Castro's daughter rails against her father 'I'm a prisoner' in Cuba, she says

December 23, 1991|By Anne-Marie O'Connor | Anne-Marie O'Connor,Cox News Service

HAVANA -- Alina Fernandez Revuelta doesn't think dictator i the right word to describe her father, Fidel Castro.

"I think the word tyrant is more fitting," said the 35-year-old former model dryly at her home. In recent months, she has emerged as a most unlikely public critic of her famous father.

From her balcony, she scans the street for the plainclothes security men she says are staking out the second-story apartment she shares with her 13-year-old daughter, Alina Maria. "The house is being watched. I found out a few days ago," she said.

"I can't live like this. This is psychological torture. To sit around thinking that my house is filled with microphones and that they are watching," she said.

Ms. Fernandez began her public critique of Cuban socialism a few weeks ago, after an exiled friend revealed that Mr. Castro's ++ daughter had been denied permission to travel abroad. Ms. Fernandez said she does not want to defect but to visit friends in Spain for a month or so. She said she has not been allowed outside Cuba since 1964.

"I'm a prisoner within the boundaries of this island," Ms. Fernandez said.

She realizes the risk of such statements. "The time comes when one must speak," she shrugged. "You have an obligation to tell the truth, and if you can say it out loud, all the better. Because they have silenced many people and taken away their right to speak out."

Ms. Fernandez was fathered in an extramarital affair by Mr. Castro and born while her mother was still married to a wealthy surgeon, who moved to the United States in 1961. She has always had a confused relationship with Mr. Castro. But they were not always so estranged.

Ms. Fernandez was 10 years old when she was told that Mr. Castro was her father. Yet she had been calling him father since after the 1959 Revolution, during the years he came over every night to see her mother, Naty Revuelta.

"I felt very disconcerted, though I always knew he was my father because of the way he treated me," Ms. Fernandez said.

But Mr. Castro largely ignored Ms. Fernandez until she was 15, when he sent a lawyer to legally change her last name to Castro, she said, in an offer to publicly recognize her as his child.

Ms. Fernandez, hurt by the often hostile envy she drew as "Fidel's daughter," refused.

"It seemed ridiculous," she said. "I had enough problems already without adopting his last name."

Her friends say her unstable family life set her up for a lifetime of personal instability.

Ms. Fernandez said she has been married "more than three times." She said her last marriage broke up because Cuban authorities denied her permission to accompany her Mexican husband to his homeland six years ago.

"He waited for a year and couldn't take any more, and then he left. And I still love him very much," she said. "Do you see why I'm talking? I can't hold this inside any longer."

Ms. Fernandez is painfully thin and concedes that she is probably anorexic. She suffers from asthma and other allergies.

Her run-down, two-bedroom apartment is decorated with photos her mother as a secretly revolution-minded Havana socialite of the '50s, and of Alina herself in better days, with her child or gliding down a runway at a fashion show. Photos of Mr. Castro are absent.

Ms. Fernandez says she believes in democracy "in every sense of the word." While she doesn't oppose socialist ideals, she does oppose the manner in which they have been implemented in Cuba.

The oft-uttered Communist Party slogan -- "Socialism or Death" -- is "absurd, so necrophiliac," Ms. Fernandez said. "They should say 'Socialism and Life.' I'm not prepared to sacrifice myself, and I don't think that the rest of Cuba is either," she said. "They're talking about communal soups! We're going back to the era of the French Revolution!"

Ms. Fernandez despises the mounting "acts of repudiation" against dissidents by rock-throwing mobs of Communist Party supporters. Just a few days before this interview, one was staged against a friend, Jorge Crespo, who is a human rights activist. She said he is now under arrest.

In Cuban prisons, she said, "they beat them up. It's true. There is psychological torture in jail."

But she believes that critics of the Cuban state fare better than activists in countries such as El Salvador, where military-linked death squads often kill civilian opposition leaders.

Like most Cubans, Ms. Fernandez's life has been changed by the growing scarcities in Cuba. She said that if standing in line half the night is the only way to get milk these days, she won't drink it.

"Since the fall of the Soviet bloc, this system hasn't functioned," she said. "It became clear that there was a complete dependence on the Soviet Union. And that was a discovery that has alarmed many Cubans."

But she said she does not believe that the rise in scarcities and social tension will ignite a national rebellion like those in the former Soviet bloc. She believes that frustration will translate into crime, which is growing in Cuba.

"This country has arrived at such a level of conformity that people are happy when they give them a bicycle," she said, referring to the government's program to shift from gas-powered vehicles to bicycles due to fuel shortages.

Ms. Fernandez said that her future -- and that of her country -- looks bleak.

Her closest friends have deserted Cuba, leaving her isolated and lonely, she said. She has seen psychologists for depression and says she spends most of her time sleeping.

"I could blow up like a powder keg," she said. "I feel like exploding, and I can't. Sometimes I want to die. But I would never take my own life."

Ms. Fernandez's urge to speak out is becoming tempered with fear over the consequences.

"Believe me, I don't want to say any more about him. I don't want to appear to be attacking him," Ms. Fernandez said, referring to her powerful father. "I don't want them to unleash the devils on me."

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