Category Archives: Cuba

What if we tried to emulate instead of demonize Cuba?

The right-wing narrative on Cuba is so peculiarly imbecile and propagandistic that it takes properly educated intellectuals to swallow it. I mentioned a short editorial in yesterdays Dagens Nyheter, our most important paper, in which the Castro regime was described as “grotesque and disgusting”. The author claims that the Castro brothers have used the US embargo as an excuse for “tormenting their people”.

This torment must of course have been very sophisticated since it has placed Cuba at the very top, among Latin American countries, on United Nations Human Development Index list, second only to Chile. It has also given Cuba more medical doctors than any other nation in the world (6 of 1000 inhabitants), making it possible for the poor country to send 19 000 doctors and 10 000 nurses to help people in need around the globe. The Cubans, living on pennies, enjoy the same longevity as people in USA, and have a lower infant mortality. Adding also things like successful land reforms and an advanced educational system, most poor people in Latin America have a lot to envy the Cubans.

So, what torment is the author referring to? It seems first of all to be about freedom of expression, or the lack of it. “Dissidents, journalists and human rights activists are subject to harassment, random house arrests and other restrictions”, DN claims. The heart-felt concern for these indeed brave people is of course warming, especially since the traditional assassinations, which was the standard procedure for eliminating dissidents in the rest of Latin America through all the years, had left DN remarkably unconcerned. The endemic neo-Nazi and other extreme regimes on the continent were treated by DN as just some kind of quite natural disruption, nothing to lose temper about.

A childish narrative implies that the communists’ persecution and oppression of dissidents is part of their nature, and something they engage in for the pleasure of exhibiting their power, eliminating competitors, or something equally deplorable. But Stalin has been dead for 60 years, implications of which many right-wingers have difficulties accepting. Cuban leaders are in all likelihood aware of the bad PR that actions against dissidents generate in the world, and most certainly know that they would be much better off with a more lenient treatment.

To deliberately perform seemingly counterproductive actions implies some kind of necessity and coercion. I dealt in the previous Postcard with CIA’s horrible and numerous terrorist activities hitting Cuba during many decades. It’s likewise well known, and obviously trivial, that CIA has used its unlimited resources to conduct advanced espionage and unscrupulous provocations towards Cuba, using all kinds of obnoxious methods and crooked agents. No regime whatsoever could have watched these kinds of subversive activities by an enemy state without reacting. The repression in Cuba is in many ways defensive.

The Cuban situation is more revealing for us, the self-proclaimed saints of western “capitalism”, than for the island’s leadership. Living conditions when it comes to health care, education and other things we call quality of life, is arguably much better in Cuba than in many places elsewhere in the developing world. The very policies that have created these welfare conditions are the ones that right-wing westerners consider “grotesque and disgusting” and fight with utmost frenzy. We never seem to ask ourselves the simple question: Why is it that our abundantly wealthy societies have such difficulties in taking care of those who are most in need, at least in par with the poor country Cuba? We neither seem to reflect upon the quite obvious answer.

Is Cuba tortured enough?

“Bring terrors of the earth to Cuba!” was the order given by John F. Kennedy to his administration in 1962 after the embarrassing defeat in the Bay of Pigs adventure. And he certainly was obeyed. Cuba became the most terror stricken country probably in all history. CIA got to exhibit every aspect of its creativity and cruelty.

A number of agricultural facilities and industries were blown up, among them an oil refinery where 500 people were killed. Cuban embassies around the world were bombed, as well as a passenger airliner killing 73 people. Dengue fever was implanted (contained only thanks to Cuba’s well functioning health care system), on top of that an African swine flu forcing the slaughter of every pig on the island.

Sugar cargoes destined to the Soviet Union were tampered with to make the sugar inedible. (Once though, CIA succeeded with a blunder making Kennedy furious. A Soviet vessel carrying sugar had suffered machine breakdown and was forced to enter a port in Puerto Rico, where CIA routinely destroyed the sugar. Presumptuous as it is, CIA overlooked that Puerto Rico is US territory, thus giving the Russians the opportunity of a formal protest against USA.)

