Confederados / Colette Capriles


In one corner of the mapamundi, or of the international news agencies, Latin America reveals itself, wrapped, as it has been since its invention, within a chiaroscuro that feeds all the projections of the West. The continent of imperfect modernization, in other words, of dead utopias, repeating, now in the 21st century, its same history of fragile governments and phantasmal masses. The left and the right of happy societies maintain, without acknowledging it, the same languid glance over us: the left enjoys the great opportunity of promoting itself through Latin American resentment; the right deplores it, but both of them coincide that, as the common citizen in Argentina during the dictatorship would say about those who left their homes and never returned, “there must be some reason.” We deserve the eternal tragedy of petty tyrants, because we haven’t known how to emerge from tyrannies and we even vote for them. Excellent reasoning.

Things are like that, we’re guilty of being victims, and this conviction is so intense that it frightens off the perception of history, so that not even the most informed of the foreign observers seem capable of recalling let’s not say the “achievements” of American societies, but at least the tremendous efforts we’ve made to bear that supersonic process of building nations from the ruins of an empire, that is, on a structure that was left suddenly emptied of any sense.

The victims should receive their redemption, or more accurately, their redeemer. And thus benevolence towards voluntarism is woven (because it’s always about that, about having the will to change) and tolerance towards the cruel social experimentation that has taken place on the continent. Congratulations, you have won a new constitution! Just in time, step inside to pick up your reloaded caudillo! As long as the perception of the victim as the central perspective for interpreting the American world is not disarticulated, we will continue to drag ourselves through the delusions of a grandeur that, unjustly of course, we never had.

Like everything else that happens around here lately, the image of Mr. Castro and Mr. Chávez sitting cozily as if they were family but, instead of chatting about the vicissitudes of the grandkids, talking about the Latin American epic, can’t be any more incredible or lamentable. Castro’s legacy undoubtedly includes the indulgence of the global left who saw him as the living fossil through which they stumbled upon the unpleasant topic of Stalinism. Castro secluded in his island, Stalin a corpse in his mausoleum, we the “modern” left with no account to give. But with the inheritor, empowered by oil and extending his chubby humanity throughout the confines of the territory, the horizon of expectations becomes more complicated. Or maybe it is simplified: when the President announces the “confederation” between Cuba and Venezuela, perhaps he’s sending the most musical message progressives around the world could ever hear. He’s saying that with Venezuelan oil Cuban “socialism” will cease being the monstrous failure it has been for fifty years, and just like the transfusions that saved Castro’s life, it will be injected into the continent. In this way it relieves the bad conscience of those who in the name of social justice have ratified the Cuban dictatorship and its dead, announcing for them the arrival at the Promised Land. Chávez would then be a type of capitalist partner for Castro’s social design; the executive producer for the blockbuster production of the final redemption.

But the most important element for explaining Castro’s seizure of power in 1959 is Cuban nationalism. It wasn’t the military factor (the rebels fought against a demoralized Army that had no operational capacity) nor of course the economic factor (the Cuban standard of living was far ahead of the rest of Latin America). For the way in which the Cuban temperament has been built, the idea of being subjected to a foreign will is simply unacceptable. There’s plenty of room for the sale, rent or concession of the Castro franchise, but not for submission to another country’s politics. The “confederation” can only be conceived as the subordination of Venezuela.

{ Colette Capriles, El Nacional, 18 October 2007 }

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