Hildebrando Chaviano Tried
Cuba: Hildebrando Chaviano Tried / Ivan Garcia
Posted on May 1, 2015
Iván García, 20 April 2015 — Hildebrando Chaviano could pass for Obama
if the US president’s secret service wanted to use him as a double. At
his 65 years, Chaviano shines with the ability to lead. He likes to
intone with the voice of a radio announcer, and doesn’t hide his
affection for politics.
Like father, like son. His father was a member of the People’s Socialist
Party, the Marxist party of Republican Cuba, with a vast labor union and
influence on the intellectual and cultural environment.
He came to dissent from the bosom of the Revolution. He was a member of
the Young Communists and for five years worked in the Ministry of the
“With my rebellious and liberal attitude I was always a controversial
person. I wasn’t guy the government had confidence in. When they threw
me out directly, they showed me the door to get out. I always questioned
the role of the party, the government and the union,” he says, sitting
in the living room of his apartment in the Focsa Building, one of the
jewels of Cuban architecture and engineering.
The living room is living and lacks furnishing. Books are piled up on
cheap wooden bookcase. From the window there is a panoramic view of the
city and if feels like you can reach out and touch the intense blue of
the Atlantic Ocean, visible on the horizon.
“From up here, you can’t see the misery and abandonment of the city.
When I ran for delegate of the People’s Power, I didn’t present myself
as a political opponent. My proposal is social. I think about the
growing number of elderly who are forced to beg or rummage through
garbage cans. The poverty, the chaotic infrastructure and the bad public
transport service that affects everyone, whether or not they support the
government. I firmly believe that the dissidence should start to work
within the community. We are prepared for this change.”
After Hildebrando asking MININT, he entered the University of Havana and
in 1978 graduated in Law. For 15 years he worked in the State-owned
Select Fruits company. But in the summer of 1994, for being the kind of
guy who is uncomfortable for the regime, he was left unemployed.
“As an option they offered me a place as a stevedore in a warehouse. I
declined. I no longer believed in the system. I joined the dissidence in
2006. Leonardo Hernandez, a friend from childhood, introduced me to Jose
Idelfonso Velez, who I consider my political manager. I joined an
opposition association that worked for racial integration along with
Juan Antonio Madrazo, Leonardo Calvo and Manuel Cuesta Morúa.”
The father of three and grandfather of four, Hildebrando feels
comfortable in his role as a political activist. On a rainy afternoon in
2014 he joined the proposed Candidates for Change, led by the political
scientist and freelance journalist Julio Aleaga Pesant.
“The strategy was to present some possible candidates. We had six, but
through legal chicaneries of the regime, or because they gave up, we
ended up with only two, Yuniel Lopez and me. Yuniel ran in a hard
neighborhood in Arroyo Naranjo, the poorest and bloodiest in Havana,”
The opposition strategy to infiltrate the few legal loopholes left
unprotected by the olive-green regime is longstanding. In the 80s a
regime opponent of the Ricardo Bofill group ran in a neighborhood
assembly. In 2010, in Punta Brava, a Havana municipality of La Lisa, a
platform was created to insert dissident candidates into the institution
of the People’s Power. The only opponent who ran got very few votes.
“The elections to choose neighborhood delegates is probably the only
democratic opening that exists on the island. It is undeniable that it
is very difficult to pass through the sieve created by the political
police and state institutions. But with a single narrative for the
outside we will never be strong enough to send our message of democratic
change to ordinary Cubans,” explains Chaviano.
The Achilles heel of the opposition is its scant power and its lack of a
popular base. Its message is directed more to the other side of the
Florida Straits than to its next door neighbors.
Hildebrando regrets the lukewarm support of the dissidence for his run.
“Some have told me that it was a betrayal. And have suggested to me that
in the future I might use it as a springboard to State institutions.
Solidarity has been minimal. Iván Hernández Carrillo, a former political
prisoner of the Group of 75, is among the few who have supported me.
Others have underestimated me and Yuniel.”
On election night he received 21 votes from his neighbors in the area
where he lives in El Vededo. “Unlike the dissidence, neighbors and
workers have shown me their support, openly or discreetly. I’ll take
that,” said the dissident candidate.
Some hours after the neighborhood elections, Hildebrando is confident.
“Several observers will supervise the vote and the counting, which is
public. If I don’t win, I’ll propose to the candidate election that I
will work with him to solve the innumerable social cases that are
Chaviano considers that the dissent must engage the community to play a
leading role in the future of Cuba. On a distant night in 2004 on an old
Russian radio, he heard a speech at a Democratic convention in the
United States by a guy with an unpronounceable name.
His name was Barack Obama, and after reading the books written by the
former Senator from Illinois, Hildebrando Chaviano is convinced that to
achieve popular support you need to wear out your shoes in your
community and listen to the people.
“It is true that in a totalitarian society it is more complex. You run
the risk of going to jail and suffer harassment from the political
police. But it’s worth a try. ”
Note: Neither of the opposition candidates won the elections.
Source: Cuba: Hildebrando Chaviano Tried / Ivan Garcia | Translating