Questions After Burying Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Funeral acts to say goodbye to Fidel Castro's ashes in Havana (EFE)
Funeral acts to say goodbye to Fidel Castro’s ashes in Havana (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 December 2016 — Almost no one knows how his final hours passed. Did he die suddenly of a cardiac arrest, did he agonize for several days, or did he suffocate because a throat obstruction, as rumors circulate sotto voce in Havana ?

Why the hurry to cremate him? Was it that they didn’t want his final image to be that of a fragile and shrunken old man with a deranged expression? Is that why they made the people file past a photograph of the heroic Comandante on the Sierra Maestra? There is an old tradition of revolutionary primness. One of Stalin’s last requests was that his mustache be well combed. Continue reading “Questions After Burying Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

Why did they place the urn with the ashes in the Granma Hall of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, far from the presence of the multitudes? Did they fear the improbable scenario that passions might overflow?

Or did they only want for his old comrades-in-arms, like Ramiro Valdés, to bid farewell privately to the caudillo and chief who guided them to victory and turned them into important — though hated and feared — personages?

Is it true that the Comandante’s mortal remains did not travel in the precarious jeep that allegedly carried them to their final destination so as not to endanger them on a pothole-riddled road made hard to navigate by government neglect? Did the idea of giving Cubans a symbolic farewell prevail? What did it matter if the vehicle carried sand or the ashes of another dead man if the act was purely ritual? If Raúl swapped Hugo Chávez’s cadaver, why wouldn’t he do the same with his own brother’s?

Is it true that they planned to switch the ashes at dawn Sunday, shortly before the burial? Using a body double was a trick that Fidel Castro used frequently in life. Was the custom followed after his death? Is that an example of the revolutionary cunning Fidel boasted of so often when he inhabited this vale of tears?

Why did no one interview his official widow and the five sons he had with her? Why didn’t the journalists record the reactions of the other 10 (more or less) unofficial heirs known or presumed to be his? Or the reactions of the 10 other grieving and presumably desperate women who at one time loved the Maximum Leader and dared to give birth to his child?

Is it true that between Raúl’s and Fidel’s families there are barely any channels of communication? Is it true that Raúl’s heirs consider themselves devoted revolutionaries and see their cousins as contemptible bon vivants who mindlessly waste the resources given to them in the sins of the dolce vita, while they themselves aggrandize the legacy of their elders in patriotic endeavors?

Or is it perhaps the domestic and familial variant of the face-off between Fidelistas and Raulistas who, according to the well-informed, has existed deep in the ruling cupola ever since, precipitously in 2006, Raúl came to power hanging from Fidel’s bowels, severely damaged by diverticulitis?

How does Raúl Castro really feels after the disappearance of the older brother who gave him the ideas, the vital drive, the structure of values, who made him Comandante, then Minister, then President and handed him a country he could make or break at will, all the time reminding him that he was an intellectually inferior pygmy without imagination, learning or charisma?

Is Raúl a victim of the love-hate and admiration-rejection provoked by relationships where one party feels he is someone else’s caboose? Does he resent the humiliations received or does he thank Fidel for giving him a remarkable life? Gratitude is the most difficult emotion to handle by most human beings.

Is Raúl aware that the solid juvenile adherence aroused in him by his brother-hero turned to a critical evaluation of the brother-loony with more darkness than glow who lived in a universe of unhinged words or initiatives — dwarf cows, moringa plantations and a thousand other inanities — that gradually destroyed the material foundation of Cubans’ coexistence?

There remains, of course, the most important of all questions. What will happen in the future, now that Fidel Castro lies in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery under a heavy stone, near José Martí’s tomb? That will be the subject of a future article.

Chile Returns To Its Old Populist Ways / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

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Protests in Chile against the AFP have been underway for several days throughout the country (Twitter/@mariseka)

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Santiago de Chile, 28 August 2016 – I have arrived in the country in the middle of a cacophony, fortunately peaceful and civilized. It is Sunday, and tens of thousands of people are protesting against the AFPs.

They complain about the “Pension Fund Administrators,” a retirement system founded on individual capital accounts, more or less like the 401(k) and the American IRA. One contributes a part of his salary to an account that belongs to him, and thus, after a certain age, he can dispose of his resources or leave them to his heirs when he dies. The money is his. It does not come from the benevolence of other workers. Continue reading “Chile Returns To Its Old Populist Ways / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

The AFPs are private financial companies that invest the money that the workers entrust to them in reasonably safe instruments, so that the risks are minimal. They charge about 1.5% to manage these resources. There are a few so that competition exists in price and services.

Since the economist Jose Pinera created the AFPs at the beginning of the 1980’s, the average annual return has been 8.4%. The government merely establishes strict rules and carefully monitors the financial entities. So far, in 35 years, there has been no collapse or scandal.

Today the mass of savings generated by the AFPs is approximately 167 billion dollars. That is very convenient for the stability of the country. A third of these funds comes from workers’ direct deposits. Two-thirds, the rest, are interest generated by these deposits. Without doubt, it has been a great business for the prospective retirees.

Until the creation of the AFPs, the distributed funds model prevailed in Chile, as in almost the whole world. The worker’s investment went to a general fund that was used to pay the pensions of retirees or finance the fixed expenses of the growing public workforce. In many countries, often, the money of elderly retired people ends up in the pockets of devious politicians and officials or is dedicated to other purposes.

As happens in Europe and the United States, the relationship between the number of workers and retirees is more problematic with each passing year. Fewer people are born, especially in developed or developing countries, and they live many more years.

Hence the retirement systems based on the distribution model are in crisis or heading towards it. They tank just as “Ponzi Schemes” always end badly; named for Charles Ponzi, a creative scammer who paid good dividends to investors … as long as there were new investors to meet the commitments.

When the capitalization system began, there were seven workers in Chile for every retiree. Today there are fewer than five. By mid-21st Century there will be two. The individual capitalization system, rather than a maniacal predilection of liberals dictated by ideological convictions, is the only possible model of retirement in the medium term. It is much safer for a worker to have control of his savings than to leave that sensitive task to intergenerational solidarity or the decisions of politicians.

What has happened in Chile? Why are they complaining? Half of Chilean workers, especially women, do not regularly save, or they have not done so in a long time, and since they have not saved enough, the pensions they receive, consequently, are small, and they are not enough for them to survive. That is why they protest and want the state to assume responsibility for their old age and give them a “dignified” pension, without stopping to think that the supposed right that they are angrily soliciting consists of an obligation for others: those who work must give them part of their wealth.

At the same time, students passionately demand free university studies, while many Chileans demand the “decent” living promised by politicians in the electoral fracas, to which are added modern and effective medical services, also “free,” proper to a middle class country like Chile currently is. It is not well understood why, by the same reasoning, they do not seek free food, water, clothes, electricity, and telephones, all items of absolute necessity.

