro’s departure, hoping it would lead to real democratic reform in Cuba.
Cubans in Miami pray for freedom on the island
“It would be wrong to think that communism – ‘Castro communism,’ for that is how it should be called – is going to end now in Cuba,” Alpizar said. “It won’t last another half century either. No, no. But it will be the start of a new era.”
During his 57-year revolution in Cuba, Castro was praised for being a staunch supporter of socialism and for challenging his neighbor 90 miles to the north, the United States.
But exiles who fled or were expelled from Cuba shared stories of Castro’s executions of political rivals, seizure of the country’s personal wealth and regime crackdown on civil liberties, such as free speech. and religion.
Almost immediately after seizing power in Cuba from Fulgencio Batista and entering Havana as the people’s victor, Castro’s opponents attempted to overthrow him.
One of the first attempts to overthrow Castro was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.
Brigade 2506—composed of about 1,400 armed, U.S.-trained Cuban exiles—strike the island in the bay on Cuba’s southern coast, where it clashed with Castro’s troops. Then-President John F. Kennedy withdrew U.S. military air support, which historians believe led the exiles to surrender. Hundreds of them were killed or captured.
Vicente J. Blanco, one of the surviving Bay of Pigs veterans who now lives in South Florida, wants the United States to maintain strict trade bans on Cuba. That’s part of why he backed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and led fellow Bay of Pigs veterans living in Miami to endorse Trump as a group, Blanco said.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Blanco said.
Blanco believes Trump will take a tougher stance against current Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, than Obama.
The era of direct US military intervention in Cuba ended with the Bay of Pigs invasion and even Castro’s death is not enough to wrest rule from the Castro family, Blanco said.
“It’s like a monarchy,” he said.
Alpizar never took up arms against the Castro regime, but she said she still suffered physical abuse from Cuban security forces.
As a teenager, she voiced her doubts about Castro’s character in intimate conversations with her family. As an adult, his bold critiques of Castro’s Cuba found audiences across the world via the internet.
In 2003, Alpizar was part of a group of women who dressed in white and marched en masse through the streets to protest against the political detention of their relatives and friends.
She was the one who first gave them the name “Damas de Blanco”, which means “Ladies in White”, said Alpizar, a spokesperson for the group. Thirteen years later, their work continues.
“The regime continues to imprison men and women for nonviolent resistance,” Alpizar said. “Imprisoning someone because he or she thinks differently and because he or she protests against the regime is a violation of the inalienable rights of a human being. Until this practice is canceled in our country , we will continue our protest.”
Alpizar said it would soon be time to hand over to younger generations of Cubans. Her short hair now matches the crisp white of her token outfit. Alpizar’s decades of defiance have taken their toll on his body. She said a state-sponsored beating she suffered prevented her from fully raising her left arm.
The next era belongs to Cubans who still live on the island, Alpizar said.
“All those who fight against the Castro regime are invited to join our fight.”