Cuba puts the US to shame as hurricanes wreak destruction

IRMA CUBA

The succession of hurricanes which hit the Caribbean Americas in August and September were some of the most immense and devastating on record. Climate scientists warned that warming ocean surfaces are exacerbating the conditions that produce such extreme weather events. After the storms had passed it was clear that within the region only Cuba, thanks to its socialist central planning, had been equipped to adequately prepare and protect its people, putting even the US to shame. Barnaby Philips reports.

When it was announced that Hurricane Irma was going to be a Category 5 storm, Marien, a Cuban who has been living in Miami for four years, decided to take her family back to her home country for a week even though they wouldn’t escape Irma’s path there: ‘We know we’re going to be safer.’

Indeed, according to the Centre for International Policy, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, ‘a person is 15 times as likely to be killed by a hurricane in the United States as in Cuba’.

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Supporting working mothers: Cuba’s achievements bring new challenges

mothers in cuba

Earlier this year, two new laws concerning Female Workers’ Maternity and Special Social Security Regimes were enacted in Cuba. They aim to address the demographic challenges Cuba faces through its ageing population and strengthen support for working mothers who are central to discussions about the workforce, fertility and productivity. Haydee Franco Leal, director of Policies and Projections at the National Institute of Social Security, outlined the objectives as: encouraging Cuban women to have more children in order to replace the ageing population; ensuring the active participation, in all aspects of society, of the growing population of those aged over 60; and encouraging the employment of all those able to work, including women with children.

The changes are accompanied by a rise in the social security budget to 6bn Cuban pesos, which is set to double by 2030. They include: increasing and extending maternity benefits; allowing other carers to share these benefits; new and reduced charges for childcare centres, and ensuring benefits for mothers employed outside the state sector.

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Trump’s Cuba dilemma

trump cuba
Cuban celebrating National Rebellion Day on 26 July

On 16 June US President Donald Trump announced his intention to roll back the Obama administration’s policy toward Cuba in order to ‘seek a much better deal for the Cuban people and the United States of America’. His speech, delivered to an ensemble of reactionary Cubans in Miami, promised to enforce greater restrictions on travel and trade. Trump denounced Cuban socialism as the ‘Cuban people’s oppressor’ and praised previous US interventions on the island. However, he stopped far short of reversing Obama’s Cuba policy or of breaking off diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States re-established in 2015. James Bell reports.

President Trump faces the same problem that Obama confronted in 2014. Put bluntly, the strategy of economically and politically isolating socialist Cuba in order to destroy it, adopted by US imperialism since 1961, has not worked.

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Conceptualising Cuban socialism

cuba parliament

On 1 June 2017, an extraordinary session of Cuba’s National Assembly of Peoples’ Power approved important documents which define the character, objectives and strategy of Cuban socialism into the post-Castro era. Since 2011, a programme of ‘updating’ the Cuban economic and social system has been underway, and these documents aim to establish the parameters within which those developments will take place. Helen Yaffe reports.

Such measures are imperative given the greater space being opened up for market relations: private ownership and business, self-employment and foreign investment. Establishing social welfare and national development priorities will be essential to prevent market forces asserting a capitalist logic over Cuban development. Raul Castro will step down as President of the Council of State in February 2018,1 and the Cuban leadership is working to strengthen the institutional basis of socialism to help safeguard its future when Cuba is no longer led by the ‘historic generation’ who carried out the Revolution.

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Socialist Cuba: old obstacles and new challenges

mariel port
Cuba's Mariel port

On 25 and 26 March the first National Cuba Conference to be held in the United States since 1979 took place at Fordham Law School in New York. The conference demanded the full normalisation of US-Cuba relations; the elimination of the US blockade, the return of US-occupied territory in Guantanamo and an end to US regime change programmes. These are essential demands for the international movement in solidarity with socialist Cuba at this complex juncture; with the possibility of renewed aggression from the new Trump administration, and with the challenges faced both in its process of economic restructuring and the pending transition to a post-Castro era. Helen Yaffe reports.

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