Cuba Has Lost Carlos Alberto Montaner

Carlos Alberto Montaner would have been the best president of the Republic of Cuba at any moment when there might have been a transition to democracy. (Photo capture from YouTube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 June 2023–“What qualifier should I use to win the title of top toady?” I asked Carlos Alberto Montaner one day. “Illustrious,” he replied, and we could not stop laughing.

I met him in 1996 during my first trip to Spain. I called the number for the Playor editorial offices and a secretary transferred me to him. “I am a Cuban journalist passing through Madrid, and I would like to speak with you,” I said by way of introduction. Following a brief pause he replied, “I’ll expect you here tomorrow afternoon.”

Being that Montaner was in the top tier of “enemies of the Revolution,” I assumed that before entering his office, located near the Puerta del Sol square, his bodyguards would search me and that certainly there would be cameras monitoring my visit. But such was not the case. Montaner himself opened the door and invited me into his office. “Do you work for Granma?” he asked, and when I told him that I was an outcast from official journalism, he made the first joke that started the bond of humor we shared: “Then I’ll notify the Marines and the CIA that they can call off the operation.”

At the conclusion of that first encounter, he invited me to have a coffee at a nearby kiosk, where he confessed to me that this act — which he would repeat every day — was his therapy against nostalgia for Cuba.

I have read all of his books and most of the articles he published throughout his long career. Every time we would meet in Miami or Madrid he would ask me specific questions about Cuban issues, of which he was always deeply informed. For many, including myself, he would have been the best president of the Republic at any moment there might have been a transition to democracy. Once, when he was in his seventies, he said that he he was already too old to aspire to such political responsibilities. In May of this year, already having lived to 80, and suffering from a cruel disease, he retired from the mission of writing columns.

Today I have learned that he will never be in Havana celebrating with friends the end of the dictatorship. If I get to witness that outcome, I promise to raise a glass to him — for his ideas, for his courage, and for his brilliant intelligence.

Goodbye, my illustrious friend.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison 


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