The Final Act of “Cubazuela”

The then presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and of Cuba, Fidel Castro, both now deceased.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami | 23 March, 2019 — Carlos Lage, in December 2005, said in Caracas that Cuba had two presidents: Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. “Cubazuela had emerged.” At that time, Lage was vice president of Cuba’s Council of State and the Council of Ministers. He was the number two man in Cuba by appointment of Fidel. The Commander had ordered him to release that pearl among the Venezuelans. The idea was, as always, Fidel’s, but Chávez agreed. Lage obeyed.

That meant, also, that Venezuela had two presidents: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Fidel was the primus inter pares. Fidel had molded Chavez. He had spawned him. When he received him in Cuba, in December of 1994, Chávez was a failed coup leader under the influence of Norberto Ceresole, an Argentine fascist Peronist, passed through the Libyan desert by the hand of Gaddafi.

As Chávez’s political muse was totally promiscuous, Fidel impregnated him with four Marxist slogans and dismissed Ceresole without hesitation. El Comandante was not a theoretician, but a strategist and a tactician who, at age 18, was persuaded that he had been endowed with a Greek profile as a premonition of nature, and exchanged his middle name, Hippolytus, for Alexander, after Alexander the Great. It was his first step towards the conquest of the planet. Something that was impossible to do from poor Cuba, so far from Marx and so close to the United States, but possible with the enormous wealth of Venezuela, especially with a barrel of oil around one hundred dollars. continue reading

Then Cuban chancellor, Felipe Pérez Roque, was entrusted with another task for Venezuelans: explaining why Venezuela and Cuba should be allied. He did it at the Teresa Carreño theater in Caracas. Fidel formulated the script, carefully read the speech, and made a few suggestions. No important detail escaped his meticulously manipulative temperament. The task that lay ahead was gigantic. Replace the vanished and treacherous USSR in the defense of the oppressed of the world. Fight and defeat the American neighbor, huge, powerful and foolish.

Raul Castro did not appear in the equation. He was the neat and loyal boy to run errands, but without greatness. Fidel fabricated his biography. He dragged him to attack the Moncada barracks, to the Sierra Maestra and to the Ministry of Defense, but he did not respect him. He pegged him as a mediocre guy, unable to read a book, someone to leave in front of the armory, but nothing more.

He didn’t like Hugo Chávez either. Actually, he couldn’t stand him. Chavez was just a gun to assault the sky. The ordinariness of the Venezuelan bothered him. His “parejería” (conceit), as the Cubans call the unfortunates who want to become “equal” to the boss.

In one of Chávez’s frequent phone calls, Fidel explained that, “sadly,” he had to hand over the relationship to his two trusted men, Lage and Pérez Roque, because the Revolution, due to lack of time, demanded the sacrifice of ties that I really appreciated.” Chavez, impervious to rejection, began to constantly annoy the other two characters.

In 2009, Raúl Castro, with the fatigued consent of Fidel, dismissed Lage and Pérez Roque, turned them into non-people and they left the game accused of being ambitious and disloyal. On December 30, 2012, Hugo Chávez died in Havana because of his audacity in having his cancer treated in Cuba, although they didn’t disconnect him until March 5, 2013, exactly 60 years of Stalin’s death.

As Alexander the Great was surprised by death at the age of 32, and shortly afterwards his Greco-Macedonian empire was undone, Fidel Castro almost died as diverticulitis took him down at the end of July 2006, a few months after he deployed his strategy in Caracas, and they immediately began to demolish his fantasies, although he remained (more or less) alive until November 2016.

Nicolás Maduro, the replacement imposed by Cuba, is drowning because of his plunder, incapacity and stupidity. Raul Castro, old and tired, has gone all out to save him, but, as is often the case, the two are about to suffocate in the turbulent post-Communist swirl.

Everyone knows that the puppeteer is Raúl Castro. They have been abandoned by the artists who came to sing to Juan Guaidó, Michelle Bachelet, the OAS, the Italian Federica Mogherini, Heinz Dieterich, Noam Chomsky and the sursum corda. All that’s left are some deeply brainless men without the least prestige.

The image of Venezuela is terrible and is leaving the Cuban regime without friends or lifesavers. The irony is that they conquered Venezuela by swallowing Chávez and Maduro and now they have become indigestible, as historians say happened to Alexander the Great after a banquet.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An Open Letter on the Situation in Venezuela

Protesters in Venezuela support of Juan Guaidó on January 23. (jguaido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  Ernesto Hernández Busto, 15 March 2019 —  Poor Venezuela! After having undertaken what it announced as a radical process of social transformation, a process intended to mark a turning point in Latin American ideology and guarantee a project of social equality baptized as “21st century socialism,” today the country has ended up becoming a despotic compound, where not only are the most basic political rights violated, but one in which a person can barely survive with a minimum of dignity. From the promised emancipation to compulsory destitution; from the dream of the continental left to the prototype of failure, despair and exodus: such is the sad journey of the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Given the serious political and humanitarian situation that Venezuela is going through today, we the undersigned, Cuban intellectuals who reside inside and outside the island, demand that the Cuban Government ackknowlege the evidence of the social and humanitarian disaster, refrain from intervening by any means in the political conflict of that nation, and withdraw its numerous “cooperators,” both civilian and military, who are working in that country. After six decades of a failed revolution, after the collapse of that “Cubazuela” celebrated for years by the Castrochavism, it is time for Cuba to stop exporting or stirring up conflicts in other countries under the pretext of ideological solidarity, and to ensure they can subsist with their own resources, without exploitation or interference of any kind.

Signers of this open letter

Ernesto Hernández Busto, writer; Ladislao Aguado, writer and editor; Carlos A. Aguilera, writer; Janet Batet, curator and art critic; Yoandy Cabrera, academic; María A. Cabrera Arús, academic; Pablo de Cuba Soria, writer and editor; Enrique del Risco, writer and academic; Armando Chaguaceda, political scientist; Paquito D’Rivera, musician, composer and writer; Néstor Díaz de Villegas, writer; Manuel Díaz Martínez, writer; Jorge I. Domínguez-López, writer and journalist; Vicente Echerri, writer; Abilio Estévez, writer; Gerardo Fernández Fe, writer; Alejandro González Acosta, writer and academic; Ginés Gorriz, producer; Kelly M. Grandal, writer; Natacha Herrera, journalist; José Kozer, poet; Boris Larramendi, musician; Felipe Lázaro, writer and editor; Rafael López-Ramos, visual artist; Jacobo Machover, writer and academic; Roberto Madrigal, writer; María Matienzo Puerto, writer and journalist; L. Santiago Méndez Alpízar, writer; Michael H. Miranda, writer and academic; Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer and journalist; Adrián Monzón, artist and producer; Lilliam Moro, writer; Luis Manuel Otero, artist and activist; Amaury Pacheco del Monte, writer and artivist; Geandy Pavón, photographer and visual artist; Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, writer and academic; José Prats Sariol, writer; Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, writer; Alexis Romay, writer; Rolando Sánchez Mejías, writer; Manuel Sosa, writer; Armando Valdés-Zamora, writer and academic; Amir Valle, writer; and Camilo Venegas Yero, writer and journalist.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

What Will Happen With Guaido?

