The Two Pandemics

In 2020, a century after the previous pandemic, history repeats itself, says Carlos A. Montaner. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 1 November 2020 — The Economist claims that Donald Trump will lose the November 3 election. They have even dedicated an editorial to explain why voters should favor Joe Biden. In my opinion, The Economist is the most prestigious popular news outlet in the world and reflects what the polls say. The great British liberal magazine, founded in 1843, is willing to bet its prestige supporting that statement. (Liberal, in the European sense of the term, that is, conservative on fiscal matters plus free markets –that’s why Marx and Lenin detested it– but very open on social issues, that’s why the conservatives rejected it).

At the beginning of April, the situation was different. From that moment, things began to go wrong for Trump. It wasn’t his nasty bragging. Nor was it his behavior as a bully, as a merciless thug against the physical limitations of his political adversaries, whether it was John McCain or Serge Kovaleski, an NYT journalist Trump made fun at by imitating his spastic movements in public. It was not, in short, his character which would have influenced his hypothetical defeat. The essential thing was the virus, Covid-19, and the havoc it caused in American society. No one can handle that. In democracies the social tendency is to make whoever is in power pay for the mistakes.

In 1918, perhaps in Kansas, the pandemic of the virus called by the aseptic and unsexy name of H1N1 began. Theoretically, it traveled from Europe with the first American soldiers returning after contributing to victory in World War I. In total, 675,000 infected by the virus died in the US and about 50 million in the whole world. As the 1920 census only counted 106 million people, barely a third of the 330 million that now populate the United States, we must think that the mortality of this influenza, wrongly named “Spanish,” was infinitely higher than that of the current coronavirus. continue reading

It was probably similar, although medical care today is better and there are antibiotics to treat bacterial infections that often arise after the attack of viruses. In any case, the conflicts were the same–there were people who refused to put on the face mask or to keep the so-called “social distancing.” Since the Middle Ages, it has been known that these two weapons, plus well-ventilated places, and body hygiene, were almost the only way to defend against epidemics.

When Trump predicts that one day the virus will magically disappear, he is not making it up, but observing what happened in 1920. After 15 terrible months, the H1N1 virus, helped by a fiery summer, vanished with relative ease, but back then aviation was in its infancy. Today it will not disappear until a high percentage of the population is vaccinated and antiviral cocktails are available and at affordable prices, as is the case with AIDS drugs.

I suspect that the H1N1 and Covid-19 political consequences will be very similar. In 1920 there were general elections in the United States. Although the country arrived late to the conflict, it left some 117,000 corpses in Europe (about a fifth of those taken by the pandemic). President Woodrow Wilson had to face the ruin brought by the pandemic and an insubordinate society that didn’t believe in the Head of State’s sagacity. Wilson had promised them that he would not allow himself to be dragged into the war by the bellicose Europeans and, in the end, attacks on the US merchant marine by German submarines, plus the well-known “Zimmermann telegram,” made him enter the war.

Wilson’s role as a winner in World War I was useless to him. The US Congress did not approve his famous “14 points,” nor was the country able to participate in the League of Nations. American society, perhaps fatigued by the pandemic and tired of the Democratic Party, elected Warren Harding, a Republican journalist from Ohio, as president. Harding took over a country that was near-bankrupt, but it soon recovered and gave way to the “roaring twenties.”

On that occasion, the Republicans had the greatest victory in history against the Democrats; they won the 1920 election by a margin of 26 points. Harding died of a heart attack in 1923, still in the presidency, leaving his Vice President and successor Calvin Coolidge at the helm. In 1928, the also Republican Herbert Hoover, an engineer, won the presidential election. Hoover was an excellent civil servant who was surprised by the “crash” of the Stock Market in 1929. In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated him, and the cycle of the Democrats began.

In 2020, a century after the previous pandemic, history repeats itself, but the other way around–the virus annihilates Donald Trump and the Republicans. There is some poetic justice in that defeat.

____________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Why I Don’t Like Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump (Reuters)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, 4 October 2020

To my friend, the writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

I don’t like Trump, first of all, because I don’t like his character as an arrogant and oppressive person (a bully) who lies or exaggerates. “Trumpologists” estimate that he has said more than twenty thousand lies, deformations of reality or “post-truths.”

I don’t like Trump because in a civilized debate you don’t constantly interrupt or shout at your adversary but contribute ideas. The first debate with Biden was an embarrassing circus. Those are not proper gestures or messages of a president of the United States who is, inevitably, a modeler of behavior, especially for young people.

I don’t like Trump because one does not badly mistreat NATO allies, starting with Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany and perhaps Europe, and following with Dusko Markovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, whom he treacherously and blatantly pushed and then he did not apologize; or Mette Frederiksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, who refused to consider selling Greenland to the US and Trump replied by cancelling a scheduled trip to Copenhagen. continue reading

I do not like Trump, because he is undoing the good relations of the United States with its best allies, such as France and Australia, probably because of his rude New York customs of a developer without “class.” With Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, he had an unnecessary run-in when the Frenchman questioned the current course of NATO under the erratic leadership of the American. With Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia, he was worse: he hung up the phone when Turnbull demanded that he fulfill the commitment established by the previous president, Barack Obama, to accept a group of Syrian refugees. It was a commitment from the USA, not from the person who temporarily occupied the White House. Australia sent troops to the two world wars, to Korea to Vietnam and even to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I don’t like Trump because as despotic as he is with his allies, he is the opposite when it comes to Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. I firmly believe, as the FBI suspects, that the Russians can blackmail him, not only with the mediation authorized by Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections (perhaps negotiated by Paul Manafort), but because of the lewd “golden shower” that he allegedly requested of two prostitutes on the bed in which Barack Obama had slept during an official visit to Moscow.

