Peter Bohmer Cuba report (from PEN-L)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jun 18 18:35:53 MDT 2001

Deasr friends, Here is a leter I wrote about my recent four month trip to
Cuba. It got much longer than I thought it would but I think it is
worthwhile. I hope you read it and call, 360 956-1771, or write me with any
questions or comments.

If you live in or near Olympia, I will be talking about our family
experience and what is going on in Cuba, this Friday, June 22nd from 7 P.M.
to 9:30 at Traditions Fair Trade Cafe in downtown Olympia at 5th and Water.
Hope you can make it. Invite your friends.

Love and solidarity, Peter

From: Pete Bohmer, 6/18/2001

Hi, I recently returned from four months in Cuba. Many people have asked me
about my trip so this is an open letter to my friends about the experience
of my family there and some of my impressions of what is going on in Cuba.
I would love to hear your questions and comments.

My four children and I arrived in Havana, Cuba on January 19th from Mexico
City. Filemon left after two months, Inti after three, Tony and I left on
may, 19th and Josina is staying until mid July. All of them enjoyed being
in Cuba and hope to return. Tony attended a public elementary school, 6th
grade, for almost five hours a day. At first he had difficulty following
what was going on but his Spanish improved appreciably over our stay and he
became very knowledgeable about Cuban history. The classrooms are small,
the teachers are underpaid, the food at school is poor, but what is also
impressive is that the quality of education is the same throughout the
country—rural and urban, poorer and better off neighborhoods. Although Tony
disagreed, I think it is good that there are no private schools, which as
we saw in Mexico is where the better off families send their kids, which
further weakens the financial support for public schools. Filly and Inti
became friends with a group of Cubans who are very much into hip-hop, Cuban
and the more radical U.S. groups such as Dead Prez. Filly and Inti both
learned a lot about Cuba and U.S. foreign policy, really liked Cuba, had a
good experience and want to go back. They returned early to go back to
their respective schools. Josina has really liked being in Cuba, has been
taking graduate classes in sociology and international relations at the
University of Havana, and says Havana is the most beautiful city she has
ever seen in her life. She says that her experience has furthered her
resolve to work for social justice in the United States and perhaps pursue
graduate school in Latin American Studies. It was also a good family
experience as we spent a lot of time together—shopping for food, cooking,
cleaning, travelling around and trying to figure out how things worked.

We lived in two places in the Vedado section of Havana, both were about 1
and ½ miles west of the center of Vedado. We first lived in a house and
then moved to a two bedroom apartment for the final two and ½ months. They
were both expensive and renting out houses, apartments to foreigners is a
way of making a large amount of money in Cuba. For example, our landlady
who owned the apartment made about $500 a month after expenses from us,
which is many times what anyone earns who receives a salary in pesos.
Owners of apartments, houses who rent out part or all of their house are
supposed to pay $100 a bedroom to the state but many claim fewer rooms than
they rent out. Renting out room or residences is one of the many ways that
Cubans can earn dollars. The apartment was very comfortable, from our
balcony you could see the sunset over the bay every evening. There were a
lot of power outages, maybe two or three a week, but for the most part they
do not last more than two hours. The electricity is on far more than in the
early 1990’s.

I taught a graduate class on the Political Economy of the U.S. through my
affiliation with the Center for the Study of the United States (CESEU),
which is part of the University of Havana. Frank Thompson, taught the first
four classes, focusing on poverty and inequality in the U.S., and I taught
the last 10. I enjoyed the teaching and my students—most were faculty at
the University of Havana, or at the Communist Party school. They were for
the most part very knowledgeable about the United States and usually felt
free to speak up. Only infrequently did we discuss Cuba, although they were
some very lively discussions about race relations in Cuba as well as the
level of wages in Cuba, and about income and wage differentials in Cuba. On
these topics, I usually analyzed the situation in the United States, e.g.,
how we live today in the U.S. in a system of formal racial equality but
substantive racial inequality and then asked about the situation in Cuba,
e.g., racism. The dominant viewpoint was that racial prejudice existed
within the population but not racism. Although I believe Cuba has made
qualitatively more advances in reducing racism than the U.S., and is far
less racist, racism continues in Cuba. It seems to me there is awareness of
this at the highest level of the Communist Party.

Although it is not called affirmative action, the Communist Party is making
it a priority to recruit and advance Blacks and women. A similar effort is
taking place in increasing the representation of Afro-Cubans and women in
employment in positions of responsibility.

