Interview with Ambassador Rogelio Polanco: US and the Progressive Revival of Latin America, Balance and Perspectives

CRBZ violent escalation of the elite led by the U.S. government is not limited to Venezuela. Their plan to retake neocolonial rule over Latin America implies intervention in our countries to overthrow dignified and sovereign governments, put puppet governments in place, and prevent the return to power of progressive, popular, and anti-imperialist currents. In the development of this plan, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua are the main objectives. The intensification of the aggressive rhetoric of the United States towards Cuba and the announcement of new unilateral and illegal coercive measures against this brother country are the most recent actions in that direction.

In this context, Prensa de la Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora spoke with the Cuban ambassador in Venezuela, Rogelio Polanco. Here is the interview.

How does Cuba read the current coercive measures announced by the U.S. and what implications do they have for the Cuban people?

The current unilateral coercive measures announced by the US against Cuba are a continuation of the traditional aggressive policy of the US administrations, and in particular of this Trump administration, which has insisted on reversing the advances that had been achieved with the Obama administration, which allowed for recognition of the Cuban government, its sovereignty and independence, the establishment of diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies in both countries and the beginning of conversations and agreements on different matters of reciprocal benefit to our two countries, as well as the possibility of establishing a dialogue on an equal footing between the US and Cuba.

The Trump administration, as part of its aggressive policy against the rest of the world and in particular against Latin America, has dust off the Monroe doctrine and is developing an aggression against the progressive governments of the continent and especially against Venezuela. Thus, it has adopted this series of measures. The most recent have to do with the activation of title III of the infamous Helsm-Burton Law, which in Cuba is known as the Slavery Law, because it has sought for more than 20 years to take Cuba back to the condition of neocolonial subordination to the United States and to overthrow the revolution, sovereignty and independence of Cuba. Added to this are measures to make it more difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba (the only country in the world where a U.S. citizen is prevented from travelling), and at the same time restrictions, for Cuban citizens residing in that country, on sending remittances, as well as sanctions against Cuban companies of a different nature, which add up to about 200 more that the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned.

The recent measures were announced in a location with a very particular audience: Miami, the remnants of the 2506 brigade of mercenaries from Playa Girón, defeated 58 years ago, and in the context of what is already the electoral policy of the current administration in the preserve that for them has been Florida and the Cuban community in the United States, in a totally fabricated and ridiculous environment, which goes against the interests of the American nation and the Cuban community itself, which as we know, has changed from the demographic point of view and today is in favor of a normal relationship with its country of origin and the lifting of the blockade.

These measures also go against the traditional pronouncements of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which for 26 consecutive years has rejected the continuation of the US blockade of Cuba and especially the Helms-Burton Act, which is also the object of questioning by the US allies themselves because it seeks in its title III, starting next May 2, to open the possibility of lawsuits being filed in U.S. courts against citizens and companies from third countries who have investments in Cuba in properties that were nationalized by our revolution in the early 1960s, in accordance with the law of our country, and also includes citizens who were first Cuban citizens and then became U.S. citizens, seeking to retroactively apply this decision.

Of course this is illegal and extraterritorial, and it has been condemned for all these years. In fact, several US administrations have prevented its implementation, by suspending Title III, because of the implications it would have had for US companies in third countries and for their relations with their allies.

These measures have a great negative effect on our economy and will cause harm to our people, to the people of the United States and to the Cuban citizens residing in that country. They are part of the attempt to force Cuba, by way of pressure, to reverse our principles and our foreign policy. The pretext on this occasion is, among others, Cuba’s solidarity support for Venezuela.

On the basis of repugnant lies and slander, including the alleged presence of Cuban military and security forces in Venezuela, the alleged participation of thousands of our collaborators in illegal activities inside Venezuela, and atrocious manipulation to attempt to present our compatriots who serve internationally in Venezuela, and who have been generously received by the Venezuelan people, as thugs, in total disregard for the solidarity professed by Cuba and Venezuela, and also trying in a humiliating way to curtail the sovereignty and independence of our sister country Venezuela.

That is why we have made a resounding condemnation and rejection of these statements, and we have asked the world, international organizations, multilateral organizations, all people of good will, intellectuals, politicians, social movements throughout the world, to reject this manipulation that includes pressure from the U.S. to certain Latin American governments and other countries to allege these lies as a means of denouncing and questioning Cuba bilaterally and multilaterally.

