HAVANA TIMES — Popular Panamanian recording artist and politician Ruben Blades has had an exchange of words with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on the situation facing this South American country. Here is the latest, Blades’ response to Maduro, and below, Maduro’s remarks to Blades in a video (in Spanish).
Response to the President of Venezuela
Mr. President Maduro,
I had the opportunity to see a video (below) of you addressing me after a note [on Venezuela] I posted on my website.
I don’t usually answer comments, but I feel compelled to refer to your words by the concrete fact that in the video, you name me directly. I hope the video does not turn out to be a fake like those that abound on the internet these days, and if it was, I confess that it is very good quality.
With due respect to your status as President, and as such, the representative of a nation, I must start this note thanking you for the overall tone of your comments on my writing. I am pleased to sense from your kind gesture that you understood the good intentions of my thoughts, coming from heartfelt feelings for the Venezuelan people.
Without any desire to engage in an epistolary duel, I comment only to clarify some of the issues presented by you yesterday that concern me personally.
1. The comments expressed by me in relation to the difficult situation in Venezuela today are not derived from news from CNN or Univision or any other news source, “imperialist” or not. It came from letters, comments and reflections made by friends, in and out of Venezuela, and careful analytical reading of countless publications, both supportive and antagonistic of your government. The diverse nature of my reading material gives me a broad and objective basis for my views.
2. I have not joined, consciously or unconsciously, any plot by the CIA, nor am I part of any international lobby” seeking to create bad publicity for any government. I’m surprised to once again hear such accusations, well into the 21st century, when we should have overcome the issuing of labels. If I criticize someone who is considered leftist, I’m from the CIA; if I criticize someone who is considered rightwing, then I’m a communist; when I criticize militarism than I’m “subversive.”
3. I believe as a truth, that the late President Chavez demonstrated, with his consecutive electoral victories, the discrediting of the traditional political parties in Venezuela, and the desire for change expressed freely in the polls by the popular will.
It is also true that today Venezuela is not a united nation: it is a country whose population is politically polarized, a society steeped in obvious contradictions, with a government elected by a narrow margin, 1.49% that did not reach 51% of the votes of the about 80% of the electorate and with 20.32% not voting.
This government, however, is determined to impose a political / economic system (which I won’t support or oppose) that obviously is not accepted by the majority of the population. In a situation like this, it seems advisable to conduct a national consultation for the people to make their own decision. Without it, what is perceived is an imposition.
I think that your government, President Maduro, does not hold a majority representation to justify what it is doing to the country. On the other hand, the opposition, a mix of what existed in Venezuela’s political past and the new that today struggles to gain respect and be taken into account, are not a handful of fascists, as you have intended to project. It is a vital amount of people.
In these circumstances, the reality of Venezuela today is like a home where the family is divided with rooms where the other half cannot live in or set foot in. The Venezuela of today is not the nation that all its inhabitants want: it is a version of a country only supported by 50% of the population, taking into account the total votes cast in the election of 2013. That reality determines the need to consider a modification of the current course, looking for a balance that allows for the development of the nation on its own terms, more realistic and less aggressive, a Venezuela where cries of “Homeland or Death” are not necessary among brothers and sisters.
4. As the Chavistas self-defined themselves as “Socialists”, we must assume that they know what they are saying and have studied the social theories of Marx and Engels in experimental proposals of socialism and communism, especially in Russia, after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. They should know, for example, the comments made by Vladimir Ilich Lenin in his pamphlet entitled “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder” (this title is not a Borges style artifice, it came from Lenin himself and if you don’t believe it, ask Fidel, he must have read it).
In that essay Lenin cites errors committed in the name of leftism by not considering the objective circumstances when making decisions, and worse, the historical consequences stemming from an inability to recognize and correct such errors. He describes how, in 1918, comrades Radek and Bukharin, leading representatives of the so-called “Communist Left”, were forced to publicly acknowledge their mistake of not understanding or initially accepting that the argument for the Treaty of Brest, did not necessarily constitute a compromise with the imperialists, but obeyed to a particular political need for the objective conditions of the moment, something that Lenin described as a “do ut des,” (I give you one so you return the favor).