I mainly taught in English with a Spanish translator although the classes
were more lively when no translator was present and I had to teach in
Spanish. I was disappointed by the small size of the class, only nine
students were signed up and the average attendance was about six. CESEU did
not do much recruiting for the class. My experience with the Center for the
Study of the United States (CESEU) was mixed. I went to Cuba knowing they
wanted to sponsor me but without an academic visa in hand. CESEU worked to
get my tourist visa changed first to a three month academic visa and then
to a four month visa. I also appreciated that they also got extended visas
for all of my children. There is a very talented group of people who work
at CESEU. A major problem, which I also saw in other institutions is that
it is very centralized, that decisions go through the director who is over
committed and stretched too thin. I had hoped to be able to be involved,
get invited to ongoing seminars, discussions about the present and future
of Cuban society and none of this happened even though I was promised many
times I would be invited to these types of discussions. For example, I
prepared a list of questions on the Cuban economy that didn’t get answered.

Toward the end of my stay in Cuba, I met with various researchers at CESEU
to initiate two groups, one on the global economy and another on social
problems/social movements in the United States. We will see whether there
is any follow up on this. Much of what I hoped to learn, do in Cuba didn’t
happen but it was a worthwhile family experience and I gained a deeper kind
of understanding than from my two earlier visits for the Radical Philosophy
Association sponsored conferences that I attended in 1992 and 1993.

My ideas about Cuba changed from day to day, and I have studied Cuba for
over 30 years. I think Cuba society is one of the most just and equal in
the world and it is very important that it survive as a non-capitalist
society. Moreover, we in the U.S. have the responsibility to work against
the criminal U.S. blockade of Cuba. None the less, to me Cuba is not a
model of an alternative society, economic inequality is growing
substantially and although output and national income have been growing
steadily for the last six years, wages for most people who get paid in the
national currency do not provide for an adequate standard of living.

Part of the context for this is the Special Period. With the collapse of
the Soviet bloc, the price for Cuban sugar declined and the price for
Cuba’s main import, oil, rose many times. Fidel Castro has called the
period from 1989 to the present, the Special Period. From 1989 to 1993, the
Cuban economy went into a free fall, with output and incomes falling far
more than it did in the United States during the worst years of the great
depression, 1929-1933. Since 1994, there has been annual growth in
production in Cuba but national output is still about 10% lower than it was
in the late 1980’s and the population is about 10% bigger, about 11
million. The legalization and growing use of the dollar, the growth of
tourism and small private businesses, farmer’s markets, and mixed
enterprises, 50% foreign owned, the decrease of what is available on the
ration cards, and the higher prices for many goods and services, those
priced in dollars or dollar equivalents, and the end of full employment,
have meant a far more difficult economic situation for most Cubans. Cuba
has survived these difficult 12 years of the Special Period but it is a
society much less equal than the late 1980’s with far more economic hardship.

For example, a family with two high paying professional wage earners,
receives about 1000 pesos a month. It is not right to translate this into
dollars as many goods and services are free or heavily subsidized; e.g.,,
goods on the ration card, public transportation, health, electricity,
water. For other goods, such as those bought in many of the private food
markets, going to the movies, a peso is worth close to a dollar. The
problem for most Cubans is that more and more goods and services are priced
in dollars or dollar equivalents, making the prices exorbitantly high for
Cubans earning pesos and working in what is called the socialist sector of
the economy. A dollar is convertible into pesos at about 20 pesos to the
dollar. More and more goods are priced in dollars or dollar equivalents and
because most of these are imported and are made even more expensive because
of the blockade, they cost the same or more than in the United States. For
example, a bottle of cooking oil costs $2 or 40 pesos, a pound of butter
was also about $2.00 meaning two days of salary for the average wage
earner. Televisions, CD players cost more in Cuba than they do in the
United States. Thus for Cubans who work in the socialist or state sector,
their wages pay for food, public transportation, housing and utilities,
with very little left over to pay for medicines that are not readily
available, for entertainment, for repairing consumer durables, much less
for buying new ones, or even to buy new shoes and clothing for themselves
and their children. For the great majority of people in Cuba, real incomes
are substantially lower than in the late 1980’s although consumption is
higher than it was in the early 1990’s, which were the worst years of the
Special Period. One indication to me that people are doing a little better
economically is that the dogs look much better, less skinny than during my
earlier visits.

