In this way, the United States inaugurated a tradition that would characterize its behavior in the international arena to this day, in which the words of its political leaders not only conceal their true intentions, but in many cases the intentions have been the total reverse of the words. It was not for nothing that the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, left posterity a phrase that is still valid today, when he pointed out in 1829 that the United States seemed destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of freedom.[i] The Monroe Doctrine served as the basis of the United States’ political and economic policy.
The Monroe Doctrine served Washington to declare unilaterally and as if it were a divine right, protector of the American continent, letting the rest of the world know where its zone of influence, expansion and predominance resided.
However, during the first three years following its enunciation, the countries of the region invoked it on no less than five occasions in order to confront real or apparent threats to their independence and territorial integrity, only to receive negative or evasive responses from the U.S. government. The passage of time confirmed that the Monroe Doctrine had been created only to be defined, interpreted and applied at the convenience of the United States.
Over time it would have numerous updates and corollaries from different U.S. governments, always seeking to close any gap that could, from the interpretation and practice of other international actors and the countries of the region themselves, jeopardize its true designs. To mention just a few of them, the Polk Corollary[ii] of 1848: not only would the United States not admit new European colonizations on the American continent, but also that no nation in the region would freely request the intervention of European governments in its affairs or its own union with any of them; it also stated that no European nation could interfere in the will or desires of countries of the continent to join the United States; the Hayes Corollary[iii] of 1880: fixed the Caribbean and Central America as part of the exclusive sphere of influence of the United States and that to avoid interference by European imperialism in America, Washington should exercise exclusive control of any inter-oceanic canal to be built; Roosevelt Corollary[iv] of 1904 -much better known-: proclaims the duty and right of the United States to intervene as international arbiter or policeman in Latin American and Caribbean countries in the face of conflicts or debts with extra-regional powers; and the Kennan Corollary[v] of 1950: justified U.S. support for the dictatorships that flourished in the region under the pretext of anti-communism, which would even be called “national security dictatorships”.
None of the U.S. leaders ever entertained the idea that Monroe’s declaration could constitute an act of altruism or of particular friendship towards the neighboring republics to the south -as many Latin American governments fervently believed for years- let alone that it implied for the United States the obligation to intervene in defense of any country in the continent that was the victim of external aggression. For U.S. statesmen, the Monroe Doctrine was limited to announcing the eventual intervention of the United States only in those cases and in those areas of the region that were of vital interest for its domination.
This is what the Secretary of War of the Monroe administration, John C. Calhoun, stated: “We must not be subjected to having our general declarations quoted to us on every occasion, to which we can give all the interpretations we want. There are cases of intervention where I would appeal to the vagaries of war with all its calamities. Am I asked for one? I will answer. I designate the case of Cuba. As long as Cuba remains in the power of Spain, a friendly power, a power which we do not fear, the policy of the government will be, as has been the policy of all governments since I have intervened in politics, to leave Cuba as it is, but with the express design, which I hope never to see realized, that if Cuba leaves the dominion of Spain, it shall not pass into other hands but ours…In the same category I will mention another case, that of Texas; if it had been necessary, we would have resisted a foreign power.”[vi]
Between 1825 and 1826 it was corroborated that the Monroe Doctrine had nothing to do with “peace and security”, and much less with a sincere and disinterested support to the independence of their “brothers of the South”, when the United States opposed by diplomatic means and in a threatening tone, before a possible joint Colombian-Mexican expedition, with the objective of bringing independence to Cuba and Puerto Rico, a project that Simón Bolívar and Guadalupe Victoria, the latter president of Mexico, had cherished. In the face of strong U.S. diplomatic pressure, the governments of Bogota and Mexico responded that no operation of great magnitude against the Spanish Antilles would be accelerated until the proposal was submitted to the judgment of the Amphictyonic Congress of Panama to be held in 1826.
Washington’s concern, as is logical, continued, transferring its concern to the governments of Colombia and Mexico and moving all the levers of its diplomatic power. [vii] Years later, José Martí would refer to this embarrassing passage in the history of the United States, a reflection of the Monroist ideology, in one of his famous speeches when he said: “And Bolívar was already putting his foot in the stirrup, when a man who spoke English, and who came from the North with government papers, grabbed his horse by the bridle and spoke to him as follows: “I am free, you are free, but that people who are to be mine, because I want them for myself, cannot be free!”[viii] The status quo convenient to the interests of the United States could not be altered by extra-continental powers, but not even by the countries of the region themselves. This situation would be maintained during the years 1827, 1828 and 1829, every time an attempt was made to revive the redemptive enterprise; both by Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
It is very illustrative in today’s light, when we continue to see the Yankee obsession with Cuba, that in the context of the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, the interests of U.S. domination over the Greater Antilles were especially gravitating. The Monroe Doctrine was also complemented by the so-called theory of the Ripe Fruit, formulated by John Quincy Adams in 1823, in which Cuba was compared to a fruit on a tree, to metaphorically point out that just as there were laws of physical gravitation, there were also laws of political gravitation and, for such reasons, there was no other destiny for Cuba than to fall into American hands, it was only necessary to wait for the opportune moment for the fruit to be ripe for that inevitable end to be fulfilled.
During this process – Adams also pointed out in a letter sent on April 28, 1823 to the diplomatic representative of the United States in Madrid – it was preferable that the desired fruit remained in the hands of Spain before it passed into the hands of the more powerful powers of the time. Hence, when the British Foreign Minister, George Canning, proposed to Washington the signing of a joint declaration rejecting any attempt by the Holy Alliance and France to restore Spain’s absolutism in the Spanish-American territories, the United States took the lead in a masterstroke, making a declaration of its own -later known as the Monroe Doctrine- that left the United States’ hands absolutely free in America and tried to tie them to the rest of the powers, including England. At the root of the emergence of the Monroe Doctrine was Cuba, as one of the territories most coveted by the U.S. political class. Also Mexico, more than half of whose territories would later be usurped during the war of 1846-1848.
In 1830, Simón Bolívar, who during his struggle for independence and the unity of the peoples of Spanish America had felt the rejection of the United States as a great obstacle and permanent danger, as well as his calculating and cold stance -which he called arithmetical behavior- in relation to the emancipation process that was taking place in South America, was leaving for eternity. Against the Liberator and his plans for the unity and integration of Spanish America, a wide conspiratorial network was woven from Washington, which is still astonishing today for its level of articulation, when the means of communication and intelligence available to U.S. imperialism today did not yet exist. However, U.S. diplomatic representatives such as William Tudor, William Harrison, Joel Poinsett, among others, did a very effective dirty work to defeat more than the person of Bolivar, the ideas he represented and defended, totally antagonistic to the Monroist philosophy. His pioneering thought of anti-imperialism, about the unity and integration of the territories freed from the yoke of Spanish colonialism, in favor of the abolition of slavery, of the most dispossessed classes and the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico, were the greatest threat to their interests of expansion and domination that Washington faced in those years, hence their innumerable attempts to discredit him by calling him “usurper”, “dictator”, “the madman of Colombia”, among other offensive adjectives.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Bolivarian ideal would have in José Martí, the Apostle of Cuban independence, one of its most brilliant disciples, who could see like no one else into the entrails of the monster and warn of its dangers for the independence of Our America and the very balance of the world. It was then up to him to confront Monroeism at the stage when the United States was taking its first steps of transition to the imperialist phase and when the Monroe doctrine was being modernized through Pan-Americanism, which advocated continental unity under the dominant axis of Washington from the narrative of the so-called Manifest Destiny, a thesis of supposed biblical roots, which affirmed that the divine will granted the American nation the right to control the entire continent. The United States sought hemispheric supremacy in international legal forums and instruments and with it the institutionalization of the postulates of the Monroe Doctrine.
Through his chronicles and articles in more than twenty Spanish-American newspapers, José Martí developed an intense anti-imperialist work to defeat the thesis of a single currency, arbitration and customs union, promoted by the U.S. Secretary of State, James Blaine, at the American International Conference held in Washington between 1889 and 1890. He would also do so at the Monetary Conference of the Republics of America in 1891, where he actively participated as Consul of Uruguay.
There has never been in America, from independence to the present time,” warned Martí, “a matter that requires more wisdom, nor obliges more vigilance, nor demands clearer and more meticulous examination, than the invitation that the powerful United States, full of unsaleable products, and determined to extend their dominions in America, make to the less powerful American nations, linked by free and useful trade with the European peoples, to establish a league against Europe, and to close deals with the rest of the world.
From the tyranny of Spain, Spanish America knew how to save itself; and now, after seeing with judicial eyes the antecedents, causes and factors of the invitation, it is urgent to say, because it is the truth, that the hour of declaring its second independence has arrived for Spanish America.”[ix]
Shortly before falling in Dos Rios on May 19, 1895, in an unfinished letter to his Mexican friend Manuel Mercado, Martí left testimony of which had been the sense of his life: to prevent in time with the independence of Cuba, that the United States spread through the Antilles and fall with that force more on our lands of America.
With a far-sighted vision Martí had seen the great danger that the voracious imperial appetites of Washington represented for Cuba and the countries of our America and foresaw what could happen if the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico was not achieved in a short time, where he considered the balance of the world was to be found.
In the faithful of America are the Antilles,” wrote Martí in an analysis that demonstrates his knowledge and vision of the geopolitical interests that were moving on the international scene, “which would be, if slaves, a mere pontoon of the war of an imperial republic against the jealous and superior world that is already preparing to deny it power, -a mere fortress of the American Rome; and if free -and worthy of being so by the order of equitable and hard-working freedom- they would be in the continent the guarantee of balance, that of independence for the still threatened Spanish America and that of honor for the great republic of the north, which in the development of its territory, unfortunately already feudal and divided into hostile sections, will find more certain greatness than in the ignoble conquest of its smaller neighbors, and in the inhuman fight that with the possession of them would open against the powers of the world for the predominance of the world”.
And a few lines further on he expresses: “It is a world that we are balancing: it is not only two islands that we are going to liberate.”[x].
In 1898, with its intervention in the Cuban-Spanish conflict, the United States turned the island of Cuba into a test tube for neocolonialism in the region, thus initiating a historical period characterized by the consummation and success of the Monroe Doctrine, consolidating its dominance in the Western Hemisphere and gradually displacing rival powers, especially England. In addition to Cuba and Puerto Rico, Washington secured control of the Isthmus of Panama, one of the most important geostrategic points.
The Dominican Republic, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti suffered directly from the policy of the Big Stick and the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine with the intervention and territorial occupation of the Yankee Marines. In the case of Cuba, Monroeism acquired legal connotation through the Platt Amendment, an appendix to the 1901 Constitution, imposed by force on the Cubans under the threat of permanent military occupation. The Platt Amendment gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba whenever it deemed convenient and to lease territories for the establishment of naval and coal bases, the origin of the illegal U.S. presence in Guantanamo Bay to this day. The Platt Amendment was neither conceived nor imposed to safeguard Cuba or any Cuban interest, but as a tangible expression of the Monroe Doctrine.
Roosevelt’s successor in the White House, William Taft, through dollar and gunboat diplomacy, combined military intervention with U.S. financial and political control, expanding and consolidating U.S. domination in Central America and the Caribbean. “The day is not far distant,” Taft would unabashedly point out, “when three stars and three stripes at three equidistant points will delimit our territory: one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will in fact be ours by virtue of our racial superiority, as it is already ours morally.”[xi]
This was followed by the administrations of Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, all of whom, in one way or another, reinforced the postulates of the Monroe Doctrine, intervening or threatening militarily whenever the requirements of their imperial security in the region were threatened. The Mexican Revolution suffered the onslaught of Monroeism in those years, as did Nicaragua from 1926 to 1933, when Augusto César Sandino, leading a popular army, confronted the Marines who had invaded and occupied the country. The U.S. troops were finally defeated and had to withdraw from the Central American nation on January 3, 1933. However, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, the same one that had advocated the deception of the Good Neighbor policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, did not stand idly by and conspired against Sandino until his assassination was carried out and the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza was established, “a son of a bitch”, as Roosevelt himself described him, “but our son of a bitch”.
