Redford’s foolish love affair.
By Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of
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 Hitler or Stalin's crimes.
After his 1988 visit to Cuba, Redford was interrogated by U.S. Treasury
Department agents. At that time it was said that he went to scuba dive
with his friend, Fidel Castro.
In letters from a former admirer of Redford in Cuba dated 1987, 1990 and
1991, I see the rage progression against Redford for his friendliness
toward Castro and insensitivity of the suffering of the Cuban people.
Many are baffled and disappointed that despite his long-time connections
with Cuba, he has failed to acknowledge the obvious. He seems content to
take from Cuba and his relations with Castro just 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
If he ever did, 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
Redford has traveled to Cuba as Castro's guest for many years. As a
foreigner he has privileges 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 were 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
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), however, Castro doesn't pay
copyright fees and greedy but 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. On 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 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 January 1, 1959, Castro appointed Che
in charge of La Cabana fortress in Havana. There, execution squads
flourished under Che’s command, assassinating in mass, those perceived
as enemies of the revolution.
Che ordered that women and children visiting his prisoners be paraded in
front of the execution wall, gruesomely stained with blood and brain
parts. All of 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 he failed to do so and he secretly returned to Cuba and was
kept out of the limelight.
To prevent Che from becoming a distraction to Castro’s own popularity,
he needed to get rid of him, though with great care, but all of his
attempts to get Che involved 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 October 7,
1967. As we all know Che was executed and Castro at last had converted
his potential distraction to the martyr of the revolution 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 be heralded now as a
big hero. Finally, Castro was free to create an international legendary
myth. Che’s image flooded Cuba and posters began to appear in the domain
of the academic left: colleges and universities of the U.S. and the free
world in order to attract the romantics and 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 their 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 his 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,
among others, there will be a special place for Robert Redford.
© ABIP 2004
Agustin Blazquez, 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.
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.