AMLO and Uncertainty

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, July 14, 2019 — Mexico is trembling. It occurs every once in a while. AMLO is the acronym for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, its president. The word that best describes all that is happening there is “uncertainty.” No one knows what could happen. When societies are in this situation, generally the worst occurs. The cloudy forecast paralyzes investment and influences negative outcomes. Mexicans overwhelmingly elected a peculiar personage and there will be consequences there.

The stock market and the peso have fallen. Carlos Urzúa, a notable economist, moderate and reasonable, resigned from AMLO’s cabinet and the fire started. He was, until a few days ago, the Minister of Finance. Like well-mannered suicides he wrote a letter in which he explained, more or less, his reasons. Evidently, he has not killed himself. He’s returning to academia, which is a form of taking one’s own life, at least the public one.

AMLO is a person comfortably installed in the past. He wants to develop Mexico with the political vision of 1906, 113 years ago. But his model is the general Lázaro Cárdenas, nationalizer and anti-imperialist, who occupied the presidency in the six-year term of 1934 to 1940, a mere 85 years ago. That foolishness appears in the papers of the MORENO sect, created by López Obrador to aspire to the presidency. continue reading

Another crazy idea. Isn’t the tragic performance of Pemex, the state-owned petroleum company, enough for AMLO to understand that it makes no sense to promote once again the entrepreneur-state? The era of trying out nationalization was that of Cárdenas and it has already been seen where that led. Does AMLO realize that it is impossible to eradicate corruption by widening the perimeter of the State and giving officials greater discretion?

The terrible corruption in Mexico, begun in the colonial era, but exponentially increased during the Republic, is the result, precisely, of the nexus between the State and the productive apparatus. When AMLO affirms that in his Government “the long neoliberal night” ended, he is not only reiterating a corny, empty phrase that the epigones of the Forum of Sao Paulo (Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega) were in the habit of repeating, but also demonstrating his incapacity to understand the disastrous relationship between public spending and good government.

What AMLO called “the long neoliberal night” was the result of the inflation, the loss in purchasing power of the currency, and the rampant corruption during the terms of Luis Echeverría (1970-1976) and José López Portillo (1976-1982). How is it possible that AMLO thinks, seriously, that the evils of our republics can be cured with a larger dose of state interventionism and control if those were, precisely, the evils that have traditionally poisoned our public life?

The good Governments of the first term of Óscar Arias in Costa Rica (1986-1990), of Luis Alberto Lacalle in Uruguay (1990-1995), of César Gaviria in Colombia (1990-1994), of Ernesto Zedillo in Mexico (1994-2000), of the second term of Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela (1989-1993), and also of the fourth term of Víctor Paz Estenssoro (1985-1989), who started in the fifties leading the first populist project of Bolivia and, three decades later, put forward and carried out the first liberal Government of national salvation, were the result of the awful consequences of Keynesianism applied in Latin America.

On that list of benign reformers would have to be included the Argentinean Carlos Menem (1989-1999) because of his privatizations. If he had kept public spending under control, which would have prevented the devaluation of the peso and the subsequent evil history of the “corralitos,” a new day would have dawned in Argentina. Ultimately, he would have buried the disastrous Peronism and the band of Kirchner and her 40 thieves would have remained in their cave without reaching the Casa Rosada.

What happened in Latin America starting in the eighties and nineties was what happened in Israel with Likud’s arrival to power (1977), in England with Margaret Thatcher (1979), in the United States with the ascension of Ronald Reagan (1981), and in Switzerland with the triumph of Carl Bildt (1991). They put an end to the “long socialist night” (we allow ourselved to be corny in just vengeance), because the example of what was happening in Chile in the economic sphere was decisive, even though what was happening in the political sphere sickened us.

I conclude where I began: AMLO and uncertainty. If he does not improve he will do much damage to Mexico. I fear the worst. It’s what usually happens.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Rabid Dog Always Ready to Bite

Promotion for the monologue of the Italian Primo Levi entitled “If this is a man.” (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, June 30, 2019 — Incredible. Anne Frank is a venerable old woman of 90. She remained frozen in the image of a smiling, sensitive, and good girl who discovered love and sexuality in the middle of adolescence as she records in her Diary. The Nazis murdered her in February or March of 1945, a little before the end of the war. She had been born in June of 1929.

So a foundation called “Anne Frank Space,” at this time led by its vice president, the architect Ilana Beker, caught my attention. It is composed, essentially, of Venezuelan Jews. If the massive immigration of that people is great for the societies that receive them, it is even more significant when it comes to Jews. They tend to have excellent education and a profound sense of social responsibility. This foundation’s objective, in essence, is to fight againt prejudices and that we manage to live together in harmony with different people. continue reading

Within that spirit, they brought to Miami Beach, to the Colony theater, the monologue of the Italian Primo Levi entitled If This is a Man, published in 1947. They are his memories from the Auschwitz concentration camp. Along with Levi, 650 Italian Jews were transported like animals to that horrible slaughterhouse. Only 20 survived. Four decades later, in 1987, hounded by depression, Levi committed suicide by throwing himself to the pavement from a third floor. Elie Wiesel, upon finding out, wrote: “Primo Levi died in Auschwitz forty years later.”

The actor Javier Vidal achieves a tremendous resemblance to Primo Levi and turns to an excellent “trick:” he recites the text admirably with the accent and cadence of an Italian who speaks Spanish. For an hour and a half it is very easy to believe that Levi himself transmits to us his experiences. His wife, Julie Restifo, directs the work with an enviable economy of media. A few chairs on the stage and the projection of some drawings and images set the horror with total clarity.

Almost at the end of the work, Primo Levi warns that what they are suffering can be reproduced in the future. And thus it is so. One of the constant features of Western civilization is antisemitism. Hitler and the Nazis did not invent anything. They limited themselves to picking up a bloodthirsty tradition initiated by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but amplified by primitive medieval Christianity, which has been changing with each generation and adapting itself to every stage of history.

Hitler attributed to the Jews the German defeat in the First World War, despite the heroic participation of many Jews on the German and Austrian side, and supposed that by eradicating that “damned race” from the face of the earth all of Europe’s problems would suddenly disappear. Of course it was an unjust stupidity, but the ground had been fertilized for centuries with outrages against Jews.

It is true that the Roman papacy has asked forgiveness for its criminal excesses, but antisemitic prejudices are still alive in our culture. I remember a meeting of the Liberal International in Finland, in which they asked me to sit with an enigmatic Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who had created a supposed Liberal Party and wanted to affiliate it with our political family.

It was enough to ask him “how are things in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia” for antisemitism to rise to the surface. “Imagine,” he said to me, “the Jews are keeping everything.” He criticized to me the “cosmopolitanism” of that ethnicity and even mentioned “the conspiracy of the Jewish doctors” denounced, persecuted, and murdered by Stalin at the end of the forties.