The outbreak of World War II was a perfect opportunity for the U.S. government to further expand its domination throughout the hemisphere, extending its military bases in the region and getting numerous Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its “hemispheric security” projects, in reality becoming subordinate to the geostrategic objectives of U.S. imperialism. The signing in 1947 by 20 Latin American and Caribbean governments of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) was a palpable example of this. Monroe and Adams could not have been more satisfied from their graves, especially when in 1948 the Organization of American States (OAS) was created as an instrument of the United States to modernize and institutionalize its domination over Latin America and the Caribbean. Its birth was baptized with the bloodshed of the Colombian people, in the midst of a popular uprising triggered by the assassination of progressive leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The government servile to Washington’s interests imposed after those events would be the only one to send troops to the Korean War to please the master of the North.
It immediately became evident that the purpose of the OAS had nothing to do with “continental unity and solidarity” in the face of common challenges and “extra-regional threats”, but that it was just another piece in the new world system that was emerging to satisfy the hegemonic interests of the U.S. power elite. The so-called Inter-American system was in reality part of its system of domination. The OAS was an adaptation of the Monroe Doctrine to the post-war scenario in order to align the entire region in the face of the “dangers of international communism”. Hence its uselessness -beyond the possibility of verbally condemning U.S. imperialism- to represent the interests of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.
The history of the OAS has been none other than the most infamous support of oligarchic governments to Washington’s interests, or Washington’s disrespect for the majority, when that majority has disagreed with its positions, reflecting the fallacy of its own existence as a space for concerted action between the two Americas. The OAS Charter itself has been violated and regional consensus has been flouted by the United States on multiple occasions. Undoubtedly, it was conceived and continues to try to function as a Yankee “Ministry of Colonies”, at the root of which lies the Monroist philosophy.
At the end of World War II, the United States achieved absolute supremacy in the Western Hemisphere, reaching the pinnacle of the aspirations of the founding fathers, of Adams and Monroe when they launched the famous doctrine and of their most loyal and creative continuators. Having reached that level of control in what they considered their backyard, the power elite of U.S. imperialism felt in a position to extend its hegemony to other geographical areas of the world, even going beyond the limits of what was expressed in the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.
The 1960s brought a new revival of the Monroe ideal in the face of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the supposed penetration of communism in the Western Hemisphere, a pretext that was assumed and disseminated from Washington to follow an even more aggressive course against the Cuban revolutionary process and provoke its diplomatic isolation in the hemisphere, a fact that materialized when Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962. In that same year President Kennedy said at a press conference:
“The Monroe Doctrine means what it has meant ever since President Monroe and John Quincy Adams enunciated it: that we would oppose a foreign power extending its power into the Western Hemisphere, and that is why we oppose what is happening in Cuba today. That’s why we have cut off our trade relations. That’s why we work in the Organization of American States and in other ways to isolate the communist threat in Cuba.”[xii]
The resistance and achievements of the Cuban Revolution, its example of independence and absolute sovereignty at the very gates of the U.S. empire, was an inadmissible reality for the true hegemonic purposes under which the Monroe Doctrine was inspired. At the same geographical point where Washington had begun its long road of successful expansion and preeminence, making its debut as an empire, the most forceful and sustained challenge ever faced by the colossus of the North from the periphery of the South also began and, as if that were not enough, under its own nose and by an island, small in size, but a giant as a moral example for the world. Fidel Castro Ruz, would embrace the Bolivarian, Martian, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, internationalist and Marxist ideal, becoming a heresy that even today and facing the future, continues to fight and win great battles, while his example and thought lives on in the Cuban people and revolutionaries around the world.
In addition to unleashing a full-spectrum war against Cuba that continues to this day, this anomaly to U.S. domination in the Western Hemisphere led the various U.S. governments to unleash a whole series of violent and reactionary policies to prevent the existence of more Cubas in the region. A new stage of invasions, coups d’état and support for bloody dictatorships began, under the pretext of the fight against communism.
In the name of freedom – also of human rights – as Bolivar had warned in 1829, Washington was responsible for the most horrendous crimes practiced against the peoples south of the Rio Bravo. Millions of disappeared, tortured, murdered, was the cost paid by our peoples, a figure impossible to fully calculate if we add up the victims of Monroism since the 19th century. We can never forget that history, which is also part of what these two hundred years of the Monroe Doctrine have meant. How can we not refer to Operation Condor, which between 1975 and 1983 was responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances throughout the continent, where the criminal efforts of the U.S. government and the CIA joined forces with the military dictatorships of Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Bolivia, as well as terrorist groups of Cuban origin based in Miami, with the aim of curtailing the progressive and revolutionary movement in Latin America.
Fifty years ago the Nixon-Kissinger administration unleashed a great plot against the Popular Unity government presided by Salvador Allende in Chile, this operation culminated on September 11, 1973 with a coup d’état, the death of Allende and the establishment of one of the most atrocious dictatorships of the entire continent, whose aftermath is still visible in that country today. Also 40 years ago, the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan launched an invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada on October 25, 1983, where a revolutionary process led by Maurice Bishop was taking place. History as a teacher of life teaches lessons for the present. Fidel’s words to the Chilean people, in Santiago de Chile, on December 12, 1971, warning of the threat posed by the fascist right wing supported from Washington to the revolutionary processes, are especially relevant today:
“But what do the exploiters do when their own institutions no longer guarantee their domination? What is their reaction when the mechanisms they have historically counted on to maintain their domination fail them? They simply destroy them. There is no one more anti-constitutional, more anti-legal, more anti-parliamentary, more repressive, more violent and more criminal than fascism.
Fascism, in its violence, liquidates everything: it attacks the universities, closes them down and crushes them; it attacks the intellectuals, represses and persecutes them; it attacks the political parties; it attacks the trade union organizations; it attacks all the mass organizations and the cultural organizations.
So that there is nothing more violent or more retrograde or more illegal than fascism.”[xiii]
The fall of the socialist camp unleashed triumphalist airs in Washington about the arrival of the “Pax Americana”, it was no longer just “America for the Americans”, but the world at the feet of the victorious world power of the Cold War as a supposed end of history. However, in addition to the fact that they could not sweep away Cuba, which resisted and emerged victorious again as the main stone in their shoes, popular rebellions and resistances in what the United States considered its safe backyard, immediately began to happen and the least the power elite in that country could have imagined was that there would be a resurgence of the US imperialist regime, which would be the first to be able to take control of Cuba, The least the power elite in that country could have imagined was that there would be a resurgence of Bolivarianism and the arrival to power of progressive and leftist forces, which articulated a change of era where Monroism was called into question, rescuing and updating the Bolivarian ideal for the 21st century.
The role of Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, at the head of the Bolivarian Revolution, undoubtedly marked a turn and a leap in Latin American and Caribbean history. Together with the governments of Nestor Kichner in Argentina, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, Lula Da Silva in Brazil, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Fidel and Raúl in Cuba, a regional “Our American” project began to take shape, which included the creation of integration organizations such as ALBA-TCP, UNASUR, CELAC, TELESUR, PETROCARIBE, among other mechanisms that sought to break with the domination schemes that had been imposed from the North for decades. In November 2005, the attempts of US imperialism to recolonize the region under a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) were defeated, when in Mar del Plata, Argentina, during the IV Summit of the Americas, several Latin American and Caribbean presidents stood up to it, among them the very host of the meeting, President Néstor Kirchner, together with Chávez and Lula. The United States had never faced such a break in its domination of the Western Hemisphere since the end of World War II. The administrations of William Clinton, W. Bush and Barack Obama reacted with all their arsenal and allies to stop and overthrow this process: coups d’état, parliamentary coups, oil coups, economic sanctions, blockades, cultural, media, psychological and fourth generation wars, subversion, espionage, interference in internal affairs, encouragement of treason and division, prosecution of progressive and leftist leaders, diplomatic and economic threats, military maneuvers, activation of the IV Fleet, among many other actions that marked the imperial, oligarchic and right-wing counter-offensive throughout the region.
However, under the precepts of Smart Power, in 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed that the Monroe Doctrine had come to an end and in a speech before the OAS, the then Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that the relationship between the United States and Latin America should be that of equivalent partners, and that his government sought to establish a link not based on doctrines but on common interests and values. But the best lie to these declarations came only two years later when a new coup attempt against the Bolivarian Revolution took place, where U.S. interference became evident. A few weeks later, the White House declared Venezuela an extraordinary threat to its national security.
In the case of Cuba, despite the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014 and the so-called new policy approach, the purposes of achieving regime change and the overthrow of the Revolution were never abandoned by the Obama administration. Facts, statements and documents of the period prove it.
However, his successor in the White House, Donald Trump, and his main foreign policy advisors would unabashedly resume the Monroist discourse. One of the statements that generated the most headlines was that of his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who, during a tour of Latin America, stated that the Monroe Doctrine “is as relevant today as the day it was written”. These statements were not only a reaction to a greater presence of China and Russia in the region, but were a response to the non-acceptance of “foreign ideologies” such as those defended by Cuba and Venezuela, although at the heart of the matter we know that the real concern is the disconnection from the system of US imperial domination that the examples of the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions signify.
Today it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are witnessing a world in geopolitical transition and an accelerated decline of US hegemony at the global level. The U.S. power elite in this scenario clings more and more to the Monroist philosophy and, faced with a state of imperial oversizing that prevents it from maintaining control in much more distant geographical areas -as has occurred in Africa and the Middle East-, it is logical that its attention should be focused on the area that for 200 years it has considered its vital space of reproduction and hegemonic expansion: Latin America and the Caribbean. From the imperial logic, what is at stake is to recover the lost ground at any cost in the face of the advance of China, Russia and the progressive and leftist governments themselves. Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be the top priority in U.S. foreign policy. The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Laura Richardson, recently reaffirmed this when, in a conversation with the Atlantic Council think tank, she said:
“If I talk about my number two adversary in the region, Russia, I mean, I have, of course, the relations between the countries of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua with Russia. But why is this region important? With all its rich resources and rare earth elements, you have the lithium triangle, which today is necessary for technology. 60% of the world’s lithium is in the lithium triangle: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, you have the largest oil reserves, light sweet crude discovered off Guyana more than a year ago. You have the resources of Venezuela as well, with oil, copper, gold. We have the lungs of the world, the Amazon. We also have 31% of the world’s fresh water in this region. I mean, it’s out of the ordinary. This region matters. It has to do with National Security and we have to step up our game.”[xiv]
The scenario that is being drawn is one of opportunities before the gaps and weaknesses of the imperial system itself and the continuous mistakes of the right wing without an alternative project to offer to our peoples, but also of great dangers before the growth of neo-fascist tendencies that are glimpsed on the horizon and also in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. The systemic crisis of imperialism itself leads to increasingly violent and reactionary reactions, given the loss of capacity to maintain the expanded accumulation of capital and the rebellions and rebellions that arise one after another in the periphery and in the very centers of domination, the results of which announce the birth of a multipolar world. In this process, the left forces of the region have a unique moment to relaunch as never before the processes of unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. The conjunctures are very changeable and shifting, tomorrow will be too late. Only united will we be truly free and an international actor with an influential place in the destinies of humanity, which must move urgently, so as not to disappear, towards a change of civilizational paradigm. Otherwise, the United States would once again fall upon our lands in the Americas, breaking the balance of the world, at a time when there may be no way back to save not only the independence and sovereignty of our peoples, but even the human species itself.
As the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, pointed out at the first Ibero-American Summit, in Guadalajara, Mexico, on July 18, 1991: “The time has come to fulfill with deeds and not with words the will of those who dreamed one day for our peoples a great common homeland that would be worthy of universal respect and recognition”.
