Holy crap. My thriller, Havana Queen, must’ve hit a nerve in Havana. For the second time in three days, the Castro propaganda machine has denounced me as an intelligence agent whose book is aimed at “overthrowing the Revolution – but from inside.”
Hmm. “From inside” can only mean that Havana Queen, which posits a scenario for the end of the Castro regime, is circulating inside Cuba. And the lightning-quick and vociferous tirades against lil’ ol’ me must mean Cubans are reading the book, probably in digital form. Dicatatorships just don’t know how to deal with the digital age. How can they control information when it spreads like water? Young Cuban bloggers who criticize the system have shown that they cannot.
Well, here’s the paragraph in El Heraldo Cubano’s latest screed against dear old Uncle Sam, No Changes on the Chessboard, which pertains to me (my translation):
Proof that they are carrying on similar activity, is the publication of the book Havana Queen by James Louis Bruno, former diplomat accredited in Cuba in 1996, who acknowledges that he was an officer of the Military Intelligence Agency.
Two corrections, Heraldo Cubano (since I know you are zealously committed to reporting truth and facts as opposed to innuendo and rants): a) I wasn’t actually “accredited.” I traveled on “TDY,” government parlance for “temporary duty,” to help out our mission there; and b) I know I’m wasting my breath here, but my brief stint at the Pentagon as a young intelligence analyst preceded my subsequent diplomatic career with the State Department. Also, the USG has no such agency as “Military Intelligence Agency.” Where did you conjure that one up? The same crucible of lies and fabrications in which you cook up all of your pettifoggery?
Anyway… I fear I’m losing your interest, Heraldo Cubano. You go from dedicating a full-blown rant against me to slipping in a single cheap shot in a follow-on diatribe. I told you in my last riposte that I’m aiming for the Big Leagues: Granma! – the newspaper of the Cuban communist party. What gives?? Okay, okay, I’ll settle for Trabajadores, Juventud Rebelde or any of the other propaganda rags that Cubans use for purposes of personal hygiene.
But it seems clear, judging by the attacks against me, that Havana Queen is beginning to give Cuban officialdom agita. To give a flavor of just how subversive this dangerous Havana Queen is, I display here a sample (hold applause please):
The president plopped himself down in one of the modern office chairs in front of his brother’s desk. José Martí stared down from a large painting behind the desk. “We’re in trouble.”
The brother reluctantly shifted his attention away from the newspapers to his sibling.
“Blood in the streets. Riots. Food shortages. Tourists aren’t coming. The sugar market’s collapsed. Bickering inside the Party and the Army.”
His brother scratched his scraggly beard. “Didn’t you hear me? The world is on the brink of nuclear war. Cuba must prevent it. We are in a unique position. The whole world respects us. They listen to what we say. We must act now!”
“Yes. We must. But here. At home. The revolution is at risk of coming undone.”
“Bah! Nonsense! We’ve been through worse. The end of the Soviet Union. Counter-revolution in Eastern Europe. Our own Special Period. Not to mention the Missile Crisis. Playa Girón. Blood? We’ve been knee-deep in blood. Our revolution will survive!” His ancient voice cracked.
The president shifted uneasily in his chair. “The world has changed. And it’s changing at an accelerating rate. We risk being left out. If we don’t change…” He circled the air with an extended hand, searching for words.
“We already made changes. Your changes. Those so-called reforms. I warned you that they would only entice counter-revolutionary and reactionary behavior. And letting those gusano ‘dissidents’ out of the country. Seventy-three more traitors to agitate against us from abroad. They spread lies. Then the tourists stop coming. I warned you. I warned you. What happened to socialismo o muerte? We must return to our roots. Remain true to our cause!”
The president lowered his head and twiddled his thumbs. “We’ve been through all this before.”
“Yes, we have. You were always the weak one, despite your moniker of ‘The Terrible.’”
“That’s not true. Father pored attention on you. You were his favorite. Without me, this revolution would have ended up in the ditch long ago. Without me, this revolution would’ve sunk with the Granma in the Gulf of Mexico.” The president wished he had another double of Stoli Gold.
“Remember Roque falling overboard? Fool. And when we landed? A fucking swamp! And you throwing up, even long after we’d landed. And Che getting himself ‘wounded.’ Bastard shot himself by accident. Ah. Those were the days, huh?”
“Yes. All successful revolutions share two fundamental characteristics: a) they begin with youthful passion, and b) they adapt. The Soviets tried to adapt too late in the game. The Chinese and Vietnamese, however, timed it just right.”
His brother leapt from his chair, wincing as he did so with some deteriorating vertebra or joint protesting the fast movement. He pointed his right index finger skyward in his trademark fashion. “Change? Yes. Betrayal? No!”
The migraine was reaching seven on the Richter scale. He rubbed his temples and waited for his brother to lower himself back into the chair. “We have another problem, brother.”
The bearded one raised an eyebrow.
“I am president now for over six years, yet decisions are being made independently of me.”
His brother made no comment.