Our Everyday War / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Cuban president Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (DC)

The Cuban president Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (DC)

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 31 January 2016 – Let’s get right down to it. The current conflict that divides half the planet, and especially Latin Americans, is between neo-populism and authoritarian democracy, against liberal democracy. I just developed a short course on the subject at the Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala. I do not know any other institution so committed to economic and political freedom. Impressive.

In the neo-populist corner of the ring appear, to the left, Father Marx, statism, cronyism, Liberation Theology, the Dependency Theory, Eduardo Galeano, Che Guevara, Ernesto Laclau, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro, all mixed up, plus the other issues: long-lasting caudillos, excessive public spending, ALBA, 21st Century Socialism, the Sao Paulo Forum and a tense et cetera with a closed fist and a street slogan on its lips. Continue reading

A Calamity Called Evo / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. (Flickr)

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. (Flickr)

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 24 January 2016 — Evo Morales has already served 10 years as president of Bolivia. He is the person who has occupied the post for the longest consecutive time since Simón Bolívar was inaugurated in 1825. He is in his third term. It will end in 2019.

It seems too little. He is not happy. He wants to be reelected when that date arrives. For him, generational change and the circulation of the elites sparks nervous laughter. He has called a referendum to be able to run a fourth time, which would put him in the presidential chair in 2025, and celebrating two hundred years since the inauguration of the Republic. Continue reading

The Unfinished Cold War / Carlos Alberto Montaner

Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan (DC)

Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan (DC)

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 16 January 2016 — Again, thousands of Cubans are preparing to enter the United States. The first have already arrived. It is an old and exhausted story. They have come in massive numbers since 1959, when the Castro brothers’ communist dictatorship began. This time they are coming via Costa Rica.

Since 1966, Cubans have received preferential treatment from United States immigration authorities. They call it the “Cuban Adjustment Act. It is one of the multiple exceptions in the complex US legislation on migration. Continue reading

The Day the Prisoners Are Freed in Venezuela / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Photographs of former President Hugo Chavez being removed from Parliament. (Youtube)

Photographs of former President Hugo Chavez being removed from Parliament. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 9 January 2016 – I couldn’t avoid the sense of déjà vu. It brought to mind Eduardo Suarez, formerly with El Mundo, a professional of the image with a fine instinct for the news. Hugo Chavez’s photographs being expelled from the new Venezuelan National Assembly brought back to me the unforgettable episodes at the end of European communism, with the statues of Stalin rolling on the ground in the midst of a glorious dust.

Somehow, what happened in Caracas is a continuation of those events. It is with good reason that the Chavistas and their fellow travelers proclaimed themselves cultivators of 21st Century Socialism, although with much less violence than that of the 20th century, but with the same level of incompetence and perhaps even more corruption. It was the enormous amount of patronage, collectivism and disdain for the ways of liberal democracy that allowed this to happen, in the time after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the total discrediting of Marxist superstitions. Continue reading

Cuba And The Three Questions / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

"Revolution is not lying. Ever." Revolutionary propaganda in Havana. (Wikicommons)

“Revolution is not lying. Ever.” Revolutionary propaganda in Havana. (Wikicommons)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 2 January 2016 — The Castros have been in power for 57 years. At this point, general curiosity is limited to formulating three disturbing questions. Why have they lasted so long? Is it a failure, as their opponents say, or a success, as their supporters claim? What will happen after this extremely long-lasting government, the longest in the history of the Americas?

The Castros’ government has been so enduring because it is a dictatorship that does not seek the consent of society, nor does it dedicate itself to obeying it. On the contrary, its efforts are permanently dedicated to directing and controlling it.

The secret of this permanence is to convert people into sheep and to conveniently keep them penned up. To these ends a formidable apparatus of counterintelligence is organized, with some 60,000 people and a proven repressive script. That amounts to 0.5% of the population, consistent with the infallible formula learned from the German Stasi which, along with the KGB, was the mother and teacher of the Cuban services. Continue reading

The Latin American Spring / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Mauricio Macri, the new president of Argentina (Photo EFE)

Mauricio Macri, the new president of Argentina (Photo EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 12 December 2015 — Has the Latin American Spring finally sprung? Perhaps. There are signs. Antonio Machado records the doubt in his Canciones: “Spring has come, nobody knows how.”

All springs are different.