In the 21st century, the Monroe Doctrine is as alive as it was in 1823, two hundred years ago. But the ideals and struggles of our peoples are also alive. The ideals and struggles of the Latin American and Caribbean heroes who gave their lives for the independence and unity of Our America are alive today more than ever.
In this year 2023, what we truly commemorate is the 95th anniversary of the birth of one of the highest paradigms of revolutionaries for all times, Ernesto Che Guevara, who gave his life to the emancipation of the Latin American, Caribbean, African peoples and the entire global south under the imperialist yoke, our greatest commitment must be, without dogmas and atavisms that hinder the way, the struggle for social justice and the unity and integration of our peoples.
[i] Letter from Simón Bolívar to Colonel Patricio Campbell, British Chargé d’Affaires to the Government of Colombia, Guayaquil, August 5, 1829.
[ii] James Knox Polk, President of the United States between 1845 and 1849.
[iii] Rutherford Birchard Hayes, President of the United States between 1877 and 1881.
[iv] Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States between 1901 and 1909.
[v] George F. Kennan (1904-2005). American diplomat and government advisor and author of the doctrine of containment against communism.
[vi] Indalecio Liévano Aguirre: Bolívarismo y monroísmo, Editorial Revista Colombiana, Bogotá, 1971, pp.40-41.
[vii] See Elier Ramírez Cañedo, La miseria en nombre de la libertad, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, pp.67-74.
[viii] Speech by José Martí at Hardman Hall, New York, November 30, 1889.
[ix] José Martí, “Congreso Internacional de Washington, su historia, sus elementos y sus tendencias”, Obras Completas, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1975, t. 6, p. 46.
[x] José Martí, “El tercer año del Partido Revolucionario Cubano”, Obras Completas, Editorial Nacional de Cuba, Havana. t. 3, p.142.
[xi]Quoted by Juan Nicolás Padrón in: The U.S. war against Cuba in the neocolonial republic (II), La Jiribilla, August 3, 2022.
[xii] New World Encyclopedia. “Monroe Doctrine.” New World Encyclopedia. October 18, 2018. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Monroe_Doctrine.
[xiii] Speech delivered by Commander Fidel Castro Ruz, at the farewell ceremony given to him by the people of Chile, at the National Stadium, Santiago de Chile, December 2, 1971.
[xiv] See on the Internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBHznUxu2_E
Elier Ramírez Cañedo
This article was produced by Resumen.
On June 8, the U.S. media added to its long storybook of tales to scare people away from normal relations with Cuba. The Wall Street Journal published an article on that day claiming that China has plans to set up a “spy base” in Cuba, to “eavesdrop” on the United States and “identify potential strike targets.” WSJ has already published two more pieces since rapidly ramping up its narrative against the Cuban state and fermenting more paranoia as the news spreads across mainstream news outlets in the United States.
Meanwhile, Cuban officials held a press conference on June 8 to completely deny the allegations. Cuba’s Vice Foreign Minister Carlos de Cossío stated that “All these are fallacies promoted with the deceitful intention of justifying the unprecedented tightening of the blockade, destabilization, and aggression against Cuba and of deceiving public opinion in the United States and the world.” Even John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman who was the former press secretary for the Pentagon, has denied the WSJ report, calling it “inaccurate.”
This is just one new addition to the long legacy of lies that the United States has been spinning in an attempt to further alienate the Cuban people. One just has to remember the “Havana syndrome” that mysteriously affected diplomats in Cuba; it was first blamed on foreign powers as an attack but was later revealed to have no basis. Or maybe the claims about 20,000 Cuban soldiers supposedly based in Venezuela to maintain the government there, when in reality, the vast majority of Cubans present in Venezuela were medical workers. Or perhaps the idea that Cuban doctors sent across the world are enslaved, when it is simply their understanding that their duty to humanity is to provide health care to those who need it. All of these lies have been told just in the past few years alone.
These falsified stories all swirl into fomenting the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion that prevents normal U.S.-Cuba relations. In the wake of the Havana syndrome myth, Trump was able to interrupt the path Obama set toward normalization, setting 243 additional and comprehensive sanctions, and further preventing the island from meeting its basic needs. The United States continues to live out its Cold War fantasies through these lies, at the cost of the Cuban people’s lives and well-being.
And yet, it maintains its hypocrisy. Cossío was careful to point out that Cuba would never allow a foreign military base on their island, as it is a signatory of the Declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace. Cuba is also currently sponsoring and hosting peace talks between Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN). As of today, they have agreed to a cease-fire, ending decades of violence in the country. Cuba already suffers from the illegal U.S. occupation of Guantanamo, to further rub salt in the wound. The United States has its infamous military base there, which is known for the inhumane treatment and torture it deals out to its prisoners. While it accuses China of military expansion, the United States has hundreds of military bases all over the globe.
Cuba has demonstrated that it desires nothing but peace in the region, and normal relations with its neighbor, the United States. But the United States refuses to accept this proposal. Instead, it maintains the most comprehensive sanctions in history against the small island. Instead, it falsely places Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism list, even though it is in fact a sponsor of peace. Instead, the U.S. government and its media apparatuses choose to fabricate myths and legends, painting Cuba as the evil monster under the bed. It chooses to scare the U.S. people away from the possibility that normal relations and ending the blockade against Cuba could be good for people from both countries.
Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.
The Communist Party of Cuba is a vanguard political party in a political system of people’s democracy. As such, its role is to educate the people, guiding the people in the construction of socialism. The Party in Cuba possesses the moral authority to guide and educate, but it does not have the legal and constitutional authority to decide. The Constitution grants to the National Assembly of People’s Power, the deputies of which are nominated by the delegates of the people and elected directly by the people, the authority to decide policies and measures, to enact legislation, and to elect and recall the highest members of the executive branch of the government.
I have written in previous commentaries concerning the Cuban political process of people’s democracy, different from and in important respects superior to representative democracy (see “Cuba wins the 2023 elections,” March 28, 2023). Whereas the structures of representative democracy initially took form in the context of bourgeois revolutions against the monarchies in the late eighteenth century in North America and Western Europe, the structures of people’s democracy were developed in the context of Third World people’s revolutions against a neocolonial order in the twentieth century. Today, Korea, Vietnam, China, Laos, and Cuba have developed different versions of people’s democracies.
Ricardo Cabrisis, Cuban Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of International Commerce and Foreign Investment, has observed that Cuba is passing through one of the most difficult moments in the sixty-two years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, as consequence of the economic and ideological war being waged against it by U.S. imperialism. Similarly, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, declared that Cuba is in an extraordinary complex scenario that is provoking the deterioration of the infrastructure, shortages of supplies, and lack of goods and services, which also is generating a social deterioration.
The Party leadership is calling the Party members and the people to creative resistance, looking for innovative solutions to the economic problems, thus breaking the economic siege of the United States against Cuba. The nation must advance with speed and dynamism, eradicating inertia, bureaucratism, snags, and complacency.
Rendering of Accounts
On May 23, 2023, the VI Plenary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party was held. A Report of the Rendering of Accounts on the work of the Political Bureau was presented to the Plenary by Roberto Morales Ojeda, a member of the Political Bureau who is also the Secretary of Organization of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.
The Report notes that the Plenary occurs in the context of increasing socioeconomic complexity, caused by the effects of the intensification of the blockade with 243 new measures of the Trump administration, which includes the arbitrary inclusion of Cuba in the spurious list of countries that sponsor terrorism. There is insufficient understanding among the people, the report observes, of the impact of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade on the economy of the nation.
The Report affirms the political victory of the Revolution in the recent national elections, inasmuch as they ratified the unity and the confidence of the Cuban people in the Cuban democratic and socialist system. It also recognizes the implementation of improvements in the conditions national electric energy system, enabling it to overcome instability, although some disruptions of service persist that require continuous attention. The Report considers valuable the recent visit of a Party delegation to Laos, Vietnam, and China, for the purpose of interchanges with the communist parties of said nations. And the Report reaffirms the foreign policy of the government, based in the principles of respect for the sovereignty of all nations and the development of mutually beneficial commercial relations among nations.
However, the Report acknowledges a host of problems. A shortage of supplies of gasoline and diesel has generated a fuel crisis, creating serious difficulties in both public and private transportation. In the countryside, housing and transportation have deteriorated, and the service infrastructure is insufficient. A rural exodus has occurred, leading to an insufficient workforce in rural areas. The 2023 sugarcane harvest was insufficient, as a result of undisciplined work, an insufficient number of technically qualified workers, and shortages of fuel, lubricants, and equipment.The Report observes that emigration, essentially of youth and professionals, constitutes a challenge for the present and the future.
Emigration aggravates a situation of deficit of medicines, and it contributes to the reduction of availability of medical equipment tied to high technology and of ambulances. The Report recommends improvement of ideological political work in the formation of professionals.The Report refers to an investigation of the problem of persons not connected to either study or work. Fifty percent are adolescents and youth, with the highest incidence occurring in Santiago de Cuba, Havana, Granma, Villa Clara, and Sancti Spiritus.
The Report notes that the socialist state companies are far from the full attainment of their potential. In his address to the National Assembly on May 25, Alejandro Gil Fernández, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning, noted that 84% of the state-managed companies are running in the black, with income greater than expenses. Of those in the red, some are being maintained by the state because of their value to the economy and society. However, the goal is to gradually attain a situation in which all state companies will operate with income greater than costs.
The Report noted that inflation and the deprecation of Cuban currency have reduced the acquisitive power of the people, giving rise to an increase in illegalities, criminal behavior, corruption, and social indiscipline. The report notes that passive attitudes before the phenomenon are prevalent, and there is lack of administrative control. There is poor attention to the imposition of fines, and weak vigilance by the directing councils of centers of production. Night watch and vigilance by workers and neighborhood organizations are nearly nonexistent. The report calls for attention to the battle against corruption, crime, illegalities, and indiscipline.
In reporting to the Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of People’s Power on May 25, Minister of Economy Gil noted that the average year-over year inflation of prices is currently 45.4%, with some goods, especially those provided by the state, having no price increase; with the price of other goods increasing at a higher level. Gil explained the three factors that have caused inflation. First, the increase in prices of imported goods, due to inflation in the world economy. Secondly, a decline in Cuban production, particularly agricultural production, including such goods as milk, corn, potatoes, pork, rice, and eggs. Production has declined because of shortages in supplies and fuel, as well as due to undisciplined work. Thirdly, speculation in the retail market, with some intermediaries demanding a price five times what they paid, taking advantage of shortages. Such abusive speculation, Gil observed, contributes nothing of value to the economy. The government is attempting to clamp down on this form of corruption, he noted.
Gil concluded his report to the National Assembly with the observation that as of April of this year, the Cuban economy is on track to comply with the objectives defined by the 2023 economic plan. He expressed confidence that the Cuban people are capable of overcoming obstacles, despite the U.S. blockade.
Alejandro Gil, it should be noted, regularly provides comprehensive and scientifically informed analyses of the Cuban economy, putting forth clear explanations. He has repeatedly stated that the solution to the economic difficulties of the country is an increase in production, especially agricultural production. He regularly outlines steps being taken by the government to increase production, which include cooperative arrangements with strategic partners and allied nations. He is a key member of the Cuban leadership team, headed President Miguel Díaz-Canel, that through its continuous display of competence inspires confidence and hope.
At the May 25 Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez spoke from the floor of the Assembly, not in his capacity as foreign minister but as an elected deputy of the assembly. He declared that the fundamental cause of the economic problems of the nation is, by far and without any doubt, the U.S. blockade against Cuba. In his extensive commentary, he reviewed the history of the blockade from 1959 to the present. He noted that the blockade has evolved with increasing intensity, such that the blockade in its early years did not have the impact that it has today, especially in a world context in which Cuba had a cooperative relation with the Soviet Union and the East European socialist bloc. He pointed out that as a result of the measures imposed by the Trump administration in 2019, companies and banks in third countries are sanctioned by the USA for commercial and financial transactions with Cuba, often imposed by the arbitrary inclusion of Cuba in a spurious list of countries that supposedly sponsor terrorism.
