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The Montecristi Manifesto at 115 Years

On March 25, 1895 the statement known as the Manifesto of Montecristi was signed in the Dominican city of that name. The document, of a programmatic nature, signed by José Martí, in his capacity as delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and the General in Chief of the Army, Máximo Gómez, contains the ideas and goals that characterized the revolutionary movement that would guide the War of Independence 1895. The commemoration of the anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the relationship between this statement and the current reality of Cuba.

If the Revolution of 1959 claims to be the continuation of the War for Independence began in 1868, and Jose Marti — an analyst critical of the mistakes that led the war to fail and lead organizer of the contest in 1895 — is credited with masterminding the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, then it is assumed that the purposes advanced in that statement would be the principles that would guide the revolutionary process of 1959. Let’s take a look:

The Montecristi Manifesto begins by establishing the link between the two wars of the nineteenth century: the revolution for independence started in Yara after glorious and bloody preparation, entered Cuba into a new period of war, under orders and resolutions of the Revolutionary Party abroad and on the island.

The revolution started in 1868 assumed constitutional form with the Magna Carta, of an eminently democratic character and approved by Guáimaro in April 1869. In it, besides embodying the classic division of powers, the legislature placed in the House of Representatives, the Executive Branch President of the Republic and an independent judiciary; it “established that the legislature, where sovereignty resided, had no powers to attack the freedom of religion, press, peaceful assembly, education and petition, nor any inalienable right of the people.”

Thus, from its inception the Wars of Independence had a democratic and humanist character, a feature that becomes more relevant to the content of the Manifesto of Montecristi, as we see in the following five paragraphs:

War is not the insane triumph  of one Cuban party over another, or the humiliation even of a mistaken group of Cubans, but a formal demonstration of the will of a tired country tested in the previous war by throwing itself lightly into a conflict than can end only with victory or the grave.

The war is not against the Spanish, who, secure that their children are safe and in the care of the mother country what in winning, could enjoy respect, and even love, of the liberty that will only accrue to those left behind, improvident, on the way; and he added, “We Cubans started the war, and as Cubans and Spanish we finished it.”

From its roots it has to be the country with viable ways, born of themselves, so that a government without reality nor penalties cannot lead to partiality or tyranny.

To know and determine reality; to compose in a natural mold the reality of the ideas that produce or stop events, and from these events are born the ideas; to order the revolution with honor, sacrifice and culture so that not even the honor of a single man is injured, nor is a single Cuban sacrified for no reason.

Neither is war sufficient if it is simply an itch to conquer Cuba with the tempting sacrifice, political independence, that without right would ask of Cubans their arms if with it there was no hope of creating a country with greater freedom of thought, fairness of customs, and labor peace.

As we see, the Manifesto clearly expresses an inclusive character that takes into account even the enemies that will be faced on the battlefield; a war that Cubans started to, in the end, give Cubans and Spaniards together the chance to create a country without partiality or tyranny; it clarifies that it is not about an insane triumph of one Cuban party over another, nor even the humiliation of a group of Cubans who are wrong; but rather that is about a revolution with honor, sacrifice and culture that doesn’t damage the honor of even one man, nor unnecessarily sacrifice a single Cuban; in short, a conquest for political independence, with the hope of creating a country with more freedom of thought, fairness of customs, and labor peace for the working man.

Without further comment, these thoughts contained in the statement made 115 years ago tell us that something was lost on the way to its realization. The Manifesto of Montecristi is the ideal expression of Marti, namely democracy, liberty and the dignity of Cubans. A transparent intention from the first paragraph ending with the signing of Gomez and Marti for the common responsibility of representation, one on behalf of the Army, the other on behalf of the party, created to manage and assist the war, two institutions with autonomy that bind to an end: to conduct the war and shape the Republic of everyone.

In commemorating the anniversary of the Manifesto of Montecristi, in contemporary Cuba would not only be wrong, but also those who consider themselves successful, remember the date locked in a deep structural crisis and in the absence of inclusion, democracy and fundamental freedoms, a reality that is expressed in the fact that today we do not have freedom of expression, the right of association, to come and go freely in our country, to be entrepreneurs, even to live with earned income. In the end, we do not celebrate without: creating a country with more freedom of thought, fairness of customs, and labor peace for the working man. All this despite the fact that these resolutions were contained in the document prepared by the intellectual author of Assault on Moncada Barracks.

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