Cuba: An “Anonymous” President is Possible

Alfredo Fernández

An old Cuban presidential office now part of the Museum of the Revolution. Photo: Rafiki

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.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.


18 thoughts on “Cuba: An “Anonymous” President is Possible

  • June 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm
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    Carlos, your reaction to a reasonable and justified (and factually correct) comment is just laughable and discredits yourself.

    “I would not be surprised if you live in a Cuban embassy abroad.”
    Sure, because everyone who points out factually incorrect errors in a polemic article is just a Stalinist propagandist.

    With an opposition like this, you deserve the government you’ve got. Or at least, you’re both welcome to each other – you need each other as well. Indeed, they’re like a mirror image of each other in their stupidity and blindness.

  • June 24, 2013 at 4:13 am
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    It seems that in politics almost everything is allowed, except naivety. I think that even ignorance is allowed, considering the many known facts today that are nicely hidden by the most respectful political thinkers of our time. Worldwide countries are judged by their tolerance to the LGBT community. Check please when homosexuality stopped to be a legal offense in UK, Canada, US, and you (at lesat I did) will be surprised. I felt terribly when I knew about the fate of one of the gratest minds of 20th century: Allan Turing. If you don’t know, go to wikipedia and check.

    100 years ago people used to massively flee from Sweden, one of the worst place to live on the Earth. In Sweden the solution came from Marxists (not Leninists, but Marxists) who managed to create a state of welfare keeping the kingdomhood, thus, dear author, you never will know the name of the President of Sweeden,the head of Government is the prime-minister, as you will never know the president of Netherlands, Norway, or even Jamaica or Belize.

    Comparing Latin America with Europe is naive. 200 years ago European nations invested in Education among the top ones in the world, they say that there is a very high correlation between there investment then in education and their human development index today. At that time, slavery was rampant in Latin America, meaning that besides all other cruelties, scores of people were devoid of their culture, their tradition, their identity. Yes, perhaps one day we can have an anonymous president, perhaps one day we can afford to live in houses and leave the doors open. I do believe in that possibility, but dreaming that we can follow the steps of Europe just like that, is naive. I think that better than that, we need to ask ourselves is, given the reality of today, what can be done for our advance as societies. Jose Marti wrote in the 19 century “Ni Saint-Simon, ni Karl Marx, ni Marlo, ni Bakunin. Las reformas que nos vengan al cuerpo” (Neither Saint-Simon, nor Karl Marx, nor Marlo, or even Bakunin. The reforms that fit to our body). Perhaps this is a good guidance for many of us even today.

  • June 24, 2013 at 3:26 am
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    “Nobody in Switzerland clamours for the umpteenth re-election of a strongman.”

    I suggest you look at Swiss election results and the highly popular, racist, party SVP, which shows that a significant proportion would like a “stongman” to lead them (and are not that bothered about “re-election”, that’s not how they do things).

  • June 24, 2013 at 3:24 am
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    Hahaha. You assume I support the “cuban revolution” or the Cuban government? Wrong there. (And to suggest I’m employed by the Cuban government is 1. paranoia 2. shows something typical of much of the ‘opposition’ – anyone who disagrees with us about anything must be some kind of State-stalinist apologist and probably in your payy – exactly the same kind of bizarre, and clearly false, attitude the government take to most of you. No wonder C. Robinson lost his job!)

    The point made by the author is clear from the title and the opening paragraphs. But this premise is badly wrong. It at least shows the ‘politics of information’ of the Cuban government, where protests and strife abroad are very rarely reported on, just in case people at home might get ideas.

  • June 22, 2013 at 11:26 am
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    Red herring is a fallacy where one deviates the subject in question to another, without addressing the question. You did EXACTLY that.

    And BTW, even if Marxism was ‘dead’, certainly people like you wouldn’t be shooting at it, and ‘Capital vol. 1’ wouldn’t have its sales up to 300% in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/oct/15/marx-germany-popularity-financial-crisis

  • June 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm
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    Red herring? My comment was hardly irlevent, certainly no more than yours on the topic of this article. I simply addressed your failed Marxist ideology with which clouded your comments.

    And please Luis, stop trying to impress us by droppimg logical fallacy types into every other sentence. Not only are you being obvious, your also missaplying many of them in context.

  • June 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm
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    I, from the birthplace of Nelson Rodrigues who created the ‘stray dog complex’ do not understand what it means? You don’t know what you’re talking about, seriously. Alfredo is behaving like he was a stray dog, undermining his country’s worth while blindly taking certain ‘first world’ countries as being ‘paradises on Earth’, like ‘daggi’ said in another comment.

    This ‘Informed Consent’ post did not address my points, instead he attacked me instead, alas he attacked my ‘Marxism’ even though I’m not an orthodox Marxist, far from it. So without arguments to counter my ‘it’s because these countries have little geopolitical relevance’ he pulled out a shameless red herring.