I don’t like Trump because he does not respect science and scientists, as shown in the management of the Covid-19 crisis by not wearing a mask, making fun of Biden for wearing one, and publicly recommending absurd remedies, which I hope he does not consider, because I wish him well, now that he and his wife have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Likewise, this anti-scientific attitude is manifested in the treatment given to climate change and in believing that the result of all actions is measured in dollars and cents. This, simply, is not true.

I don’t like Trump because I am a Hispanic immigrant in the USA and he rejects us. It is not true that a good part of the Mexicans who cross the border are drug traffickers or rapists. They are usually Mexican and Central American peasants who cannot earn a living in their countries, or who are threatened with death by criminal gangs, attracted by the labor structures that they observe on the American side. They do the jobs that almost no one wants to do in the United States, and they contribute their work to keeping the country at the top of the planet.

I don’t like Trump, because the President doesn’t even feel empathy for the “Dreamers” and doesn’t want to grant them residency. This is about 800,000 sociological Americans who were brought to the United States by their parents and who are in immigration limbo. These young people have no other identity than an American one. In many cases they don’t even speak Spanish. (If Trump had been in the White House in the 1960s, Cuban refugees would not have been welcomed in the United States).

It is true that there are immigration laws, and that ever country must control its border, but these children were brought without their consent. There is a thing called “amnesty” which, previously, had been used by other presidents, like Ronald Reagan, and that have resolved the lives of these undocumented immigrants. Especially when we know that 63% of Americans (much better than their president) agree to open their arms to these “dreamers.”

I don’t like Trump because he does not grant a residence permit to Venezuelans or Nicaraguans knowing that the dictatorships of Maduro and Ortega are unforgiving towards Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.

I don’t like Trump because he did not annul Obama’s presidential decrees regarding Cuban family reunification, or the special program that admitted into the US “slaves in white coats,” the medical personnel “hired” by governments insensitive to the pain of others; or the measure of “wet foot-dry foot” measure that gave access to the persecuted who presented themselves to the US authorities.

I don’t like Trump because an American president must be absolutely spotless in his obligations to the Treasury, and the New York Times investigation showed that Trump was not. It also proved what the NY businessmen said sotto voce: he had failed as a businessman. He failed as a casino owner. He failed as a university entrepreneur. He failed as a otel owner. Instead, he was successful marketing himself on an NBC TV show that ran for years and earned more than 400 million dollars.

Last, I don’t like Trump, because I think nationalism is the origin of wars and the limitations of international commerce. Because I believe that the primary function of a Head of State is to unite society and it seems to me that we are facing a racist and white supremacist of the worst kind, as opined by Mary L. Trump, the President’s niece and a notable clinical psychologist in her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.

___________

Nota bene. Many years ago, I joined the ranks of the “independents” in the United States. Sometimes I have voted for Democrats and sometimes for Republicans. I would have loved it if the Republican candidate had been Jeb Bush, but he did not survive the primaries.

Fortunately for the record, I said it clearly in an article published in the NYT on October 13, 2014 ( Cuba Doesn’t Deserve Normal Diplomatic Relations). I did not like Obama’s break with the tradition of 10 presidents before him, Republicans and Democrats, of not making excessive concessions to the Cuban dictatorship as long as the Castros did not show a clear sign of amendment and did not embark on the road to democracy.

I didn’t like it at all because I don’t like being lied to, and Obama assured a thousand times that there would be no normal diplomatic relations until the island respected human rights, while his political operators secretly managed otherwise. Outcome? More repression within Cuba, a greater presence of Cuban intelligence in Venezuela and even the clandestine shipment of weapons and a plane to North Korea, violating all the agreements of the United Nations.

As a good liberal (in the European sense of the term), I usually endorse a combination between the conservative in fiscal matters (a limited state, a market and not a planned economy,  the least amount of taxes and public debt), and the American “liberal” in social matters (pro-choice, pro-immigration, and a state sufficiently secular to  comfortably accommodate agnostics).

On the other hand, I have lived 40 years in Europe and, previously, 18 years in Cuba, so I know first-hand the difference between a “Welfare State,” with its defects and its virtues, and a disgusting Communist dictatorship. No one is going to convince me that asking for health and education to be paid for through general budgets, as is the case in Scandinavian countries, and, to some extent, in Germany and Switzerland, is a symptom of totalitarianism. Perhaps it is a mistake, but that has nothing to do with the dictatorship of the proletariat advocated by Marx to set up his maddened and impoverishing scheme.

____________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Will Nicolas Maduro Commit Suicide?

Nicolás Maduro cannot even trust the Bank of England. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 5 September 202 — I am told that Nicolás Maduro is deeply depressed. His country’s situation is extremely serious and there is no relief for the crisis. It will get progressively worse. He knows it. He has even thought of committing suicide. “The Cubans” are very concerned with that possibility.

He would not be the first Latin American ruler to do something like that in the 20th century. In 1954, Brazilian Getulio Vargas shot himself in the heart. During Augusto Pinochet’s coup on September 11, 1973, Salvador Allende used the submachine gun that Fidel Castro had given him to kill himself. On July 4, 1982, Antonio Guzmán Fernández, the Dominican president, locked himself in a bathroom and shot himself in the temple.

All three of them committed suicide because they thought they had no “tomorrow.” That’s the key to the decision. They believed, and they were somewhat right, that the ordeal would have no end. Jorge Rodríguez, a psychiatrist, is the most concerned of Maduro’s accomplices. He has asked to preside over the National Assembly as the last effort to steer the process. continue reading

If Maduro kills himself (or is killed) Rodríguez would move to Miraflores to rule over the remains of Venezuela. After all, he has been cheating since the 2004 revocatory referendum. Venezuelans perfectly remember how at 8 pm the quick count at the electoral polls, carried out by a very prestigious firm, revealed that 60% had voted to revoke Chávez, who was only supported by 40%.

