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Asking Gutierrez Menoyo if he is frightened by such potential ugliness draws an uncharacteristically disdainful stare. "Look, really," he objects, shaking his head. "Since I was born I've known what it's like to live at risk. I have been in combat on more than twenty occasions, at the point of losing my life. And that life has been one of moving from one danger to the next, from one risky situation to the next. So then if you say to me that here in a free country, where I have the right to give opinions, express myself, and organize others, that I have to be afraid of anyone, I would say calmly to you that for me that is foolishness. No one frightens me, or preoccupies me, or is going to pressure or coerce me or fill me with fear. I live outside of that which is fear."
To listen to Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo argue with opponents is to understand the power of his public speech, with its masterful blend of personal woe and political faith -- themes that for him are as inseparable as mind and body. In a recent on-air interview, he clashed with Marcia Morgado of WCMQ-AM (1210) over the issue of whether Castro and his followers should be made to pay for their crimes.
GUTIERREZ MENOYO: Look, I have lost sight in an eye and hearing in an ear -- the result of a beating. But what I'm saying is this -- when Cuba is liberated, are we going to collect payment for an eye and an ear, or are we going to reconstruct the country? If we dedicate ourselves to collecting payments, Marcia, it won't be a question of collecting three or four in Cuba. There are thousands and thousands. There are more than three decades of suffering, hatred, killing, and torture. When will we stop it? When will we say, 'Enough?'
MORGADO: I believe we will say, 'Enough,' when Cuba is free, when there is a system in which it can be said that this person...suffered at the hands of that person -- beatings, electroshocks, shooting at balseros trying to leave, et cetera -- and that these crimes carry a sentence of five years or fifteen or whatever.
GUTIERREZ MENOYO: Marcia, Marcia. Then we will have to incarcerate thousands and thousands of people.
MORGADO: If it's necessary.
GUTIERREZ MENOYO: No. In the Cuba we want, it will be a lot better to avoid full jails.
Such give-and-take encounters represent just a fraction of Gutierrez Menoyo's daily work. But as dedicated as he is to his cause, he confesses that he also yearns for privacy. His first wife and his daughter now live in Puerto Rico. Gutierrez Menoyo remarried shortly after moving to Miami. He and his wife, Gladys, their two sons, ages one and three, and Gladys's fifteen-year-old daughter from another marriage live in a comfortable suburban house off Miller Drive near Tropical Park. Gladys manages the couple's two businesses, a glass factory and a small medical-care company for homebound elderly patients, while Gutierrez Menoyo devotes himself to Cambio Cubano. He laments not having more time for his wife and children and he relishes those occasional evenings when he can take a swim with his two boys in the backyard pool. Because he speaks only a few words of English, he takes special pride in his sons' acquisition of the language.
"My sentence [in Cuba] would not have been over until far into the next century. For me, a family life was not in the program," he says. "So in spite of all my preoccupations with the Cuban question, whenever I have a half-hour free, I spend it with my children and my wife. I enjoy it to the fullest."
On this Sunday afternoon, Gladys is out of town with the children at a wedding. "If they were here, I would be doing the same thing as I am now," Gutierrez Menoyo observes, "talking to you about the Cuban issue. There is always the tension of knowing that someone could call for an interview or arrive from Cuba at any time. My work knows no schedule. It takes away part of your privacy, part of the enjoyment of family to which I have a right as much as anybody else."
There is a note of defensiveness in these musings, as if all the suffering, all the years in prison, were not enough to justify a dip in a swimming pool. "I guess what I mean to say is that after so much time -- a life, really -- fighting for Cuba, if I could now put it all aside and dedicate myself to my family, that would be fine with me, but not my conscience." He pauses, allowing the modern home to fall silent for a brief moment. Maybe later, when the interview is over, he'll also be able to quiet the house of conscience. Maybe then he will allow himself to relish a few hours of forgetful solitude while he waits for the return of his wife and his children, one of whom is named after his brother Carlos.