The Great Debate?

Hardly. More like a KO in the opening seconds of the first round…

Foreign Affairs Magazine recently published a debate between Carlos Alberto Montaner and the leftist Ignacio Ramonet. The debate was about the past and future of Cuba. Since it’s a written debate, Montaner had to submit an argument to which Ramonet was allowed to respond. Then Montaner gets to respond in a shorter space, and so on. Of course in my opinion Montaner eviscerates Ramonet simply because he has the truth on his side. Below are some of the juicier excerpts. You can read the whole thing including Ramonet’s tired old arguments and excuses by clicking here. The section titles for the excerpts below and the emphasis are mine.

Montaner on why Cuba will become a democracy:

...Castro’s leadership is nontransferable. He is a strongman who has personally exercised power for almost half a century. Although his ideology is communism, he is from the same anthropological stock as Spain’s Francisco Franco or the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo: the authoritarian military man. This type of authority, based as it is on a combination of fear and respect, cannot be handed down.

…the Cuban people know that the system Castro created has failed. Every day, they must reckon with the realization that communism has aggravated all of Cuba’s basic material problems to the point of desperation. Food, housing, drinking water, transportation, electricity, communications, and clothing are wants that cannot be compensated for by an extensive but very poor educational and health system. Paradoxically, even the revolution’s achievements incriminate the regime. The fact that Cuba has a reasonably educated population fosters the society’s desire for change and its dissatisfaction with a system bent on having the immense majority of Cubans live miserably. No one is more anxious to abandon egalitarian collectivism than the legion of engineers, doctors, technicians, and teachers forced to live without the slightest hope of betterment.

the reformists know that change is not only possible, it is desirable. Cuban leaders, especially those younger than Fidel and his brother Raúl’s generation, realize that they are not heroes in a tale of romantic exploits, but the promoters of an absurd system from which everyone escapes who can. And, at the same time, they know, from having watched it in Eastern Europe, there is life after communism. They have all the moral and material incentives to contribute to change.

Montaner on the truth about the castro regime:

Anyone familiar with Cuban history knows that Fidel led the revolution against President Fulgencio Batista to restore freedoms to Cuba and to reinstate the Constitution of 1940, not to create a communist dictatorship copied from the Soviet model.

Under Castro, there have been roughly 5,700 executions, 1,200 extrajudicial murders, 77,800 dead or lost raftsmen, and 11,700 Cuban dead in international missions, most of them during 15 years of African wars in Ethiopia and Angola. Castro’s legacy will be one of bloodshed and injustice, not one of Latin “solidarity” and reform.

When Castro’s revolution started, he asserted that all of the country’s economic ills originated from Washington’s exploitation of the island. Since then, he has claimed that they are due to the fact that
Washington does not exploit it. Which is it? It is also a curious paradox of the Castro regime that it fiercely opposes the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, while it demands that the embargo be lifted so it can trade freely with the United States. These contradictions notwithstanding, the truth is that the United States is a remarkable trade partner of Cuba’s. Every year, the United States sells to Cuba roughly $350 million in agricultural products, it permits money transfers estimated at $1 billion a year (or half the island’s exports), and, what’s more, it grants resident visas to 20,000 Cubans each year, relieving the government of serious social pressures. And the United States is already preparing for the end of the sanctions once Cuba proves to be headed down the road to democracy. That is not the behavior of an implacable enemy.

The number of political prisoners in the first two decades of his regime was estimated at 90,000, and even the government admits to 20,000. In addition to this quantification of the “human cost of the revolution,” anyone who wants to know the cruelty of the communist repression in Cuba can read the 137 Amnesty International reports and press releases on the subject, or the abuses documented in numerous Human Rights Watch accounts. The most publicized crime of the Castro era has so far been the deliberate sinking of the boat “13 de Marzo” ordered on July 13, 1994, with 72 refugees on board. Of the 41 who drowned, 10 were children.

Montanter on what Cuba’s future should be:

We should trust in the democratic method, in the rule of law, in the market, and in private property, just as do the most prosperous and happy nations on Earth. We must tolerate and respect religious minorities and homosexuals, forever prohibiting “acts of repudiation” or pogroms against people who are different. We must permanently eradicate the “apartheid” that prevents Cubans from enjoying the hotels, restaurants, and beaches that only foreigners are allowed to frequent.