It is a shame. A few years ago it appeared that Chile, after a 20th Century of populism from the right and left, with a population dominated by an incompetent and greedy government that had bogged down in underdevelopment and poverty, finally had discovered the correct road of individual responsibility, the market, the opening up and the empowerment of civil society as a great entrepreneurial player and the only wealth creator.

There was enthusiastic talk of the “Chilean model” as the Latin American road to reaching the First World. With 23,500 dollars per capita GDP (measured in purchasing power), Chile has put itself at the head of Latin America and boasts a low crime rate, honest administration and respect for institutions. It would not take long to reach that development threshold that economists set at about 28 to 30 thousand dollars per capita GDP.

It may never happen. A recent survey shows the growing irresponsibility of many Chileans convinced that society is obliged to transfer to them the resources that they demand from the state, which means from other Chileans.

It is a pity. A substantial part of the population has returned to populist ways typified by claiming rights and evading responsibilities. If Chile again sinks into the populist quagmire, we Latin Americans all will lose a lot. Prosperity and, who knows, even liberty. We will be left without a model, aimless, and in some sense, without a destination.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Do Massive Marches Serve a Purpose? / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 3 September 2016 — It may have been the largest march in Venezuela’s history. Did it serve for anything? We’ll get to that. I begin my analysis with a view of the government.

Maduro and the Cuban DGI agents, who actually rule the country, faced a dilemma: in the face of a giant demonstration, should they remove the fragile democratic mask they still wear sporadically, declare martial law, suspend constitutional guarantees and dissolve the National Assembly on the pretext they were impeding a coup planned by Washington’s perfidy, or should they obstruct the demonstrators, arrest the leaders and cause the demonstration to abort by disrupting the march at various spots in its course?

They opted for the second. They believed that they could do it. That’s what the authorities do in Cuba. They arrest, disperse, infiltrate, harass the opponents, pit them one against another with a thousand intrigues and prevent them from seizing the streets. The streets belong to Fidel. That’s the task of the vast and secret body of Cuba’s counterintelligence (55,000 to 60,000 people), the regular police (80,000), plus the rough-and-tumble mob of the Communist Party, while the three regular armies remain on standby in case they need to join combat. Total: 350,000 rabid dogs, not counting the Communist Party, to bring to bay 11 million terrified lambs. Continue reading “Do Massive Marches Serve a Purpose? / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

They were wrong. The social control is not the same. In Cuba, the opposition was liquidated by gunfire in the first five years of the dictatorship. There was resistance, but the authorities killed some 7,000 people and jailed more than 100,000. Two decades later, in the late 1970s, when the cage had been hermetically shut, they began to release them. The Castros have held Cuban society in their fist for half a century now. The Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi taught them how to lock the padlock. Today, Raúl has perfected his repressive strategy. It was the one the Chavists futilely tried to use in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan opposition holds on precariously in a virtual zone of the state apparatus. They are mayors, governors or deputies. They hold posts but neither power nor a budget. Chavism has deprived them of resources and authority, although, because Chavism emerged from a democratic setup, it has not been easy for it to build a cage. According to surveys, the Chavists are opposing 80 percent of the population, including a good portion of the D and E sectors — that is, the poorest.

They are an undisguised gang of inept caretakers engaged in larceny. To hide and disguise reality, they bought, confiscated or neutralized the media, except for a couple of heroic newspapers, but the country’s situation is so catastrophic that there’s no human way they can hide the disaster.

Nevertheless, the opposition lacks the muscle needed to force Maduro’s overthrow and the system’s replacement. In general, the oppositionists are peaceful people, trained for 40 years in the sweet exercise of electoral democracy. What could they do? They could march. Bang on pots and pans. Stage peaceful protests. It was the only way to express their opposition in the desperate situation in which they found themselves.

They could fill the public squares in the manner of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but against an adversary much more unscrupulous than the Anglo-Saxons. They have done so, dozens of times. It was a civilized way to confront totalitarian harassment. The people who kill, the scoundrels, the organized criminals are on the side of Chavism. The armed forces have been taken over by the Cubans and the top leaders are knee-deep in drug trafficking. Letting the army brass dirty their hands was a clever and vile way to tie them. Today they are not united by patriotism but by crime and the fear of the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the end, do marches and peaceful protests serve a purpose? Of course they do. The Poles and the Ukrainians demolished their dictatorships marching and shouting slogans. It’s a matter of persistence. He who tires, loses. But there is a very important physiological factor. Participating in a common cause that expresses itself physically — marches, slogans — provokes an exceptional secretion of oxytocin, the hormone of affective linkage produced by the pituitary gland.

That’s the feeling of unity, of bonding, experienced during military marches, sports competitions or the innocent crowd gatherings to listen to popular musicians. That’s the substance that generates “esprit de corps” and permanent loyalties.

The opposition feels fraternally united in these street demonstrations. There’s a burst of trust in the coreligionist and hope in the resurrection of the homeland. That’s all that Venezuelans desperately need to find themselves again in a close and brotherly embrace, because their country in fact is dying. It’s being killed by Chavism.

Note: Translation taken from the English text on the author’s blog.

The Revolution is Exactly That / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

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Hunger in Venezuela (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 6 August 2016 – They are hungry in Venezuela. It is the revolution. It does not matter that it potentially may be the richest country in the world. The same thing happened in 1921 in the newly debuted USSR. A million Russians died of hunger. Lenin rejoiced. “The revolution and I are like that, madam.” They kept the peasants from trading, and the Red Army confiscated food, including the seeds.

It happened in China. There were 20 million deaths. In that country grieving also is multitudinous. It happened in Cambodia and North Korea, where some desperate subjects resorted to cannibalism. It always happens. In Cuba sixty thousand people lost their sight or mobility in their lower limbs because of peripheral neuritis cause by malnutrition after the end of the Soviet subsidy. Continue reading “The Revolution is Exactly That / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

Castro protested against the US “blockade.” The Minister of Health, who warned about what was happening, was removed from his post. The Revolution is also about keeping your mouth shut. It was not the embargo. It was the Revolution. It is always the Revolution. They gave the Nobel Prize in economics to the Bengali Amartya Sen for demonstrating that famines invariably are caused by state interference. Any of the victims of Communism could have explained to the Swedes with equal clarity and without need of getting a doctorate from Cambridge.

Why do the Communists do it? Are they sadists? Are they stupid people who commit the same errors time and again? Nothing of the sort. They are revolutionaries bent on creating a new world based on the prescriptions of Karl Marx.

Didn’t Karl Marx assert that the ruling oligarchy and state model were the consequence of the regime of capitalist property? Didn’t he claim that if a Communist vanguard were to take over the means of production in the name of the proletariat that there would emerge a new society ruled by new men endowed with a new morality?