Eastern Europe’s, in the second half of the eighties, was possible because the stars surprisingly aligned themselves under the firmament of absolute disgust with Real Socialism, sunk in economic failure and political disrepute. It was the glorious moment of Havel, Walesa, Reagan, John Paul II, Sakharov and especially Gorbachev, a naïve and melancholy gravedigger for that sinister undertaker forged by the KGB and the Red Army. Continue reading

Tribute to Ricardo Bofill / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Cuban activist Ricardo Bofill. (Youtube)

Cuban activist Ricardo Bofill. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 9 December 2015 – We are gathered on Human Rights Day, a great opportunity to offer Ricardo Bofill the tribute he deserves.

Bofill, Gustavo and Sebastian Arcos, Martha Frayde and another handful of patriots, changed the history of Cuba from the depths of a cell. They were imprisoned for opposing the Stalinist dictatorship of the Castros and everyone from the ranks of the Revolution.

Imprisoned and isolated, they modified the axis of the Cuban struggles. Starting with the creation of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, in the remote decade of the seventies, the political battle, where it was anything goes, became a battle for the dignity of the individual.

And it was not anything goes. They could not achieve good ends through violent means. Continue reading

Macri And The End Of Populism In Argentina / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)

The change in Argentina is expected to lead to a change in hemispheric relations. In the picture, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández, Lula Da Silva, Nicanor Duarte and Hugo Chavez signed the agreement for the foundation of Banco del Sur (The Bank of the South). (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 23 November 2015 — The victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina is the triumph of common sense over strained discourse and failed emotions. It is also the arrival of modernity and the burial of a populist stage that should have disappeared long ago.

There is a successful way of governing. It is the one used in the 25 leading nations of the planet, among which should be Argentina, as it had been in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Everyone hopes that Macri will lead the country in that direction.

Which are those nations? Those recorded in all rigorous manuals, from the Human Development Index published by the United Nations, to Doing Business from the World Bank, to Transparency International. Some twenty compilations agree, however they stack up: the same ones always appear at the top of the list. Continue reading

The Sad Ballad of Cuban Emigration / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Cubans return to Costa Rican soil after Nicaraguan police and soldiers prevented them from continuing their journey to the US. (La Nación)

Cubans return to Costa Rican soil after Nicaraguan police and soldiers prevented them from continuing their journey to the US. (La Nación)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 21 November 2015 — Another stampede of Cubans. It happens from time to time. An editorial in Costa Rica’s La Nación offers a strong description of how the government of that country reacted: “First duty, to protect the victims.” The Costa Ricans gave them transit visas and, as they are stranded at the border, quickly built provisional shelters to feed and house them.

Bravo! This is what a civilized nation does. These are not animals. They are more than 1,700 people. They are not criminals, as a Nicaraguan Sandinista deputy unjustly labeled them. The criminals are the military and the police who are clubbing unarmed and peaceful immigrants. They are frightened individuals and families – children, pregnant women – almost all young, who are trying to reach the United States border by land, after traveling over a thousand miles from Ecuador. Continue reading

Nicolas Maduro’s Two Plans / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Venezuelan president on his television program 'In Touch with Maduro'

The Venezuelan president on his television program ‘In Touch with Maduro’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 7 November 2015 — Nicolas Maduro knows he will lose the election on December 6. The disaster is too intense. So say all the polls. Ninety percent of Venezuelans want a change. Eighty percent blame Maduro. Seventy percent are determined to vote against this thoroughly incompetent government.

Venezuelans are tired of lining up to buy milk, toilet paper, whatever. The inflation horrifies them. Everything is more expensive every day that passes. The salary of a month is consumed in a week. The corruption disgusts them. They know and intuit that the Chavista leadership is an association of crooks with no lack of narco-traffickers, all colluding to plunder the country. Lacking flour, violence is the daily arepa (bread). Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. And one of the filthiest. (This is also what Cubanization is: Wreckage and sewage running in the streets on the worn out pavement full of potholes.)

But Maduro blindly obeys an axiom of the Castros: “The Revolution will never surrender.” The Revolutiuon is actually a verbal construction that, in reality, means The Power. The Power is what is never handed over. The Revolution is a plastic thing that transforms itself so as not to lose power. The verbal construction has other rhetorical components: “the people, social justice, anti-imperialism, the oppressed poor, the greedy rich, multinational exploiters, the Yankee enemy.” There are hundreds of expressions that arm the story. Continue reading

Gulliver Against Twelve Thousand Dwarves / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in his address to the 70th UN General Assembly. (MFA)

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in his address to the 70th UN General Assembly. (MFA)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 31 October 2015 – Cuba 191, United States 2. This is called a diplomatic beating. One-hundred-ninety-one countries at the United Nations voted in favor of a resolution presented by Cuba against the commercial and financial restrictions imposed by the United States on the Castros’ government in 1961. Only two nations opposed it: The United States and Israel.

