Understanding the progressive democratic Fidelist imaginary

29 de Noviembre de 2016 a las 04:18

By Ángel E. Álvarez, PhD. By Ángel E. Álvarez, PhD.

Toronto. - Fidel died at last. It was no surprise to anyone. Since his partial retirement in 2008, many expected the announcement of his death. What is surprising is the reaction to the news from progressive liberal democratic leaders from Latin America, Europe, the United States and Canada. I do not mean the Communists. Their grief over the death of the only Marxist revolutionary leader who somehow survived the turn of the millennium is understandable. What I ask myself is why democratically elected leaders, respectful and defenders of freedom, human rights, justice and equity, reacted so emotionally to the death of a tyrant, a violator of human rights, mass murderer, and guilty of the massive and dangerous exodus of Cubans.

Fidel smashed the Cuban economy. The island’s sources of foreign income remain the same as 1958: sugar cane, tobacco and sex tourism from Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries. Neither the efficiency nor the gross production of agricultural commodities has improved in 57 years of Communist rule. The exploitation of the jineteras by tourists with dollars or Euros is no different from what prevailed in the casinos and brothels of the Havana Batistera. Fidel’s Cuba was deeply dependent on USSR subsidies until the collapse of the communist superpower and began to live on Venezuelan oil from 2000, after a painful "special period in times of peace"—an Orwellian euphemism to hide the famine centrally administered by the Communist Party.

I distrust the conspiracy theory of ultraconservative anticommunists, who tend to be as irrational in their extremism as the militant orthodox Marxists. The reaction of the progressive democratic leaders is not due to shady business practices, nor to a shameful communism allegedly hidden in the darkest of their souls. They do not lack information or knowledge about the atrocities committed by Fidel, his brother Raúl, and their authoritarian regime. Everyone knows they imposed a cruel communist dictatorship after betraying the democratic ideals of the Cuban revolution, which turned to be an unfulfilled promise of democratization and autonomy Cuba—historically subjected to Spain and the United States of America. It is not cynicism, evil or clumsiness that explains the reaction of so many progressive leaders. It is their political response to the death of the last icon of the anti-US Latin American resistance. Neither is it pure romance. Certainly, the myth of the "good revolutionary," the heroic guerrilla, the suffering martyr who gives up all his comforts to fight for his oppressed people—with a guitar that plays Cuban “Nueva Trova” songs in the left hand, and a Kalashnikov rifle in his right arm. Well-meaning academics, film directors, singers, novelists, and poets may have such an imaginary of Fidel. Some political leaders may feel the same way. But let's be serious, politicians are much more rational and less emotional than professors, poets or singer-songwriters.

The affinity with Fidel has to do more with the clumsy, arbitrary and violent way with which the United States exerted its political influence, its economic power and its military preponderance in Latin America. Intervening in the region was in the US’s best interests during the Cold War. Currently, Latin America is less important to the US Department of State and more important to federal agencies involved in immigration or drug policy enforcement. While Latin America was a territory potentially disputed by the USSR, the United States promoted and carried out invasions, interventions, open pressures, economic blockades and overthrows of "non-friendly" governments. They supported Latin American military regimes that massacred, tortured, disappeared, and murdered thousands of social activists, political and trade union leaders, workers, intellectuals, artists, peasants, and students. The

United States trained the military from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and most Central American countries, between the 1960s and the late 1980s, who oppressed and murdered their fellow citizens. Cuba, in such context, was the banner of the anti-imperialists and anti-US struggles. To back Cuba, in the midst of a cruel blockade against the people and that only served to justify the inefficiency of the Castroism, was an indirect way of opposing the US. Progressive politicians needed the support of the US to NATO and the US investments in their countries. The rhetorical support of the Fidel’s Cuba was an indirect way to tell the US that in its policy in Latin America was inappropriate. What died on November 25, 2016, was the insignia of this tacit resistance against a partner as necessary as uncomfortable as for the liberal, progressive governments of Europe, Canada, and Latin America. The worst thing for the liberal politicians is that Fidel dies with Trump in power. Is it a bad joke the Titan Kronos?