But at 4 am, while the country slept, the results had magically been reversed and Jorge Rodríguez, on behalf of the CNE, proudly announced it. It was the first time that electronic machines had been used to commit fraud. Poor Jimmy Carter believed it and endorsed the monstrosity from the Carter Center in Atlanta.

The sanctions of the United States and of half the planet, including those of the very circumspect and discreet Switzerland, were closing the circle relentlessly. The last episode was the most serious. Four ships registered as Greek –Bella, Bering, Luna and Pandi– but with more than a million barrels of oil from Iran sent to Venezuela, were detained on the high seas and taken to Houston, Texas. There they were awaited by several companies that wanted the ships’ cargo to compensate for the debts not paid by PDVSA, as revealed by the expert Russ Dallen.

There is no money whatsoever in the Venezuelan coffers. There is no credit or ability to pay what is owed. Maduro can’t even trust the Bank of England. More than a billion dollars in gold bars, while this metal’s price rises, have been provisionally confiscated because the ruler recognized by the United Kingdom is Juan Guaidó, according to His Majesty’s Supreme Court.

That means that the US strategy is paying off. It was started by Obama, who was genuinely concerned about the ties between Venezuela and Iran, when the price of a barrel of oil was around a hundred dollars, and it has been followed by Donald Trump, now that the barrel is about a quarter of that value. This shows Maduro that it is useless to dream with a possible Trump defeat in the November 3 elections. The policy is bipartisan. If Biden wins, it wouldn’t make a big difference.

The US has figured out how to defeat almost all of its enemies without firing a single shot. True, it must put all its financial weight on the effort. It is not worth saying “but Cuba has not been defeated by the embargo.” If the United States had insisted on it with the same strength as against Venezuela, surely the results would have been different.

Elliot Abrams, a US diplomat in charge of centralizing government measures against Maduro’s Venezuela, is encouraging the opposition to join. The goal is to assemble a common front in the event that Maduro has decided to immolate himself in free elections because it is impossible to rule the country due to lack of resources. Maduro only had 30 million dollars a few days ago and gasoline to cover the most urgent needs. The purpose of that union is to tell Maduro that they would agree to participate in the elections, as long as they are organized by Luis Almagro and the OAS.

As we are talking about a gruesome regime (to understand the intensity of the disaster, you must read Castrochavismo Internacional: 20 years of ambition and destruction, compiled by academic María Teresa Romero) it should be considered to what extent it is necessary to agree with the narco-dictatorship to turn the page. Nobody has the moral or legal authority to decree an amnesty, but following the Spanish example after Franco’s death, it is possible to negotiate a temporary amnesia of eight or ten years and then … whatever God wants.

English text from El Blog de Montaner

____________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Importance of Calling Himself Alejandro

Fidel had in mind the Greek king who conquered an empire starting from the insignificant Macedonia.

14ymedio bigger
Néstor T. Carbonell, former VP of Pepsi Cola for many years, has published an extraordinary book on the Island: Why Cuba Matters. In the book he reviews the stormy relationships between Fidel Castro and the twelve tenants who have been in the White House. From the first, Ike Eisenhower, to Donald Trump, through Barack Obama, who made all the concessions to Havana, without any gesture of democratic reciprocity, violating the only common strategy of Republicans and Democrats for more than 60 years.

In that long period of coincidences and disagreements, genuine “hawks” like Ronald Reagan and even soft “pigeons” like Jimmy Carter had been at the helm of the American power, but all were convinced that any transaction with the Castros should include a verifiable withdrawal of Cuba’s international role as a pro-communist and “anti-Yankee” beacon in Latin America and Africa, although notable incursions into the Middle East were not lacking, as was the case with a 22-tank brigade operated by Cubans during the Yom Kippur war, fought between 1973 and 1974.

The problem, really, was that the Castros saw Cuba only as a base of operations to act in the international arena against Washington and against the hated “capitalism.” That was their leitmotif. The Castros, and especially Fidel, did not see themselves as the leaders of a communist revolution carried out on a poor sugar-producer island in the Caribbean, but rather as leaders of a political empire under construction. Not for nothing Fidel, at 18, changed his middle name, Hipólito, for “Alejandro.” He had in mind the Greek king who conquered an empire starting from the insignificant Macedonia. continue reading

Thus, his first triumph in Latin America was Chile, and it did not occur according to Castro’s script, but as a consequence of the Chilean electoral peculiarity. Salvador Allende was elected in 1970 with just over a third of the votes, and the Chilean parliament, being able to choose one of the other two parties, selected this Marxist physician, after forcing him to sign a document in which he promised to safeguard freedoms, something he only partially did.

The thesis behind Carbonell’s book is that democracy and freedoms have a magnificent side (the type of societies they foster), but they have another disturbing feature: the tendency to belittle the economically and technically weak adversaries who oppose them. They did it with Cuba and today they do it with Venezuela, Cuba’s protégé, without realizing the danger that this means.

Cubazuela, as the two countries are called in the neighborhood’s political jargon, have turned to crime to sustain their precarious power. Cuba provides Venezuelans with intelligence, military control, and support networks built over the years, while Venezuela pays Cubans with its own or Iranian gasoline, and with the little money it can spare from drug trafficking or the sale of illegally obtained gold. Meanwhile, Maduro, born in Colombia, is neither Venezuelan nor Colombian. He is a Cuban who owes his position to the Castros. He has discovered ideological citizenship.

Cuba was already a danger, but not having eliminated that infectious focus allowed it to metastasize to other nations, such as Venezuela, and there’s a risk that it will continue to expand to Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, all countries of the Andean arc. To avoid this immense damage, opposition politician María Corina Machado proposes a “multifaceted peace operation.” Venezuelan professor Carlos Blanco, in an excellent article, adds that it could be “an operation led by the OAS, based on the TIAR.” TIAR is the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.

