July 26, 2020

Striking Contrast – Socialist Cuba Vs Imperialist US

R Arun Kumar

ON July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro and his compatriots stormed the Moncada garrison as part of their struggle against the then dictatorial regime in Cuba. Though that effort failed and Fidel himself was arrested and many lost their lives, this proved to be the pivotal moment in Cuba’s revolutionary history. It gave birth to the July 26 movement that spread throughout the country and contributed to the success of the subsequent armed guerrilla struggle led by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raul Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, and others. Led by these legendary revolutionary fighters, Cuban people successfully overthrew the US-backed dictator, Batista and began transforming their country. The project they had started in 1959 withstood many tests and stood firm in its commitment to socialism, internationalism, altruism and humanism.

Since day one, the US busied itself to destabilise the newly formed Cuban State. It sent armed mercenaries who carried out terrorist attacks in the country; carried out an intense propaganda campaign; threatened it; placed missiles aimed at Cuba; launched an armed attack, Playa de Giron (Bay of Pigs) and blockaded the country, not to mention, hundreds of attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. The US has been trying for years, ‘for the apple to fall in its lap’.

The US considers Cuba, a country which is roughly 90 miles away from it, a threat. The threat emanates not from Cuba’s military might, but from the strength of its ideas. Fidel Castro called upon Cubans to fight this ‘battle of ideas’ and had put in all efforts to prepare them for this fight. Any battle of ideas cannot be fought without enough conviction from the people, and conviction arises from the material conditions. The Communist Party of Cuba utilised all the limited resources that were available within the country to better peoples’ living conditions. Education, health, and basic living conditions were guaranteed to the people. According to the World Bank itself, Cuba has the highest percentage of doctors in the world, 8.4 per 1,000 people. Life expectancy in Cuba is 79 years, much above the world average of 73 years and its child mortality rate is among the lowest in the world.

US lectures every country about human rights and their violations. The status of human rights in the US is never more exposed than today, with all those armed police used to suppress the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests that are taking place in almost all the major cities in the US. Economic, social and racial inequalities in the US are glaringly visible. On the other hand, in Cuba, equal pay for equal work, whether for a man or woman, is a human right; free medical care is a human right; free education is a human right. In many countries, these are not rights, they are business!

Cuba is open with its people about the conditions confronting the State, the limitations in which they were (and are) forced to act and the dangers of capitalist/imperialist system, waiting to gobble them up. The Party and the State are carrying the people along with them. It is because of this reason that they waded through the ‘Special Period’, post the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Presidents and parties that govern the US changed, but their policies towards Cuba did not differ much. Of course, the methods they implemented differed, but their objective did not. All of them continued to target Cuba and worked to ensure a change in the social system. Some of them like Obama tried to ease the restrictions, but never tried to revoke the economic embargo imposed on Cuba. Even when almost the entire world stood with Cuba and condemned the inhuman and unjust economic embargo, the US chose to remain deaf to the UN, its various near unanimous resolutions.

According to the UN, the economic embargo cost $130 billion loss to the Cubans. And above this economic loss, is the loss of thousands of valuable human lives. While the US was imposing sanctions and sending its soldiers to various countries to ensure regime changes, Cuba was sending its doctors across the continents to bring about a change in their health systems. Over the past six decades, Cuba has reportedly sent over 400,000 medical personnel to work in over 160 countries.

The reaction of Cuba and US stand in complete contrast even during the present Covid-19 pandemic. Cuba has reported 2,205 cases and 83 deaths resulting in a rate of about seven deaths per million people, far below most European, North American and Latin American countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). And this is more than 50 times fewer per capita than in the US.

While the US acted as a pirate and tried to divert all medical supplies to itself, Cuba responded positively to all the requests for medical assistance. US had purchased almost all the stock of Remdesivir, the drug to which Covid patients are reported to be positively responding. On the other hand, Cuba is helping patients recover from Covid-19 with Interferon Alfa2b Recombinant, one of 19 medications being developed or under clinical trial in Cuba and recognised as one of the effective cures for the disease. During this pandemic, it had received and honoured more than 70 requests for medicines developed by Cuba. For years, Cuba has been developing medicines and vaccines to treat different diseases, from psoriasis and cancer to heart attacks, which it is exporting and also sharing its advances in pharmaceutical sciences.

The US saw the pandemic as an opportunity to strangulate Cuba and tightened its economic embargo, while Cuba took it as a mission to cure the people anywhere in the world, irrespective of their social or belief systems. In the last three months, Cuba has sent 38 health brigades consisting of 3,440 health workers, 65 per cent of whom are women, to 31 countries and territories. They join the 28,000 Cuban health professionals who were working in 59 countries prior to Covid-19.

In 2005, as the US was struck by Hurricane Katrina and was grappling with the disaster, Cuba offered its help. It was then that they created the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade to send medical teams abroad after natural disasters and during pandemics. In 15 years, the Brigade has treated 3.5 million people and saved an estimated 80,000 lives.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump strengthened the 60-year US blockade against Cuba, invoked the Title III of Helms-Burton Act on Cuba for the first time since its enactment in 1996. Between January 2019 and March 2020, the US enforced 90 new economic measures against Cuba, targeting the main sectors of the Cuban economy, including its financial transactions, tourism industry, energy sector, foreign investments and the medical cooperation programmes with other countries.

The blockade is stopping Cuba from getting much-needed medical supplies. For example, Cuba is not allowed to purchase any medical equipment or medications, if more than 10 per cent of the components are of US origin. In addition, the US has imposed restrictions on banks, airlines and shipping companies to stop Cuba from receiving materials that other countries are donating or sending to Cuba. In April, the Alibaba Foundation of China tried to donate masks, rapid diagnostic kits and ventilators to Cuba, but the airline contracted by Alibaba to transport those items to Cuba refused to take the goods because they were afraid of the US sanctions. A ship that recently arrived in Cuba with raw materials needed to produce medicines, did not unload because the bank involved in the transaction decided not to make the payment out of fear it would be sanctioned by the US.

US is coercing various countries to cancel medical cooperation agreements with Cuba and also reject Cuba's help during the pandemic. Ecuador last year, expelled 382 Cuban doctors, ending nearly three decades of medical cooperation, as the IMF loan it took was laced with such a condition. Following Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration as president of Brazil, Cuba was forced to withdraw its 8,517 doctors, which cut health care access for 28 million Brazilians, a loss that can be now felt in the staggering death toll caused by the pandemic. Calculating the long term impact, the Pan American Health Organisation (linked to the WHO), estimated that 37,000 young Brazilian children may die in the next decade. Thus the policies of hatred pursued by the US against socialist Cuba are resulting in loss of lives everywhere, including in the countries ruled by its ideological brethren.

Noam Chomsky described Cuba as the only country to have shown ‘genuine internationalism’. Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it ‘a model’ for other countries around the world. A WHO publication described it as ‘one of the world's most effective and unique’ systems. All these laurels are earned by the Cuban people on the strength of the socialist society, which Fidel Castro and others had dreamed about and worked all through their lives to build.

The Cuban people are resisting the US efforts to subjugate their country and safeguard their socialist system. They have bravely declared: ‘Closely united, we will be able to face the most challenging adversities. They cannot asphyxiate us, nor can they stop us’. It is time for us to stand in solidarity with Cuba and salute its brave people.

“Let's go,
passionate prophet of dawn,
along unexplored wireless paths….
Let's go,
defeating insults with our fronts
full of Marti’s rebel stars,
let’s swear to achieve victory or meet with death”

(Song written by Che for Fidel)