Maduro Continues to Be a Danger for Everyone

Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela

14ymedio biggerCarlos Alberto Montaner, 2 April 2017 — Maduro changed course. The country’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, facilitated it on a silver platter. Surely it was prearranged. First, Nicolás Maduro eliminated any vestige of democracy in Venezuela. His hitmen in the Supreme Court of Justice took care of it by assuming all the duties of the National Assembly. It was to be their last maneuver. The dictatorship would continue, but now without pretending, and with an even tougher iron hand. The way was made clear to accuse the deputies of treason against the fatherland, or of anything else that came to mind.

They didn’t get away with it. National and international resistance became too strong. The congressman and the students took to the streets in protest. The latest step had been too impudent. Luis Almagro quickly set up the trenches at the OAS, while the PPK in Peru was practically breaking off relations, while Maduro’s allies –Leonel Fernández, Rodríguez Zapatero and Martín Torrijos– began to advise him that they could no longer join in this latest totalitarian twitch. continue reading

The operation to destroy the National Assembly began in earnest after the electoral defeat in December 2015. It was to be the Venezuelan version of the Nicaraguan piñata. It was then, during the few weeks that remained before the new Parliament was due to take charge, when, foot to the pedal, they undertook to reform the high echelon of the judicial branch, trampling on the Constitution and getting ready to govern by brute force as necessary.

And what does Raúl Castro think about all this? The bottom line is that the headquarters of 21st Century Socialism is in Havana. Nicolás Maduro is but a puppet (and a bad one at that) trained in the Marxist-Leninist workshops at the Cuban Communist Party’s School for Cadres, first suggested to Hugo Chávez by Fidel Castro.

To the Cuban intelligence services Maduro seemed to be a malleable and docile simpleton who speaks to the birds, and is much less corrupt and more tractable than say Adán Chávez, brother of the late Lieutenant Colonel. He was not perfect, but, from the available Venezuelans to choose from, he was the most useful to “the Cubans,” precisely on account of his weaknesses.

And what is going to happen now? Not much, unless the United States abandons its ridiculous attitude that “Venezuela is not a danger, but rather an inconvenience,” policy started during the Administration of George W. Bush and adopted by Barack Obama.

The government of Venezuela, although chaotic and disorganized, is a danger to the security of the United States due to its connections with Islamic terrorists and because of its military links to Iran and Hezbollah. It doesn’t have nuclear warheads but it possesses other means of severely harming its archenemy.

It is a danger because of its association with drug traffickers and for assigning some of its generals to be involved in this murderous trade. It is a danger because of its militant “anti-Yankeeism” always on the lookout for new conquests, and because it is one of the most corrupt nations on the face of the planet.

How does it help the Treasury Department in Washington to prosecute corruption by the heads of FIFA, the international soccer association, or a dozen bankers for laundering capital from the drug trade, as the DEA has denounced, if Venezuela is a narco-state working with impunity in all these activities while additionally openly helping the Colombian narco-guerrillas too?

Lastly, the government of Venezuela is endangering its own population, deliberately starved, while the country approaches a terrible humanitarian catastrophe with a lethal combination of terrible government and corruption. Hadn’t we come to the conclusion that we “have the duty to protect” the victims of these political horrors?

The United States is the only nation in the Americas with the strategic vision, resources, material wherewithal and sense of responsibility necessary to defend itself from its enemies and to formulate a “roadmap” as it is called today, intended to change a regime which greatly harms it and poisons all of Latin America too.

Perhaps it is not wise for the United States to eliminate its purchases of oil from Venezuela –the only cash source of income for the country– but it would be feasible to deposit the revenue from these transactions into an escrow account until the National Assembly certifies that Maduro’s behavior comports with constitutional norms. It would be an irresponsibility to feed an illegitimate government which usurps functions not within its purview.

