Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

07 de Mayo del 2000

A GENERAL IN THE SHADOWS. By Rafael Contreras, Cuba Free Press.

Pinar del Río.- I met him long before he became a brigadier general. Amado Valdés was then the chief of the Cuban coast guard in Pinar del Río province.

"El Flaco" (the skinny one) was what he was called by those nearest to him. Others called him “Amadito,” little Amado. Every time an important event occurred on the coasts of the province, I tried by every means to get myself included in the press unit in charge of covering the event.

At that time, I was taking my first steps as a government “journalist” at the provincial radio station. Amadito had the coast guard in his blood. He had the sense of “smell” for detecting from the shore all the secrets that came from the sea. One afternoon we talked long about the sea and the life of a coast guardsman. He told me he felt the bites on his own skin of each mosquito that attacked his guards at night in the tangled keys they watched. The guardsmen truly loved him.

I don’t remember if it was at the end of the decade of the 1970’s when the rulers promoted him to the general command of the coast guard. He left Pinar del Río with the rank of first lieutenant. In the 80’s he was already a brigadier general and was the officer in command of all the coast guard troops.

We embraced hard when we saw each other. "El Flaco" deserved to be where he was. I saw he was a little older and somewhat fatter but I concluded that the years don't pass for pleasure. They always bring us some wrinkles and a pot belly or almost always the belly above all.

I did not see "El Flaco" any more. The 80’s came and almost as that decade was about to end, all of Cuba trembled in the month of June. Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez, perhaps the most highly decorated general in Cuba, was taken prisoner at his home. Other generals and officers of the Cuban Armed Forces and Interior Ministry met the same fate.

Later, the newspapers announced that it was a matter of drugs and other things that are still sought in the shadows by those who find no answers.

Antonio de la Guardia Fong was one those detained. He was the head of the “MC department.” In the cryptography of the Interior Ministry these initials showed up as registered to the department in charge of breaking the blockade of the island in any way. It was a troop in charge of making contacts whereever possible with the objective of bringing in goods and medicines unattainable on the island.

Antonio de la Guardia ("Tony the "Twin") and El Flaco were old friends and as such they loved one another. They had been in the ministry almost the same time together. Amado knew the cover of the MC's for entering and departing by the coasts. The authorization came from above.

But that ill-fated month of June El Flaco also bore misfortune in the Ochoa-la Guardia case. The Cuban Armed Forces ministry convoked a meeting of the highest officers of the Armed Forces and the Interior Ministry. There in the middle of the huge assembly hall the dissertation about the case began. It criticized, ordered, demoted and did many other things that I did not succeed in getting out of the walls of secrecy.

Amado had the courage not to accept something the minister said and suddenly came the powerful and devastating phrase of Raúl, "Shut your mouth, colonel!"

That phrase from Castro's younger brother was a knife slash. In the act Amado was demoted in one phrase from brigadier general to colonel.

After that meeting they sent him into retirement at his home despite an entire life dedicated to a profession. It must have felt like when the sea unexpectedly knocks one over without explanation.

El Flaco was something of a poet. I know that humiliation must have hurt him greatly. Poets have vigor for gathering pains and holding them inside more than other people.

Both time and those in command seem to try to erase everything. Just a year ago Amadito was called by Raúl Castro to enter the Interior Ministry again. They say that the minister's envoy explained to him that everything had been a mistake and that they had been unfair with him.

Amadito did not accept the call. With all the disgrace of the world he gave an emphatic "no" to the proposal. A friend near to me and Amadito told me the story so I decided to write this chronicle. I dedicate it to "El Flaco" although he may never get to read it. But I dedicate it to him for showing that dignity is not beaten with force and much less with the power of temptation. They were able to strip the stars off his shoulders but nothing and no one in this world can tear off the convictions of a poet.

All of us who love "El Flaco" say to him that for us the "no" given to the envoys was the most beautiful poem he has written.

Rafael Contreras, Cuba Free Press.

P.O. Box 652035
Miami, FL 33265-2035
Phone: (305)270 8779 -- Fax: (305)595 1883

Copyright © 2000 - Cuba Free Press, Inc.