  • June 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm
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    It’s ironic that you don’t fully seem to understand the Brazillian term ‘stray dog complex’. Informed Consent’s comment was spot on. Marxism is dead (which arguably assumes it was ever alive). Loud-mouth despots like Chavez and Fidel before him seem to always be long on rhetoric and short on results. Now, Venezuela’s Maduro is following in their ignominious footsteps. Remember his claims that the US had poisoned Chavez and he had proof of it? Speaking of proof, ready to put up or shut up as to my employ as a paid troll? There is a American term for people who just talk (or write) without substantiation… Blowhards

  • June 21, 2013 at 5:05 am
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    Sorry daggi, but you are missing the point. I don’t know where do you live, but I would not be surprised if it’s in some Cuban embassy abroad. One just need to look at the migration patterns to see what kind of societies people prefer. And these are not, believe me, the despotic, autocratic, dictatorial clownish states where the “leaders” are just capable of shouting louder than anyone else. And which you failed to criticize ignoring the main issue described by the article. You are beating around the bush or, as we Cubans say, “te fuiste por las ramas” mi socio.

  • June 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm
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    Are you for real? Come on, do my ‘Marxist ideology’ have anything to do with this? You pull out a shameless red herring out of your pocket for what, huh?

  • June 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm
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    Dude, are you for real? …what’s next banging a shoe on a podium? listen Luis your Marxist ideology is dead. It hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been tried. So sorry Luis buy Cuba’s gonna go the way of a free capitalist market very soon

  • June 20, 2013 at 10:33 am
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    Well said Daggi. I enjoy the different opinions from writers on the Havana Times from all political directions, but only when they actually make the impression they know what they are writing about.

    This article was one big fail from beginning to end. Editors: do you publish anything and everything?

  • June 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm
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    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.

    Hm, weeks of riots in “the ghettos” of Stockholm and other major urban centres of Sweden, due to unemployment, poverty and racism, over the last few weeks?

    Holland also has regular similar problems, which do just not get reported they are so much of a regular occurence. Racism and poverty and urban violence in particular. Finland, as Holland did, has a far-right political party which is doing very well and is capitalising on inequality and racism; Switzerland’s major party is similar.
    Norway has its problems as well.

    Sorry Alfredo, you needed an editor to chop out that first paragraph, but then the entire argument of the article would have vanished. Incidentally, writing from western Europe, I don’t know the names of the political leaders of many of those countries listed – though some of them are monarchies so they don’t have presidents. But their uneleceted Kings, Queens and Princes etc. are far too present in the media.

  • June 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm
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    It’s because these countries have ZERO geopolitical relevance nowadays, nothing less, nothing more. With the exception of Switzerland, which is the ‘bank’ of white-collar bandits and, as such, is run by corporate, almost-invisible ‘anonymous’ power, because the media focus on politicians and not those who pull the politicians’ strings.

    Stop this stray-dog complex.

  • June 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm
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    Can anyone explain to me why those who pursue an egalitarian ideology believe so strongly in hierachies and authoritarian structures? A president is someone who presides over a meeting nothing else. A collective society is best served by a collective leadership structure. The Swiss just voted against directly electing their own government winner take it all-style and leave it to parliament instead. In Switzerland there are just seven ministers representing the strength of the four main parties. If Venezuela had such a system many people could still be alive, possibly even Hugo Chavez. Nobody in Switzerland clamours for the umpteenth re-election of a strongman.

  • June 19, 2013 at 11:31 am
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    You could hardly expect the victorious rebels to allow Batista’s air force pilots, who had been bombing them in the Sierra Maestra and elsewhere, to walk away scott free!? At least Batista’s pilots were only given prison sentences, and fared far better, than the army officers of ’33 who, holed up in the Hotel Nacional, where slaughtered in the infamous “sargeant’s revolt” when they attempted to surrender.
    For the most part the judiciary–anywhere and everywhere–are rubber stamps for those who hold real economic and political power. Too bad F.D.R. was unable to “pack the (Supreme) court in the mid-1930’s. By the way, would you deny the people the right to re-elect their favorite again-and-again, as they did with F.D.R. from 1932 through 1944? Currently, whether the Repugs. or the Dems., both parties serve their corporate masters, so it matters little whether we elect the “bad cops” (i.e. Bush, Nixon, etc.) or the “good cops” (i.e. Obama, Clinton, etc.). Of course every now and again a true reformer appears, a “traitor to his class,” like F.D.R. (or the Bros. Grachii during the Roman Republic) who try to defend the interests of the working- and middle-classes.

  • June 19, 2013 at 11:04 am
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    I have asked my Cuban wife this question many times: “Why do Latin American leaders feel they have to yell when they give speeches?” She tells it is the culture. Raising your voice means you are passionate about what you are saying. Cubans have a saying that they always do things things “too much or too little”. I simply don’t think it is culturally possible for Cuba to support anything less than a loudmouth, egomaniacal strongman-type leader. For this reason many believe that Diaz-Canel is just a placeholder keeping the seat warm for Cuba’s next real President after Raul steps down. It’s a Latin ‘thing’.

  • June 19, 2013 at 9:29 am
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    An anonymous and democratic president that respects a truly democratic constitution is better than a flamboyant dictator that makes the headlines for his abuses. I rather have the president of Austria – whose name I don’t know – to Nicolas Maduro that makes headlines speaking to Chavez in the form of a bird.
    I also prefer the president of Finland – whose name I don’t know – to Correa of Ecuador that copies Cuban repressive laws (see the ley Mordazo). The Finnish guy respects freedom of speech.
    I prefer the president of Chile – whose name I don’t know – to Raul Castro, part of the infamous Cuban dynasty of dictators.
    I rather have a president that respect justice than one that uses the justice system as part and parcel of a repressive dictatorship.
    Lunacy and abuse are two good ways to get your name in the papers as an official. Neither I would want in a president of mine.

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