Geopolitics

'A Tragedy For Cuba' - As Pope Arrives, Castro’s Exiled Daughter Speaks Out

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

Alina Fernandez, daughter of Fidel Castro and Natalia Revuelta (YouTube)
Alina Fernandez, daughter of Fidel Castro and Natalia Revuelta (YouTube)
Paolo Mastrolilli

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

Photo - YouTube

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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