Blogs > Liberty and Power > Montaner Responds to "William Marina's Mistakes"

Oct 29, 2005 12:36 am


Montaner Responds to "William Marina's Mistakes"



Carlos Alberto Montaner has sent me this response to William Marina´s entry at Liberty and Power. I am posting it in the interest of fair play:

I see that professor William Marina read with interest my article and the excellent review by Alvaro Vargas LLosa. I am grateful for that. But he seems to have misunderstood both texts.

I did not say the U.S. intervention in Cuba was the first in Latin America but that it constituted the first time the U.S. engaged in regime change in another country. And that´s the truth: from 1492 to 1898, Cuba was part of a monarchy that had four dynasties (the Trastamaras, the Habsburgs, the Bourbons and, briefly, the Savoys). That ended with the U.S. intervention.

Starting in 1898, the U.S. facilitated the creation of a relatively independent nation in the island and, through three mandates given by the intervening military, organized three elections that made possible the emergence of the republic: local elections, elections to the convention that framed the 1901 Constitution, and the December general elections that made possible the inauguration of the republic on May 20,1902.

It is true that there were disagreements with the U.S. military with regard to the 1901 Constitution and that Washington imposed the Platt Amendment as an appendix to that Constitution, but the Constitution was written by Cubans, as proven by the transcripts of the debates which are still available. Those Cubans introduced elements that ran contrary to the views of the U.S., such as the universal vote for adult males regardless of the whether they were literate or property owners.

It is not true that the chief of the military insurrection of 1895 was that black general Antonio Maceo. The chief was general Máximo Gómez, a white Dominican. Maceo was the second man of the insurrection.

It is not true, either, that the war of 1868-1878 was the tobacco revolt. I think professor Marina is confusing an episode that took place in the first third of the 18th century--the revolt of the “vegueros” of Havana that ended with the hanging of many dozens of tobacco traders--with the ten-year war that took place 150 years later.

I understand there is no space for detailed accounts here, but professor Marina´s simplification of the filibustering expeditions of the mid-19th century is not entirely accurate. He does not seem to understand that period. The responsibility for those adventures was not entirely American. William Walker was invited to Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan liberals and his guard was formed by Cuban exiles commanded by Cuban general Domingo Goicuría.

He is also mistaken in attributing to Senator Henry M. Teller dark economic motivations linked to sugar behind his proposal of the amendment that bears his name and which made possible for both Houses of Congress to declare that Cuba had a right to its independence. Values and principles, as well as psychological and personal factors, often have great bearing on historical developments. Teller was quite an idealist. He made that proposal at the request of his friend, lawyer Horatio Rubens, who was, at the same time, a counsel for the Revolutionary Cuban Party(Partido Revolucionario Cubano) founded by José Martí.

This is not the place to compare the degree of control the British Parliament exercised over the British Crown with what happened with the Spanish Cortes in relation to the monarchs in that country, but I can assure professor Marina that the dream of all Spanish and Cuban liberals from the end of the 18th century until 1873 was to replicate the British model in the Ibero American territories. From 1873, Spain achieved some stability, which lasted until 1923 precisely because it put in place a system of government inspired by British constitutionalism.

It is true that the U.S. constitution of 1787 failed to eliminate slavery, but at that time no country in the world had done so. The French Revolution, for a brief period, tried to do it, but Napoleon attempted to restore it a few years later. Spain did not abolish slavery until 1886 and Brazil abolished it in 1888.

It is possible professor Marina has a terrible opinion of U.S. democracy and the inadequacy of its institutions, but it might be useful to resort to the question Spaniards tend to ask when someone inquires about their wives: “Compared to whom?”


comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Sergio Alejandro M?ndez - 10/29/2005

Let´s take a look at Montan

"I did not say the U.S. intervention in Cuba was the first in Latin America but that it constituted the first time the U.S. engaged in regime change in another country."

"Starting in 1898, the U.S. facilitated the creation of a relatively independent nation in the island and, through three mandates given by the intervening military, organized three elections that made possible the emergence of the republic: local elections, elections to the convention that framed the 1901 Constitution, and the December general elections that made possible the inauguration of the republic on May 20,1902."

Regime change? "relatively independent" nation? Well yes, if regime change you mean passing from the control of a monarchy with a mercantilist policy,to the control of a republic with...another ugly mercantilist policy. Aside from the Platt ammendment, that gave the US the "right" to interfer into cuban affairs whenever they seemed convinient (and the US did use that power in two ocasions), that limited severly the countrys possibility of getting a foreign debt and forbade Cuba from negotiating treaties with other countries except the US, the US pushed a tariff pact that gave preferential treatment of cuban sugar in their markets allowing protection of US products in Cuban one. Any resemblence with Spanish rule is pure imagination, isn´t it? But it was a "relative independence" as Montaner said. Specially considering that independentist movement existed in Cuba at least since 1868.

Of course, lets not mention than that "relatively independent country" only had the Platt amendment repelead in 1934, and yet still had the US controling most of the country economically until the revolution lead by Castro (and no, I am not making an apology for Castro. That Castro turned to be bad enought on its own, doesn´t mean the US was not largely responsible for the misery situation on the island).

History News Network