Alfredo Sánchez Echeverría

* 1936  

  • “The new man is a man who is less laborious, less hardworking and less responsible than the old style of man. He's trying to always get his problems solved by someone else. Because these men are already used to this solutions by the state for all the issues which need to be solved. That is what happens. They come to the United States and they find it hard to adjust to the work and discipline here. Some of them return to Cuba, as they prefer to live there, under that oppressive system that tells you all day what you have to do. But well, in short, you eat badly, but you can walk through the streets. I think there is a big difference between the old man and the man of now. It is one of the great problems that Cuba has to recover. Because fixing the streets and fixing the buildings is just an issue of time and money, but fixing the minds of people is more difficult. We should start by creating new teachers who will be able to implement the values of the citizenship and other rights that have been lost in Cuba, unfortunately. I think that it will take whole generations until Cuba converts into the country that it used to be before.”

  • “Well... The immediate future is a mystery for me and for the people who live in Cuba as well. Raul Castro has said he is gonna retire next year. He seems to be leaving the presidency, but does not leave the Communist Party, where actually resides all the power. In addition to that, real power is in the armed forces and the armed forces are effectively made by Raúl Castro. So, he will continue to have control of the country still for some time. But one day, there will come a moment when he won’t be able to exercise his power, or he will simply die. New generations will come, but these ones are educated in this same environment and no one really knows, nor themselves, how to evolve towards a regime of law which could we actually consider living in freedom. It is difficult to imagine that Cuba could quickly turn into a democratic country.”

  • “Finally, we were moved to Isla de Pinos [Isle of Pines] in 1962. There, the life was a little quieter, they did bother us so much, they made their counting and gave us food that was not so bad, they left us more visits and let them pass things from the street. It was easier for some time, until the famous and cursed Plan Camilo Cienfuegos was implemented to force the political prisoners to work. They simply turned us into slaves. They took us to work in the mornings, and at work they were hitting us and hurting us, they even caused a few deaths while the plan was being in work during those four or five years. The announcement of the plan was made by the prison’s director, who also said that Fidel Castro had authorized him to kill some 60 or 70 prisoners if necessary to get us to work. There at Isla de Pinos, they forced us to work in the marble quarry, and to do works that are being seen in the stories and in the movies – the people had to break stones with machetes, while another ones were carrying stones from one place to another... They took us to cut grass for the animals in Cuba, to make fences for the pastures, to do agricultural work... While you went out in the morning to work, you did not know if you were going to come alive in the afternoon.”

  • “In La Cabaña, on Isla de Pinos, there were political prisoners. But it should be mentioned that the concept of political prisoners there in Cuba differed a little from what we and perhaps also the rest of the world understood as political prisoners. The government politicized a series of crimes as political crimes, such as illegally leaving the country, trafficking foreign currency or dealing with some merchandise. These crimes are not usually political crimes anywhere in the world, nor were they in Cuba. But the government politicized them and there were many people who were in prison like us, accused of political crimes, who were not really fighting against the government.”

  • “Today, I’m telling you, for people with currency, so those who get money, or who receive an income from their relatives abroad, so these people live better. Sometimes, there are enough products, sometimes there are shortages, because the import it is not well organized. Sometimes there are things that are left over, sometimes there are things that are missing. But these people are living better. Meanwhile, people who do not receive any currency income, are having a really bad time. For example, a specialized doctor, a surgeon, gets one thousand two hundred, or one thousand five hundred pesos. In exchange rate of twenty-five to one, how much is a surgeon's salary in dollars... It's very little... Such as twenty, thirty, forty dollars a month. And things in stores are much more expensive, so the things get even worse yet. A refrigerator like the one I have in my house that cost me eight hundred dollars is to be bought today in Cuba for fifteen hundred, or two thousand dollars.”

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“In Cuba, the question is not to fix the broken streets, but to fix the minds of the Cubans.“

Alfredo Sánchez during the recording, Miami, 2017
Alfredo Sánchez during the recording, Miami, 2017
photo: archivo de Post Bellum

Alfredo Sánchez Echeverría was born on July 13, 1936 in Cuba in an intellectual family, as his father was a professor at the University of Havana and later on participated in the last Cuban democratic government (before the dictatorship Fulgencio Batista). Given the political conditions of the struggle of Alfredo’s father against Batista, they had to leave the country and could return to Cuba in the end of 1954. In 1958, when Batista fled from Cuba and the government of Fidel Castro was established, Alfredo’s family continued having political problems. In 1961, Alfredo was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which he served 14 years in different Cuban prisons. In 1975, he was released and two years later, in 1977, he managed to emigrate to Venezuela, where he later on participated in diplomatic dialogues between the Venezuelan government and Cuba on the rescue of Cuban political prisoners. In 1981 he moved from Venezuela to the United States, where he lives in Miami to this day.