It is not true that the Cold War completely ended. The USSR disappeared and with it the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe disappeared too, but the United States continues to have persistent enemies dedicated to fighting this country by any and all means. If Washington wishes to continue to be the head of the free world it cannot evade the Venezuelan issue. It has to step forward to lead the Continent. Nobody else can, or knows how, to undertake this task.

Note: English version from Montaner’s website

Ecuadoreans Are Gambling With Their Freedom / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso (

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 11 March 2017 — They are five: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador. That’s the main nucleus of the 21st-Century Socialism countries. They have different economic structures and their governments manage the productive apparatus in diverse ways, but their rulers coincide on an essential aspect: they attained power so they could keep it permanently. Alternation in the tasks of governance seems to them a bourgeois foolishness to which they’re not willing to submit, even if they have to twist the laws or commit some form of fraud.

The Cuban dictatorship, which 58 years ago seized the country at gunpoint, declared in its Constitution that the Communist Party is the only institution permanently authorized to organize society — period. There is nothing to debate. Any vestige of pluralism is illegal and those who express their disconformity with that unnatural uniformity are worms at the service of imperialism who can — and should — be extirpated. That’s why they murdered Oswaldo Payá. continue reading

The other four countries, obligated by the peaceful and electoral manner in which they acceded governance, pretend to be liberal democracies with freedoms, separation of powers and periodic elections. But they don’t believe in those elements either, and are willing to turn a blind eye to these minor “formalities” or to convert the institutions of democracy into instruments of tyranny.

That’s what just happened in Ecuador. The first unsavory trick was to set the majority at 40 percent of the vote. They did that to adapt the balloting to the ceiling of the party in power and not to take a chance on a second round or runoff. Unless Pythagoras was pulling our leg, a majority is one-half-plus-one of the votes cast. Anything that disagrees with that way of counting is a subterfuge counter to decency and common sense.

But, because resistance to Rafael Correa is in crescendo, because more than half of the country is tired of his bullying, and because Ecuador’s economic situation gets worse each passing day as a consequence of the corruption and the exponential increase in public spending, it became evident that the government would not garner 40 percent of the vote, which meant that there would be a second round.

It was at that point that Rafael Correa and his Defense minister, Ricardo Patiño (Cuba’s man), decided to alter the results to exceed the dishonest percentage of 40. To that end, they took best advantage of their revolutionary rhetoric. The value of the Revolution and the glorious destiny of the socialist motherland rose above the petty will of a temporary majority that, in the future, would be grateful to them. How important was to alter a few tenths of a percentage when the fate of the Revolution was at stake?

Fortunately, they could not perpetrate their plans thanks to the vigilance of Gen. Luis Castro Ayala, inasmuch as the Constitution makes the Armed Forces the guarantors of any election. When the so-called “chain of custody” was lost (the transfer of votes to the National Electoral Council), the general realized that fraud was in the making, refused to be complicit to that shameful act and stood up to the plotters.

Castro Ayala saved the people’s will and went into history as a man of honor, but lost his post. Correa — despite alleging his friendship with the general and proclaiming, with some cynicism, his “deep sorrow” over his action — called for his resignation and placed at the head of the Armed Forces some officers who responded to his ideological line, which is also Patiño’s.

The Ecuadoreans will return to the ballot boxes. To win, and to make sure the election is not taken from them, they must count on two basic factors. First is the unequivocal and enthusiastic support of all democrats to the candidacy of opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso. Second is their willingness to defend their votes tooth and nail because 21st-Century Socialism is capable of any foul trick to cling to power.

One final and melancholy observation. Those socialists — who are totally unlike European social-democrats — are willing to commit any abuse in order to prevail. If they do prevail by hook or crook, they will speed their race toward tyranny, as happened in Maduro’s Venezuela. The Ecuadoreans are not just betting on a change of government; they’re gambling on their very freedom. In that country, democracy has an expiration date: April 2. After that date, night might fall forever.

Note: English translation from Montaner’s blog.

Rafael Correa and the Populist Syndrome / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador (Archive image / EFE)

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 25 February 2017 — On May 24, Rafael Correa will leave the presidency of Ecuador. Not long now. Don’t despair. I understand; the wait has been long and painful. He has spent a decade in power. On that day, whoever wins the April 2 runoff will take over the government. If the opposition democrats remain united, Guillermo Lasso should succeed him in the post.

Who is Rafael Correa, this contradictory personage who calls himself a neo-developer, a 21st-Century socialist, a Catholic supporter of Liberation Theology, a left-wing nationalist and who, on top of all that, sings and plays the guitar? continue reading

Are we in the presence of a communist disguised, as Fidel Castro was until he confessed his true militancy in 1961 after denying it half a dozen times?

I don’t think that Correa was a communist. It’s something else. Although he is a mediocre economist without original thinking, he knows enough to realize that Marx’s ideas are harebrained.

Despite his speech before the Comandante’s ashes in November 2016, filled with admiration and radicalism, Correa is the quintessential Latin American populist. How do we know this? We know it by a study of his symptoms. Populism is a syndrome.

There’s not the slightest contradiction here. The Castros and Rafael Correa are brothers in populist devotion, authoritarianism and histrionics. Correa is a Fidelista by reason of being a populist. Perón also sympathized with Fidel and vice versa, as did Mussolini and Lenin. They loved each other in secret, like bolero lyrics used to say.

Naturally, you can be a populist and a communist or fascist. Makes no difference. There are populists to the right and left of the political spectrum. Populism consists of government measures to seize power and hold on to it. It’s related to the deep psychology of the man in charge. In addition, there’s no dearth of democratic leaders and parties that, lamentably, exhibit some populist elements.

It’s a question of parallel forms of governance that include several defining features:

Strongman-ism with all its defects, such as narcissism.

Exclusivism (the others are always a bunch of scoundrels.)

Patronage, through the abundant use of subsidies.

An exacerbated nationalism that is mistaken for chauvinism.

“Adamism” (they believe that the nation’s real history began with them.)

Statism, given that they mistrust private enterprise.

Excessive public spending to hold on to their political clients, which usually results in kickbacks and other forms of corruption in addition to total ruination.

A rejection of the market and international commerce (Correa — like Trump, although on the opposite end — was an enemy of the North American Free Trade Agreement).

Caustic language and a total absence of any vestige of civic cordiality.

No question about it. Rafael Correa is more akin to the fascists than to the Marxist-Leninists. He shares much with Perón and Velasco Alvarado, that ignorant Peruvian general who destroyed his country’s economy with populist measures.

Correa is a strongman convinced that he holds all the truths and that his adversaries are despicable people. Whosoever holds or expresses a different idea is a rascal who must be insulted and — if he doesn’t escape, like journalists Emilio Palacio and Fernando Villavicencio did — locked away.

A populist has not the slightest respect for institutions, the law or the adversary, but demands to be treated with reverence. When a ragamuffin once “gave the finger” to Correa from a sidewalk, the president stopped his motorcade and had him arrested.

The opposition has tallied several dozen insults and slanders spouted in Correa’s “Saturday chats,” radio programs that someday will be used as study readings in courses on the psychopathology of power.

Correa does not believe in tolerance or freedom of speech or in those who posit, as did Thomas Jefferson, that a society without an independent government but with a free press is preferable to the alternative.

He mocks or pursues those who criticize him and tries to ruin them, as he did with the owners of El Universo, a major newspaper in Guayaquil, because the rich — unless they’re on his side — are his natural enemies.

Anyway, in the first round of voting on February 19 the Ecuadoreans earned the right to be free. Bravo. They earned it in the days after the election, through their determination not to be cheated out of a victory. Now they’ll have to win in the April 2 runoff to finish the task. If they don’t, Correa will be back. He’s already threatening it.

English Translation from Carlos Alberto Montaner’s blog

Europe Is Terrified / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald trump during their press conference in Washington DC (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Madrid, 29 January 2017  —  Europe is terrified by Donald Trump’s triumph. it fears the vision of the American friend, the primus inter pares.

That fact has just been revealed by a macrosurvey by the French pollster Ipsos, which conducted it in 24 nations through interviews with 18,000 people. Ipsos is the largest European research company and one of the most serious.

The most pessimistic country is Spain. Eighty-four percent of Spaniards believe that Trump will be everyone’s worst president.

Among other reasons, the better-informed respondents say, he coincides too much with the communists of “Podemos” [We Can] and “Izquierda Unida” [United Left]. Like them, he opposes free-trade international treaties, he criticizes NATO and the European Union. He’s a protectionist, an isolationist and an interventionist. He tells businessmen where and how they should invest. continue reading

Trump confirms the intuition that the extremes — the populists on the left and the right — meet.

Following the negative opinion of the Spaniards come the 80 percent of the Britons, the 78 percent of the Germans and the 77 percent of the French.

What worries many Europeans and especially their governments?

They’re concerned by Trump’s support for Brexit and his close friendship with Nigel Farage, leader of the dissolution of ties between the United Kingdom and the European Union. By Trump’s criticism of Angela Merkel and his corrosive intromission into the affairs of the Group of 28.

Simultaneously, they’re leery of Trump’s favorable opinion of Vladimir Putin, the man who invaded Crimea and is threatening the Balkans. The same Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of Russians applaud Trump’s triumph.

But Russia is not the only country with a cheerful perception of the new White House tenant. Sixty-five percent of people in India also see this with optimism. Even more than in the United States, where 52 percent have a positive opinion and 48 percent a negative one.

Angela Merkel and François Hollande have a legitimate concern over the fate of the European Union. The great diplomatic feat of the 20th Century has been the gradual union of Europe, forged by Germany and France, the rivals who bled the continent from 1870 to 1945 in horrid wars.

First they proceeded cautiously, creating the European Community of Coal and Steel (1951). Those were the early years of the second post-World-War. It was the work of French visionaries Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, of the Italian Alcide de Gasperi and the German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. They were joined by the Benelux countries (Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg).

The Germans and the French earnestly wanted to put an end to the habitual carnage in Europe. They would do so by creating common interests and legal institutions that would link the states and tie the hands of politicians.

Then came the European Economic Community (1958). The six original countries were eventually joined by another half dozen. And so they went, until in 1993 the EEC was replaced by the European Union, created in Maastricht after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc.

Because Germany and France are two reasonably efficient countries, albeit endowed with huge and intricate bureaucracies, they instilled that characteristic into the new body. Essentially, however, they achieved their purpose: to banish exclusionary nationalism, maintain the peace and bring prosperity to all nations together, even if at a slower pace.

Naturally, this has been possible thanks to the political stimulus and the military protection of the United States, through its bases and the existence of NATO. And this is exactly what many Europeans fear will be weakened by Trump’s rise to the presidency of the United States.

F.D. Roosevelt, Truman and the rest of the American presidents correctly understood that the U.S. would benefit from a strong, united and peaceful Europe, with which to transact business and share responsibilities, the same way that, some years ago, Americans understood that they would benefit from the existence of the euro, because nothing muddies the commercial waters than the existence of weak and erratic monetary signs.

So it was until Trump settled in the White House. He was a politician with a different, old-fashioned message that could spoil everything. That is why Europe is terrified. The world’s leading power has changed the signs and rules of the game. Europe fears the dissolution of a matrimony that has been extraordinarily fruitful for the past 72 years. It would be terrible if something like that happened.

The Second Cold War / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

The icy look with which Barack Obama demonstrated the state of bilateral relations to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 25 December 2016 — Exactly one quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union disappeared. The hecatomb occurred on Dec. 25, 1991, the direct consequence of the prior (and failed) coup in August of that year. Vladimir Putin believes that it was the worst disaster that has happened to his country, but at the time most of the Russians perceived it as something convenient.

