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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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.

Stupid Governments

The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, remains in power after one of the bloodiest crisis in the history of his nation. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 2 September 2018 – I’m told that Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan dictator, ordered a discreet survey to find out what percentage of the country supports his continuing to lead the government. Daniel was enraged when he learned the results: only 9% support him. He is two points below Nicolás Maduro. Those who consider themselves Sandinistas were 25% of the survey, but the Danielistas are a handful that tends to shrink as the crisis intensifies.

And the crisis is unstoppable. It consists, essentially, in the absence of investments and the paralysis of economic decisions. That is fatal for any government. The good functioning of societies is based on trust, and trust, in turn, depends on the soundness of institutions. You would have to be absolutely crazy to take a dollar to Nicaragua. What sane people do is take their savings to Costa Rica, Panama or Miami, where there are guarantees that they will not be confiscated by the governments of those countries.

Faced with this reaction, stupid governments accuse those who behave rationally and protect their capital of being traitors. But they do something even more serious: they steal the independence of national banks, they intervene in bank deposits, they create so-called corralitos and freeze deposits, they devalue currencies to liquefy debts, they seize the dollars or euros of remittances sent by long-suffering emigrants, and they punish businesspeople by invading their properties or confiscating them, although in the rough hands of the government these properties usually have a very short life before they begin showing losses, a prologue to their ultimate closings. continue reading

All this increases uncertainty and distrust. Those who do not have access to dollars acquire valuable pictures, precious stones, gold or anything that retains some international value. I have seen fortunes in postage stamps, spurs for fighting cocks, race horses and even curious relics, false or real, like the fragments of Napoleon’s testicles, carefully amputated by Dr. Francesco Antomarchi in Santa Helena, the Mallorcan doctor who autopsied the corpse and ruled that the emperor died of stomach cancer at age 51.

What is Daniel Ortega’s next move? He knows he has to face the polls, but he is waiting for his image and that of his Government to improve. That will never happen. The problem is that everything he does aggravates and worsens his personal situation and the perception of his regime. The Organization of American States (OAS) ruled that it is a repugnant dictatorship that kills without compassion. The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), after a visit by its president, reported that the rights of the people are violated without compassion. There is no human way to improve that image, unless he announces his decision to advance the elections and leave the country or stay, if he has the delicate talent that is required to agree on a negotiated solution with the opposition.

Although it seems incredible, the worst is yet to come. And the worst is the nationalization of Nicaragua’s weak productive capacity. I do not know if Daniel still believes in the Cuban model of the eighties, which was in force when he first took power with the Sandinistas, because he was a very ignorant young man, but Cuba, which has lost its compass after 60 years of failures, no longer believes in it and is trying various formulas to bury the Revolution without it being noticed and without losing power, two impossible missions.

If I were a Nicaraguan, along with the departure of Daniel, I would be thinking about what to do to prevent further revolutions and setbacks. A substantial part of what was achieved after the defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990 has gone by the wayside. All of the work undertaken to overcome Nicaragua’s bankruptcy, to straighten out its finances, to end hyperinflation, to fix the wounds and to begin to grow again, has been lost.

It is a shame that every so often a catastrophe like this occurs and overthrows coexistence. Well-functioning nations have remarkable human capital and functioning institutions. They are not governments of special men, but of laws that apply to everyone equally and in which one ascends not by one’s connections but by one’s merits.

Is there a country that has shined a light on this exhausting exercise? Yes. Switzerland did it in 1848, after the liberal revolution. They decided never to export mercenaries, to participate in wars, or to become poor again. They dropped out of stupidity. Today very few people know the name of the president of Switzerland. Nor do they need to.

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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 Time Has Come To Defend Freedom

The Venezuelan Supreme Court in Exile condemned Nicolás Maduro to 18 years in prison. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 19 August 2018 — The Venezuelan Supreme Court in exile condemned Nicolás Maduro to 18 years in prison. Great. He would have to serve his sentence in Ramo Verde.** Excellent. That’s where he detained Leopoldo López and other political enemies. In addition, he must pay a fine of 25 million dollars and compensate the State for 35 billion dollars in bribes and surcharges received or paid to Odebrecht.

Odebrecht is a malignant and efficient Brazilian bandit. Tired of the inability to commit crimes like the dishonest Latin American politicians, it organized robbery on a grand scale in a dozen countries (that were not maimed, of course) and, perhaps, in the south of Florida, which has among the largest number of Latin Americans in the U.S.

