Manuel Cuesta Morúa on Anna Ardin: "Her Attitude Was Certainly an Ironic Setback for Me."
This is an interview Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Cuban socialist opposition leader) gave Catalan journalist Oriol Malló. Sent to Cuba Nuestra by Federico Campbell Peña. December 29, 2010, 11:10
Our difficulties with the Internet are certainly annoying. It is increasingly clear that the government's intention is to keep us as disconnected from the Internet as possible, using a myriad banal excuses typical of cynical minds. Our Internet is as slow as the stagecoaches of the American Wild West, in a time when messages can be received much more quickly. I hope these answers will be quick, and I apologise for my delay in sending them, as I had urgent business to tend to in relation to our next conference in late January and the Nuevo País Project.
Here are my answers.
1. I met Anna Ardin in 2003. She came over that year heading a group of young Swedish Social Democrats we had been in contact with, at least since the year 2000 - when I visited Sweden. From that time on, a working relationship and cooperation were established, in which these young people acted as the link between us (at that time under the name Corriente Socialista Democrática Cubana) and both the Olof Palme Centre and the Swedish Social Democrats. A representative from the Olof Palme Centre and one of these young people participated in our first conference in 2002 when we formed Arco Progresista. The next year, to continue our exchange, a group of them came over, amongst them Anna Ardin. The group even had a name; “Work” (in Swedish of course), and became the communications channel between the Swedish Social Democrats and us – by now using the name Arco Progresista only.
2. Her trips to Cuba at that time were on behalf of the Swedish Social Democrats and the Olof Palme Centre, who covered the group's travel and living expenses whilst in Cuba.
3. I cannot say for sure whether Anna Ardin was a member of the Olof Palme Foundation. Neither she, nor any of the other young people who came over, introduced themselves as such. What I can say for sure is that it was the Olof Palme Centre who supported her. Later on, around 2004, she showed an interested in getting information for her thesis at the University of Upsala, but she never introduced herself as a Christian or a representative of any Christian group. Then, around 2008, I found out that, apparently, she was no longer a Social Democrat, but had drifted towards Christian Socialism.
4 . No, I didn't know her that well. I did talk to her a lot about the Cuban situation, and of course she always showed a social democratic view. However, when she was here, she didn't show what might be called a structured political or intellectual discourse - as it would almost invariably correspond to a radical member of any political tendency. She did appear to be a feminist, but a moderate one. One of those feminists who believe in their capability to take on any role, not the ones who dislike and are suspicious of men only for being men. In fact, at least a couple of times she came over with her boyfriend, a very serious and focused young man named Mathias, who we all found pleasant. My impression was that she was a smart, energetic, dynamic young woman, a Nordic-style moderate feminist, but indeed arrogant, a psychologically disproportionate arrogance and overly Eurocentric, which caused inevitable friction. Already in 2004 she caused some discomfort within the Social Democratic circles who work with us in Miami, and who put her up, at my request, whilst she was carrying out fieldwork for her thesis.
5. At first I thought her interest was easily understood as coming from the Swedish tradition of solidarity, which is shared by all political parties over there, but it is essentially a typically social democratic tradition. From Olof Palme himself, or Pierre Shori (a prominent Swedish politician), to the Olof Palme Centre and Anna Ardin, any Cuban can see the natural Swedish natural tradition of showing concern for democracy, freedom and social justice outside Sweden. Thus I understood her interest as natural and not as a personal matter, because it was shared by the whole group she was heading. Only later on, I did notice a certain desire for prominence in her interest in our case, which couldn't be explained by the political tradition she was coming from. First, she appeared in the media a lot, talking about Cuba. Second, she tried to guide us on what she understood we had to do, and how to do it. Third, she didn't respect our institutional structure and the way we work, as she got into direct contact with people who were then part of our organization, without taking into account the specific context. For me, it was a perfect example of someone with a very high opinion of herself, who wanted to make some kind of political career in Sweden at the expense of a group of people without a voice.
6. Yes, I am co-chair. But in political terms, not in legal terms. Nowadays, our organization is going through a serious crisis – hoping for better times ahead. I am co-chair on behalf of Arco Progresista. We are not fully recognised as part of the Socialist International; we have “permanent guest” status only.
7. Well, as far as we know, she couldn't have been invited by C-EeP [Asociación Cuba-Europa en Progreso]. This is not true because it would be chronologically impossible. C-EeP dates from mid-2005, whereas all our contact with Ardin in Havana was prior to that date. It seems that, as some people are saying, she was in Cuba after 2007. I have no proof of that, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have happened. By that time we were not in contact anymore. Our contact ceased in 2006. Now, it is possible that, if she did come over after 2007, she could have been invited by the C-EeP - because the crisis around us included an attempt to seize our organisation and redirect it in vague directions - in that Eurocentric manner - so that it would encompass a wide range of people and organisations of Cuban dissidents. The affair was doomed before it started and had nothing to do with me being co-chair, but in order to fail they must attempt to succeed first. So, it is very likely she could have come to Cuba after 2007 under the false pretence of working for our organisation (as she was present when it was founded), but by then we had stopped all contact. When I welcomed her with open arms it was only on behalf of social democracy and Arco Progresista.