So far, Washington has limited itself to imposing sanctions and showing its fangs, but Latin American countries have no foreign policy, except Cuba and Venezuela, and I don’t think they will change.

I would start by lavishly giving Carbonell’s book to the Americans of the establishment. There you will see the immense mistake made by Republican Eisenhower and Democrat Kennedy for not having liquidated the communist revolution when it was in its cradle. Likewise, after the disappearance of the USSR, in the time of Bush (father), when another golden opportunity arose, for having assumed that the regime would “fall” by itself, as a result of lack of resources, without understanding the internal strength of dynastic communism, as has been verified not only in Cuba, but also in North Korea.

The regime not only did not fall: it had time to contaminate Venezuela and infect a good part of Latin America, prolonging the agony of our societies. If it is not eradicated it will be another immense error that we will all pay for, including the United States. That is very clear in Carbonell’s book.

________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Les Luthiers’ Clever Humor

Goodbye, maestro Marcos Mundstock. The best tribute is to continue making everyone laugh. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, 3 May 2020 — The first time I heard Les Luthiers it was a beautiful cantata dedicated to the laxative. It was titled “Laxatón.” It was delicious. The laughter arose from the incongruity among those young people — we were in 1972 — dressed in tailcoats, who did not move a muscle of the face, but spoke of the movement of the intestines, in the middle of a rigorously articulated musical composition. I thought they were great.

He was the bald man in the group and had unusual natural grace. Marcos Mundstock died, a few days ago, at the age of 77. He was the founder of Les Luthiers, a septet, which became a sextet and later became a quintet. It is an excellent Argentine group of comic-musicians, or vice versa, created in 1967 by Gerardo Masana, who died prematurely in 1973.

Musical instrument makers are called luthiers, so the name, in French, reflected one of the most creative facets of the ensemble: They could make interesting music with almost anything that could be blown, strummed, or struck. They invented instruments. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who made a paper organ that sounded reasonably well. continue reading

When I was a child, in Cuba, I saw, laughed and enjoyed Gaby, Fofó and Miliki, three Spanish clowns who played different instruments. The group was so welcome in Cuba that they decided to settle in the Island. But, when they were already established, “the Commander arrived and ordered the fun to stop.” The clowns and their families also fled Cuba, among the thousands of compatriots who fled in terror, not without first seeing censored an innocent song that they used to sing: “El ratoncito Miguel” (Miguel the little mouse). Why? Because of a stanza that said: “the thing is / horrifying and really scary.”

But the song didn’t end there. It seemed to State Security that it incited the ruler’s assassination, even if it had been written by Félix B. Caignet (author of the novel The Right to be Born) long before Fidel Castro appeared in the country’s history. This is how it ended: “You will see / how hungry a mouse will die, / there is no cheese anymore, / much less a ham flake, / we are going to see / who is going to pluck [the cat] Misifú’s heart.” It was intolerable.

I met Gaby, Fofó and Miliki again in Puerto Rico. It was my daughter Gina’s turn to enjoy them. In 1970 I moved to Spain with my family. And there were the “TV clowns,” as they were known, indulging in their ways, as fun and talented as ever. Then the family had grown, and they made my son Carlos happy. It was as if the accordion they played had become the fun soundtrack of our lives.

Translation from Latin American Herald Tribune

___________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The World Was Not and Will Not Be a Filthy Place

“Soon there will be medicines to fight the pandemic and vaccines to prevent it,” says Carlos A. Montaner. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 10 April 2020 — Henry Kissinger says that “the world will never be the same after the coronavirus.” He assumes that the pandemic will forever alter the world order. I don’t think so. The truth is that the world is constantly changing. Every generation change clothing, music, ideas, things, but the substance is still there.

The Internet or artificial intelligence have done more than Covid-19 to transform reality. We never wake up in a world similar to that of the day before. It is like the “river of Heraclitus”: we do not bathe twice in the same river. The waters are different. Civilization is different, although the proximity prevents us from perceiving it, in the same way that the trees hide the forest from us.

Civilization continues through other ways. We do not entirely cancel the background. Hippocrates and Galen were present until the 19th century. Aristotle still has some validity. Greek tragedies and Roman comedies are still alive. This is just a hurdle. A great hurdle, but we know how to avoid it since the English doctor Edward Jenner invented the vaccine in 1796, and at the end of the 19th century Louis Pasteur systematized its preparation. The discussion revolves around when we return to normal. The Swedes are going to open the restaurants soon. They will be followed by hotels, cinemas and party halls. continue reading

Who remembers the anguish caused by the pandemic of the misnamed “Spanish Flu”? It killed between 50 to 100 million people from 1917 to 1920. In the United States it even affected President Woodrow Wilson, but it opened the door to the “roaring twenties”, the splendid and noisy twenties, that ended in the “Black Tuesday” in October 1929, when the Wall Street Stock Market plummeted, the starting point of the Great Depression. During that pandemic, only in Spain 300,000 people died, and even King Alfonso XIII, great-grandfather of the current Felipe VI, was infected.

When the AIDS virus affected thousands of people in the 1980s and 1990s, and took the lives of good writers like Reinaldo Arenas (and probably Julio Cortázar), or outstanding actors like Rock Hudson, it seemed that the end of the world was near, but pharmacology solved the problem and turned the terrible evil into a chronic disease. Almost 30 years ago, Magic Johnson, the basketball player, surrounded by his wife and his lawyer, said that he had contracted AIDS. It seemed like a farewell. Fortunately, it was not. He is still huge and robust. Science saved him.

The same will happen to us. Soon there will be tests to find out if one has or had the virus. Soon there will be medicines to fight the pandemic and vaccines to prevent it. When? In the next days, weeks or months. We don’t know the exact date. But we know that some of the best heads on the planet are behind those efforts. Some think of the glory and others of the benefits. Most move due to both. Even rivalry is a great spur. Louis Pasteur cannot be explained without Robert Koch, or Jonas Salk without Albert Sabin. Or vice versa.

