Rickey Singh: making sense of changes in Cuba


Richard Moore

Bcc: FYI

Caricom in ‘changing’ Cuba

Posted by smeddum on September 19, 2010


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jamaica Observer

A communiqué was expected to be issued yesterday on the Third Caribbean Community-Cuba Ministerial Meeting that concluded in Havana on Friday.

It was expected to offer an explanation on future Caricom-Cuba co-operation and initiatives in economic and political co-ordination with Latin America in the context of new economic and political alliances and arrangements in response to international developments.

The two-day meeting occurred in the significantly changing Cuban environment compared to that of 1972, when four Caricom countries had played a vital role in helping to bring the then Fidel Castro-led revolutionary Government out of the diplomatic cold in a display of courageous defiance of the United States of America.

At that time, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago chose to break Washington’s crude isolationist policy against that small Caribbean nation with their unprecedented joint establishment of diplomatic relations with Havana.

The legendary Fidel Castro along with the administration he led for some half-a-century, before serious illness compelled him to hand over government leadership to younger brother Raoul Castro four years ago, has never failed to show his deep appreciation for that pace-setting diplomatic initiative by the quartet of Caricom states.

Caricom ministers who participated in the Havana meeting were expected to learn at first-hand why Cuba — the only country to suffer from the longest and most punitive embargo enforced by the USA — is now in the process of implementing serious adjustments to its economic model from total State control, based on socialist transformation, to embrace a widening experiment in private sector operations.

The announcement earlier in the week by President Raoul Castro that some half-a-million State workers are to be facilitated in new employment, mostly in a gradually expanding private sector — including tourism and construction industries — had followed a controversial interview by elder brother Fidel with an American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The Atlantic magazine.

The “misinterpretation”

Castro lost no time in telling the media at the launch of his latest book that he was “misinterpreted on the economy” by Goldberg when he reported him as saying that “the economic model no longer works for us”.

But the Cuban leader refrained from any criticisms of Goldberg, remarking that he would “await with interest” the journalist’s promised “extensive article” to be published in The Atlantic.

Those in the US Congress and mainstream media, known for their anxieties to ridicule Cuba’s economic model and governance system, can be expected to join in political jeerings.

Of course, they would have no interest in considering, for instance, that after 50 years of admirable struggles to survive the onslaughts of successive administrations in Washington, with their suffocating blockade as a core feature, Cuba does not have to apologise for tough, pragmatic decisions on adjustments to its economic model; not in this closing first decade of the 21st century — long after the disappearance of the once powerful superpower, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and not after the collapse of Wall Street, America’s traditionally flaunted economic model of capitalism.

Indeed, the ‘Wall Street crash’ was a development that spawned the prevailing global economic and financial crisis still seriously impacting today on economies the world over.

Work force

Initially, as explained in Havana, the alternative employment programme will affect half-a-million of the five million-strong Cuban work force, with another half-million to follow over a phased period with State assistance in various private sector businesses.

This, according to reports out of Havana, is not an overnight development. The adjustments, linked to reassessments of policies and programmes over the past two years, are being made all the more necessary by the global crisis that has affected so many poor and developing nations.

Incidentally, as readers would know, none of the economically affected nations have had to contend with a 50-year-long spiteful blockade by Uncle Sam.

Yet, for all its domestic challenges, the Cuban Government continues to reach out, in offering assistance, though not as previously extensive, to countries in the Caribbean and other regions in various areas, including health, agriculture and construction.

The United Nations has long recognised the remarkable achievements of Cuba in health and education. And just last week, while President Raoul Castro was speaking about redeployment of sections of the labour force, Inter-Press Service was reporting on Cuba’s success in making available in the world VA-MENGOCO-BC, the only vaccine against meningitis-B. This medication has been included, since 1991, in Cuba’s national infant immunisation programme and is used successfully in South and Central America.

As we await the outcome of last week’s Third Cuba-Caricom Ministerial Meeting, it is of relevance to recall here what Professor Norman Girvan noted when he accepted in 2009 an Honorary Doctor of Economic Sciences degree from the University of Havana.

In recalling the debt of gratitude owed to the people of that Caribbean island state by so many in the poor and developing world, Girvan, a former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, observed:

“The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration on the ability of a small Caribbean country to chart its own course of social justice, economic transformation and national independence by relying on the mobilisation of the entire population; on the will and energy of its people; and for its numerous actions of intensive international solidarity… The debt is unpayable.”

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