Everything continued the same way in the Russian mentality, like in the time of the czars, when the political police, the fearsome Okhrana, fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as if there existed a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy to take control of the planet. Of course antisemitism has not diminished. It has mutated and presents itself today as anti-Zionism, but it is the same dog with a different collar. A rabid dog always ready to bite.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Ideas of Freedom: The Debate Continues

The Guatemalan Gloria Alvarez during a speech about populism that went viral on networks. (Screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 23 June 2019 — Gloria Álvarez has returned to the charge. She has written How to Talk to a Conservative. This volume is the logical derivation of another very successful and very controversial text of hers: How to Talk to a Progressive. Her new work carries two claims in its subtitles: Why instead of encouraging it conservatism obstructs freedom in our societies  and Why liberalism is much more effective than conservatism to annihilate cultural Marxism. Obviously, Gloria gives the word liberalism the meaning that it is given in Europe and Latin America. In the United States, “liberalism” is something akin to social democracy, at least as far as public spending is concerned.

Meanwhile, the progressives, the socialists and (especially) the communists, felt justly alluded to and berated Gloria: “Is it only the left that makes mistakes?”

Gloria responded intelligently, “How is it possible to come from a nation like Guatemala, with 65% of the people living in poverty, and preach the virtues of the market and minimum government?” continue reading

But, on the other side, the conservative right also attacked her. Gloria is militantly atheist and believers are often intolerant of those who do not worship “the true god,” which is, of course, theirs. Gloria is feminist in the liberal way, that is, without disguises of false morality. She is an ecologist, to the extreme of launching an organization dedicated to reforestation in her country in 2012.

Gloria is, above all, a free spirit. She believes in the decriminalization of prostitution and drug use. People can do with their bodies what they want, because that is the most urgent terrain of freedom. They even have the right to make mistakes like smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine up their nose, injecting heroin or rubbing substances on their genitals that increase sexual pleasure. It is not up to the whole of society, and much less to the State, to dictate people’s behavior in bed. What two adults, or more, what they do in the privacy of a bedroom is their business alone.

Gloria attended a gay pride party Gloria with a T-shirt with a “heterosexual” legend to support the protesters. You do not have to be gay to feel solidarity with the cause of gays.

Gloria does not propose them, much less recommend them, but she knows that freedom includes varied behaviors and attitudes. Freedom even includes the right to die with dignity. As a Spanish suicide wrote: “To live is a right, not a duty.”

As well-known commentators say, Gloria’s ideas often provoke two contradictory attitudes. The bad is that all this usually opposes the most conservative conservatism. The good is that liberalism has been gradually defeating the ideologies that have opposed it since it was born in the atmosphere of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The conservatives, the Marxists, the collectivists of all stripes, even the believers, although they do not recognize it, have had to incorporate liberal ideas and beliefs before undeniable rational evidence.

Why, then, resistance to the ideas of freedom? In my opinion, because these ideas arise from the particular psychological nature of certain people. Gloria is a free spirit because she has confidence in herself. Her ideology arises from her psychological structure and not vice versa. Gloria is not afraid of life.

However, there are countless people who are filled with panic and prefer to feel protected by a higher entity. These are the people devoted to strong governments, single parties, or the caudillos. That is why the liberals, the libertarians, the anarcho-capitalists are a minority. A formidable minority that has impregnated the rest of the ideological structures, but it is still the behavior of the entrepreneurs and the free spirits and those without fear.

This makes me think that it is very likely that How to Talk to a Conservative will successful in penetration and sales, as was How to Talk to a Conservative. This volume is the logical derivation of another very successful and very controversial text of hers: How to Talk to a Progressive, but it will hardly convince those who support a conservative view of human beings.

It is possible for people’s ideas to change, as shown by a thousand valid examples ranging from Octavio Paz to Mario Vargas Llosa, but it is much more difficult to renounce one’s psychological structure and self-perception.

In any case, the debate continues and it is very positive that Gloria Álvarez is the standard-bearer of the virtues of the ideas of freedom. It is excellent.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An Ever Better World, No Matter What People Say

Cuba’s “Gini Index” ranges in the 40s. Here an officer watches as Cubans line up to shop, facing the daily shortages of all kinds of necessities. (Reuters)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 24 May 2019 — Is the cup half empty or half full? It depends. According to Bernie Sanders, 1% of society is enriched exponentially while the poor, 40 million Americans, 13% of the census, lack the resources to have a dignified life.

Is that true? It also depends on what one calls a “dignified life.” Poverty in the United States is measured by income. A family of 4 people with less than $25,000 a year is considered “poor.” But poverty is relative. That family has a home and public schools. As a benefit, they can acquire food without cost. Electricity, telephones, drinking water, internet. Cars and paved streets. Police protection and a judicial system with public defenders representing victims and victimizers.

At the same time, unemployment in the United States continues to decline. That is magnificent. It continues to be the country of opportunities, as determined by the flood of legal or illegal immigrants who arrive annually. However, a CEO or President of a major company earns in a year 312 times what an average employee receives. That is problematic and is reflected in what is called the Gini Index: the richest 20% of the nation gets much more wealth than the poorest 20%. continue reading

Corrado Gini was an Italian statistician, a fascist, who in 1912, more than a century ago, designed a formula to establish the division of income among the quintiles of any society. (With the years and the attacks the mathematician abandoned fascism). Supposedly, the Index or Gini Coefficient measures the equity or equality that reigns in the country subjected to the analysis. Roughly speaking, the most egalitarian region is Scandinavia and one of the most unequal is Latin America.

There are so many variables — cultural, geographical and historical — that present real conceptial obstacles to converting these variables into reliable indexes of inequality, which the demagogues wield constantly. “El Gini” is almost useless. Two of the most “unequal” nations are, precisely, Panama and Chile; two of the region’s nations that have seen the greatest growth and that are closest to full employment.

But, when one proudly shows what is happening in Chile, the adversaries are quick to cite the rancorous fact that Chile and Panama have Gini Indices exceeding 50, when the Scandinavian countries are under than 30. The way  this coefficient works, zero would be absolute equality and 100 total inequality. Cuba, a country in which almost everyone lives miserably, ranges in the 40s and most of its population dreams of settling in Chile or Panama, let alone in the United States, whose “Gini” is 45.

Perhaps the Human Development Index published annually by the United Nations is more reliable, as it is more complete. It considers three factors: per capita income levels, schooling levels and life expectancy. The Spanish economist Leandro Prados de la Escosura, quoted by Juan Ramón Rallo, another leading economist, measured the inequality between countries from 1870 to 2015 and found that, although the inequality within populations was increasing as far as monetary income was concerned, it was decreasing with respect to education and life expectancy. (The review of the work of Prados de la Escosura by Rallo can be found at The Cato Institute).

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Decadence of the Imperial Project of the United States

An East German border guard escapes to West berlin during the Cold War  (flickr.com/The Central Intelligence Agency)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 1 June 2019 — Are we closer to another war? I don’t know, but if it comes it will be much more dangerous because the atomic bomb has escaped its dusty magic lamp and is within reach of anyone who knows how to rub it and has the resources for it.

Let’s see.

It was about avoiding wars. Woodrow Wilson had failed in his attempt to have the First World War (1914-1918) put an end to all the great wars, but the White House would not let a new opportunity pass. It was in the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman during the Second World War. The United States must spearhead the enormous effort of leading the “free world” to prevent the great conflagrations between powers. This, exactly, is what is in crisis. continue reading

Then it was about building an empire based on the ideology of liberal democracy (democratic institutions plus markets and private property) and not, as had been done until then, adding territories conquered by force to  distant and distinct centers such as London, Moscow, Vienna, Istanbul, Madrid and Lisbon.