A spokesman for the US government said it clearly: “If they touch Guaidó that would be the last decision Maduro would make.” (EFE / Miguel Gutiérrez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 2 March 2019 — The Lima Group has renounced the use of force to save Venezuelans from the barbarism of the regime. Maduro is happy. That statement detracts from the Group’s credibility. There are thirteen countries, almost all of them very important. There were fourteen, but in practice there was a notable drop after the election of AMLO (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) in Mexico.

Why has the Lima Group taken this debilitating step? First, for fear of the reaction of local pro-communist groups. Second, to expand diplomatic and economic pressures. There are some European and Asian countries that would join, but only with the commitment to not resort to violence. And third, because of the resistance of local bureaucracies. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, for example, has encountered the muted reticence of Itamaraty Palace, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The United States supports, but does not belong to, the Lima Group. That has allowed Washington to insist that “all options are on the table.” That phrase, reiterated by Mike Pence, means that the White House does not renounce the use of its unbeatable military force. The United States could pulverize 99% of the offensive units of the Venezuelan armed forces in the first six hours of an attack. All the aviation and the military bases of Maduro would be erased from the map. Probably most of the Chavista leaders would be exterminated. continue reading

However, the use of this military force is unlikely unless interim president Juan Guaidó is killed or detained when he returns to Venezuela. That is the “red line” drawn by the administration of Donald Trump in the Venezuelan conflict. A spokesman for the US government said it clearly: “If they touch Guaidó that would be the last decision Maduro would Make.”

As journalist Andrés Oppenheimer rightly pointed out, Nicolás Maduro faces a dilemma in which he can not win. If he kills or stops Guaidó, he will face the immediate demolition of his regime. If it does not kill or stop him, he will lose his authority and control over the country in the medium or long term.

The second is already happening. As I write this chronicle, more than 400 people in uniform have defected in Colombia. The increasing rate of leakage will soon be in the thousands. Potentially, that would be the military occupation force in the event of a war.

Maduro, who is a proconsul appointed by Havana, plays by the rules dictated by Cuba. Raúl Castro is convinced that whoever resists ends up winning the game. That is his experience. He estimates that the calendar favors it. He believes that after a certain time the relation of forces will turn the corner. He cannot solve any of the problems of Cuba denounced by himself (the rationed milk, the two currencies) but remains bolted in his post.

Maduro’s adversaries think otherwise. They believe that this time, time is against him. Every day the situation will become more critical. They will sell what is left of the gold resolves. The financial siege will fatally drown him. The lack of fuel locally will finish him off. There will not be a bunker to generate electricity. The Chavistas, used to stealing, will have no way to do so. Hyperinflation will continue and get worse. It is easier to print bills than to ask for a loan no one will grant, or to float bonds that only the demented would acquire. This would precipitate the final crisis, with the streets of Caracas overrun and the colectivos looting and facing a demoralized and disbanded army.

That is why it was a mistake for the Lima Group to renounce the use of force. It is not about Chavismo and Maduro being communists. That would be the least of it. Off one coast of Venezuela, in Guyana, at the time of Cheddi Jagan, there was also a Marxist-Leninist according to Winston Churchill’s infallible sense of smell. But they did not turn their country into a narco-dictatorship nor did they commit themselves to crime, so that nobody thought to invade them. With time they forgot about collectivism.

The problem is that Chavismo has constructed a dictatorship dedicated to drug trafficking and expanding Islamist terrorism. Thus, Humberto Belli, the former Minister of Education of Nicaragua, has raised the need to end the Maduro regime through collective arms.

His arguments are impeccable: if there is “revolutionary internationalism,” and if the left applauds “the divine presence of Commander Che Guevara,” no one can oppose the existence of “democratic internationalism,” especially when it would be acting in favor of Venezuelan sovereignty and by invitation of a legitimate government presided over by Juan Guaidó. His article ends with a salutation to “The Caribbean Legion” created by José Figueres to fight against the tyrannies of the time.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Surveys in Cuba: What Do Cubans Think?

A man exercises his right to vote in the elections to for the National Assembly of People’s Power in Havana. (File EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 February 2019 — CubaData has surveyed Cuban society. It has asked people about the new Constitution that will be voted on in the referendum on February 24. According to the sample, 42.4% will say Yes, 41.6% will opt for the No and 16% will not vote. It is a “technical draw,” but the No votes, plus those who will not vote, account for 57.6% of the electoral rolls, despite the fact that the No supporters have been denied access to radio, television or national written media, in the middle of a fierce campaign of intimidation, threats, beatings and arrests.

Defending a No vote is equivalent to “treason to the fatherland.” Among others, Guillermo Toledo, from Puerto Rico, director of the Cuban National Meeting, and Rosa Maria Payá, from everywhere, in charge of Cuba Decides, have been able to “sneak in” working very hard for the few slots in the social networks that Cuban State Security has not managed to close. To this is added the indefatigable work of the dissidents: there are more than 100 Cubans on hunger strike in support of No vote, led by José Daniel Ferrer, a legendary dissident who has suffered constant condemnations and beatings.

CubaData is a company associated with the Diario de Cuba, a good digital newspaper published in Madrid. It is presided over by journalist Pablo Díaz and co-directer Salvi Pascual, a university professor and great computer expert. The survey was conducted a few days before the referendum. They asked 1,000 Cubans throughout the country. The results are compatible with the simple observation of the Cuban disaster and with what happened in the Eastern European nations subjected to communism. continue reading

After all, Cubans are the same as other human beings. Sixty years of failures, unfulfilled promises and conspicuous deterioration, make a dent in the perceptions of any society. You have to be profoundly idiotic to maintain illusions in an inflexible system directed exclusively by the Communist Party, without counterweights or independent evaluations, despite the horror stories of an island subject to the whims of trying to grow coffee on rocky outcrops, immense dairy cows from the stage of Soviet gigantism, or the plan for sweet dwarf cows that each family would keep in their living room to stock up on milk when the communist world collapsed.

This is not the first time that a reliable survey has been carried out in Cuba. At the end of 2014, the engineer Joaquín Pérez-Rodríguez, head of The Campol Group, and, today also president of the Pedro Arrupe Institute, set out to find out what Cubans on the Island wanted. With with the help of several mathematicians and sociologists, he managed to carry out an unofficial evaluation which showed that 82% of people between 18 and 49 years were “not satisfied” with the economic system that exists in Cuba. The percentage of dissatisfaction fell to 71% in those over 50. He relates it, very descriptively, in his book La voz cubana (The Cuban Voice).

These differences in the preferences between “young” and “old,” or between “urban” and “rural” populations, are typical of any society. Young people believe in the future, want to succeed, travel abroad, break out, be entrepreneurs. The old are more conservative, they tend to fear changes. A government that has completed 60 years in absolute control of society has necessarily suffered tremendous waste and has no emotional connection with its contemporaries.