To its credit and unlike other countries, even those with a Communist party
in charge such as Vietnam and China, Cuba is committed to maintaining free
and universal health care and education. This is an incredible achievement
and its importance to people’s lives cannot be overstated. Life expectancy
in Cuba and infant mortality are similar to the United States in a country
where GDP per person is less than 1/10 of the U.S. level. Equally
impressive from what I have seen and heard is there is little difference in
infant mortality and life expectancy in Cuba between the city and the
countryside. Prior to the 1959 revolution, these differences were immense.
Look at the differences in the United States between blacks and whites,
e.g., infant mortality is more than twice as high for African-Americans
than for whites. Schools, curriculum, resources, accessibility up to and
including university also seem similar throughout the country. However,
even with regards to healthcare and education, there are some real
problems. With regards to healthcare, although hospital care and doctors’
visits are free, Cubans must pay for prescriptions. For medicines produced
in Cuba and some that are readily available, they are affordable to all
Cubans. But those that are in short supply and imported are quite
expensive, e.g., often a month supply of anti-asthma spray or a dosage of
an antibiotic would cost $10 to $12, which is almost the average monthly
salary. Often these medicines were only available in the pharmacy or
hospital for foreigners, adding to feelings of second class citizenship by
many Cubans.

The level of education in Cuba is high. Literacy is 100% and virtually
everyone has a secondary or 9th grade education. Even in the most rural
areas, there are secondary schools, even if there are very few students.
Compare this to Mexico, a much richer country in average income, where
secondary schools and even elementary schools are lacking in many rural
areas. Although university education is free and access is far more equal
in Cuba than the United States, the students at the universities, at least
in Havana, and I suspect nationally are predominantly white and
disproportionately from the strata of professionals and officials. This was
not true in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. University education today is for
the most part, limited to those who make a high score on entrance tests.
Parents who are college educated are more likely to help their kids do
well, e.g., by hiring tutors for them. I was surprised at the relatively
small number of Black students at University of Havana and the Polytechnic
University, Juan Antonio Echeverria. Most everyone I spoke to agreed that
this was happening but the explanations were not adequate. A common
explanation was that the expected payoff in terms of higher earnings for
getting a college degree no longer held, given the low salaries for
professionals, Because of this, many families, particularly those that did
not value a college degree except for the higher earnings it had promised,
were choosing careers in commerce, entertainment or other sectors where
they could earn more. In my past visits to Cuba, the high number of
professionals and officials whose parents had been low income campesinos,
farmworkers, or low paid blue collar workers stood out and was so clearly
different from the United States. Although mobility between generations of
the same family in Cuba is still obviously far greater than the United
States and the opportunities for blacks seem far greater in Cuba than in
the United States in relation to the possibilities in each society, the
changes in Cuba in terms of who is attending the universities is quite
troubling. There is a growing recognition of this problem there.

Economically, there is clearly economic growth in Cuba which I think is
very necessary given the many needs—for improvement in public
transportation, for increasing production and consumption of food and other
consumer goods, for more books, for improving the infrastructure—phones,
roads, water, electric systems, for developing energy sources. The average
level of productivity is very low in most sectors of the economy. There is
an attempt to address this by making wages tied more directly to
productivity, with wage increases for individual workers depending upon
management’s assessment of the worker’s efficiency, i.e., material
incentives. This together with new systems of enterprise accounting and
more pressure on firms to reduce costs and be self-financing are the main
steps being taken to raise productivity and efficiency. Large layoffs,
e.g., in sugar, are also being discussed, which may raise productivity but
is unlikely to raise output given the absence of alternative employment in
productive sectors. Investment in new technology, particularly computers is
another focus, particularly in the tourist related sectors. The movement
away from Soviet technology has been a slow and costly process, slowing
economic growth. Although there is some discussion of greater worker
participation in the production process, this does not seem to be a
priority in the current period. It would require a huge commitment at all
levels of society and at all levels of the workplace to make this happen.
There is some attempt to improve the quality of goods and services and to
better meet consumer needs but primarily in the tourist sector. Thus far
the solutions proposed to raise productivity and output do not seem
adequate to this important task.