The Report concludes with a call for attention to the priorities of the people: housing, speculative and abusive increase of prices, the long lines for the purchase of goods, and the instability of the electric system. The Report calls upon greater involvement of the Party cells in all the processes. It calls for improvement in the schools of the party, tying ideology to knowledge, and for improvement in the theoretical formation of the Party cells.
The Implementation of the Party’s Guidelines
A report on the compliance with the Guidelines of the Social and Economic Policy of the Party and the Revolution for the period 2021 to 2026 was presented to the Plenary by Joel Queipo Ruiz, member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party and Head of its Productive Economic Department. He noted that the report was developed on the basis of ample consultation with the 48,121 Party cells in the country. He observed that the effective implementation of the Guidelines does not correspond with what is needed to guarantee the social and economic development of the country. He maintained that Party cells in centers of production have to become true units of combat that impulse effective compliance with the Guidelines.
Alejandro Gil, Minister of Economy and Planning, noted that of the 201 guidelines, 13 are without advancement in implementation, and 67 have low advancement, such that approximately 40% of the guidelines had had little or no implementation. On the other hand, 110 guidelines have had medium advancement (54.7%) and 11 have high advancement (5.4%). He further noted that the thirteen guidelines without advancement in implementation are primarily connected to agriculture and food production. Gil observed that “nothing falls to us from heaven, and there is no magic. We have in our hands a group of measures that have not given results, but they have a great potential.”
A Code of Ethics for the Party Cells
The Plenary approved the Code of Ethics of the Cells of the Revolution. The Code was formulated on the basis of the Theses and Resolutions of the First Congress of the Party; the definition of revolution expressed by Fidel in 2001; and reflections on the theme expressed by Raúl and Che. The Code expresses the characteristics that a leader ought to possess: the honor and the duty of defending the country; anti-imperialist spirit; the permanent disposition to explain comportment and to submit oneself to public scrutiny; permanent interaction with the citizenry; and to be proactive in the solution of difficulties and problems, confronting them with the available resources. The Code elaborates fifteen values that a good leader ought to have: patriotism, anti-imperialism, fidelity, honesty, honor, discipline, altruism, humanism, solidarity, professionalism, collaboration, integrity, responsibility, transparency, and austerity.
Overcoming the blockade without it being lifted
Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of Cuba and First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, declared at the closing of the Plenary that the principal challenge confronting the Party today is to search for solutions to the economic challenges that the country confronts. He called for rigorous implementation of the measures and actions proposed at the Plenary. He stressed that it is imperative to increase production, especially the recuperation of agricultural production, and to eliminate the network of intermediaries in the commercialization of merchandise. He called for confronting the present challenges in a spirit of victory, effort, talent, determination, and creativity. He declared that it is not only a matter of resisting, but of resisting and creating at the same time.
The Party, Díaz-Canel declared, must stimulate the comprehension and participation of the people and the lifting of hope. He noted that in his most recent trip in the provinces of the country, he found that there had been advances in comparison with five months earlier. We found a capacity to manage production at the local level, a will and persistence despite adverse circumstances, he declared. We found persons that have been disposed to overcome adversity, and they have attained it, taking advantage of existing potentialities. These persons have been blockaded, just like everyone in Cuba, yet they were able to advance, even though they were in the same conditions as everyone else. They are the ones who are challenging the blockade, Díaz-Canel asserted. They are lifting the blockade through creative resistance. They are not complacent or immobile; they confront with intelligence each of the problems that they confront.
The President calls for such a spirit of resistance not only from some, but from all. We are calling all, he declared, to overcome the blockade without it being lifted, overcoming it at the local level, taking advantage of existing potentialities in each of the provinces and the municipalities of the country.
Convocation of the Second Conference of the Party
The Central Committee called for the Second National Conference of the Communist Party of Cuba, to be held in October. The conference is called to critically and objectively analyze compliance with the agreements of the Eighth Congress of the Party, held in April 2021. And it will analyze the transformations of the Social and Economic Model of Socialist Development, approved by the National Assembly of People´s Power in 2012; and the compliance with the Guidelines of the Social and Economic Policy of the Party and the Revolution, emitted by the Party and approved by the National Assembly of People’s Power in 2012.
This article was republished from Marxism-Leninism Today.
Rural health care in Cuba (Photo by Carol Foil, 2009).
The Cuban socialist healthcare system is internationally recognized as one of the best in the world.1 It is innovative, preventative, people-oriented, comprehensive, community-centered, internationalist, and, of course, de-commodified—treating healthcare as a human right, not a profitable commodity. However, in spite of its extraordinary successes, the United States’ sixty-year long blockade has tremendously detrimental effects on Cuban life in general, and their healthcare system in particular. As Amnesty International reported, the US blockade “limits Cuba’s capacity to import medicines, medical equipment, and the latest technologies, some of which are essential for treating life-threatening diseases.”2
The intentions behind the US blockade on Cuba have always been clear. As Lester Mallory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in 1960:
Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. If such a policy [blockade] is adopted, it should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government . . . the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.3
The blockade is thus aimed at making the material conditions of Cubans as difficult as possible, creating fertile soil for discontent in the Cuban revolutionary process to arise. However, the United States doesn’t leave the arrival of discontent to chance. As Tracy Eaton from the Cuba Money Project has shown, the United States, through regime change fronts like the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the U.S. State Department, has spent more than one billion dollars funding Cuban opposition groups and media within and outside of the country.4 This combination of blockade and opposition funding is a central component of the hybrid warfare against Cuba (as well as other victims of US imperialism).
Notwithstanding the formidable aggression bearing down on Cuba, the island has been able to achieve remarkable success in the fields of medicine, education, sustainable development, sports, etc. In this article, I will briefly highlight how the Cuban healthcare system functions, some of its successes, and how the blockade has affected Cuban medicine and stifled medical development both within Cuba and in the United States.
Cuba’s Socialist Healthcare System
Speaking to Cuban militias a few months after the revolution, Che, himself a physician by training, would say that
Medicine will have to convert itself into a science that serves to prevent disease and orients the public toward carrying out its medical duties. Medicine should only intervene in cases of extreme urgency, to perform surgery or something else which lies outside the skills of the people of the new society we are creating.5
“Such a profound social change demands,” he would argue, “equally profound changes in the mental structure of the people.”6 Socialist society could not limit itself to creating changes in institutions and the material foundations of society, it is equally vital, as he famously says in Socialism and Man in Cuba, “to build the new man and woman.”7 In the field of medicine, this required the formation of a new type of doctor, “a revolutionary doctor, that is to say a [person] who utilizes the technical knowledge of [their] profession in the service of the revolution and the people.”8
In the same year, Fidel Castro would remark that “the future of Cuba will be a future of [people] of science.”9 This visionary statement was uttered on the heels of a massive exodus of professionals, where half of the doctors, as well as many of the teachers, had left the country. For instance, “only 12 of the 250 Cuban teachers at the University of Havana’s Medical School remained.”10 For all the factors pointing otherwise, Fidel’s 1960 proclamation would become true, as today Cuba is the country with the most doctors per capita. This was not a coincidental development. Since 1959, the revolution reorganized the 1909-founded Ministry of Health and Welfare into the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), which created “a single, national, state-run health system that sets short, medium, and long-term policies.”11 With its goal of training generations of humanistic medical professionals dedicated to the revolutionary process, Cuba eliminated university tuition, made textbooks free, developed various scholarship plans, and constructed networks of universities which created dozens of schools capable of educating professionals in every province of the country.12 Universal education and universal healthcare went hand in hand – the development of one was the condition for the development of the other.
Cuba’s emphasis on universal education and healthcare within the socialist model allowed the country which lost half of its medical (and other) professionals to develop a surplus which participates in various internationalist missions, almost half of which are done for free (for the poorest countries of the global south), and the other half at a sliding scale.13 Thanks to these internationalist missions (which have been ongoing since the first years of the revolution), millions of human beings from the poorest corners of the planet can say that “they owe their health, if not their lives, to Cuban professionals and the government which trained and sent them.”14
By the middle of the 1970s, after several generations of doctors had been developed within the revolution, Cuba would institutionalize the polyclinic model, a staple of their innovative, community based, socialist healthcare. As Helen Yaffe writes,
A new model of community-based polyclinics was established in 1974 to deliver comprehensive care to residents in their neighbourhoods. Polyclinics gave Cuban communities local access to primary care specialists such as obstetricians, gynaecologists, paediatricians, internists and dental services. Training and policy emphasised the impact of biological, social, cultural, economic and environmental factors on patients.15
Far from the reductive and deterministic frameworks often found in Western capitalist medicine, Cuban healthcare emphasizes the dialectical relationship of the individual and their community and of the biological and the social. Such an integrative and relational framework allows for a more comprehensive approach to treatment. With the polyclinics and the 1984 “family doctor” programs, the integration of doctors within the individual’s “everyday environment” allowed, as Che hoped, for the preventative and communal dimension of healthcare to thrive.16
The most interesting dimension of Cuban healthcare, in my view, is its emphasis on prevention. The emphasis on prevention stands as a pinnacle of medical practice, one which would seem like lunacy in the US. When profits are in command, why would anyone do something which might prevent more profits from being realized in the future? When people are what matters, like in Cuba, the goal of medical practice is almost self-destructive, in the sense that the aim is to destroy the conditions, i.e., the sicknesses, which make medical treatment necessary in the first place. The opposite is true when health care is subjected to the same logic as everything else under capitalism. Instead of its natural tendency for self-abolition, the tendency here is towards proliferation, i.e., towards developing more conditions for which treatment is required. The more treatment needed, the more profit there is to be made.
Cuban people know that medicine′s first and only goal is to serve the people.
