Exclusive: Alina Fernandez doesn’t expect to ever again see – or even speak with – her famous father, Fidel Castro. As Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba, Fernandez tells La Stampa that she doubts a late-in-life conversion for her father. "He assumes
NEW YORK -- Two decades after her sensational escape from Cuba, Alina Fernandez still sounds bitter when speaking about her famous father, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. In her late 30s at the time, Fernandez fled the communist island nation in 1993 – wearing a wig and using a fake Spanish passport. She went to Madrid, and later to Miami. In Florida, her radio show, Simplemente Alina (Simply Alina), became a hit among the exiled Cuban community.
Mrs. Fernandez. Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba is leading to rumors that Fidel Castro may convert. Do you think this is possible?
In the past, many blamed me for this rumor. But it was unfounded. And I would be the last one to know. It would be a beautiful thing if my father, who is sick and old, will go back to the roots of the faith in which he grew up, when he studied with the Jesuits. It will give him the human dignity that he lost. But I don't believe it. I think he assumes he's immortal.
Is the Pope doing the right thing visiting Cuba?
I have mixed feelings. For sure, the visit will be exploited by my father and my uncle Raul, because going to a country means legitimizing it. On the other hand, the Pope's presence is very important for believers. When I was a girl, being Catholic in Cuba was an ideological handicap. You had to hide your faith in order to avoid persecution. Today that's not the case anymore.
From a political standpoint, can this visit accelerate change?
I don't think so. Today, common people have fewer expectations than they had when John Paul II visited Cuba. The first reason is Benedict XVI's personality, and the second is that people don't believe anymore in a change coming from a religious leader's visit. It didn't help that the local Catholic Church has sometimes given the impression that in order to deal with the regime it abandoned its natural mission as a human rights defender. In doing so, it obtained advantages for believers but lost its grasp on the people. Let's be clear, in Cuba there is no one like anti-communist Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko.
Should Benedict XVI meet with Cuban dissidents?
I think he should. I don't want to criticize from afar. But I think it would be important. They say he cannot do it, because this is a pastoral visit and the Pope cannot act politically. But there's a contradiction there. Why, as a pastor, should he not meet the believers who are against the regime?
Since your uncle, Raul Castro, has been in charge, there have been some reforms in Cuba. Don't you think so?
Raul was the best person in my family and I reached out to him several times for help. He is a pragmatic politician and an excellent manager. But he does only what the regime needs. It's true that he allowed certain kinds of workers, like mechanics, plumbers, or farmers, to work independently. But these are small reforms in the face of such a huge economic crisis. In Cuba, there is no entrepreneurship.
Raul and Fidel Castro are old. What's their strategy?
Keeping themselves in power. Nothing else. No transition.
When was the last time you spoke with your father?
Many years ago, I don't even remember exactly when. Fidel was a tragedy for Cuba, and I felt it even more than others. Today we say many things about radical Islam, but there was a radical communism too. It was brutal. If you dared question it, you became an enemy or a traitor. Even more so if you criticized within the Castro family.
Did you ever try to return to Cuba?
No, I didn't
You father is old and sick. Would you like to speak with him?
I don't think I will ever see him again. There isn't much interest on either side. He doesn't want to see me. And I don't see why I should try to reach out to this man when I disagree with about 90% of what he has done. Even a child and father's love can disappear, if no one feeds it.
Read the original story in Italian
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