HAVANA TIMES — Would you be able to tell me who the president of a country like Norway, Finland, Holland, Sweden or Switzerland is?
You’ll likely say no. I have another question for you: have you ever read any news about serious social problems in any of these countries?
I am thinking about news reporting high indices of such things as unemployment, poverty, extreme infant malnutrition and urban violence. I am almost positive you will also answer in the negative.
As for me, with the possible exception of the leaders of Paraguay, Belize and Guyana, I would be able to name all of the presidents of Latin America.
Without any real, deliberate strategy, Latin America has been a veritable marketing machine when it comes to its top leaders, men and women from both the Left and Right who are drawn to the cameras, the front page of newspapers and even media scandals – provided these afford them favorable publicity – as much as your average Hollywood star.
Nearly all of these colorful characters have made fortunes under our very noses, and with the State resources entrusted them to administer a government which often fused the executive, judicial and legislative powers into a single authority.
Call me crazy, but I feel that one of the most important steps Latin America could take towards consolidating a true, stable democracy is ensuring the election of leaders with a real administrative ethic and the firm conviction that they were chosen by the people to be their representative for a term of 4 to 5 years, and that they are entitled to one re-election, at most.
Today, Latin America is the region with the highest indices of social inequality on the planet, a truly sad place, where corruption is well concealed and finds a breeding ground in both the Left and Right. How much are our presidents to blame for this? A lot. How much are we, the people, to blame for this, having done nothing to revert the situation when it reared its ugly head? A lot more.
In the case of Cuba, I believe the the subordination of the judiciary to the executive that Cubans must live with today occurred as early as February of 1959, during a process which has gone down in the country’s history as “The Trial of the Pilots.” The first proceedings had been presided over by Comandante Felix Pena, a lawyer who, finding no evidence that incriminated the 43 pilots, gunners and mechanics from Batista’s Air Force then on trial, decided to absolve the officers.
Hearing of this, Fidel overturned the trial ipso facto and called a re-trial, appointing a man he could rely on entirely this time around, Comandante Manuel Piñero (alias “Redbeard”), a man who would later head the Department for the Americas of the Party’s Central Committee.
When Fidel went over the judiciary and invalidated the court’s decision, he made it clear that revolutionary justice was a kind of work tool he put to use when necessary and not an ethical norm he had to adhere to like everyone else.
After devoting some thought to how badly we Latin Americans have fared under these flamboyant characters who have a nearly pathological need to inflate their egos, to the point of putting aside their true tasks as presidents completely in order to appear irreplaceable before the media, I must conclude that I want a Cuban president who would like to go “unnoticed”.
This would be someone who could administer the country efficiently for 4 years, 8 at the most, and would do everything in their power to leave the country in better shape than they found it in, not only in economic terms, but also from a democratic and, most importantly, a human perspective.