For these purposes, the Bretton Woods Conference was convened in 1944. It was vital to provide the planet with a financial system that would allow it to face post-Nazism. The Germans were practically defeated and there was no time to lose. After Roosevelt’s death, his vice president Harry Truman took the baton and created the defense mechanism to confront the Soviet imperial spasm. In the second half of the forties originated all the institutions that successfully fought the Cold War: the Marshall Plan, NATO, the CIA, the OAS, the TIAR and a short etcetera.

None of them counted on the stubborn persistence of nationalism. A nationalism that would resurface everywhere, including the United States, driven by migrations of people partly different from the mainstream that profiled the host nations.

The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels began with a very journalistic phrase: “A ghost crosses Europe. The ghost of communism.” They published it a month before the revolution of 1848, but then it went unnoticed. There was no relationship between the appearance of that text and the European revolts. If instead of the word “communism” the authors had written “nationalism” they might have guessed right.

Europeans continue to die or kill for their respective nations, but not for the European Union. The persistence of this phenomenon is very dangerous. I saw it very clearly after reading an intelligent observation by the Argentine Mariano Grondona. He said, more or less, because I quote from memory: “Many Argentines are willing to die for their country, but I do not know anyone who is willing to die for MERCOSUR.” The same thing happens in the European Union.

In the latest elections to the European Parliament it was quite obvious that the degradation of the purpose that animated this platform continues: to unite the European peoples based on democratic ideologies and not on nations, races or languages. In that great legislative body there exists, and still dominates, the center-right or European People’s Party. They are followed, by number of deputies, by the Socialists, the Liberals, the Greens and, finally, the Communists, who are not exactly democrats, because Marxism-Leninism is not democratic and makes fun of these “petty bourgeois trifles,” but in the short term they behave as such.

The British Nigel Farage, the Italian Matteo Salvini, the French Marine Le Pen, the Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Spanish Santiago Abascal, and the adviser of all, directly or in pectore, the American Steve Banon, who was very close to Donald Trump, are all delighted. The trend increased markedly in the European Parliament.

To me, on the other hand, it seems a symptom of the death throes of American hegemony and the gradual end of the world that emerged after the Second World War. We are entering a much more dangerous stage. Confronting the USSR everything was clearer, easier, probably better.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Venezuela and the Dangerous Nicaraguan Model

The head of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, Vladimir Padrino, with the ruler, Nicolás Maduro. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Albert Montaner, Miami, May 12, 2019 — They are about to put Juan Guaidó in prison. Nicolás Maduro and the Cuban services are weighing it. The detention of Edgar Zambrano, First Vice President of the National Assembly, is a dress rehearsal for the arrest of President Guaidó. They are feeling out the terrain. Maduro and Raúl Castro have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to control power with another source of authority loose in Venezuela. I don’t mention the Cuban “president” Miguel Díaz-Canel because he is an errand boy.

They intend to totally destroy the National Assembly, accusing it of “treason against its country.” For Maduro and his supporters, it doesn’t matter that nobody believes it. The game entails working out parallel alibis to “explain” the disaster. There is hyperinflation because of Venezuela Today, a web page managed by “enemies of the country.” There are shortages of food and medicine due to the embargo by the Americans. There are electricity cuts and lack of potable water because John Bolton decided it and personally directed the havoc. Venezuelans escape from the paradise confused by the siren song of the capitalist adversaries. Truth doesn’t matter. Only the story. continue reading

The Cuban regime is desperate, but devises its strategy to stay afloat. Raúl fears street riots stemming from the shortages. He needs the Venezuelan subsidy like Dracula needed the dose of blood from his victims. The intelligence “apparatus” of Havana believes, at this point, that Donald Trump is all bark and no bite. For that reason they treat him with kid gloves and save the bigger guns for Marco Rubio, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and Elliot Abrams. The hard core that backs Guaidó. Those are the enemies that must be hobbled. They are the “biters,” although they lack strength to use the weight of American arms.

The conclusion that Cuban intelligence has reached regarding Trump has a certain logic. If he wants to withdraw from the Middle East, what sense would it have for him to put troops in Venezuela? If he is capable of weakening NATO or the European Union, because he is persuaded that his country pays the lion’s share and doesn’t benefit from it at all, why in Latin America would he play the role of “leader of the free world” when the main people affected are Latin Americans themselves? If the chubby guy from North Korea is sometimes rocket man and other times is a trustworthy guy, why fear the tenant of the White House? They already know that they are facing a salesman who says anything, and threatens and makes a fuss, but doesn’t resort to the stick.

However, Nicolás Maduro smells of the past. That Cuba understands. He was smuggled into power. At the beginning of 2013, when Hugo Chávez died, the Cuban regime chose him not for his virtues, but rather for his weaknesses. It was Diosdado Cabello’s “turn,” but he was a rogue who was too independent and didn’t follow anyone’s orders. Maduro, on the other hand, was obedient and would keep in force the only thing that interested Havana: the supply of oil and the crooked money that the nomenclature of both dictatorships gave out, like that glorious “business” through which a Cuban “company” rented for a million dollars a day to PDVSA a platform to extract petroleum from the Maracaibo lake. The real bill was half a million all of God’s days, but upon being triangulated from Havana the costs magically doubled.

Maduro has to get out of the game to save Cuban interests. Maduro agrees. Everyone knows by now that Cuba’s new man is General Vladimir Padrino López, head of the Armed Forces, and the person who foiled the coup of April 30 and deceived the enemy intelligence services. But how to make the switch? One possibility is to convince the Lima Group, the United States, and the opposition itself of the necessity of solving the crisis via the “Nicaraguan model.”

What is that? In 1990 the Sandinista dictatorship submitted to elections thinking that they would win them, like all the polls were showing, even those ordered by Washington. But the unthinkable happened: Violeta Chamorro won by an enormous margin, as D. Oscar Arias had predicted to me after seeing the poll by Borge and Associates, a modest Costa Rican company that got it completely right.

At that point, the Sandinistas had against them the majority of the population and the United States, but they still had the military apparatus, so they made an unseemly proposal that everyone ended up accepting to get out of that wasps’ nest. The Sandinistas would admit defeat at the ballots in exchange for remaining at the head of the Armed Forces without the new government being able to control them. In the period prior to the taking of possession they would eliminate the worse adversaries. It was then that they assassinated dozens of “Contra” chiefs.

Havana thinks that the exit of Maduro can happen in the same manner with a variation: impeccable elections in which Chavismo would certainly be defeated, but Padrino López would remain at the head of the armed forces and the agreement of oil for doctors, vital for Cuba, would be respected, and a return to the sweet climate between the two countries of the Obama era, at the risk of unleashing on the United States another Camarioca, another Mariel, another “raft crisis,” given that the Island has more than enough prospective emigrants anxious to get to the United States and the economic crisis worsens with each turn of the screw of the Helms-Burton law.