It is a matter of priorities. Communist revolutionaries are not interested in people living better or farms and factories producing more. Those are the petty bourgeois stupidities typical of liberal democracies which include the Social Democrat traitors, the Christian Democrats and other minor species insistent on the babble of social pseudo-justice.

The two essential jobs of the Communist revolutionaries are, first, to demolish the power structure of the “old regime” and to substitute their own people for it; second, to take over the productive apparatus, ruin businesses that they cannot manage and nationalize the rest in order to deprive the old capitalist oligarchs of resources.

It is in these activities that Communist revolutionaries demonstrate if they have succeeded or failed. That is the benchmark. Lenin and Stalin succeeded, at least for several decades. Mao and the Castros succeeded. Chavez succeeded … for now.

What does it matter to Maduro that there are skeletal children who faint from hunger in school or that the sick die for lack of medicine? His definition of success has nothing to do with the feeding or health of Venezuelans, but with that fevered and delirious little world they call, pompously, the “consolidation of the revolutionary process.”

That explains the leniency in the face of immense theft of public treasure or the complicity with drug traffickers. Welcome. Marx also delivered the perfect alibi: They are in the first phase of capital accumulation. In this period of regime change, like someone who sheds a skin, anything goes.

And there will be time to re-establish honesty and to trust that the centrally planned five-year plans will bring something like prosperity. For now it’s about enriching the key revolutionaries: The Cabello brothers and their nephews, the docile generals, the Bolibourgeois, which is to say the revolutionaries in service to the cause. They have to have full pockets in order to be useful.

Do you understand now why the Communist revolutionaries repeat time and again the same framework of government? They are not mistaken. The upheaval is part of the construction of the new State.

Do you understand why the Castros advise Maduro to follow the unproductive Cuban model and why he doggedly obeys? What matters to the Chavistas is keeping power and exchanging the government elites for their own.

Do the Colombians understand what the guerrilla chief, Timochenko, means to say when he promises to revolutionize Colombia when he comes to power? Or Pablo Iglesias in Spain when he asserts that he will use in his country the same prescription that was recommended to the Venezuelans? They are consistently destructive.

That is the Revolution. Exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less.

Translation by Mary Lou Keel

The Totalitarian Left and Their “Escraches” / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (EFE)
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 2 July 2016 – Cesar Nombela is the chancellor of the Menendez and Pelayo International University located in Santander, Spain. He is a renowned researcher in the world of microbiology. It occurred to Dr. Nombela and the Governing Council to award former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe the institution’s Medal of Honor, as they had done previously with other politicians from the democratic West, and immediately the totalitarian left, which has it in for Uribe, launched a protest.

In the face of the orchestrated scandal, the institution’s authorities, startled, decided to delay the award ceremony and to “widen the inquiries.” Uribe, who had exerted no effort to receive the unexpected honor, asked that it be revoked and urged the Chancellor to promote a good debate about the topic of Colombia. A person whose enemies have tried to assassinate him 15 times is more interested in substance than vanity. Continue reading “The Totalitarian Left and Their “Escraches” / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

This is a perfect example of the growing climate of intolerance cultivated in Spain by the totalitarian left. In 2010, then-professor Pablo Iglesias organized an escrache at Madrid’s Complutense University in order to prevent Representative Rosa Diez, an open and tolerant social democrat, from being able to express her ideas. Escrache is a sinister lexicographic contribution from Argentina, apparently of Langue d’Oc origin, which describes violent acts undertaken to silence an ideological adversary.

“Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio

Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)
Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 Mach 2016 – Like “a small crack in the Cuban political system” from which an opening coming. Thus did the attorney and activist Rolando Ferrer define the Otro18 (Another 2018) project during a meeting with journalists this Thursday at the Madrid Press Association. Four of the promoters of this process travelled from the island to present in Spain this initiative that promotes reforms in laws addressing elections, association, political parties and others.

Opponents are seeking, with their proposals, to influence a democratic opening that would take effect in Cuban with the elections to be held in 2018. This was emphasized by Ferrer, a member of the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), as well as by historian Boris Gonzales Continue reading ““Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio”

, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Yusmila Reyna, and opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morua. All of the participated in the press conference this morning, accompanied by the exiled journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner.

With the support of 45 independent organizations inside and outside of Cuba, the initiative demands that the international community follow the situation on the island. “The process of reforms initiated in Cuba should address not only the economic, trade and investment sector, but also the political sector,” Cuesta Morua declared this Thursday.

“We have included a candidate’s right to campaign,” declared Ferrer, in response to a question from 14ymedio about a possible reform that would allow candidate to campaign for votes. “We want to facilities the candidates having a work plan, proposals that they could take to the citizens, and we also want to insert independent candidates,” he added.

“Currently in Cuba the only access the voter has is to the candidates’ biographies, through their past, and this is not a program,” added Boris Gonzalez. To publicize the proposal among Cubans, Cuesta Morua believes that they have to try to reach the citizenry, so it will be perceived as a citizens’ initiative.

The proposed electoral reform, Reyna noted, “was already presented to the National Assembly” and now they are awaiting a response. Right now they are “training independent candidates, who are nothing more than social activists who have a certain popularity and recognition, in addition to the slanderous campaign that the government has undertaken against them,” he added.

“The Spanish transition [from dictatorship to democracy] was a process that favored going from the law to the law,” said Cuesta Morua, who has asked for Spain’s involvement in the process. Spain “has supported the process of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and could do the same with Cuba,” he added. The European Union “in its political dialogue with the Cuban authorities should ask that they respect the will of thousands of citizens who are demanding free, fair, democratic, competitive and internationally observed elections.”

Cuesta Morua, the leader of the “Progressive Arc”, has stated that “this is a political proposal” and a “a project directed to the citizenry,” and he distanced himself from the process of electoral changes “made to order by the power,” which the government is pushing. The promoters of Otro18 are seeking that it be possible that “citizens can choose not only vote,” he said.

The opponents also stressed that the three strategic demands of the project are the demands for “an independent national electoral commission; that citizens can choose without the mediation of the national commission nomination; and at the same time that the President of the Republic is directly elected.”

The management group of the project is currently made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), Cuban Youth Roundtable (MDJC), Progressive Arc Party, Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association, but its promoters say they are open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Cuesta Morua insisted that this is a political process, not one more a Latin American revolution, and it is intended to allow the citizenry to assume their rights and choose who will be their representatives.

The opponents did not shirk the thorny issue of the unity of the opposition and organizations that have not joined the Otro18 project, such as the Christian Liberation Movement and the Ladies in White. Cuesta Morua said that “the perception of disunity no longer represents the current reality of how the opposition is organized in Cuba” and called the present time a “mature stage.”

