Cuban intellectual, journalist, and pro-democracy activist Carlos Alberto Montaner dies at 80

Carlos Alberto Montaner 1943-2023

A major figure in Cuban exile culture has passed away. He wrote eloquently and tirelessly against Castro, Inc. for six decades, until a rare neurological disorder made it impossible for him to continue doing so.

After escaping from Castro, Inc.’s gulag, he went into exile and fought the good fight until the bitter end. As one obituary has put it, “Montaner faced criticism and opposition from those who disagreed with his conservative ideology. However, his impact on Latin American political thought cannot be denied. He played a pivotal role in shaping public discourse, challenging prevailing narratives, and promoting the values of freedom and democracy.”

May he rest in peace.

Loosely translated from Diario de Cuba

Cuban writer and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner died in Madrid on June 29 at the age of 80, Firmas Press reported in a press release sent to this newsroom.

According to the text, Montaner died at his home and surrounded by his loved ones, after facing a neurodegenerative disease.

On his behalf, his wife, Linda, their children Gina and Carlos, and their granddaughters Paola, Gabriela and Claudia “thanked the Spanish public health professionals and the Right to Die with Dignity Association,” the statement said. “They also thanked all the family and friends who have shown him so much affection in the final stretch of a prolific life marked by the defense of individual liberties. His farewell will be an intimate and private act,” he added.

Tony Guedes, an exiled doctor who founded the Unión Liberal de Cuba party with Montaner, confirmed to DIARIO DE CUBA that it was an assisted death. Montaner made that decision, protected by the Euthanasia Law approved in Spain, due to the disease that he suffered from and that substantially limited his life, he explained.

“He was aware of the decision he made and read that press release before beginning the process,” said Guedes, who in addition to being a friend and fellow fighter of Montaner was his family doctor.

“One of the great Cuban thinkers has been lost, not only from exile, but from inside and outside Cuba, a great fighter for democracy. He fought when many did not and tried to achieve democracy for Cuba in many ways. That’s it. his work, there are his books and his lectures,” said the exiled doctor

At the beginning of last May, Montaner said goodbye to the practice of journalism with an article published in DIARIO DE CUBA, which had the honor of being among his columnists.

In the text, the writer revealed that he suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

“It is a rare brain disease. I was diagnosed at the Gregorio Marañón hospital —one of the best in Spain— after an MRI. Three people out of 100,000 suffer from it. It is not contagious or inherited. There is no cure for it. It is not known how it starts or why it originates. It belongs to the parkinsonism family, but without tremors. Hence the confusion in the diagnosis. It is characterized by preventing me from conversing well and reading, beyond the headlines (Linda, my wife, and our daughter, Gina, read the newspapers to me), not so writing everything “well” that has allowed me to spend more than half a century writing —among other things— a syndicated column a week,” Montaner wrote then.

3 thoughts on “Cuban intellectual, journalist, and pro-democracy activist Carlos Alberto Montaner dies at 80”

  1. When I first became acquainted with Montaner’s writings, I was quite impressed. However, I soon began questioning some of his views, meaning I began to find him “complicated,” though still worth reading. Then came his published paean to Mandela after his death, which no doubt he knew would give offense, and its defiant tone, clearly aimed at “those people,” wound up offending even more. To my mind, a Cuban public figure with a podium, regarded as a representative of the Cuban exile community, cannot afford to treat Mandela the way Mandela treated Fidel Castro. I never saw him the same way after that. His subsequent public career became increasingly off-putting, particularly during his last years, and I simply turned away.

    He was entitled to be who he was and act accordingly, but he was not a private person or some Cuban celebrity who occasionally expressed political views. He was, in fact, a well-known Cuban political figure who made a career out of commenting on matters directly or indirectly concerning Cuba. Thus, what he said and the positions he took were not purely his business nor without consequence. He may simply have been true to himself, and it may be that, on balance, his net effect was positive, but my reservations remain.

  2. Asombra, you are absolutely correct. He was increasingly off–putting as you euphemistically put it. My ah-ha Montaner moment came when I was on a business trip in Mexico. This was when fidel castro died. His death was being extensively covered in Mexico and I was in my hotel one night watching the local news. Montaner was being interviewed in respect to this happening and the reporter who was clearly empathetic towards the cause of Cuban freedom kept on asking Montaner leading questions clearly trying to have him say something critical of the just deceased tyrant, but Montaner kept evading the question until he finally said: “he was loved by many and hated by others!” So, he had an opportunity talk about the thousands of executions, the thousands of imprisoned dissidents, the millions of exiles, the fact that Cuba has not had a free election for decades, the confiscation of billions of dollars’ worth of property, the destruction of Cuba’s civil society, the takeover of all independent newspapers, the destruction of Havana, the bargain basement selling off of its national patrimony, the destruction of its flora and fauna, etc…etc…etc.. that is to say the total destruction of an entire nation. and all that he could say was that he was “loved by many and hated by others!”

    Let’s, also, not forget how he gave his support to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden presidential bid going as far as doing paid ad for Hillary if I remember correctly. His speech was too slurred when Biden ran for president, but I’m sure he would have done those too if that were not the case. He did, however, write supportive articles for the notoriously inept candidate.

    Whatever legacy he had built, he effectively destroyed the last decade or so of his life when he spent trying to distance himself from those “horrible Miami Cubans,” than anything else. If I remember correctly, one of the last acts of defiance against us was when he came out publicly in support of that abominable Susan Eckstein who is an agent of influence of the Cuban regime and a horrible enemy of the Cuban people.

    So, I’m not sure that Montaner deserves a eulogy from us if you get my drift.

  3. The “loved by many, hated by others” bit could easily have come straight from the New York Times, and if he wouldn’t go any further, the math is pretty easy and not exactly flattering or even respectable. He was free to dislike Trump and not obligated to support him, meaning I don’t hold that against him, but any Cuban who would actively support Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden is alien to me and beyond the pale.

    I think he always tried, rather too hard, to be seen as a “different” sort of Cuban exile, the kind who would be palatable to an audience which couldn’t stomach “those people.” Maybe he figured that would be more productive, but in that case, he grossly overestimated the effectiveness of such “diplomacy” and underestimated the world’s miseria humana, not to say its hijeputez.

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