Alba Rico, Syria and the Black Hole

Erasmo Calzadilla

Santiago Alba Rico. photo:

HAVANA TIMES — For more than a year (since January 2011), Syria has been submerged a bloody conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people and produced much suffering, missing and displaced individuals, and everything else associated with war.

Since the inception of this strife, the Cuban press has been feeding us such a simplistic version of the situation that one would have to be either naïve or a media captive to accept it.

On one side they present the bad guys, mercenaries for imperialism, who are fighting against the government forces under the command of a reasonable president. The real Syrians of course support Al-Assad.

Years ago maybe I would have swallowed the whole thing, but today I’m a privileged Cuban who has regular access to the Internet, so it isn’t so easy to manipulate me.

Rummaging around cyberspace I’ve come across more interesting and credible approaches, like that of the Spanish philosopher and political scientist Santiago Alba Rico, who publishes on the Rebelion website.

Without beating around the bush, Alba Rico denounces the criminal role of governments and the “Western” media, but he also recognizes and supports the existence of a genuine and justified popular insurrection against the Syrian government.

He fervently the supports “alternative” and left media sources, such as Telesur and Al-Jazeera, however, but he has criticized the support his ideological siblings have given to Al-Assad and previously to Qaddafi.

In his own words:

“Sometimes we can’t think of anything else but to resort to lies or, even more, to denial: denying the killings of the Syrian regime or the existence of a legitimate popular uprising and lying about Gaddafi or Al-Assad, who are often presented as champions of anti-imperialism, humanism and socialism (using the media for this purpose, like the media we denounce, to spread all kinds of false, falsified, incomplete and manipulated data).”

“Is it honest to suggest that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is democratic? Do we want to somehow deny that he is as dictatorial — and for the same reasons — as was Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines or Somoza in Nicaragua? It’s not honest and I don’t think that it’s befitting of us.”

I appreciate the work of this honest and astute thinker. I would like to congratulate him, offer him encouragement and suggest that he not be bothered by the malicious and disrespectful attacks inflicted by his doctrinaire comrades.

What about Cuba?

On several occasions this political scientist has publicly expressed his enthusiasm for the regime in our country. Earlier this year he participated in the meeting of intellectuals with Fidel and said there:

“I’m one of those dislocated Europeans who for many years have been supporting Cuba, for the reasons you just outlined quite well, because it’s perhaps the only country whose politics are based on ethical principles, on selfless internationalism and the true protection of human rights.” (*)

This is quite curious. To demonstrate the tyrannical character of the Syrian government (and justify the popular insurgency) the analyst drew on arguments (here called “bourgeois”) such as the lack of freedom of the press, along with the absence of a multi-party system and opposition candidates in elections.

In the Arab world it’s a sign of tyranny, but here it is “ethical” and evidence of “human rights.”

This system of ours is amazing in its capability to woo and disarm the most caustic thinkers. I would call it the black hole of intelligence.

(*) It goes without saying that while other intellectuals go out of their way in praising the El Comandante, Santiago Alba Rico has been possibly the only discordant note in calling attention to (according to him) the erroneous position taken by the “progressive” governments of America regarding the conflict in Syria.

4 thoughts on “Alba Rico, Syria and the Black Hole

  • Tell me, Dr. Freud, is there any place which qualifies for, as Dr. Pangloss put it, “the best of all possible worlds”? Tell me if there is any place which qualifies as having “full participation in a country or organization’s life of all thinking streams with complete rights for ideological, political, racial, and other national minoritiies… “etc. etc.? I don’t think even Gulliver encountered such a place. If you have, pray tell, please let us know.

  • Dear Landis said: “As far as Cuba is concerned, to me it appears to be moving away from centralized state socialism and towards a more democratic model.”
    For you information, democracy means full participation in a country or organization’s life of all thinking streams with complete rights for ideological, political, racial, and other national minorities….. democracy means no exclusion, no repression, no incarceration of opponents or dissidents.

  • Even without as much access to the internet as surrounding countries, through flashdrives, workplace access and black-market access, modern technology is making the PCC’s monopoly on information increasingly irrelevant–especially among the younger generations. Still, even here it is difficult to arrive at the truth. It requires an active search through a variety of sources.
    A curious sidelight: my family has been hosting a Lebanese exchange student for the past year. She lives in a city only a short distance from the Syrian-Lebanese frontier. Shortly after she arrived here last Summer, when I commented on the situation in Syria, she made it clear she supported Al-Assad 100%, intimating that only he was protecting the Shia minority from the Sunni. Since then, I’ve kept my opinions to myself, but now realize how more complicated is the Syrian reality. Of course the Sunni are the majority, haven’t had any real voice in power and how it is used, and have been repressed. I have no doubt that they will win; however, once they do, I’m equally as certaint that they will wreak vengeance on not only Al-Assad’s followers, but on all other minorities, much the way the Libyans are now wreaking havoc on the loosing tribes–and especially on all the sub-Saharan immigrants who came to Libya seeking a better life when Gaddafi was still in power.
    As far as Cuba is concerned, to me it appears to be moving away from centralized state socialism and towards a more democratic model.
    Finally, even our first president, George Washinton, warned against the poisonous and “factitios” atmosphere created by political parties. Of course neither he, nor the other Children of the En lightenment who made our own Revolution, could foresee how the wealth and power of the multi-national corporations would utterly corrupt the political process in the U.S.A.

  • Many of my left-leaning friends, including one US Congresswoman, believe the same of Cuba as Alba Rico and yet are critical of Al-Assad. Why? Because the information which leaves Cuba regarding infant mortality and literacy rates, medical diplomacy, and low drug trafficking appear to trump whatever government repression news that manages to leak out. In addition, the whole tropical paradise image also serves to round the edges. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about the week they spent on the beach in Syria? Finally, the fact that Cuba has survived 50 years of embargo imposed by the most powerful nation in the world evokes respect if not sympathy for its tenacity regardless of whether you agree or not with the Castro government. Of course, this free pass can turn in a flash should the Cuban government embark upon a large-scale repression of opposition voices instead of the one or two at a time method in use today.

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