“Today more than yesterday, the opposition is working together, coinciding in many respects and has put any irreconcilable differences in the past to work on concrete proposals for democratic change,” said Cuesta Morua.

The opposition denounced pressures, “threats and the confiscation of working tools” against the promoters of the initiative and cited the arrests that occurred around the first Forum of the initiative, held in early March at the home of an activist in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.

A President Has Come to Havana Carrying… / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The caravan of United States President Barack Obama, this Monday in Havana (White House)
The caravan of United States President Barack Obama, this Monday in Havana (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 26 March 2016 – Spanish children used to play a game of imagination, listing the things carried in ships from the colonies: “A ship has come from Havana carrying: pineapples, lace, sugar,” whatever. It was a playful exercise in which fantasy and vocabulary mixed as a teaching tool.

Barack Obama, without knowing it, revived the game. For the United States President his trip had four declared objectives: unilaterally bury the Cold War in the Caribbean; officially eliminate the diplomatic strategy of containment or isolation and replace it with one of engagement or rapprochement; reinforce ties with Cuban civil society, especially with the emerging private business sector; and strengthen the democratic opposition that seeks a peaceful evolution of the regime towards pluralism. Continue reading “A President Has Come to Havana Carrying… / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

For the Cuban regime the visit was another step to ending the old trade embargo, and achieving the coming of American tourists and investments; the promise of soft credits when the law permits it; and the possibility of alleviating the difficult economic situation that Cuba is facing with the end of the subsidies from Venezuela, which the economist Mesa Lago has, in the past, estimated to total thirteen billion dollars a year.

Raul Castro had not the least intention of modifying his communist dictatorship. At the end of the day, as Fidel Castro himself has reiterated a hundred times, the regime established itself based on ideological convictions and not as a response to US hostility. The sequence was the inverse.

Nor is it in his plans to bury “anti-Yankeeism,” one of the central elements of 21st Century Socialism. For him, for Nicolas Maduro, for Evo Morales, even for Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega, the Cold War is not over, as is evident in their good relations with Iran, North Korea and Syria.

For United States exporters and investors Obama’s approach was fairly tempting. Money, as we know, is cautious. They accompanied him with more curiosity than real interest. As long as the embargo law continues, any exports to Cuba must be paid for in advance, a measure healthy up to now, because the island has a bad reputation as a payer. Throughout the 57 years this government has lasted, almost every business or country that has extended it credit has been defrauded.

The only businesses that are profitable in Cuban are those engaged in tourism, because they are paid ahead of time and in dollars. Everyone also knows that it is very dangerous to do business where there are no independent courts. In Cuba, as in all totalitarian governments, the judges are an appendage of the central power.

The democrats of the internal opposition have been the main beneficiaries. There were thirteen people from diverse groups, as befits any people aspiring to respect for differences of opinion. Obama met with them for almost two hours, listened to them, supported them, and then devoted the main part of his speech to demanding that Raul Castro respect human rights and the need for plurality required by a society affected for so many years by the sclerosis of a single way of thinking. The moment when he turned to the general and told him, “do not fear the voices of Cubans who want to express themselves freely,” is and will be for a long time a landmark in the struggle against the dictatorship.

Will the strategy of engagement work? Obama himself is skeptical, and rightly so: the Cuban dictatorship is not going to change. It is proudly communist and the Constitution awards the Party exclusive leadership of society. For the dominant elite, human rights – specifically the freedom of expression and association to which Obama referred – are subterfuges of the hated bourgeoisie to extend its social control, and those who demand these rights are criminals.

In this case, is there a sense of a change in tactics? It is difficult to know at this point. For now, the dissidents are encouraged. They believe that Obama’s trip is a turning point. We wait, with fingers crossed. It is part of the game.

Obama in Cuba / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Havana preens for Obama's visit. (14ymedio)
Havana preens for Obama’s visit. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 19 March 2016 – The United States president has not yet set foot in Cuba and the regime has already begun the bombardment. First it was a long editorial in the Party newspaper Granma. The essence? Cuba will not move its socialist and anti-imperialist positions a single millimeter, including its support for the Chavista monster in Venezuela, a huge source of subsidies for Cubans, afflictions for Venezuelans and unrest for its neighbors.

Then diplomatic errand boy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez warned that his government was not pleased that Obama spoke of empowering the Cuban people. Nor, that it would try to impose the internet on them. Cuba, he said, “will protect the technological sovereignty of our networks.” In plain language he meant that the political police continue to monitor communications. By this and for this they live. Continue reading “Obama in Cuba / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

The US president was not fazed. He will speak openly about human rights during his visit to Cuba. He has said it and he is going to do it. But there is more: Barack Obama, apparently, will not visit Fidel Castro. (Beware: never say never to this dictator.) At least for now he will inhibit the anthropological curiosity that this Tyrannosaurus Rex always awakens. Today he is a hunched caricature of himself, but there is a certain morbid fascination about conversing with a historic gentleman who has had the ingenuity to spend 60 years flitting through the news programs.

Obama, what’s more, will have the generosity to meet with some of the democrats of the opposition. There is a whole message there. It is a good lesson for the Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who has not yet been, and for French President Francois Hollande, who already passed through Havana and didn’t have the civic courage to make a gesture of solidarity with the dissidents. Obama will meet with the most hard line. He will give his blessing to the fighters. The most beaten up and toughened. Those whom the political police falsely classify as terrorists and CIA agents.

In any case, I think Obama has misjudged the hornet’s nest he has gotten himself into. He has unilaterally decreed the end of the Cold War with Cuba, despite the fact that the island insists on supporting the North Koreans militarily, supporting the terrorists of the Middle East, backing Syrian Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian ayatollahs. Nor does it matter that it directs the orchestra of the countries of 21st Century Socialism (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua), all of them decidedly anti-American and determined to revive the battle left unfinished by the USSR.

Obama feels invulnerable. He is riding an enormous elephant, the largest history has ever known, and from his perspective as the primary planetary power these quaint Latin American dwarfs are like fleas that will naturally be crushed by the weight of an inevitable and overwhelming reality.

It could happen, but there is a serious problem of logic. At the Summit of the Americas in Panama, Obama declared that the United States had renounced trying to change the Cuban regime while, simultaneously, saying it would continue to promote the defense of human rights and a Western democratic vision. This is a clear contradiction.

The Castros’ dictatorship violates human rights precisely because it subscribes to the Leninist viewpoint that they are subterfuges of the callous capitalist bourgeoisie. They do not believe in them. “The Revolution” subscribes to other values, expressed in the so-called “social rights,” and, to achieve them, grants the Communist Party the sole and total direction of society. That is what the Constitution says, inspired by the one Stalin imposed on the USSR in the thirties

When a Cuban freely expresses her opinion and it contradicts the communist dogma, she is not exercising the right to free expression of thought, but committing a crime. When two or more Cubans try to get together to defend their ideals or interests outside of official channels, they are not exercising the right of assembly. They are committing a crime.