This puts the for-profit health care system found in the United States—the only developed country in the world without socialized medicine—in an irreconcilable antagonism with what the essence of medical care entails. It also creates fertile ground, as we saw with regards to the COVID vaccines, for a large portion of the population to develop medical and scientific skepticism. After all, if it is the same pharmaceutical industrial complex that, in collaboration with the US government, proliferated the criminal but profitable opioid crisis which kills seventy thousand Americans yearly, it does not seem irrational for a portion of the population to lack trust in the same pharmaceutical industry’s handling of the pandemic.17 This absence of trust in medical institutions does not exist in Cuba, where people know that medicine′s first and only goal is to serve the people. As Hippocrates (from whom we get the Hippocratic oath that is ingrained in every medical trainee in the United States) argued, “a physician’s aim in dealing with any illness . . . should be to halt the conditions that promote its flourishing.” It shouldn’t be that, as for-profit health care promotes, those conditions are sustained or metamorphized into others so that profitable treatment may continue.18
Cuba’s innovative, preventative, community-centered, and holistic approach to healthcare is the reason why, in spite of the tremendous material difficulties the blockade creates, Cuba is considered to have one of – if not the – most efficient healthcare system in the world. After sixty years of socialism, Cubans are amongst the healthiest and longest-living people in the world, living on average three years longer than Americans.19 Besides the sixteen year increase in life expectancy the revolution has achieved since 1959, it has also had the largest reduction in infant mortality, from 6 to 0.41 percent, the lowest in the whole Western hemisphere.20 “Infectious and contagious diseases like polio, malaria, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough and dengue,” which are frequently found in the poorest parts of the world, “have been eradicated.”21
Cuban medical sciences, thanks to the importance and investment the state affords it, has made prodigious inroads in cancer, diabetes, HIV, and other areas of medical study.22 With regards to lung cancer, perhaps the “best-known innovation is the CimaVax vaccine, created by researchers at the Havana’s Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), which acts on the growth factor of cancer cells to prevent the disease from spreading.”23 The most common cancer death is lung cancer, which killed around 1.8 million people worldwide in 2020.24 With the US blockade in place, thousands of Americans are deprived of the prolongation and enhancement of their lives which the CimaVax vaccine would provide.25 While clinical trials and collaboration had begun during the Cuban thaw, when Obama partially lifted the blockade, the full reinstatement of the blockade with Trump, and its continuation and proliferation with Biden, has once again removed the hope the Cuban vaccine could bring to the hundreds of thousands of Americans with lung cancer.26
Along with CimaVAx, Racotumomab and VSSP are “promising cancer drugs invented by CIM.”27 As Cuba Debate reported,
Racotumomab targets a molecule that scientists believe is found in all cancer cells, meaning the drug could one day be effective against leukemia and the tumors that accompany lung, breast, colon and prostate cancers. VSSP, originally designed as a compound to activate the immune response to vaccines, also appears to stimulate the immune response against cancer.28
Recent research into VSSP has shown that it “significantly reduce[s] myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) among people with advanced kidney cancer,” paving “the way for a new treatment” for the disease.29
In addition to its successes in cancer research, “in 2015, the World Health Organization recognized Cuba as the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child.”30 This is a feat that Dr. Margaret Chan, at the time the Director-General of the WHO, said was “an important step towards having a generation free of AIDS.”31
Cuban medical sciences have also succeeded in developing what has been called the diabetes miracle treatment, Heberprot-P. As Cuba Debate reports,
When uncontrolled diabetes damages the nerves and blood vessels in a person’s foot, it can cause one of the disease’s most debilitating complications: diabetic foot ulcers, capable of penetrating the bone. These ulcers can even become gangrenous and, in the worst case, cause the amputation of a finger, foot or even a leg. Since 2006, Cuba has had a medicine for ulcers called Heberprot-P, which avoids the need to amputate. Its inventors, scientists from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, describe this treatment as “an epidermal growth factor” that is injected next to the affected area and can accelerate the skin’s healing process, closing the wound in about three months.32
Heberprot-P has shown nearly an 80 percent success rate in preventing amputation, an incredible fact considering that up to 60 percent of amputations lead to death within five years, and up to 80 percent within ten years.33 In the United States, diabetes is the seventh most common cause of death, affecting more than one in ten adults, and prediabetes affecting one in three. Each year 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and more than one hundred thousand die from the disease.34 Nonetheless, Heberprot-P, a treatment which, according to Manuel Raíces, the Communications Executive at the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), could reduce the risk of US amputations in half, saving tens of thousands of lives a year, is prevented from being used in the US because of the blockade.35
Hardships of the Blockade
For thirty consecutive years the United Nations General Assembly has voted in favor of lifting the US blockade on Cuba.36 In the recent vote in November 2022, 185 countries voted in favor of lifting the blockade, and only two countries, the United States and Israel, voted in favor of sustaining the blockade.37 It is estimated that the last sixty years of the US blockade has cost Cuba 1.3 trillion dollars.38 It is impossible to overestimate how difficult this has made the construction of socialism in Cuba, and the development of their healthcare system and medical sciences in particular.
As Cuba’s Ministry for Public Health reports,
[Cuba] is denied the right to acquire technologies, raw materials, reagents, diagnostic means, medicines, devices, equipment and spare parts necessary for the best functioning of its National Health System, which must be obtained in geographically distant markets or through a third country, with an increase in costs.
Technologies from the United States or with more than 10 percent of components from that country cannot be acquired by the Island, which has a negative impact on healthcare.
In some cases, it is necessary to send patients abroad at a much higher cost than doing the procedure in national territory, if the technology were available.39
There are a plethora of examples to point to where the blockade prohibits Cuba from accessing medicine, technologies, equipment, etc. that it would need to save or improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Cubans. American companies and manufactures with more than 10 percent of American capital backing it frequently ignore, and sometimes explicitly reject, Cuba’s requests for purchasing their products. For instance, as Cuba reported to the United Nations:
From January to July 2021, the Medical Products Import and Export Company (MEDICUBA S.A.) contacted 65 US companies to inquire about the possibilities of importing medicines, equipment, devices and other supplies necessary for the care of the Cuban people through the national health system. Of these, 56 did not respond to the requests of the Cuban entity, and three responded negatively (OWENS & MINOR, INC., MERCURY MEDICAL and ELI LILLY).
The OHMEDA, GENERAL ELECTRIC and HEWLETT PACKARD Companies were asked for multipurpose mechanical ventilators for newborns and infants, as well as multipurpose cardiomonitors (which include blood pressure monitoring, among other parameters). Its acquisition has yet to be made possible.
In the same way, the ONE-LAMBDA Company was asked for kits for HLA typing, essential to determine the compatibility of a kidney transplant candidate with possible donors; they could not be acquired either.40
“Some 158,800 Cuban patients,” the report argues, “are harmed by the impossibility of accessing technology for the implantation of percutaneous aortic valves (TAVI)” which would, through a “small surgical procedure,” greatly improve people’s quality of lives and prevent more complex surgeries and longer hospitalizations.41 American companies such as EDWARD LIFESCIENCE (Edwards-SAPIEN valve) and MEDTRONIC (CoreValve valve) have control over the TAVI valves and, because of the blockade, prohibit Cuba from access.
Likewise, “if Cuba could access the drug Nusinersen, produced only by the US multinational company BIOGEN,” more than half of its children who struggle with infantile spinal atrophy could survive much longer and attain a better quality of life.42
The IQ 577 Laser System model, produced by the US company IRIDEX CORPORATION, could treat “retinal disorders and glaucoma” for dozens of Cuban babies born with retinopathy from prematurity who are at risk of going blind; because of the blockade, those Cuban babies will not be able to receive that treatment.43
While Cuba was helping the world fight COVID-19, the United States was busy preventing the world from helping Cuba.
In many instances, additional licenses are required to sell to Cuba, even when the companies are not American and have less than 10 percent of American capital. As the Cuban Ministry for Public Health reports, shortages were caused in blood bags because the usual supplier, UNFAMED, “reported that the company Terumo BCT of Japan had its bank account blocked, since they must have an Additional License that allows them to sell to Cuba products that are not produced in the United States.”44
The “US’s exploitation of the pandemic to increase pressure for regime change” also affords a variety of examples for how the blockade affects Cuban healthcare.45 For instance, at the height of the pandemic, while WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked for countries to put their sanctions “in quarantine” because “thousands of lives are at stake,” the US company Vyaire Medical bought ventilator manufacturers IMTMedical and Acutronic, immediately banning all sale of ventilators to Cuba.46 Around the same time, Jack Ma’s foundation tried to send Cuba one hundred thousand facemasks, ten Covid diagnostic kits, ventilators, and gloves, all of which was stopped by Avianca, a Colombian Airline whose “major shareholder is a U.S.-based company subject to the trade embargo on Cuba.”47 Similarly, the donations from Swiss solidarity organizations MediCuba-Suiza and Asociación Suiza-Cuba to help Cuba fight COVID where refused to be transferred by the Swiss banks UBS, Cler, and Cantonal Bank of Basilea.48
While Cuba was helping the world fight COVID-19 through the Henry Reeve Brigade (for which it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), the United States was busy preventing the world from helping Cuba, banking on the pandemic-blockade dual force to fulfill the conditions Lestor Mallory proposed for regime change.49 Despite the difficulties, Cuba was able to develop five viable vaccines, vaccinating over 90 percent of its population, and delivering hundreds of millions of doses to the global south free of charge.50 However, because of the US blockade, the early days of the pandemic saw Cuba lacking access to the syringes needed to effectively vaccinate its population with the vaccines it developed.51
The internationally denounced blockade on Cuba by the United States is a gross violation of human rights, one which affects both Cubans and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have better quality of lives, and even their lives saved, had the United States not prevented their people from having access to novel treatments in cancer, diabetes, and advances in other fields of research developed by Cuban scientists. The spirit of science and scientific inquiry is nourished with openness and collaboration. The US blockade prevents this from occurring, stifling scientific progress.
However, if there is something the last sixty years have demonstrated, it is that the Cuban people are committed to their revolutionary process and unwilling to compromise their socialism and sovereignty. Lestor Mallory’s hope for the blockade would not bear fruit. Even in the periods where the US warfare on Cuba has produced the most formidable of challenges in attaining the necessary materials to ensure the subsistence of the Cuban people, the mass of Cubans have brazenly defended the revolutionary process, with the slogan of their Bronze Titan Antonio Maceo engraved on their chest: “Whoever tries to take over Cuba will only collect the dust of their blood-soaked soil, if they do not perish in the fight.”52 With the initial goal of the blockade unable to concretize, the only reason for its proliferation is to perpetuate senseless suffering, both of Cuban and American people. As those who recognize the emancipatory potential of science and believe that science should serve the people, we have a duty to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people and mobilize to #EndtheBlockade on Cuba.
Carlos L. Garrido is a Cuban American PhD student and instructor in philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (with an MA in philosophy from the same institution). His research focuses include Marxism, Hegel, early nineteenth century American socialism, and socialism with Chinese characteristics. He is an editor of the Marxist educational project Midwestern Marx and the Journal of American Socialist Studies.
This article was republished from Science for the People.
Cuba, a country of 11 million people, has been under an illegal embargo by the United States government for over six decades.
Despite this embargo, Cuba’s people have been able to transcend the indignities of hunger, ill health, and illiteracy, all three being social plagues that continue to trouble much of the world.
Due to its innovations in health care delivery, for instance, Cuba has been able to send its medical workers to other countries, including during the pandemic, to provide vital assistance. Cuba exports its medical workers, not terrorism.
In the last days of the Trump administration, the U.S. government returned Cuba to its state sponsors of terrorism list.
This was a vindictive act. Trump said it was because Cuba played host to guerrilla groups from Colombia, which was actually part of Cuba’s role as host of the peace talks.
Cuba played a key role in bringing peace in Colombia, a country that has been wracked by a terrible civil war since 1948 that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. For two years, the Biden administration has maintained Trump’s vindictive policy, one that punishes Cuba not for terrorism but for the promotion of peace.
Biden can remove Cuba from this list with a stroke of his pen. It’s as simple as that. When he was running for the presidency, Biden said he would even reverse the harsher of Trump’s sanctions. But he has not done so. He must do so now.
Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He is the laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. His most recent books are Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet and The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
Former CIA analyst Fulton Armstrong told The Guardian that, in Cuba, “a lot of the so-called independent journalists are indirectly funded by the US”. They spread anti-government disinformation with the support of the NED.
A former top CIA spy has admitted that the United States funds anti-government propagandists in Cuba who portray themselves as “independent journalists”.
Major British newspaper The Guardian spoke with CIA veteran Fulton Armstrong, whom it described as “the US intelligence community’s most senior analyst for Latin America from 2000 to 2004”.
Armstrong stated that, in Cuba, “a lot of the so-called independent journalists are indirectly funded by the US”.
The ex CIA analyst pointed out that, today, the Joe Biden administration bankrolls anti-government opposition forces in Cuba with at least $20 million in annual support for supposed “democracy promotion” activities.
The Guardian acknowledged that the CIA has a history of spreading disinformation inside Cuba, as part of a US information war aimed at destabilizing the revolutionary government. The newspaper wrote:
Financing media has long been part of Washington’s diplomatic toolkit.
Still today, Washington funds another prominent Spanish-language, anti-Cuba disinformation outlet called Radio y Televisión Martí, which is part of the government’s propaganda arm the US Agency for Global Media (formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors).
Armstrong, the former CIA agent, explained to The Guardian the US destabilization strategy in financing opposition media outlets in foreign countries like Cuba:
US programs are designed with a win-win strategy. We win if the opposition media gain a foothold, and we win if they provoke government repression.
In addition to spying for the CIA, Armstrong worked for the State Department’s US Interests Section in Cuba (a diplomatic office located inside Switzerland’s embassy in Havana).