Tourism is the dynamic sector in the Cuban economy. It is not only seen as
the primary source of foreign exchange but also as the driving force for
economic growth and development. The growth in tourism, since my last
visit, 1993, is striking. Cuba hopes to have close to two million visitors
this year or by 2002. The majority of tourist dollars stay in Cuba today as
more and more of the spending is on Cuban made goods and services. Tourism
is backwards and forward linked to other sectors of the economy, such as
construction and building materials, infrastructure, telecommunications and
transportation, entertainment, food processing and restaurants, etc. There
is a serious attempt to spread tourism throughout the country although it
currently concentrated in parts of Havana, Varadero and to a lesser extent,
Santiago. I also think it trickles down more in Cuba to Cubans not directly
connected to tourism than in other countries, in terms of the imports of
necessities it finances and in the use of the revenue generated to finance
public services.

On the other hand, there is much I find very troubling with the huge
concentration of resources in this sector and the type of tourism
emphasized. Besides leaving fewer resources for other sectors, in the short
run, it is an important contributor to economic inequality as the incomes
of many in this sector may be ten or more times higher than a salary in the
public non-dollar sector. This also contributes to many skilled
professionals leaving the jobs they were trained for to work as
taxi-drivers, hotel clerks, in restaurants. For example, I took taxis
infrequently. In five cases, where I took private taxis, I asked the
drivers if they previously had other jobs. Three of the taxi drivers had
previously worked as a doctor, as a highly skilled agricultural engineer or
in the foreign ministry. Another worked part-time as a doctor and part-time
as a cab driver, which was the main source of his income.

Given the very low level of Cuban salaries at this time, the differences in
the standard of living between the average tourist and Cuban is very big.
This has led to increased dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Cuban
economy and the average level of income, a sharply increased desire for a
standard of consumption closer to the tourist, a changing value system that
makes the highest priority, individual consumption, and an increased desire
to leave Cuba, particularly by young people. Because of the higher incomes
associated with tourism, the formal and informal sector jobs tied to
tourism become the desired jobs to work in, even if this means hustling and
breaking the law.. Tourism furthers racism and sexism in Cuba. Most
tourists in Cuba are European, the largest numbers being French and
Italian. Afro-Cubans talking to tourists on the streets are very likely to
be questioned by the police, or the police are likely to ask the tourists
if they are being hassled. This is one of the forms of racial profiling
that takes place. It also seems that the better paying jobs in the tourist
sector tend to go to younger and lighter-skinned Cubans, particularly in
enterprises managed by a foreign company, such as most of the big hotels. I
was told that after complaints by the relevant union in 1995-1996 to racial
discrimination, there have been conscious efforts to address this. Much of
Cuban tourism has been advertised in Europe as places with beautiful
beaches and women, sun and music. This has certainly furthered sex and
sexist tourism in Cuba. Although these negative consequences are recognized
by many Cuban officials, it seems that the dominant view is that the
economic benefits of tourism are absolutely necessary and that the negative
social consequences can be limited. Even if the economic benefits of
tourism eventually benefit more of the Cuban population than they do now,
the values and consciousness that are being furthered are not those
consistent with the development of socialist women and men.

There is some interest in Cuba towards moving away from the current forms
of tourism which compete against other islands of the Caribbean and tend to
bring tourists to Cuba who bring money but a very low level of political
consciousness. I find somewhat hopeful the increasing interest by the Cuban
government and researchers in ecotourism and cultural tourism. By cultural
tourism is meant, tourism based on Cuba’s unique history and culture and
the nature of its society today. It includes for example the increasing
attempt by universities to provide university education to students who can
pay with foreign exchange for tuition, housing and food. This was the first
year that programs existed for U.S. students. Although there was some
dissatisfaction with the actual education and living conditions, they were
somewhat segregated from Cubans, the quality and quantity of these programs
are likely to improve. Cuban interest in cultural tourism is that it would
help Cuban offer a more unique tourist experience that was less directly
competing with other countries heavily dependent on tourism such as Jamaica
and make Cuba less dependent on European tourist tour operators who capture
a high proportion of the Cuban dollar. To me, cultural tourism is more
attractive than the current dominant form because the values and behavior
of tourists attracted to Cuba for its culture are likely to be less
disruptive of Cuban values.