With his passing, we must strive to be, in short, a normal, peaceful, and modern nation, not a delirious revolutionary project aimed at changing the history of the world.

Montaner on the Intellectuals who serve as apologists for the castro regime:

Judging a half century of incompetent and atrocious dictatorship by the cataract operations it performs is the fascist argument characteristically wielded by Franco’s apologists: His dictatorship was good because Spaniards managed to eat three times a day. It was also the argument of South Africa’s racists: Apartheid was good because the country’s blacks were not as poor as their neighbors. Castro’s dictatorship was good, we now learn, because it leased doctors to the Third World.

No, all dictatorships—like all forms of terrorism—are reprehensible. Don’t forget that Castro came to power using guerrilla and terrorist tactics (Havanans remember perfectly the “Night of 100 Bombs” in 1958), but more serious is the fact that the island has been used as a staging area for narcotraffickers, including the Colombian group farc. Do these intellectuals want a regime like Cuba’s for France? I suppose not. And if they do not want it for France or for themselves, why do they want it for us Cubans? Do we Cubans not have the right to freedom and democracy?

21 thoughts on “The Great Debate?”

  1. yeah, that was a fun debate to read. it was like every cuba debate ever had, played out in minature: every time the lefty’s argument is destroyed, he shifts over to a different one. then that one is mashed, and so it goes. it’s really too easy. eventually they retreat into some obnoxious little post-modern hole and refuse to come out. I’ve learned not to waste my time with these debates, but it’s still kind of fun to watch Monanter shoot the fish in the barrel.

  2. Henry-Thanks for the link and the excerpts. I’ll have to read the whole piece when I have some time, even though I’ll have to plod through Ramonet’s peabrained opinions. BTW- did you see the picture FP chose as a cover for this, their current issue? Carajo!

  3. Romonet is a moron. I cannot believe in amy way shape or form that he believes what he is saying. He is nothing less than a communist and a liar. To dabate soemone like that is a waste of time.

  4. Allow me to respond to my “fans”.

    Within the debate about Cuba, of whether it is a successful revolution (Ramonet) or not (Montaner), opposing sides normally argue into a “stalemate”. In other words, the dialogue leads to no agreements.

    My position of a successful dialogue is one that allows opposing sides to agree on at least one point, where progress can be made and stalemate avoided.

    The FP article clearly showed how opposing sides on this issue are quite divided and fail to see eye to eye, and settle on a full disagreement. Many here on Babalu, I think, prefer these divisions.

    On the other hand, I accept many points that Montaner made and insist that Cuba is a very repressive and abusive nation, based on the facts presented by Montaner. But, I also agree with some of the facts by Ramonet.

    How does an ordinary person proceed from this debate? Should that person be left with ONLY TWO options(Montaner or Ramonet)?

    I don’t think so. I believe people want a hear all sides of a discussion and make up their own minds, without having to strictly subscribe to Montaner’s or Ramonet’s views.

    And, for those who want to see a resolution, or at least some progress towards reconciliation, will want to see points of agreement. Not stalemate.

    That’s why Ramonet and Montaner didn’t convince me to accept their general viewpoints: They made no attempt to bridge the gap that divides this debate and make forwards progress on the issue of Cuba.

    Its something that is missing here at Babalu too.

  5. The arrogance of these leftists never cease to amaze. Ramonet states that “being an intellectual must be earned”-translation if you don’t agree with me your not an intellectual. If this debate had occurred before 9/11 and the Iraq war what would happen to half of his defence? Oh the prison is Guantanamo -“the world’s respectable conciences”-denounce the USA. Translation other leftists denounce the imprisonment of jihadists when they are imprisoned by the US ( the perceived biggest enemy of the leftist). Ramonet goes on to say that the US is guily of “torture” an apparent reference to the Abu Gharib incident. Hmm, the perpetrators of that incident I believe were punished with jail time. Funny, Mr Ramonet, I don’t recall reading that any of the political prisoners jailed and tortured in Cuba now see there tormenters in the cell next to them. As for the kidnapping of civilians can Mr. Ramonet be serious? But this argument isn’t an intellectual one at all. It is a poor attempt to deflect the total failure of a dictator, and of a failed ideology. Just to see how it feels— if it wasn’t for Communism and Communists Capitalists and Capitalism would be allowed to flourish un-oppressed for the good of all. Doesn’t feel to “intellectual”. Capitalism-the positives and negatives-can be measured on its own merits. Leftists can not and never will argue there ideology on its own merits. They are itellectualy incapable to admit there own failure.

