Pablo Iglesias, founder and General Secretary of the Spanish party Podemos (We Can) is the host of two television programs, one for interviews and the other for political debate. The latter is broadcast by Hispan TV, a channel created under the rule of Mahmud Ahmadinejad to spread Iranian political propaganda in Spanish. Iglesias and other leaders of his party have also maintained close ties to higher-ups in the Venezuelan regime. Several of them were hired by Caracas as political advisors, and a few years ago they announced that the solutions implemented by el chavismo would be the only way out for the Spanish economic crisis, and even the European one.
Leonardo Padura was invited to the second of his TV forums, aired by a Spanish channel, on which the two talked for a little over an hour.
Pablo Iglesias is decidedly emphatic when speaking. Like an old reciter of poetry, he endeavors to excite by getting excited. His ridiculous and hackneyed affirmations - at least for those who have languished under applied Marxism - reveal him as a categorical simpleton. Padura could find no better place to exhibit his own simplemindedness. Case in point: in a moment of the interview, during which they talk about baseball, the novelist shares how he was visited by the manager of the Industriales team, in search of advice to encourage his players, and everything revolves around this motivational maxim: the players, when they take the field, must be convinced that they are the most important people in the world.
In this interview Pablo Iglesias and Leonardo Padura talked about Cuba's campaigns in Africa. We know, because he himself has repeatedly said that Padura would prefer to be Paul Auster, so that journalists would ask him about Brooklyn, rather than politics. Being Auster would allow him to make Mantilla his Brooklyn, although, with the way things are around the world, it is difficult to imagine Auster evading questions about Donald Trump.
Iglesias addresses the subject of Cuban troops in Angola through a recurring character in the novels of the researcher Mario Conde, an invalid war veteran. Padura confesses then that he was in Angola for a year, during the war – as a civilian journalist, he clarifies, not as a war correspondent. And it was there that learned something as trite as the recommendation he made to the manager of Industriales: in extreme situations, man is capable of the worst, but also of the best.
"If there is someone who is anti-war, and who has absolutely nothing to do with weapons, it’s me," he says.
Then he mentions a story that he wrote at the time. But if anyone thinks that it was any condemnation of war, he will be sorely disappointed. In it Padura wrote about the kind of fear that one can experience in a military conflict. Why, then, such stress on his anti-war stance, and his evocation of an article that did not denounce war?
Overemphasizing serves, not only to assign importance to the insignificant, but also to convey the idea of a lofty position, opposition to war, and to immediately flee from it, but without the viewer detecting it. The emphasis is, with Padura, pure packaging. By managing this well, he can juggle the many contradictions entailed by defining oneself as always being anti-war, having served as a journalist in the war, not condemning it, then and then continuing not to.
When Pablo Iglesias alludes to the war in Vietnam, his guest is blunt: "You cannot compare Angola with Vietnam, because you cannot compare a defeat with a victory."
In order to avoid the subject of the causes of the wars, for fear of evoking any similarities in terms of their causes, Padura jumps directly to their outcomes. He speaks, not like an anti-war figure, but rather a general, a commander. And it is hardly surprising that Pablo Iglesias, who, in one of his partisan diatribes promised “to take the sky by assault,” burst out laughing, agreeing with him completely. The record is Leninistically clear!
The program then features archive images depicting Fidel Castro closing the First Congress of the PCC, alleging that Cuba fought in Africa out of pure altruism. It is with these words, which elude any criticism or objection, that Padura and Iglesias manage to sidestep the question of Soviet imperialism, and Castro's imperialism, a thorny issue looming as soon as they began to address the topic.
Padura concludes: "The number of Cuban deaths in Angola was," and here comes an emphatic adverb, "ridiculously low."
Once again, it is as if a commander spoke through him, articulating his satisfaction with such a low number of deaths. The Cuban campaign in Angola was, according to Fidel Castro and Leonardo Padura, one of pure selflessness, and came at a negligible cost in human lives.
In the same way that an anti-war soul like Padura's did not question the motives behind the war, neither did he stoop to questioning the veracity of the casualty figures cited by the Cuban Government. Even if the official figures were true, and even if those figures were limited compared to those of other campaigns, the adverb would remain: "ridiculously."
I very much doubt that Padura will offer an apology for such a disgraceful statement. We already saw, in the case of the censorship of a film based on a script of his, how he not only did not dare to denounce that censorship, but also avoided publicly acknowledging colleagues who openly condemned it.
When they ask him about the current situation in Cuba, he immediately talks about the effect in Cuba of the measures taken by the Trump Administration: devastating, a devastating effect. But when it comes to the Castros, when he has no choice but to refer to them, he does not speak of devastation, or of totalitarianism, but of the speed with which certain reforms should be implemented. Reform measures, it goes without saying, planned and promised by Cuba's high command. Reform that does not stray from the official script.
Finishing the interview, asked about who his political role model might be, Padura mentions Lula da Silva.
"Unfortunately, what happened to Lula..." He does not say anything else, but leaves the subject hanging in the air. This is another phrase devised to dissimulate, to exculpate the Brazilian president from any corruption. But the interviewee and interviewer hit their nadir when the former remembers how he decided one day to abandon his favorite baseball team, and stop following his beloved Industriales. At this point Pablo Iglesias bursts out: "Now that is being a dissident!"
Of course, the General Secretary of Podemos is adept at this kind of subterfuge, as he insinuates that Padura is a dissident, and those who claim to be are not. This is a maneuver not very different from those of his former employer, President Ahmadinejad, who at Columbia University denied that there were homosexuals in Iran, where gays are subject to the death penalty. And not very different from those in Venezuela counseled by Podemos, who deny the existence of political prisoners in that country.
Leonardo Padura, who has never dared to denounce the dictatorship suffered by Cubans, who refuses to recognize its dissidents, and fails to condemn the abuse and repression perpetrated against them, is willing to make light of what it is to be a dissident within a dictatorship. If it were a joke... perhaps it could be forgiven. But the only joke is Padura himself.