FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

“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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail