[Marxism] Cuba and the World Today: Looking Ahead to 2005

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 31 16:58:25 MST 2004

by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

The year 2004 comes to a close on a tragic note with tens of
thousands of people, indeed, well over 100,000 people by last
estimates, having been killed in the terribly tsunami which
hit Asia. Help to the survivors is an obvious responsibility 
for civilized peoples and is an urgent necessity for us all.

Nature's power, awesome as it is, can be a force for good or
evil. If human beings and human society can learn to live in
harmony with nature, and not in struggle to subordinate it to
private greed, there is no doubt in my mind but that a better
world really is possible. Indeed, it's my belief that not only
is a better world possible, it's indispensable if we are to be
able to survive and prosper in the longer term.

This fall we saw what can happen when nature runs amuck as 
Hurricanes Ivan and Charley assaulted the Caribbean and the 
south eastern US. While the damage was less severe in terms of 
human life, we also were able to see, to compare and contrast
what can happen in countries where society takes responsibility
for the lives and property of their people, as in Cuba, or else
where the individual is more or less left on their own more or
less. A look at the approaches followed in Cuba and the U.S. 
can be instructive when we look at monstrous tragedy which is
now unfolding in Asia as these lines are written.

>From the point of view of Cuba and its relations with both the
people on the island and in the Cuban diaspora, as well as the
relationship between Cuba and the United States, it has been a
most contentious year indeed. Washington's unrelenting blockade
of Cuba, is now about to begin yet another dismal chapter. Yet
it's clear that the at the end of the year, Cuba's position in
the international arena is distinctly stronger and more hopeful
than it was a year ago. Without trying to present an exhaustive
or complete list of the year's events, it will be useful to take
a broad approach and to look at a number of significant events.

As 2004 draws to a close, Cuba's ties with Venezuela and with
China are closer than ever. The ties with Venezuela are among 
the most important because they occur in geographic proximity 
and are part of the centuries-long struggle for Latin American
integration. In the face of Washington's attempts to swallow
Latin America, using such vehicles as the Free Trade Area of
the Americas (FTAA, or as it's called in Spanish, ALCA) along
with the smaller ones like NAFTA, CAFTA and SHAFTA, the world
of Latin America is slowly struggling to pull itself together
to build and independent alternative to Washington. Various
regional efforts such as MERCOSUR, and the expanded trade in
the region are part of the process. 

More striking as well as at a more advanced level here are the 
growing links between Cuba and Venezuela, symbolized by visit
of President Hugo Chavez Frias to Cuba, marking the tenth year
since his first visit. The agreements which they made mark big
new progress in Latin American integration. Take the time now
to read the agreement which the two leaders signed December 14
and you'll get an idea. Lowering of trade and tariff barriers,
encouragement of mutual investment, including investment in 
Cuba by private Venezuelan business are among the features of
the new agreement. Read the text of the agreement and of the
Conjoint Statement signed by the two leaderS at these pages:
(note that the URLs are different.)



These links, taking account of the differences between the 
social systems in both countries set a tone and example for
what's possible in a broader way on the continent as peoples
struggle to take their countries back into their own hands.
Brazil under Lula, Argentina under Kirchner, and Nicaragua
today where the Sandinistas have made electoral progress as
the dominant establishment parties are exposed for massive
their massive corruption are auspicious signs of the times.

China's entry into the international economic arena has been
of extreme significance. The recent triumphal visit of the
Chinese Prime Minister Hu Jin-tao across Latin America and
concluding in Cuba has been a source of great pleasure here
in Cuba. The Chinese are expanding their economic ties to
Cuba, particularly including the investment of $500 million
in a new nickel production facility here. While Washington
may be able to force little countries like Spain or Belgium
or the UK to fill out disclaimers that anything produced
there doesn't have a trace of Cuban nickel, this will be a
great deal harder to enforce in the case of China.

These are all uneven processes, but the general tendency is
apparent. All of this bodes well for Cuba. Just a year and 
a half ago, as Washington's invasion and occupation of Iraq
was started, when Cuba took strong steps to pull the veil
off the massive U.S.-funded and orchestrated opposition in
Cuba, the so-called "dissidents". Cuba bit the bullet and
even executed three armed hijackers, and faced a storm of
international criticism. Some was sincere, but the great
majority was of the crocodile tears variety. The sentences
handed down to Washington's agents were long, a already a
good number have already been freed on parole. It wouldn't 
surprise anyone of more were released soon as the European
Union's "common policy" on Cuba has begun to fray around
the edges. 

Thanks to the election defeat of Jose Maria Aznar and the
succession of Zapatero, leading to the withdrawal of the
Spanish contingent from Washington's occupation regime in
Iraq, a new and positive stage was set for the relations
between the island the European Union. This is good news.
(Though it's got Washington and Miami rhetorically going
bonkers as it sees the ground slipping out from under it.)

Cuba's trade with the United States, which remains legal
under U.S. law, despite its being restricted to "for cash"
and being only in one direction, U.S. sales TO Cuba with
no Cuban sales to the U.S., has continued to blossom even
as Washington tries to disrupt the flow of Cuban money to
pay the U.S. companies selling to the island.

Washington has finally put out a nearly complete roadmap
for what it actually proposes to DO to Cuba in the even it
was able to do so. The Bush Commission for Transition to a
Free Cuba, developed after six months of secret sessions,
spells out the details. If you haven't taken a look through
this plan, it's worth looking at with some care. And keep 
in mind that it's both a fantasy, a wish-list or a wet-dream
as it were. But instead of the dreamy-world of the Bush
commission, most thinking people in the world today know that
liberation under Washington's auspices are what we see in 
Iraq, with the inevitable resistance evoked by such a policy
of blood and fire Washington is trying to impose on Iraq.