With regards to values, I am struck by the greater level of cooperation and
sharing among Cubans than in the U.S. and other countries I have visited.
One reason for the low level of crime in Cuba, and the relative safety
there, is that community means something, that neighbors help each other
out and watch out for each other. Community organizations such as the
Committees to Defend the Revolution also further community spirit, cohesion
and safety. A few small examples—my son, Tony, usually walks around with
his shoes untied. He could never walk a block in Havana without someone
telling him or me to tie his shoes. On the buses, which are very
overcrowded, it is often hard to get off as the move to the exit requires
squeezing past many people, where there is no space at all. Usually people
will scream at the bus driver to not take off until every one who wants to
get off, can. People are constantly running out of spices, soap, coffee,
etc. but if neighbors have any of these items, they share it, even if it
means running out of it themselves. With the many hours it takes to survive
and provide for the family—shopping all over to save a few pesos, long
waits for the buses for shopping and to and from work, people, particularly
women, who this falls on, have little time for community activities and
activism and for reading. One’s private life seems to increasingly dominate
daily activities. On the other hand, I did go to two huge demonstrations
and rallies, one on April 16th, 2001, which was the 40th year anniversary
of Cuba declaring itself socialist, and the second on May Day. Both were
attended by many hundreds of thousands of people. Cubans were strongly
encouraged to go by their workplaces and neighborhood associations but not
forced to go.

I have already mentioned the growing economic inequality in Cuba.

Besides the growth of tourism, and the higher pay of some who work for
themselves or in mixed enterprises, another source of growing inequality is
the growth of remittances or money from Cubans who have left Cuba that they
send to relatives in Cuba. Estimates of this are around 1 billion dollars a
year with up to 50% of all Cuban families receiving something. This means
the 1.5 million households who receive gifts (I am assuming there are about
3 million Cuban households) receive about $600 a year on the average, which
more than doubles the earnings of those families who receive money from
abroad. This is also an important source of racial inequality in Cuba as
Cuban emigrees are far more likely to be white than the Cuban population as
a whole, and also are likely to earn more money abroad than Blacks who
leave Cuba because of the racism in the United States, the country where
most Cubans emigrate to.

Another serious and continuing problem is the continued centralization of
power and the lack of people’s power to effect change at the grassroots
level. This is a difficult subject to discuss. The United States
continually attacks Cuba for being a dictatorship, for violating human
rights. As you no doubt know, this is total hypocrisy on the part of the
United States. To those in power in the U.S., the Cuban government must be
overthrown because it is independent of the United States. The U.S. has
conducted a 40 year murderous war against Cuba. Cuba; survival in the face
of this is very inspiring to me and people all over the world. None the
less, I find troubling the top down nature of Cuban society and the absence
of institutions and avenues for people to challenge the policy and
direction of Cuban society. To give an example. The dissatisfaction with
the inadequacy of public transportation in Havana, Santiago was almost
universal and there was a lot of anger at the sharply reduced schedule on
Sundays, the one day off for most Cuban families. There may be defensible
reasons for the low priority public transportation is given but what I
found was that almost all Cubans felt there was nothing they could do to
change these priorities. Even most activists inside the Communist Party of
Cuba felt that the decisions came mainly from the top down and that debate
within the party were also very limited. As one member said to me, he
agreed in principle with Fidel Castro’s comments that within the revolution
and within socialism all criticism is welcomed, but challenges to socialism
will not be accepted. I agree also. The problem is that is interpreted as
no criticisms of official policy and Fidel are valid. As Cubans feel they
cannot change society, and given the difficulty of daily life, most
withdraw from political engagement.

Related to this is the stultifying bureaucracy that marks much of Cuban
life, combining many of the elements of the second world (Soviet system)
with historical Cuban structures. In many cases, officials seemed motivated
primarily by doing what would not get them into trouble rather than what
was right or helpful. We faced this most strikingly at the University of
Havana, in my children trying to take classes there, and also with regards
to our immigration status. We heard stories from Cubans continually about
decisions that seemed arbitrary with few or no avenues to challenge
decisions that they considered unjust, e.g., fines, non-granting of
permission to travel.

As Randall Robinson writes in his recent book, The Debt, Cuba does not have
the feel of a repressive police state. Open discussions with individuals
about strengths and weaknesses of Cuba were easy to have, and we had them
daily. Cubans, who dissent, do not disappear nor are they tortured. On the
other hand, public and organized criticism is limited. The media, both TV
and print, while being far closer to my viewpoint than the mass media in
the United States, do not give adequate coverage to social and economic
problems in Cuban life and society. From what I observed, most Cubans were
far more interested in watching novelas, soap operas, than the news or news
type programs, and the skepticism towards Cuban media was quite high.

