Redford's Love Affair With Castro
Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Some time ago, Hollywood luminary Robert Redford was asked about the Cuban regime and he said something to the effect that he didn't care about Castro's politics. To the victims, that's like saying that you don't care about the crimes of Hitler or Stalin.
After his 1988 visit to Cuba, Redford was interrogated by U.S. Treasury Department agents. At that time it was said that he had gone to Cuba to scuba dive with his friend Fidel Castro.
In letters from a former Cuban admirer of Redford dated 1987, 1990 and 1991, I see the rage progression against Redford for his friendliness toward Castro and insensitivity to the suffering of the Cuban people.
Many are baffled and disappointed that despite his longtime connections with Cuba, Redford has failed to acknowledge the obvious. He seems content to take from Cuba and his relations with Castro only what is beneficial to his career and personal enjoyment – which Castro obviously finds beneficial to his personal goals as well.
Mr. Redford has yet to publicly recognize his error, apologize for offending Cubans, denounce or even express dissatisfaction with any aspect of Castro's criminal regime. If he ever does, I hope he won't try to use that tired old "art is separate from politics," which Castro himself obliterated long ago with one of his mantras: "Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing!"
Redford has traveled to Cuba as Castro's guest for many years. As a foreigner he has privileges that have been denied to ordinary Cuban citizens for decades. He has stayed in "elite only" Fifth Avenue in Miramar, in a luxury house next to the mansion Castro gave to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, an infamous-to-Cubans collaborator.
For Garcia Marquez's services, Castro lavishes him with maids and a black Mercedes-Benz 280 similar to the one Castro uses. Garcia Marquez founded a film school near Havana where Redford has taught.
As in the regimes of Hitler and Stalin, all independent artists in Cuba who refuse to comply with Castro's cultural policies are imprisoned or confined to psychiatric wards. Redford, billed as a "key supporter of independent filmmaking," fails to see that there is no independent filmmaking in Cuba except that which protects Castro's image and policies.
Take the film "Strawberry and Chocolate," which Redford distributed and promoted in the U.S. some years ago. Curiously, its promotion ads failed to mention that it was a Cuban film in Spanish. Not so curiously, the film gives the false impression that persecution of homosexuals in Cuba has been reduced.
For years, Redford's films have been shown in Cuban theaters and on TV (most of the time raping the artistic creation by cutting off parts deemed dangerous to Castro's regime). Though Castro doesn't pay copyright fees, greedy left-wing Hollywood doesn't complain about it. Why is it acceptable to Redford for Castro to cut his films?
Redford and his Sundance Institute have been an item in the annual Havana film festival for years. In December 1997, he was the announced head of the Hollywood delegation, though he didn't show up. Instead, he sent Hollywood director John Sayles to represent his institute and bring his warm regards to the regime along with the film "Lone Star."
In the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, Redford, who is the executive producer, exhibited Walter Salles' film "The Motorcycle Diaries." It is based on the personal diary of another notorious criminal in the history of Castro's revolution, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, when he was 23 years old and traveling through South America by motorcycle.
Lets not overlook the fact that it was Che in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba, years before Castro took over the country in 1959, who revealed his fascination with cruelty by asking to be the executioner who kept the troops in line.
At the onset of the revolution, on Jan. 1, 1959, Castro appointed Che to be in charge of La Cabana fortress in Havana. There, execution squads flourished under Che's command, assassinating en masse those perceived as enemies of the revolution.
Che ordered that women and children visiting his prisoners be paraded in front of the execution wall, which was gruesomely stained with blood and brain parts. This was well publicized in Cuba in order to spread fear throughout the population.
The surviving ex-prisoners of the infamous La Cabana fortress remember Che as a "mass murderer." Inexplicably, he is now a hero and an icon in the eyes of the American left.
Paradoxically, Castro, a darling of Hollywood and the American left, wanted to get rid of Che all along and in 1965 he sent him to "liberate" Africa, but Che failed to do so and secretly returned to Cuba, where he was kept out of the limelight.
To prevent Che from diverting attention from his own popularity, Castro needed to get rid of him, though with great care, but all of his attempts to involve Che in international wars of "liberation" and get him killed and converted into a martyr had failed.
Finally he sent him to Bolivia, where, denounced by the peasants and Indians in the region (who never supported his intrusion), Che and his guerrillas were finally apprehended by the Bolivian army on Oct. 7, 1967.
As we know, Che was executed and Castro at last had converted his potential diversion to the martyr of the revolution that he was longing for. His amputated hand is proudly displayed in the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.
Out of Castro's way, the cruel and inept Che could now be heralded as a big hero. Finally, Castro was free to create an international legend. Che's image flooded Cuba, and posters began to appear in the domain of the academic left – colleges and universities in the U.S. and the free world – in order to attract the romantics and the uninformed.
As with much communist misinformation, it worked! We still have fools displaying posters and wearing Che junk. All highly offensive to Cubans, but who cares about Cubans' feelings?
And now Robert Redford, always loyal to Castro and the false icons of his revolution, is running to Havana with a copy of his newly released film about Che, the wonderful role model, to show it to Che's widow, Aleida March, so she can "enjoy" his posthumous tribute to a criminal.
Redford, called a "champion of environmental causes," closes his eyes when dealing with Castro, who created the Che Guevara Brigade, which used military tanks, heavy chains and explosives to raze entire forests across Cuba.
Millions of trees and species of animals dependent upon their shelter have become extinct due to Castro's whims. Caves have been transformed into army depots, filled with arms, explosives and chemical products, thereby altering their natural ecosystems to the detriment of their flora and fauna.
Dead livestock, agricultural and industrial wastes and other dangerous pollutants are routinely dumped into caves, sinkholes, rivers and the sea. Havana Harbor is heavily polluted by oil, as are other beaches nearby and parts of the "foreigners only" Varadero beach resort. The constant, pungent stench of oil and sulfur permeates the entire area.
Ordinary citizens suffer from all kinds of respiratory and cancerous diseases as a result of Castro's environmental disregard. Castro, his elite, and foreigners like Redford are kept in exclusive areas far removed from danger.
Cubans are not denying Redford's artistic talent. The issue is his moral judgment in relation to a regime they know profoundly well.
And when the Castro nightmare is finally over, Cubans, just as the Jews, will build their Holocaust Museum for others to see and to assure that no other Castros will rise again. In the museum's Hall of Collaborators, there will be a special place for Robert Redford.
* * * * * * Agustin Blazquez is producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles
COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation
COVERING CUBA 3: Elian (presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival)
and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below.
He is also the author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.
For a preview and information on the documentary and books, go to ABIP