It doesn’t surprise me, then, what José Gabriel Barrenechea says from Cuba, that in Havana the No vote is backed by the youth. He affirms this in his article What will happen this Sunday in Cuba? Although I also share his pessimism about the final results: “I have no doubt that, in any case, there will be electoral fraud.” And then he explains how and why: “In the Municipal Commissions data will be altered by orders of the first municipal secretaries, so as not to look bad before their superior authorities […] Nobody wants to lose the ’little benefits’ attached to any important position in Cuba, supposedly socialist.”

Another writer, who prefers not to give his name for fear of reprisals, explains to me how some people who totally reject the system will vote Yes: it is the custom of the double standard typical of totalitarian societies. They are painfully accustomed to the dissonance between what they believe, what they say and what they do. The inertia generated by 60 years of one-party government also prevails. In the elections the vote is always what the Government indicates. I remember a candidate from the end of the Franco regime in Spain, in the first half of the seventies, who had a sincere and candid way of asking for a vote: “Vote for me. What more can he give you?”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Venezuelan Panorama Seen From Cuba

“It is possible that the end of Venezuelan tyranny will affect Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba,” says Carlos Alberto Montaner. Miguel Diaz-Cael and Nicolas Maduro. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 17 February 2019 — The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (that is, Raúl Castro) is very concerned. It has published in Granma, the Party’s newspaper, a Declaration of the Revolutionary Government with the objective of “stopping the imperialist military adventure against Venezuela.” [Link to Spanish text.]

Cuban political operatives based in Venezuela know (and they have told Havana) that Nicolás Maduro is liquidated with no recourse. They have no way of saving him. Juan Guaidó had the backing of 87% of Venezuelans, but, according to the polls, in the last days he increased that by more than 3 points. He now has the backing of 90.08% compared to 3.75% who are satisfied with Maduro.

On the other hand, 51 of the largest and most accredited democracies on the planet recognize Guaidó. He is also the legitimate ruler according to the country’s Constitution, while the National Assembly, the country’s only internationally accepted official institution, has made him “interim president.” continue reading

The hypothesis that everyone assumes (including the Cuban regime) is that on February 23, or before, when they bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans, the minimum support Maduro has will fall apart.

At that point, the Cuban dictatorship will be able to give its colony the order to use violence, but the United States, Brazil, Colombia and other Latin American free nations will enter into combat with the Venezuelan democrats and will quickly prevent victory for Maduro’s coup plotters. This would put an end to the infrastructure of the FARC, the ELN and the Islamists.

A US squadron that includes an aircraft carrier is already sailing near Venezuela, while in Cartagena (Colombia) dozens of warships and several submarines are anchored. After all, it is essential to put an end to the exodus of Venezuelans to Colombia and Brazil, and that will not be achieved as long as Maduro continues to hijack power and hyperinflation destroys the country’s economy.

Raúl Castro does not know what to do. Useless resistance seems a bloody idiocy, but the whirlwind may swallow him, as happened to Cuba in Granada in 1983. The Russians can not give Maduro real protection. They will be limited to rhetorical declarations that will be used by the comrades of all countries to recruit naive or disorganized pacifists waving the ghost of a world war.

There will be no such a conflict. The tacit agreement between Moscow and Washington is that “the Russians” act in Ukraine or the Caucasus and “the Americans” in their immediate area of influence, that is, in Venezuela and Latin America. The only thing the Chinese are interested in is collecting the 65 billion dollars they advanced to the useless Maduro and ensuring their continued supply of raw materials. If they succeed with Guaidó, excellent. For buying and selliing, anyone will do.

Raúl Castro’s and Miguel Díaz-Canel’s troubles don’t end there. On February 24, Cuba will adopt a new Constitution through a referendum scheduled for that day. The electoral consultation has already been totally delegitimized by Transparencia Electoral, an institution led by the Argentine political scientist Leandro Querido, and by the internal opposition, including — among others — Rosa María Payá, José Daniel Ferrer and Guillermo Toledo.

All of them, despite having no access to the media, have asked Cubans to vote NO on a Constitution that consecrates the single party and has legal padlocks that make it impossible to change this absurd regime. The Castroist apparatus, on the other hand, by means of a triple system of constant polls, has managed to learn that a substantial share of Cubans are willing to vote NO, and the response has been brutal: carrot and stick.

How have they managed to outwit the propaganda gate-keepers of the regime? Because of something that Yoani Sánchez said at one time: because the digital revolution is almost impossible to stop, even in Cuba. A simple “smart” phone is enough to penetrate with a thousand messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of the tools that serve to silence the propaganda of totalitarian regimes. And a simple mistake is enough for the walls to fall and the liberating “springs” to emerge without anyone knowing how and without anyone knowing when.

It is possible that the end of Venezuelan tyranny will affect Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba. These are the remnants of Socialism of the 21st Century. Will Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel immolate themselves defending the lost cause of Nicolás Maduro? The last paragraph of the analysis-warning published in Granma ensures that they will do so. I thought them smarter.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Bukele and How to End Poverty, Exodus, and Violence

Nayib Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, February 10, 2019 — Nayib Bukele swept to victory in the presidential election in El Salvador. Bukele is an outsider who used GANA as an electoral vehicle, a party of the right that split off from ARENA. He used it, despite the fact that its founder, ex-president Tony Saca, is imprisoned and sentenced to ten years in jail, accused of misappropriating $300 million. That circumstance did not matter to anybody. GANA was only a ticket. The party barely got 11 out of a total of 84 representatives.

Bukele liquidated the communists of FMLN (23 representatives) and the liberal-conservatives of ARENA (37). Salvador Sánchez Cerén (FMLN) will leave the presidency with the disapproval of 80% of Salvadorans. He lost some 47% of the votes obtained in the penultimate contest. He is the worst-assessed president since Alfredo Cristiani inaugurated his presidency in 1989, initiating the four ARENA governments. After Saca, the last ARENA president, came Mauricio Funes of FMLN, exiled in Nicaragua accused of stealing $351 million, and, lastly, the repudiated Sánchez Cerén. continue reading

Through what crack did the outsider “sneak in?” First, he was no stranger. He had been mayor of San Salvador and voters did not blame him for the poverty or violence, the two main evils afflicting the country. Second, voters are tired of the parties’ empty promises, of corruption, of clandestine “bonuses,” and of traditional communication methods. Bukele barely went to meetings in the capital or in the towns of his tiny country and he avoided debates. He established, to be sure, his distance from Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, whom he described as “dictators.”

The new president is 37 and has a youthful aspect. If the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti asked for respect because he had been born with the cinema in 1902, Bukele and the young politicians of his generation, in all latitudes, can repeat that call because they were born with the internet, with computers, with Facebook and Twitter. They have another manner of communicating with voters and use it profusely. It is the story as well of Alexis Tsipras in Greece and of Pablo Iglesias in Spain, both Leninists fortunately hobbled by the moderate bourgeois reality of the European Union.