8. Her agenda in Havana was to channel the growing links between the Swedish Social Democrats and us. Her interests, as she presented them then, seemed to agree with her agenda, which determined that she would be in contact almost exclusively with members of Arco Progresista. I heard that she was also in touch with other compatriots, basically due to two interests: to get an idea of how other opposition groups regarded us, and to gather information for her thesis on political pluralism in Cuba.
9. I do not know if she went to see the Damas de Blanco. They denied it when the official Cuban media tried to implicate them. I tend to think that she did not see them. Otherwise, the government (taking advantage of the good political timing in their strong interest to discredit the Damas de Blanco) would have published a picture of them together, which so far has not happened.
10. This is what happened: after C-EeP was formed in mid-2005, a not particularly well-designed campaign to destroy Arco Progresista began. The C-EeP was an old project we had, which sought to connect socialists, social democrats and European progressive Labour with Arco Progresista in a structured manner and for various purposes. The basic reason was that, unlike liberals and democrats, the democratic left (both in Europe and in Latin America) had serious political and historical difficulties providing open support and solidarity for Arco Progresista. The reasons are well known and have been discussed at length, and this was reflected in the behaviour of the Socialist International, which has barely granted us “permanent guest” status. So we saw C-EeP as the most productive way to boost our relationship with the democratic left in Europe and, at the same time, to build a solid path towards the Socialist International. We had forged some kind of structured relationship with the Party of European Socialists at the European Parliament, but it was necessary to strengthen those links: C-EeP was the natural product of this strategy. After that, we tried to do something similar in Latin America [strengthen links with the Latin American democratic left]. And that was when the the Cuban authorities got angry. For them, a project of this nature was unacceptable, as it would open a legitimate competition in what they saw was their natural sphere of international interaction. So they set their instruments and internal mechanisms to work in order to overthrow the Cuban social democratic alternative.
And so an accusation of internal corruption arose, which wouldn't have had any major impact had it not been for Anna Ardin's support. Personally, I do not care much about unfounded accusations – even less about one which seems rather extravagant from my point of view - but it is clear that an allegation of this nature has an effect because of its socio-cultural context. When you look towards Latin America (with a few exceptions), any accusation of corruption is credible. If people don't have time for or aren't interested in giving it some consideration, then the damage is done. I must say that, luckily, not all of our comrades believed the story - but without doubt some damage was caused.
11. And, strangely for us, Anna supports that accusation. I say strangely because she was the person receiving the expense reports of the small cash assistance they were giving us. Two or three groups of young people linked to the group that she headed came to Cuba between 2003 and 2005, up to twice a year. They brought the economic aid and took the reports. Then they informed us by e-mail, or in their next visit, of their assessment: always positive. The last economic aid was brought over by Anna herself in mid-2005. Later on, other people came over, took the reports and everything went well. Suddenly, after having acknowledged that all the reports were fine, Anna seemed to forget this and jumped on a Cuban Government report about us [misinformation from the Cuban government, constructed to damage the reputation of the Cuban Social Democratic movement], which was poorly and hastily written, which could not stand up to serious analysis, where I appeared as the villain of the story.
At this point I was surprised by two things: first, the lack of positive response to the institutional analysis we had convened - and which we carried out in the end – and second, her attempt to recruit other members of the European democratic left for her destroying venture – in which she succeeded to some extent. Her attitude was certainly an ironic setback for me, as I used to defend our relationship with the Swedish Social Democrats on the grounds that their political culture was exemplary; that is, based on strict adherence to the rules and on full respect for the word given. And behold, it was precisely a Swede who came to demolish these long-cherished theoretical certainties. But of course a philosopher amongst the Scythians cannot change the latter into philosophers. So I do not claim that a particular Swede represents the whole of Sweden. So my connection with her broke, if I remember correctly, in October 2006, following this rather odd behaviour.
12. Why would a Social Democrat do this? For the same reason that a person who sees others as platforms for the deployment of their psychological world and their personal ambitions would act. Anna Ardin is yet another proof of why one should never underestimate the psychological motivations behind people's actions. Every time we see a disproportionally reactive behaviour, we should stop to analyse the rationality (or lack thereof) they show in their behaviour. And that's the case with Ardin, not taking into account her constantly changing ideology.
Strictly rational motives are not always behind people's behaviour. I think her behaviour was the combined product of psychological projection, Eurocentric impulse, personal ambition and unrestrained desire for fame – also linked to the frustration generated by disappointments. When frustration cannot be controlled, a desire to destroy the cherished object is activated. Assange's lawyer said something along those lines when asked his opinion on Ardin's motives in a recent interview with El País.
