8 January 2009 Edition

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The Story they won't tell us

• Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams with the former President of Cuban Fidel Castro

• Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams with the former President of Cuban Fidel Castro


International: 50th anniversary of Cuban revolution


The standard approach to reporting ‘news’ from Cuba is to find the negative story and amplify it to the exclusion of all else. Dissidents, shortages, scarcity, prostitution, the stories almost write themselves at this stage.
This has been the practice for as long as it has been clear that Cuba would not assume the position normally assumed by small, poor countries situated 90 miles from a global superpower: compliant, acquiescent, serf-like.
So, as Cuba recently marked the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the1959 Revolution, those media outlets that even bothered to cover this utterly remarkable story, did so only with the greatest of reluctance and a marked begrudgery.
Thus, we were informed how ‘shortages and scarcity’ had dampened revolutionary ardour and tempered the celebratory mood.
Remarkable. As freemarket capitalism implodes and the global economy faces a crisis of greater severity than the 1930s, the fact that Cuba has also been adversely affected is taken as further evidence of the revolution’s inherent unworthiness.
Perhaps it would have been instructive for the authors of those fraught dispatches to visit another Carribean island, Haiti, and realise the real meaning of shortages and scarcity. Late last year, as global food prices rose, news emerged that many of Haiti’s poor had resorted to eating flattened cakes made of dried mud, as they could afford nothing else.
Strange how we never read how the inhuman conditions endured by the majority of the Haitian people – in common with many, many others – is further proof as to the obvious fact that global capitalism just doesn’t work.
As Gerry Adams pointed out, in a solidarity message to mark the Revolution’s 50th anniversary: “Despite the enormous problems faced by the Cuban people over the last five decades, Cuba has remained steadfast to the goals of eradicating poverty, ending privilege and corruption and of promoting social justice.
“For many years now Cuba has been subjected to an unjust economic embargo that has had wholly negative consequences both for Cuba and for international relations. I salute the successful resistance of the Cuban people, over many years, to economic embargo and attempted political isolation.”

And this is the remarkable story of Cuba that our mainstream outlets dare not tell, the story that scares the living daylights out of the world’s greatest superpower: Cuba works!
Cuba has been an astonishing success, its achievements almost beyond belief, its impact on global politics far outweighing its own tiny size.
When Washington first imposed its embargo (later a de facto blockade) on Cuba in October 1960 and Cuba nationalised almost $1 billion in US-owned assets, few gave the fledgling revolutionary state much hope of surviving, let alone prospering.
But defeat for Washington’s proxy army at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 hinted a steely durability that few observers had expected. It also gave the lie to the claim that Havana had imposed an alien tyranny on a once free land: the invasion could not have been defeated without widespread popular support.
And over the course of the last five decades Washington has tried every weapon in its vast arsenal, subjecting Cuba to the greatest and most expansive campaign of state terrorism – economic, military and political – ever witnessed. And to what end?
This ‘Third World nation’ has abolished illiteracy, provided free education at all levels to its entire population and created a health care system that often surpasses anything on offer in the supposed ‘First World’.
Just a few years ago, a US-based affiliate of the World Health Organisation studied the impact of the blockade on Cuba’s health system. They made many remarkable findings, but one stood out: even with the blockade in place Cuba still boasted infant mortality rates that were half of that which obtained in Washington DC.
That’s why the last 10 US presidents have wanted Cuba dead. Will number 11 bring change?

And then, of course, there is Cuba’s singular role in bringing Apartheid South Africa crashing to its knees. Remember that much of the Western world refused to contemplate sanctions on South Africa until the mid 1980s.
Cuba, on the other hand, commited some 50,000 troops to battling the invasion of Angola by the forces of the Boer. In late 1987 and 1988, they met in battle in the southern Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale.
For the first time in its history the Boer white supremacist army was defeated in battle by a mixed race army under Communist Cuban command. You could not have scripted it better.
Shortly afterwards, as we are now aware, some of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen opened secret talks with the ANC on how a negotiated settlement could be concluded.
In 1991, shortly after his release from Robben Island, Nelson Mandela very deliberately journeyed to Havana to give thanks. His words then capture the enormity of Cuba’s role:
“The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character... We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us... The defeat of the apartheid army was an inspiration to the struggling people in South Africa! The defeat of the racist army at Cuito Cuanavale has made it possible for me to be here today!”
But, in deference to the occasion, it is only fitting that the last words should be left to Cuba’s former president, Fidel Castro:
“As I have said before, the ever more sophisticated weapons piling up in the arsenals of the wealthiest and the mightiest can kill the illiterate, the ill, the poor and the hungry – but they cannot kill ignorance, illness, poverty or hunger.”
Hasta la Victoria Siempre! 

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