To combat social violence and its countereffect, local desires to emigrate, Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. After all, from Panama and Costa Rica, two Central American countries, almost no one leaves. It’s the other way around: they are full of immigrants who share the Panamanian “dream” and the Costa Rican “dream.” They are escaping, instead, from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

How is this miracle achieved? Investing in “human capital,” that is to say, in education and healthcare, but creating sources of work that allow a surplus to be produced over a couple of decades to be able to realize that investment. There are no shortcuts, but the secret is to be a little better each year that passes and forget about charismatic leaders. Freedom, the law, and institutions are irreplaceable. “Poor are the peoples who need heroes,” said Bertold Brecht, although he did not always obey his fair warning.

As for prosperity, all the information available on Bukele makes one think that he trusts in public spending to achieve it. He was a populist mayor, and it is a shame, because that path leads to disaster. He would do very well to dedicate five minutes to a brief YouTube video produced by the Liberty and Progress Foundation of Argentina entitled Productive Work vs. Unproductive Work.

Argentina is one of the few countries on earth that has gone little by little underdeveloping itself and conquering poverty without pause or truce. There he would learn that the growing prosperity is the result of the constant increase in productivity generated by the creativity almost without obstacles of entrepreneurs.

It is not even worthwhile for Bukele to hide behind the size and population of El Salvador to justify a hypothetical failure. They are the same as those of Israel, only that the successful Jewish state is surrounded by enemies, while El Salvador has the advantage of counting on the sympathies and the desire to help of half the planet. Let us hope that common sense enlightens Bukele. If he is not successful it will be terrible.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

What Will Cuba Do?

Maduro was sworn into his position with strong internal and external opposition, which does not recognize his mandate. (EFE / Cristian Hernandez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 February 2019 — The Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro is sinking. What will Cuba do? According to a recent poll, 83.7% of Venezuelans urgently want this obese and muddle-headed man to leave. They prefer the engineer Juan Guaidó.  Maduro is backed by only 4.6%. The rest did not respond or did not know.

Guaidó has the clear backing of society, the support of more than 50 democratic countries and of the most accredited international organizations: the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the European Parliament, the Lima Group. Maduro, on the other hand, has only the backing of Iran — another pariah — along with Russia, China, Turkey, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the folderol of Colombian narco-guerrillas camped in Venezuela: the FARC and the ELN.

I repeat: What will Cuba do? The Cuban political operatives agree with this analysis, but it only appears in the (not so) secret papers they send almost daily to Havana in a diplomatic bag. They do not trust phones nor the Internet nor encrypted messages. continue reading

Meanwhile, Rogelio Polanco, the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, asks the Chavistas to resist. He just did so at the inauguration of the “José Martí-Fidel Castro” university chair at Venezuela’s Simón Rodríguez National Experimental University, in Petare.

Cuba, he said, has been able to withstand the siege of the United States for decades. Venezuela can achieve the same results if it digs trenches and puts knees to the ground. The order is to resist. Cuba, heroically, is willing to fight to the last Venezuelan.

Polanco knows that what he says is not true, but he has not been placed in that position to tell the truth, but to try to save Venezuela’s aid and subsidies to the Island. That is his mission.

He is a journalist linked to Cuban Intelligence turned diplomat, and not a professor of ethics. You only have to look to see the discomfort in the mismatch between what he really believes and what he is forced to say. Polanco is not unaware that the level of chaos and disorder in Venezuela is much greater than in Cuba.

Maduro, like almost the entire structure of Cuban power, seems like an idiot but is forced to smile. Annual inflation is several million percent. The shortages are total. The lack of medicine borders on the criminal. The murder rate is very high. One is more likely to die violently in Caracas than in the Kabul of the Afghans. And added to this is the decision of the United States to bury Maduro’s dictatorship before its dismantling and the uncontrolled exodus of Venezuelans affects the entire region even more.

The Cuban dictatorship, since the death of Kennedy, has been allowed by Washington. First because of its protection by the USSR, then due to the general conviction that it was doomed to disappear and it was not worth taking the risk to try to liquidate it.

I have heard that many times in the United States. Faced with the uncertainty of a resounding defeat, the idea prevailed of doing nothing for fear of an overflowing exodus and the tremendous cost of rebuilding a country subjected to decades of communist neglect. Why kill a mosquito with cannon fire if it will die in the short term?

Clinton even granted twenty thousand visas a year to Castro to placate him. It was the escape valve. There was no hurry. In the end, there was the secret aspiration to let it pass to another administration to have to deal with the inevitable end of Castroism.

This attitude has nothing to do with the actively hostile behavior of Donald Trump’s government, determined to tighten the financial screws on the Maduro dictatorship until it suffocates.

The United States is the financial master of the planet. It has 22% of world GDP while 80% of commercial transactions made in dollars travel through the American banking system. That would allow Trump, for example, to prohibit the sending of remittances to Cuba and treat as enemies the countries that break the embargo. In 60 days the enormous poverty of Cuba would become an absolute misery that would affect the Cuban ruling class and explode the pressure cooker.

I return to the original question: What will Cuba do? The symptoms are that, while it demands that Venezuelans resist, it will be secretly repatriating its troops and advisors, while erasing the compromising hard disks.

The Cuban government is absolutely unproductive, but the essential feature of Raúl Castro is his prudence. Fidel would have acted in a much more crazy way, like when he asked the USSR to use its missiles to”preventively” destroy the United States, but fortunately for all Cubans Fidel is buried, they say, in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Venezuela: Six (And A Half) Men and One Destiny

“It’s very difficult to fear or respect a character who speaks with birds,” says Montaner (@NicolasMaduro)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carolo Alberto Montaner, Miami, 26 January 2019 — Maduro will have to go peacefully, or he will die as a consequence of an attack by his own group, as happened to Maurice Bishop.  Let’s look at the conflict’s six key factors.

Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly and acting President of Venezuela until elections are held.  He has the backing of the OAS (Organization of American States) and of 20 important nations.  Among them, the biggest or most accredited democracies: Canada, United States, England and Switzerland.  Also Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Educador and Paraguay.  Not only are some of his own group against him, but some of them, secretly, would like to become candidates and win elections against Chavismo.  For them it would be reassuring if Guaidó were to announce primaries in which he would not participate.  Since he is a young man, he has plenty of time and opportunities to become president. continue reading

Nicolas Maduro has a well-earned reputation as an idiot.  That is very serious for his allies.  The Prince is feared or respected.  Maduro is neither feared nor respected, in spite of the violence that usually accompanies him.  And Venezuelans also have good reasons for that.  It is very difficult to fear or respect a character who speaks with birds.  Inflation is the unceasing lightning.  It has pulverized wages, food, medicine.  Water and electricity are missing; phones and internet fail.  Sometimes even oil is missing.  The country is broken and falling apart.  Sixty-four percent of Venezuelans lost 11 kilos in 2017.  More than 24 pounds.  Faced with this scenario that has caused the exodus of more than three million desperate Venezuelans, Maduro responds with economic “tricks” like the petro, a useless virtual currency.

Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the OAS, is the greatest ally of Juan Guaidó and of free Venezuelans.  He has thrown them on his back, like Christ and the cross, with the intention of saving them from their political sins.  He proceeds from the left, and that is convenient.  He is Uruguayan.  He comes from a small and decent country that, unfortunately, has aligned with Maduro, which will cost him votes in the presidential elections to the carnivorous left that governs in Montevideo.  No one in his right mind will accuse Almagro of selling out to Wall Street or Yankee imperialism.  Nevertheless, his former comrades expelled him from the sect without even listening to him.  Never have so many owed so much to one person.

Donald Trump is no saint to me, but there is no doubt that on the Venezuelan topic he has acted as a statesman committed to democracy and human rights, and that is something to be appreciated.  It is true that the Trump administration’s Venezuelan policy has been drawn up by Senator Marco Rubio, Secretary Mike Pompeo, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Vice-President Mike Pence, but without Trump’s backing it would all be useless, and the Chavistas and their accomplices could assassinate or jail members of the National Assembly.  In short:  If Trump stays firm in his support of Guaidó, the National Assembly has everything to gain.

Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel (the half man) know that it is a matter of time, little time, before the collapse of the Maduro regime if they don’t do something urgently.  The two — and almost the whole Cuban power structure — have a terrible opinion of Maduro as a statesman.  He seems to them a good but stupid boy.  Havana is panicked at a confrontation with the United States and seeing itself dragged into the conflict because of the colony’s incompetence.  They still remember what happened to them in Grenada in 1983 when they faced the Marines.  There were 800 Cubans who ran quickly.  Now there are almost 100,000, including the doctors, health personnel, and thousands of counter-intelligence workers.  Although “the Cubans” know that their best option is to continue exploiting the Venezuelans, they are prepared for an orderly retreat in the face of the possibility of clashing with the Americans.

Vladimir Putin has jumped into the Venezuelan crisis in support of Maduro and has threatened the United States.  That blunder guarantees that Trump cannot abandon Venezuela without suffering a serious loss of credibility.  Therefore:  He will stay.  In reality, Putin wants to restore the prestige of the Russian Federation and cover the debts contracted by Venezuela, but without coming to a confrontation with Washington.  Russia has the economic structure of a third world country.  It exports gas, oil, wood and imports manufactured products.  It is one of the planet’s biggest countries, with 144 million inhabitants, but with a per capita GDP like that of Costa Rica.  The US GDP is almost 20 trillion.  That of Russia is approximately that of South Korea (more or less 1.6 trillion).  It is a poor country.  Maduro begged him to come scare the Americans.  He will not be able to.  He is a false bodyguard.

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Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Venezuela: Now or Never

Caption: Juan Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, January 20, 2019 — The destiny of Venezuela is probably in the hands of Juan Guaidó. It involves a young representative of 35, linked to Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a party founded by Leopoldo López. The presidency of the National Assembly came to him, which is something like winning a tiger in a raffle. As President of the Assembly he has turned into, de facto, the acting president of the country in the face of the total illegitimacy of Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela, then, has two presidents. One legitimate and constitutional, which is Juan Guaidó, and the other absolutely fraudulent: Nicolás Maduro. In any case, in the fourteenth century the Catholic Church had three popes simultaneously. Two were declared antipopes. By that measure, in the future Maduro will be declared antipresident. continue reading

Those who know Guaidó tell me that he has the maturity and the common sense necessary for that job. By means of television he projects a good image. He is endorsed by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, 13 of the 14 countries of the Lima Group (excepting the ineffable AMLO’s Mexico), María Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma, and the US State Department. He has his back well covered.

On the table is even the possibility that Donald Trump’s administration continues buying the 500,000 barrels of petroleum daily from Venezuela, the only influx of fresh cash coming into the country, but with the condition that that money be deposited in an escrow account that only the National Assembly can access through its president. What sense would it make to pay it to an illegitimate government?

But who is this young politician? Guaidó is a graduate in industrial engineering from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, with postgraduate studies in public policy at George Washington University and IESA, a management school accredited in several countries.

Engineers have an advantage over lawyers: they’re used to incorporating the factor of time into the work they plan. They’re usually the best in “management by objectives,” something that is urgently needed in a country that has been thrown into such chaos as this one.

Guaidó, in short, has sufficient training and information to straighten out his country. At the end of the day, Venezuela has been devastated by Chavism ($300 billion was stolen) and, recently, by a half-idiot individual who talks to birds and doesn’t know where his right hand is. (Especially the right).

Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders that includes Yon Goicoechea, Juan Requesens, a political prisoner, Stalin González, and Freddy Guevara, protected since six months ago in the Chilean embassy in Caracas. They are the new generation. In 2017 the National Guard filled their backs and necks with shot. That is to say: they have risked their lives in the streets, something that is important in a society in which heroic gestures are valued.

Guaidó’s immediate task is about precisely that. He must assume the role of acting president. He must call on the people to demonstrate in the streets. He is also the natural chief of those in uniform. In theory, general Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense, must stand at attention in front of him and accept his orders. Soldiers and minor officials are desperate for this to happen.

According to what viceadmiral Mario Iván Carratú told the Venezuelan journalist Carla Angola, the Armed Forces are demoralized, like the Portuguese army was when the Carnation Revolution happened in 1974. Soldiers are hungry and lacking medicines just like the rest of the country. If Maduro gives the order to attack the demonstrators, Carratú thinks that they wouldn’t comply.

And what would the Cuban Government do? Of course, it would recommend resistance to any change toward democracy and liberty, but the regime of Havana doesn’t have the power to rescue and sustain the dictatorship. It suffers from its own weakness. It would recall its troops and its personnel, much hated in Venezuela, and they would clear off for Cuba, perhaps offering asylum to a handful of their Venezuelan servants.

Can Guaidó promise Chavism something that gets the game unstuck? He cannot promise anything that the Constitution doesn’t allow for. Perhaps a referendum for the country to decide on a law that decrees an amnesty for crimes committed during these years of abuse and vile acts. Only that, but not as his own agreement or that of the National Assembly, but of the whole society.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Sixty Years After the Drunkenness

“We were in the hands of some ’enlightened’ revolutionaries, guided by slogans learned in coffee shops,” says the author. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 22 December 2018 — On January 1, 1959, Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba and the Cuban Revolution began. It has been six decades since that ominous date. A group of us boys got together. I was 15 years old and I was a skinny, hopeful and politically illiterate kid. I felt very happy. I do not know how, where or why we went to see, or found, the lawyer Óscar Gans. He had been Prime Minister for Carlos Prío, the last Cuban constitutional president. He had a reputation for being honest and intelligent.