Armstrong served as the US “National Intelligence Officer for Latin America”, the intelligence community’s top analyst focused on the region. He also oversaw Latin America for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Guardian – which is itself closely linked to and collaborates with the UK’s intelligence services – portrayed the Cuban government as repressive for cracking down on foreign-funded disinformation agents.
The British newspaper gloated over the large revenue streams that anti-government media outlets in Cuba have, writing, “Tiny state salaries have also been unable to compete with the private sector”.
While The Guardian praised two right-wing Cuban opposition media outlets, called El Toque and El Estornudo, it admitted that both are bankrolled by the US government.
El Toque disclosed to The Guardian that “it has received US federal funds ‘indirectly’ as part of a mix of money from corporations and foundations”.
El Estornudo is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a notorious instrument of US regime-change operations that has meddled in the internal politics of countries all around the world.
A co-founder of the NED, Allen Weinstein, told the Washington Post in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA“.
The NED reported that it gave El Estornudo $180,000 in 2021 – a huge sum of money in any Latin American country, but especially in Cuba, which has trouble getting access to dollars due to Washington’s illegal, six-decade blockade against it.
In a 1977 report titled “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A.“, the New York Times admitted that the CIA had established a media outlet in the early 1960s called Free Cuba Radio, whose “propaganda broadcasts against the Government of Prime Minister Fidel Castro were carried over radio stations” in various cities inside the US and in the Caribbean.
The prominent newspaper explained:
One motive for establishing the Free Cuba radio network, a former C.I.A. official said he recalled, was to have periods of air time available in advance in case Radio Swan, meant to be the main communications link for the Bay of Pigs invasion, was destroyed by saboteurs.
US funds opposition media propaganda in Venezuela and Nicaragua
The United States has used the same tactics to try to destabilize the leftist governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The NED has spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding right-wing opposition media outlets and so-called “civil society organizations” in Venezuela.
Many of these groups have been complicit in violence and participated in coup attempts against democratically elected Presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
In Nicaragua in the 1980s, the CIA supported far-right death squads known as the Contras (short for “Counterrevolutionaries”), who burned down schools and hospitals and waged a campaign of terror to try to overthrow the socialist Sandinista government.
A key part of the US hybrid war on Nicaragua in the 1980s, and still today, included the dissemination of disinformation through NED-funded newspapers like La Prensa, which is owned by the Central American nation’s most powerful right-wing oligarch family, the Chamorro dynasty.
After the Sandinista Front returned to power in 2007, through democratic elections, the US again began pouring millions of dollars into opposition media outlets in Nicaragua.
During a bloody coup attempt in 2018, US-funded Nicaraguan opposition media outlets spread extreme propaganda and fake news, openly inciting violence and encouraging people to murder President Daniel Ortega and hang his body in public.
Ben Norton is an investigative journalist and analyst. He is the founder and editor of Geopolitical Economy Report, and is based in Latin America. (Publicaciones en español aquí.)
This article was republished from Geopolitical Economy.
The blockade of Cuba limits its ability to share its scientific and technological advances with the rest of the world.
Scientists in Cuba believe that the breakthroughs they have made in the health care and technology sectors should be used to save and improve lives beyond the country’s borders. This is why the island nation has developed important scientific and medical partnerships with organizations and governments across the globe, including with those in Mexico, Palestine, Angola, Colombia, Iran, and Brazil. However, such collaborations are difficult due to the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, which has now been in place for the last six decades.
In a conference, “Building Our Future,” held in Havana in November 2022, which brought together youth from Cuba and the United States, scientists at the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM) stated during a presentation that the blockade hurts the people of the United States, too. By lifting the sanctions against Cuba, the scientists argued, the people of the United States could have access to life-saving treatments being developed in Cuba, especially against diseases such as diabetes, which ravage working-class communities each year.
A Cure for Diabetes
Cuban scientists have developed both a lung cancer vaccine and a groundbreaking diabetes treatment. The new diabetes treatment, Heberprot-P, developed by the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), can reduce leg amputations of people with diabetic foot ulcers by more than four times. The medication contains a recombinant human epidermal growth factor that, when injected into a foot ulcer, accelerates its healing process, thereby, reducing diabetes-related amputations. And yet, despite the fact that the medication has been registered in Cuba since 2006, and has been registered in several other countries since, people in the United States are unable to get access to Heberprot-P.
Diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing more than 100,000 patients in that year. “Foot ulcers are among the most common complications of patients who have diabetes,” which can escalate into lower limb amputations, according to a report in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Each year, around 73,000 “non-traumatic lower extremity amputations” are performed on people who have diabetes in the U.S. These amputations occur at a disproportionate rate depending on the race of a patient, being far more prevalent among Black and Brown people suffering from diabetes. Many point to racial economic disparities and systemic medical racism as the reason for this.
“If you go into low-income African American neighborhoods, it is a war zone… You see people wheeling themselves around in wheelchairs,” Dr. Dean Schillinger, a medical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, told KHN. According to the KHN article, “Amputations are considered a ‘mega-disparity’ and dwarf nearly every other health disparity by race and ethnicity.”
The life expectancy of a patient with post-diabetic lower limb amputation is significantly reduced, according to various reports. “[P]atients with diabetes-related amputations have a high risk of mortality, with a five-year survival rate of 40–48 percent regardless of the etiology of the amputation.” Heberprot-P could help tens of thousands of patients avoid such amputations, however, due to the blockade, U.S. patients cannot access this treatment. People in the U.S. have a vested interest in dismantling the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
“So after five years [post-amputation], that’s the most you can live, and we are preventing that from happening,” said Rydell Alvarez Arzola, a researcher at CIM, in a presentation given to the U.S. and Cuban youth during the conference in Havana. “And that also is something that could bring both of our peoples [in Cuba and the U.S.] together to fight… to eliminate [the blockade].”
Cuban Health Care Under Blockade
Perhaps one of Cuba’s proudest achievements is a world-renowned health care system that has thrived despite economic devastation and a 60-year-long blockade.
After the fall of Cuba’s primary trading partner, the Soviet Union, in 1991, the island saw a GDP decrease of 35 percent over three years, blackouts, and a nosedive in caloric intake. Yet, despite these overwhelming challenges, Cuba never wavered in its commitment to providing universal health care. Universal health care, or access to free and quality health care for all, is a long-standing demand of people’s movements in the United States that has never been implemented largely due to the for-profit model of the health care industry and enormous corporate interests in the sector.
As other nations were enacting neoliberal austerity measures, which drastically cut social services in the 1980s and 1990s, Cuba’s public health care spending increased by 13 percent from 1990 to 1994. Cuba successfully raised its doctor-to-patient ratio to one doctor for every 202 Cubans in the mid-1990s, a far better statistic than the United States’ ratio of one doctor for every 300 people, according to a 2004 census.
As the blockade begins its seventh decade, Cuba is not only upholding universal health care but also continues to be at the forefront of scientific developments globally.
This was evident during the COVID-19 crisis. Cuba, faced with the inability to purchase vaccines developed by U.S. pharmaceutical companies due to the U.S. blockade, developed five vaccines. The nation not only achieved its goal of creating one of the most effective COVID-19 vaccines but also launched the first mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children from two to 18 years old in September 2021.
To Share Knowledge Without Restrictions
Despite its achievements, Cuban health care still faces serious, life-threatening limitations due to the economic blockade. CIM, for example, has struggled to find international companies willing to carry out vital services for them. Claudia Plasencia, a CIM researcher, explained during the conference that CIM had signed a contract with a German gene synthesis company which later backed out because it had signed a new contract with a U.S. company. “They could not keep processing our samples, they could not keep doing business with Cuba,” Plasencia said.
Arzola explained how it is virtually impossible to purchase top-of-the-line equipment due to trade restrictions. “A flow cytometer is a machine that costs a quarter-million dollars… even if my lab has the money, I cannot buy the best machine in the world, which is from the U.S., everyone knows that,” he said. Even if CIM were to buy such a machine from a third party, it cannot utilize the repair services from the United States. “I cannot buy these machines even if I have the money, because I would not be able to fix them. You cannot spend a quarter-million dollars every six months [buying a new machine]… even though you know that this [machine] is the best for your patients.”
I spoke to Marianniz Diaz, a young woman scientist at CIM. When asked what we in the U.S. could do to help CIM’s scientists, her answer was straightforward: “The principal thing you can do is eliminate the blockade.”
“I would like us to have an interaction without restrictions, so we [Cuba and the U.S.] can share our science, our products, [and] our knowledge,” she said.
Natalia Marques is a writer at Peoples Dispatch, an organizer, and a graphic designer based in New York City.
Photo composition in sepia with the face of Ana Belén Montes, a document labeled “top secret” and another sheet of paper containing a complex diagram. Photo: CNN.
On January 8, 2023 the US has to release one of its many political prisoners, most being fighters against its repression of Third World peoples. Ana Belén Montes, heroic defender of Cuba’s sovereignty, will be freed after over 21 years in a federal military prison. She was a top official on Latin America in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who, solely out of moral conviction, gave Cuba information on top secret US military plans and operations. Unrepentant in her trial, she defended herself saying, “I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”
She is one of the many exemplary people who have taken an honorable and moral stance, opposing the reprehensible actions of the government, and have been accused of being traitors or spies. Edward Snowden was another, who exposed how the National Security Agency spied on the US population and leaders of other countries, now forced to live in exile to avoid facing life in prison.
While the US movement in defense of Cuba did not champion her case as with the very similar case of the Cuban Five, she is recognized as a hero in Cuba. In 2016, famous Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez dedicated a song to her, explaining, “The prisoner I mentioned yesterday… is Ana Belén Montes and she was a high official of the US secret services. When she knew that they were going to do something bad to Cuba, she would pass on the information to us. That is why she is serving a sentence of decades…Much evil did not happen to us because of her. Freedom for her.”
She did not receive any money from Cuba for her 16 years of work. Knowing the dire risks she faced, she acted out of love for justice and solidarity with Cuba. For over 60 years, the country has suffered under a US blockade – repeatedly condemned by the United Nations – imposed in retaliation for choosing national sovereignty over continued neo-colonial status. US supported terrorism against Cuba killed 3,478 and caused 2,099 disabling injuries.
One of the charges brought against Ana Belén was having helped assure Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that Cuba represented no military threat to the US, and therefore contributed to avoiding another US imperial war that would have meant the death of countless Cubans. She also acknowledged having revealed the identities of four American undercover intelligence officers working in Cuba.
Who is Ana Belén Montes?
Born in West Germany on February 28, 1957, a Puerto Rican citizen of the United States, and a high official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, she was convicted as a spy for alerting Cuba to the aggressive plans that were being prepared against the Cuban people.
In 1984 while working as a clerk in the Department of Justice, she began her relation with Cuban security. She then applied for a job at the DIA, the agency responsible for foreign military intelligence to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The DIA employed her in 1985 until her arrest at work 16 years later. She became a specialist in Latin American military affairs, was the DIA’s principal analyst on El Salvador and Nicaragua, and later Cuba.
Because of her abilities, she became known in US intelligence circles as “the Queen of Cuba”. Montes’ work and contributions were so valued that she earned ten special recognitions, including Certificate of Distinction, the third highest national-level intelligence award. CIA Director George Tenet himself presented it to her in 1997. “She gained access to hundreds of thousands of classified documents, typically taking lunch at her desk absorbed in quiet memorization of page after page of the latest briefings,” which she would later write down at home and convey to Cuba.
How did US Spy Agencies Uncover Her?
On February 23, 1996, the Cuban Ministry of Defense asked visiting American Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll to warn off Miami Brothers to the Rescue planes that planned to again fly over Havana. Carroll immediately informed the State Department. Instead of ending the provocations, the US let the planes fly, and two “Brothers to the Rescue” planes were shot down over Cuba the next day. The US used this to sabotage the growing campaign to moderate the US blockade on the island. The US official who arranged Admiral Carroll’s meeting was Ana Belén. Her explanation that the date was chosen only because it was a free date on the Admiral’s schedule was accepted.
