The Significance of Cuban Academic Esteban Morales Recovering His Party Card

Patricia Grogg

Esteban Morales. Photo: Patricia Grogg/IPS

HAVANA TIMES, July 15 (IPS) – Cuban historian and columnist Esteban Morales, who was reinstated as a member of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) after being expelled a year earlier for writing articles about corruption in the country, said he would continue exercising his right to express criticism, as the duty and moral obligation of “any revolutionary intellectual.”

“The message sent out by the PCC’s decision to reinstate me is that we don’t have to just live with problems, but should discuss them, denounce them and analyze them within the party and publicly, because that is the best way to help our country,” especially at difficult moments like the one we are currently facing, Morales told IPS.

Morales, an expert on questions like racism and the conflict-ridden relations between Cuba and the United States, wrote two articles last year on the risks posed by corruption, which he described as “much more dangerous than the so-called internal dissidents” in this one-party socialist state.

Its “corrosive power” makes corruption a matter of “national security,” he wrote at the time.

The first of the articles, published in April 2010 on the web site of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), was removed after a few days, but was reposted later – interpreted by many as a tacit disagreement with the PCC’s decision to expel Morales.

In the second article, which came out in July, the academic confirmed that he had been penalized, announced that he was exercising his right to appeal, and warned that “corruption undermines people’s faith in their leaders” and is “the biggest internal threat that we are currently facing” because it leads to “ethical, moral, political and ideological deterioration.”

But on Jul. 7 he posted a brief statement on his blog announcing that a few days earlier he had been called to a meeting in which the PCC Central Committee appeals commission informed him that the order expelling him from the party had been revoked.

“This has been a difficult time, but one of great learning,” he wrote.

The news had already been the focus of comments on social networks, among friends and PCC members.

“He’s among us again with his red card,” Sandra Álvarez commented on her blog. “Now I want to see him on Mesa Redonda (Cuba’s nightly political talk show) talking about race relations in Cuba,” remarked the blogger, who like Morales is black.

Comments on Olivarez’s blog included one by Julio Texas, who wrote that “something is happening in a party that is capable of recognizing, as a structure, such an enormous blunder,” and another by Mayra Rubio, who described Morales as “an upright man who is true to his convictions.”

One veteran communist confided to IPS that he believed the case holds positive signs for the debate in the heart of the party, whose first secretary, President Raul Castro, urged it to undergo a change in mentality. “There is no way to carry out a process like this without tensions,” he said.

In Morales’s view, revoking the order to expel him was an encouraging and smart move by the party, which was also respectful of a diversity of opinions within the revolution.

“But I must not reach the simple conclusion based on this that I was right in my comments. That would be very superficial. As a militant, I simply did what I believed I had to do, and assumed the consequences,” he said.

He added that, in the face of Castro’s constant calls for Cubans to take a critical stance towards problems and put an end to the culture of secrecy, “I was confident and had no doubt that what I had expressed in my articles would at some point be analyzed in a just manner.”

“This rectification forms part of the progress we have made in the process of critical analysis of our reality,” Morales, who is a political analyst, economist and member of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, told IPS in his first statements to an accredited foreign media outlet after he was reinstated.

In his opinion, the capacity of people, especially within the ranks of the PCC, who are qualified to analyze issues, offer critiques and propose solutions must be taken advantage of.

“We shouldn’t wait for our issues, no matter how complex they may be, to be dealt with by others, with the intention of causing us harm,” he said. “The issues of our reality shouldn’t be given away, we have to debate them,” and come up with solutions, from a revolutionary standpoint, he added.

This year began with the January trial and sentencing to up to 14 years in prison of directors and vice directors of the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, considered a shining symbol of Cuba’s much lauded health care system, for abandonment and neglect of minors, disabled and ill people, and embezzlement, which led to the deaths of 27 patients.

In addition, several dozen officials and employees of Cuban companies and joint ventures were tried and convicted of corruption, including a former minister, a former vice minister and at least three foreign businesspeople.

In 2009, the president created a special Comptroller General’s Office to audit and investigate public companies. Headed by Gladys Bejerano, vice president of the Council of State, the Office was tasked with exercising closer scrutiny and taking direct action in response to any sign of corruption.

Morales does not rule out the possibility that the PCC National Conference, slated for April 2012, will include in its agenda an analysis of reports on corruption and the measures that have been taken to combat it. “I think war has been declared on this problem, which could generate a very tense, difficult internal situation,” he commented.

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