These outrages will not end as long as there is no change of regime on the island. It is clear that the vast majority of Cubans living in their own country will look on this visit with great enthusiasm. It is possible that the thaw will improve living conditions for some Cubans. And it is more than likely that certain US exporters will benefit from the opening of this famished market, but the bill will ultimately be paid by US taxpayers.

Nevertheless, there will be no freedoms, nor respect for human rights, nor will there be an end to militant anti-Americanism and the spirit of the Cold War, as long as the totalitarian regime continues and is not replaced by a real democracy. And that, painfully, means that unilateral concessions will continue to be made with no cost to the dictatorship. Appeasement has never been a good policy, as has been confirmed in North Korea with the dynasty founded by Kim Il-Sung, and as we have already seen in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Bullies confuse kindness with weakness.

Obama and Raul Castro: Encounters and Disagreements / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, at the headquarters of the United Nations. (EFE)
The US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, at the headquarters of the United Nations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 20 February 2016 — Obama will go to Havana in March. The trip is part of his change of policy regarding the island. He wants, as John Paul II asked, for “Cuba to open itself to the world and the world to open itself to Cuba.”

That includes, as suggested by El Nuevo Herald, the entry into the country of independent journalists who are not intimidated by the political police. Will Obama bring it up among his requests?

A few hours before the news of the visit, the State Department announced that commercial flights will be resumed – up to a hundred a day – and authorized the installation of a tractor assembly plant. Continue reading “Obama and Raul Castro: Encounters and Disagreements / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

The White House wants to hinder any involution of the measures taken, if after the November elections a candidate wins who is averse to having good trade relations with the Cuban regime.

It is highly significant that a US government spokesman has declared that Obama does not intend to visit Fidel Castro. It is a gesture of the desire to emphasize his lack of connection with the ideology of the dictatorship. At the end of the day, he was born after the Bay of Pigs and most of his career has been spent after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is the first truly post-Soviet president of the United States.

Apart from the anthropological curiosity of a visit to the old tyrant, who is no longer head of state, but a gentleman encased in a tracksuit who says some very odd things, being photographed with him and listening to his infinite nonsense (now aggravated by age and infirmity), is a part of the well-known political ritual that, subliminally, conveys a message of solidarity or, at least indifference, to the second oldest military dynasty on the planet. The first is North Korea.

Obama does not want to make this mistake. He will meet instead with members of “civil society.” This expression includes the opposition. Perhaps he will talk with the journalist Yoani Sánchez, with the opponents García Pérez “Antúnez,” Cuesta Morua, and Antonio Rodiles, with the very brave Ladies in White who, every Sunday, march peacefully while the political police insult and attack them. The purpose is obvious: to give support to democratic pluralism.

Raul Castro, meanwhile, feels that he is participating in a contradictory and dangerous game. Obama has unilaterally declared the end of the Cold War in the Caribbean, although Havana continues to man the battle stations.

The activities of the Forum of Sao Paulo, the anti-American strategy of the countries that conform to 21st Century Socialism under the leadership of Cuba, the transfer of arms to North Korea in violation of UN agreements, and the unconditional support of Middle East terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, are some signs of that old subversive anti-Yankee mentality that the Castros have never wanted to renounce.

General James Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, said officially on 9 February in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee: from the perspective of espionage, Cuba was one of the four most dangerous countries for the United States. The other three were Russia, China and Iran.

Hours later, the island returned an American missile carrying secret technologies that had been sent to Havana “by mistake” from a European airport. During the 18 months of the “mistake” the rocket had been in the hands of Cuban intelligence. In this period, experts assume, Raul Castro’s government had had time to copy it, sell it or share it with its anti-American allies.

What is Raul Castro going to do with the olive branch Obama has given him? Is he going to cancel the hallmarks of the Cuban Revolution and admit that he has been mistaken almost his entire existence?

I do not think so. For 60 years, since he climbed the Sierra Maestra and kidnapped some American marines, his leitmotif has been fighting Washington and trying to destroy the unjust capitalist system of production, convinced that the ills of Cuba derived from the private sector and the Yankees.

Then life proved otherwise: Cuba’s ills are the result of not enough capitalism, not too many Yankees, and of not enough democracy; deficiencies especially critical now with the death agonies of the generous Venezuelan cow, milked without pause or mercy in the midst of Real Socialism and of an orgy of corruption to which the masters of Havana are not alien.

A noted international development expert who prefers anonymity told me, “If Raul intends to overcome the economic and social crisis that afflicts Cuba, his timid reforms will accomplish nothing if he doesn’t open the political game and establish a regimen of freedoms, even though this would imply the eventual loss of state control.”

And then he concluded, “As long as there is a single party and as long as the large business enterprises are in the hands of a bureaucratic clique that makes the decisions, the country will continue to sink.”

His compatriots all know this well. And so they flee.

Montaner: “The regime has succeeded in confusing the Cubans about their own history” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Carlos Alberto Montaner. (14ymedio)
Carlos Alberto Montaner. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 19 February 2016 — José Martí is not the precursor of the Cuban Revolution, nor can one establish continuity between the mambises [Cuban independence fighters of the 1800s] and the Stalinist regime in place since 1959. “This telling of the story is an ideological swindle,” said Carlos Alberto Montaner in a series of three lectures in Miami from 16 to 18 February at the Casa Bacardi Center for Cuban and Cuban-American studies.

The course was very well received in this city, recognized as “the capital of the historical exile” and one of the places where Cuba’s Republican era legacy, erased at a stroke after the Revolution of 1959, is best preserved. “It is a way of maintaining Cuban roots, which is something that after all these years I have not lost. Even my children will identify themselves as Cubans, not Cuban Americans, but simply Cubans Continue reading “Montaner: “The regime has succeeded in confusing the Cubans about their own history” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

,” he told 14ymedio’s Pilar Ramos, a 61-year-old architect of Cuban origin who attended the event.

Montaner shined in the domain of national history, which he presented from a bird’s eye view, sprinkled with picturesque anecdotes. He presented colonial Cuba explaining, from an international perspective, the main events of the time, from the economic boom under the English flag, to the bitter slavery paid for with the rum produced on the island and the lives of one million Africans claimed in the Cuban countryside.