  6. Is Mambiwatch an extention of Corralito’s Herald blog? Interesting on how there are no comments on it.
    Corralito finally lifted the censorship that he imposed on his blog last summer after pedofiles and NAMBLA activists took it over. The comments on his blog had bottomed out and apparently his Herald bosses gave him new orders. Where is Cuban Patriot when we need him?

  7. Also, to make efforts at agreement between opposing sides, new and creative solutions can emerge. To believe that there are absolute divisions such as “friends and enemies” allows for confrontation. This must be avoided.

    The US government not only dismisses offers of negotiation from the Cuban government, but also dismisses the voices of Cuban dissidents.

    According to many published interviews, most of the Cuban dissidents OPPOSE the confrontational policy of the US. One very vocal dissident has been Miriam Leiva. When the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba was created in 2004, Miriam Leiva was published saying:

    “did the Bush administration ask for the opinion of internal dissidents when the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba crafted its report? No. Will the measures hurt the Castro regime? No. Instead, the Cuban people will suffer from the effects of the measures, and more political dissidents could be sent to prison.”

    When the newest package of $80 millions towards dissidents was announced, Miriam Leiva said:

    “The United States should not try to solve Cuba’s internal problems. I don’t think it’s proper to allocate money for the internal opposition… It gives the Cuban government evidence to call us mercenaries and put us in prison.”

    Her husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe also came out and said:

    “this report is counterproductive” and can be used by “the hard-line sector of the [Cuban] government to justify further repression […] We want solidarity but not interference.”

    In order to be in solidarity, groups must be able to agree on some points, not be in total disagreement. Let’s listen to the words of Miriam Leiva and Espinosa Chepe.

    February 7, 2007
    Miriam Leiva

    “American attitude towards Cuba could encourage changes or contribute to delaying them. Confrontation helps those against changes, democracy and respect of human rights within the Cuban government. Confrontation is taken as an alibi for repression against any sign of disagreement, especially dissent, that is the dissidents. We are accused of being mercenaries. Cubans on the Island need waves of ideas and exchange of view with our brothers and sisters living abroad, mainly in the United States. They are very dear to us, and freely coming to Cuba with their knowledge and expertise they will contribute to the Cuba we forge.”

    We must agree on something if we wish to see a free Cuba.

  8. Henry & Robert:

    Interesting that you should both reference the Nuremberg trials. As a founding member of the United Nations, Cuba voted against holding the Nuremberg trials, that is, it voted against violating the bedrock legal precedent prohibiting ex post facto laws (i.e. laws enacted after the fact). Fourteen years later these same spurious laws would be used by Castro to annihilate Batista’s supporters.

    I have often used this example to illustrate the fact that pre-revolutionary Cuba was not a lacquey of the U.S., but pursued its own independent course in foreign affairs. In the 30 years that Cuba and the Soviet Union were allies, Cuba never cast a vote against the USSR at the United Nations.

  9. Manuel,

    I take your point but setting aside whether the trials were “legal” or not, in other words assuming that they were legal, my point was that some people will continue to make excuses for even the most heinous of conduct even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

  10. Manuel,

    I take your point but setting aside whether the trials were “legal” or not, in other words assuming that they were legal, my point was that some people will continue to make excuses for even the most heinous of conduct even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

  11. Henry:

    The trials were not only illegal but unnecessary, since the Nazi war criminals could have been tried for individual murders rather than the newly-minted “crimes against humanity” and received the same sentence. Justice is always put to the test when it is meeted to the worst criminals. Nuremberg was symbolic, even poetic justice. But it did not adhere to legal norms in principle or practice, and the Republic of Cuba was quite right not to sanction those trials. I hope that when Castro and his henchmen are brought to justice it will be exemplary justice that they will face, which will punish their wrongdoing but not sacrifice legality to do it.

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