That’s all well and good. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ)*** of Venezuela is entitled to act the way it did it. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Parliament recognize the failures. It accused the Attorney General, Luisa Ortega, a convert to democracy with a cloudy past of persecutions to which the opposition, intelligently, has given a welcome, perhaps because there are not many Venezuelans free of the original chavista sin. continue reading

The 33 magistrates of the STJ were named by the National Assembly, as mandated by the current Constitution. The problem is that they all have gone into exile. The Constitution, which Chávez called la Bicha (the “Bitch”), and insisted was the best Constitution on the planet, did not specify where the STJ should be located.

Logically, if there had been an earthquake in Caracas, the STJ would have to hold its session somewhere else. In Venezuela, a political earthquake has occurred that swept away everything. Understandably, the STJ left for other sites (Colombia, Chile, USA and Panama). Fortunately, the Internet exists, and the magistrates can hold a session periodically by showing their faces on Skype.

Maduro, obviously, will laugh at the sentence and say something stupid about it, although in his heart he feels chills. As we do when we discuss with an undertaker whether our relatives will see us in our present bodies, with makeup and glasses, or if they will cremate us and return us to the family in a box with a kilo and a half of ashes from our bones, after explaining that the meat, viscera and soft parts, including the eyes, went up in smoke. Of course, the 14 countries that constitute the Lima Group will look very favorably on the STJ sentence, but that isn’t sufficient. They will have to take action if they want to free themselves from the dictatorships of the Socialism of the 21st Century: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

They must do it, given that these nations try to metastasize and conspire with their local comrades in order to destroy the fundamentals of democracy.

The Lima Group should base their actions on the Democratic Letter signed, precisely, in Lima in 2001, in a solemn convocation organized by the OAS. They have a lot of work to do. Those three regimes, all signatories of the agreement, want to appear as if they are democratic. They twist the laws so the caudillos can remain in power indefinitely. They kill, imprison and send their opponents into exile, accusing them of being terrorists.

Cuba directs the group from behind the scenes, but the Island of the Castro Brothers is a tyranny that is consolidated and (vilely) accepted by everyone. It didn’t sign the Democratic Letter and has refused to be reincorporated into the OAS, an invitation that, incomprehensively, Mr. Insulza sent them.

Cuba doesn’t pretend to present itself as a democracy, but rather proudly exhibits its condition as a one-party satrap in which individual rights are subject to the ultimate goals of the State, and these are defined by the Communist Party. Thus, there is neither hypocrisy nor fundamental contradiction between law and practice. It’s Stalinist crap and has been for almost 60 years. It’s 20th century socialism, which has cost 100 million lives, and it comes directly from Leninism.

What can the Lima Group do, excepting Mexico, which finds refuge in the paralysis of the Estrada Doctrine?**** It can break or dilute the hierarchy of diplomatic relations. It can explain that laws and tradition justify the use of force when democratic avenues have been closed. It can arm opponents, so they can defend their freedoms. What would be suicide is to remain complacent.

*Translator’s Note: The Lima Group was established by the Lima Declaration, August 8, 2017, when 14 countries met in Lima to discuss the crisis in Venezuela. The group demanded the release of political prisoners, called for free elections, offered humanitarian aid and criticized the breakdown of democracy in Venezuela. Member countries are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Santa Lucia.
**Prison in Los Teques, Venezuela.
***The highest court of law in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
****Mexico’s foreign policy from 1930 to the early 2000s, which claims that foreign governments should not pass judgment on other countries’ governments. It was based on principles of non-intervention, peaceful resolution of disputes and self-determination.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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.

Mexico Moves to the Left Against the Imaginary Pendulum

Andrés Manuel López Obrador has an inveterate addiction to promising subsidies. (Morena)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 1 July 2018 — This article could not be published in Mexico right now. The elections are on Sunday July first and as of Thursday the ban has been declared. The purpose is to avoid influencing the voters who, supposedly, meditate on whom they will elect as president. In fact, the great national concern is the World Cup and the fact that Mexico has chances to win it.

