Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — The night of December 6th – and early morning of the 7th – in addition to marking a historical turning point, sent a particularly worrisome message to Cubans. The chief source of news was Venezuela’s pro-government Telesur. Personally, I’d never heard the word “democracy” repeated so many times by a broadcaster so fully committed to Castro-Chavismo.
Forced to acknowledge the opposition’s overwhelming victory, Nicolas Maduro outdid himself when he announced: “This is the twentieth election held in the profoundly democratic period that began in our country – one of the marvelous creations of the revolution.”
From Havana, Fidel Castro would later write: “I concur with the unanimous opinion of those who have congratulated you for your brilliant and courageous speech, after the election results were made known.”
In Cuba, people are now worried about the concrete and direct repercussions of this:
“Goodbye cheap oil, get ready for power cuts.”
“The medical doctors are on their way out, the trips and suitcases of purchases are gone.”
The week that began that fateful December 6 concluded with this dramatic balance in Cuba:
Cecile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office told EFE that “in the last fifteen days of the month alone, 1,500 detentions were carried out, while hundreds of these took place in November. We’ve been seeing a rise in detentions…some are very short and those detained are released within a few hours or days, but this sends a chilling message to human rights defenders and civil society activists.”
It is well worth mentioning that Venezuela has never been a socialist state – that is merely a project, an aspiration, a long road ahead. The country continued to be capitalist in essence, despite Hugo Chavez push towards socialism, and we’ve seen nearly two decades of a struggle surrounding the adoption of this model.
Maduro speaks of 20 elections, 18 won and 2 lost. It is essential to point out that the other defeat had to do with an attempt at a constitutional reform that would have taken the country in the direction of socialism (under the dictates of godfather Fidel Castro). At two crucial points, Venezuela has said ‘no’ to imitating Cuba – once under Chavez and now under his appointed successor.
The novelty in Venezuela’s process is the attempt to take advantage of representative democracy. To date, all Marxist-Leninist socialist systems – alive, dying or dead and gone – arrived on the scene through an armed struggle. The paradigm advanced by Che Guevara, establishing this as a requirement, has been kept alive in the conservative thinking of Cuba’s octogenarian leadership, even though the media discourse does not recognize such tenets.
The matter is now under close scrutiny at Havana’s Revolution Square, for it is truly alarming that not even Venezuela’s vast oil resources, which are completely administered by the Venezuelan State, seem enough to save Chavismo.
The growing difficulties faced by several center-left governments in Latin America are sending signals contrary to the forced optimism of the new left, which hides under a democratic flag. The exception is Bolivia, perhaps the most stable socialist project of the new wave that has shaken the American continent. That said, immortalized at La Higuera and Santa Clara, Che Guevara doesn’t seem to be planning any new insurrections on the continent.
History repeating itself? “Bourgeois democracy,” so maligned by Marxism-Leninism, remains the only viable political alternative. However, if it’s a question of evaluating its failures, the discourse that emanates from Havana repeats the same old slogans: the treachery of the powerful, Yankee imperialists and their domestic allies, mercenaries who always play dirty, is to blame. We should not forget that the current leader of Venezuelan socialists began his long account of current hardships mentioning “president and martyr Salvador Allende,” a victim of numerous protests in Santiago de Chile.
Maduro, Cabello, Jaua and other protegés will have to sort it out however they can. In Cuba, things are different: power was secured through an armed struggle and things will continue down that road. In the meantime, the spoiled children of the nomenclature continue to invest in luxury restaurants with money of dubious origins.
Our problem is different, a reform process said to advance slowly but surely. Soon, next to nothing will be left of the socialism proclaimed that April of 1961. With respect to democracy, the week that has just ended has confirmed that the Castro regime considers bourgeois political institutions “honorable,” so long as these operate far from home.
Vicente Morin Aguado. firstname.lastname@example.org