FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President

by

“The US will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope.”

“The US will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope.”

The quote, attributed to Fidel Castro, has circulated around the world. The story has been reported in numerous languages.

The so-called quote is false.

The story began when an Argentine short story writer made “public” the bogus story. His name: Pedro Jorge Solans. Solans is not a Cuba scholar. He has been in Cuba once. Recently he wrote a book (El Sur Negro crónicas afrolatinas) that has been recognized for its originality dealing with the black autonomous settlements [palenques] throughout Latin America. Early this year Solans went to Cuba where his book was being sold.

On March 10, 2015 an argentine paper El Diario [eldiariodecarlospaz] he claimed that he heard the story of Fidel’s comment during his visit to Cuba this past January. And then the hearsay ran wild because of the Internet.

The story was as follows as related by the newspaper:

In 1973, just returned from a visit to Vietnam, Commander Fidel Castro was (speaking to international journalists). The journalist Bryan Davis from an English agency asked: “When do you think relations between Cuba and the United States, two countries as far away despite the geographical proximity, will be restored?”. Fidel Castro stared and replied to all who were in the room: “United States will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American pope.”

Source: Read more at http://m.snopes.com/

The bogus story gained traction as mainline papers picked it up, and even some Cuban publications repeated the myth [Example: the Cuban Confederation of Labor’s webpage (labor movement in Cuba) published the fabricated quote in CUBA SINDICAL, the webpage of the CTC. That is, an official website in Cuba.] From there it was picked up by an FM Havana radio station, which is supposedly the very highbrow station: Radio Enciclopedia. They reproduced the quote as well. And then began to spread in all directions. Of course, the “left” as well as others who respect Fidel Castro rapidly swallow the bogus story.

Now let us review some facts:

* Solans was not in Cuba in 1973 when he claims that Fidel Castro made the statement. So he did not hear of it.

* At the time when the statement was supposedly made it was not reported by any of the journalists that were meeting with Fidel Castro then.

* Solans claims that Fidel Castro made the statement in 1973, but gave no precise date. Moreover, Solans claims that Fidel made the remark at a press conference after returning from visiting Vietnam. Fidel actually returned from a trip to Vietnam in September 1973.

Solans does not provide a date for the so-called press conference. Yet we know that on September 7, 1973 Fidel Castro was in Algeria for a meeting of the Non Aligned Movement. Then he went to North Vietnam. He was there from the 12th to the 16th. He returned to Cuba on September 17th, and, perhaps he had a press conference, although there is no published record of such. Moreover, it should be noted that at the time there what was a very pressing situation in Chile. In fact on September 11, 1973 the elected government of President Salvador Allende was overthrown and he was assassinated while at his office. Certainly, the Non-aligned Movement [Cuba was chosen to be the next head of the organization], the Third World revolutionary movements, and the alliance developing between China and the United States were the most pressing issues that the Cuban leader was dealing with at the moment.

Solans also claims that it was a reporter from England – a “Brian Davis” who asked Fidel Castro when he expected that relations between the US and Cuba would be established. Or so we are told. But Solans does not say what was the name of the newspaper that the Englishman worked for. So we do not know of the identity of a Mr Davis, nor the newspaper, nor the date when the statement was made.

And yet, Mr Solans published the exact question and the exact answer that supposedly were made. Solans writes, that Fidel Castro stated, “Estados Unidos vendrá a dialogar con nosotros cuando tenga un presidente negro y haya en el mundo un Papa latinoamericano”. [The United States will come to dialogue with us when it has a black President and there is a Latin American Pope in the world.”

Solans “source”? A taxi driver!

Now, here is the real interesting thing: Fidel just returned from Vietnam in September 1973. He had gone into liberated territory in SOUTH Vietnam. Fidel did give a press conference when he returned on that experience.

The myth-making story attributed the Fidel statement to Eduardo de la Torre who was a student at the time in Cuba. In other words, the Cuban – Eduardo – recalls an event that happened 42 years ago. But was Eduardo watching Cuban TV when Fidel Castro spoke? How come there is no evidence of that interview anywhere? The Cubans have collections of Fidel’s speeches and interviews, and so does the US government. Moreover, if it was not broadcast by the Cuban media, how did the former student and now taxi driver hear the Castro statement? Was he present in the same room? There is no printed version of the purported Fidel Castro interview with the foreign media. Then there is another peculiar item. The person who introduced Solans to the Cuban reading public was Marta Rojas who in 1973 was the Cuban writer/journalist reporting on the Vietnam war from Vietnam. It was Marta Rojas who introduced Solans to the Cuban reading public. Did she tell him the story?

Finally, is it possible that Fidel’s comment, regardless of the circumstances when it was made, was true?

Doubtful. At the time (1972-1973) Fidel Castro had a good and strong relationship with the Vatican representative in Cuba, Mons. Cessare Zacchi. In fact, the relations between him and Fidel Castro had become a model for the Vatican. Zacchi who had the rank of ambassador in Cuba was named president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, institution training Vatican diplomats two years AFTER the supposed statement from Fidel Castro was made. Moreover, by the early 1970s Fidel Castro had become a friendly defender of “liberation theology”. In fact, he thoroughly elaborated the theme that “He who betrays the poor betrays Christ”

It is far-fetched that the Cuban revolutionary would, implicitly, criticize the Vatican and the Pope in 1973 when his political objective at the time was to be in alliance with the progressive sectors of the Catholic church. *

*My thanks to Karen Wald for her comments.

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail