The Cuban government will commemorate José Martí’s 160th anniversary with a new international conference “for the balance of the world,” co-sponsored by UNESCO. As its executive secretary more or less said, it is the rescue of an ethic based on Marti’s principles to help the world out of the hole in which it finds itself.
Obviously, the first concern that arises is since when do the Cuban leaders have the moral and political attributes to attempt such a feat, with their unenviable record of repressing dissent, dividing a nation, banishing those who emigrate and then gradually depopulating the island and its adjacent keys.
But that is not what I want to talk about, rather, in my capacity as Cuban-Dominican, I want to analyze the significance of the presence of the Dominican president Leonel Fernandez among the guests of the gala.
Leonel Fernandez was, when I met him personally, a talented and restless young man who, from the Dominican Liberation Party of Juan Bosch, advocated for national regeneration and public cleanliness with a social program that approached the moderate left.
In 1996, by one of those twists of politics, he was elected president by an alliance of the right-wing and racist base to which Juan Bosch, already in a state of senile decrepitude, was pushed. Since then he has been president for 12 years, and in each one of these he has worked with more determination to renege on his original political principles.
His governments have been characterized by corruption on a grand scale, a really superlative expression in a political and administrative system as corrupt as that prevailing in the Dominican Republic. This corruption has given him a unique power base, and provides a public platform based the Global Foundation (FUNGLODE), an institution which, according to a recent complaint from one of the country’s most prestigious jurists, is supported by illegal funds.
FUNGLODE organizes frequent scholarly binges paid for with money from dubious pockets. To them, Leonel Fernandez invites high-level figures from an academic jet set with whom he satisfies his intellectual ego. And for a dose of leftism, he invites, and pays well, Cuban academics and officials who unblushingly denounce neoliberalism and advocate for 21st century democracy and socialism.
From his presidential seat, Leonel Fernandez has strengthened the worst of the national system. In his governments, the national police have assassinated thousands of poor youth in the streets, some delinquents, others not, in what is an abhorrent practice frequently reported and documented in international forums. And at the same time he has continued concentrated economic and fiscal policies that produce more dissatisfied poor people to assassinate. In his last government, Dominican society mobilized itself to obtain 4% of GDP for education, which the then Dominican president flatly refused, dismissing the popular leaders as “pre-modern.”
In 2010, in a spurious agreement with the Catholic hierarchy, the most unpresentable right, and business interests, he promulgated a constitution that made abortion illegal in all its forms, stigmatized the rights of homosexuals, privatized the beaches, and opened the way for a system of exclusion for Haitian immigrants, which was followed by a xenophobic policy.
In international politics, Fernandez has been promoted internationalism at the expense of the public treasury, but without ever modernizing the system of foreign affairs or providing the country with an international policy. Consequently, at the same time the country is moving blindly in the world — we say we still recognize Taiwan as the legitimate China — Fernandez has tried to mediate in international conflicts in passing (always without success), and attend as many international forums as possible, always as a fill-in speaker.
His only commendable action was his solidarity with the victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, but that worthy act has been buried under a denounced orgy-to-get-rich in the reconstruction that supposedly benefited him through a lugubrious character who operates as his right-hand pocket.
On the occasion of the 2012 elections, in which he tried in vain to present himself as a candidate, Fernandez pushed his wife on the winning candidate as his vice-president, and spent an atrocious amount of money on the campaign to guarantee continuity and impunity. He managed it, and in passing opened a lightening-swift process of building construction that added to the profits of the multimillionaires in the capital.
Consequently, the country is poorer today and the city as dysfunctional as ever. And Dominican society is looking at a monumental fiscal deficit that inevitably increases poverty and the concentration of wealth.
And the guests must thank the host for travel, hotels and honorariums. Armando Hart himself has been a guest of his “for-a-better-world” celebrations, regularly accompanied by a number of delegations who today give thanks, in return, with this invitation to Fernandez. And the Cuban government is after a service contract for a literacy plan that could provide some few million dollars as well as some political influence.
That Fernandez is accompanied in this burlesque by figures who denounce the same system that Fernandez not only represents, but has degraded, is also understandable. Eventually Atilio Boron, Pérez Esquivel, Ramonet and Fray Betto are as much a part of the establishment as Fernández, only rhetorically and a little bit on the leftist side, and in fact some of them have also been guests of Fernandez at the cost of the taxes paid by us, the Dominicans. They are as shameless as Fernandez.
Frankly, what bothers me, is that José Martí is used in all this. Not that Martí was a saint, but we can all agree that he was a decent and upright man, which to me means a lot. He was a convinced democrat. And almost 120 years after his death, he can neither protest nor throw up.
He has no choice but to swallow tributes and admirers in silence.
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso | Santo Domingo
Translated from Cubaencuentro
28 January 2013