It has been happening for a long time. The novelty is that this year Obama’s government secretly celebrated it, although the law and common sense oblige American diplomacy to reject the resolution. The president himself has urged Congress to repeal the measure.

In any case, the United States, truly, was not defended. At the end of the day, these UN resolutions are not binding. It is pure propaganda within an organization so discredited that it chose Venezuela and Ecuador to belong to a committee that monitors the observance of Human Rights, which is like putting the fox to guard the henhouse. Continue reading

The Terrible Time of the Strongmen / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Brazil to protest against corruption. (Twitter / Telenoticias)

Hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Brazil to protest against corruption. (Twitter / Telenoticias)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 August 2015 — Latin America’s streets are filled with people protesting angrily against their governments. The protests are against governments of the left (Venezuela – the worst of all, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua and Argentina); against those of the center (Peru and Mexico); and against those of the right (Guatemala and Honduras). Surely others will be added along the way.

Those who have taken to the streets in Latin America are essentially protesting for one, several or all of the following twelve reasons: corruption, inefficiency, insecurity against violent crime, the impunity of criminals, the subordination of the other republican branches of government – the legislative and the judicial – to the will of the executive, the blatant change in the rules to stay in power indefinitely, the violation of human rights, electoral tricks, control over the media, shortages, the abuse of rights previously granted to unions or indigenous peoples, and the irresponsible abuse of the delicate ecosystem.

The general perception is that the region is being governed terribly badly, which in part explains the longstanding relative backwardness Continue reading

Corruption and its Three Enormous Harms / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Protest against corruption in Spain (Flickr/CC)

Protest against corruption in Spain: “They don’t govern, they steal!” (Flickr/CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 25 April 2015 – Mexico and corruption are two words that always go hand in glove, or as the Columbians mischievously say, “grab each other’s peepees.”

Corruption in Venezuela is greater, and that of Argentina is not far behind, according to Transparency International, but to judge by what is happening in Chile, Brazil and Cuba, it seems to be a bad Latin American epidemic.  The continent, with few exceptions, is a pigsty.

In any case, the Mexican government wants to end corruption. It was about time. Is that possible? When did it start? They tell you, laughing, as soon as you set foot in the country.

The Spanish conquistadors tortured Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec chieftain, to make him reveal where he hid the gold: Continue reading

I Am Nothing Else But Cuban / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Carlos Alberto Montaner. 14ymedio

Carlos Alberto Montaner. 14ymedio

Interview with Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer, journalist and political

REINALDO ESCOBAR, Havana, 24 June 2014 — Carlos Alberto Montaner has long been a kind of black beast in the official Cuban government propaganda. Accused of being a terrorist, a CIA agent, an eminence gris in the world counterrevolution, in real life he is an academic and journalist who has been involved in politics without losing his vocation as a writer. In his home in Miami, in front of a window where the bipolar horizon is divided between Cuba and Florida, he responds to 14ymedio’s questions.

Question: You’ve had four passions: teaching, journalism, politics and literature. You’ve alternated between them, although at times some have predominated over others. Will it continue this way?

Answer: For four years I was a professor at a university in Puerto Rico, I enjoyed what I did. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, lecturing, giving classes. But I continue to do journalism, I haven’t renounced politics, and more and more I want to write novels.

Question: Journalism has many dilemmas: fulfill a political assignment, please the readers as if information were one more commodity, and make a commitment to the truth. How do you decide?

Answer: This is greatly debated today. In the United States they want to turn journalists into an objective machine, without a heart or compassion, that can’t make moral judgments, because that’s supposedly discredited. I think that’s a mistake. In these different lives that one has for the different occupations, there are many responsibilities: you have to take care of your family, there is a professional responsibility, and there is a civic responsibility to the wider society in which you live, and this requires making decisions of a moral character which are sometimes at odds with journalism’s too narrow criteria. Continue reading

The State as Pimp / Carlos Alberto Montaner

castrochulosThe 33 presidents and dignitaries who visited Havana were left in awe. None knew how, albeit very precariously, with the buildings in ruins and on the edge of catastrophe, Cuba managed to sustain itself. Perhaps with the exception of Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro, who has second sight and an ongoing dialogue with birds, who keep him fully informed.

