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Fernando Rojas and the Family Soap Opera

'If they are going to be on the networks, their days of not being exposed are over. They will be no more shielded on Twitter as any other tweeter.'

Fernando Rojas.
Fernando Rojas. DDC

Social media has made it possible for the daughter of a vice-minister of the Cuban regime to show off her stay in the US, her tourism photos to become an instrument for the condemnation of the vice-minister’s hypocrisy,  for him to be attacked on Twitter,  and to respond, also on Twitter. Could one ask for more?

Fernando Rojas, Vice-Minister of Culture, did not deny that it was his daughter. He was glad to clarify that she resides in Havana, and the photos were of a trip; that is, that she was not one of those children of leaders who so distrust society that their parents shuttle them off somewhere far away, to live under other laws.

There are no yachts in those photos in which that young woman shares her delight at exploring new places. They are the kind of images that could be of anyone living off the Island, and her summery clothes betray no signs of luxury. A tweeter asked Vice-Minister Rojas where the money for those getaways comes from, as it can hardly be from his salary. He was also asked about his wife's private business, a spa in Havana, and another wanted to know if there were price caps on the spa's services.

In addition to economic freedom, for some and not for others, at issue was the freedom of movement for some, and not for others. Ministers, vice-ministers and other authorities have managed to so lower the Cuban people's expectations that the mere idea of traveling seems to them a lavish privilege. Through his work, Fernando Rojas restricts freedom of movement and opinion so severely that his daughter in those photos cannot help but come off as a privileged rich girl.

Overwhelmed by the insults leveled at him on Twitter, and, I suppose, regretting having made the decision to retort to those who beset him, he resorted to the usual base rhetoric: his accusers, he said, were guilty of having abandoned their country ... by accusing him, they were accusing Cuba ... they were making those accusations as mercenaries ... some organization must have paying them to get to him and his daughter, depriving her of the pleasure of seeing the world ...

Desperate to terminate the dispute, he replied to one tweeter: "You pay too much attention to my family. Did they ask you to, or are you some kind of Stalinist? " His demand for one to distinguish between who he is, and who his family is, is remarkable, as his use of Stalinism as an insult. At this rate, the day is not far off when members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) will attack their adversaries by calling them Communists.

In fact, Fernando Rojas went to the Vocacional Lenin secondary school, to university in Moscow, is a member of the sole party, and has been Vice-Minister of Culture for too long, not realizing his dream of becoming a minister. He is a Konsomol whose promotion has been frustrated, and he will do everything in his power, through repression and censorship, to achieve his dream, as was manifested in discussions surrounding Decree 349 and in his campaign against Tania Bruguera.

He, his accomplices, and all their predecessors, are precisely those who implemented in Cuban history a policy of not distinguishing between individuals and their families. That regime, of which he forms part, and defends, set about tracing everyone's social origins. For decades, while the Marxism he studied in Moscow prevailed, the regime tracked down the slightest sign of bourgeois elements in families, and once detected, proceeded to obliterate them. And now, despairing and unable to paint any kinds of future for its people, it continues to decide who enters and leaves the country. Its sadistic exploitation of family ties is essential to it. It is a regime of kidnappers, willing to impose separations, to profit from them later.

Those who spawned el cederismo, reluctant compliance with the regime’s dictates, to survive under it; and the repressive eye that extends inside each house, and each family, were also those behind the scrutiny of everyone who lives "above their means". Rojas and Díaz-Canel avow to be the inheritors of the legacy of those leaders, now dead, or nearly. If there has been Stalinism among Cubans, it was imported by them, because none of the previous dictatorships produced anything similar.  

Another episode of Fernando Rojas on Twitter

A few weeks ago, a female tweeter residing abroad chided Vice-Minister Fernando Rojas for the ostracism suffered by Virgilio Piñera. The deputy minister's response consisted of expressing his regret that she had not returned to the country in recent years to witness Piñera's resurgence on Havana's stages.

This kind of maneuver makes it clear how the regime deals with the problematic nature of its past. It took advantage of Virgilio Piñera's weakness to crush him, and now capitalizes on his importance, which it strove hard to thwart. It exploits him in the same way it does the people who had to go into exile, or emigrate.  There will never be any official explanation or apology for everything they did to him. Pablo Milanés is still waiting for the authorities to apologize for having locked him in the UMAP.

And just as they handle the legacies of problematic authors, do so they manipulate the rest of history. Now it is argued that it is the enemies of the Revolution who expand the prosecution of an individual to his entire family, for which they are accused of being Stalinists.

Marx's much-cited phrase about history first being a tragedy, and then a farce, could be adapted and applied to the case of Cuba: first a tragedy, and then a soap opera. Only in this way can it be understood how the great separator of families Fidel Castro could actually champion the family unit when demanding the return of young Elián; or how, in another chapter of this soap opera, the wife of a spy of the so-called "Five Heroes" could undergo a remote, cross-border insemination; or how Fernando Rojas can get angry because they capture his daughter, if only in images. 

I am sorry for the girl, who will not be able to showcase her fun times any longer, no matter how simple, but rather will have to conceal them as guilty pleasures if she does not want her father to suffer more attacks. It is a shame for her, but such are the rules of the game that Vice-Minister Rojas imposes on others, and his coherence as an ideologist must be judged under those same rules, however restrictive they may be.

Something similar can be said about his wife's business, as the suspicions that several tweeters expressed regarding her perfectly mirror the regime's official policy of harrying small-time entrepreneurs. It is Fernando Rojas' ideological allies, not others, who are perturbed by any accumulation of wealth, however legal and meager.

As for the vice minister himself, for years there have been rumors about his vying for a ministerial position, although there are also rumors that this would-be promotion is impossible, given the existence of his anti-Castro brother Rafael Rojas, living in exile. The latter may not be very plausible rumors, but they give one an idea of how contagious guilt is within families in the eyes of the revolutionary authorities.

In the Castroist soap opera, Fernando Rojas gripes on behalf of his family, as he and others like him are wont to do. The road ahead is uphill for them: if they are going to be present on social media, as they seem to have decided to be, they will face unceasing scrutiny, which will be extended to all of their descendants enjoying privileges presumably reserved for the regime and its circle.

“If they are going to be on the networks, their days of not being exposed are over. They will be no more shielded on Twitter as any other tweeter.”  If they want to share their joys, they will have to be consistent, and less and less happy, or openly happy, but increasingly overt in their corruption and hypocrisy.

As another Carlos (Puebla, not Marx) said the commander arrived, ordered a stop, and then the fun was over.

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