Will there be anything positive from this pandemic? Journalist Andrés Oppenheimer said that this misfortune would serve to accelerate distance learning. I suspect he is right. It is the way to make universities cheaper. But there is much more: the tendency to work from home will increase, a tendency that had been happening for at least three decades, when her majesty Internet began to reign, and companies began to “outsource” their creative processes.

In the spiritual field we have the experience. Tango musician Enrique Santos Discépolo believed that “the world was and will be a filthy place.” He was wrong. It is not a small thing to know that a microscopic enemy can shake our entire species, but it is comforting to know that the answer is global. All against the virus and the virus against all. It’s good to see Israel, Eurasia and the American Continent, from Canada to Patagonia, in the same trench. We have to shout it: Long live globalization! Death to the absurd nationalism!

________________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Put the Planet First: Globalism and Nationalsim

Covid-19 spread from China’s Wuhan province to the rest of the planet. (SINC Agency)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 22 March 2020 — The current crisis began in an open-air market where live animals were sold, in a remote corner of the world. Covid-19 spread from China’s Wuhan province to the rest of the planet. It seems that it originated from the habit of drinking bat soup that the Chinese have, or at least some Chinese.

The New York and London Stock Exchanges plummeted. Cinemas, theaters and concerts around the world were closed. Many shopping centers and restaurants were also closed. Experts announced that unemployment would increase exponentially. In the United States it could reach 20% of the population. Chaos. Armageddon.

The anecdote will result in several million deaths, even more than two million in the United States, according to The Economist magazine. It must end the idiotic debate between “nationalists” and “globalists.” continue reading

Nationalism is not only stupid. It is even worse; it is impossible, despite what Brexit supporters say or vote. It is an incontrovertible fact; globalism, that is, the notion that we are all interrelated and must shelter behind supranational institutions, although many of them are frustrating, however perfectible, and we must behave as human beings beyond flags and hymns.

That was the dilemma posed to the United States after the end of World War II–trying to rebuild the planet and help even the defeated countries, or risk another similar conflict as a result of resentment and nationalism, that explosive mixture that had burst only two decades after the end of the First War.

Fortunately, the F. D. Roosevelt and H. Truman tandem was in the White House and they both understood their country’s contemporary history. After Roosevelt died and the war was won, a journalist asked Truman if it made sense to rebuild Germany and the rest of Europe at the cost of $13 billion through the Marshall Plan. “That figure is infinitely less than what the war cost us,” the president replied. He was right.

The idea of “put America (or England, Russia, China or Germany) first” is foolish. It is true that globalism slows down the processes of wealth creation due to the clumsiness of international organizations; and it is no less true that abuses are committed against some key nations such as the United States, but the cost of abandoning the path of solidarity and internationalism is too high to assume.

Globalism arose, in an embryonic way, thousands of years ago, when two people belonging to different tribes established a kind of exchange beyond their respective languages. Those were the remote antecedents of the UN, the European Union and the fight to mitigate the problems of climate change that are being debated today.

At the end of the 15th century, globalism gained a new momentum with the discovery of the Americas in 1492. The Kingdom of Castile, chance and marriages of convenience within the royalty allowed the arid plateau–then determined to reconquer the territory that had been taken by the Arabs many centuries before–to transform into a formidable imperial power that ruled the world for a century with the help of the Church, the Genoese bankers and the trading instruments devised in the Netherlands.

Finally, since the 17th and 18th centuries France and Germany (which became a nation unified by Prussia in the 19th century) picked up the baton, as England unleashed the industrial revolution and rose to the top of the world, spawning in America thirteen colonies that ended up becoming independent and, as they took into account the thought of the Scottish Enlightenment, ended up becoming the most successful republic in history.

None of this would have happened without a globalist mindset. Nationalism must be forgotten. After all, states, as we know them, are only a few hundred years old. Little by little, the planet is unifying in the most successful expressions. Overcoming many obstacles, with ups and downs, representative democracy, the cult of human rights, the market and freedom are gradually prevailing. That is also globalization. Put the planet first.

______________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

An interview with Maria Werlau, by Carlos Alberto Montaner

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 7, 2019 — With the publication of Carlos Alberto Montaner’s interview of María Werlua, we at 14ymedio begin a series of videos which will tackle the work of personalities, activists, and academics in Latin America.

In the voice of the Cuban analyst, journalist, and writer, these videos touch on themes ranging from the human rights situation in the region, to the state of democracy and the authoritarian regimes that still remain in the continent.

In this conversation, filmed at the beginning of 2019, the main theme revolves around the book that Werlau just published, The intervention of Cuba and Venezuela: a strategic occupation with global implications. continue reading

It is a detailed investigation that gathers proofs that “Cuba has essentially occupied Venezuela not with a tradtional military force but rather by assymetrical methods, strategically placing assets” within institutions and society, points out the activist and academic.

María Werlau, who runs the NGO Archivo Cuba and works as a consultant, denounces the human rights violations on the Island, as well as the fact that “Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela is only propped up thanks to the sinister help of the intelligence and counterintelligence of the Cuban metropolis.”

Recently Werlau commented on a report on Venezuela written by the high commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in which proof was shown of how Chavismo neutralizes, represses, and criminalizes the opposition and the dissidence.

A situation that Werlau says “derives from a comprehensive plan of integration drawn up by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro of ideological, political, military, security, economic, judicial, and sociocultural nature, which also covers information and communications. Without the knowledge of Venezuelans, Cuba has conspired for decades to occupy the dominant role.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

____________________

COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Go To Bed, Or The Neoliberal Will Come To Eat You

Díaz-Canel congratulated Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner and wrote on Twitter: “Deserved triumph that propitiates (sic) a defeat to neoliberalism.” (Capture).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, November 3, 2019 — Diario de Cuba counted 22 diction errors in the 17-minute speech of Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba, to the “Non-Aligned.” It’s true: he speaks “with tobacco in the mouth,” although he doesn’t smoke cigars, unlike certain Villa Clara natives, and he reverses the R and the L, habitual in certain areas of Andalusia and the Caribbean.

