Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a great author, but lousy politician
The Reno Gazette-Journal recently published a well-deserved tribute to the late, great Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won a Nobel Prize for his wonderful 1967 novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” one of the best books I have ever read. Garcia Marquez died in mid-April at the age of 87.
The tribute, co-authored by Northern Nevada International Center Director Dr. Carina Black and UNR journalism student Bezita Lashkariani, rightly praised Garcia Marquez’s literary achievements before going on to criticize the U.S. government for refusing to issue the author a visitor’s visa for more than 30 years. However, they failed to mention why he didn’t qualify for a visa.
“We, the people, have everything to lose when dissenting voices are silenced within or beyond our borders,” Dr. Black and Ms. Lashkariani wrote. That’s true of course, but that’s exactly what Garcia Marquez opted to do when he decided to become the chief apologist for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who has a long record of jailing dissenters and stifling free speech. So I say this to Dr. Black and Ms. Lashkariani: Deliver your free speech message to the Castro brothers — 87-year-old Fidel and his younger brother Raul, 82, who became president of Cuba in 2008.
“Gabo” continued to sing Castro’s praises long after most Latin American intellectuals — including future Nobel Prize winning novelists Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Octavio Paz of Mexico — had turned against the Cuban dictator and signed a letter condemning his documented human rights violations. The turning point was when Castro jailed dissident Cuban poet Heberto Padilla in 1971. Castro called his detractors “brazen Latin Americans … who live in bourgeois salons thousands of miles away from the problems.” At the time, his friend “Gabo” lived 5,000 miles away in Barcelona, Spain.
By refusing to sign the letter, Garcia Marquez publicly endorsed “false imprisonment, torture, false confessions, show trials and executions,” Lee Smith wrote in the neoconservative Weekly Standard. Anyone who doubts these accusations should read “Against All Hope,” a 1986 book by Cuban dissident Armando Valladares, who spent more than 20 years in Castro’s prisons for speaking out against his totalitarian regime. Valladares dedicated his book “to the memory of my companions tortured and murdered in Fidel Castro’s jails and to the thousands of prisoners still suffering in them.”
Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., updated the Castro brothers’ human rights record recently when he wrote a letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce objecting to its forthcoming trade mission to Cuba.
“An independently operated Cuban Chamber of Commerce … free to criticize the government and free to advocate against state control of the economy, is simply not allowed in Cuba,” Rubio observed. “Under Raul Castro,” he continued, “political arrests have nearly tripled, reaching nearly 1,000 per month.”
I met Peru’s Nobel Prize-winner, novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, about 30 years ago when I was stationed in Lima and admired the author’s devotion to freedom and democracy. He once described Garcia Marquez as “(Fidel) Castro’s courtesan.” Gabo’s colorful writing style was called “magical realism.” In real life, however, he had difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality.
I agree with respected Latin American historian Enrique Krauze, who told the New York Times that it would have been “a poetic act of justice” if Garcia Marquez had “distanced himself from Fidel Castro and had lent his prestige to the movement for a democratic transition in Cuba.” It’s disappointing that Dr. Black and Ms. Lashkariani failed to mention Gabo’s dictator-loving politics as well as his considerable literary achievements.
Guy W. Farmer is the Nevada Appeal’s senior political columnist.