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From Ireland: the Dalai Lama, Limerick and yours truly

Posted in Cubadebate on April 29, 2011 in News, Reinaldo Taladrid

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

University of Limerick

University of Limerick

A 90-minute ride from Dublin will take you to Limerick, a beautiful city where for various reasons great progress has been made in the last 20 years.

This name seems to have very little meaning to most Cubans until they realize that part of Ireland is home to the city of Shannon, a regular port of call for Moscow-bound Aeroflot flights in times of the USSR.

A major engineering center, Limerick has become Ireland’s third most important university, oweing largely to the presence in its surroundings of the huge National Technology Park and its National Center for the Excellence of Mathematics and Science.

The University was hosting a discussion on the “50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Victory”, but a totally unexpected complication arose: a large audience had gathered at the University’s sports arena that same day for a speech to be delivered by none other than the Dalai Lama.

As I waited for my turn and the Dalai Lama spoke, the main local radio station called to ask whether I would be willing to grant a live interview about Cuba. I said yes, and a few minutes later I was on the air.

My interviewer began with the usual boilerplate topics, namely the “embargo” (that’s right, the well-known 50-year-old blockade), but no sooner had I started to answer than he interrupted me: “Sir, we’re sorry, but we must go to cover the speech the Dalai Lama is giving right here in our University as we speak. But if you don’t mind, please stay on the line. We’ll be back.”

By then the Dalai Lama was preaching “forgiveness, acceptance and serenity”. Suddenly I heard the voice of my presenter saying: “We’re back with Mr. Taladrid, the Cuban journalist, and my question is: Sir, what is Cuba like today, a brutal dictatorship or the picture-perfect paradise we see in your tourist ads?”

My answer: “Cuba is not a paradise; no country on Earth is. We have as many and diverse problems as any other country, although I’m glad to see that you’re familiar with our tourist industry. I suggest to your listeners that they should visit the Island, where they will find a very beautiful, safe, cultured and honorable nation. Whatever made you think that Cuba is a brutal dictatorship? What happens sometimes to honest, albeit misinformed, people is that they overlook the fact that Cuba is constantly examined in minute detail through the Hubble telescope, but those who describe it usually do it after a simple look through a pair of low-strength glasses that give you blurry, mistaken images.” But all of a sudden, as I was about to mention specific examples…

“Sir, I’m sorry, we’re going live again with the Dalai Lama’s speech, but please hold the line, because it seems our listeners are calling to ask questions about Cuba.” Over the phone I hear again the Dalai Lama’s voice saying: “…We must unite above all religions.” And as if on cue, my presenter again: “We’re back on the air with the Cuban journalist Reinaldo Taladrid. Sir, my next question is: if Raúl Castro succeeded his brother Fidel, does that mean another Castro will succeed Raúl? That is, could Cuba become a communist monarchy?”

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “Raúl was on his own merits the second in command of the revolutionary movement to free Cuba from Fulgencio Batista’s brutal dictatorship. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of it. Tell me, have you? No? Well, then you would be well-advised to read up on the subject so you can understand what we stand for in Cuba nowadays, and also for the sake of your own personal culture.” And there again:

“Look, sir, we must interrupt to go back to the Dalai Lama’s message from the University of Limerick.” Now the Dalai Lama was saying, “We are all the same.”

Then came my presenter again: “We’re back with the Cuban journalist who is paying a visit to Limerick. Mr. Taladrid, did Castro win at Bay of Pigs as a result of the U.S.’s failure to intervene or not?”

“Look, you should learn about that epic feat. The CIA’s masterminds had thought the Cubans would rush en masse to join the mercenary army organized to set them free from the Brutal Dictatorship, but what happened was exactly the opposite. As soon as they landed the Cuban people grabbed the arms the Revolution had given them and received the invaders with bullets instead of flowers. But even if the American troops had come as planned, our country was already prepared to wage a war of attrition against the enemy from [Cuba’s westernmost province of] Pinar del Río –where Fidel had posted Che Guevara– to the eastern region, guarded by Raúl Castro. Yes, Fidel Castro directed the military operations brilliantly, but it was the whole Cuban people who followed him and fought. Fidel alone could have never won. You should ask yourself why a whole people followed Fidel and socialism in such great numbers and…”

“Sir, I’m sorry, but we’re going again with the Dalai Lama”. I keep the receiver stuck to my ear and hear someone in the audience ask the Tibetan leader, ‘Your Eminence, what do you think about the terrible economic crisis facing Ireland and other countries?” Almost at once the Dalai Lama replied: “My knowledge of money issues is zero…”

I hear someone at the radio station’s recording studio say, “Hey, go back with the Cuban and put him on the air again; people are making calls about Cuba.” And again the presenter’s announcement: “Well, we’re back with the interview given by the Cuban journalist visiting Limerick these days. Mr. Taladrid, we’d like you to listen to and talk about what our listeners are saying… Good morning, you’re on the air.”

A first call comes in: “Look, I totally agree with the Cuban. Cuba is neither a paradise nor the awful place they say it is. They have the same problems as any other country. Why don’t you use the Hubble to see what’s going on here with the crisis?” A second caller: “I perfectly understand the Cubans. After all the things they have done and are still doing to them, of course they have to defend themselves above all else. Or do you expect them to commit suicide?” Another call: “I’m from Latin America and live in Limerick. We’re very proud of Cuba and its Revolution. What they do in Cuba they do it for us here and others anywhere else. Long live Cuba and long live Che Guevara…”

Then, without giving so much as a chance to say thanks and goodbye, the presenter brought the interview to a close: “Well, thank you very much for your time, Mr. Taladrid. We’re back to the Dalai Lama”. Had we really run out of time or did they choose to put a stop to the calls?

You have the floor.


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  1. Simon McGuinness / NationalCoordinator,CubaSupportGroupIreland

    Renaldo found it amusing. I didn’t.

    As co-sponsor of his visit, it was frustrating to see the airways filled with banal slogans of peace and love from a man with no political experience, “zero” understanding of the economic implosion happening all around him and the fawning support of every god-fearing, biggoted commie-basher on the island.

    Renaldo could at least have provided pointers as to why the same implosion was not happening in Cuba, if they’d given him the airtime.

    So they didn’t.