In political terms, this means that she could not find a way to explain in Sweden that her work in Havana was in trouble, and at the same time she felt powerless to control what we were doing. I see her as a less ideologically-minded version of Alan Woods (the latest of Hugo Chávez's British neo-Marxist pseudo-advisors, who believes he knows better than Venezuelans themselves what suits them best – without leaving Europe). And as I come from a tradition that sees any attempt to dictate (coming from without or within) our aims and direction, like an unwanted old-fashioned oddity; Ardin could not comprehend the message and she burst whilst trying to bust us. She then proceeded on a strange itinerary: from a supposed Christian Socialism, she derived in a story of sexual explosion made public and morbidly exploited. A true revelation of personality inconsistencies.
I must say that I am only describing a behaviour without any animosity, because I understand and accept that coexistence - especially in politics - is not without its troubles, and these give strength to the mission each one believes they have in life. In this sense I think that sympathies, empathy and disputes are natural. If pushed to the limit, I would only ask my enemies for clarity, encouraging fair play if possible.
13. Well, that's not entirely accurate. Gainza was probably not aware that Ardin came to Cuba with a social democratic agenda several times. It is possible that, after her social democratic agenda and ground subsided, she sought other ways into Havana. Misceláneas de Cuba [a Cuban affairs publication based in Sweden] was and is a perfect entry to Cuba because it has links with lots of dissidents on the island, many of whom are (or have been at some point) the publication's correspondents. By the way, Misceláneas has the support of the Swedish liberals who, as far as I know, had nothing to do with the approach or the political background behind the Social Democrats Ardin belonged to. So, obviously, I never met Ardin at Gainza's request. My knowledge of and contact with Anna Ardin came only through the social democrats. In fact, I have had links with Misceláneas, as it is one of the few publications related to Cuba that publishes texts and documents by all the political sectors, because of (and in spite of) its liberal creed - in the narrow political sense of the term. I met Gainza in 2000 when I travelled to Sweden, invited by the Liberals first and then by the Social Democrats. Organically, however, I have no other contact with Gainza and his group apart from the contact expected of any Cuban democrat who respects and encourages the exchange of ideas.
14. I thought it was the typical story of a beautiful and intelligent woman looking for her 15 minutes of fame. Assange can and should think of conspirational low blows. I see someone who is riding on the crest of a good media/political story which would catapult them to fame in order to continue ploughing their way up. So she feeds a story without creating it, coming from a psychological profile that explains this absurd behaviour of accusing a man wanted at the top for something that allegedly happened in the underworld.
15. Well, the WikiLeaks story is very interesting and it should be making Cuban authorities nervous. If someone in the United States could “sell” embarrassing information on the U.S. government, it stands to reason that something similar could happen with Cuba and its government. The impact for Cubans would be higher because, regarding the U.S., Assange only disclosed information that could be declassified one day. In the case of Cuba, we could be talking about information that by its own nature isn't meant to be declassified. In short, the mere existence of WikiLeaks, an enterprise that enjoys (unless proven otherwise) undisputed credibility, attacks the very basis of dictatorships: the classification of all the real information about power and societies. Issues have already been revealed about Cuba in Venezuela and about Venezuela in Cuba, which aren't making Cuban authorities very happy. Thus, the need for freedom of expression, its possibility, and its liberating effect is confirmed. WikiLeaks takes us a step forward on the path to freedom of expression - which in Cuba should be understood as the freedom to provide diverse and systematic information to all the citizens of the island.
16. In general, we social democrats share the foreign policy of Zapatero's government: critical dialogue and global inclusion of Cuba to facilitate a smooth and gradual transition to democracy on the island. The problem is that, once policies are announced and defended with all the possible and plausible theoretical coherence, they need to be transferred to reality. And it was this going live which, in our view, has gone wrong. Losing strategic aim is exactly what should not happen with any political plan. Spain failed in that. It is inconceivable that Moratinos [Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time] would talk about democracy and human rights, but would publicly act against democrats and human rights activists. I therefore agree with the statement released by Arco Progresista. The road to democracy is necessarily a public path that requires the public display of suitable gestures and the public visibility of the virtual and actual people going through it. Anything different is just typical of a conspirational game where nobody knows who will appear on the political arena tomorrow. And everyone knows that victory has many fathers. Having said that, I am not disappointed with PSOE's [Spanish party in office at the time] and the Spanish government's policies regarding Cuba. Talking from experience, and in certain circumstances, I tend to think that nobody has to oblige us. That affords me some control (with varying degrees of effectiveness) over what expectations one has of others. What does produce some kind of uneasiness in me is when words do not match actions. Otherwise, I tend to put more emphasis on what we must do to achieve democracy in domestic terms, aside from the importance of the international community, which I acknowledge anyway.
Finally, I hope you can excuse my lack of economy of words. Thank you for the interview.
Manuel Cuesta Morua
Arco Progresista Spokesman
Nuevo Pais Project