Pablo Sepúlveda Allende
OT Editorial note: Orinoco Tribune does not publish articles that are over two weeks old, but sometimes we make exceptions. The following note was originally published almost three years ago; however, with the victory of Gabriel Boric in the Chilean presidential race on Sunday, we consider it important to take another look at it. In the midst of the joyous celebrations in Chile for Boric’s win against pinochetista Kast, and perhaps as a response of memory to some who are exaggerating too much about the president-elect to compare him with Salvador Allende, with Pablo Neruda or with other icons of the international left, a text by doctor Pablo Sepúlveda Allende, grandson of Chile’s former President Salvador Allende who was overthrown and assassinated in 1973, has been circulating on social media as well as on some online publications. Said text was an “open letter” in response to statements made by the Frente Amplio deputy—now president-elect—Gabriel Boric, who has repeatedly called on the Chilean left to “condemn the human rights situation” in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, all of them Latin American countries with socialist projects. It is worth rereading it, in order to have all the information at hand and not just those which are being amplified by the logical enthusiasm generated by Kast’s defeat.
Doctor Sepúlveda Allende’s open letter to Boric is translated and reproduced below:
Deputy, I dare to respond to you because I see the danger that it represents for important leaders like you, young referents of the “new left” that has emerged in the Frente Amplio, to make simplistic, absurd and misinformed comparisons on issues as delicate as that of human rights.
It is very biased and rude that you equate—without the slightest argument—the supposed “weakening of the basic democratic conditions in Venezuela,” the “permanent restriction of freedoms in Cuba” and “the repression of the Ortega government in Nicaragua” with the proven atrocities of the military dictatorship in Chile, the evident criminal interventionism of the United States around the world, and the State of Israel’s terrorism against the people of Palestine.
The fact that you write such nonsense does not “make you a pseudo CIA agent,” but it does denote a significant irresponsibility and political immaturity that can transform you into a useful idiot for the right-wing, or worse, make you end up being that “left” that the right craves: a dumb, ambiguous left, a harmless left which, due to opportunism, prefers to appear as “politically correct,” a lukewarm left that does not want to have problems with anyone.
Such a left is confusing, because it does not dare to point out and courageously confront the true enemies of the peoples. Hence the danger of issuing politically immature opinions.
Have you ever wondered why Venezuela is being so vilified and attacked in the media? Why is it on the news every day in practically all the countries of the Western world where the mainstream media dominate? Why is it outnumbered and attacked from all sides? Why do these big newscasts keep quiet about the continuous massacres in Colombia and Mexico? Why do those who tear their hair out worrying about a Venezuelan deputy who confessed to participating in an assassination attempt not have the courage to demand that Israel stop the genocide of the Palestinian people?
A world upside down. That is the world of politics without heart and without courage.
Margarita Labarca Goddard [Chilean human rights lawyer] has already argued clearly and forcefully why you are mistaken in your judgments towards Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua (the English translation is published below this article). I will only add that Venezuela has a much healthier and more transparent democracy than the one in Chile, if you wish I can point out my arguments to you and we can have a debate, if you are interested.
It is also easy to argue why the “permanent restriction of liberties in Cuba” is a fallacy. Not to mention that the word “freedom” is so misused that by now its true meaning is ambiguous, and a sensible definition requires even a philosophical debate. Or tell me, what is freedom?
I name these two countries because I know them quite well. I lived in Cuba for nine years and in Venezuela I have been living for another nine. I do not know Nicaragua first-hand, but I invite you to ask yourself what would have been the reaction of a right-wing government to the actions of hired and heavily armed criminal gangs who took over whole sectors of the most important cities in the country. Additionally, said mercenary gangs were organized to commit abominable acts such as kidnapping, torture, maiming, rape and even burning dozens of human beings alive, for the mere fact of being sympathizers of a cause—in this case, Sandinistas. The persecution reached the point where entire families were murdered in their own homes.
Even with the resources, the legal framework, and the strength to take immediate forceful action against such fascist destabilization, the legitimately elected government of Nicaragua exercised restraint. Do you think that if a right-wing government had been in power, they would have had such a conciliatory position and would have called for dialogue to resolve the conflict?
History gives us answers.
I understand that you may have been confused by the powerful “media” that took upon itself the charge of victimizing the perpetrators, just like they did a year ago in Venezuela during the time of the so-called guarimbas.
Therefore, Gabriel, objectively speaking and through a serious argumentation—and not opinions formed and shaped by a media that repeats misrepresentations and lies on a daily basis—there is no such thing as a double standard by which we defend Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
These countries do not have disappeared or tortured people; they do not imprison those who think differently, but yes, they imprison criminals, be these deputies, politicians or so-called students. Rather, it seems to me that you are the one with the “double standards,” issuing comfortable judgments of morality formed through manipulation and ignorance,
When it comes to the media, democracy and freedoms, we could compare Chile with these countries. I assure you that, unfortunately, Chile would not fare very well, and even less so, if we include human, economic and social rights, since in Chile these seem to be nothing more than merchandise.
“A person reaches his highest level of ignorance when he repudiates something of which he knows nothing.”
Featured image: Pablo Sepúlveda Allende, a doctor, a coordinator of the Network of Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity (REDH), and grandson of former President Salvador Allende Gossens, responded to now president-elect Gabriel Boric over his position on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Photo: The Clinic
Translation by Orinoco Tribune
Margarita Labarca Goddard responds to Gabriel Boric: “What happens in other countries we are not in a position to judge without knowing it well”.
In a missive disseminated through social networks, the Chilean lawyer and columnist based in Mexico, Margarita Labarca Goddard, lashed out against the statements issued this week by the Frente Amplio deputy, Gabriel Boric, both in his Twitter account and in her blog. Below, we reproduce the full text of the columnist.