But more serious was what was highlighted by 14ymedio, another opposition publication: a monumental blunder in the sphere of homophony and paronymy. Díaz-Canel confuses the verbs “propitiate” and “deals.” The Cuban leader was congratulating Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner and wrote on Twitter: “Deserved triumph that propitiates [sic] a defeat to neoliberalism.” I suppose that he meant to say “deals.”

Nor does he know that “neoliberalism” doesn’t exist. It’s an empty label used by socialists of all stripes to discredit their adversaries. Ricardo López Murphy, a brilliant Argentinian economist, threatens his grandchildren with that terrifying fabrication: “Go to bed or the neoliberal will come to eat you.” The phantasmagoric neoliberal is the modern version of the “bogeyman.” continue reading

What do exist are certain sensible economic measures that we liberals defend, although it goes without saying that liberalism is, first, a moral conviction; second, a legal question; and, finally, certain economic proposals arisen from experience. For example, controlling inflation (the most devastating phenomenon against the poor), having a low tax burden, limiting public spending and the number of officials at the revenue level, and having few regulations (the indispensable ones), given that experience shows us that that is the crevice through which corruption usually seeps.

It’s not about the State disappearing, but rather that it performs the tasks we have entrusted to it well. Fundamentally, that it protects the security of individuals and their property; that crimes and violations of the law do not go unpunished, including hooded rioters and looters; and that it impartially safeguards and stimulates the presence of open markets absolutely hospitable to entrepreneurs.

As for health and education, it’s very important to promote them as a joint effort of society, but without placing them directly under the control of the State. It’s preferable to pay for those services via vouchers so that families can choose the best hospital or school, like they have done in Sweden since the failure of statism at the beginning of the nineties, to ensure that institutions compete and don’t rest on their laurels.

That is the true distinction between liberals and socialists. We liberals think that individuals are the ones most capable of making personal decisions, while socialists are sure that it is preferable that the State make that choice.

The works of the economics Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan should have put an end to that eternal dispute. Buchanan and his disciples demonstrated with their studies (Virginia school) that officials and politicans, like everyone else, make decisions in pursuit of their own electoral and economic benefits and not in the interest of a hypothetical “common good.” [The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock]

For that reason, privately capitalized accounts and pension savings (for example, the American 401k or the Chilean AFP) are infinitely preferable to public funds, always in reach of the “creative accounting” of dishonest politicians and officials interested in boosting their clientele with the money of others.

This is not to say that individuals always make the correct decisions. Argentinians have been systematically making mistakes for seventy years. We Cubans deliriously applauded Fidel Castro’s arrival to power. Venezuelans did it by majority with Hugo Chávez and, later, with Nicolás Maduro. The dictators Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Evo Morales have the support of at least 20% of the national register. To err is human, but much more human is to persist in error.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

_________________

The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

The Radicalization of Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra. (Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami, October 12, 2019 — The Madrid newspaper El País recounted it. Mario Vargas Llosa expressed the opinion, publicly, that perhaps Fidel Castro would not have become radicalized if the CIA, in conspiracy with United Fruit, had not ousted Colonel Jacobo Árbenz in a coup d’etat in 1954.

Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa reminds us, at that time subscribed to a social democratic program. This happened at the press conference at which our Nobel laureate in literature was presenting his latest novel, Fierce Times, which tells the story of that coup d’etat, in his judgment the starting point of the rebellion of many young people and intellectuals against the United States.

I suppose that, in general, Vargas Llosa’s assessment is true, but I’m not sure that Latin American anti-Yankeeism originates in this episode. The Kremlin was employing enormous resources in stimulating that conduct via the “Congresses for Peace,” in addition to the atmosphere of the Cold War. Árbenz was ousted as a consequence of this episode. continue reading

I do not go into the novel’s theme because I have not yet read it. I imagine it will be splendid, like the other 18 published by the author of Conversation in the Cathedral, some more and some less, but all good. The fact that he is 83 years old does not take away merits from the book. It’s the other way around. With time prose improves (except in the case of Carlos Fuentes, who became increasingly illegible year after year).

What we disagree on is the moment at which Fidel Castro radicalized, something that has a certain lateral importance. It was not in June of 1954, the month in which Árbenz renounced the presidency after the aerial bombardments secretly organized by the CIA. It happened somewhat earlier, at the end of the forties, when Fidel was studying law at the University of Havana.

That, at least, is what José Ignacio Rasco (Fidel called him Rasquito), his classmate in high school at Colegio Belén and later at the University, said. For José Ignacio, and he told it to me personally, there wasn’t the least doubt: “He was seduced by Leninist theses; he would recite from memory entire pages of What Is to Be Done?, the essay in which the Russian describes the taking of power.” Even Fidel himself, after insisting that the Government would not be able to escape from his hands, came to say that “he was Marxist-Leninist and always would be.”

But there are other direct witnesses. The lawyer Rolando Amador, classmate, friend of Fidel Castro and first in their class, used to relate it in luxurious detail after leaving Cuba at the beginning of the revolution.

In 1950 Fidel, in order to graduate, asked him to go over some subjects that he was taking for free. Fidel was intelligent and had a great memory, but he had neglected his studies. So the two shut themselves away in a hotel to that end. While they were studying, a delegation arrived from the Popular Socialist Party (PSP), the communist group, consisting of Flavio Bravo and Luis Mas Martín. They came to tell Fidel that he had been accepted in the Party.