Gans listened with interest to our excited chatter and only managed to say to us an enigmatic phrase that I have not forgotten: “Revolutions are like great drunkenness… the problem is the hangover.” The hangover was the feeling of weariness, of satiety, of bad digestion, of “why did I get drunk and ingest that absurd mixture of alcohols that makes me feel so bad today.” The hangover is what in other latitudes they call the “mouse.” continue reading

A few months later I understood what Gans had wanted to convey to us. The hangover started. We were in the hands of some “enlightened” revolutionaries, guided by slogans learned in the coffee shops, ready to change at gunpoint the hallmarks of a society that was several centuries old. A country that, until that moment, with its ups and downs, had been a net recipient of immigrants, the best known index to measure the quality of any human conglomeration.

Fidel, Che, Raul Castro, and a few other types, bold and ignorant, were determined to liquidate an imperfect liberal democracy, governed by a social-democratic Constitution, fully perfectible, and transform that State into a pro-Soviet dictatorship without private property, or human rights, and much less separation and independence of powers. Simultaneously, they put on the shoulders of Cubans the responsibility of “confronting Yankee imperialism” and transforming the planet, to impose by blood and fire the “marvelous” social model spawned by Moscow in 1917.

They acted quickly. Within 20 months they had achieved 90% of their domestic goals. In October 1960 there were no vestiges of press freedom. There were no political groups other than the “single movement” created and in the iron grip of the Maximum Leader, so that, at the time, it was easy for them to call it the “Communist Party.” There were no private schools or universities. There were also no medium or large companies held by “civil society.” All were assumed by the State through a simple decree. The totalitarian dictatorship had been consummated, I repeat, by 90%.

The remaining 10% occurred on March 13, 1968. On that date, Fidel Castro gave an extremely lengthy speech in which he announced the “Revolutionary Offensive.” It did away with any private businesses or self-employment. In one fell stroke, almost 60,000 micro-businesses were swallowed, and the island was turned into the “most communist country in the world.” To fix an umbrella, a pair of shoes or a fan you had to turn to the State. Logically, the disaster was absolute and the nation became a waste dump. The thousands of brave people who opposed that fate were shot or imprisoned for many years.

How was that revolutionary madness carried out? Three “enlightened” ones are not capable of performing a task of this magnitude. Simple: putting their hands in the pockets of the likely adversaries. First, they created a huge political clientele by giving “to the people” everything that did not belong to the Commander.

They reduced rents and the cost of electricity and telephones by 50%. They disposed of the land as they pleased. They knew that the economy would collapse as a result of the manipulation of prices, but the goal was not to achieve prosperity, but to create a legion of grateful stomachs that wouldn’t hesitate to tighten the screws.

While they were disposing of the property of others (and they kept the best houses, cars and yachts for themselves), they gave over to the Soviets the repressive mechanisms. From the beginning the political police and the heart of the Ministry of the Interior were assigned to the comrades trained by the KGB.

A few weeks after the Castros were installed in the government house, the always discreet “brothers of the socialist camp” began to arrive. In mid-1962 there were just over 40,000 advisers. When the “bowling pins” — as the Russians were irreverently called on the Island — went away, they left the cage installed. Embraced within it, millions of fearful and obedient Cubans.

Sixty years later the Castroists know that the “Cuban model” is totally unproductive and unfeasible. They are slave-owners who live by renting professional slaves from which they extract a surplus value of 80%. Or policemen who assemble on a turnkey basis the new dictatorship, as they have done in Venezuela. And they live on the remittances from the exiles, on the donations from the churches, or on the tourists in collusion with foreign businessmen who do not care about the local partner’s name, as long as it makes them profits. That’s what revolutionary hangovers are like. They tend to be very long and very sad.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Exodus is the Consequence of Despair

The poor, the persecuted and those crushed by political repression know that there is a better world and that it is elsewhere, within reach of a raft, an difficult road or a border river. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 December 2018 — The image of the 21st century is that of fleeing multitudes. Who can forget the photo of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy drowned in the Mediterranean when his Syrian-Kurdish family tried to flee from the hell organized by the Russians to support the despot Assad? He looked like he was sleeping (or rather snoozing, the baby was so small and cute).

Or the images of the caravans of Central Americans, especially Hondurans, who were trying to cross the border to the United States. Or the sub-Saharan Africans who travel crammed in small boats towards an uncertain European destination of drugs, prostitution or, in the best of cases, sale of counterfeit goods in makeshift stalls.

We have to do something. The phenomenon is universal. The poor, the persecuted and those crushed by political repression know that there is a better world and that it is elsewhere, within reach of a raft, a difficult road or a border river. Movies, television, social networks give constant news of those happy nations in which it is possible to dream of a different future. When we know that we are condemned to live poorly under the boots of our oppressors, the psychological need to escape arises. continue reading

This is what happened in 1980 when Fidel Castro announced that he was removing the police guard from the Embassy of Peru in Havana and anyone who wanted to could take asylum there. The Commander thought it a few dozen people would go there. Eleven thousand people entered in a few hours. Everyone crammed together. It was an unusual drama. It was a daring outpost to the millions of Cubans who had ascertained that their lives would inevitably be miserable and they could do nothing to improve them because the government interfered with prohibitions and absurd controls.

Leaving one’s country forever is like deciding to commit suicide. Suicides take their own lives when they see no way out of their misfortunes. It was this same urgency that fed the Central American caravans. They were failed societies with no hope of improvement. It is not poverty. There are poor people in Panama and Costa Rica and there are no natives of those countries in the midst of the flood of Central American immigrants. Panama and Costa Rica, in fits and starts, are liberal democracies in which it is possible to dream of a better future. There were poor people in pre-Chavez Venezuela and the country continued to receive immigrants with dreams. The exodus is the consequence of despair.

What can be done? The first thing is to relieve the victims. Cure them. Feed them. Give them back their lost dignity. I know because I was one of those victims. In September 1961, I arrived in Miami from Havana on a flight that brought asylum seekers from the Venezuelan embassy in Cuba. I was 18 years old. They did not tell me what I had to do, but they gave me the tools so that I could decide how to seek my own happiness and that of my family.

Unfortunately, this is something that can not be left to the democratic method. Societies tend to be severe with strangers. Maybe it’s part of our genetic load. The only mass gathering of Cubans in 1939 was called to block the way for the poor Jews fleeing the Nazi horror. The newspapers of the time say that 40,000 Havanans congregated to oppose this immigration. The image of the inhabitants of Tijuana throwing stones at the Central American caravans are an eloquent expression of these atavistic rejections.

The false idea that “they take away our jobs” or the mean calculation that “they come to use our limited public resources” usually prevail in the face of a weak instinct for solidarity. That’s why we can not leave it to the best judgment of the majority. The majority is very cruel when it comes to people who worship other gods, are a different color or speak another language. But we have to do something.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Latin American Despair

The leaders of the left, Hugo Chávez, Dilma Rousseff, José Mujica and Cristina Fernández. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 24 November 2018 — Guy Sorman is a notable French thinker. He recently published an article in ABC de Madrid entitled “The future recedes in Latin America.” It is a brilliant and desperate text. Well meaning, but desperate.

