May Day in Havana Cuba’s economy on the march - Marx alive and kicking in Cuba - In briefs

1 May in Cuba was once again striking for the joy and unity with which seven million Cubans took to the streets to celebrate International Workers’ Day. One million of them were in Havana, where Revolution Square was already packed by 6am as we ‘habaneros’ painted the square with the colours of our flag. Facing the crowd, our Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz made the Square vibrate with his announcement of the accelerated rhythm of economic growth. From Havana, Daniel Acosta reports.

Despite the brutal blockade imposed by the government of the United States the Cuban economy grew by 12.5% in the first three months of this year, greater than the growth reached at the end of 2005 – already an impressive 11.8%. In most countries economic growth means little more than statistics because of inequality and private ownership. In Cuba, because we live in a socialist society, this growth means a direct rise in the standard of living for the entire population. That is why we concentrate with excited anticipation when the government explains the concrete results of such developments. We are moving away from the hard times of the Special Period. On May Day, Fidel spoke for over three hours, detailing the programmes being carried forward by the Revolution, the achievements made in specific economic sectors and future investments. The good news rained down. For example:

Transport grew 4.8% including extensive railway and cargo truck repairs, the purchase of over 20,000 new truck motors, and 100 train engines bought from China at $130m.

Trade grew 30% due to the free and subsidised sale of electrical domestic goods: more than three million rice cookers (one for every home); over 230,000 water heaters; nearly 2.5 million electric ovens; over 250 refrigerators and nearly 40,000 televisions.

This is the year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba and this is all energy-saving equipment so, along with the restoration of the country’s electrical network, it has permitted a saving of 3.7% of fuel, despite the increase in electrical domestic equipment across the country.

Fidel asserted that if all countries were integrated into the Energy Revolution being carried forward by Cuba, the world’s hydrocarbon resources would last twice as long as currently predicted. He talked about the hundreds of new and modern power generators installed in Cuba this year, with a huge kilowatt capacity, including 3,444 emergency generators to guarantee supplies to 827 medical and care centres and over one thousand production units, scientific departments and hotels. This is vital in the context of hurricanes and the threat of military attack.

Construction grew 15% As well as the construction of urgently needed housing, there were massive repairs to polyclinics and the building of operating rooms for new medical services. 52 new rural hospitals are being built, although Fidel, with his characteristic candour admitted that these works are behind. ‘These are complex works, but there has been much disorganisation. Now we are overcoming these weaknesses, demanding responsibility from all the ministries implicated.’

The communications industry grew 12.9% and many other branches experienced significant growth; from machine construction to fishing. Medicine and pharmaceutical output rose markedly, as well as production of food stuffs such as eggs and milk, all of which immediately benefit the population. Concerning education, our Commandante pointed out that there are eight times more university professors today than there were university students at the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.

The sugar industry, which has dominated Cuba’s economy for most of its history, had been all but written off, but this year’s harvest was 1.1 million tons by mid-April, which means an additional $200m income for the country.
Crude oil is being extracted from domestic wells, and production of national crude reached 124,000 tons in the first four months of 2006 whilst work goes on to open up 36 new wells.

The revolutionary leader moved on to harshly criticise the hypocritical policy of the United States, recalling US President Bush’s recent arrogant remarks that all enemies of his administration will be either imprisoned or eliminated. Bush plans the assassination, using sophisticated weapons, of any political leaders who oppose him. Fidel added that no-one has the right to give such an order even if they are dealing with terrorists. He also denounced terrorist plans against Cuba which continue in the US, demonstrated by the recent confiscation of 1,571 weapons from the home of Cuban-American Robert Ferro in California. Ferro was a member of the US Special Forces and the Miami-based terrorist group Alpha 66, which has attacked Cuba’s coast numerous times since the Revolution, bombing homes and attempting to land armed bandits on the island to assassinate Fidel, most recently in May 1983.

Fidel cited the Los Angeles Times which quoted Ferro’s own claim that the stockpile was part of an arsenal facilitated by the US government to do the same in Cuba as President Bush did in Iraq. While in California they prepare for aggression against our country, the Pentagon has a war fleet with aircraft carriers and a nuclear submarine in the Caribbean Sea, in order to intimate Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

Fidel recalled that whilst the Atlanta Court of Appeal had declared the legal process which had framed and imprisoned the Cuban Five invalid, they had not been released; rather the US government was concentrating its resources to ensure that they remain in prison awaiting a new judgment. The five are imprisoned for infiltrating anti-Cuban extremist groups to prevent terrorism. While they have suffered abusive treatment, been denied access to lawyers, family and documents, the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, the most infamous criminal in the hemisphere, confessed to enjoying privileges in prison where he is detained for illegally entering the country. Posada Carriles, who boasted about organising the bombing of a Cubana Airlines civilian flight in 1976, which killed 73 people, is arguing for his right to be naturalised in the United States. How is it that while the United States persecutes immigrants to force them to return to their countries, Posada can be granted an audience for six hours to try to legalise his stay on US soil? demanded Fidel.

