Since the month of March there have been stories out of Havana about the dismissal of Alejandro Castro Espín. These are accounts that do not belie what was published in The New Yorker, but that offer a different angle on the story and, perhaps, another of the causes that spurred Raúl Castro to dispense with his heir apparent.
It all began at the end of 2017, when a number of business owners, independent investors and nouveau richeCubans appeared in exile, like fugitives.
They ended up settling permanently on the opposite side of the water, although this meant an abrupt disconnection from the sources of their wealth. They had decided to abandon their small but thriving businesses operating on the Island, with permits and the regime's assent.
The new emigrants complained about the newly appointed “Grand Inquisitor,” Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, who, from his offices of the National Defense and Security Council, had unleashed an offensive against self-employed workers and private businessmen, arguing that they were most responsible for the corruption that had devastated the country.
According to these sudden fugitives, Alejandro's attacks did not even spare those close to the regime, or family businesses.
For the first time they were investigating and even imprisoning friends of Fidel's children, associates with children of generals and ministers, and even former Government leaders or retirees.
The anecdotes spoke of arrests of figures as renowned as Héctor Rodríguez Llompart, the former President of the National Bank of Cuba, and the son of Abelardo Colomé Ibarra "Furry", the Interior Minister and a key crony of Raúl's.
Paradoxically, these kinds of Cubans had been the main inspiration for exiles who opted not to flee Cuba, but rather for repatriation, settling again on the island to operate small private businesses.
In March of 2018 many of the recent exiles reconsidered a possible return when it was revealed that Colonel Castro Espín had been fired and utterly erased, surprisingly, by his own father.
Everyone wanted to go back, but they sought second opinions before daring to do so. Although, in the end, it was they who had the most elements, and those who knew the most about the case.
A Foreign Relations official’s son spoke by telephone with someone in Cuba, constantly covering up his cell phone to bring me up to date. "It seems that he went too far," he told me, and listened again. Along the same line, he filled me in: "He became a kind of Robespierre, and ended up going after his own people."
The owner of a restaurant in Miramar came to my office with a story to tell: "Imagine, Raúl arrived from a trip and found, much to his surprise, "Furry", called into question, with a list of confiscated boats and cars, and a proposal for his dismissal."
Another, a specialist in the traffic and sale of jewelry, assured me that the Minister of the Interior, Carlos Fernández Gondín, had actually died of a heart attack because of Alejandro's inquiries about a luxury home that the general's son had on the banks of the Almendares River, "with loungers and everything" he said to me, with astonishment.
A couple that engaged in the rental of several houses has a messenger who travels frequently to the island, and whom they describe as a top-level informant. "He's finished", they tell me about Alejandro Castro Espín, with categorical confidence. "The news was confirmed firsthand," they added, as he nodded and she gestured to ratify his statement. Noting my surprise, they continued: "Don't be deceived if he appears in the news the next few days, as it is a strategy by Raúl to quell the rumors. They dress him up, and roll him out, but it's all for show."
It is curious that everyone claims to know what happened through rumors and second-hand leaks.
Then again, in Cuba there are no other options.
I remember that in the 80s we tried to furnish falsehoods with an official air by claiming that the regime had let some bits out, so that we could make up the rest, in this way leaking what had happened, but without them exposing themselves.
"In the end nobody dares to go back," said one of these nouveau riche. "Alejandro is not there, but they are still confiscating things, and imprisoning anyone who crosses them, if they have money, of course".
The man hesitated and added: "Maybe it's the inertia, we'll have to wait for the machinery to lose the momentum that El Tuerto (the One-eyed Man) gave it, maybe in the end everything will be just the same."