Cuba at year's end is crawling with tourists. Indeed, the
official figures say there have been more tourists here than
at any time since tourism was revived as a source of income
for the country. But there are virtually no tourists from 
the United States. The Bush administration has by now all 
but completely succeeded in imposing a blockade on the US
population, preventing nearly everyone from coming to see
this country for themselves. And this is most particularly
true for Cuban-Americans who had formerly been the largest
group of people from the U.S. visiting the island where
they also helped support their families materially. The
Bush administration has acted in a wide range of ways to
prevent Cubans from aiding their families here, but every
time Washington cuts off some source, a new one pops up.

Just a few weeks ago a new Swiss company has come into
the field to help provide services by which Cubans outside
the country can send support to their member inside.

Cuba responded to US steps against the island's foreign trade
by removing the U.S. dollar as an instrument for internal
commerce. This step, planned well in advance and implemented
over a two-week period, seems to have worked completely. I've
not looked under every bed on the island, of course, but you
simply cannot make any legal purchase of anything in Cuba 
with the U.S. dollar as the instrument. Even the various
foreign companies which do business here have all gone along
with the change and are now paying their bills in the Cuban
convertible pesos. Washington squealed like a stuck pig when
Cuba took this dramatic step, but with all the slanders that
the U.S. has leveled against Cuba, accusing it of laundering
drug-money and so on, Cuba's response: to simply, quickly 
and efficiently remove the problem, like surgically removing
a cyst. 

Here inside Cuba material conditions continue to be ones of
great challenge for the great bulk of the Cuban people who
have free health care and education, but who cannot always
get the medicines their doctors prescribe, who cannot find
as wide a variety of vegetables and meats in the markets at
affordable prices as they'd like. While unemployment here is
extremely low, salaries don't go very far. Thanks to Cuba's
system of subsidized basic commodities (the rationing system
or "libreta"), no one starves in Cuba. I've nearly never seen
what people from the United States would describe as someone
who is "homeless". Cuba's small, isolated and internally-
divided opposition movements are demoralized and ineffective.

There's reason for hope on the internal economic situation as
the island's international economic and diplomatic isolation
is turned around and the economy shows signs of growth. An
informed study of these can be read in Dalia Acosta's IPS 
commentary released just yesterday.

They've been supported, financed and encouraged by the U.S.
government, which has spent literally millions of U.S. tax-
payer funds to build them up. Vladimiro Roca and Marta 
Beatriz Roque, both of whom have served jail terms for 
their previous collaboration with the United States back in
the late nineties, accepted James Cason's invitation to his
home on the night of the U.S. election where it was reported
that 80% of the attending "dissidents" voted symbolically
for George W. Bush. This put them even more out of step with
ordinary Cubans who had hoped that Kerry would succeed Bush.

Washington's hue and cry about human rights, and its world-
wide campaign against Cuba, defeated over and over again at
the UN General Assembly, has been even more thoroughly shown
to be a fraud in light of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Today's
WALL STREET JOURNAL, in its page one feature, describes the
way Washington is now scurrying to redefine how much torture
is to be considered legitimate by the U.S. government via a
new formal document. Check out the new torture policies:

Today's WALL STREET JOURNAL features a long, depressed and
dispirited commentary by Oswaldo Paya, probably the island's
best-known oppositionist in which he harks back nostalgically
to the Batista regime. This must take a certain literary gift
on his part, since he was but an elementary school student at
the time Batista was in power. Take a look at Mr. Paya's views
as presented to the world through the WALL STREET JOURNAL:


The year is coming to an end with a raft of activities, 
concerts, parties and outdoor activities. In a thousand and
one ways, the Cuban Revolution is educating, agitating and
organizing the Cuban nation to celebrate accomplishments
and to face challenges, and to face them down. When the US
interests section provocatively put up a large number "75"
surrounded by a black circle, along with the display of
Santa Claus, Cuba responded with a series of photographs
of US occupation forces torturing the Iraqi people. 

All sorts of imaginative methods have been used to show
how stupid and absurd the US misbehavior is. But I'd like
to emphasize that as imaginative. Nothing that the Cubans
have done could be seen as in any way actually provocative.
By using the tools of consciousness-raising, humor, music
and ridicule, they're giving the Cuban people both a good
time and a bit of education, while making Uncle Sam look 
like a powerless giant. Today's GRANMA daily has a great
story about the children who wrote anti-imperialist slogans
IN CHALK ON THE SIDEWALKS outside the Interests Section.
The headline is: "A smile is a weapon".

Cubans everywhere were delighted to see Micheal Moore's movie
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 this summer, which was featured on Cuban TV.
I'm sure they'll be even more pleased to learn that Moore's
latest project, a critique of the US healthcare system, has
a Cuba edge to it as Moore takes a group of people from the
U.S. whose coverage has been cut off to Cuba in search of 
medical care in the island's free system.

There's much more and we haven't even discussed the Cuban
biotech developments which even include sales of a Cuban
cancer treatment medication TO the united States.

This will the last CubaNews message for 2004. We'll be back
next year with as much interesting news and information on
Cuba as we can find for you. This report was a final wrap-up
for the year, but it isn't complete. There's so much more!

We're very grateful to our translators who help us to bring
readers even MORE from the Cuban media. We hope to provide
more and more new material from Cuba in the coming year.

SPECIAL THANKS to Kathleen Kelly of NY Transfer News who is
holding down the main moderating tasks from Disneylandia. 

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

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