[Marxism] Castro addresses conference of Economists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 16 09:03:06 MST 2004


The Guardian, Saturday February 14, 2004
Castro: U.S. Embargo Hasn't Broken Cuba
By LISA J. ADAMS

Associated Press Writer

HAVANA (AP) - America's economy hangs by a thread while Cuba - after 
four decades under a U.S. economic blockade - continues to offer free 
health care and boasts an infant mortality rate lower than its northern 
neighbor, President Fidel Castro asserted early Saturday.

In a 4-hour speech to economists, Castro also took shots at President 
Bush, saying he "couldn't debate a Cuban 9th-grader." He recited for a 
half-hour from a published compilation of Bush malapropisms, bent over 
with laughter as the audience roared.

Castro also challenged Bush to be clear about how the United States 
plans to realize a transition to democracy in Cuba. He wondered aloud - 
again - if it involved a plan to kill him.

"The great difference" between Cuba and the United States is that Cuba 
"has learned to do a lot with very little," Castro said at the 
conclusion of the Sixth International Meeting of Economists on 
Globalization and Development Problems.

Castro noted that many of the more than 1,000 attending economists from 
50 countries - including some from the United States - had sharply 
criticized globalization and the "neoliberal" economic policies of 
industrialized nations.

He lauded U.S. Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel L. McFadden's "keen 
observations" - among them that the United States, with a fiscal deficit 
of more than $520 billion, is managing its economy like a "banana 
republic."

"This economy is hanging by a thread," Castro said.

Castro also lashed out at the "foolishness" of the U.S. economic 
blockade that has been in place since the presidency of John F. Kennedy, 
saying it hadn't stopped Cuba from surpassing the United States in many 
areas.

The communist-run island has no illiteracy, a lower infant mortality 
rate than the United States, lower student-teacher ratios and higher 
levels of educational achievement, he said.

"Bush couldn't debate a Cuban 9th-grader," Castro remarked as he leaned 
across the podium toward applauding listeners.

Castro's commentary addressed everything from free trade agreements and 
fluctuating currencies to the current presidential campaign in the 
United States. At one point - after offering his audience coffee to 
avoid falling asleep - Castro went on to quote various reports from the 
U.S. media severely criticizing Bush, the economy, U.S. unemployment and 
the war on Iraq.

He talked at length about the Bush administration's Commission for a 
Free Cuba - a panel set up in October and led by U.S. Secretary of State 
Colin Powell to plan a strategy for Cuba once the 77-year-old Castro is 
no longer in power.

When the United States announced creation of the commission, Powell 
suggested that the goal was not to force Castro out.

U.S. officials talk about a transition, "but how would they make this 
transition?" Castro asked Saturday, suggesting that "the only way is to 
proceed with an illegal assassination using the scores of techniques 
they have available."

Castro challenged Bush "to have the courage to say whether he is using 
this power."

Even if his days are numbered by the United States, "don't feel any 
pity," Castro told his listeners.

"There is no fear. To demonstrate fear would be a mistake. ... and in 
any case I would have to say to this illustrious gentleman (Bush) what 
the Roman gladiators said: 'Hail, Caesar. Those who are going to die 
salute you.'"



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