This is part of the US escalation to try to dismantle the progressive processes that have taken place in Latin America in recent years and to prevent progressive governments in the continent from remaining in power, or returning to power, by applying lies, media and economic warfare, the use of coups d’état of all kinds and all the mechanisms of US power to prevent the voice of popular sovereignty from having its presence again in the governments of our America.

The US cynically asserts that the real imperialism that threatens the continent is Cuban imperialism. And it is cynical because to speak of imperialism and to invoke it in relation to Cuba is the demonstration, first, of a lack of knowledge of the history of our Latin America, and it is even more so when Bolton himself affirms that the Monroe doctrine remains alive, when we know that on the basis of this doctrine the most aggressive actions, invasions, massacres, interventions in our continent were carried out, which resulted in the massacre of thousands of people, numerous political leaders who were assassinated, disappeared, governments subjected to US policy, bloody coups d’état. That is the balance of the Monroe doctrine, and that the US shamelessly proclaims it at the height of the 21st century demonstrates its total ignorance of the history of the region and the political culture of our peoples, and the utter shamelessness of the current leaders of the US government, who think they can bring history back to that nefarious time of bloody garrotes in Latin America.

In this context of aggression by the U.S. government and in this global dispute between the United States and Russia and China, what perspective do you see regarding Latin American unity and integration and the revival of the progressive current in the continent?

History must be seen in its broadest perspective, in its widest scope. We would have to see what we have advanced if we compare ourselves with the time when this entire region was part of a great Spanish colony and later North American and other mainland metropolises and how much progress has been made since the idea of the unity of our peoples was launched by our forerunners such as Simón Bolívar and other illustrious heroes of Venezuela and all of our America until recent times. There has been no greater advance in all these centuries than in the last two decades.

The United States has always claimed that Latin America is its backyard, its closest security zone, its vital enclave. Therefore, those totally interventionist doctrines, which link very well with the doctrines of manifest destiny, of ripened fruit, are today attempting to be re-edited. But it is going to cost them much more effort because there is an already lived experience in Latin America and there can be ebbs and flows in the political processes, of transformation and of changes that have been taking place for decades. There is also a lesson learned for the revolutionary, progressive, leftist, liberating and anti-hegemonic movement in its broadest expression in Latin America.

I believe that in comparison with other regions of the world, there is no doubt the advances in consciousness, in organization, in the ability to experiment with different experiences when human history was considered finished with the fall of a form of socialism such as that of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which resurfaced with the Bolivarian revolution, with Commander Chavez and the political processes of change by peaceful means, through constitutional changes, with democratic participation of the broad majorities, with efforts to bring to the people improvements in their material and spiritual living conditions, I believe that these are transformations that had not occurred so clearly and so evidently in all history. And from the institutional point of view, the creation of organizations and institutions for integration, unity and solidarity in our region is unprecedented.

The fact that today we see the use by US imperialism of the old Organization of American States is a demonstration that they have had to resort to their old and already totally discredited instruments of domination. With these old and worn instruments they have had difficulty exercising their new hegemony and therefore they have had to seek the old adage of “divide and conquer”, of trying to introduce a wedge in the advances achieved in the integration processes to impede the progress that has taken place in the last two decades in Latin America and that undoubtedly responds to a concrete historical reality: The neoliberal policies imposed by governments servile to the United States, either with its consent or subordinated to its policy, led our peoples to situations of extreme violence that caused uprisings, either from the real point of view or from the electoral point of view, to different nations and brought to power leaders and political processes of another kind.

We have seen the extreme attempt of imperialism and its allies to bring down these political processes of change by means of interference, foreign intervention, coups d’état -with a different style but with the same objective, economic war, the so-called unconventional war, which includes another series of new elements such as media warfare, psychological warfare, at a much higher level, let’s say, of interference than in previous times, and also with the threat of the use of force. They have reached the levels of imprisoning political leaders, discrediting them, engaging in a whole process of demonization of the forces that supported them, and yet they are not satisfied with what they have achieved. The regimes that they have imposed on that basis today demonstrate their instability, the imperialists cannot boast that those right-wing governments that came to power in recent times are stable or consolidated.