What a stupid measure! In the times of our majesty the internet all that is useless. As of several days ago, 99.99% of the voters have made their decision. Polls show Andrés Manuel López Obrador – AMLO to Mexicans – of the MORENA Party as the winner with 45% intending to vote for him. The distant second is Ricardo Anaya (PAN-PRD) with 19%, and José Antonio Meade of PRI is third with just 15%. The difference is so great that if there had been a second round* AMLO would clearly defeat Anaya. continue reading

Why is Mexico moving to the left, against the imaginary pendulum, when almost all of Latin America seems to be moving in the other direction? Probably, because of AMLO who, despite being a politician of the system (he has been a member of the PRI and the PRD), has some of the attributes of the caudillo outsider, and the fact that the vast majority of Mexicans are tired of traditional politicians incapable of alleviating the very serious problems of increasing violence and great corruption.

Also, because Mexico is a country only lightly related to Latin America. It has its rich pre-Columbian history, its powerful colonial viceroyalty and its republican history without Simón Bolívar and without José de San Martín. It has its cuisine, its myths, its literature, its cinema, its music, and, ultimately, its rich and varied culture at the service of the almost 130 million Mexicans who live in the country and many of the 40 million located in the United States.

To which is added a remarkable phenomenon: the only foreign nation that really influences Mexico’s social mentality is the United States. Not withstanding that in two slashes the United States took half of Mexico’s territory. The first cut was Texas in 1836, and the second, ten years later, was the rest of what is now the southwestern US, including California.

Neither Spain, which is the distant past of the gachupines (native Spaniards in Mexico), nor Latin America, with whom the country shares a language and many features of a common identity bequeathed by the Motherland, are present in the daily life of Mexicans. The Mexican obsession is the United States.

I remember that, after participating in a seminar with Samuel Huntington at Harvard organized by Larry Harrison, the American thinker expressed his concern about the strong Mexican presence in the west of the country, given that they might eventually try to link to Mexico. I was then invited to give a lecture in Monterrey and, when I finished, I explained and asked my Mexican listeners about Huntington’s conjecture.

My hosts laughed. Had neither Huntington nor I had heard of the Tex-Mex world, very rich in culinary and musical expressions? It was the other way around: what could happen, according to them, was that one day northern Mexico would ask for its annexation to the United States. There was, they said, a very strong force of attraction from Texas that made residents of Monterrey feel more emotionally close to the Texan culture than to Mexico City.

In short, who is afraid of AMLO and why? Fearing him, with reason, are employers and society’s elite. The fear comes from his inveterate addiction to promising subsidies. AMLO’s populist features arouse the terror of business groups and domestic and foreign investors. He will raise public spending to terrible levels.

Many assume he could be another Hugo Chávez. I do not think so. He doesn’t seem as foolish. I suspect he will choose another mode of disaster, but one less severe. Maybe it will be like the first term of Peru’s Alan García, or the initial years of Venezuelan Rafael Caldera’s second term, until reality made him change direction.

The unfortunate thing is that his term will overlap with that of Donald Trump. A right-wing populist and a left-wing populist will mutually reinforce their worst instincts. In any case, Trump must be thinking of adding thirty feet to his border wall while AMLO is thinking nothing will be done to stop the flood of emigrants. The train crash is all but certain.

*Translator’s note: There are no run-offs in Mexican presidential elections. The highest vote getter wins, even without a majority. The president serves only one six-year term.

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The Loneliness of Daniel Ortega and ‘La Chayo’ Murillo

The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, and his wife Rosario Murillo. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 3 June 2018 — Daniel Ortega has been left alone. With only his wife Rosario Murillo, La Chayo*, who is also his vice president and whom the people like even less. Why this rejection of this extravagant but well educated lady? It is not clear, but it happens.

For the couple it is a very strange situation. They were accustomed to having a favorable sounding board built by the USSR and Havana, hiding and condoning the crimes of Sandinismo in the 1980s in the name of a mythical popular revolution that they were building.

First of all, the entire Church abandoned them. Times are not apt for the blunders of liberation theology. The bishops were not willing to play with a false dialogue. They set the table to talk, but always in good faith. It was too painful. As I write this chronicle there are already 93 people killed, almost all of them young people. continue reading

The students abandoned them. It is touching to witness on YouTube the harsh words directed to the presidential couple by the university student Lesther Lenin Alemán. He speaks, without saying so, in the name of all the universities, because the universities have also abandoned them. Daniel’s and La Chayo’s mobs and police entered the Central American University in Managua and the School of Engineering with blood and fire.

That has had repercussions outside of Nicaragua. From the prestigious Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala, vice-chancellor Javier Fernández-Lasquetty has written a great article for the Spanish press in which he asks for solidarity with Nicaragua, the poorest nation in Central America.