Hopefully that does not happen and the Venezuelan democrats do not allow it. It’s bread for today and hunger for tomorrow. Thirty years after the 1990 elections Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista movement continue to loom over Nicaragua, while the 21st Century Socialism remains in that country, in Venezuela, and in Bolivia orchestrated by Havana. Padrino is not only the head of the Armed Forces, like the general Humberto Ortega was in Nicaragua. He is the protector of a narco-state allied with the terrorists of the Middle East. The problem is not solved with stopgaps, but rather with drastic measures. It’s time for the “iron surgeons,” not “bandaids.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Loyalty in Venezuela in Times of Crisis

Maduro trusts only in “los cubanos.” They made him the hier into “Comandante eterno” (Hugo Chavez) and they maintain him in power, opines Montaner. (@NicolasMaduro)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 6 May 2019  / Translation from Latin American Herald Tribune — Leopoldo López says that some generals came to his home to express some kind of solidarity. It must be true. For now, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, the former head of the SEBIN (Bolivarian Intelligence Service), is hiding. López fled his home, where he was under house arrest, thanks to the complicity of some SEBIN members.

It is very difficult to be loyal to Maduro. He is not a serious guy. What he does best is to dance salsa with his not-so-holy wife, the narco-aunt Cilia Flores. Everyone knows that Maduro talks to the birds and suffers from severe dyslexia mixed with a mild expression of Tourette Syndrome that leads him to confuse the “loaves and fishes” with the “penises and the fishes” while addressing the “miembras” (female members) of his party.

Nobody ignores the episode of the narco-nephews or the “disproportionate” corruption of Maduro and his regime. Chavismo has stolen more than 300 billion dollars. Just walking in Venezuela is enough to notice that it is the worst governed country in the world. The blackouts, the hyperinflation, the lack of food and medicine, in one of the richest nations of the planet, can only be explained by a combination of absolute incompetence and the shameless theft of public resources. continue reading

Loyalty and obedience originate in respect or fear and Maduro is neither respected nor feared. Not only the opponents maintain that attitude. It is shared by military leaders, the regime’s apparatchiks and those people around who serve them. That’s why Maduro only trusts “the Cubans.” They made him the heir of the “eternal Commander” and they keep him in power.

It’s the same thing that happened to Hugo Chávez in April 2002, when he was forced to relinquish power. The most servile military were conspiring. It was since that episode that Chávez totally surrendered to Fidel Castro. The Cuban dictator didn’t feel respect or fear, but there was a loyalty with a price. Fidel despised him, but at the same time he needed him. After the death of Ubre Blanca, Fidel’s dairy cow, Chávez was the replacement.

Mike Pompeo does not totally lie when he says that Maduro was ready to leave for Cuba and the Russians forbade it. That, surely, was communicated by a Venezuelan high-rank source to his CIA “handler.” It was his best excuse to explain the obedience of Venezuela’s high officials toward Maduro, a man who is neither feared nor respected.

However, John Bolton, the US National Security Advisor, is wrong when he says that the military will not shoot at the people. As long as the structure of command is kept, the armies are disciplined killing machines. They are trained to become that. It was evident when armored cars deliberately crushed several demonstrators.

Besides, the “Milgram and Zimbardo experiments” leave no room for doubt. Just an order from “the authority” is almost always enough to make disappear the moral judgments of those who have to fulfill the order. This sinister characteristic of human beings became evident in the concentration camps during World War II. Murder and vileness are at everybody’s reach. Armies kill and disembowel if they are forced to do it.

The phenomenon disappears when the chain of command is broken. I was able to experience it when Batista fled from power on the night of December 31, 1958. The next day, on January 1, 1959, a police patrol stopped us after a monstrous violation of traffic regulations (I and three other boys were in a car driving on the sidewalk, full of joy after the dictator’s flight). The day before we would have been shot. That day they treated us with courtesy. They respectfully recommended that we go on the street, not the sidewalk, they asked for the revolutionary bracelets and they gave us a military salute. The chain of command had broken.

President Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López, his political boss, are right when they say that soon there will be a new military attempt, and another, and another, until Maduro leaves of power, dead or alive. They do not fear him or respect him. But to achieve this, it is very convenient that Venezuelans do not leave the streets and ignore the proposal of Padrino López (now the man from Havana): Maduro leaves, in exchange for no foreign intervention. That obscene proposal would mean the permanence of the narco-dictatorship, as the analyst Jorge Riopedre points out.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Washington’s Reasons

John Bolton, presidential adviser to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, speaks during a press conference in Miami, Florida. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 21 April 2019 — Cuba is behind the Venezuelan horror. The island learned from the Soviets the art of controlling a society, even though 80% of people oppose the imposed system. It is enough for 0.5% of the population to be affiliated with counterintelligence, to achieve the submission of the whole.

People obey out of fear, not out of love, much less for ideological reasons. In Cuba and in Venezuela, as in the whole field of 21st Century Socialism, in which only Bolivia and Nicaragua remain, there is barely a handful of brainless people who create Marxist-Leninist slogans.

But that’s not the problem. After all, it is not the first time that a small island has controlled a much larger, more populated and richer nation. That is the history of the United Kingdom and India. The problem is what the colony dedicates itself to, beyond being exploited by the implacable Cuban metropolis. continue reading

The Venezuelan military leadership, led by Nicolás Maduro, the puppet chosen by Havana, is primarily engaged in drug trafficking. From that murky business they get billions of dollars. But the Venezuelan commitments to crime do not end there. They lend support to Islamist terrorists, to Iran and to anyone who claims to be against the West. It is the way they of dignifying their criminal activities. They cover them with an ideological “anti-imperialist” mantle on the left.

That’s what John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams and the Cuban-Americans Marcos Rubio and Mauricio Claver-Carone think. There has never been a unit of opinion in Washington so consolidated. Everyone knows what is going on in Venezuela and they do not ignore the importance of Cuba as the power behind the throne.

The problem is how to deal with that danger. They have even asked Raúl Castro to abandon his Venezuelan prey. It seems that was the message that Prince Charles delivered on his amazing trip to Cuba disguised as a tourist with his sweet Camila hanging on his arm. This is what Abrams transmits to his interlocutors in Cuba and Venezuela.

But it is useless. Cuba is ready to fight until the last Venezuelan. First, because they need it from a material point of view. The system imposed on Cubans — the “Military Capitalism of the State” — is absolutely unproductive and requires joining another nation to sustain and maintain them. And, second, because for 60 years it has worked for them in controlling power and they know that their adversaries change or get tired. Everything rests on staying firm in the same position.

Given these facts, John Bolton, Security Advisor Donald Trump, on April 17, in Miami, revealed the measures that the US will adopt against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the three nations that today constitute “the axis of evil.”

As is well-known, the United States has opted for economic sanctions included in the Helms-Burton Act passed during the Clinton administration. That law, promulgated by the US Congress and the Senate, goes on to say that any country that does business with Cuba, in transactions involving US properties confiscated by the communist revolution, could face reprisals and lawsuits before US courts.

