"The current situation in Latin America is better than that which the Bolsheviks encountered. I don’t want to say that we are going to repeat Moncadas or Sierra Maestras. It’s not a question of imitation. We are fortunate that in Cuba our Lenin has lasted throughout this half century."

Oviedo, Asturias. Immersed in the hurricane of a history that began long before Nov. 25, 1956, when in Tuzpan, Veracruz, aboard the Granma in pursuit of a dream, Fidel Castro not only was able to conquer and persuade"with reason and justice in the struggle," as Unamuno said, but he eliminated the word "impossible" from his vocabulary and for half a century set a strategic course toward a social paradigm.

From the left and right of the ideological spectrum came pressures in favor of various hypotheses and prejudices: Which will prevail? The people who support the revolution or the accidents of providence?

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada (Havana, 1937) was not among the 82 members of the Granma expedition, but was among the July 26 Movement youths who supported them.

A former Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, foreign minister, and president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Alarcón is an advocate of the "parlamentarization of society" (the classical idea of the German jurist Hans Kelsen) and has won widespread respect from his enemies, a rare accomplishment among men of thought and action.

In this small city where Leopoldo Alas (Clarín) wrote La Regenta (1885), a satire ridiculing the provincial pettiness and ignorance of the supposedly cultured who are incapable of saying anything sensible while expressing their liberal or conservative ideas, Alarcon told La Jornada:

"I believe that in Latin America it is possible to construct alliances, agreements. There are interests that agree on limiting the interventionist power of United States imperialism. It is necessary to eradicate that pattern, which makes it difficult for us to build agreements. The so-called Washington Consensus, which still survives, must go."

And as he signed his book Cuba and the Struggle for Democracy, we asked:

You say that Fidel has one defect; he doesn’t know how to rest. Is this a defect in all Cubans?

Alarcón smiles: "I wouldn’t say that. For Fidel Castro, the missionary sense of commitment is paramount."

And then?

"People talk a lot about what will happen when Fidel dies and they focus everything on that. The CIA was very alert and tried to kill him on more than 600 occasions. If Fidel had died at the beginning of the revolution, Cuba would have been exposed to terrible risks. But, unlike Lenin, who died early, Fidel forged several generations of capable leaders to direct the revolution with innovative style and ideas."

A year ago, at the University of Havana, Fidel said, "nothing is irreversible." Was that a gunshot in the middle of the concert?

"Internal reflection has not stopped. Fidel’s central idea is that the revolution and socialism are inevitable but are apart from supposed laws of history."

And what do you think?

"As a boy I thought that I would see the world revolution and that later we were going to take a sip of it. But when you reach a certain age you begin to give more importance to the future of the world. The fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites dramatically underlined that feeling. The jost hard-line capitalists and the leftists believed that the USSR would be a socialist state or a capitalist one forever.

Democracy within revolution? How can one change course?

"Our revolution was an indigenous, not an imported one. So, we go back to the second Declaration of Havana (1962): "The duty of all revolutionaries is to make revolution." To make means to create. Likewise, if you do something you can undo it. This problem is real and different from the nonsense about transition, succession, and other naïve terms the media employ. It has to do with the old debate among the Marxists: How to carry out a socialist revolution that needs constant deepening and a favorable external context."

Is the external context favorable to the Cuban revolution?

"The current situation in Latin America is better than that which the Bolsheviks encountered. I don’t want to say that we are going to repeat Moncadas or Sierra Maestras. It’s not a question of imitation. We are fortunate that in Cuba our Lenin has lasted throughout this half century."

Is the revolution to be saved by Lenin or by Jose Marti?

"Fidel studied Cuban history in depth — the Cuban revolutionary experience — and found its roots. In his Centenary speech (1969), he very well sums up the fundamental thesis that in Cuba there was just one revolution, when Marti was a child. For this reason it has more force. Marti was able to articulate, to offer an interpretation. When he was very young he united two generations and had moral and political authority over the old combatants of 1868. One has to imagine how those veterans responded a boy who tried to apply a doctrine to a movement in which he had not participated."

What real weight do you think the Cuban-Americans of Florida have in the government of George W. Bush?

"Bush’s actions lack logic. The effort to persecute travelers to Cuba is directed against Cuban-Americans who are voters. It’s absurd when you think that these actions are carried out to get more votes. The policy is not just for Miami. All over the United States an electioneering vision predominates. From the start of the first administration, there was a perfect union between the jost radical groups in Miami and the North American right. Think of the number of Cubans who occupy posts at the federal level. With the exception of some Hispanics of Mexican origin, it’s as if the only Latinos were Cubans. Even the Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, who was an executive with Coca Cola in Mexico, is a Cuban."




There are leftist voices in the United States who reject the idea that imperialism is in crisis.

"The United States lacks the momentum it had at the end of the Second World War. In 1989, in a certain sense, it emerged the winner against the USSR. But a new situation is emerging: the loss of its hegemony in the West originally brought about economically by the Marshall Plan, the nuclear umbrella, and the Cold War, etc. And in Latin America, crude, aggressive capitalism of the neoliberal model is bankrupt."

How do you think the internal politics of the United States will impact Latin America?

"In the first place I don’t think there will be more of Bushism. It’s going to be difficult for them to go on past 2008. There is a disconnect between those who continue to repeat the discourse of Fukuyama in the 1990s (the end of history, of socialism, etc.) and the current situation."

A time of transition

"Washington does not know what to do in Iraq. The neoconservatives believed, in a truly stupid way, that it was possible to reverse history and to focus their strategy on the Greater Middle East. But at the moment the Berlin wall came down and they proclaimed the victory of capitalism the caracazo happened. The neocons were incapable of imagining that their weak point was in Latin America, something that the leftist forces also failed to see."

Could Washington make an aggressive change in direction in Latin America if it retreated from Central Asia?

"The risk exists and it could be worse than in other periods, but I trust that it won’t happen. The war in Iraq proves that it’s one thing to defeat a country and another to govern it. Nevertheless, in the context of culture, of ideas, the Washington ideology retains its hegemony, and you can not say that it is in decline in Europe."

Various Latin American governments are trying to escape from the United States orbit. At the Mar de Plata summit, the Free Trade Area of the Americas was defeated. How will this history play out?

"We can be optimistic to the extent that there are more governments with a popular sensibility and that there are politicians with a truly popular background who are taking over power from the managers of transnational corporations. Not all of them are responding in the same way. The United States’ strong point lies in its ability to influence, to deceive, to confuse, to falsify the terms of debate. In many Latin American countries, including those in which progressive forces govern, neoliberalism prevails. But if we believe in the myth of US invulnerability and omnipotence we are lost."

In the coming days México will have two presidents. One will take power on Nov. 20 and the other on Dec. 1. How do you think this will influence Cuba-Mexico relations?

"It’s an unusual situation. I can’t recall a similar case. My problem is that anything I say can be taken as an official view of my government. Something has to happen. For many years Mexico was an example of exceptional political stability. It will be difficult to go through six years with two presidents. Something has to happen and that something will depend heavily on the struggle by the social movements."

Translation by Cuba-L Direct [R. Sandels]