There were three kinds of activist in the Party. The “open,” the “companion” who generally “was entering” some other political party or State institution in order to inform and influence, and the one that received training and orders directly from the Soviet intelligence services. Flavio Bravo and Mas Martín were in that third category that Osvaldo Sánchez was directing in the shadows. One cannot forget that the function of the Communist Parties all over the world was to protect and help the USSR. For that reason the Kremlin was financing them.

Fidel was a “companion.” His function was to “enter” into the Orthodox Party, from which he came to be a congressional candidate, a social democratic (and anti-communist) party, as happened with Eduardo Corono and Martha Frayde, and radicalize it from within. The idea that Fidel was too “Fidelist” to submit himself to a partisan discipline ignores the circumstance that Stalin was, before all else, “Stalinist,” and Mao “Maoist,” noted leaders who at the beginning seemed docile, until they were able to show themselves as they were and demonstrate their true caudillismo.

Fidel didn’t become anti-Yankee because of the poor conduct of the United States in Guatemala. He recounted it in a letter to his friend and lover Celia Sánchez written in the Sierra Maestra in 1958: fighting with his gringo neighbors was his destiny. Like in the story of the scorpion: “it was his nature.” He couldn’t avoid it.

Editors’ note: Carlos Alberto Montaner will soon publish his personal memoirs, Sin ir más lejos / Without Going Further, with Debate Publisher.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

_________________

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.

Globalization Against Corruption

The Brazilian giant Odebrecht, which with its corrupt practices influenced a goood many Latin American Governments. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, August 18, 2019 — Fighting globalization isn’t just counterproductive: it’s useless. It’s counterproductive, because one of the unforeseen consequences of globalization is the beneficial battle against corruption. Globalization leads us to behave better. When countries were isolated, it really mattered little if country A or B was corrupt. Today, now that they are joined in large circuits, the corruption of the other harms us much more directly.

His majesty the Internet and social media reign. Everything is known instantly and there is an electoral cost for shamelessness. Within the European Union, and within every society, there is less and less patience with nations like Greece, Romania, Italy, Portugal, and Spain that have corrupt practices. Meanwhile, for years the figure of “conflict of interests” has been in the penal code. Until relatively recently German companies could deduct bribes from their habitual costs of doing business. That is no longer possible.

The trend, then, set by globalization is favorable. There is no longer glamour in corruption. In Cuba, when I was an adolescent, there did not exist a moral sanction against dishonesty in the administration of public resources. Jokes were told about thieving politicians and many people aspired to be a “tax inspector” or anything with the object of “making a killing.” That attitude, present in almost all of Latin America, is no longer acceptable. It exists, but it has a social cost. At least it’s a start. continue reading

Roughly speaking, in the world there are 180 nations who deserve to be called nations. Approximately 150 are fundamentally corrupt. It has always been that way. Economic power feeds big shots and big shots increase the resources of economic power. They are two social spheres that complement and mutually reinforce each other. This happens in dictatorial regimes and in the planet’s imperfect democracies.

Corruption does a lot of damage. It generates a growing atmosphere of cynicism. It belies the principle that all citizens are equal before the law, which is fatal for democracy. It hinders competition. It discourages personal effort: why study and do things well if economic success depends on relationships? It raises prices. All are problems.

The most honest countries, according to Transparency International, are the Scandinavian ones and those spawned by Great Britain: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States, and Ireland. The countries of northern Europe are also on the list of the best, although on a second tier: Holland, Germany, the Baltic states.

At the head of the most honest pack is the kingdom of Denmark, but very close to it is Singapore, which contradicts the hypothesis that it is a question of culture. Within Europe, the nations of “Latin” origin are the most dishonest: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Romania. Even France.

But it’s necessary to go further. It’s not only about “moral rearmament” or the elimination of North American or European visas. That’s not sufficient. It is important to place legal barriers against corruption. In Denmark, for example, the commission that studies and assigns auctions is constituted of experts who have no access to those who offer their services and vice versa.

Antonio Maura Montaner, an honest Spanish politician at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, spoke of his country’s necessity of “broad daylight.” Today he would have recommended the Internet. Every public action should be recorded on a web page so that any citizen can find out what is done with taxpayers’ money, with their money, including auctions.

It is necessary to create barriers between corrupters and corrupt. There’s no need to prevent lobbies from existing, but they must exhibit their comparative advantages via the Internet and not in dark meetings with those who can use their services or products.

In Spain they used to speak, jokingly, of “envelope-taking” journalists. Corrupters would hand them an envelope and they would pocket it with a smile. The Internet, mobile phones, and international circuits — all instruments of globalization — have wiped them off the map. Magnificent.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

__________________

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 Sao Paulo Forum and Anti-Yankeeism

Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, along with his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami 4 August 2019 — The axiom was confirmed again: “Thieves steal in all the opportunities that arise, even if the victims are very poor.” The party was in Caracas from July 25 to 27. It cost the hosts, in round numbers, 19 million dollars, of which, as usual, they stole half. It is not a small amount for a nation in which 82% of people are starving to death.

According to Diosdado Cabello, 700 guests attended. According to Venezuelan TV commentator and investigative journalist Nelson Bocaranda only 150 arrived. The rest was “padding,” he said in his legendary show Runrunes. Probably Bocaranda is right. He is very knowledgeable. Maduro and his regime are bad words. No honorable person wants to be associated with that gang of undesirables.

What do groups like the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) of Panama do in the Sao Paulo Forum (FSP), which is now led by politician and businessman Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, who has just won the elections in that country with a moderate discourse? continue reading

What do three of the biggest Dominican parties do: the Dominican Liberation Party of Danilo Medina and Leonel Fernández (PLD), as well as the Dominican Revolutionary Party of Miguel Vargas and its detachment, the Modern Revolutionary Party, led by Luis Abinader e Hipólito Mejía?