It also limits remittances and visits by Cuban-American migrants, a measure similar to that taken during the George W. Bush (son) government. In addition, boats that have previously touched Cuban soil cannot land in the United States for six months. This measure has already caused terror among some shipowners and the paralysis in Venezuelan waters of the Greek tanker, the Despina Adrianna, originally destined for Cuba.

Actually, these are reasonable tactical measures to maintain a semi-hostility, but they do not necessarily lead to the end of the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela. If the intention is to liquidate those governments, enemies of the United States, the development of a strategy, subject to a timetable, is necessary to achieve those goals before the 2020 elections, when the tables could turn.

To achieve those goals, it is important to align all the essential factors, and that can only be done by the United States if it is serious when it states that it “reserves all the cards.” No major international actor (Canada, the Lima Group, the European Union, NATO) would deny Washington its support to eliminate outlawed states dedicated to drug trafficking and antidemocratic conspiracies, and would surely collaborate in the effort.

On the contrary, if Washington chooses to limit itself to showing its teeth and being a “paper tiger,” as Humberto Belli, the Nicaraguan essayist, fears and writes, it does not make sense to mortify Cuban society with more hardships. In that case, the United States must return to the strategy of containment: vigilance, propaganda and precise denunciations against the transgressors of the laws. Naturally, the Caribbean pistol would continue to threaten everyone’s heads, as has happened over six decades.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Venezuelan Outcome

Guaidó was greeted by a crowd at the airport and by representatives of the international community after a tour of several South American countries. (EFE / Rafael Hernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 30 March 2019 — The United States will not intervene militarily in Venezuela. It is one thing to threaten and something very different to disembark troops. The country would have to feel itself in danger and that is not the case today. It has been brilliantly explained by Professor Frank Mora, former Assistant Secretary of Defense of the Western Hemisphere in the Obama Administration. Even several well-informed analysts like Andrés Oppenheimer and Jorge Riopedre have described it, with regret.

In 1965 the United States intervened in the Dominican Republic, in the midst of a battle between the factions of the left and the right, because President Johnson, within the framework of the Cold War, wanted to prevent the emergence of a second Cuba in the Caribbean. The first one had given him quite a lot of headaches. Johnson lived and died convinced that Fidel Castro had killed Kennedy and had made him president. Finally, he managed to build an operation with other countries of the Organization of American States (OAS). The most ferocious were the Brazilian soldiers.

In 1983 it was the turn of the small Caribbean island of Granada. Reagan took advantage of an absurd and bloody coup by Bernard Coard and General Hudson Austin against Maurice Bishop. It was an ultra communist coup against the man from Havana. They shot Bishop along with nine of his close associates, including his lover. Washington’s pretext to intervene was the protection of a few hundred American students who were pursuing their medical studies there. They packaged the operation with the request of two other Caribbean islands. continue reading

In December of 1989, Bush (father) invaded Panama. General Noriega, the country’s strongman, was insane. He trusted that his previous services to the CIA would protect him. It was said then that Noriega “was not bought.” He was rented for short periods to the highest bidder. His supporters had killed an American soldier and raped an officer’s wife with total impunity.

Bush’s dilemma was to abandon Panama, even the famous bases, or to intervene. He decided on the second and did not even stop to look for a pretext or add allies. It was a narco-dictatorship and that was enough. Until 72 hours before the invasion began they tried to convince the general to leave for Spain with his fortune (200 million dollars) and avoid the invasion. Noriega did not believe them and died in prison almost three decades later.

Nicolás Maduro provokes the biggest rejection. For now, it is about liquidating him using sanctions and psychological warfare. Donald Trump repeats, as a mantra, that “all” options are on the table. That includes frontal warfare, but logic and observation indicate otherwise.

Trump is an isolationist. He is a cold “businessman.” He does not believe that the United States is the leader of the West, with the associated special responsibilities that entails. He is not the only one who thinks that way. Kissinger, in his own way, believes the same. Trump presides over a nation with interests, essentially economic. This vision leads him to confront the issue of tariffs with his allies in Europe, Canada and Mexico, and to belittle NATO, the quintessence of the “globalism” that mortifies him so much.

He would like Venezuela to behave democratically and sensibly. That is why he supports Juan Guaidó and receives his wife, Fabiana Rosales, in the White House, but barely shifts from sanctions and political and diplomatic support to an open war to evict Maduro and his 40 thieves from power.

Destroying Venezuela’s military apparatus is easy. It would take a few hours for a nation like the United States to do it from the air and sea with conventional weapons. It has the necessary arsenal and bank account. But occupying a large nation (three times the size of Germany), confronting armed gangs, holding elections and creating a police force capable of sustaining authority is a task that can last a couple of years and Trump is not willing to carry it out.

However, no informed person has any doubt that Maduro and his gang have created a narco-state, allied with Iran and the terrorists of the Middle East, led by Cuba and militarily assisted by Russia. And this narco-state constitutes a grave danger to its neighbors and, in the medium term, to the United States, especially since Moscow has made an appearance in the conflict with a hundred military personnel and abundant weapons.

If sanctions and psychological warfare do not achieve their purpose, it is best to divide the functions. The United States would destroy the military installations of the narco-state and with its missiles and drones would make the heads of the chiefs roll. After the demolition, the most affected countries of the Lima Group would enter, led by Brazil and Colombia, but with the help of Chile, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay. They would occupy the territory, invoking the democratic clause, and organize the conditions for the return to democracy and the restoration of the economy under the direction of Luis Almagro and the participation of the OAS.

This harsh outcome is against the scant Latin American tradition of forging an active foreign policy, although there is “the duty to protect” invoked by the former diplomat Diego Arria. If the Spanish-American democracies do not do so, surely the incapacity of the Maduro regime will provoke a terrible famine in which two or three million people will die, presumably children and destitute old people.

In any case, it is the minimum instinct of conservation that nations must have. There is the danger that fragile countries in the area will explode as a result of the “demographic bomb.” Between seven and ten million Venezuelans will soon leave the country, almost all heading to Latin America. Quite simply, South American democracies can not coexist with a gang of thugs in the neighborhood. They have to eradicate it because that life could be theirs.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Final Act of “Cubazuela”

The then presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and of Cuba, Fidel Castro, both now deceased.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami | 23 March, 2019 — Carlos Lage, in December 2005, said in Caracas that Cuba had two presidents: Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. “Cubazuela had emerged.” At that time, Lage was vice president of Cuba’s Council of State and the Council of Ministers. He was the number two man in Cuba by appointment of Fidel. The Commander had ordered him to release that pearl among the Venezuelans. The idea was, as always, Fidel’s, but Chávez agreed. Lage obeyed.

That meant, also, that Venezuela had two presidents: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Fidel was the primus inter pares. Fidel had molded Chavez. He had spawned him. When he received him in Cuba, in December of 1994, Chávez was a failed coup leader under the influence of Norberto Ceresole, an Argentine fascist Peronist, passed through the Libyan desert by the hand of Gaddafi.

