FREEDOM FLIGHTS by Lorrin & Rafael Llerena Philipson


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Twenty-five or so Cubans who fled--before the 1980 mass exodus--tell 25 or so very similar stories of repression, disaffection, and (at greatest length) a perilous escape. A number had been revolutionaries or came from revolutionary families; they speak in a general way about the immediate disregard of ""democratic procedures"" and ""growing domination by the Communist Party."" A more specific disillusionment was the course of land reform--which did not make landowners of the campesinos, but resulted rather in the formation of collectives. Younger folk talk of resisting indoctrination, of refusing to be ""integrated into the revolution,"" and of the resulting harassment and surveillance. Many, older and younger, spent years in prison--their accounts of torture, brutality, sickness, and death are the book's strongest sections. Virtually everyone dwells on the lack of food--and the export of food ""while we, ourselves, were hungry."" Others score the rise of a new privileged class, the arrogance of the ""occupying"" Russians, the sacrifice of untrained Cuban youths in Angola. Among the later escapees (from 1978 or 1979), there is near-unanimity that, after 20 years of failed hopes, people have just about given up: ""Every day they are hungrier; they have less to wear; they can speak out less."" And: ""Nobody respects what Fidel says any more."" But all of this--totally lacking in interpretation and analysis--could well be reduced to a feature article. Moreover, the narratives largely consist of tales of escape--the planning, the preparation, the tense approach to the US Guantanamo base or the perilous crossing to Florida. (Two atypical escapees were stowaways--one hid in the fuselage of a plane, the other aboard a Russian ship.) Their willingness to risk their lives underscores their opposition to the regime--but that's about all the book as a whole has to say.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Random House