I remember it clearly. Around that time, I visited Moscow rather frequently to take part in academic acts leading to discuss the convenience of ending the costly subsidy to the bellicose Cuban satellite. continue reading

I remember being considerably intrigued after repeatedly hearing a nationalist slogan that ended up as a political reality: “We have to liberate Russia from the weight of the Soviet Union.”

The USSR had been born in 1922, stimulated by Lenin in the midst of a hopeful All-Russian Congress of Soviets. He added Marxist ideas to the imperialist spasm that, in a few centuries, had turned the small Principality of Moscow — then animated by the superstition of being the “Third Rome,” the heir of Bizantium’s Christianity — into the world’s largest nation, roughly speaking twice the size of the United States or today’s China.

To Lenin and his communists, the USSR did not intend to abandon the Russian imperial momentum, of which they were secretly proud, but to refocus it on a new ideological project of world conquest based on the harebrained ideology of Karl Marx, a German philosopher who lived much of his existence in London, a city where he died in 1883.

Naturally, the newly created structure — Russia plus Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Byelorussia and later Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tadjikistan — served for that purpose and for another one, of a defensive nature. The USSR would protect communist Russia’s conquests and would be another obstacle to impede a hostile reaction from nations that opposed the bloody revolutionary experiment that emerged in 1917.

To that end, Lenin and later Stalin (after Lenin’s death in 1924) helped to create a worldwide federation of communist parties whose primary objective was to protect Moscow, the motherland of communism, even if their national interests were in conflict with those of the distant Russia. Beyond staging a revolution carbon-copied from the Bolshevik upheaval, the grand task of the local communist parties was to serve the Russian Big Brother.

As things stood, the national communist parties, Moscow’s shields, took on the task of persecuting Trotskyites and exterminating those who disobeyed the directives from the Comintern, as people called the Third International, the structure also created and financed by the Russian communists for their own benefit, as they had done with the USSR.

This was seen very clearly in Spain during the Civil War (1936-1939) and even before, when the Cuban communist leader Julio Antonio Mella, a dissenter from the official line, was murdered on a Mexican street in 1929, a prelude to what would happen to Trotsky himself in 1940. Trotsky was assassinated by Ramón Mercader, a Spaniard in the service of Stalin, son of a fanatical Cuban communist woman.

A quarter of a century after the USSR disappeared, Vladimir Putin is threatening to rearm Russia’s nuclear arsenal to foil the shield of protective missiles with which the United States has endowed the West’s defenses and its own. His words were not only those of a nostalgic former communist but also those of a Russian convinced of his homeland’s hegemonic fate.

According to the former KGB agent, now his country’s political leader, the U.S. and the European Union cannot prevent the total destruction of their defensive barriers (and the E.U.’s) by an attack by the so-called triad: the effect of land-based nuclear missiles, the action of submarines carrying atomic bombs, and bombs dropped from planes.

Oddly, Putin’s bullying will have a positive strategic effect on the West. To begin with, Trump will realize that Vladimir Putin is not his friend, to the extent that Putin repeats Russia’s old imperial habits. Likewise, he will realize that NATO continues to be the best instrument to keep the planet from being incinerated by Moscow and will refrain from weakening or demolishing it.

Evidently, we’re at the start of the Second Cold War.

Note: English text is directly from CA Montaner’s blog.

Raul Castro at the Crossroads / Carlos Alberto Montaner

Carlos Alberto Montaner, 10 December 2016 — Raúl Castro is on his own. Gone is his mentor, his paternal figure, the man who molded his life and led him at gunpoint — literally — from insignificance to the nation’s leadership. But he did so brusquely, reminding him every so often that he despised him for his intellectual limitations. That never ceased to hurt Raúl.