The presentation of Republican era Cuba and “Revolutionary” Cuba were the richest moments, especially for young people from the island, educated under the Marxist historiography dedicated to rewriting history, as in George Orwell’s 1984. “This is a vital issue for me, because I am nothing but Cuban and I also believe it is important to explain and revindicate that Republic has been unfairly vilified,” said Montaner, who showed both the lights and shadows of the Cuban Republic. He described the causes that led to the coup of 1952, a disastrous prelude to the end of democracy in the country.

A special section was, of course, the establishment of communism in Cuba and the figures of Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. Decades of Castroism must be assessed in their appropriate perspective to understand national history, distancing oneself from the opposing positions that remain both in Cuba and in exile. “Using history as a weapon, I believe, is a mistake, history is an account that needs to be told as objectively as possible,” said researcher.

For Montaner, “In the exile there remains a Cuba that is not going to return. The Cuba of the future will be different but hopefully it will recover the virtues of the Cuba of the past.” The journalist has hope that a phenomenon similar to what occurred in the countries of Eastern Europe after the collapse of socialism will also occur on the island. “When the time came for democracy they tried to retrieve their own history that had been destroyed or disguised by the agents of communism.”

He could not fail to reflect on the announcement of Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Cuba, the first by a US president in 88 years. “The idea of ​​unilaterally decreeing the end of the Cold War in the Caribbean, without engaging the adversary, is so naïve that it stuns me. It goes against the United States’ own institutions and can only be explained by the psychological and intellectual nature of President Obama.”

While for some of the attendees it was a recalling of the years they had lived through, for others it was peek into a story that has been off-limits to Cubans for decades because of partisan interests. The history of Cuba in three lessons demands continuity. A well-known saying tells us that a people ignorant of its own history is doomed to repeat it, or as Cicero said, “not knowing what happened before us, is like being children forever.” It is time for us to grow up.

Our Everyday War / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

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

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

In the neo-populist corner of the ring appear, to the left, Father Marx, statism, cronyism, Liberation Theology, the Dependency Theory, Eduardo Galeano, Che Guevara, Ernesto Laclau, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro, all mixed up, plus the other issues: long-lasting caudillos, excessive public spending, ALBA, 21st Century Socialism, the Sao Paulo Forum and a tense et cetera with a closed fist and a street slogan on its lips. Continue reading “Our Everyday War / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

In the liberal corner we find Father Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and the Austrians, Milton Friedman and the market, James Buchanan and the School of Public Choice, Douglas North and the institutionalists, individual responsibility, private enterprise, the Rule of Law, FTAA, free global trade, the Asian Tigers, the successful Chilean reform, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mario Vargas Llosa, and the small and efficient state.

This axis of confrontation is relatively new.

The 19th century was about old-fashioned liberals against conservative, also old-fashioned. The 20th saw, first, the battle between the supposed virtues of Hispanic identity against the defects of the Anglo-Saxons (José Enrique Rodó’s Ariel and the incendiary lectures of Manuel Ugarte). The 1910 Mexican Revolution simmered in the anti-imperialist sauce.

Following this was the appearance of Marxism and fascism, cousins who ended up looking very much alike. The Twenties were those of the Argentine psychiatrist José Ingenieros, with his soul and umbrellas both red, and those of José Carlos Mariátegui and his Seven Interpretive Essays on the Peruvian Reality.

Soon after, in Mussolini’s Italy, a young Argentinean soldier observed the fascist experience with admiration. His name was Juan Domingo Perón and on his return to Buenos Aires he launched his “Third Way.” Neither communism nor capitalism: Justicialism. That is, Peronism, pure and simple. It was the Creole expression of fascism.

The Cold War followed immediately on World War II. Before and after Latin American was filled with sword-bearers sanctified by Washington. The axis of confrontation then passed through the barracks against the communist, or everything that smelled of them.

In the Forties another force broke through: the democratic left. They began to triumph in Guatemala (Juan José Arévalo), Costa Rica (José Figueres), Cuba (Carlos Prío), Venezuela (Rómulo Betancourt) and Puerto Rico (Luis Muñoz Marín). They were democratic anti-communists who came from the left. They fought against militarism from anti-communist positions.

They also constituted a soft vegetarian variant of populism. They believed in the paternalistic welfare state and did not reject statist measures. Reigning in the economic field was his majesty Lord Maynard Keynes and politicians who were using the national budget and public spending to boost the economy. Wonderful. They were intellectually entitled to squander fortunes. Simultaneously, they distributed profits and executed land reforms that almost never achieved their objectives.

In 1959 the badge of the struggle changed again. Fidel and Raúl Castro, along with Che Guevara and with the innocent help of other democratic groups, overthrew the “soft” military dictatorship of Batista, with the objective of establishing a communist dictatorship copied from the Soviet model. They proposed, essentially, to destroy the governments of the democratic left, defining the adversary by its relations with the United States and with property.

If you were pro-American and pro-market, even if you were leftist and respected freedoms, you were the enemy. Cuba attacked Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, everything that moved and breathed. Also, of course, the old military dictators like Somoza, Trujillo and Stroessner, but not for being tyrants, but for being pro-American and pro-capitalist. The island was “a nest of machine guns in motion.” The United States joined the war in 1965; in the midst of a civil war Marines landed in the Dominican Republic in order, they said, “to avoid another Cuba.”

With Allende in 1970 the dangerous game of authoritarian democracy began and it ended three years later in a hail of bullets. Pinochet, who was Allende’s man, or so Mr. Allende believed, ended up bombing him. However, as the general didn’t know a single thing about economics, he handed off these mysterious activities to some young Chileans who had graduated from the University of Chicago and Harvard. Soon they began to turn the situation around.

It was the first time Latin America heard of Friedrich Hayek (Nobel Prize in 1974), or Milton Friedman (1976). In the mid-eighties it was clear that populism had plunged Latin America into a pool of corruption, unbridled inflation and unrestrained public spending. The region had failed. They spoke then of the “lost decade.”

Thus arose the first liberal cycle in Latin America. Its main protagonists came from another ideological quarry, but they were flexible and intelligent people. Among others, included the Bolivian Victor Paz Estenssoro, who returned to power in 1985 to fix the mess of 1952, the Costa Rican Oscar Arias, the Argentine Carlos Menem, Mexico’s Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the Colombian Cesar Gaviria and the Uruguayan Luis Alberto Lacalle.

More than liberal convictions propelled the certainty of populist failure. Unfortunately, accusations of corruption against Salinas and Menem, plus the excessive increase in public spending in Argentina, discredited that liberal reform and its enemies began to effectively attack “the long neo-liberal night.”

In 1999, finally, Hugo Chávez began to govern and he initiated another phase of authoritarian democracy. This has now come to its end, sunk in poverty, with shortages and corruption, giving way to the new cycle of liberal democracy, that perhaps started with the Mauricio Macri’s victory in Argentina. Let’s hope it lasts.