Look, comrade Boric, forgive me for calling you by your name, but I am an old woman and you are young, I see you as if you were my grandson and I see you in good faith. I am an anonymous person and you are a deputy.
Well, first of all I want to tell you that I agree with you that human rights are universal; I have worked in that area in Mexico for about 20 years. But I think that in Chile, any assessment in this regard must begin with Chile and end with Chile. What happened during the dictatorship I know very well because I have seen things up close that you have not experienced. I think that to jump from Chile to other countries when talking about human rights is to escape from the subject and fall into the traps of the right. Because we are not in a position to judge what happens in other countries without knowing it well.
You talk about China, but I confess that I do not know very well what happens in China. It is a complex country, with customs and a difficult language and several languages, in short, it is not so easy to know and even less easy to judge. I only know for sure that they have been growing at an average of about 10% or more per year for a long time. Are human rights violated there? Is cheap labor exploited there? It is possible, but I would not dare to state it so easily. Do you know China very well? If so, you should explain and substantiate your assertions.
But let’s go closer. Are human rights violated in Nicaragua? It is quite possible and I even believe so. But I say this with great sadness and without much conviction either. Without much conviction because I see left-wing comrades who try to understand it and adopt different positions. I say it with sadness because Nicaragua was one of the most important revolutionary experiences in Latin America, which made us all happy and moved us all. When I say all, I mean all the leftists of my generation. The young people of your generation, it seems to me, do not touch their hearts when talking about Nicaragua, nor do they give a damn whether or not human rights are being violated there. What they want is to appear impartial before the Chilean right wing. Does that matter so much, so much that you come to give us lessons of consequence?
And then we go to Venezuela. This is getting long because I try to give arguments, and instead you limit yourself to making assertions, which is much easier. I do not know Venezuela, I have not lived in Venezuela. But looking at things from the outside, it strikes me that the same thing is happening there that happened in Chile during the Unidad Popular. There is no democracy although Chavez and Maduro have won the elections repeatedly? Because the elections were fraudulent although all outside observers say the contrary? There is no democracy although the opposition newspapers and press are in the majority? There are shortages, especially in medicines? Yes, just as there was in Chile during the times of Salvador Allende. Because the big pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell them medicines and it is difficult to buy them elsewhere, for example in Cuba, because a population of more than 32 million inhabitants require quantities that are not produced in Cuba. In Chile there was a great hoarding of merchandise by merchants during the Popular Unity government. Immediately after the coup, the stores were overcrowded. I don’t know if the same thing happens in Venezuela, but I can assume it, just as you assume that human rights are violated, without giving grounds. And finally, I have become absolutely convinced that the Venezuelan government is right and the opposition is despicable, when I saw the last attack with drones full of explosives, by means of which they not only wanted to assassinate President Maduro but the entire revolutionary leadership that was in that tribune, the main military officers, not excluding the President’s family and other children who were also there. Have you duly repudiated this attempt of massive assassination? I don’t know, but I hope so.
And I’m moving on to Cuba. I want to be more brief now. Because I lived six years in exile in Cuba with my family and I know it well. Have you lived in Cuba? I don’t think so, I guess you’ve been visiting. You say that in Cuba human rights are violated because there is no freedom of expression. You are wrong, there is. Anyone can criticize whatever they want and say whatever they want and nothing happens to them. Are there no opposition newspapers? Of course not, they are not allowed. And why are they not allowed? I’m surprised you haven’t noticed, but Cuba is a small country without major resources, which is at war against the most powerful power in the world, the most powerful both economically and militarily. Everyone knows that Cuba is blockaded by the Yankees, who do not trade with it and do not allow it to trade with any other country. Everyone knows that hundreds of attempts were made to assassinate Fidel Castro, and that they tried to invade at Playa Giron. I won’t tell you any more so as not to go on too long. In short, was that war started by Cuba? No, it was started by the Yankees and they have continued it until now. Should a country at war allow enemy newspapers? Were Nazi newspapers allowed in England during World War II? And you still say that human rights are not respected in Cuba? The only human right you know of is that there should be an opposition newspaper? Well, there are many other human rights that are not only respected in Cuba, but also applied: the right to health, the right to education, the right to work and many more. There are labor courts to settle any conflict of this type, I can assure you because I worked for six years in the Ministry of Labor and I knew them. There are also criminal courts for misdemeanors or crimes. I knew a colleague who was a lawyer and had worked in the same ministry as me. He was promoted to be part of a collective law firm that serves and advises the people, free of charge. Well, this man misappropriated some of the firm’s funds. He was found out, tried and convicted. Did they put him in prison for ten years? Did they shoot him? No, they simply made him pay back the money in installments, removed him from his position and gave him a worse one. This type of crime is very rare in Cuba. Maybe it was a very light sanction, but that’s how it was.
Is everything perfect there? Of course not. What country, what government is perfect? I am not going to talk to you about the solidarity, the generosity of the Cuban people, since that is not the subject now. But if you want to know what Cuba is like, you can easily find out. It is not like China, there is a lot of information available on the internet in Spanish or, if you prefer, in English.
But compañero, when talking about human rights, talk about Chile, that’s more than enough. So many horrors were committed in Chile, many are still unpunished and many others are not even known. For me the worst is torture, because as Jean Améry said, “Torture is the most terrifying event that a man can keep inside”, and that “He who has been tortured remains tortured”. And try to know and understand those women who keep digging in the Atacama Desert to find a bone of their children.
You’d do better to talk about Chile and not let yourself be dragged into talking about what you don’t know. Too much pain, too much desolation we still have to settle. It is better to talk about what we all know or should know.
Margarita Labarca Goddard
Translation by Internationalist 360°