The businessmen grouped in the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) have abandoned him. A few hours ago they asked all their members to dissociate themselves from the government. They were grateful that the Ortega-Murillo couple had abandoned the stupid collectivist impulses that had destroyed the economy in that first stage of youthful fury (the country still has not recovered the growth rates of 1979, when they overthrew Somoza), but that gratitude was not enough to accept in silence the barbarous repression unleashed against a people who exercised their right to protest.

Is it worth listing all the foreign entities and people that have condemned the couple’s crimes? The US Embassy, ​​Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the 14 countries of the Lima Group, the neighboring and very civilized Costa Rica, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, Thor Halvorssen’s Human Rights Foundation, José Miguel Vivanco’s Human Rights Watch, and a very long et cetera.

Who supports Ortega and Murillo? Barely the stubble that remains of 21st Century socialism: the Cuba of Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Venezuela of Nicolás Maduro, and the Bolivia of Evo Morales, all in different phases of serious economic and political crises. Not even Gustavo Petro, the Colombian presidential candidate in that camp, dares to back them. What they do is too repulsive.

It is likely that Daniel Ortega and his wife still have the ammunition and lack of scruples to continue killing for some time, but if what they are trying to do is recover the legitimacy that is needed to exercise power in this era, there is no method that can deliver it.

Capital has begun to flee the country. We are seeing how the country becomes more impoverished every day. There are already reports that tourism has been paralyzed by 80%. The same will happen in other areas of the productive machinery. Nobody in his right mind would invest in such a place, where there are no vestiges of a Rule of Law.

The couple’s own daughter, Camila Ortega Murillo, and Shantall Lacayo, founders of Nicaragua Diseña, have had to withdraw from an innocent Miami Fashion Week event due to the protests of Nicaraguan exiles. That is just a symptom of the wave that is coming.

We will observe an accelerated decline of the presidential couple until they leave the government because of the violence, perhaps removed by the military, as happened in Ceausescu’s Romania, or perhaps because of an insurrectional spasm of society, as has happened in the country in the past.

The terrible thing is that this bitter end could be avoided if Daniel and his wife acted sensibly and withdrew from power before their house of cards totally collapses. Is that asking to squeeze blood from a stone? I do not know. There is not a hint of greatness in their stubborn resistance. It is very sad what happens in Nicaragua.

*Translator’s note: “Chayo” is a common Nicaraguan nickname for Rosario.

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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 Impossible Task of Miguel Díaz-Canel

Raul Castro did not dare to face the problem of having two currencies, leaving Diaz-Canel the poisoned inheritance of unifying them. (EFE / Alexandre Meneghini)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 22 April 2018 –Finally, Díaz-Canel became the president of Cuba’s State Council.

In Cuba there is not a President of the Republic. Formally, Cuba has a parliamentary system. In fact, it is a one-party dictatorship, hitherto led with an iron hand by the Castros. Diaz-Canel does not have a lever to support his authority, except for the cautious trust that Raúl Castro – an 86-year-old man whose death Diaz-Canel secretly desires to be able to rule on his own – would grant him. The entire structure of power is in the hands of the raulistas (Raúl’s followers) and he knows it.

On Thursday April 19, Raúl retreated to the Cuban Communist Party, the only and unique pillar of the nation according to the fifth article of the Constitution. From there, he will carefully watch the performance of his successor, ready to eliminate him swiftly if he departs from the script. It is very uncomfortable to work with your real boss looking over your shoulder. continue reading

However, the Communist Party has never made any important decisions. It’s just a transmission belt of Castros’ orders and whims. Like the three monkeys of the Chinese fable: it has not seen, it has not heard, it has not thought. Even worse, there is a fourth monkey: it has not even known.

Raúl also controls the Parliament (the National Assembly of People’s Power) through Esteban Lazo, its president. Mariela, Raúl’s daughter, is one of the 605 assembly members known in Cuba as “the singing children of Havana” because of their amazingly fine tuning. They have never played a jarring note. Of these, 31 are members of the State Council, supposedly it is the Sanhedrin who has appointed Diaz-Canel and who can dismiss him easily.

However, the country’s real authority is in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), purged by Raúl in 1989 for fear of a conspiracy. The FAR and the MININT have been filled with raulistas. Raúl Castro was Minister of the Armed Forces from 1959 until 2006, when his brother became seriously ill.