So we cannot view political processes in a narrow or short-sighted dimension, but rather in a broader perspective, within a horizon that allows us to analyze them in a more strategic, more structural way.

I believe that we must also recognize that in some political processes mistakes have been made in the execution of policies, either for endogenous reasons or provoked by permanent external aggression. The political processes of change and transformation have not been able to manifest themselves in all their dimensions, nor have they achieved all of the scope that they could have had due, to a large extent, to permanent aggression, to the attempts to undermine them, to subvert them on the part of imperialism. But at the same time these political processes have also been victorious, they have had new lessons in the long struggle for justice, because this is a long centennial struggle in favour of justice for the human being, who today has more experience of both successes and defeats. Therefore, more political processes will come, we strive for that, and more mature, more popular and stronger from recent experience.

What challenges do we face in order to attain this achievement?

There is a great challenge of organization and popular participation in the processes of transformation and change. The ability of progressive leftist political forces to bring together the broadest sectors of society whom they intend to lead or take to higher social stages is key. The need for a strategic unity, for a unity with a greater scope, to avoid or limit sectarianism, the conflicts that disunite us, that limit our capacity to reach higher goals, I believe that this is one of the most important elements for the progressive, left-wing, revolutionary movements of Latin America. The always necessary and often postponed debate on the unity of forces: how far? who? how inclusive? how broad is this process of unity? on what basis should it be established?

I think the recent lessons force us to extract many insights into this. To the extent that secondary, subordinate elements have put us in opposition to each other and have evaded the main unitary objective, our strengths have been weakened and our opponents’ work has also played a role there.

And another very important issue, I would say that it is the issue of managing a new economy, of a new generation of material wealth to guarantee the real sustainability of our economies and of our political processes of change, with a new way of relating that limits the action of capital and capitalism and predatory imperialism. There is one of the most complex elements that is pending for the movements of the left, of revolutionaries. How can we generate greater wealth – not only distribute it – in a more equitable and fairer way? How can we generate it in a different, sustainable way, a way in which workers have a greater participation in the generation of this wealth, with environmental sustainability?

And at the same time, there is a third challenge, which is the cultural, ideological, spiritual challenge for the political processes of change. A new economy or a new social and popular organization is not possible without a new identity, a new culture, new ideas that put aside the cultural hegemony of capitalism and imperialism.

Today Cuba is going through a profound process of renewal of the revolution, which has led to a new constitution. What perspectives and challenges does Cuba have in this process?

A revolution can only be called that when it is in permanent evolution and renewal. The Cuban revolution has had the permanent challenge of remaking itself over and over again. It arose in concrete historical circumstances, in terms of the development of our society and of humanity, by means of armed struggle it brought the popular classes to power and signified a watershed in the life of our nation, for the rights won, for the gains achieved for our people, in particular, sovereignty, the independence that was long yearned for by our nation, which finally came to fruition with the revolutionary triumph of January 1. Our revolution has been permanently evolving and changing, transforming itself according to the needs of our people and to our own regional and international historical conditions. The most recent process of this transformation responds to the fact that the revolution has required a political, economic, social and cultural renewal. There is a demographic change in Cuba. The historical generation that fought with arms for the revolutionary triumph and led for decades the process of socialist society in Cuba and the confrontation with the imperialist enemy, and the material and cultural transformation of our society, is naturally taking steps towards new generations. The people remain in power, because it is the essence of our revolution, but the actors, the leaders at different levels have been renewed as part of a natural process of generational change and for which the historical generation itself has been responsible, that is a demonstration of maturity and responsibility. The main leaders were always very conscious that the revolution was not the work of an individual but a work of the masses, as a collective vanguard and leadership body. That is what we are seeing today. The historical enemy of Cuba tried to personalize the political processes. In the case of Cuba, the enemy wagered that in the physical absence of the main leaders the revolutionary process would succumb, which has been disproved by recent history itself. We have had the privilege that our main leaders have had a long life and have had direct participation in the processes of consolidation of the revolutionary institutions during these years, and that together with them the leaders of the following generations have coexisted and have had increasingly greater responsibilities. So today we can see this process of continuity of the revolution without tragedies, without breakdowns, without ruptures. It is easy to say, but to have done so is a colossal task.