A Calamity Called Evo / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. (Flickr)
Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. (Flickr)

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

It seems too little. He is not happy. He wants to be reelected when that date arrives. For him, generational change and the circulation of the elites sparks nervous laughter. He has called a referendum to be able to run a fourth time, which would put him in the presidential chair in 2025, and celebrating two hundred years since the inauguration of the Republic. Continue reading “A Calamity Called Evo / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

Then he wants to continue, and continue, and continue. It is very amusing to be president. He likes living in the Quemado Palace. He knows nothing of law, economics, history. He knows nothing about anything, except the infinite goodness of coca, a plant whose cultivation is increasingly widespread, to the sadness of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, the one who governs is his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, a Marxist professor, mathematician and sociologist with a hideous revolutionary past, who concerns himself with the official carpentry. Evo, meanwhile, shows off, plays football, avoids talking and greatly entertains himself.

There is something unhealthy about the need to rule that Evo exhibits. It is the living representation of the platonic idea of narcissism. He has twice amended the Constitution. If he wins the referendum he won’t have to update the text again. He will be able to be reelected indefinitely and will die in the royal bed, like the ancient monarchs.

Will he succeed? He should lose, but who knows. He has wildly increased public spending. When he came to power the government consumed 21.05% of GDP. Now it is 43.26%. It is the second highest per capita public spending in Latin America. The first is Ecuador (44.17%). Chile, the best governed nation in Latin America, dedicates 24.88% of GDP to this category.

That enormous public spending wouldn’t be so serious if the money belonging to everyone was handled honorably, but it isn’t. According to Transparency International’s Perception Corruption Index, Bolivia is a pigsty: its score is 35. In this cataloging, with anything under 50 the country is in very bad shape. Bolivia ranks 103 out of 175 countries, one of the worst in Latin America.

Bolivia is headed into a crisis. It will probably devalue its currency after the referendum. Like good populists, neither Evo Morales nor his vice president believe in economic freedom nor in the virtues of the market. They believe in Statism and cronyism, and have confiscated several key companies, subscribed to the fateful recipe of 21st Century Socialism, and, in collaboration with the Cuban security services, have not ceased to imprison their adversaries, exile them, and, once in a while, assassinate them.

When they came to power, Bolivia received a reasonable ranking on the Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation. It was classified as “moderately free.” Today it is in the lowest ranks, and its economy classified as “repressed.” This is an infallible recipe for disaster. It is enough to review the list to confirm that greater freedom and openness corresponds to a better level of development.

But, in my judgment, the greatest damage has been in the institutional terrain and in the intimate fabric of the Bolivian nation. The multinational State is a stab to the idea of a republic of citizens equal before the law, united by constitutional patriotism, as Simón Bolívar claimed and as Victor Pas Estenssor tried to carry out with the unifying revolution of 1952.

Evo Morales returned Bolivia to the pre-Colombian period, as if that hostile and fierce world of ethnic remnant that had frequently made war had been a kind of peaceful confederation of beatific people.

He did not understand that the very idea of the Republic of Bolivia was the product of a modernity embodied in the dreams of Bolívar and Sucre, and not in the fantasies of Tupac Katari, inevitably erased from history by the insensitive European steamroller, as happened throughout the New World with indigenous cultures.

On February 21 we will know if this calamity called Evo Morales has an expiration date, or if he came to power to remain indefinitely. Very soon now.

The Unfinished Cold War / Carlos Alberto Montaner

Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan (DC)
Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan (DC)

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

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

There are others. For example, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is awarded to thousands of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. A dozen nationalities benefit from this measure, conceived to protect certain people from the horrors of violence or natural disasters in their countries of origin.

But there are essential differences between TPS and the Cuban Adjustment Act. The temporary protection must be periodically renewed and depends on the will of a fickle Congress. The law that affects Cuban, on the other hand, leads to obtaining official residence after one year, and citizenship after five years.

Actually, it is a double stupidity that TPS does not lead to residency and eventual citizenship. The provisional nature and lack of progressive integration into U.S. society cruelly harms immigrants and turns the “American dream” into an unnecessary nightmare, tinged by the ominous persecution of “La Migra,” the immigration authorities.

The other piece of this nonsense is the self-inflicted damage to the United States. What is best for this country, and for everyone, is working citizens who comply with the laws, create wealth, pay taxes and become a part of the mix in the legendary American “melting pot,” as happens with the vast majority of Cubans.

Cuban exceptionalism began with the rules of the Cold War. It was a predictable American response when Castro and a small group of communists, convinced of the superiority of Marxist-Leninist ideas, the benefits of the USSR, and the perfidy of the United States and its market economy, decided to create a communist dictatorship on the island.

Moscow, which knew how to organize satellites, because they had done it cruelly and efficiently in Eastern Europe after the end of the Second World War, immediately offered its unconditional support. Without delay, Soviet advisors arrived discretely on the island with the primary objective of crushing the Cuban democratic opposition and creating counterintelligence networks. Their next step would be to fill the island with nuclear missiles.

Khrushchev said, “Now the United States will know what it means to live with a dagger pointed at its neck a few miles off its coast.” It was his retaliation in response to harassment from NATO.

The United States reacted. In mid-March 1960, President Eisenhower signed a secret order authorizing covert operations to liquidate the Russian satellite installed in Cuba.

It was too late. A week earlier the Spanish-Russian general Francisco Ciutat had arrived on the island. Fidel received him and called him “Angelito” – little angel. Soon there were 40,000 Soviet soldiers and advisors. The Cold War was at its peak in the Caribbean.

Thirty years later, the European satellites broke with the USSR and the Eastern Bloc disappeared, including the Soviet Union itself. The United States’ strategy of containment had worked. The U.S. had won the Cold War.

But not everything. In Cuba and North Korea they dug trenches. Fidel Castro, extremely angry at that “traitor” Gorbachev, proclaimed, as his brother Raul applauded, “I will sink the island into the sea before abandoning Marxism-Leninism,” assuring that Cuba would remain as a communist bulwark to light the day when the planet would recover the revolutionary lucidity.

Fidel, a die-hard Stalinist, with the backing of Lula da Silva in Brazil, was given the task of collecting the rubble of communism and building with it the Sao Paulo Forum, a kind on Third International with room for all the “anti-imperialist fighters,” from FARC’s narco-guerrillas to Islamic terrorists.

Until Hugo Chavez appeared on the horizon, haloed by ignorance and irresponsibility, and loaded with petrodollars. Fidel seduced and recruited him, first to exploit him, and later to fight against economic freedom and against Washington, to the glory of the world’s poor.

Together, de pipí cogido, as the Columbians say so gracefully, in an indomitable Havana-Caracas axis, they would triumph where the USSR had crumbled, an objective and strategy that no one has denied or dismissed. Felipe Perez Roque, then Cuba’s Foreign Minister, announced it in Caracas at the end of 2005. Hasta la victoria siempre, Comandantes.

