Presentation at Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban Five workshop at School of Americas protest

The US has attempted to destroy every move towards any independent system by any country in Latin America.

It seeks to keep Latin American countries, just like we who live in the US, under the control of its corporations.

Cuba has long been a target, and Cuba has long resisted. It has been invaded, like Guatemala, it has been subjected to terrorism as Nicaragua in the 1980s, it has been blockaded like Chile in the early 1970s or Haiti in the 1800s.

But the Cuban revolution has endured. Why? Because the revolution has given its people many benefits, many not attainable in any other Third World country. Some not even attained here in the US.

Equally important, its people always stood up to defend their revolution, and its leadership has never been divided.

Cuba was Similar to Haiti in 1959.

When the Cuban revolution happened in 1959, the standard of living of the average person in that country was quite similar to that of Haiti. For instance:

Five out of six Cubans lived in shacks or were homeless,

80% of Havana residents suffered from hunger and unemployment,

Two out of three Cuban children didn’t attend school.

Social and Ecological Achievements

But now, there are no homeless.

Now everyone can read and write, and even have a 9 grade education. All education, even though university is free. Literacy in Cuba is 99%, in the US it is 97%

Cubans have free, top-notch health care. There are more doctors per person than any other country in the world, except Monaco. Cuba has one doctor for every 170 residents, the US has one doctor for every 188.

85% of Cubans own their own homes and pay no property taxes or interest on their mortgages. Mortgage payments can’t exceed 10% of the combined household income.

This means private property ownership is more widespread among the population than even in the US.

Infant mortality: Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate (4.5 per 1000 live births) than the United States’ (6.4 per 1000).

Life expectancy before the revolution in 1959 was 58 years. Now it is 77.5 years.

After the 1959 revolution, Cuba was left with 3,000 doctors. Now it has 30,000 doctors are working in more than 40 different countries.

Cuba focuses on preventive medicine, on community doctors, assigned to take care of one small community population. They spend 4 hours a day in the clinic and 4 ½ hours a day in the neighborhood.

The film “Salud” provides an excellent introduction to the Cuban medical system and how Cuba aids other countries.

Its health care system focuses on preventative and community health.

Environmental Achievements:                                                                                                           Cuba only country with sustainable development. 2006 WorldWildlife Fund.                           

That means of all the countries in the world, Cuba is the only one with an economic development system that is not depleting natural resources.

A closer review of the WWF’s 2006 Living Planet Report”  reveals that Cuba is the only country in the world with sustainable development.
The WWF’s rating includes both its own measure of “Ecological Footprint” and the UN’s “Human Development Index”.
Countries must score well on each to qualify as sustainable, and it is noteworthy that the only one is Cuba.
The ecological footprint is a measure of demand on the biosphere. Whereas the U.S. footprint represents 5.3 times our global share, Cuba’s is actually 17% less than its share.
The HDI is an indicator of well-being. Cuba ranks 52nd (among 177 countries) on the HDI (at .817), while the U.S. ranks 10th (at .944).
Key areas where Cuba actually bests the U.S. include 50% more spending on education and 50% less on health care, nearly three times the share of women in politics, 10% more physicians, one-tenth the CO2 per capita, and 1/3 the poverty rate…all with equal literacy and life expectancy.

Cuba’s program of Reforestation, not deforestation:
Cuba was 19% forest in 1959. Now (2010) it is 26% forest, thanks to an ongoing reforestation program.

Organic Farming

The film “Power of Community” documents the successes of Cuba’s organic farming revolution.

This includes Cuba’s development of organic farming that does not damage the environment. Cooperative farms and organic urban gardens have replaced reliance on state farms, heavily mechanized farming, using much oil, relying on chemical fertilizers have been replaced by organic community gardens, cooperative farms.

More vegetables are grown and consumed than before the crisis of the 1990s.

In Havana’s urban area—which is over 2 million people—80 percent of the vegetables consumed are now grown in the community urban gardens, large and small.

Achievement of UN Millennium Development Goals

Cuba has largely met the UN Millennium Development Goals. These results achieved by Cuba are still a utopia for a large segment of people in this planet.

According to a new MDG Report Card by the Overseas Development Institute, Cuba is among the 20 best performing countries in the world.

Goal 1:

Halve the percent of pop. Making $1 a day or less

Goal 2:

Universal primary education

Goal 3:

Promote gender equality between men and women. No gender disparity in education.