The metaphor that Lenin makes on assailants and assaulted clarifies the argument very well. Is the agreement Venezuela has with “imperialism” not , perhaps, a “do ut des” in the case of the oil it supplies to the United States in exchange for the dollars needed by the country’s economy?
5. This same approach would indicate that, under these circumstances, it is not appropriate that your government impose its wishes, or be unaware of, or pretend to ignore, the validity of the arguments raised by your Venezuelan critics. I do not think repression, censorship or the demagogic appeal will produce a rational response to an objective situation. Such an attitude will only cause more violence, which would generate the possibility of lawlessness and a political vacuum that could be filled with a coup by the military, the only institution with the organizational capacity and coercive power to address the resulting institutional and civil chaos.
6. I have never been, am not, and never will be in agreement with armed interventions from armies of any country in the internal affairs of our nations. I say this categorically. My country has suffered this evil, and I do not condone it in any way.
7. Although I appreciate your invitation to visit Venezuela, I do not consider it appropriate to accept at this time. Such a visit could be considered as an endorsement of your management and the position of your government. Similarly, neither would I accept an invitation to that effect by those who oppose you, not now. And to further clarify this point, I have also received important work offers to go to Venezuela this year, and likewise, I have rejected them because it does not seem right to do so under the current circumstances in the country.
8. As for the “Venezuelan soul,” [you referred to] Mr. President, and the nobility of its people, I know it very well because I carry it inside, without labels, with my Panamanian and Latin American soul. That argument does not enter into this discussion. Besides, that soul accompanies me both inside and outside that noble country since my first visit there in the 1960s. And it increases with age and is rekindled by my friendship with Cesar Miguel Rondon, Pedro Leon Zapata, the late, but still friend, José Ignacio Cabrujas, Jonathan Yakubowicz, Edgar Ramirez, Budu, Oscar de Leon, Clarita Campins, Marilda Vera, Gustavo Dudamel, Ozzy Guillen, the great Luis Aparicio, in my admiration for Don Simón Díaz- whose disappearance just today we must mourn – Aldemaro Romero , Professor Abreu and many other great displays of talent, ability and nobility of the people of the land of Bolivar.
They all reinforce the presence in me of that soul. And perhaps none resonates inside me more representatively than my dear friend, Luis Santiago, who left us young during the tragedy of La Guaira ’99. He will be young forever, just like the exemplary inspiration raised by the youth of El Sistema, the group of orchestras and vocal ensembles, all wonderful examples of what can be accomplished with hard work, discipline and hope to be better. Without a big fuss or demagoguery, and guided by Venezuelan teachers, the popular sector demonstrates its world-class quality.
I don’t need to go to Venezuela to find its soul, because, for a long time now, it goes with me wherever I go.
9. The claim that under governments of what is called the left more opportunities are created for the popular sector is not without credibility. In general, governments said to be on the right care more about their individual interests than those of the people they allegedly represent. But I think there are different versions which define the empowerment of which you speak (understanding that “empower” means the ability to make and enable) to “Pablo Pueblo” that I describe in my song.
One thing is creating space for their dignity and their rights to be respected. Another is providing the opportunity to develop their skills, not only with subsidies that make them dependent on others or promote the worst instincts that we all possess. For me, the real social revolution is delivering the best quality of life for all, which meets the needs of the human species including the need to be recognized and to reach the stage of self-realization, delivering opportunity without expecting servitude in return. That, unfortunately, has not yet happened with any revolution.
I express my opinions to you, Mr. President, without hatred, without hidden agendas, ironies, or surreptitious interests. I reiterate my gratitude for the tone of your conversation and giving your valuable time to consider the words of this Panamanian from Latin America.
I end with a kind of plea to the battling factions in Venezuela: start adding and stop subtracting. Likewise, for an end to the insults and diatribes, so Venezuelans can start talking; silence is the best preamble to a reasoned dialogue.
Long Live Venezuela!
February 20, 2014