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A peasant reported the landing to the government, and Castro's troops began an intensive pursuit of the four rebels, capturing them 28 days later. After a week of interrogation, Gutierrez Menoyo recalls, he was blindfolded and taken from his cell to what he thought would be the wall of a firing squad. When the blindfold was removed, he was facing Castro, Fidel's brother Raul, and some 40 senior members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He remembers clearly Fidel's first words to him: "Eloy, I knew you would come, but I also knew I would catch you."
Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo makes a point of telling everyone how he has overcome his hatred of Castro and dedicated himself to the peaceful healing of his country. Prison, he says, taught him how to coolly view the man who stole a large chunk of his life. "When you spend a long time surrounded only by four walls, you discover that the human being has a series of resources that are incredible," he says. "Among them is the strong sense that if you don't eliminate your hatred, that same hatred will contribute to your destruction."
He would never call Castro a "demented criminal" or any of the other names tossed about so frequently in the exile community. "Castro is our adversary, and in our adversary we must recognize intelligence and astuteness," he states. "And since he's a smart individual who's managed to remain in power all of these years, we have to realize that he will be willing to negotiate to save at least a fraction of what he has built in Cuba."
The country's economic ruin is certain if Castro continues refusing to deal with opponents both on and off the island, he asserts, adding that even the dramatic steps recently announced by the Cuban government -- legalizing the possession of U.S. dollars and allowing exiles to visit relatives in Cuba -- only prolong the inevitable. "The Cuban nation is still on the verge of an economic collapse," he stresses. "It may happen in the near-term or the medium-term, depending on what Castro does to delay it, but it will happen. What will it mean? It will mean that Cuban mothers will not have a way to feed their children. It will create an anarchic situation that will probably lead to a civil war and hundreds of thousands of sick and dead. We'll have the equivalent of a Bosnia and a Somalia in Cuba, and, of course, that will bring U.S. intervention and a loss of national sovereignty for decades. Many people don't understand what war means, but I do."
Gutierrez Menoyo says his concerns about Cuba's sovereignty and its people's suffering led him to oppose the Torricelli Law (named for New Jersey Democratic Rep. Robert Torricelli), designed to tighten the U.S. embargo against Cuba. While Gutierrez Menoyo supports using the embargo as a negotiating tool, he labels the Toricelli Law another Platt Amendment, through which Congress in 1901 gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba's internal affairs. And he asks why the United States would want to participate with Castro in the destruction of the Cuban economy. "With the Torricelli Law, the United States is trying to stab Fidel Castro 40 times to finish him off," he says. "But since Castro is dying anyway, it doesn't matter. What matters is that the Cuban people are also receiving those 40 knife wounds."
Many of Gutierrez Menoyo's positions were outlined in a Cambio Cubano manifesto published as a full-page ad in El Nuevo Herald and other Spanish-language newspapers on March 18 of this year, two months after the announcement of the group's formation. Since then, members of the incipient organization have been busy compiling phone lists of media organizations, seeking contacts with influential Washington officials, and searching for ways to finance their activities. But it is Gutierrez Menoyo who remains the center of attention both for those inside Cambio Cubano and those who keep an eye on it. He seems well aware that officials in Havana and Washington are more likely to be impressed by political clout than by personal travail. And he knows Cambio Cubano will only succeed in gaining that clout at the expense of the Cuban American National Foundation and other right-wing organizations based in Miami. Cambio Cubano's March manifesto contained its share of barbs, nearly all of them reserved for the Cuban American right. "We wish to contribute to the projection of a new image for Cuban exiles," reads a typical passage, "which we will use to wipe out the -- to some extent justified Astereotypes of political atavism, right-wing totalitarianism, intellectual intolerance, socioeconomic elitism, and excessive loyalty and support for the United States government during the terms of office of Presidents Reagan and Bush."
Despite his claim of wide support in the Cuban American community, only Gutierrez Menoyo signed the ad. Even now he is reluctant to name other leaders of the organization, explaining that at this early point in its development, he alone must act as front man. He alone must face the political and financial monolith of the Cuban American National Foundation, whose chairman, Jorge Mas Canosa, rejects the notion of dialogue with Castro.