Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

July 19, 1999.

THOUGHTS ABOUT 'MADMEN' OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD By Ivan Garcia, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - To be a dissident in Cuba "you have to be mad." At least that seems to be the opinion of the average Cuban. To oppose the regimen could mean years in jail and constant harassment. Jesus Ruiz, 53, does not feel the same. Ruiz was a bureaucrat who was "tronado" (fired, replaced) according to the neighbors.

With that misfortune came the madness. Jesus walks up and down Diez de Octubre (10th of October, a main street ), his dirty clothes in tatters, with an overgrown graying beard and a frightful smell. With a thundering voice he shouts insults against Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, while he walks along.

Lunatic dissident

Nobody knows just why he walks and shouts. The people seem to enjoy his reaction when they shout huzzas to the revolution, just to set him off. Jesus' reaction then turns into a delirious spectacle. He throws stones and shouts all the louder his insults to the president.

In the queues, one of the few organized civil societies left in Cuba, Jesus'presence makes the waiting bearable. One July afternoon, crazy Ruiz, barefoot in the middle od the street started into one of his high voltage diatribes against the government. A policeman demanded that he stop but all he obtained for his command was to completely exasperate Jesus.

Jesus screamed, "Kill me if you must but I...(obscenity)...in Fidel and Raul Castro's mother and yours too!"

The inexperienced policeman handcuffed Jesus and threatened to "bring him in." This caused everybody waiting to catch one of the "camellos" (a buslike form of public transport) to start shouting their public rebuke: "Bully, stop your abuse!"

Others waiting to buy potatoes in the "agro" store joined in, even those standing in line for the "guarapo" (sugar cane juice) joined the protest. The scene took place in the heart of La Vibora, a central Havana neighborhood.

The policeman, by then frightened, removed the handcuffs and left in a hurry. The lunatic dissident fell on his knees, thanked the solidarity shown by the crowd and continued to walk about shouting against the regime. An elderly lady commented, "He may be the only person in all of Cuba...speaking this way about Fidel...if the opposition would do as much...this would have been over a long time ago. One must recognize he is a brave madman..."

A war dog

Pedro Gutierrez is no longer there. His absence was felt around the neighborhood for many days. When somebody said Pedro had died, nobody believed him at first. Pedrito was a pleasant madman. He was 60 but did not seem that old. He enjoyed imitating salsa singers. He dressed as close as he could to their style - of course a bit more soiled - with his mahogany cane and his inseparable bottle of 100-proof alcohol, the beverage of choice for those who are "marginated."

Pedrito brought his madness from Africa. He was one of the 300,000 Cubans sent to fight in the 15-year war between Angola, South Africa and the troops of Jonas Savimbi. Pedro was not just any soldier. The story goes he was a colonel in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). War, always with his sidekick, Death, leaves many scars. Madness is one of them.

That "label" was tacked to Col. Gutierrez. A rainy night, surrounded by the enemy, in the midst of the Angolan jungle, a summary judgement had been held. Pedrito had ordered an Angolan soldier executed, supposedly for being a traitor. But the colonel had strangled the man barehanded. A bullet would have given away their position.

It seemed like the gaze of the dying soldier drove him mad. Col. Gutierrez was never sure of the treachery. Once back in Cuba his madness was called "incurable" and he was let go from the FARC. Then excessive drinking caused him to lose his family. He lived in the streets, singing to chase away the ghosts of his conscience. It is not known if there was an accident or an illness that took Pedro Gutierrez. For him it was a relief...payment for his faults.

Ivan Garcia, Cuba Free Press.


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