It also seems to me that the principle of Fidel and the leadership of the
Communist is to listen to the Cuban people but then to make decisions,
small and big, about what is best for them. The fear is that people will
make the wrong decision and cannot be trusted. I have a lot of admiration
for Fidel as someone totally committed to eradicating poverty, to his
belief in the economic equality of all people, to education and health for
all, to defending Cuba against the United States and to his
internationalism. Cuba’s continued aid to other countries, for example,
sending doctors to Africa and Latin America and their training future
African and Latin American doctors is an example of what foreign aid should
be. I have no regret for naming my youngest son, Antonio Fidel. On the
other hand, what also seems clear and I think cannot only be blamed on
Cuban attempts to survive in the face of U.S. aggression and undeclared war
is a view that Fidel and the leadership of the party and the government
should decide what is best for the people in a paternalistic fashion. If
not changed, given the low wages of most and the growth of inequality, I
fear that socialism will increasingly lose its legitimacy. This already
seems to be happening among a high proportion of the young, although less
so with older people.

There is a lot of discussion what will happen after Cuban President Fidel
Castro retires or dies, both with regards to U.S.-Cuba relations and the
direction of Cuban society. When people asked me, I half-jokingly and half
seriously said, Fidel should retire on July 26th, 2003. That would be 50
years to the day he led the heroic attack on the Moncada Barracks in
Santiago against the Batista dictatorship. Fifty years is enough, his life
has been an truly inspiring one of struggle, courage and commitment. To me
the issue is not so much one man, although Fidel has had an incredible and
positive impact on the Cuban people and the world, but the principles that
guide the direction of the country. Cuban policy more than who is in power
shapes U.S. policy, the more Cuba succumbs to neoliberalism the more
friendly the U.S. will be to it. I hope Cuba doesn’t succumb.

With regards to the future of Cuba, one person I talked to said the choices
facing Cuba were: either a continuation of the current leadership, one that
maintained a lot of socialist economic values but were dogmatic and not
willing to democratize society; or some of the younger Cuban leaders
leading Cuba after Fidel. They were likely to push Cuba in a more
capitalist and unequal direction but to also permit more civil liberties
and dissent.

Neither of these choices are appealing. Troubling to me are people whom I
had spoke to in my earlier visits who had hope of Cuba surviving the
Special Period and then moving towards a truly democratic and socialist
society who have become cynical and pessimistic about Cuba’s future. To
make it clear by democracy, I do not mean the U.S. version of voting for
two capitalist parties with two million people in prison. I mean a society
where people have the power to shape all aspects of their life as well as
civil liberties. It requires a high amount of equality in income but that
is not sufficient. This vision of substantive democracy in a socialist
society is not currently on the agenda in Cuba and in fact the discussion
of what socialism is, is very limited.

Unless Cuba moves in this direction, towards a more participatory socialist
society, it seems the best that can be hoped for is a Cuban society where
the population is increasingly alienated from the state, where private
enterprise grows, where incomes and the standard of living rise but the
inequality resembles more and more of the world except that extreme poverty
is somewhat reduced and health and education continue to be provided at low
or no cost. The Communist Party may survive but the essence of socialism
would be buried.

During my four months visit to Cuba, I was constantly struck by how much
more just and equal Cuba was from other countries in the south that I have
spent some time in, Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I also found it
hopeful that most Cuban officials, as well as members of the Communist
Party, social science researchers and teachers believed strongly in
economic equality and in reducing poverty in Cuba. I was told many, may
times how Fidel and the government are very concerned about the poverty and
marginalization of many Cubans and are committed to addressing it. At the
same time, I also felt that Cuba was far from being a truly good and just
society, a live model to look to. The structural problems can definitely
not be understood outside of the U.S. aggression against Cuba but also can
not be reduced to it as is so often done. The model of the one party
centralized state and centralized economy, even where it is not very
corrupt, has a remarkable leader and a Cuban Communist party truly
concerned about equality, is flawed and needs to be significantly reformed.
It is our responsibility in the United States to end the U.S. blockade and
change policy here but there are also much internal change that will have
to be done and should be done by the Cuban people and in the short run,
this does not seem very likely.

I have been back almost four weeks in Olympia. In thinking back, I remember
how much I enjoyed Cuba, its beauty, the hospitality of so many of its
people as well as a society that is more cooperative and equal than the
U.S. and other societies I have visited. Visit it yourself. To challenge
U.S. capitalism we need a vision of an alternative. While there is much we
can learn from Cuba, e.g., its internationalism, we need to construct our
own model of that alternative.

In solidarity, Peter Bohmer 

Louis Proyect
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