A Simple-Minded Argument / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 25 August 2018 — On Saturday, August 25, the Communist Party newspaper Granma published a front-page article with a headline in red letters that read, “Five Reasons Why a Multi-Party System Is Not Viable in Cuba.” Though based on faulty assumptions and even weaker arguments, it deserves a response.

1. The writer broadly casts the goals of political parties during the the formative and later years of the Republic as being purely partisan and demagogic, thus condemning a large number of important Cuban figures, party members and people who remained patriotic, responsible, civic-minded, decent and honest in spite of the irregularities, vices and lack of civic consciousness of some others.

The various parties, from the ultra-right to the ultra-left, coexisted and competed to gain, through their platforms, the approval and support of the people. It was a period when voters determined the outcome of elections. Not all the parties were good nor were all of them bad. If they had not succeeded, Cuba would not exist as a country, the proof being that the nation’s greatest advances were achieved during this period.

2. The writer maintains that the people had no say in government because in the first elections, which took place in 1901, a voter had to be over twenty-one years of age (a requirement in most countries at this time), know how to read and have assets in excess of two-hundred fifty pesos, with exceptions granted to those who had fought in the Liberation Army.

This is of little consequence considering that electoral laws evolved and were later amended in response to changing times. Subsequent elections in fact saw massive citizen participation. The author also forgets to mention that, although women’s suffrage did not exist during this period, it was granted in 1937, with Cuba being one of the first countries to do so.

But where exactly did those who occupied political office come from if not from among the people themselves? Were they perhaps extraterrestrials?

3. Citing force fragmentation and foreign interference, the author mocks the “free” elections to which Cubans were formerly entitled, claiming that the multi-party system was no guarantee of democracy. Yet the one-party system is? Furthermore, in the final years of the Republic 85% of the economy was in Cuban hands, including 60% of sugar production. I do not know how the author concludes that 75% of productive capacity was in foreign hands.

4. In writing about political and administrative corruption, the author accuses everyone of being “thieves and embezzlers, though they had been thought to be incorruptible.” No one denies that there were such people, just as there were also many who were not. Havana mayor Manuel Fernández Supervielle committed suicide in 1947 after he was unable to fulfill a campaign promise.

Today there is an abundance of corrupt officials, perhaps even more than before, though their cases are not reported in Granma. They are imbedded in various powerful agencies but none of them is committing suicide or apologizing to citizens for mistakes they made.

In his final argument, the writer affirms that the country was ultimately unable to change, a claim that is completely false. The Cuba in 1901 bears no resemblance to the Cuba of 1958. From an unhealthy, disease-ridden country, it was transformed into a country with the best health and education indices in Latin America, as well as the one with the lowest rate of illiteracy.

Economic development took off and in 1958 it ranked 29th among the world’s most developed economies. All this led to the emergence and growth of a large, powerful middle class, raising living standards for a majority of Cubans.

It affected mainly those in urban areas, where 75% of the population lived, with development being much slower for the remaining 25% living in rural areas.

This wealth led to the construction of schools, hospitals, factories, housing, highways, bridges, streets, avenues and all manner of modern construction, placing Cuba in an enviable position relative to the rest of Latin America. Its labor laws and constitution were the most advanced for their time and served as examples to many countries for years.

I recommend that, the next time this gossip columnist is ordered to write about the evils of Cuba under the Republic, he at least does some research and enlightens himself so as to avoid writing nonsense and looking ridiculous. It is a matter of etiquette and respect for oneself and for the readers.