Questions and answers
received numerous e-mails in reference to my column “The Pincers of Cuban
Foreign Policy” (Progreso Weekly, September 15-22, 2005). Some ask for
clarification and others, most of them, ask questions. I am grateful to all for
their attention, for their doubts and their discrepancies. Communication, after
all, is precisely an exchange and enrichment in both directions.
But there is
one e-mail from someone who obviously is an active politician who is loaded with
questions spiced up with naive opinions. First of all, I thank him for his
opinions. And based on that, I would like to comment that in politicians,
particularly on those leaning to the left – rightists seldom are naïve – naiveté
is unforgivable and always works against the people. And now, back to his
questions and those from other readers.
changes taking us (in Latin America)? Can’t you see the risks?”
Well, I don’t
have a crystal ball. Instead of asking where Latin America is headed, something
on which we could elaborate at some other time, I think that we should begin by
the objectives or goals that should be met; that is, what changes should be made
on the existing reality. And at this point in time things are pretty clear, and
I can mention two.
ransoming of independence and national sovereignty, which is not flag waving, a
national anthem, a device of national heraldic and casting a ballot from time to
time. Today more than ever sovereignty implies the recovery of the nation’s
resources and wealth – and I’m speaking of the common nation – to place them at
the service of all citizens. Every single one of them.
sharing the national pie, or exercising distributive justice in such a manner as
to bridge the abysmal gap which exists in our societies.
According to a
report on human development by the United Nations Program for Development, in
Mexico, a country which has significantly increased its exports, 5% of the
income of a fifth of the wealthiest households would ransom 12 million Mexicans
from poverty. The World Bank gives a global view of the situation in Latin
America when it published that 10% of the wealthiest sectors has 48% of the
income, while the poorest 10% receives only 1.6%.
It’s easy to
understand that at the national banquet there are some who get second (and third
and even fourth) helpings while many, at most, get the crumbs and the rest fight
over the smelly discards in the garbage dump.
What good is
the growth of the Gross Internal Product if it eventually will land on the same
plates? No wonder Latin America is the region with the greatest inequality on
the planet. According to the UN, 44% of Latin Americans live in poverty, which
means 222 millions of our fellow human beings.
Imagine for a
moment that you are one of them. Wouldn’t you agree on the need for change?
Would you ask yourself where are changes taking us or would you think first in
filling your plate and satisfying a few basic needs? What were the forsaken ones
thinking while they were becoming victims of Hurricane Katrina? Were they
worried about the course? There is no getting away from social issues, and if
there is a possibility of going forward and assume reality to transform it for
the benefit of all, beginning with the presently excluded ones.
note for my active politician-reader: I know of no politician that addresses
voters in the poor areas telling them that they will go on being poor, with no
decent housing, proper schools or health care for their children. On the
contrary: he or she will promise all of the above, even if deep down he/she
knows that it won’t be possible, because in order to solve the problems the
existing economic and social system would have to go down the drain. It would
have to change.)
those changes clash with freedom? Won’t freedom suffer? What will happen to
questions suggest to me another one that comes first: Doesn’t the reality of
extreme poverty and exclusion of almost half of our population clash with human
dignity, the essence and unavoidable element for freedom, as well as its
exercise by the majority? Of what freedom are we talking about? Whose freedom,
against whom or in spite of the submission of others? And what democracy as a
result of what freedom?
democracy, a poll by Gallup International, commissioned by the BBC, interviewed
50,000 subjects in 68 countries, 14 from Latin America.
Americans think that elections are not free and fair” (BBC, 9/14/2005.) Another
finding is that only 4% of our people trust political leaders. Curiously the
military have a little more credibility at 9%. The situation is more serious if
we compare the results with a UN poll in 2004, in which 54% of Latin Americans
would be willing to accept authoritarian governments in exchange of greater
Have 54% of
our fellow citizens gone mad? On the contrary, they are more lucid and willing
than their “leaders” – in which very few trust – for they see the
interconnection in social justice-freedom-governability and that the negative,
neoliberal, systemic process that tends to increase exclusion and concentrates
economic power and freedom in the hands of a few must be broken. This process
generates instability in the countries – in Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia more
governments have fallen than years have passed since 2000 – and in order to
solve it they would be willing to accept some limits – I believe and hope that
in a transitory manner – in the matter of freedom. Such willingness is a
reflection of the dramatic level of the crisis, but not necessarily the road to
be taken. And even if you can’t have your cake and eat too, things could be
solved by other means. But it depends.
Changes to any
country do not depend exclusively on political ideas nor on the will of the
promoting forces – to believe so would be naive, besides being an ignorance of
history. The recovery of the national resources brings immediate responses of
all kinds on the part of powerful transnational interests – with the U.S. as
leader – as well as domestic ones, justly affected. It’s the same when you begin
an even distribution of the pie. This struggle of pressures and counter
pressures, which could include violence and internal subversion, influences both
the speed of the transformations as well as its radicalization and depth. It
even forces the promoters of change to burn stages. Maybe it happened with the
Cuban revolution in 1959.
had a strong influence. Could it influence the Venezuelan process? Certainly.
But it should be said that no matter how much the all-powerful international
media insist in picturing the process as an imitation of the Cuban experience it
is not so by its origin nor by its method a photocopy of that model. And I
believe that Venezuelans know that in a process of change there will always be
the case of students who copy from one another: in the end, life defeats them
for being inauthentic. That, they did learn from the Cuban process, which will
exist as long as it has its own style according to its own realities.
Manuel Alberto Ramy is the
Havana correspondent of Radio Progreso Alternativa and the Spanish edition
editor of Progreso Semanal/Weekly.