As Chávez’s political muse was totally promiscuous, Fidel impregnated him with four Marxist slogans and dismissed Ceresole without hesitation. El Comandante was not a theoretician, but a strategist and a tactician who, at age 18, was persuaded that he had been endowed with a Greek profile as a premonition of nature, and exchanged his middle name, Hippolytus, for Alexander, after Alexander the Great. It was his first step towards the conquest of the planet. Something that was impossible to do from poor Cuba, so far from Marx and so close to the United States, but possible with the enormous wealth of Venezuela, especially with a barrel of oil around one hundred dollars. continue reading

Then Cuban chancellor, Felipe Pérez Roque, was entrusted with another task for Venezuelans: explaining why Venezuela and Cuba should be allied. He did it at the Teresa Carreño theater in Caracas. Fidel formulated the script, carefully read the speech, and made a few suggestions. No important detail escaped his meticulously manipulative temperament. The task that lay ahead was gigantic. Replace the vanished and treacherous USSR in the defense of the oppressed of the world. Fight and defeat the American neighbor, huge, powerful and foolish.

Raul Castro did not appear in the equation. He was the neat and loyal boy to run errands, but without greatness. Fidel fabricated his biography. He dragged him to attack the Moncada barracks, to the Sierra Maestra and to the Ministry of Defense, but he did not respect him. He pegged him as a mediocre guy, unable to read a book, someone to leave in front of the armory, but nothing more.

He didn’t like Hugo Chávez either. Actually, he couldn’t stand him. Chavez was just a gun to assault the sky. The ordinariness of the Venezuelan bothered him. His “parejería” (conceit), as the Cubans call the unfortunates who want to become “equal” to the boss.

In one of Chávez’s frequent phone calls, Fidel explained that, “sadly,” he had to hand over the relationship to his two trusted men, Lage and Pérez Roque, because the Revolution, due to lack of time, demanded the sacrifice of ties that I really appreciated.” Chavez, impervious to rejection, began to constantly annoy the other two characters.

In 2009, Raúl Castro, with the fatigued consent of Fidel, dismissed Lage and Pérez Roque, turned them into non-people and they left the game accused of being ambitious and disloyal. On December 30, 2012, Hugo Chávez died in Havana because of his audacity in having his cancer treated in Cuba, although they didn’t disconnect him until March 5, 2013, exactly 60 years of Stalin’s death.

As Alexander the Great was surprised by death at the age of 32, and shortly afterwards his Greco-Macedonian empire was undone, Fidel Castro almost died as diverticulitis took him down at the end of July 2006, a few months after he deployed his strategy in Caracas, and they immediately began to demolish his fantasies, although he remained (more or less) alive until November 2016.

Nicolás Maduro, the replacement imposed by Cuba, is drowning because of his plunder, incapacity and stupidity. Raul Castro, old and tired, has gone all out to save him, but, as is often the case, the two are about to suffocate in the turbulent post-Communist swirl.

Everyone knows that the puppeteer is Raúl Castro. They have been abandoned by the artists who came to sing to Juan Guaidó, Michelle Bachelet, the OAS, the Italian Federica Mogherini, Heinz Dieterich, Noam Chomsky and the sursum corda. All that’s left are some deeply brainless men without the least prestige.

The image of Venezuela is terrible and is leaving the Cuban regime without friends or lifesavers. The irony is that they conquered Venezuela by swallowing Chávez and Maduro and now they have become indigestible, as historians say happened to Alexander the Great after a banquet.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An Open Letter on the Situation in Venezuela

Protesters in Venezuela support of Juan Guaidó on January 23. (jguaido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  Ernesto Hernández Busto, 15 March 2019 —  Poor Venezuela! After having undertaken what it announced as a radical process of social transformation, a process intended to mark a turning point in Latin American ideology and guarantee a project of social equality baptized as “21st century socialism,” today the country has ended up becoming a despotic compound, where not only are the most basic political rights violated, but one in which a person can barely survive with a minimum of dignity. From the promised emancipation to compulsory destitution; from the dream of the continental left to the prototype of failure, despair and exodus: such is the sad journey of the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Given the serious political and humanitarian situation that Venezuela is going through today, we the undersigned, Cuban intellectuals who reside inside and outside the island, demand that the Cuban Government ackknowlege the evidence of the social and humanitarian disaster, refrain from intervening by any means in the political conflict of that nation, and withdraw its numerous “cooperators,” both civilian and military, who are working in that country. After six decades of a failed revolution, after the collapse of that “Cubazuela” celebrated for years by the Castrochavism, it is time for Cuba to stop exporting or stirring up conflicts in other countries under the pretext of ideological solidarity, and to ensure they can subsist with their own resources, without exploitation or interference of any kind.

Signers of this open letter

Ernesto Hernández Busto, writer; Ladislao Aguado, writer and editor; Carlos A. Aguilera, writer; Janet Batet, curator and art critic; Yoandy Cabrera, academic; María A. Cabrera Arús, academic; Pablo de Cuba Soria, writer and editor; Enrique del Risco, writer and academic; Armando Chaguaceda, political scientist; Paquito D’Rivera, musician, composer and writer; Néstor Díaz de Villegas, writer; Manuel Díaz Martínez, writer; Jorge I. Domínguez-López, writer and journalist; Vicente Echerri, writer; Abilio Estévez, writer; Gerardo Fernández Fe, writer; Alejandro González Acosta, writer and academic; Ginés Gorriz, producer; Kelly M. Grandal, writer; Natacha Herrera, journalist; José Kozer, poet; Boris Larramendi, musician; Felipe Lázaro, writer and editor; Rafael López-Ramos, visual artist; Jacobo Machover, writer and academic; Roberto Madrigal, writer; María Matienzo Puerto, writer and journalist; L. Santiago Méndez Alpízar, writer; Michael H. Miranda, writer and academic; Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer and journalist; Adrián Monzón, artist and producer; Lilliam Moro, writer; Luis Manuel Otero, artist and activist; Amaury Pacheco del Monte, writer and artivist; Geandy Pavón, photographer and visual artist; Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, writer and academic; José Prats Sariol, writer; Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, writer; Alexis Romay, writer; Rolando Sánchez Mejías, writer; Manuel Sosa, writer; Armando Valdés-Zamora, writer and academic; Amir Valle, writer; and Camilo Venegas Yero, writer and journalist.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

What Will Happen With Guaido?

A spokesman for the US government said it clearly: “If they touch Guaidó that would be the last decision Maduro would make.” (EFE / Miguel Gutiérrez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 2 March 2019 — The Lima Group has renounced the use of force to save Venezuelans from the barbarism of the regime. Maduro is happy. That statement detracts from the Group’s credibility. There are thirteen countries, almost all of them very important. There were fourteen, but in practice there was a notable drop after the election of AMLO (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) in Mexico.

Why has the Lima Group taken this debilitating step? First, for fear of the reaction of local pro-communist groups. Second, to expand diplomatic and economic pressures. There are some European and Asian countries that would join, but only with the commitment to not resort to violence. And third, because of the resistance of local bureaucracies. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, for example, has encountered the muted reticence of Itamaraty Palace, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The United States supports, but does not belong to, the Lima Group. That has allowed Washington to insist that “all options are on the table.” That phrase, reiterated by Mike Pence, means that the White House does not renounce the use of its unbeatable military force. The United States could pulverize 99% of the offensive units of the Venezuelan armed forces in the first six hours of an attack. All the aviation and the military bases of Maduro would be erased from the map. Probably most of the Chavista leaders would be exterminated. continue reading

However, the use of this military force is unlikely unless interim president Juan Guaidó is killed or detained when he returns to Venezuela. That is the “red line” drawn by the administration of Donald Trump in the Venezuelan conflict. A spokesman for the US government said it clearly: “If they touch Guaidó that would be the last decision Maduro would Make.”

