Cuban Democracy at Work (was Re: RES: a trip to North Korea)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Apr 22 14:19:34 PDT 2000

>>The bourgeois media keeps telling us the Cuban CP is dictatorial too.
>Isn't it? I had always thought that multi-party elections were not
>Castro's forte...
>Brad DeLong

By Brad's standard, surely America qualifies as a one-party dictatorship -- of the ruling class, that is. As Gore Vidal says, Americans have One Party with Two Right Wings! Cubans, in contrast, have a one-party dictatorship that seeks to serve the needs of people, at home and abroad. Especially abroad, Cubans, despite their tiny GNP, have been much more generous toward foreign nations than cheapskate imperialists in Washington.



By Jon Hillson

On November 10, as Cuban medical teams fanned out in flooded regions of Honduras and Guatemala to tend -- free of charge to patients and governments -- victims of the destruction caused by Hurricane Mitch, Havana announced the cancellation of Nicaragua's $50.1 million debt to Cuba.

Mangagua owes $6 billion to "developed" nations and world banks. Cuba also forgave the debt of hurricane-ravaged Honduras. The rightist government of Arnoldo Aleman formally and personally thanked Havana. The Nicaraguan national assembly passed a resolution of gratitude to Cuba and France after Paris canceled Nicaragua's $70 million debt, with Austria and Germany later following suit. Other industrialized nations, including Canada and Spain, have been reported proposing debt moratoriums, and partial cancellations.

Cuba's timely initiative concretized its effort, first launched in 1979, for the cancellation of the Third World debt to imperialist banks and the international financial institutions they rule.

These tens of billions of dollars owed today by Central America -- like the rest of Asia, Africa, and Latin America's immense financial burden -- were, in Fidel Castro's words two decades ago, both "immoral" as well as "unpayable."

The World Bank counts Nicaragua -- with an annual per capita income of $372, debt per person of $1,318, and annual debt service person of $49 -- fifth on its list of 40 "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries."

Honduras, before the hurricane, ranked 11th, with a debt person of $730, against per capita income of $657, and per person debt service of $92. Debt service accounts for 40 percent of the Honduran and Nicaraguan budgets. This tribute is paid for by deep cuts in public education, social security, and health care-the social wage-by government layoffs, and the sale of national patrimony, from utilities to airlines, railroads. In the case of Chile, this includes lakes and rivers, all to satisfy international loan sharking operations.

Cuba's cancellation of Nicaragua's debt came in the wake of widespread dissemination of Fidel Castro's "Message to the Nicaraguan People." The letter appeared in La Prensa, the long-time pro-U.S. daily which led opposition to the Sandinista government in the 1980s. Havana's initiative-in the face of immense destruction, including the loss of the banana crop in Honduras, the tobacco harvest in Nicaragua, along with huge hunks of infrastructure, homes, and farms-lit fires in western capitals from which nickels and dimes in aid had dribbled.

Washington first allocated $70 million -- a pittance, given losses, including officially a minimum of 11,000 deaths, 13,000 missing and 1.37 million homeless in Nicaragua and Honduras alone -- one of every seven of their citizens. Subsequent visits to Central America by French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, and top representatives of the Spanish "royal family" indicated that without huge quantities of aid, social explosions were inevitable.

In fact, caravans led by Aleman to hurricane-ruined areas near Chinandega were the target of mass protests against his government's failure to respond to human need, as well as his refusal to accept Cuban doctors -- who in 1979-90 were the spine of the Nicaraguan health care system.

Havana's proposal provided an alternative to limited private charity, and miserly foreign donations. Cuba issued a statement November 13 that its medical teams, already on the ground, were there for nations hit by the disaster "as long as necessary." Later, Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, visiting the remote, Atlantic Coast town of Wamcusiriti, offered 2,000 Cuban doctors to the region.

No stranger to hurricanes and floods, Cuba learned from such disasters in the early days of the revolution how to adjust and prepare for them. Rural and urban dwellers got intense education for such occurrences. An extensive tree-planting program was launched as part of conservation efforts to protect agriculture. Organized, empowered peasants began crop rotation, ending farming practices, which stripped fields and hills bare, and thus increased damage by floods and mud-slides.

Some two-thirds of Central American forests have been obliterated by logging companies, slash and burn farming, and other ruinous "investment" programs.

In Cuba, deep-going development projects in the countryside replaced the fragile, traditional, peasant shack dwelling -- the bohio -- with brick and concrete homes, and multilevel reinforced apartments, able to withstand gale winds. The expansion of running, potable water removed the need for housing to be near rivers -- where floods would wipe them out.

Popular participation in the revolutionary government, and confidence in it, have made Cuban civil defense programs a model.

When Hurricane Georges hit Cuba this summer, 369,000 people were evacuated in a disciplined, 48-hour political mobilization. Only six lives were lost. In neighboring Haiti and the Dominican Republic, hundreds died. As weather permitted, Cuban medical teams were dispatched to both countries.

In the Dominican Republic, where 500 perished, the director of civil defense had refused to announce where shelters in the capital were located, out of fear, he said, that "squatters" would "occupy" the spaces.

Assessing Cuba's performance during the hurricane, President Castro told delegates to the recent national congress of the Committees to Defend the Revolution that "an informed people can never be defeated."

Central responsibility for hurricane relief should be placed at the doorstep of Washington, London, Paris, Bonn, Tokyo, the IMF, and the World Bank, as primary architects of plunder and chief enforcers of underdevelopment.

Without real development -- which can only begin with the renunciation of the debt -- so-called natural disasters will compound the nightmare of Third World nations pillaged by rapacious banks, agribusiness monopolies, and transnational giants determined to extract the last drop of value and profit from Third World labor and land.

The fight to cancel the debt faces the reality of this ongoing social disaster. It bridges the gap between the working people of the richest countries with our brothers and sisters in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, in struggle against the same bosses, banker, and governments we share as common enemies.

Debt cancellation is the essential demand of international solidarity and unity. And as Cuba's example makes clear, one whose time -- in the hour of need of the people of Central America -- has come.


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