Why hasn’t Lenin Moreno, president of Ecuador, taken his music elsewhere — he who likes to sing and does not do it badly — to break once and for all the fateful relations between the Movimiento Alianza País (Country Alliance Movement) and the FSP, Forged when Rafael Correa ruled, who today is a fugitive from justice accused of corruption?

The list of parties affiliated with the FSP is a monument to irresponsibility. How is it possible that the Chilean socialists continue to be part of that spawn after the report by Michelle Bachelet, who today heads the United Nations Department of Human Rights?

Why does Tabaré Vázquez allow the Uruguayan Broad Front to continue giving its support to Maduro and his band, when former President Pepe Mujica admits that “Maduro is crazy like a goat,” and that Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, not only is not in service to the CIA, but is a lawyer truly committed to the law?

How can we believe in the Mexican AMLO and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) for his supposed respect for Human Rights, when his party dances in the troupe organized by Maduro, and the first thing he did when he arrived in Los Pinos was to take Mexico out of the Lima Group created to pressure the Chavista regime?

It is consistent that FARC narcoterrorists figure in, along with Farabundo Martí, Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front, the Movement to Socialism of Evo Morales, the PSUV of Maduro, all of them under the implacable baton of Cuban Miguel Díaz-Canel, but what are the parties and movements that presume to be really democratic doing in the FSP? That doesn’t make the least sense.

It is not true that the FSP is a Cold War body. It is a Post-Cold War Anti-American International. Fidel Castro, with the help of Lula da Silva, created it in a hurry to continue the Cold War after the demolition of the Berlin Wall (1989). And he created it precisely to continue the battle at the moment when Moscow threw in the towel. The task of that enlightened fanatic was to collect the debris left by the USSR in Latin America and continue fighting “until victory always.”

Victory against whom? To understand the FSP, you have to know the hatred Fidel Castro had for the United States and read his 1958 letter to his friend and lover Celia Sánchez, when he was still a guerrilla in the Sierra Maestra, in which he declared that his destiny was to fight eternally against the Yankees.

Is that really what FSP affiliates want? To consume temselves in a sterile and useless battle against the United States? Jean-François Revel said that “anti-Yankeeism is the ideology of fools.” He was right.

_____________

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.

Puerto Rico and the Crisis Underneath the Surface

Protesters in front of the seat of Government known as La Fortaleza, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (EFE/Thais Llorca)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, Miami | 28 July 2019 — It was an unusual spectacle. Popular demonstrations forced the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico. It was the first time that something like this had happened since 1898, when the United States snatched sovereignty of the Island from Spain in what became known as the Spanish-American or Spanish-Cuban-American War.

However, the central nucleus of the conflict remains intact. Apparently, the reasons for this episode have to do with the corruption of the government and the disclosure of a vulgar chat in which Rosselló and some twenty buddies and officials make offensive comments about political adversaries, or major artists, like Ricky Martin, but that’s not the whole truth.

That’s the surface. Underneath, like a ghost of the 19th century, lies the problem of status: independence, autonomy, or full statehood. Faced with the glaring insensitivity and stupidity of Rosselló and his courtiers, those in favor of independence or autonomy, the “populares” went out to the streets. They were right to be indignant, but the almost 900 pages of chat were anecdotal. They turned out to be a magnificent alibi. The hidden key of the protest was status. continue reading

I know the Island very well. I lived there from 1966 to 1970. I taught in a private university and our son was born there. It’s a beautiful and very dear place. It’s true that more than half a century has passed, but nothing has changed in the political order since 1898, except the proportions of the three trends.

Half a century ago the supporters of independence were 5% of the electoral register. Supporters of autonomy (or “free staters”) were, more or less, 60%, and those who wished to transform the Island into state number 51 of the American Union were at somewhere around 35%.

Today it seems that support for independence continues to be at 5% of voters, while the rest of the population is divided in similar proportions between supporters of autonomy and statehood. Sometimes the “populares” and sometimes the “staters” win. Fifty years ago only the autonomists would have won.

Wilfredo Braschi, a magnificent writer, extremely intelligent, friend of Luis Muñoz Marín, caudillo of autonomy, warned me of this with a certain melancholy: “The trend is unstoppable. The number of supporters of statehood will be more and more.”

The definitive blow against supporters of Puerto Rican independence was dealt by the United States Congress. In 1917, it granted American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born or yet to be born on the Island. That allowed them to settle in “continental territory” without limits. Today there are more than 5 million in the United States and barely 3.3 million in Puerto Rico. (Florida is the state with the greatest number of Puerto Ricans: more than a million.)

The stability of the Island, democracy, republican institutions, American citizenship, which very few Puerto Ricans are prepared to renounce, individual freedoms, and, ultimately, the links with the United States, mean that Puerto Ricans have a per capita of forty thousand dollars annually, placing them at the head of Latin America, although they are at the tail of the United States.

Simultaneously, there is no extreme poverty, nor children that go hungry, lack schooling or medical attention. There is even the paradox that life expectancy in Puerto Rico (some 81 years) is higher than that of the United States. The same thing happens in post-secondary education: 47.1% of Puerto Ricans participate in it. Although it’s true that the average of the United States is 47.6%, Puerto Ricans surpass 20 of the 50 states in the Union.

None of these objective facts negates the immense problems of Puerto Rican society: drug use, violence related to that scourge, the enormous external debt, or the proportionally gigantic size of its public sector, but, as they say on the Island, nothing that doesn’t allow them to adequately deal with those conflicts.

What will happen, ultimately, from the resignation of Rosselló? Nothing. Everything will continue the same until, in many years, the number of staters clearly overtakes the autonomists and they decidedly ask for incorporation into the United States. That is the observable trend. Wilfredo Braschi, with melancholy, warned me about it.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

_____________________

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.

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

___________________________

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

___________________________________

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.