From this spirit of the Cold War – all that some backward countries could deliver – arose the dreadful fantasy of “21st Century Socialism” and the anti-U.S. circuit of ALBA, set against the FTAA promoted by the United States.

It is not true, then, as Obama assumes, that the Cold War is over. At least in Latin America Castro, Maduro, Ortega, Evo and to a lesser extent Correa are keeping it alive, with the lateral support of Dilma Rousseff and Kirchnerism, the latter happily removed from power by Mauricio Macro.

It is inconceivable that Washington ignores this unfortunate reality or continues to think that this is a “nuisance rather than a danger.” Burying one’s head in the sand has never been a smart way to confront problems.

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

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

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

Somehow, what happened in Caracas is a continuation of those events. It is with good reason that the Chavistas and their fellow travelers proclaimed themselves cultivators of 21st Century Socialism, although with much less violence than that of the 20th century, but with the same level of incompetence and perhaps even more corruption. It was the enormous amount of patronage, collectivism and disdain for the ways of liberal democracy that allowed this to happen, in the time after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the total discrediting of Marxist superstitions. Continue reading “The Day the Prisoners Are Freed in Venezuela / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

Henry Ramos Allup, the new president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has done well, starting his work without fear. Not only does he have reason behind him, but also the Constitution and two-thirds of the seats in parliament. According to a Datincorp survey, 81% of Venezuelans reject Nicolas Maduro’s call to ignore the decisions of the new parliament.

The clearest priority of this anguished society is to relieve its grave economic problems, but this rescue operation begins by respecting the popular will, expressed in the designation of 112 deputies, not one less, and in releasing to the streets the hundreds of unjustly imprisoned political prisoners, led by Leopold Lopez and Antonia Ledezma. Venezuela’s national poet, Andres Eloy Blanco, anticipated it many years ago: “I sowed the stars / held in the heart / and it was good like the day / the prisoners were freed.”

Former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez warned Maduro with great urgency. Venezuela is heading into a humanitarian crisis. Bad governance has decimated the productive capacity of the country, there is not enough food, medicine nor the money to import them, and international credit is finished.

As Maduro continued to chat with the birds, indifferent to reality, and as his new minister of the economy can’t find his right hand and ended up pulverizing the rubble, the only hope for rectification is the set of measures that can be taken by the National Assembly.

Second, inflation takes off and the government responds with price controls and the printing of money, which worsens the crisis. The third stage is complete chaos: shortages, an exponential increase in poverty, and a virtual collapse of the system.

The fourth, which Venezuelans should be experiencing now if Maduro weren’t so blatantly ignorant, is the adjustment. Prices must be reconciled, public spending cut and the productive apparatus revitalized by opening the doors to entrepreneurs and national and foreign investors, which requires respect for private property and a trustworthy judicial system.

21st Century Socialism arose with the petrodollars of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, under the treacherous direction of the Castros, and will end up with the collapse of this artificial, absurd and, above all, unaffordable, little world. Fortunately, as happened with the communist counties of Europe, the transition will probably be peaceful and carried out via legitimate elections. He who kills through ballot box, dies through the ballot box.

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

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

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

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

The secret of this permanence is to convert people into sheep and to conveniently keep them penned up. To these ends a formidable apparatus of counterintelligence is organized, with some 60,000 people and a proven repressive script. That amounts to 0.5% of the population, consistent with the infallible formula learned from the German Stasi which, along with the KGB, was the mother and teacher of the Cuban services. Continue reading “Cuba And The Three Questions / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner”

The other similar regime in the world, North Korea, is also a military dynasty and has continued for 68 years. The father of that orchestrated anthill of rhythmic gymnasts was Kim Il-Sung. He started in 1948 and died, in power, in 1994, but not before bequeathing to museums the chairs where he had placed his egregious buttocks. He was then followed by his son Kim Jong-il, and his grandson Kim Jong-un.

North Korean security troops exceed 106,000 members, to control 24 million survivors. More than twice the Cuban population. That police apparatus, which doesn’t do things by halves, has created a system of political castes called Songbun, dividing people into three groups: loyals, waverers, and hostiles. The loyals serve as auxiliaries to counterintelligence in the harassment and surveillance of the other two sectors. It is no wonder that when Fidel Castro visited North Korea, according to those who accompanied him, he was fascinated with the experiment. It seemed like a model country.

Has the Castro regime triumphed or failed? If measured by the ability to cling to power, it has undoubtedly triumphed. Raul Castro was the Minister of Defense at age 28, he is now 85 and has never ridden in anything but good official cars and never ceased to live lavishly with the royal family. For him and for his group of minions, it has been a success.

If measured by the influence achieved by the regime, the conclusion is the same. Venezuela has become a generous colony, meticulously exploited, and political operatives trained by Cuban intelligence services control or influence a dozen unfortunate Latin American countries, to the extent that the Colombian peace process is being irresponsibly negotiated in Havana.

But if what we take into account is the overall prosperity of the country and the degree of genuine happiness shared by the whole population, it has been a resounding failure. Across three generations Cubans have suffered thousands of executions, tens of thousand of political prisoners incarcerated, millions of people exiled, and the government has erected the most unproductive model of wealth creation in history, while meticulously demolishing the material structure it inherited. It is “the art of making ruins” at its finest.

In 57 years of absolute control of power, the Castros have aggravated to the point of martyrdom key elements of daily life: food and access to drinking water, housing, transportation, communications, electricity, shoes and clothing. From this grim landscape escape, as always, the thousands of Cubans currently stranded in Costa Rica, compassionately cared for by the government and people of that exemplary country.

These dire results are not, in reality, products of evil, but of ignorance, the ambition of power and the revolutionary arrogance emanating from Marxist certainties. They were willing to kill and do harm to remain in power and forced Cubans to live according to the utopia they lodged in their feverish brains. And so they have devastated the country.

What will happen in the future? Nothing substantial. As long as the Castros and their clique do not retire from public life, and as long as their system – today transformed into military state capitalism – remains standing, the country will continue to be condemned to the massive emigration of desperate Cubans and the most radical lack of productivity.

The basic problem lies in perceptions and in the confidence that emanates from them. It does not matter if the United States ends the embargo or substantially increases the number of tourists. It doesn’t matter if President Obama visits Cuba, like the last three popes, and gives a speech in favor of freedom.

Cubans, as a general rule, do not believe in the system. They do not believe in their compatriots. They do not believe in the destiny of their country. They do not believe in those who lead them, and much less in the capabilities of that sleepy and grim bureaucracy that imperturbably continues to practice centralized planning. All this will begin to change after the Castro regime is buried. Never before.