Nevertheless, a DIA colleague reported to a security official that he felt Montes might be cooperating with Cuban intelligence. He interviewed her, but she admitted nothing. She was given, and passed a polygraph test.
She had access to practically everything the intelligence community collected on Cuba, and helped write final reports. Due to her rank, she was a member of the super-secret “inter-agency working group on Cuba”, which brings together the main analysts of federal agencies, such as the CIA, the Department of State, and the White House itself. The Washington Post reported, “She was now briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council and even the president of Nicaragua about Cuban military capabilities. She helped draft a controversial[!] Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only “under some circumstances.”
Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a US agent in Cuba’s Ministry of Interior that Cuba had uncovered and imprisoned, was released and traded for three of the Cuban 5 in 2014. He had “provided critical information that led to the arrests of those known as the “Cuban Five;” of former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers; and of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst, Ana Belén Montes.”
In 1999 the National Security Agency intercepted a Cuban communication. It revealed a spy high in the hierarchy, who was associated with the DIA’s SAFE computer system. It meant the person was likely on staff of the DIA. The suspect had also traveled to Guantánamo Bay in July 1996. Coincidentally, Montes had traveled to the Bay on DIA business. The NSA knew the person was using a Toshiba laptop, and it was discovered she had one. The FBI decided to break into her apartment and copy the hard drive.
Since the case being put together indicated she was providing information to Cuba, she was arrested by FBI agents on September 21, 2001 while in her DIA office. She was charged with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba. “She told investigators after her arrest that a week earlier she had learned that she was under surveillance. She could have decided then to flee to Cuba, and probably would have made it there safely.” But her political commitment made her feel “she couldn’t give up on the people (she) was helping.”
Owei Lakemfa presented ten reasons he thought Ana Belén Montes avoided detection during her 16 years in the DIA. She was extremely discreet and kept to herself. She lived alone in a simple apartment north of the US capital, and memorized documents, never taking any home. She never received unexplainable funds.
Ironically, her brother was an FBI special agent, and her sister an FBI analyst who “played an important role in exposing the so-called Wasp Network of Cuban agents [the Cuban 5 and 7 others] operating in Florida.”
Ana Belén avoided the death penalty for high treason, highly likely in the post September 11 atmosphere, by pleading guilty before the US federal court handling her case. Since she acknowledged her conduct, and told the court how she worked, she was sentenced to “only” twenty-five years. However, she was imprisoned in conditions designed to destroy her, as the case with Julian Assange today. She was sent to special unit of a federal prison for violent offenders with psychiatric problems.
Ana Belén Montes’ Noble Defense of her Conduct
In her October 16, 2002 trial statement, she declared that she obeyed her conscience:
“There is an Italian proverb that is perhaps the one that best describes what I believe: The whole world is one country. In that ‘world country’, the principle of loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself, is an essential guide for harmonious relations between all our ‘nation-neighborhoods’.
This principle implies tolerance and understanding for the different ways of others. It mandates that we treat other nations the way we wish to be treated – with respect and compassion. It is a principle that, unfortunately, I believe we have never applied to Cuba.
Your Honor, I got involved in the activity that has brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. Our government’s policy towards Cuba is cruel and unfair, deeply unfriendly; I feel morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.
We have displayed intolerance and contempt for Cuba for four decades. We have never respected Cuba’s right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice. I do not understand how we continue to try to dictate how Cuba should select its leaders, who its leaders cannot be, and what laws are the most appropriate for that nation. Why don’t we let Cuba pursue its own internal journey, as the United States has been doing for more than two centuries?
My way of responding to our Cuba policy may have been morally wrong. Perhaps Cuba’s right to exist free of political and economic coercion did not justify giving the island classified information to help it defend itself. I can only say that I did what I thought right to counter a grave injustice.
My greatest wish would be to see a friendly relationship emerge between the United States and Cuba. I hope that my case in some way will encourage our government to abandon its hostility toward Cuba and work together with Havana in a spirit of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.
Today we see more clearly than ever that intolerance and hatred – by individuals or governments – only spreads pain and suffering. I hope that the United States develops a policy with Cuba based on love of neighbor, a policy that recognizes that Cuba, like any other nation, wants to be treated with dignity and not with contempt.
Such a policy would bring our government back in harmony with the compassion and generosity of the American people. It would allow Cubans and Americans to learn from and share with each other. It would enable Cuba to drop its defensive measures and experiment more easily with changes. And it would permit the two neighbors to work together and with other nations to promote tolerance and cooperation in our one ‘world-country,’ in our only world-homeland.”
Her Brutal Prison Conditions were Designed to Destroy Her
Jürgen Heiser of the German solidarity Netzwerk-Cuba reported that “Ana Belén has been isolated in conditions that the UN and international human rights organizations describe as ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ and torture. Her prison conditions were further exacerbated after her trial, when she was placed in the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The FMC is located on a US marine compound and previously served as a military hospital… It includes a high security unit set aside for women of “special management concerns” that can hold up to twenty prisoners. A risk of “violence and/or escape” are specified as grounds for incarceration in the unit. This is where the “spy” Ana Belén is being held in isolation, in a single-person cell.”
Her cell neighbors have included one who strangled a pregnant woman to get her baby, a longtime nurse who killed four patients with massive injections of adrenaline, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson follower who tried to assassinate President Ford.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has regularly covered the abuses against the women inmates at Fort Carswell Carswell prison, which has also housed two other political prisoners Reality Winner and Aafia Siddiqui. Detainees have suffered gross violations of their human rights, including documented cases of police abuse, suspicious deaths where the investigations into them have been blatantly obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape of prisoners by guards, and exposure to toxic substances. In July 2020, 500 of the 1400 prisoners had Covid. The Star Telegram reported “the facility showed a systemic history of covering misconduct up and creating an atmosphere of secrecy and retaliation…”
Ana Belén wrote, “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for, or worth doing and then killing yourself before you have to spend too much time in prison.”
She has been subjected to extreme conditions in that prison, akin to those imposed on Assange. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has reported that:
She can only have contact with her closest relatives, since her conviction is for espionage.
No one can inquire about her health or know why she is in a center for people with mental problems, when she does not suffer from them.
She cannot receive packages. When her defenders sent her a letter, it has been returned by certified mail.
Only people on a list (no more than 20 who have known her before her incarceration and have been approved by the FBI) can correspond, send books, and visit Ana. Few people have visited her besides her brother and niece.
She cannot interact with other detainees in jail, and was always alone in her cell.
She is not allowed to talk on the phone, except to her mother once a week for 15-20 minutes.
She could not receive newspapers, magazines or watch television. After a dozen years in prison, this was slightly modified.
Karen Lee Wald noted in 2012, “If she is taken out of her cell in the isolation unit for any reason, all other prisoners are locked in their cells so they cannot speak to her. Basically, she has been buried alive.”
Soon to be freed, Ana Belén Montes embodies the very essence of solidarity with the peoples of Latin America. She sacrificed her personal safety and comfortable life to serve her conscience. She is a hero and example not just for Cuba solidarity, but for all people fighting for a better world in the face of the US empire.
David Rovics, our present day working class songwriter, was moved to pay tribute to her in song. Oscar Lopez Rivera, former Puerto Rican political prisoner, and honorary Chair of the Free Alex Saab campaign, said, “I think that every Puerto Rican who loves justice and freedom should be proud of Ana Belén. What she did was more than heroic. She did what every person who believes in peace, justice and freedom and in the right of every nation to govern itself in the best possible way and without the intervention or threat of anyone, would have done.” Indeed, the famous statement of Che Guevara, “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love … love of humanity, of justice” is meant for her.
Stansfield Smith is a Chicago based anti-imperialist activist. He was active for over a decade in the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5. His work is now on ChicagoALBASolidarity.wordpress.com. He has written on Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and on North Korea for Counterpunch and others.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
A delegation of youth from the United States observed Cuba’s November 2022 municipal elections and offer an inside look into a true people’s democracy, where workers decide who will govern them, not wealthy oligarchs and corporations.
Cubans voting in municipal elections in La Habana on November 27, 2022
Cuba held elections for its organs of local government, the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, on November 27. A delegation of youth from the United States observed the vote first-hand as part of the US-Cuba Youth Friendship Meeting.
Coming from the fundamentally undemocratic US Empire, it was the first time that many participants saw a functional electoral system in which the masses actually participate, and in which the majority truly rules.
Voter rolls and biographies of the nominees are posted outside of the polling station at the La Corbata cultural-technological center in La Habana, Cuba.
We observed voting in La Corbata, a neighborhood in La Habana currently undergoing transformation.
The polling site was inside a newly constructed cultural-technological center, which also houses arts programs, classes, a computer lab, school graduations, and community events.
At first arrival, we were surprised by how efficiently the voting process moved. There were not long lines at the La Corbata polling site, while in the US it is typical for voters – especially in poorer neighborhoods – to wait in lines for hours to cast their ballot.
A local election official explained that all citizens and permanent residents of Cuba are automatically registered to vote at age 16. At 18, they are eligible to be nominated to run as a delegate.
The nomination process happens in the weeks leading up to the election. Between October 21 and November 18, more than 6 million voters – 73% of those eligible – attended the neighborhood assemblies for the nomination of candidates.
Nominees are chosen by local community groups, including the Committees in Defense of the Revolution, the country’s largest mass organization, with more than 8.4 million members out of a population of 11 million; the Cuban Federation of Women, whose membership includes more than 85% of all eligible Cuban women over 14 years of age; and the Communist Party of Cuba.
The Communist Party of Cuba is not an electoral party; it does not “hand-pick” candidates; and party membership is not a requirement to run for office at all.
Before the election, the National Electoral Council goes house to house to verify voters’ information. This year, after Hurricane Ian devastated the Pinar del Río province in the west, election officials surveyed people still evacuated or sheltering there to ensure they would have voting access.
Cuban elections are always held on Sundays, so that voters are not restricted by their workdays to participate in democracy.
On November 27, polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and were scheduled to close at 6:00 p.m. The National Electoral Council used the power granted by the Cuban Constitution to extend the polling hours throughout the country for one more hour so that a greater number of citizens could exercise their right to vote.
In the US, elections that are scheduled on Tuesdays during work hours – combined with the inaccessibility of polling sites, strict ID requirements, racist voter intimidation, and a general lack of civic education – impede most of the working class from participating.
The US pushes the falsehood that Cuban elections are “not competitive.” In reality, every Cuban municipality must have at least two to eight candidates running, in order to ensure that voters have a choice. In La Corbata, three candidates were running, all of whom were women.
Competitiveness in US elections has continued to plummet as corporations expand their monopoly over our ostensible democracy, or rather, oligarchy. In the November 2022 midterms, less than 8% of US Congressional districts were considered competitive.
An example of a Cuban ballot in the La Corbata polling station.
When Cuban voters enter the polling station, they confirm their voter information, receive a ballot with straightforward instructions, and fill it out in a booth. Then, they place their ballot in a box guarded by local elementary school students.
Youth have always worked at the forefront of the Cuban Revolution, so it is a very honorable role for them.
Local elementary schoolers guard the ballot box in La Corbata
Any citizen can assist in the public vote-counting process. Official results are reported the same day – unlike in the US, where it takes weeks or even months to tally votes, despite being one of the richest countries in the world, with access to much more advanced technology than blockaded Cuba.
If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the election moves to a runoff the following Sunday. This will be the case in 925 of Cuba’s municipalities after the November 27 elections.
Moreover, the community can recall their representatives at any point once their terms begin.
Biographies of candidates are posted outside of the polling station for voters to read
Another key difference between US and Cuban elections is that in Cuba, there is no “traditional” campaigning. The community-nominated candidates cannot spend any money on campaigning, but they are still accessible to voters to discuss any issues.