Raúl has formed and deformed the armed forces. He has appointed all the officers in command and filled them with privileges. He has even looked after the economic destiny of retired friends by assigning them to positions in the dollar area, which is the only habitable area.

As often happens with bosses, although everyone says they love him, there are many who hate him. That is why there is a photograph of Raúl giving a talk in a barracks while wearing an armored vest under his shirt. He has always been a distrustful and cautious person.

Raúl expects his successor to square the circle. Raúl wants him to maintain the system and fix or alleviate the problems of Cuban society. That’s impossible. The misery, the lack of productivity, the decadence and the despair of the Cubans are due, precisely, to the system. Nothing can be fixed if that insane asylum is kept.

Cubans want to be free to choose the movies, the books, the ideologies or the politicians that satisfy them. They even want the freedom to be apolitical and not have to repeat the revolutionary chatter imposed by a few dogmatic individuals. That’s what Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas said after he managed to escape from Cuba and was asked what was the best part of being exiled: “to show my own face for the first time,” he answered with a certain melancholy.

Cubans want to show their true faces. They want to be able to work in activities that allow them to live better, to eat what they want and not what the commissaries decide, to travel and see the world. Cuba is the only country in the world where doctors, teachers, engineers, any professional, do not live at least as middle class, unless they belong to the nucleus of power.

Today, in the economic field, those who receive remittances in dollars from family abroad can live somewhat better, as well as those who rent rooms to foreigners in remodeled houses, the girls who prostitute themselves, some self-employed workers who use their old cars to drive tourists around, and the individuals who have obtained a license to operate family restaurants known as paladares.

That is, those who live and work in the dollar area are better off, but how many people have that privilege: 5% or 10% of a population of 11 million? The Cuban peso lacks purchasing power and 90% of the nation receive their salaries or their pensions in Cuban pesos. Raul Castro did not dare to face the problem, leaving Diaz-Canel the poisoned inheritance of unifying the currency.

How is that done? Floating the Cuban peso and liberalizing prices, which would create terrible inflation and economic chaos that would last between 18 and 24 months.

At that point, presumably, Raul will have died and suddenly the only source of real authority and personal loyalty will have disappeared. Then anything could happen. Then, Diaz-Canel might even show his true face.

Translation from Latin American Herald Tribune

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After the Castros, What Will Happen in Cuba?

Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57 years old, is an electronics engineer by profession and comes to the presidency on the recommendation of José Ramón Machado Ventura. (@ Universided2018)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 1 April 2018 — Raúl Castro leaves the presidency of the State Council to Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday April 19.

Officially, Cuba has a government appointed by the Parliament. Actually, the government is a family dictatorship, but the president is legally elected by a small leadership group (the State Council), seemingly segregated by the National Assembly of People’s Power (the Parliament), in which everything – supposedly – is carefully prearranged. Some opposition groups tried to nominate a few candidates, but it was impossible. Not even one was allowed. You do not play with tyranny.

Díaz-Canel (D-C) is a 57-year old electronics engineer and becomes president thanks to the recommendations of José Ramón Machado Ventura, a doctor who for many years oversaw the Communist Party and enjoys Raúl Castro’s total confidence. In that far from artificial division between fidelistas (Fidel Castro’s followers) and raulistas (Raúl Castro’s followers), D-C is a raulista, selected, in the first place, by his characteristics: he is a discreet pragmatic apparatchik who does not like innovations, a trait well regarded by inquisitors of all times. continue reading

A few months ago, Cuban State Security circulated a supposedly leaked video, in which D-C recited a very conservative collectivist catechism, conceived for three purposes – to engage the heir with those reactionary positions, to reassure the small group of Stalinists around Raúl, and to downgrade Cuban society’s multiple expectations of reform, so that no one is excited about the change. The Leopard’s formula maintains its validity in Cuba – if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.

What does Raúl Castro intend to do with this non-change? He intends to make possible the inevitable arrival to power of a new generation, born after the triumph of the Revolution (D-C is a 57-year old “kid”), but with the condition that they don’t make substantial changes to the regime created by his brother Fidel and a handful of henchmen. Like all dictators, Raúl would like time to stop in the moment in which he and his brother won a place in history. Simultaneously, he tries to assure his family and his friends that fate will be benevolent with them when he is not there to guarantee it. After all, he will be 87 years old very soon.

Is all that possible? Of course not.