All this was on top of numerous attempts to murder Fidel Castro, in which every fanciful method imaginable was tried. Fidel had to change quarters each night for years (thus fathering a number of new Castros). When assassination was no longer a suitable tactic CIA worked on other ideas, such as doping Fidel’s cigars with substances intended to make his hair and beard fall off. It was all like a Grimm fairy-tale in real life.

Unimaginable irony: In 1982 Cuba was put on the US terrorist list, the same year Saddam Hussein was taken off the list!

Two of the more notorious CIA terrorists were identified as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, guilty of the airliner bombing among other horrible things. Since the plane had taken off from Caracas it became a legal issue for Venezuela (this was long before Hugo Chávez, of course) and they demanded the two terrorists after they had been captured. Not surprisingly Bosch and Posada Carriles “succeeded” to escape from custody in Caracas and find shelter in USA. There they enjoyed their comfortable existence when George W. Bush declared his famous pretext for the war of aggression against Afghanistan: “those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves”.

Now President Obama intends to loosen the hard grip USA has held on Cuba for more than 50 years. Reactionaries in his country find this an all too benevolent action and are expected to prevent any attempts in Congress to abolish the embargo. Our reactionaries in Sweden, such as they appear in “our NYT” – Dagens Nyheter – reluctantly accept Obama’s first step towards normalization of the Cuban relations.

Although DN in an op-ed finds Obama’s initiative “reasonable”, the rest of the article dwells on formalist arguments on why the Cuban government still is “grotesque and disgusting”. This is in itself grotesque enough to come back to in a forthcoming postcard.

Ebola, Cuba and embargo

Since half a century US upholds a policy against Cuba that lately has become an interesting exception from the ordinary habit of the political system, which is to serve the real decision makers – the economic power. The American Chamber of Commerce, the business community’s most important lobby group, wants the embargo on Cuba to be abolished, while the politicians on Capitol Hill persist with their wish to strangle Cuba economically. The Masters of mankind prefer this time business to the ostentatious and cruel politics since long obsolete.

Not surprisingly one finds conservative media on the side of the real power. Some days ago New York Times made a policy statement in an editorial urging that the embargo be brought to an end. That was followed by such a rarity as a positive news report from Cuba, telling about the country’s efforts to help Ebola victims in Africa. 500 medical personnel will be specially trained for the task and prepared to go to the affected African countries. The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, had publicly given special credit to Cuba and East Timor (!) for their willingness to send health care workers to the dangerous places where they are most needed, something many rich countries obviously hesitated to do on a larger scale.

In an academic work by two American scholars the Cuban health care system is described more precisely. One astonishing fact is that Cuba has sent out 30,000 health care workers – of which 19,000 doctors – to more than 100 countries around the world. (Doctors Without Borders – awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – have apparently around 3,000 doctors in field service. They are also active in African countries, treating Ebola patients.)

The Swedish population is of the same magnitude as the Cuban (9 versus 11 million), but we are immensely richer. Still we could certainly not send 19,000 doctors to help poor people abroad. We have just above 30,000 physicians altogether and can barely cover our own needs. We have to import doctors from less rich countries in Europe and elsewhere. That’s what’s happened to the former social role model in which people’s important needs used to be prioritized. (Instead we can nowadays buy hecatombs of stuff: a new cell phone each year, clothes we wear a few times, lots of food that bring us to premature death, and thousands of other things, all for the purpose of a superficial “happiness” but more for enriching the rich with ever growing profits.)

For us there is a lot to learn from this. Our mainstream media have not realized that it’s time to change foot on the Cuban issue. There is still just demonizing of the poor island to expect from our enlightened journalists and reporters. But we use to follow suit on USA even if we mostly lag some years behind. Like all others (except USA, Israel and occasionally some Pacific Island) we vote each year in the UN General Assembly for cessation of the Cuban embargo. But that’s because the strangulation violates the UN charter and WTO rules, and that acceptance of it could be precedential and thus hit back on us (it’s by no means for moral reasons, anyway).

The most important wisdom to gain from the Cuban example is how much humanitarian work we could have done with a minimum of our resources allocated to it. We can just imagine what enormous results we could achieve, had the rich countries made an effort in proportion just a fraction of the Cuban one. The lesson learned is that the well-being of mankind to a very large extent is a question of distribution based on a humanitarian ground.