Goal 4:

Reduce Infant Mortality rate:

In Latin America it is 23 per 1000 births. In the US it is 6 per 1000 births. In Cuba it is 4.7 per 1000.

Goal 5:

Reduce maternal mortality rate, access to universal health care:

In Latin America, 80 per 100,000

In Caribbean, 170 per 100,000

In Cuba 73

In US 21

Goal 6:

Combat AIDS, HIV.

The US recently blocked UN funding to Cuba to combat HIV.

Goal 7:

Ensure environmental sustainability

Halve proportion of population with no access to safe drinking water

A few years ago, the US blocked the sale of drinking water sanitation equipment to Cuba. A US company controls the chlorination of water equipment, so Cuba is denied chlorinated water

In spite of this, the US remains committed to overthrowing the Cuban government. It refuses to institute economic relations, and instead maintains a blockade condemned by the world over.

US Economic War: The Blockade Is an Act of War

Begun in 1960 after Cuba nationalized U.S. enterprises, it is all-encompassing.

The memorandum drafted by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Lester Mallory, on April 6, 1960 stated:
“The majority of Cubans support Castro. There is no effective political opposition. The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life, denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

The 1992 Torricelli Law prohibited foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms from trading with Cuba, any ship that docked in Cuba would be banned from entering a U.S. dock for six months. The effect of this was to force foreign firms to choose between the U.S. or Cuban market.

The 1996 Helms-Burton Act, signed by then-President Bill Clinton, punished non-U.S. corporations and investors that have economic relations with Cuba. It allowed Washington to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba, or anyone “trafficking” in Cuban property formerly owned by U.S. capitalists. This internationalized the blockade, and sanctions are still being imposed on other countries’ corporations and banks for doing business with Cuba.

The US has imposed fines totally $800 million on American and European entities for their transactions with Cuba. Sanctions may also be applied to non-U.S. companies trading with Cuba.

the direct economic cost of the blockade of Cuba has cost the island between $100B to $800 B.

the blockade has cost Cuba about seven years of development

We might well wonder where would Cuba be today if there had been no blockade.

The blockade also costs the US between $1.2B to $4.8B a year.

19 times the UN has condemned the US blockade, 187-2.

The embargo forces Cubans to expend vital financial resources to get supplies from halfway around the world.

The US also blockades essential medicines, electronics, and building supplies.
In an article for The Guardian, Wilkinson recalls having “seen the cancer wards in a Havana hospital where children with leukemia were vomiting 16 hours per day for lack of these drugs.”

Cuba must pay for US food in cash before receipt. Ships must go to Cuba and return empty, raising costs

It is hardly known that Cuban artists are forbidden to receive any payment for their performances in this country.

Theft of Cuba’s Assets

Another unknown but critical fact about the intensified economic war being carried out against Cuba is the theft of Cuban telecommunications revenues that are held and controlled in the United States. These include the hundreds of millions of dollars that Cuba had in Chase Manhattan bank, now JP Morgan Chase bank.

Due to the “Law for the Protection of Victims of Trafficking and Violence,” signed by Clinton in the late 1990s, U.S. citizens have the right to sue for the seizure of those Cuban assets. There has been a spate of lawsuits that boggle the mind—in their illegality and absurdity—that no U.S. court would allow in any other case.

Here are a few recent examples of the confiscation of Cuba’s holdings, including the revenues that it is due from telephone communications between the two countries. U.S. companies recover their monies as profits, but Cuba’s assets are withheld from it by the United States.

These frozen assets amounted to roughly $268 million dollars, but Cuba’s National Bank assets have now been completely emptied from the bank, and the Cuban telephone entity has only $6 million remaining.

In January 2007, $91 million was awarded in U.S. court to families of two CIA agents who died during the Bay of Pigs invasion. [One was Thomas “Pete” Ray, who piloted a B-26 bomber over Cuba and died when he was shot down. Another man, Howard Anderson, was executed in April 1961 after being convicted of smuggling weapons into Cuba during the invasion.] $72.1 million of those awards was paid out to the families on Nov. 27, 2007.

Also in January 2007, the family of Robert Fuller, executed for counterrevolutionary activity in 1960, was awarded $400 million.

In May 30, 2007, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Adrien awarded the admitted CIA agent Gustavo Villoldo the outrageous amount of $1 billion dollars. Villoldo claimed—without providing any proof or evidence—that his father was driven to suicide by Fidel Castro and Che. His father was a wealthy car dealer who owned property in Cuba that was confiscated by the new revolutionary leadership.