All the conditions are in place for a change of regime to occur. First, the feeling of failure is widespread. The system’s lack of productivity is overwhelming. None of the parameters of a minimum quality of life resists the slightest analysis: housing, electricity, transportation, food, drinking water, clothing. Cuba has regressed in almost all aspects of existence. Adding to those problems are the constant fear, the absence of rights and the unpleasant need to lie, a need all Cubans have in order to survive in a totalitarian society. Living in Cuba is not pleasant neither materially nor emotionally. That’s why young people dream of leaving the country.

When will the regime change begin? The first step is when D-C becomes president. Although he repeatedly swears that he will be loyal to the Castros’ legacy, and even if he believes he will, the administrative environment of the country and society as a whole would like a radical transformation as soon as possible. What does this transformation consist of? Essentially, it would free the nation’s productive forces, unleashing the hands of entrepreneurs so they are able to create and accumulate wealth, invest and be powerful, even if the superstition of egalitarianism ends up impoverished.

The idea of a central economic nucleus, managed by the state and administered by the military, with around 2,500 companies that generates foreign currency, lacks spontaneity, flexibility and is a sure path to the disaster that lies in the accounting records, as audits have demonstrated. The model of Castro’s “guidelines” does not work. The idea of a private self-employed sector dedicated to serving the state as a taxpayer and as an employer of supernumerary workers that pay taxes is foolish.

After 60 years of nonsense Cubans know that there is no substitute for the market, economic freedom and private property. They also know that, despite its imperfections, the only system which can guarantee the organized transmission of authority, and that can be purged and transformed without violence, is the state under the rule of law that emerged from the Enlightenment, either as a republic or as a parliamentary monarchy. That’s the only way, even if D-C is against it. That’s the way of history.

Note: Translation is from the Latin American Herald

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There’s No Nostalgia Worse Than Longing for What Never Happened

That obsessive search of a mythical golden age that Donald Trump repeats in his speeches has to do with a characteristic of the conservative personality. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Donald Trump is wrong when he declares that his intention is to Make America Great Again. When has the country ever been in better shape and its society more comfortable? When have its Armed Forces been more feared and more powerful, endowed with an annual budget of 600 billion dollars, an amount greater than that of all its enemies combined? If someone knows, it’s urgent that we do away with the doubt.

In the 1930s came the Great Depression, caused by the Wall Street collapse. In the 1940s came the Second World War, immediately followed by the Cold War and the fall of China into communist hands. In the peaceable 1950s,cradled in the tranquilizing arms of Eisenhower, after Korea and its tens of thousands of dead Americans, came the unrest in the Middle East and the ominous national practices to survive a possible Soviet nuclear attack. continue reading

The 1960s brought race riots, Vietnam and government lies. In the 1970s, Nixon imploded, and at the end of the decade, in the Carter era, bank interest rates climbed to 20 percent, the economy suffered from “stagflation” and it seemed that the period of democracy was coming to an end, overrun by Soviet collectivism. A little later, however, Mikhail Gorbachev buried the Soviet Union and communism was relegated to two loony bins without any real importance: Cuba and North Korea. (In China and Vietnam today we find another genre of dictatorship, distanced from Marxist superstitions.)

In the United States, people’s life expectancy has risen, as has happened in almost the whole world, sparked, in large part, by the country’s medical discoveries. Homes are larger and are furnished with all kinds of electrical appliances (even among the poorest social groups); food, including junk food, is so abundant and so cheap that the country’s great problem is not hunger but obesity and a progressive increase in diabetes.

The poor — approximately 15 percent of the population — are poor because a family of four receives “only” about $24,000 a year, plus food stamps. Everyone — the poor, the middle class and the rich — has access to electricity, the Internet, drinking water, clothing, cell phones, transportation, schools, state or private universities that award scholarships to the best students and loans to almost everyone, police protection, reasonably efficient judicial systems and opportunities to work and move ahead.

True, the United States has problems, but they have always existed. It is a free society, complex and plural, with 325 million inhabitants, of whom more than 42 million are Afro-Americans and more than 57 million are Hispanics, whose representatives maintain order with a much discussed and debated punitive strategy where approximately three million are incarcerated.

It is also true that the quality of students decreases while the cost of tuition increases, but the country has the 25 best university and research centers on the planet. Simultaneously, there is no universal health insurance, medicines are expensive and malignant drugs cause deadly damage (never better said). The latter — the drugs — are linked to the fact that in some cities there are areas of extreme violence with very high rates of homicide. However, the United States remains a fundamentally free country and one full of opportunities.

