Could Cuba’s future include a new political relationship with the U.S.?

By Dr. Jess Nieto, Special to MAS Magazine, Bakersfield, California, USA

August 18, 2006

The recent health problems encountered by Fidel Castro which led to a transfer of power to his more pragmatic brother Raul Castro has led to a media storm in which writers,  politicians, exiled Cubans, and people in general have given their perspectives on the matter.  Having traveled to Cuba a number of times and having met a wide variety of Cubans I offer some observations.

The announcement by this Administration that our government has committed over $100 million dollars to a “hastened transition to democracy” is just a euphemism for encouraging Castro’s overthrow and an end to a socialist government and a switch to a capitalism. In this 93 page report called the “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba,” it is very clear that Bush has responded to a desperate faction of Cuban refugees who want to hold on to a world that has passed them by.  The report has a classified chapter which raises suspicion that the Bush Administration may not rule out assassination attempts against the Cuban national leadership.  Why hasn’t this section been released to the American people if this country champions the cause of democracy?  Bush stated “…we are working for a change in Cuba, not simply waiting for a change,” while Condoleeza Rice stated, “We are increasing efforts on multiple fronts,” as she stood next to Cuban American Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

The Cuban people have been forced to endure incredible economic hardships due to the embargo, primarily to satisfy the Cuban exile community in Florida.  The U.S. which professes to be against terrorist activities, has launched numerous destabilization and terrorist attacks against the Cuban people,  and repeated assassinations attempts against Cuba’s national leaders.

The fact is that the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations helped create Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution by strongly supporting the joint venture of U.S. owned telephone, nickel, and sugar interests and  combined it by our government turning the other way to the Mafia’s enormous gambling, prostitution, and drug operations.  Cuba was America’s whorehouse where capitalist interests had an open door policy to rape the economic interests of the island.

The iron fisted and brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista ran the country into the ground where even his padrino, the U.S., tired of his excesses and recently made public classified documents indicate that the U.S. did not interfere with Castro and the Revolution but thought it would wait out the takeover and then eliminate Castro.  President Eisenhower left President Kennedy with a plan to assassinate Castro as part of Operation Mongoose’s plan of political, psychological, military, sabotage, and assassinations.  One such terrorist  act spread dengue fever to thousands of Cubans.

Forty seven years of U.S. terrorist activities, assassination attempts, and the embargo have not toppled the Cuban government. The embargo has been an abysmal, utter failure.  It has only hardened the resolve of Cuba’s national leaders and its people to survive.  In fact, there is exceptionally strong support for their government.  This is one observation that any American who travels to Cuba can readily make.

Despite the U.S. embargo, Cuba has achieved a unparalleled status by achieving universal education and the elimination of illiteracy, developed a world class national health system, and by the significant reduction of poverty.  Other countries of Latin America with direct U.S. aid and assistance have not made the enormous social achievements that Cuba can point to with pride.  In Cuba 100% of the country’s children have a free education, and Cuba has the highest school retention rate of all of the nations of the Western Hemisphere.  Their retention rate is over 99% between kindergarten and the ninth grade.  Cuba provides free access to higher education to anyone who desires it and qualifies.

Life expectancy has increased by 15 years, and nearly all infectious and contagious diseases have been eliminated. I have personally observed a profound medical revolution taking place where the majority of doctors live in neighborhoods close to the population they serve, particularly for the purpose of  preventive medicine.   More doctors have been trained per capita than in any other country in the world. The research physicians in Cuba  developed the  world’s first 'plantibody' for an effective  hepatitis C vaccine which is much better than the one used in the U.S.  Cuban biotechnology is leading the way in the development of a new generation of anti-cancer therapies expected to be available to the European market by 2008. Given Cuba's cash-strapped economy, its scientific achievements are all the more surprising.  There are more than 52 scientific research institutes and more than  12,000 scientists with only a population of 11 million people.

During the last decade a number of Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela, have leaned toward  a more populist or leftist,  political philosophy, particularly as is applies to economic and social models. Cuba’s experiences and successes in dealing with illiteracy, education, health, poverty, and other pressing social issues have convinced a number of political forces in Latin America that the U.S. model has proven to be insufficient and incapable of solving these problems even in the wealthiest most powerful country on earth, and that a different model, proven to work in Cuba  must at the very least be tried. 

The U.S. embargo, plus the loss of economic and political support from the former Soviet union caused a massive shift in Cuba.   The island found it virtually impossible to import the chemicals, machinery, and fertilizers to practice modern, intensive agriculture.  Instead the Cubans turned to farming much of its land organically, and Cuba transformed from a conventional, high input, mono-crop intensive agriculture, to smaller organic and semi-organic farms.  Cuba is the world leader in cultivating and consuming the healthiest organic food on the planet.

In Cuba, 85% of the people own their homes and they pay no property taxes.  The remaining 15% pay a wholly symbolic rent, which is only 10% of their salary. 

Racism and discrimination have basically been eliminated in Cuba. The miscegenation of racial groups in Cuba represents one of the most profound results of the Cuban Revolution with families with children with every conceivable physical and racial characteristic. 

There is not a strong consensus of American public opinion who wants to eliminate the present Cuban government.  On the contrary it has been observed that a small group of exiled Cubans in Florida have been the major factor in this country’s foreign policy toward the island.  According to many American polls, the majority of the American public would like the normalization of relations between both countries.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on record of opposing the U.S. embargo.

It is not clear what specific action the United States will take regarding Cuba when  Castro is no longer in the picture.  To think that the majority of Cubans are ready for a government change reflects a misunderstanding of the Cuban people. This massive misunderstanding may be similar to what Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy believed where the majority of the Cuban people would rise up against Castro when they planned the Bay of Pigs invasion and other subsequent subversive actions.  This miscalculation could repeat itself if the Bush Administration believes that the money they have set aside for a “transition to democracy” effort for the masses of Cubans to rise up against their leaders.

It is possible to see a number of changes if Raul Castro emerges as Cuba’s leader.  His view of the Chinese economic model could have a strong impact.  Since enormous fields of petroleum have been found in areas off-shore Cuba, this could change the economic future for the island. He may also want better relations and more dialogue with the U.S., but whether the U.S is willing is another story.  Judging by our country’s past, the continuing antagonism of the U.S. towards Cuba, and the secret sections of the Bush Plan, an educated guess would be that the U.S. does not wish a Cuban government similar to the one in power but has attempted to line up political and military strategies with the corresponding funds to attack the sovereignty of this country. We should follow Peggy Noonon former Reagan speech writer’s advice and open relations with Cuba outright and let the “chips fall where they may.”  If we can have economic and political relations with China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia (funded Al Queda), why not Cuba.  Besides they make the best rum and cigars in the world.

 

Jess Nieto is the Executive Director for Heritage of America Educational & Cultural Foundation, a non-profit agency.

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