In April 2008, the siblings of Rafael Del Pino Siero were awarded $253 million in Miami-Dade court. Del Pino was involved in counterrevolutionary actions in 1959, was imprisoned and died 18 years later.

On Aug. 22, 2009, Sherry Sullivan sued the Cuban government for $21 million in a Maine county court for the supposed assassination of her father, Geoffrey Sullivan, even though he died when his military plane was shot down over Cuba. Sherry Sullivan’s court document blatantly admits, “Sullivan and Rorke [a journalist/CIA operative] had ‘participated in various anti-Castro covert operations in Central America and Cuba’ including ‘Operation Mongoose,’ the covert-action sabotage and subversion program against Cuba initiated in November 1961 and the widely-publicized April 1963 bombing of the former Esso oil refinery in Havana, Cuba, as well as collateral activities in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.”

Federal Judge James King awarded the families of the pilots of Brothers to the Rescue $138 million, and Jose Basulto won an almost $1.5 million judgment, even though his plane’s invasion of aerial space created the crisis that led to the shoot down in 1996.

Cuba’s Exemplary International Solidarity

  1. Angola 1976-88

Cuba’s military aid to Angola was decisive in the defeat of apartheid not only in Angola, but in South Africa itself.

  1. Venezuela 2003-now

Its aid to Venezuela in 2003-5 was decisive in solidifying the Venezuelan revolution. In 2006 there were 33,000 medical personnel in Venezuela.

  1. international medical care

Over 100,000 Cuban doctors have served in other countries.

At the time that the US had 550 medical personnel in Haiti, there were 1500 from Cuba. They had treated 227,143 patients when the US had treated 871.

Its international school of medicine has trained doctors from Latin America and Africa for free. 550 Haitian doctors have graduated from the school, and 567 Haitians are there now. There is a total of ELAM has 9675 students from 100 countries, 80% from Latin America.

At the time that the US had 550 medical personnel in Haiti, there were 1500 from Cuba. They had treated 227,143 patients when the US had treated 871.

The Cuban Revolution has been marked by its tremendous internationalism, the high points of which have been its armed intervention in Angola in support of the struggle against the South African apartheid regime and its unstinting medical aid to the Third World. And to Venezuela

Present Economic Problems in Cuba

Cuban economic policy aims at meeting social needs, providing free education and health care, maintaining the social security system and providing for senior citizens, handicapped, and other groups most in need.

Foreign investment goes where Cuba wants to make investment, not where foreigners do.

Presently, full-time workers must spend much of their time trying to make ends meet. Many professionals must take odd jobs to make ends me. The average wage in Cuba is about $20 per month. However, there are no taxes on this income, healthcare and education are free, people own their homes or pay a only a very small rent to the state. They all have Cadillac health plans.

In addition there is the libreta, the ration system. In place since 1962, the libreta allows everyone to purchase from list of basic commodities at subsidized prices.

But today the ration only covers about half the month.

So, now the wage, pensions, and libretas are inadequate, and most people are forced to supplement their income with various kinds of activities.

Social inequality is growing as some people are better placed, that is, their jobs enable them –one way or another –to more easily get their valued convertible currency. CUCs

Causes of Present Economic Problems:

  1. US blockade Imperialism’s strategy

The goal of the U.S. blockade on Cuba is to promote widespread demoralization and disillusionment with the system, which would lead to social protests and disorder, which would be an excuse for foreign military intervention.

  1. Collapse of Soviet bloc, from which Cuba has not recovered:

The 1991 collapse of the USSR meant Cuba immediately lost 80% of its exports and imports. This ushered in a desperate struggle for survival –literally. GDP fell by a third. People came close to starving. Cubans’ daily caloric consumption dropped by 1/3. These years are called in Cuba “the special period in time of peace.” The worst time was 1991-1996.

Living standards on the island are still below the 1989 level.

The toughest and most prolonged struggle—with no apparent light at the end of a dark tunnel—was during the Special Period. The Special Period required a heroic level of steadfastness by the whole population

  1. Global economic crisis.

From 2003-2007 the Cuban economy grew rather well, up to 12% in 2006

Price of nickel has dropped, which was 25% of Cuba’s exports.

The main exports of Cuba are: services, drugs, nickel.

Main foreign currency generators are tourism, nickel and remittances.

Tourism ($2.2 billion gross in 2007)

and payment (mainly from Venezuela) for the provision of medical personnel (estimated at over $5 billion in 2007)

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical exports earn Cuba about $300m a year.

