The first book that Gabriel García Márquez gifted to Fidel Castro was Dracula. It was the mid-1970s and the Cuban leader, engaged in the war in Angola, had admitted to his friend that he barely had time to read. Like a kind of literary pusher, the author continued to provide Castro with bestsellers, easy reads to provide a little rest from the revolution. In exchange, Castro became a tough editor of García Márquez’s early manuscripts. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, inspired by a real event, he had the author change even the caliber of the weapons in the novel.
The friendship had begun earlier, the fruit of a dual fascination – of the journalist García Márquez for the trappings of power and Castro’s for the great intellectuals – but it was always steeped in literature, to the extent that García Márquez signed over the copyright to Chronicle of a Death Foretold to the Cuban government, according to a document produced by the Mexican intelligence service and dated March 17, 1982. The informant quoted in the files concluded that “Gabriel García Márquez, as well as being pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet, is an agent of propaganda in the service of the Intelligence Directorate of that country.”
The Nobel Prize-winning writer’s familiarity with Cuba and the rest of Latin America’s leftist governments and guerrillas seems to have been what most preoccupied the Federal Security Directorate (DFS), Mexico’s political spying service during the monolithic regime of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power in the country for over seven decades from 1929 to 2000. The dossier on García Márquez runs from the late 1960s, shortly after he took up residence in Mexico, to 1985, when the agency was dissolved.
EL PAÍS has had access to over 100 declassified files via a formal transparency request lodged with the Mexican General Archive of the Nation. The dossier contains details of how García Márquez was shadowed at public events and private meetings, of photographs taken at his door when he received guests and an exhaustive record of his trips to Cuba from 1975 onward, when the author was drawn more deeply into the bosom of Castroism after a period of estrangement.
García Márquez and Cuba
With no passport and no luggage, García Márquez arrived in Havana for the first time just days after the triumph of the revolution, in January 1959. Invited by Castro as a correspondent for Prensa Latina, the official Cuban state news agency recently co-founded by García Márquez himself, the then-journalist spent six months on the island. After the initial idyll, Communist Party control of the agency and Castro’s definitive jump into the arms of Moscow led to a cooling of relations. That parenthesis coincided with the author’s residence in Barcelona, alongside other leading figures of the Latin American literary boom who were disenchanted with the Cuban dream, such as Mario Vargas Llosa.
During his European years, García Márquez was shaken by another world event: the 1973 military coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. “It was a turning point and served to confirm a period of political radicalization that once again brought him back to Cuba and to militant journalism. He even went so far as to say he would write no more literature until [dictator Augusto] Pinochet had fallen,” says Jaime Abello, a personal friend of the author and director of the Gabo Foundation. At that time, García Márquez had already written One Hundred Years of Solitude and his popularity was rising. However, in the midst of his militant turn, in 1975 he published a glowing report on Castro’s Cuba in the Colombian magazine Alternativas, which he himself founded as a tool for political agitation.
This was the period when García Márquez featured most heavily in the archives of the Mexican Federal Security Directorate. In addition to monitoring his visits to Havana, the files record García Márquez’s support for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and his mediation, under the condition of anonymity, to get Mexican television to broadcast an interview with four military leaders of El Salvador’s FMLN guerrilla movement. There are also records of his meetings with Régis Debray, a French revolutionary and comrade-in-arms of Che Guevara who went on to become an advisor to former French president François Mitterrand.
In the view of Mexican researcher Jacinto Rodríguez, who is writing a book on the DFS’ spying activities against intellectuals during that time, García Márquez’s file is evidence that he was under “a soft tailing, we could say a normal one. He was always regarded as a foreigner who could not involve himself in national issues and who furthermore always exercised great caution.” Rodríguez gives the examples of the Mexican poet Octavio Paz, whose income and debts were monitored, and the Argentinean-French author Julio Cortázar, whose private correspondence was intercepted, as cases that were treated more thoroughly by the DFS. Money and privacy were two of the spy service’s favored weapons for pressure, coercion and punishment.
