The Observer (United Kingdom)
Sunday March 24, 2002

Castro's rebellious daughter leads vitriolic radio attack from Miami

                                                  As Cuba's communist regime enters its twilight years,
                                                  a family feud is fuelling democratic hopes
                                                  Cuba after Castro: Observer special

                                                  Ed Vulliamy in Havana

                                                  A savage new voice of opposition to Fidel Castro's regime is
                                                  being beamed into Havana from a Miami radio station. The
                                                  owner of that voice is Fidel's daughter.

                                                  Over the past month Alina Fernández Revuelta has become the
                                                  latest talk-show host to hit the cacophonous airwaves in Cuba's
                                                  fin-de-communist epoch.

                                                  'Buenas noches, amigos' - good evening, friends - she kicks off
                                                  the show, entitled Simplemente Alina - Simply Alina. The
                                                  programme makes no mention of who she is - 'people just
                                                  know,' she says.

                                                  Of all the dissidents hovering over Castro's final years,
                                                  Fernández may be among the most damaging. 'I do not refer to
                                                  Mr Castro as my father,' says Fernández. 'I do not love him, I
                                                  am his exile.'

                                                  Fernández's opposition to her father's regime is the stuff of
                                                  heated family drama. It is also the story of the child who came
                                                  to hate her father and everything that he represented, and
                                                  defected to ally herself with his bitterest enemies, a group that
                                                  has for years plotted in Miami for his downfall.

                                                  Disgusted with Cuban politics as a young woman, Fernández
                                                  joined the opposition, only to find herself persecuted by her
                                                  father's government. She defected to the US in 1993, travelling
                                                  on a false Spanish passport and heavily disguised via Madrid,
                                                  before introducing herself to the Cuban exile opposition -
                                                  literally, across a table in its unofficial headquarters, the
                                                  Versailles restaurant in Miami's Little Havana.

                                                  In 1997 Fernández published a memoir describing visits by her
                                                  father engulfed in 'stinking' cigar smoke and his omnipotent
                                                  presence in her early life. She recalls one box-wrapped gift of a
                                                  doll for her to play with: of himself, with full beard, military
                                                  fatigues, red star epaulettes, cap and boots.

                                                  The emergence of the soft-spoken Fernández as the new star of
                                                  Cuba's exile radio comes hot on the heels of the revelation last
                                                  year that Castro had another love-child, Francisca Pupo, also
                                                  living in Miami.

                                                  Fernández was also born illegitimately, the fruit of a summer
                                                  fling between Castro and a Havana socialite, Natalya Revuelta,
                                                  while both were married. She communicates only by letter with
                                                  her mother and is harshly denounced by her aunt - Castro's
                                                  sister, Juanita Castro, who also lives in Miami.

                                                  'I would like to be in touch with family members' in Havana,
                                                  Fernández says, 'but I just can't do it, I'm the enemy. It's
                                                  ridiculous, but that's the way it is.'

                                                  In the dynastic politics of Cuba, the personal is political. When
                                                  Castro dies, his brother Raúl, Defence Minister, is slated to take

                                                  Fernández is of a younger generation, and at 46 is unhappy with
                                                  the way her father and his relations have kept power. She is
                                                  'doing whatever I can to spread the reality of life in Cuba'.

                                                  Last week Fernández - whose show began six weeks ago - led
                                                  a debate on how Mexico handed back to the authorities a
                                                  bus-load of asylum-seekers who poured into its Havana
                                                  embassy. 'We cannot forget what happens to Cubans who have
                                                  been returned to the regime,' she said.

                                                  Another show gathered together survivors of the infamous Mariel
                                                  boatlift in 1980 of 125,000 refugees, her guests recounting their
                                                  ordeals at home and at sea. She has even invited members of
                                                  the hated right-wing Cuban American National Federation on to
                                                  her programme.

                                                  Her hope for change, she says, lies in 'democracy, not
                                                  charismatic leaders, because some dynamic leaders become
                                                  dictators', she says. 'Gandhi was a good leader. Nehru was a
                                                  good leader. But Fidel has ruined his own country. My
                                                  generation has been the victim of the manipulation of Cuban

                                                  The station's programming director, Chuny Montaner, said: 'She
                                                  has a soft approach, but that doesn't mean she's soft at all.'

                                                  A recent interview shows Fernández to be a nervous, complex
                                                  woman, prone to biting her nails. Other accounts detail four
                                                  marriages and a battle with anorexia.