Nickel brought in $1.5 B

Cuba has a third of the world’s proven reserves of nickel, No product that is made by a US owned corporation can contain this nickel, which is used in steel.

  1. Hurricanes which have struck the island. From 1998-2008, 16 hurricanes caused $20.5 billion in damage. 2008 was the worst, with $10 billion in damages.

In 2008, hurricanes destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes, factories, and the food crop for that year.

  1. Food imports. Close to 80% of what Cuba spends to feed the population comes from imports, now $1.5 billion.

Development of Tourism

Tourism has developed massively in the last two decades and in 2009 some 2.4 million tourists visited the island. Most of the hotels and resorts are joint ventures between Spanish and Canadian operators with the Cuban government.

However, important as tourism is to the national economy, it also brings with it some very serious problems. Especially worrying is the social differentiation which results as some Cubans have access to higher earnings and foreign currency (tips, payments in kind, selling services and goods to tourists). Prostitution has also staged a certain comeback, although it cannot be compared to either the past or to other Latin American countries.

Tips of tourism workers are meant to be handed over to the state but this is probably unenforceable.

Cuba’s foreign debt is $18 billion

Internal Factors Causing Economic Problems:

  1. Cuba says it needs to better organize production, improve discipline and update its economic model.

Cuba is importing far too much, especially food, and need to be more self-sufficient..

There is more personnel than is needed. Where it takes five people, we have eight.

  1. Cuba’s agricultural policies led to high food imports, including much food that could be grown domestically. 60% of its food is imported. Cuba spends $1.5 billion on importing food, rice and beans being half of that.

People are encouraged to take up farming. By the end of 2009, 100,000 beneficiaries had received an equivalent to 54% of the country’s unused agricultural land. Nevertheless, 50% of Cuba’s arable land is uncultivated.
Some 143,000 Cubans have recently started working in agriculture . Among the new farmers are 30,000 young people. In July 2008 the Cuban National Assembly passed a law making it possible for Cubans to apply to farm idle lands.

Most food for domestic consumption is still produced in the UBPCs, the cooperative farms. The land is held in usufruct—owned by the state, but the production is owned by the cooperative members.

Economic Changes Being Instituted

Cuba is opening up for self-employment and cooperatives

Cuba’s workforce is around 5.2 million,. 800,000, or 15 %, already work in the non-state sector. Most of these are in agricultural cooperatives.

174,000 Cubans or 2.7% of the total workforce are self-employed. Self-employment licenses have been granted to another 150,000.

In late 2005, a six-week campaign was conducted by 28,000 young social workers. They took over complete control of the gasoline distribution system. On the first day of that campaign, the social workers took over the gasoline stations, replacing all the workers involved in the industry. They accompanied the tanker truck drivers on their delivery routes, they pumped the gas at all the stations, and they carefully measured the gasoline sold and the income received.

At the end of the six weeks, it was determined that over half of the gasoline distributed was being pilfered. A restructuring of the gasoline system then was carried out by the state.

Click here to read Fidel’s Oct. 28, 2005, speech.

Click here to read Fidel’s Nov. 17, 2005, speech.

The laid off people will work in three basic employment groups:
1.The largest portion will keep doing what they have already been doing – [illegally running small businesses].

Selling homemade crafts to tourists, selling homemade food on the street; paying extra or bribes to get scarce goods or services; stealing goods from the state and selling them; using a state car as a private taxi; selling jobs in the lucrative tourist sector with prized access to dollars (tips and services).

  1. The second largest group will go into farming.
  2. The third group will go work for foreign investors.

Role of Mass Organizations in Running the Country

CDRs do a wide range of work: vaccination campaigns, blood banks, recycling, practicing evacuations for hurricanes, and backing up the government in its fight against corruption. One local CDR leader said on her list of 110 neighbors, she knows everyone personally, and has their names, addresses and occupation data.

It is planned that 500,000 will be laid off now and probably another 500,000 over the next 5 years. How is it decided who is laid off? According to Juventud Rebelde, workers and union representatives at each workplace are involved in deciding which workers remain and which are released for other employment.

According to Trabajadores, nearly 60,000 workplace assemblies had already taken place by mid-October, out of 85,000 planned to discuss the measures and consider proposals by workers on how they should be carried out.