‘Nothing will hold us back. Our country or death! We will be victorious!’ concluded the Cuban leader in the midst of enthusiastic applause. ‘Viva Fidel!’ we all shouted. And history will be witness that this has been a May Day that neither imperialism, nor its terrorist allies, could ever overcome.

PS: Thanks to all those whose tireless work makes the publication of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! possible, and for allowing my collaboration. May Day greetings, comrades.


Marx alive and kicking in Cuba

The Third International Conference on ‘The works of Karl Marx and the challenges of the 21st century’ was held in Havana’s Palacio de Convenciones from 3 to 6 May 2006. It stressed the vital importance of putting into practice Marx’s view that ‘the philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways: the point however is to change it’.

269 submissions were presented to an audience of 329 delegates from four continents – far more than those made at the Second International Conference in 2004. The submissions were presented via three commissions dealing with: Marxist theory and the challenges of social development in the 21st century; class struggle, social movements and political parties; and Revolution, change and revolutionary power.

The conference has traditionally been timed to coincide with International Workers’ Day on 1 May and the anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. The opening address was delivered by the President of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, who discussed the need for a deeper study of Marxism in relation to the reality of the world today. The closing speech was made by Armando Hart Dávalos, Director of the National Office for the study of the ideas of Jose Martí. He suggested that in this century socialism needs to take as its starting point the original ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin, especially now that a real state of revolutionary change exists in Latin America, making them ever more relevant to the times we live in. Throughout these movements the ideas of Martí, Bolivar, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are essential through the unity of the revolutionary forces for a better world.

The fourth conference will take place in May 2008, marking the 190th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx and the 80th anniversary of the birth of Che Guevara.
Tatiana Martínez Hernández
Havana, Cuba


In briefs

More US dosh for tosh
Cuba has accused the US of increasing the funding for radio and television propaganda against the Revolution in order to induce an artificial crisis which will allow US forces to proceed with military actions against the island. In the financial year to 2006, the US government allocated $37 million – $10m more than in 2004 – to finance anti-Cuban broadcasts through its offensively-named Radio Marti and Television Marti operations. These broadcasts are beamed into Cuba from the US are beamed for a total of 2,107 hours a weekly on a range of frequencies, in flagrant violation of UN regulations governing international telecommunications.

Longer life under socialism

The latest year report (based on 2004 figures) of the World Health Organisation reveals that Cuba has the highest average life expectancy in Latin America at 78 years. It is closely followed by Chile and Costa Rica, Bolivia, with a life expectancy of 65 years, is the lowest in the region. Japan tops the world list at 82 years. Life expectancy is 55 in Iraq and 42 in Afghanistan. Africa fares worst, with average life expectancy in Zimbabwe only 36. Botswana, Angola, Swaziland, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Malawi, Niger, Liberia and Somalia all have an average life expectancy of less than 44 years.

Vienna Declaration
The fourth European Union-Latin America/Caribbean Summit took place in Vienna in May. While, as Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage pointed out, its conclusions were limited by the fact that the EU’s main ally is the US, the Vienna Declaration is a victory for Cuba. It acknowledges that there is no single model of democracy, that each country must determine its own political, economic, social and cultural systems and that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and self determination of all nations must be respected. There was also a statement against the US blockade of Cuba: ‘We firmly reject all unilateral coercive measures with extraterritorial effects that are contrary to international law and the regulations commonly accepted under free trade...we reaffirm our well-known positions on the application of extraterritorial regulations of the Helms-Burton Act.’ The final declaration opposed financing and support for terrorist actions, appealing to governments to cease giving shelter to those guilty of terrorist actions and to either take to trial those accused of such crimes or to give immediate attention to extradition requests. This is a clear reference to the US treatment of terrorist Posada Carriles who remains under US protection despite Venezuelan demands for his extradition to face trial.

Vote of support for Cuba
On 9 May, the UN General Assembly elected 44 of the 47 members of its new Human Rights Council (HRC). Africa and Asia each got 13 seats; Latin America and the Caribbean, eight; the US and Western Europe, seven, and Eastern Europe, six. In order to be part of the Human Rights Council, countries must receive at least 96 votes. For Latin America, those elected were Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Cuba got 135 votes and won with a majority of more than two-thirds of votes cast, despite vehement campaigns by the US and its European allies to prevent Cuba’s entry into the HRC. The HRC replaces the Commission on Human Rights, discredited because of its inclusion of governments accused of human rights abuses.
Hannah Caller

FRFI 191 June / July 2006

 

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