Friday, September 3, 2010

Interview with Esteban Morales

Interview with Political Scientist and Internationalist Esteban Morales

Red Alert against Corruption

“I am one of those who think that sometimes it is healthier for us to recognize our shortcomings ourselves than for the enemy to throw them back in our face, or save them up against us, which is worse,” asserted Cuban political scientist and academician Esteban Morales during an interview with the International Press Service (IPS), reproduced by Cubanow.

Patricia Grogg

“I still view corruption as an extraordinary danger to the country, since its “corrosive power” makes it a matter of “national security,” emphasized Esteban Morales, who was expelled from the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) after making his warnings public.

Morales appealed to the PCC, an option he’s entitled to according to the statutes of that Party, which is the only political party recognised in Cuba.

“A commission has to analyse the appeal and make a decision. If I am not satisfied with the answer, I can take the case as far as the Party Congress. I will continue to appeal, because I think I have reasons to do so,” he told the IPS news agency.

Meanwhile, he remains very active as an academic and researcher, although he will retire in September from the teaching staff at the Center for Hemispheric Studies on the United States (CEHSEU) of the University of Havana, which he helped found and to which he has devoted a large part of his professional life.

“I'm retiring at 68. I'll have more time and more freedom for my academic and research works,” added this doctor of Science and Economics and an expert on Cuba-U.S. relations, as well as the author of essays, books and numerous articles on the no less delicate issue of racism in his country.

IPS: After your separation from the PCC was made public, you preferred to avoid contact with the press, especially the accredited foreign press. What made you change your mind and agree to this interview?

EM: I think that clearing up certain points is healthy. Some people have said I was a privileged person, a state security (secret service) agent, and now I want to say these things. They will never find my privileges, because I have none. As for being a security agent, if I were, I would be proud of it, because in Cuba that is an honor.

My curriculum vitae speaks for me. I am a true academic, not an invented one. I have written dozens of works, not always on straightforward subjects, as well as doing a lot of teaching, lecturing at conferences and acting as an academic adviser. If anyone has any doubts, they only need to enter my name into Google.

Others have taken delight in the idea that I might change sides and go over to the 'dissidents.' Perhaps the counter-revolution, lacking as it is in leadership, thought that I would fill that gap for them. People who really know me know that that's impossible, and that I'm a firmly committed revolutionary. Furthermore, I have never had any pretensions to leadership or sought to be center stage.

IPS: Have you never wavered in your political convictions?

EM: No, never. Even the sun has its spots; different appraisals are always possible. I may have given room for wrong interpretations, although the spirit of my texts is clear and anyone can see they were written from a revolutionary stance.

I was a revolutionary before I was a party member, and I will continue to be one. It’s a political affiliation I decided over 50 years ago, my free choice. I have never liked to play the lying game.

I am not paralysed by what has happened. I will simply be much more careful when expressing myself and writing, but I won't stop doing it, as an intellectual who the Revolution has trained to warn with honesty about things that can damage us, and that is what I have always done. These are the risks one has to take.

IPS: Doesn't the fact that you were punished after publicly expressing your views on corruption and the risks it poses for the country's political and social stability contradict President Raúl Castro himself, who on August 1st said that unity 'is nurtured and harvested within the broadest possible socialist democracy and in open discussion of every issue, however sensitive, with the people'?

EM: I believe debate and criticism are encouraged by Raúl and the party leadership. But there may be circumstances in which someone at some level does not quite agree.

I would say that the process of exercising a critical approach is much more complex than the mere decision to do so. It has to do with the structures, with individuals and the different ways in which some people understand things sometimes. Or perhaps part of what I said could have been said in a different way. There's a big gap between intentions and the way they are put into practice.

IPS: What do you think is most worrying about corruption?

EM: Its corrosive effect from the moral point of view. When morality and ethics are affected, the prestige of our political system is undermined and everything goes downhill. That's why I agree with those who say corruption is a national security problem.

However, it won't be solved just through more inspections and paperwork, but by being very much on the alert and continuously creating mechanisms to prevent it, so that people who handle money and resources are constantly brought to book. Our country's assets really do belong to the people, it's not just talk.

IPS: You are very well known for your writings on the United States, its relations with Cuba, and racism. What prompted you to write about corruption, an issue that, according to some government sectors, encourages “campaigns to discredit” the country if ventilated in public?

EM: I wrote those articles because I believe these are the dangers we are facing now. I have a motto: amid the situation we have lived all these years, I think that whoever wants to be a revolutionary has to wage his own war, fight his own battles and run whatever risks there are. Otherwise, he should just stay home, under the bed.

The claim that the enemy will take advantage of things does not immobilize me either, because it isn't the enemy that is going to solve the problem for us, quite the opposite. I am one of those who think that sometimes it is healthier for us to recognize our shortcomings ourselves than for the enemy to throw them back in our face, or save them up against us, which is worse.

IPS: Whom are you referring to when you say 'enemy'?

EM: We cannot close our eyes to the fact that, since the late 1980s, the focus of the U.S. policy towards Cuba has changed. Nowadays, everything that is happening internally on the island is being observed and monitored by US politicians and especially by the US special services.

It is in this context that I view the problem of corruption, which I still see as an extraordinary danger.

Translated by Brenda Sheehan

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