Many years ago, Raúl realized that Fidel was the revolution’s essential stumbling block — his arbitrary voluntarism, his stubborn foolishness, his improvisations, the odious way in which he wasted time in interminable conversations and perorations. But he also knew that without Fidel there would have been no revolution. On one hand, he admired him; on the other, he rejected him. There was something monstrous and fascinating in a person who talked for eight consecutive hours without the least concession to his bladder or that of the defenseless interlocutor. continue reading

Nevertheless, life had taught Raúl that a deeper problem existed: Marxism-Leninism, in which he believed blindly in his youth, and the reason he killed others without compunction, was a misguided doctrine that led to gradual impoverishment.

If Fidel had been different, or if relations with Washington had been a lot better, nothing essential would have changed. The unproductiveness of the system did not depend on the leader’s errors or character, or the economic embargo, but on the system’s lack of adaptation to human nature. It always fails.

The same had happened in the Soviet Union, in East Germany, in Czechoslovakia, in Poland. Whether the subjects were Slavs, Germans or Latins made no difference. Romania had been granted “most-favored nation” status by the United States.

It mattered not whether communism was being tested on societies with Christian, Islamic or Confucian roots; it inevitably failed. Nor did it depend on the leaders’ quality or formation. Their plumage could be varied: lawyers, union bosses, professors, teachers, even elevated labor activists. None was any good.

In addition, it was easy for Raúl to confirm that the market economy, with its simple way of rewarding the entrepreneurs and punishing the lazy, gave large though unequal fruit. His own father, Galician Ángel Castro Argiz, was a living example: he arrived in the Republic of Cuba at a young age without a penny, even without education, but at his death in 1956 he left a fortune consisting of $8 million and an organized agricultural business that employed dozens of people.

The issue now facing Raúl is how to dismantle the horrid contraption generated by his brother and himself almost 60 years ago without being buried in the rubble of that useless system. By now he knows that his “guidelines,” which is how his timid, sometimes puerile reforms are called in Cuba, are ill-placed Band-Aids stuck on a socialist system beyond salvation, a system made worse by military management in all its economic activities nationwide. But he has said, over and again, that he didn’t replace his brother to bury socialism but to save it.

I suppose he already knows that communism is beyond salvation. It has to be buried. That’s what Mikhail Gorbachev discovered when he tried to rescue it by applying drastic reforms: perestroika — giving it a transparent air of fearless discussion — and glasnost –convinced that it could be the best productive system created by human beings.

In a few years, Gorbachev’s salvage operation sank communism, not through the clumsiness of the rescue team but through the system’s insolvency and the poor theoretical formulation of Marxism-Leninism. Central planning was a bungle. Keeping the mechanisms of production from private hands was counterproductive. The committees for the assignation of prices were totally unaware of the people’s needs or reality. The constant presence of the political police destroyed coexistence and generated all kinds of psychological ills.

When Raúl Castro read “Perestroika,” Gorbachev’s book, he became so enthused that he ordered a special edition just for his officers. Fidel found out, scolded him in a humiliating manner and recalled all copies. Fidel was not interested in the people’s material well-being but in his own permanence in power. Gorbachevism, he said, would lead to the disappearance of communism.

He was right, but only half right. Raúl is at the same crossroads where Gorbachev stood, but with the added flaw that today almost no one — much less the profound idiots — thinks that communism can be saved. At least, none of the nations that have managed to abandon it has reversed that decision. They learned their bitter lesson. For now, the symptoms show that Raúl will maintain the same Stalinist course drawn by his brother, but there’s a difference: Fidel is no longer alive. He is buried in a huge rock at Santa Ifigenia cemetery. If Raúl doesn’t rectify that course, he is a coward.

Ed. note: English version is from Mr. Montaner’s own blog.

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

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.

Ed. note: English translation comes from Mr. Montaner’s own blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

, 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

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

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

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.