Apartheid en Cuba
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    On Castro, Martí and Mandela

    Posted on Sunday, 04.11.10
    On Castro, Martí and Mandela

    -based columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner, a critic of the Castro
    government, has exchanged a series of open letters with Silvio
    Rodriguez, a successful singer and supporter of the revolution.
    Montaner's latest touches on the ideals of Cuban icon Jose Martí, and
    the kinship, if any, between and Nelson Mandela.

    My esteemed Silvio Rodríguez,

    I, too, respect the memory of Jose Martí, the most illustrious of all
    Cubans, not only the man who, with great sagacity and reason, feared the
    imperialistic impulses of the United States in the late 19th century,
    but also the man who severely criticized Marx and praised entrepreneurs
    with initiative, to the point that he stated: “But the poor who never
    were successful in life, who shake their fists at the poor who enjoyed
    success; the luckless workers who burn with anger at the workers with
    good fortune, they are fools who would deny human nature the legitimate
    use of the faculties that come with it.''

    Because I agree with Martí, not with Fidel, it seems to me fine that
    someone with your talent, Silvio, managed to enrich himself
    legitimately, to own property inside and outside Cuba and own a
    prosperous recording company built with the product of his efforts. What
    I would like is for the privilege that was granted to you to be turned
    into a right and extended to all Cubans. It is cruelly and terribly
    impoverishing that as many talented people with initiative as there are
    in Cuba have to live subjected to the whims of the commissars and


    But let us return to the generation of your son, Silvito “the free
    one,'' which is also the generation of my children, of Cuban
    Yoani Sánchez and punk rocker Gorki Aguila. Don't you think it criminal
    that those young people are forced to subscribe to the ideas and
    prejudices of some muddled-headed octogenarians paralyzed by fear and
    dogmatism, who acquired their moral judgments and their perceptions of
    reality and social conflicts 60 years ago, under other, radically
    different circumstances?

    We have to free the young generations from that harmful burden so they
    may be able to build their lives freely.

    I continue with your letter. You say: “You sketch the distorted Cuba
    disseminated by the monstrous networks. By cutting and pasting, you
    spread a hatred that has downed planes full of innocent people. I have
    always condemned the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo.''

    I sketch a distorted Cuba? Does it seem trifling to you that, since the
    revolution was installed more than half-a-century ago, 20 percent of the
    population has fled aboard every kind of craft, paying for their efforts
    with several thousand lives? Are the executions false, the mistreatment
    in prisons, the acts of repudiation against those who dare to criticize
    the regime? Is censorship a lie?

    Remember when mobs beat up Cubans because they wanted to leave the
    country, in those “acts of repudiation'' that have never stopped
    because they are now organized against the Ladies in White and the
    opposition democrats? Have you forgotten how the authorities confined
    homosexuals in concentration camps, how they expelled them from the
    university after humiliating them publicly? Is it not true that, in
    spring of 2003, they and sentenced 75 people to as much as 28
    years' imprisonment for lending forbidden books, asking for a referendum
    and writing articles in foreign newspapers?

    What does a denunciation of those monstrosities have to do with the
    condemnable downing in 1976 of a Cubana de Aviación airliner full of
    innocent people, a crime that I find repugnant? You condemn (and I
    believe in your sincerity) the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo and
    the murder of 41 people in that episode, but why didn't you raise your
    voice in the National Assembly of the People's Power to denounce that
    crime? You were a deputy, a representative of society. Why did you
    remain silent? When those who can speak up dare not to do it, they
    become accomplices of the barbarity and contribute to perpetuate it.
    Those who wish changes must proclaim so boldly.


    Then you say: “But who will believe that the Somali dead matter to you,
    when you're not interested in the Cubans who gave their lives for a
    false hero? I am comfortable in the knowledge that the sacrifice of the
    dead in Angola was not in vain. Not only because I saw them fight and
    die poor and clean, but also because they were consecrated in eternity
    by South Africa's Nelson Mandela. I dare you, Carlos Alberto, to affirm
    that Mandela lied when he said that the Cuban presence in Africa meant
    the beginning of the end of apartheid.''

    Of course, Silvio, I feel for the thousands of Somalis exterminated by
    the army of Cuba in an unequal, pitiless war that had nothing to do with
    the struggle against apartheid and much to do with gaining victory for
    the Ethiopian dictatorship, then an ally of the Soviet Union. Just as
    much as I feel for the 3,000 Cubans who left their skin in Africa
    because Fidel Castro, without consulting with anyone, not even with the
    Communist Party, decided to become a world leader and transformed poor
    Cuba in the spearhead of his hunger for international renown and in the
    most aggressive and opportunistic pawn of the Cold War.

    Why so much sacrifice? At the end, the Cuban troops, among other ironies
    of that senseless butchery, wound up guarding the U.S. oil interests in
    the zone of Cabinda, and today Angola is a capitalist nation eager to
    forget the years when it planned to build a state copied from the Soviet
    model. In Angola, nobody remembers that revolutionary project for which
    so many Cubans died so futilely.

    Don't you think it is time to put an end to the utilization of people
    like cannon fodder to satiate the desire for notoriety of a clique
    thirsty for power and glory? Don't you think that the leasing of Cuban
    doctors and professionals to other countries to pay debts in the name of
    international solidarity, as if they were slaves, is a deep offense to
    the nation's honor?

    My admired Mandela didn't lie, Silvio; his take on the role of Cuban
    troops in Africa is simply different from mine. In any case, what
    touches me about Nelson Mandela is not his questionable opinion about
    the role of Cuban troops in that continent but the democracy and
    without ire that he gave all South Africans, instead of following the
    totalitarian example of Fidel.

    You end your letter in a peculiar way: “I know that your cunning
    arguments will be multiplied a thousandfold more than any truth from
    Cuba. From this besieged dignity, I shall continue to sing what I think:
    I continue to have many more reasons to believe in the Revolution than
    in its detractors. If this government is so bad, where did these very
    fine people come from?''


    I agree with you, Silvio, that the free press will be more generous with
    my explanations than with yours, but that's not your fault. The world
    the Cuban revolution was a part of collapsed along with the Berlin Wall,
    and today that dictatorship is only an old and discredited fossil, a
    distant relative of North Korea, because not even and are
    communist regimes, although, lamentably, they continue to be
    dictatorships governed by a single, iron-fisted party.

    Nevertheless, it seems to be legitimate that you continue to sing what
    you think and insist on defending the revolution and the communist
    dictatorship. That's your right. I'll say more: the Cuba in the dreams
    of millions of Cubans should be a country where you can sing what you
    think, but that also has room for Gloria Estefan, Willy Chirino, Paquito
    D'Rivera and Los Aldeanos. A Cuba without exclusions.

    All of us together, Silvio, must forge that tolerant Cuba where no one
    is persecuted for expressing his ideas. You are not wrong when you say
    that Cubans are “very fine people.'' All communist dictatorships
    suffered under bad governments but they also had very fine people, like
    the Sakharovs, the Walesas and the Havels. In Cuba, there's an abundance
    of that kind of hero, too. Many of them are in .

    We have to meet in a clearing of our nation's history to join in the
    embrace of reconciliation, freedom and change that almost all of us
    desire. Let us leap over our differences, Silvio, and build a better
    world for our children. A democratic and free world, like those 20
    nations that now lead the planet, those 20 nations to which so many
    young Cubans want to escape, as you yourself have warned with much
    concern. All of us together, Silvio, peacefully, can change our destiny
    and save the future.

    With genuine civic cordiality,

    Carlos Alberto Montaner


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