He goes on to say that in Latin America we have tried everything, and everything, uselessly, we have pulverized. Liberalism in Argentina, originating with Alberdi and Sarmiento. The enlightened despotism of Mexico with Porfirio Diaz and his “scientists.” The statism with the Mexican Revolution of 1911. The military dictatorships of Pinochet and Stroessner, and the civilian dictatorships with Somoza and Fujimori. Communism with the Castros, with Chavez and Maduro, with the first Daniel Ortega (the second Daniel Ortega is Somoza revived, but with more homicidal furor).

The strange thing about our culture is that, instead of correcting what is wrong, we renounce our successes and insist, periodically, on our mistakes. It still reverberates, from time to time, the old Maoism at the hand of a wounded but not buried Shining Path, although Mao does not exist in China, beyond a rhetorical reverence. continue reading

It is amazing to hear Pablo Iglesias, the leader of “Podemos” in Spain, be envious of what is happening in Venezuela, as if he were willing to repeat in his own country the terrible devastation that occurred in the once prosperous oil paradise.

I remember a young woman from Guayaquil screaming at me, incensed, that “in Ecuador we need a couple of Tirofijos.” She was referring to the Colombian bandit who caused so many losses to his native country. The incident took place at the Catholic University of Guayaquil. The appearance of the truculent girl – blonde, beautiful, green-eyed, well-dressed – was bourgeois.

Why did the Argentines interrupt the impetuous road to development and prosperity they had followed until Hipólito Yrigoyen was deposed by a fascist military coup in 1930? In Argentina there were problems, but none prevented the country from being part of the First World in almost all aspects, and especially in education. That coup was the prologue to Peronism and the total collapse of the Argentine miracle that had begun with the liberal Constitution of 1853.

Why was Fidel Castro not able to understand, in 1959 – when he, his brother Raúl, Che and another small group of communists clung to the Soviet model and chose the path of totalitarianism – that there were enough indications (for example, the German and Austrian miracle) that demonstrated the superiority of “liberal democracy” instituted by the economist Ludwig Erhard?

Such was Fidel’s ideological blindness that he was not even able to understand the example of his own father, Angel Castro, a humble Galician peasant, astute as a fox and laborious as an ant, who, when he died in 1957, bequeathed to his family capital of eight million dollars, an agricultural company that gave jobs to dozens of people, a school, and even a cinema run by Juanita Castro, a contemporary of Raúl, who has been exiled in Miami since the 1960s.

Sorman, who knows in depth the bloody history of Europe, rightly alleges that “in Europe the ancient nations, very different from each other for centuries, are gradually coming to an agreement on the best possible regime, liberal democracy.” While in Latin America “everyone cultivates their uniqueness, learns nothing from their neighbor and the exchanges are practically nonexistent.”

We are not able to perceive the leap towards modernity and development Chile has been given, today a country on the threshold of the First World through a fortunate combination of markets, private property, control of public spending, and national savings – thanks to the reviled pension plan created by the economist José Piñera – and freedoms.

Why do not we correct the shortcomings and adjust what is worth saving instead of undoing everything and moving to the other direction of the pendulum, as president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promises to do in Mexico, to the terror of investors?

The United States, which unwittingly created “liberal democracy” after 1787, when it promulgated the country’s first and only Constitution, grew little by little, modifying the course with each election, wise to the extraordinary importance of placing everyone under the rule of law.

Will the example of Chile catch on? I don’t know. I hope so, but when one sees the destructive vocation of the left and the extreme right, what happens to Guy Sorman happens to you: you are overcome by total and absolute despair.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Trump, Bolton and the Four Stooges

Clockwise from top left: Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Miguel Diaz-Canel, Evo Morales.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 4 November 2018 — It is about an implacable “electoral ploy.” That is what is behind this infernal screaming. It is absurd (and dangerous) to militarize the border with thousands of soldiers. It is also criminal to foment fear of foreigners, as Trump does, because it is politically profitable. John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, was outraged in an interview with CNN. Al Cárdenas, former president of the Republican Party in Florida, responded with the same intensity in the face of the demagogic use of the images of a Mexican tried for murdering two policemen.

This is not done. Trump is going to destroy the Republican Party and then there will not be many people willing to defend fiscal moderation, the limits to the central government and the supremacy of free markets.

It is true that every country must take care of its borders, but the United States is a Republic of laws and neither he nor anyone can bypass the rules approved by Congress or international treaties signed by Washington. There are formal procedures that must be met. continue reading

If there is a right to petition for asylum, he has to respect it. Nor is it in Trump’s hands to snatch the citizenship of those born in the United States to foreign parents. It is an unconstitutional barbarity.

Not all of Trump’s actions, of course, are misguided. The appointment of diplomat John Bolton as head of the National Security Council was an intelligent maneuver. Bolton is a brilliant lawyer, Yale graduate, with a very long experience in international affairs and organizations. He has a Kantian vision of relations with other nations, founded on principles. He was one of the few heads that could replace General Herbert McMaster at the head of that organization. His work, and it is no small thing, will give meaning and form to the contradictory ideas and attitudes of Trump, a disconcerting person who admires Vladimir Putin and praises Kim Jong-un, while he (rightly) detests Nicolás Maduro.

John Bolton has just delivered one of his first keynote speeches. He has done it in Miami, in the Freedom Tower of Miami Dade College, the largest and most diverse university in the country (165,000 students, most of them Hispanic and African-American).

The event took place before Cuban-American congressmen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo and 250 other prominent people, among whom were Venezuelan exiles (Asdrúbal Aguiar) and Nicaraguans, along with Cuban-Americans Lincoln Díaz-Balart (former congressman), Modesto Maidique, former president of Florida International University, Frank Calzón, of the Center for a Free Cuba, and Marcell Felipe, leader of Inspire América, an organization that, increasingly, is becoming the informal representation of the most active Cuban community in the United States.

Bolton delineated what Trump’s Latin American policy will be. It will continue the offensive of trade restrictions and punishments against corrupt people and companies and those key to sustaining the dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, whose leaders he called “the three stooges” of socialism (Moe, Larry and Curly), without specifying which one is which.

In reality there are four stooges, because he did not mention Evo Morales, the despot of Bolivia, a nation with political prisoners, murdered adversaries, exiles, corruption with impunity, Morales’s attempts to perpetuate himself in power against the will of the voters, and the rest of the symptoms of an unmitigated tyranny.

One of Trump-Bolton’s successes has been transferring another notable lawyer, Mauricio Claver-Carone from the IMF to the National Security Council and putting him at the head of the Western Hemisphere, which includes all of Latin America. For the United States, it was (and is) crazy that such an important region of the planet should not have its place among the priorities of Washington’s foreign policy.

Claver-Carone, who regularly monitored the activities of the Cuban regime, knows that the script of the aggressive dictatorships of 21st Century Socialism is written in Havana, even though Cuban diplomat and intelligence officer Jesus Arboleya diligently tries to cover the sun with a finger.