As journalist Andrés Oppenheimer rightly pointed out, Nicolás Maduro faces a dilemma in which he can not win. If he kills or stops Guaidó, he will face the immediate demolition of his regime. If it does not kill or stop him, he will lose his authority and control over the country in the medium or long term.

The second is already happening. As I write this chronicle, more than 400 people in uniform have defected in Colombia. The increasing rate of leakage will soon be in the thousands. Potentially, that would be the military occupation force in the event of a war.

Maduro, who is a proconsul appointed by Havana, plays by the rules dictated by Cuba. Raúl Castro is convinced that whoever resists ends up winning the game. That is his experience. He estimates that the calendar favors it. He believes that after a certain time the relation of forces will turn the corner. He cannot solve any of the problems of Cuba denounced by himself (the rationed milk, the two currencies) but remains bolted in his post.

Maduro’s adversaries think otherwise. They believe that this time, time is against him. Every day the situation will become more critical. They will sell what is left of the gold resolves. The financial siege will fatally drown him. The lack of fuel locally will finish him off. There will not be a bunker to generate electricity. The Chavistas, used to stealing, will have no way to do so. Hyperinflation will continue and get worse. It is easier to print bills than to ask for a loan no one will grant, or to float bonds that only the demented would acquire. This would precipitate the final crisis, with the streets of Caracas overrun and the colectivos looting and facing a demoralized and disbanded army.

That is why it was a mistake for the Lima Group to renounce the use of force. It is not about Chavismo and Maduro being communists. That would be the least of it. Off one coast of Venezuela, in Guyana, at the time of Cheddi Jagan, there was also a Marxist-Leninist according to Winston Churchill’s infallible sense of smell. But they did not turn their country into a narco-dictatorship nor did they commit themselves to crime, so that nobody thought to invade them. With time they forgot about collectivism.

The problem is that Chavismo has constructed a dictatorship dedicated to drug trafficking and expanding Islamist terrorism. Thus, Humberto Belli, the former Minister of Education of Nicaragua, has raised the need to end the Maduro regime through collective arms.

His arguments are impeccable: if there is “revolutionary internationalism,” and if the left applauds “the divine presence of Commander Che Guevara,” no one can oppose the existence of “democratic internationalism,” especially when it would be acting in favor of Venezuelan sovereignty and by invitation of a legitimate government presided over by Juan Guaidó. His article ends with a salutation to “The Caribbean Legion” created by José Figueres to fight against the tyrannies of the time.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Surveys in Cuba: What Do Cubans Think?

A man exercises his right to vote in the elections to for the National Assembly of People’s Power in Havana. (File EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 February 2019 — CubaData has surveyed Cuban society. It has asked people about the new Constitution that will be voted on in the referendum on February 24. According to the sample, 42.4% will say Yes, 41.6% will opt for the No and 16% will not vote. It is a “technical draw,” but the No votes, plus those who will not vote, account for 57.6% of the electoral rolls, despite the fact that the No supporters have been denied access to radio, television or national written media, in the middle of a fierce campaign of intimidation, threats, beatings and arrests.

Defending a No vote is equivalent to “treason to the fatherland.” Among others, Guillermo Toledo, from Puerto Rico, director of the Cuban National Meeting, and Rosa Maria Payá, from everywhere, in charge of Cuba Decides, have been able to “sneak in” working very hard for the few slots in the social networks that Cuban State Security has not managed to close. To this is added the indefatigable work of the dissidents: there are more than 100 Cubans on hunger strike in support of No vote, led by José Daniel Ferrer, a legendary dissident who has suffered constant condemnations and beatings.

CubaData is a company associated with the Diario de Cuba, a good digital newspaper published in Madrid. It is presided over by journalist Pablo Díaz and co-directer Salvi Pascual, a university professor and great computer expert. The survey was conducted a few days before the referendum. They asked 1,000 Cubans throughout the country. The results are compatible with the simple observation of the Cuban disaster and with what happened in the Eastern European nations subjected to communism. continue reading

After all, Cubans are the same as other human beings. Sixty years of failures, unfulfilled promises and conspicuous deterioration, make a dent in the perceptions of any society. You have to be profoundly idiotic to maintain illusions in an inflexible system directed exclusively by the Communist Party, without counterweights or independent evaluations, despite the horror stories of an island subject to the whims of trying to grow coffee on rocky outcrops, immense dairy cows from the stage of Soviet gigantism, or the plan for sweet dwarf cows that each family would keep in their living room to stock up on milk when the communist world collapsed.

This is not the first time that a reliable survey has been carried out in Cuba. At the end of 2014, the engineer Joaquín Pérez-Rodríguez, head of The Campol Group, and, today also president of the Pedro Arrupe Institute, set out to find out what Cubans on the Island wanted. With with the help of several mathematicians and sociologists, he managed to carry out an unofficial evaluation which showed that 82% of people between 18 and 49 years were “not satisfied” with the economic system that exists in Cuba. The percentage of dissatisfaction fell to 71% in those over 50. He relates it, very descriptively, in his book La voz cubana (The Cuban Voice).

These differences in the preferences between “young” and “old,” or between “urban” and “rural” populations, are typical of any society. Young people believe in the future, want to succeed, travel abroad, break out, be entrepreneurs. The old are more conservative, they tend to fear changes. A government that has completed 60 years in absolute control of society has necessarily suffered tremendous waste and has no emotional connection with its contemporaries.

It doesn’t surprise me, then, what José Gabriel Barrenechea says from Cuba, that in Havana the No vote is backed by the youth. He affirms this in his article What will happen this Sunday in Cuba? Although I also share his pessimism about the final results: “I have no doubt that, in any case, there will be electoral fraud.” And then he explains how and why: “In the Municipal Commissions data will be altered by orders of the first municipal secretaries, so as not to look bad before their superior authorities […] Nobody wants to lose the ’little benefits’ attached to any important position in Cuba, supposedly socialist.”

Another writer, who prefers not to give his name for fear of reprisals, explains to me how some people who totally reject the system will vote Yes: it is the custom of the double standard typical of totalitarian societies. They are painfully accustomed to the dissonance between what they believe, what they say and what they do. The inertia generated by 60 years of one-party government also prevails. In the elections the vote is always what the Government indicates. I remember a candidate from the end of the Franco regime in Spain, in the first half of the seventies, who had a sincere and candid way of asking for a vote: “Vote for me. What more can he give you?”

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Venezuelan Panorama Seen From Cuba

“It is possible that the end of Venezuelan tyranny will affect Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba,” says Carlos Alberto Montaner. Miguel Diaz-Cael and Nicolas Maduro. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 17 February 2019 — The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (that is, Raúl Castro) is very concerned. It has published in Granma, the Party’s newspaper, a Declaration of the Revolutionary Government with the objective of “stopping the imperialist military adventure against Venezuela.” [Link to Spanish text.]