None was unaware that the two-hundred-year-old sugar industry had been liquidated and scrapped by the fierce incapacity of the leadership. Everyone knew that the tobacco and rum trademarks were sold to European multinationals long ago. It was clear that the fishing fleet hadn’t existed since the nineties. However, the Island, managing to scrape by, imported 80% of everything society needed, including food, medicine and a substantial part of the energy.

How did they do it? Where’s the catch? Where did the money come from?

I heard it for the first time from a European diplomat who had lived in Cuba. Later it was popularized. The model created by the Castros is the State as Pimp. Pimping is a criminal behavior that consists of obtaining benefits from another person who is forced to work through coercion or the promise of protection. Generally it applies to prostitution, but not only. It is also known colloquially as “chulería.”

It’s an awkward name, but in sync with the reality the circulates in whispers between Cubans on the Island. The government has specialized in extorting its own citizens or allies, to whom it offers services of espionage and social control, its only two specialties or “comparative advantages,” as economic jargon would have it. Fifty-five years after the establishment of the dictatorship, almost all the significant sources of income that sustain the country come from murky businesses conducted abroad.

The Venezuelan subsidy: Calculated at 13 billion dollars a year by Professor Carmelo Mesa-Lago, dean of Cuban economists in this area. This includes more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day, of which half is re-exported and sold in Spain. Another 30,000 apparently go to Petro Caribe, giving rise to a double corruption of political support and illicit enrichment.

The public source of this information is the expert Pedro Mantellini, one of the great authorities on the issue of Venezuelan oil. He explained it to Maria Elvira Salazar on her program in Miami on CNN Latino. Caracas buys international influence based on oil, but shares with its Cuban accomplices the management of these gifts. Cuba, after all, is the metropolis.

Trafficking in doctors and healthcare personnel: This brings in 7.5 billion annually. The specialist Maria Werlau, director of the Cuba Archive project, has described the activity in the Miami Herald. The Cuban government leases out its healthcare professionals and charges for them. It confiscates 95% of the salaries of those under its “protection.” Angola pays up to 60,000 dollars a year for each physician.

Not even the aid to Haiti escapes this scheme of “solidarity at a price.” The services provided in this devastated country earned Havana a good price from international organizations.

Brazil, which pays for many services, is the final major partner of Cuba in this murky activity of international healthcare pimping. President Dilma Rousseff doesn’t want to benefit her poor so much as her Cuban friends. Raul, in addition, has a great mastery of the craft. It’s a practice well-known to Cuban slaves since the 19th century.

As long as slavery lasted (until 1886) the masters rented out their slaves when they didn’t need them. The most profitable part of the business of “renting blacks” was the poor girls who were delivered to the bordellos. Their masters charged for the services they provided. They were entrepreneur-pimps. Now, simply, we have a state-pimp.

Other rentals, other businesses: But the exploitation doesn’t end here. The Cuban government rents other professionals to private companies. The ancient Greeks referred to slaves as “tools that speak.” I don’t think Raul knows the classics, but he understands perfectly the ultimate meaning of the expression.

There are Latin American or Portuguese speaking universities who contract with the Cuban government for the services of good mathematics or physics professors at bargain prices. There are nightclubs and cabarets who contract with musicians, or theaters who hire Cuban dancers, including Alicia Alonso’s magnificent ballet.

There are European and Latin American companies that exploit computer technicians from the Island. The Castro regime knows that a well-educated Cuban is completely wasted inside Cuba, given the insane economic system of the Island, but he or she is a potential source of riches once placed abroad. Objectively, this government is a gigantic and implacable labor subcontracting company that violates all the norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO). This is its livelihood.

Remittances from exiles: Emilio Morales, the great expert on the subject who escaped from Cuba relatively recently, places this source of income (in 2012) at something more than 5 billion dollars. Half, roughly, is remitted in cash and the rest in merchandise. It is growing at an annual rate of 13%. Every time a rafter escapes, the regime, paying lip service, moans over the flight, but knows that in a little while the dollars will flow to a needy family left on the Island. In Cuba, although it was with crumbs, the regime had to feed him. Once in exile, he’s a free and constant source of income.

This is where the money comes from to pay for the imports. How long can Raul Castro sustain an almost totally unproductive society through activities that approach or directly involve a crime? Who knows. Pimps usually have a long life. There are many people who are served by them, and who through their intermediation access various forms of pleasure, including the enjoyment of power.

CAMfoto1Carlos Alberto Montaner is one of the most read journalists in the Hispanic world. Poder magazine calculates that six million people read his columns and articles weekly. This post has been translated from DiariodeCuba.com, with permission from the author.

1 February 2014