In recent years in Cuba there has been a great national debate with widespread popular participation. First of all on the methods and instruments for the economic development of our country. A country blockaded and with limited natural resources, financial resources, access to technology, has had to invent, create, innovate, and in this permanent process of creation we have attempted to create new and different methodologies.

Recently, at the party congresses in 2011 and 2016, a debate was held on the guidelines of the party’s economic and social policy and the revolution, following widespread popular participation, where some new ideas were put forward to dynamize our economy: greater participation of the non-state sector, greater autonomy of the socialist state enterprise to make it more efficient, and for the generation of wealth to be more effective, the application of new methods of management of our economy, which are planned, but which allow coexistence with elements and actors of the market, limited to the conditions of our socialist society. All this has been experienced during these years, and therefore, taking the necessary correctives, we have considered updating the Cuban economic model.

It is not a reform that is in total contradiction with what has been achieved so far, but rather it critically analyzes those elements that may have had errors in their execution and broadens the field of action of other actors in our economy. From there, the expansion of self-employment, the creation and greater participation of foreign investment within the country, complementarity with other forms of ownership. All this had to be reflected in a new constitution, so that it would have legitimacy and legality in our law of laws, because one of the fundamental elements in the discussion of the new constitution promulgated recently is that Cuba is a socialist state of law, and this is very important. A socialist state because its principle is the participation of the people in decision-making, the search for greater justice and greater participation of the people, in the creation and distribution of national wealth, our sovereignty and independence, but at the same time the possibility that this is based on law, on the legislation established in the nation.

But also from a political point of view it was necessary to update our state structures and the way popular power has been established in the country since the first socialist constitution of 1976. Therefore, some experiences that have not been as successful have required a renewal to seek, for example, a greater autonomy of municipalities, a greater strength for territories at the municipal level, which aims to bring the people closer to decision making. On the other hand, the structure of the state also required adjustments. We have established, for example, the creation of the figure of the president of the republic for the leadership of the state and the prime minister and deputy prime ministers for the leadership of the government, which would allow a better structuring of the work of the state and the executive work of the government, together with greater activism of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State. At the same time, different structures are being established at provincial levels that allow for greater responsibility, autonomy and participation to go to municipalities and relieve some of the responsibilities of provincial structures.

On the other hand, we are moving towards an extraordinary and growing expansion of the rights of our citizens. Our constitution recognized important citizen rights, but we think that the normative effort of the current constitution, after a great national debate, has allowed us to significantly expand the rights of Cuban citizens in order to achieve greater equality and justice, eliminate any vestige of discrimination in our society, and give citizens greater tools and instruments to defend their rights through our institutions of justice. For example, something that the new constitution prides itself on is clearly establishing all that is related to due process, which was enshrined in other legal regulations but not in the body of the constitution. We think that having achieved all these rights won by our people in all areas of social life will give constitutional rank to the rights of citizens, making our constitution more secure.

We are in a process of transformation, of change, which has been very well accepted by our people, because it has not been imposed but has been on the basis of the debate that, in addition, after the process in which more than 8 million people participated, who made more than 1700000 interventions, the initial draft constitution was changed by 60% in terms of its articulation as a result of the debate, which illustrates a broadly democratic exercise, and in turn that result, after being taken to the National Assembly, which then goes on to the Constituent Assembly, the last version was submitted to popular referendum and was approved with a magnificent result of 86% in favour of the constitutional text, which demonstrates the resounding support of our people for that postulate and for the principles specified therein.

And the constitutional text approved by the people now establishes a series of transitional provisions in which a good part of the complementary legislation is clearly regulated. There is even a fundamental element that was the object of much debate in relation to marriage. It appears in one of the transitional provisions, that this issue will be brought to the family code and in turn discussed extensively by the population and then taken to popular referendum within a maximum period of two years. There are other provisions, related for example to the electoral law or the penal code, where terms are established to be updated after the adoption of the constitution. There is also an effort in the political discourse of the leadership of the revolution and the State to reaffirm that it is not only a question of having a constitution and complementary laws, but that their practical application by institutions, officials and citizens is the essence of success, because a society is only feasible from the normative and juridical point of view if a true culture is achieved in this respect, and from the party and the institutional framework, everything is subject to the constitutional text and will act in accordance with the postulates of the constitution and the laws.

Translation by Internationalist 360°