That explains why millions of human beings try to settle in this country. There is no better index of the relative quality of a society than the presence of immigrants. The United States is a magnet because the American Dream is alive. As it was in Venezuela until Chavismo came. As it was in Cuba until Castro crushed the dream that one could prosper through one’s own efforts. As it was in Argentina, until Peronism ruined that great nation with its populist message, intermingled with fascism. The immigration balance of these three countries was very favorable until the ideological stupidity and barbarism destroyed the productive apparatus and pulverized coexistence.

It is true that there are places where life is better in some aspects than in the United States (half of Europe, including Spain, perhaps in Israel or Japan, because quality of life does not depend only on material issues), but perhaps in none of them can immigrants can establish themselves like in the USA, where in the last elections two senators, children of immigrants, aspired to the presidency, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, while the story of newcomers and their descendants who succeed is repeated again and again as a permanent mantra.

In the 15th Century, the Spanish poet Jorge Manrique, moved by the death of his father, Rodrigo, wrote a great poem with a melancholy ill-thought verse: “Any time in the past was better.” Not true. In those societies, such as the United States, where an institutional continuity exists despite the reversals and bad junctures, they manage to prosper in a constant manner, making themselves true progressives, an adjective that countries and parties that progress least often usurp.

Probably that obsessive pursuit of a mythical Golden Age that Trump keeps repeating in his speeches has to do with a characteristic of the conservative personality. Conservatives tend to be pessimists. They invariably see the glass half empty and become frightened when they see an ethnically diverse society, more tolerant in sexual and religious matters, in which the norms of behavior, from strident and rude music to tattoos, are very different from what they learned in a safe childhood of white and Christian homes.

Conservatives associate the profile of society with their own biography. In the past, they were young and handsome. Today, they are old, wrinkled and ugly. The past was better, they believe. That’s not true. It was different. Another poet, a singer named Joaquín Sabina, has expressed it in a very popular song: “There’s no worse nostalgia than longing for what never happened.” This is what is happening to Donald Trump.

Note: Portions of this translation taken from The Latin American Herald.

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We Are All Norwegians

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, wants only blond, tall, orderly, hard-working, educated and clean people, like the Norwegians, to emigrate to the US. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerDonald Trump would like Norwegian immigrants. Blond, tall, orderly, hard-working, educated and clean people. Successful people with whom he shares physical features and certain traits. But it’s unlikely that he’ll have any luck. Today, Norwegians enjoy a standard of living higher than Americans and find that in their democratic, free and peaceful homeland there are plenty of opportunities to improve themselves by their own efforts. They have no reason to emigrate. Almost no one likes to depart for destinations unknown.

In contrast, fate (or geography, which is almost always the same) has delivered to Trump Mexican, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Honduran, Haitian, Colombian and — lately — Venezuelan immigrants and other “shitty people” who flee from their failed societies in search of security and progress. (“Shithole” people is the denigrating and unfair term put into service by the president of the United States himself in a conversation that allegedly was private.) continue reading

In reality, two thirds of the world’s population are much closer to the “shitty” people than to Norwegians. A lax description of the societies in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, the Arab and sub-Saharan nations, a part of Europe, Russia and Latin America would elicit from Trump the same offensive definition he utilized for Salvadorans, Haitians and Africans.

In any case, it is absurd to think that the solution to problems is in social homogeneity. Sharing a single race, a single religion, a single language only guarantees us boredom, monotony and abuse. That’s the road to Nazism and the extermination of different people. The glorious message of republican ideas and parliamentary monarchies is that diversity is not only inevitable but also very convenient.

The 1790 census in the United States tallied roughly 4 million white Americans, almost all of English and Irish origin, and half a million black slaves. Only a handful of native Americans remained, and they weren’t even counted. In 2018, we have 325 million people, of whom 72 percent are white, 13 percent black and 16 percent Hispanic, a strange definition that is attributable to the European colonizer.

This enormous leap has been achieved while the country rose to the head of the planet. In 1890, the United States already was the world’s largest economy. After more than a century, it continues to be, although it grows at the rate of only 2 percent a year. This means that, at least until today, the machine that turns “shitty” people into productive and wealth-producing citizens has worked splendidly, an extreme that should not surprise us. The species is the same. What changes is the circumstances, the incentives and the institutions.

