Oltuski, Enrique 1930-

views updated

OLTUSKI, Enrique 1930-

PERSONAL: Born 1930, in Cuba. Education: University of Miami, graduated, 1954.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Jossey-Bass, 989 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103-1741.

CAREER: Cuban revolutionary. Worked as an architectural engineer in Miami, FL, 1950s; Shell Oil, executive; Cuban government, Deputy Minister of Economics, Deputy Minister of Industry, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Merchant Marine, Minister of Communications.


Vida clandestina: My Life in the Cuban Revolution (memoir), Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A book about Che Guevara.

SIDELIGHTS: Enrique Oltuski's unusual life is documented in his memoir, Vida clandestina: My Life in the Cuban Revolution. Born in Cuba of well-to-do Jewish parents, Oltuski obtained an engineering degree at the University of Miami, returned to Cuba, married and had children, and worked as a Shell Oil executive. But all was not as it seemed. Oltuski was also the leader of the urban wing of Fidel Castro's Twenty-sixth of July Movement, the purpose of which was to overthrow American-controlled dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro felt that reforms could be accomplished only through armed revolt, and Oltuski first took part while still in Miami, where he attempted to buy arms for the revolution. He continued to serve the revolutionary cause when he returned to the island.

Oltuski led a double life as a businessman and member of the elite class by day and a guerrilla by night, taking part in assassinations and bombings, working on the underground newspaper, raising money for weapons, and pursuing social justice for the Cuban people. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "through his tale of secret meetings, assignments, committees, and endless discussions of revolutionary theory, Oltuski is able to elucidate the messy progression of the uprising."

His job required that he travel, giving Oltuski the perfect cover for his operations. His code name was Sierra, and only his wife knew of his participation in the group. Before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, nearly 20,000 revolutionaries were lost. Oltuski was given the position of Deputy Minister of Industry under Che Guevara, one of the most romanticized figures of the Cuban Revolution, who died in Bolivia at a young age.

Oltuski was denied a visa by the U.S. Department of State for a planned visit to promote his book, because, the government said, there wasn't enough time to process the request before his arrival. Oltuski did travel to Canada, however, and Michael Posner of the Globe and Mail reported on the visit, reviewed the book, and spoke with Oltuski. According to the author, although he and his own family were wealthy, the poverty and suffering around him moved him to take part in the revolution. He noted that American corporations controlled Cuba at that time, and very few Cubans benefited from the wealth that was being generated.

During the Cuban missile crisis, Oltuski was Deputy Minister of Economics, and when the crisis was over he was part of the first trade group to travel to Moscow. "They were very friendly," he told Posner, "but inside our hearts, we were disappointed. The guided missiles were withdrawn, but the moral missiles remained."

Oltuski said that Castro is preparing for his own succession, will hand over his command to the young when that time comes, and that the Cuban revolution will endure. He said current times remain abnormal. "We have a very important enemy only ninety miles away—not the American people whom we love, but the American government."

Oltuski noted that "for forty years, we have been under a severe economic blockade. Companies that do business with us are not allowed to do business with Americans. They talk about human rights, but what human rights do they practice? And now they call us one of the seven terrorist states! That's a big, big lie." Oltuski claims that some of the world's most dangerous terrorists live in Miami and are protected by the U.S. government. He concluded his interview with Posner by saying that "the world is facing a dark period ahead. We have to get together, not just to save humanity, but to save the planet."

Oltuski was in his seventies when his memoir was published. His revolutionary spirit remained strong and he continued to work for the Castro government as Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Merchant Marine. He is planning another book, this one about working for Che Guevara.

Library Journal reviewer Mark L. Grover noted that the Cuban archives have been opened and new accounts of the revolution published. He said that this book "is an interesting read, with a large number of stories that have never been told," and felt that it "provides additional insight" into the period about which Oltuski writes.



Oltuski, Enrique, Vida clandestina: My Life in theCuban Revolution, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2002.


Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 3, 2002, Michael Posner, review of Vida clandestina and author interview, p. R4.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of Vida clandestina, p. 939.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Mark L. Grover, review of Vida clandestina, p. 75.*