Cuban political operatives based in Venezuela know (and they have told Havana) that Nicolás Maduro is liquidated with no recourse. They have no way of saving him. Juan Guaidó had the backing of 87% of Venezuelans, but, according to the polls, in the last days he increased that by more than 3 points. He now has the backing of 90.08% compared to 3.75% who are satisfied with Maduro.

On the other hand, 51 of the largest and most accredited democracies on the planet recognize Guaidó. He is also the legitimate ruler according to the country’s Constitution, while the National Assembly, the country’s only internationally accepted official institution, has made him “interim president.” continue reading

The hypothesis that everyone assumes (including the Cuban regime) is that on February 23, or before, when they bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans, the minimum support Maduro has will fall apart.

At that point, the Cuban dictatorship will be able to give its colony the order to use violence, but the United States, Brazil, Colombia and other Latin American free nations will enter into combat with the Venezuelan democrats and will quickly prevent victory for Maduro’s coup plotters. This would put an end to the infrastructure of the FARC, the ELN and the Islamists.

A US squadron that includes an aircraft carrier is already sailing near Venezuela, while in Cartagena (Colombia) dozens of warships and several submarines are anchored. After all, it is essential to put an end to the exodus of Venezuelans to Colombia and Brazil, and that will not be achieved as long as Maduro continues to hijack power and hyperinflation destroys the country’s economy.

Raúl Castro does not know what to do. Useless resistance seems a bloody idiocy, but the whirlwind may swallow him, as happened to Cuba in Granada in 1983. The Russians can not give Maduro real protection. They will be limited to rhetorical declarations that will be used by the comrades of all countries to recruit naive or disorganized pacifists waving the ghost of a world war.

There will be no such a conflict. The tacit agreement between Moscow and Washington is that “the Russians” act in Ukraine or the Caucasus and “the Americans” in their immediate area of influence, that is, in Venezuela and Latin America. The only thing the Chinese are interested in is collecting the 65 billion dollars they advanced to the useless Maduro and ensuring their continued supply of raw materials. If they succeed with Guaidó, excellent. For buying and selliing, anyone will do.

Raúl Castro’s and Miguel Díaz-Canel’s troubles don’t end there. On February 24, Cuba will adopt a new Constitution through a referendum scheduled for that day. The electoral consultation has already been totally delegitimized by Transparencia Electoral, an institution led by the Argentine political scientist Leandro Querido, and by the internal opposition, including — among others — Rosa María Payá, José Daniel Ferrer and Guillermo Toledo.

All of them, despite having no access to the media, have asked Cubans to vote NO on a Constitution that consecrates the single party and has legal padlocks that make it impossible to change this absurd regime. The Castroist apparatus, on the other hand, by means of a triple system of constant polls, has managed to learn that a substantial share of Cubans are willing to vote NO, and the response has been brutal: carrot and stick.

How have they managed to outwit the propaganda gate-keepers of the regime? Because of something that Yoani Sánchez said at one time: because the digital revolution is almost impossible to stop, even in Cuba. A simple “smart” phone is enough to penetrate with a thousand messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of the tools that serve to silence the propaganda of totalitarian regimes. And a simple mistake is enough for the walls to fall and the liberating “springs” to emerge without anyone knowing how and without anyone knowing when.

It is possible that the end of Venezuelan tyranny will affect Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba. These are the remnants of Socialism of the 21st Century. Will Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel immolate themselves defending the lost cause of Nicolás Maduro? The last paragraph of the analysis-warning published in Granma ensures that they will do so. I thought them smarter.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Bukele and How to End Poverty, Exodus, and Violence

Nayib Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, February 10, 2019 — Nayib Bukele swept to victory in the presidential election in El Salvador. Bukele is an outsider who used GANA as an electoral vehicle, a party of the right that split off from ARENA. He used it, despite the fact that its founder, ex-president Tony Saca, is imprisoned and sentenced to ten years in jail, accused of misappropriating $300 million. That circumstance did not matter to anybody. GANA was only a ticket. The party barely got 11 out of a total of 84 representatives.

Bukele liquidated the communists of FMLN (23 representatives) and the liberal-conservatives of ARENA (37). Salvador Sánchez Cerén (FMLN) will leave the presidency with the disapproval of 80% of Salvadorans. He lost some 47% of the votes obtained in the penultimate contest. He is the worst-assessed president since Alfredo Cristiani inaugurated his presidency in 1989, initiating the four ARENA governments. After Saca, the last ARENA president, came Mauricio Funes of FMLN, exiled in Nicaragua accused of stealing $351 million, and, lastly, the repudiated Sánchez Cerén. continue reading

Through what crack did the outsider “sneak in?” First, he was no stranger. He had been mayor of San Salvador and voters did not blame him for the poverty or violence, the two main evils afflicting the country. Second, voters are tired of the parties’ empty promises, of corruption, of clandestine “bonuses,” and of traditional communication methods. Bukele barely went to meetings in the capital or in the towns of his tiny country and he avoided debates. He established, to be sure, his distance from Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, whom he described as “dictators.”

The new president is 37 and has a youthful aspect. If the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti asked for respect because he had been born with the cinema in 1902, Bukele and the young politicians of his generation, in all latitudes, can repeat that call because they were born with the internet, with computers, with Facebook and Twitter. They have another manner of communicating with voters and use it profusely. It is the story as well of Alexis Tsipras in Greece and of Pablo Iglesias in Spain, both Leninists fortunately hobbled by the moderate bourgeois reality of the European Union.

To combat social violence and its countereffect, local desires to emigrate, Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. After all, from Panama and Costa Rica, two Central American countries, almost no one leaves. It’s the other way around: they are full of immigrants who share the Panamanian “dream” and the Costa Rican “dream.” They are escaping, instead, from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

How is this miracle achieved? Investing in “human capital,” that is to say, in education and healthcare, but creating sources of work that allow a surplus to be produced over a couple of decades to be able to realize that investment. There are no shortcuts, but the secret is to be a little better each year that passes and forget about charismatic leaders. Freedom, the law, and institutions are irreplaceable. “Poor are the peoples who need heroes,” said Bertold Brecht, although he did not always obey his fair warning.

As for prosperity, all the information available on Bukele makes one think that he trusts in public spending to achieve it. He was a populist mayor, and it is a shame, because that path leads to disaster. He would do very well to dedicate five minutes to a brief YouTube video produced by the Liberty and Progress Foundation of Argentina entitled Productive Work vs. Unproductive Work.

Argentina is one of the few countries on earth that has gone little by little underdeveloping itself and conquering poverty without pause or truce. There he would learn that the growing prosperity is the result of the constant increase in productivity generated by the creativity almost without obstacles of entrepreneurs.

It is not even worthwhile for Bukele to hide behind the size and population of El Salvador to justify a hypothetical failure. They are the same as those of Israel, only that the successful Jewish state is surrounded by enemies, while El Salvador has the advantage of counting on the sympathies and the desire to help of half the planet. Let us hope that common sense enlightens Bukele. If he is not successful it will be terrible.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.