The silent repression of the PRI
García Márquez’s most politically radical years coincided with the most brutal era of repression in Mexico. From the 1970s, a criminal alliance between the army and the police gave rise to the murderous and systematic persecution of guerrillas and any other dissidents. It was an offensive embedded as state policy for iron-fisted PRI governments up to at least the end of the 1980s.
This era is still surrounded by impunity and oblivion, highlighting the sophisticated contradictions of the PRI regime: while it opened its arms to political refugees fleeing the dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, at home, it quietly liquidated any social opposition. García Márquez’s declassified files make no mention of any criticism of these dark activities in Mexico, but experts have not ruled out that the material made available could be incomplete and that there may be more that remains, for the moment, wrapped in secrecy. “To what extent was he directly involved in matters that directly interested or affected Mexico? It is still a gray area in his biography,” says Abello.
García Márquez arrived in Mexico in 1961 after leaving the Prensa Latina correspondent’s office in New York. Disenchanted with political journalism, his objective was to try his luck in the world of cinema, another of his passions. The first DFS reports were not filed until 1968, the year of social protests and the Tlatelolco massacre in which over 200 unarmed students were killed by the army (although the figures were never precise).
In December of that tumultuous year, the DFS dossier recorded the creation of the Habeas Foundation, a personal project for García Márquez. It was an organization designed to defend human rights, above all in the case of political prisoners. The DFS informant summed up the foundation’s objectives: “To protect and support, financially and legally, people with a Marxist-Leninist ideology who, because of their participation in guerrilla or terrorist organizations, are shielded under the concept of political persecution.”
The Habeas Foundation took on dictatorships of various kinds, from Argentina to Chile and Panama, and even democracies such as his native Colombia, itself mired in a guerrilla war. The future Nobel winner threw himself into the foundation during its early years. “It’s what I do the most, I think even more than I write,” he said. The foundation faced criticism over the supposed soft handling of denunciations against the Cuban regime or the 1968 repression in Mexico. Octavio Paz’s entourage, which had temporarily severed ties with the PRI, accused García Márquez derisively of having swapped “magical realism for socialist realism.”
Jacinto Rodríguez also notes the extreme prudence exercised by García Márquez with regard to Mexican politics. “They were not so much concerned about him, who was seen as being on the right side, as about the doors that could be opened by keeping a close eye on someone who was so well-connected, with so many contacts.” The majority of people who visited García Márquez at his Mexico home are blacked out in the files, but among them are the secretary general of the Chilean Communist Party and the political counselor at the Cuban Embassy.
The shadow of the CIA
Another pattern that shows up in the files with blacked-out portions corresponding to García Márquez’s contacts is the repeated mention of the United States: “The American authorities are interested in this person…” The Mexican DFS was founded the same year as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 1947, and the long working relationship between both has been noted often, laying bare another paradox of the PRI regime, which vented the anti-US rhetoric of the era while at the same time bowing to Washington’s political police.
Rodríguez acknowledges that “the work of the DFS tends to be interpreted as a bridge with other agencies, but the Mexican service had its own interests very much in mind.” In the case of organizations like Habeas, for example, the DFS carried out “preventive control of the extent of its activities to anticipate possible interference in Mexico.” The Mexican Secretariat for Home Affairs, Rodríguez adds, had a registry of over 200 international human rights organizations.
The DFS dossier also made note of García Márquez’s Nobel Prize, awarded on October 21, 1981. A few days later, the writer received the Order of the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican government. During his acceptance speech, García Márquez spoke of his “pride and gratitude” and underlined, speaking directly to “Mr President,” that “this distinction from your government also honors all those exiles who have taken refuge in Mexico.”
The “Mr President” in question was José López Portillo, who while receiving exiles escaping from Latin American dictatorships was also spying on García Márquez and overseeing the Dirty War in his own country.
Census 2022 – what difference does it make?
Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.
But what it is it all about?
At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.
The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.
Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.
Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.
And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.
Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture
Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.
At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.
During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.
When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”
He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.
House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022
House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.
Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.
The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.
Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.
This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.
MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.
“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.
“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.
“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.
“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.
He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.
Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.
Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.
The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.
“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”
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