This year the Cuban Communist Party had its congress. There were a number of proposals on raising production: distributing unused lands for cultivation; decentralizing some state services (beauty parlors, barber shops, tire repair, taxis, and more); reassigning thousands of state workers to jobs in construction, teaching and agriculture and reducing the state workforce by tens of thousands more. Opportunities for self-employment and small-scale enterprise have been expanded. Payroll and income taxes will be paid by those engaged in this activity.

Debating the changes were 8,913,838 Cubans—out of a population of 11.5 million—who participated in work and neighborhood meetings to discuss the Guidelines. More than 3 million Cubans commented during the meetings.

Of the original 291 guidelines in the document, 181 were modified and 36 new ones accepted, making a total of 313 guidelines.

These examples of the broad discussion and participation explain why Cuba can lay off 20% of its workforce and there are no protests, violent or nonviolent. Nothing like what happened in Greece or Spain.

The USSR, China and Cuba used socialist methods—such as public ownership of the means of production, central economic planning and the monopoly of foreign trade—to speedily accomplish basic social and economic tasks: literacy, health care, primary and advanced education, electrification, modern farming and industrialization.

Dissidents Released

Although the 75 who were arrested in 2003 are called “journalists” and “dissidents of conscience,” the fact is that in the 1990s and 2000s they were acting in close concert with the U.S. Interests Section.

Let’s recall now the position of Amnesty International. The organization speaks of 27 “political prisoners” in Cuba as of August 15, 2010. Nevertheless, at the same time AI recognizes that these individuals were charged for having “received funds and/or materials from the United States government in order to engage in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba”. [ Amnesty International, Cuba: Five years too many, new government must release jailed dissidents, March 18, 2008.]

US War Moves Against Cuba

An investigation of the dissidents also shows the actual on-going US war against Cuba. The 75 dissidents were arrested in March 2003 after a series of provocative US actions.

In 2002 the US government started talking more and more about WMD in Iraq.

The same year, 2002, Bolton accused Cuba of manufacturing and exporting biological WMD.

In September 2002 the US basically halted issuing visas to leave Cuba, making the only way to leave.

In the fall of 2002 Cason went to Cuba to meet and organize all repatriated boat people. Cason later was made new head of US Interests Section with the purpose of terminating all diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In  December 2002 and early 2003 Cuba lost much of its oil from Venezuela, and was bleeding  financially.

The US was hoping to trigger a massive emigration, which would serve as an excuse for armed intervention in Cuba.

On March 20 the US attacked Iraq.

On March 19 a passenger plane was hijacked to Florida. The hijackers were not prosecuted in the US, and the plane was confiscated. A few days later the situation was repeated. The day after, April 1, a ferry was hijacked with many passengers on board including tourists. Between March 19 and April 1 there were 30 hijacking attempts.

Bolton had accused Cuba of making biological weapons of mass destruction in 2002. That was the excuse for invading Iraq. The US was also provoking illegal immigration, leading to an excuse for the US to request “humanitarian intervention” to restore order.

Alan Gross and U.S.-funded Subversion

This was six days after the arrest of Alan Gross, the CIA agent working for U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractors. Gross claimed he was delivering satellite communications equipment to Jewish groups in Cuba.

Washington has allocated $45 million in funds for counterrevolutionary programs in Cuba for 2010, partly to deliver items such as laptops, radios and other resources.

The Obama government has not budged in its hostility towards Cuba. It has basically relaxed Bush measures against contact with Cuba to that of Clinton’s time, which were in fact more severe than in Reagan’s time.

The release of the dissidents for hire in the last few years, the economic changes Cuba is slowly instituting has not changed Washington’s attitude. There are no moves towards capitalist restoration, which is why Washington maintains the same hostility. For Washington, economic liberalization means liberalizing the access of US corporations to control the Cuban economy, and this the Cubans have not permitted.

As I have stated, the UN considers Cuba a model country in terms of meeting its millennium goals. The World Wildlife Fund regards Cuba’s socio-economic system as the only one on earth that is sustainable.

Yet the US government is not appreciative, but intensely angry. The US refuses to recognize the Cuban government as legitimate. The US blockade is the most draconian instituted, and has been in place for 50 years. The US government allocates tens of millions of dollars in funding for subverting the very system the UN recognizes as a model.

What can we learn from Cuba?

Cuba shows that we all can afford  free health care, education and housing for everyone on earth. Cuba shows that we can all live in an environmentally sustainable way. But this can only be accomplished when the 99% take over not only the government but take over the economy and run it in their interests, not in the profit interests of the rich 1%, the corporations.


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