As in the comedies of the Three Stooges, there is always one who doles out the slaps. He is the Moe of this tragicomedy. Remember? He used to discipline his brothers. He had an abundance of black hair partedin the middle. That role today belongs to Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Cuban puppet president.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Bolsonaro and Cuba

Jair Bolsonaro, candidate for President of Brazil (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 14 October 2018 – Jair Messias Bolsonaro could be the President of Brazil on October 28th. The Brazilians see themselves in the mirror of their Venezuelan neighbors and they are terrified. The most trustworthy polls give him a 75% chance of winning the elections … as long as he does not rest on his laurels. At the end of the day, he took a 17 point lead over Fernando Haddad, the man selected from prison by Lula da Silva. He won 46 to 29. Democracy is like that: it is often about choosing the least bad option.

Bolsonaro is full of prejudices. He says he prefers to have a dead son rather than a homosexua one. What a cruel stupidity! He says that if he sees two men kissing on the street he would be willing to assault them. Although his time in the Armed Forces was not exemplary — he spent 17 years there and only attained captain as a paratrooper and artilleryman — and although he dares to say that the mistake of the military dictatorship was to torture the detainees, when they could have killed them, his candidacy is better than that of Haddad’s. continue reading

Why? Because Bolsonaro does not mind contradicting himself. He says absurd things that will not have a practical result. He has also made deeply racist remarks, but chose as his vice president a mestizo former general.

The vulgarities that he has uttered against women were not expressed by a misogynist, but by a disrespectful and mouthy guy who has married three times and maintains an intense family life.

And because his homophobia clashes with a tradition of tolerance that makes Brazil one of the most open nations in sexual matters. One of the few that allows marriage between people of the same sex. Against that backdrop, fortunately, he will not be able to reject gays.

There are many reasons to prefer Bolsonaro. Lula presided over a cave of bandits, not a decent government. He has been the main culprit of the devaluation of the Brazilian political class. If the shameless actions of the usual suspects are very serious, those committed by a person of humble origin who promised to clean up public life and did the opposite are worse. What was expected of a labor leader who asked for the votes to face the rot is total honesty in the conduct of official affairs. In Dante’s Inferno there was a terrible place for the hypocrites.

His business transactions with the usual corrupt ones, as demonstrated in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) operation, is unforgivable. He let his ideological cronies from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Ecuador of Rafael Correa steal. His two governments and that of Dilma Rousseff were a cesspool. Presumably, he summoned Haddad to finish the job. First, the professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo would free him from the sentence of 12 years in prison and then the looting of the Brazilians would continue right away.

According to El Nuevo Herald, Cuba is horrified that Bolsonaro may be selected by the Brazilians. The former congressman has said that he is not in agreement with continuing to pay the Castro dictatorship — Fidel is still alive for ideological purposes — for the doctors Brazil rents.

This is a crime that contravenes the international agreements of the International Labour Organization signed by Cuba and Brazil. They are slaves in white coats. That rent is Havana’s main source of income and it looks like the disgusting business that slavers did in Cuba in the 19th century.

The Castros, who embarked on the most unproductive system in the world, make ends meet with the excesses that they charge their friends and accomplices for the hire of doctors, soldiers, sports coaches, spies and other species that they breed in their revolutionary nurseries.

They sell those services with the ignoble purpose of financing the idyllic life that is given to an oligarchy that perhaps reaches three thousand officers of the Armed Forces and the Communist Party, while the country falls to pieces.

It is very likely that Bolsonaro will put an end to this illegal trade in human beings. The function of this hiring is not to improve the health of poor Brazilians, but to subsidize the parasitic Cuban political leadeship.

We will see what happens on January 1, 2019, when Bolsonaro will begin to govern. That day, by the way, will mark 60 years since the beginning of the Cuban nightmare.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Latin America and the New Populist Cycle

Andrés Manuel López Obrador has legitimately won the Mexican elections and is not expected to govern with prudence. (@PartidoMorenaMx)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 Septmber 2018 — In Mauricio Macri’s Argentina the Peronists do not give a damn that Cristina Kirchner and her husband were two world-class thieves. “Whoremonger or thief, we want Perón” is still the slogan of the tribe. Maybe we are not Republicans. Or sufficiently Republican. To be so, it is essential to voluntarily place oneself under the authority of the law and to respect the dictates of impartial courts, but that is particularly difficult for us. Republics are fragile structures that are only able to breathe in a virtuous atmosphere. Outside of it they die or become something else.

In the Brazil of ‘Lula’ da Silva and his Odebrecht cronies more or less the same thing happens as in Argentina. Cheating, bribes, massive frauds were the order of the day, but to the supporters of the charismatic leader those violations of the law made no difference. Just recently it was learned that Lula himself, against the opinions of his own technicians, gave instructions for the National Bank for Economic and Social Development of Brazil (BNDES) to lend 600 million dollars to Cuba under very favorable conditions. continue reading

The objective was to put the development of Cuba’s Mariel Port in the hands of Odebrecht, knowing that the island could not repay the loan. A substantial part of that credit returned to Brazil in the pockets of corrupt politicians. It was the slice that Odebrecht distributed clandestinely, paid for with the taxes of the mocked Brazilian people. The project, by the way, carried out by a developer that would charge reasonable profits, cost half the amount paid to the Brazilian company.

Despite this filthiness, Lula headed the polls until the courts forbade him to run for president. After this impediment for corruption, imposed by Sergio Moro, an exemplary judge who set up the criminal investigation called the Lava Jato, and who has faced the political mafias of the Workers’ Party with enormous courage, Lula has chosen Professor Fernando Haddad to replace him. Haddad is a radical political professor, former failed mayor of Sao Paulo, also with pending charges of corruption against him. Simultaneously, he has recruited the young journalist Manuela d’Avila, deputy star of the Communist Party of Brazil, as Haddad’s vice president. The selection of the pair shows how things really work. Capital is terrified and is running out of the country through all the available holes. As has been said so many times, “there is no animal more cowardly than a million dollars.”

At the other end of the electoral spectrum, Jair Bolsonaro, the candidate of the right in October’s upcoming elections, a former captain of paratroopers, doesn’t respect the current legality too much either. He speaks with nostalgia of the time of the military dictatorship, justifies the torture, at the time had phrases of praise for Hugo Chávez, and regretted that the army had not shot 30,000 people, including former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whom he accused of connivance with the Workers’ Party. Meanwhile, former General Hamilton Mourao, his vice president, mumbles badly about the chances of a coup if they lose the election for alleged fraud. Some in Brazil call Bolsonaro the Brazilian Trump. May God have mercy on our souls.

It is very possible that we are again entering a populist cycle. Macri in Argentina could lose power as a result of the economic crisis. Haddad could defeat Bolsonaro and establish a leftist populist regime. Or Bolsonaro could defeat Haddad — they are tied in the polls — and start a kind of right-wing populist  of a republic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador has legitimately won the Mexican elections and is not expected to govern with prudence.

In Latin America, all the the evil dictators — Nicolas Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, Raul Castro and his handpicked Diaz-Canel — don’t even have to sit patiently at the doors of their houses and wait for the corpses of their enemies to pass by. All they have to do is entrench themselves in power and wait for a new populist cycle. Which we are in.

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