The children of the Polish or Russian peasants, in numerous cases born in tiny Jewish villages, or shtetls, became renowned doctors, lawyers and scholars of all kinds. The Indians, fragmented into 200 castes in their homeland, were the segment with the highest level of income in the United States. The second generation of Cubans, whose fathers had turned their island into an unproductive collectivist disaster, attained a high degree of education and economic performance.

What I mean to say is that the United States does not need Norwegians. It needs institutions, fair laws, opportunities for newcomers to develop, and moral and material incentives for individual enterprise. If that holds, the Haitians will slowly become Norwegians, even though they’ll keep their ethnic features.

After all, today’s admirable Norwegians were once fierce Vikings, crass and brutal, who had a bad habit of spitting into the bathtub where they washed off the blood and mud that covered them after they exterminated their adversaries. That’s when the Norwegians were shitty people.

Note: Translation from El Blog de Montaner

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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 Man of the Year and the Usual Vice

To avoid the sentence of 19 years in prison, Marcelo Odebrecht has betrayed his accomplices in his capacity as an “effective collaborator of justice.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 31 December 2017 — Marcelo Odebrecht is the man of the year in Latin America. This Brazilian engineer born in 1968, grandson of the founder of a huge business conglomerate, is the prince of the planet’s bribe-mongers. To avoid a sentence of 19 years in prison, something he accomplished just a few days ago, he has betrayed his accomplices in his capacity as an “effective collaborator of justice,” destabilizing many of our countries, showing (much to their dismay) the miseries and cynicism of many politicians and officials.

The Odebrecht Organization was a huge civil engineering company, with almost 200,000 workers and a turnover of more than 40 billion dollars, of which it has already lost a third. It operated in a score of countries, some of them with a GDP lower than the company’s income, but the bulk of its operations and its bribes were carried out in Brazil.

It distributed a total of about one billion dollars. In absolute terms, the most corrupt country outside Brazil was Venezuela (98 million), something totally predictable, because its government is a kind of vile toilet, but the Latin American nations that received the most per capita in bribes were Panama (59 million) and the Dominican Republic (92 million). continue reading

The modus operandi was simple. The Odebrecht men detected a candidate with possibilities and began to negotiate. Brazil had large advertising and magnificent campaign cabinets. That great expertise was placed at the service of the person chosen together with important amounts to cover the cost of the operation.

All that the candidate had to do, once elected at the polls, was to approve the large budgets and entrust Odebrecht with the execution of the planned public works. The enormous amount was paid for by the taxes paid by the people or by loans that would have to be faced someday.

The Odebrecht Brazilians, on the other hand, did a good job on the roads, tunnels or whatever, and took care to pay seriously what was agreed to in Switzerland, in Andorra or in some other tax haven, carefully organizing the logistics of corruption. They kept their word. Theirs was not to deceive politicians or to rob the thieves, but to provide them with the famous secret slogan of “steal, but produce,” while increasing the turnover year after year.

You could trust the words of mobsters endowed with silk ties and five thousand dollar suits. They lacked ideological color. Without the slightest scruple they agreed with Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro or the Ecuadorian Jorge Glas, Rafael Correa’s vice president — apostles of 21st Century Socialism — natural enemies of the private market economy, of which the Odebrecht company was the quintessence.

The problem, of course, is not Odebrecht, but the mentality that prevails in Latin America. On a more modest scale, it is like this, through bribes, small or large, that most of our governments have worked since time immemorial, with a terrible aggravation: our societies do not care. Corruption appears at the end of the list of the evils that should be eradicated in most surveys. In Mexico they have come to affirm, seriously, that “corruption is just another way of distributing income.”

Why does this lack of principles happen in our world? Maybe, because most of the Ibero-Americans — including the Brazilians — do not perceive clearly that public money is contributed by all of us and corruption is as if they had put their hands in our pockets and stolen our wallets. What happens with the State does not concern us.

Perhaps, because the cynicism is total and we take for granted that the government is going to steal and it does not worry us, as long as it is “our own” that is enriched with the resources of others. We are victims of a clear moral anomie.

Undoubtedly, because patronage, that small bribe granted by the government, is a form of corruption, a type of harmful behavior, in which millions of Latin Americans are trained.

That is why it is not surprising that, despite Lava Jato (Wash the Calf), as the judicial operation against corruption was called in Brazil, once again they chose Lula da Silva, who today heads the polls despite his dirty business. Years ago the Peronists in neighboring Argentina said in a graffiti that time has not erased and that reveals the drama at the heart of it: “Sodomite or thief we want Perón.”

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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.