Candidate biographies, highlighting their experience serving the community and their membership in different organizations, are posted outside of the polling place.
Voters make an informed decision based on the candidates’ genuine qualifications, not on flashy campaign mailers or attack ads made by Super PACs.
As a result, the energy at the polls was completely different than what is typical in the US, where crowds of campaign volunteers or paid workers gather outside holding signs, passing out literature, and urging voters to support their candidates.
Political violence often escalates outside of polling sites in the US. During the 2022 midterm elections, there were even armed militias intimidating voters at ballot drop boxes in some states.
Elections officials inside the La Corbata polling station.
In the US, and all capitalist “democracies,” elections are determined by the amount of money invested in a campaign, which buys advertisements, mailers, staff, and other resources to reach likely voters.
A record-breaking $9.3 billion was spent on federal elections during the 2022 US midterms.
Political campaigns in the US more closely resemble reality TV shows – sensational, polarizing, and completely divorced from the material issues at hand.
North Americans’ shallow conception of democracy contributes to their confusion about the Cuban system. Some believe ridiculous anti-communist propaganda claiming that Cuba is staging its elections or paying actors to tell us lies.
As I wrote in Multipolarista in May, it is easier for many North Americans to believe that Cuba is lying about their democratic achievements – free healthcare and education, guaranteed housing and employment, constitutionally enshrined anti-racism and gender equality – than to come to terms with the fact that our own government is choosing to deny us those same rights.
The far more advanced character of Cuban socialist democracy is exactly why the US is so intent on obfuscating and blockading Cuba’s reality. Their example shows us what is possible.
For more than 60 years, a small island of 11 million people has resisted the biggest, most violent empire in history. If a true workers’ democracy can be realized 90 miles from our shores, it can be realized here too, and in every corner of the world.
Calla Walsh is a co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, a coalition of organizations across the United States fighting to end the US war on Cuba.
This article was republished from Multipolarista.
For the 30th consecutive United Nations vote, the US again lost. A landslide margin of 185 to 2 condemned its blockade of Cuba on November 3. Only the apartheid state of Israel voted with the US, while Brazil and Ukraine abstained.
Since 1960, the bipartisan policy of the US has been to overthrow the Cuban Revolution by fomenting “disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” According to the US State Department, punitive economic measures are imposed to deny “money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of [the] government.”
The US blockade daily costs Cuba $15 million; $6.3 billion since Biden took office. Cuba’s income for the first quarter of 2022 exceeded $493 million, but imports of goods amounted to more than $2 billion. A report from Cuba admonishes: “It is a dilemma for Cubans to make ends meet. Wages are not enough to face the very high prices that the lack of offers, real inflation, and speculation bequeath to us.”
Most recently on September 26, Hurricane Ian battered Cuba temporarily shorting electricity island-wide. In August, a lightening fire incinerated 40% of the island’s fuel reserves, exacerbating an existing energy crisis. Covid had already impacted domestic commerce and international tourism. For Cuba these were natural disasters; for the imperial hegemon these were opportunities as Biden continued Trump’s maximum pressure regime-change campaign.
Given advances in technology, Joe Biden’s ability to tighten the screws makes sanctions much more effective and lethal than they were when John Kennedy first imposed an “embargo on all trade with Cuba” over sixty years ago. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez commented that the current US administration “has escalated the siege around our country, taking it to an even crueler and more inhumane dimension, with the purpose of deliberately inflicting the biggest possible damage on Cuban families.”
Incredible Lightness of the Liberal’s Lament
Onetime trenchant critic of US imperialism, the social-democratic NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) has been “reporting on the Americas since 1967.” Though in recent years, it has increasingly degenerated into cheerleading for US-instigated regime change in Nicaragua and other countries striving to socialism.
NACLA commented on the US blockade just before the UN vote in an article by academic Louis A. Pérez. He made 22 references to “sanctions,” but never once acknowledged that these unilateral coercive measures were illegal or, because secondary measures target third parties, that they constituted a “blockade.”
Along with NACLA, author Pérez is a longtime and sincere critic of the US blockade. His article has good information, recognizing that US humanitarian aid is intended to “relieve the very conditions to which sanctions have been dedicated to creating.” But with morally bankrupt ivory-tower equanimity, he criticizes both US imperialism and the Cuban Revolution for not achieving some liberal democratic ideal.
Pérez comments: “To recognize the baneful consequences of US sanctions is not to disregard or otherwise dismiss the failures of the Cuban government [emphasis added].” He continues: “But much of what is not well in Cuba can also be attributed to official policies and practices…with ill-conceived economic policies that fail to remedy want and need.” That is, the victim bears responsibility for the economic effects of the blockade.
According to Pérez, the fundamental failure of US policy is that the Cuban people are so consumed with the daily struggle for survival that they don’t have the time (that the more enlightened souls in academia have) to address “political freedom.” He quotes the angst of a Cuban colleague: “First necessities, later democracy.” For such elevated minds, the tragedy of US imperialist domination is that the higher pursuits for democracy are sacrificed on the altar of banal survival.
This recalls the counsel of the African revolutionary Amílcar Cabral: “Always remember that the people are not fighting for ideas, nor for what is in men’s minds. The people fight and accept the sacrifices demanded by the struggle in order to gain material advantages, to live better and in peace, to benefit from progress, and for the better future of their children.”
The “irony” of Cuban migration
Pérez repeatedly laments the “tragically ironic” US blockade; irony being a favorite word of the intelligentsia. He explains, the “irony” of the current record surge of Cuban migration is “not lost on informed observers,” such as himself: “Those sectors of the population most likely to constitute themselves as a political opposition [emphasis added] are often the very people most inclined to emigrate.”
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel provides context: “…we are the only country in the world for which a law was written, called the Cuban Adjustment Act, which guarantees the automatic entry into the US anyone who declares himself politically persecuted; this psychologically conditions an attitude of denial of the real causes for emigration, fundamentally economic and conditioned by the iron blockade of the same country that forces the emigrant to declare himself persecuted.”
Pérez continues: “Ironic too…US policy serves to add to the woes of a people for whom emigration to the US offers the most immediate remedy to hardship.” However, the US policy of encouraging illegal immigration and preventing legal is not just ironic, it is deadly.
“Land of the free” compared to Cuba
For Pérez, the “most egregious failure of sanctions” is that they “encumber…legitimate political change” to some imagined liberal Shangri-La.
So, what state in this hemisphere meets his lofty liberal litmus test? Could it be that “exceptional” land of the free where he resides? There’s no free lunch in the land of free where nearly one in four households experience food insecurity. Unlike Cuba, besieged by the blockade creating genuine shortages, the US has obscene wastage of massive food surpluses; an estimated 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply.
Nor is there free higher education or medical care in the land of the free, which experienced an estimated 500,000 excess deaths during Biden’s first year in office. Despite the blockade, Cuba has not only provided these social benefits gratis, but has sent 42 medical brigades to 35 countries since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal carps: “Most poor countries put all hands on deck in this crisis. Havana exports its doctors.” The Cuban view of internationalism is that “we share what we have and not just what we have leftover.”
Nor are politicians free in the land of the free, where every candidate comes with a price tag and running for office necessitates vast sums of money. Here, buying political influence is constitutionally protected as free speech and corporations are legally considered “people.” In contrast, Cuba stands out for its experiments to eliminate access to wealth as the determining success factor in running for political office.
With its board chaired by the program director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, NACLA has a different ideological bias on what constitutes political democracy than Cuba, where housing, health care, and education are constitutionally considered human rights.
Not a time for complacency
After over six decades of imperialist siege against Cuba, only the elderly know life without sanctions. The agonizing material deprivation caused by the blockade, the endless shortages, the interminable standing in line for basic necessities of life, all have a corrosive effect on the moral fiber of the Cuban people subverting the spirit of socialist solidarity.
Leftists worry about cascading effects to the entire region of the precarious situation in Cuba.
Cuba solidarity activist W. T. Whitney warns: “Thanks to the US blockade, Cuba’s economic situation is more desperate than ever.” TeleSUR reports, “The Cuban economy continues to be gripped by rising tensions amid the tightened US embargo.”
Political unrest is undeniably mounting as conditions deteriorate. For the first time, Cuba is facing social media penetration from the US, which has managed to mobilize certain sectors of the Cuban population against the revolution.
As the US Peace Council cautioned: “No matter how heroic a people may be, socialism must provide for their material needs. The US blockade of Cuba is designed precisely to thwart that and to discredit socialism in Cuba and anywhere else where oppressed people try to better their lot…. Cuba is being attacked precisely because that small island nation promises a humane alternative to the decaying neoliberal order of present-day capitalism and its pending crisis of legitimacy. If a critical spotlight is needed, it is not on how the Cubans with so little should have done better, but on how the imperialists with so much must be defeated.”
That Cuba has successfully not only persisted but has been an international model for the accomplishments of socialism does not mean that it will always be so. Cuba is a small resource poor island, defending socialism against a very powerful foe. The Cubans can resist, but socialist internationalist solidarity must support Cuba and compel the US to end the siege. This is not a time for complacency.
-Roger D. Harris is with the human rights group Task Force on the Americas, founded in 1985.
Roger D. Harris
This article was republished from Marxism-Leninism Today.
Ernest Hemingway learned in Cuba that the best way to get through a hurricane is to have your ears tuned to a battery-powered radio and keep your hands busy with a bottle of rum and a hammer to nail down doors and windows. The American writer appropriated the typical jargon of Cuban meteorologists and fishermen who speak of “the sea” in the feminine and of the hurricane as a demon or evil sorcerer, and who, when a storm leaves the island, usually say that “it entered in the channel” or that “it crossed the land.”
From the clashes with the cyclones and the turbulent waters came that jewel of literature, The Old Man and the Sea, which made William Faulkner, another giant, exclaim that Hemingway had found God.
On an island located at the crossroads of the winds, it is impossible not to live with the culture of hurricanes that have existed in the Antilles since the most remote evidence of life, some 6,000 years before Christ. The Taínos, Indigenous Cubans, gave the phenomenon its name and drew a spiral to represent the hurricane, a rotating symbol of the wind, which could be embodied in a monstrous serpent capable of wrapping the entire universe in its body.
In both reality and mythology, the hurricane has produced “tremendous fantasies” alike, in the words of the greatest Cuban novelist, Alejo Carpentier, who was inspired by the passage of the 1927 meteor over Havana to write some passages for his novel Ecue- Yamba - O! The storm, Carpentier wrote, caused the movement of “houses, intact, several kilometers from their foundations; schooners pulled out of the water, and left on a street corner; granite statues, decapitated from a chopping block; mortuary cars, paraded by the wind along squares and avenues, as if guided by ghost coachmen and, to top it off, a rail torn from a track, raised in weight, and thrown on the trunk of a royal palm with such violence, that it was embedded in the wood, like the arms of a cross.”
There are no significant differences between that description and what we have witnessed again in Cuba. Hurricane Ian left three dead and more than 89,000 homes affected in the province of Pinar del Río, caused the destruction of thousands of hectares of crops, led to trees and street lighting poles falling everywhere, left the country in total darkness for hours and with thousands of stories that turn anything told by two literary geniuses like Hemingway and Carpentier into pale tales.
The destruction can have infinite variations, but the hurricane is one of the few things that has not changed in thousands of years for the people of the Antilles. Whatever it may be called and whatever maybe be the strength of its fury, both the ancient and modern worlds have considered it a living creature that comes and goes over time and is not always cruel. When the excesses do not occur, the waters and the winds cool the summer heat and benefit agriculture, and everyone is happy.
However, this will be the first time that such a well known and recurrent natural phenomenon passes through Cuba accompanied by another equal or greater destructive force that has been created artificially in the new digital laboratories and is capable of such an evil that our Taíno ancestors could not have foreseen it.
While gusts of wind of more than 200 kilometers per hour blew in the north of Pinar del Río, more than 37,000 accounts on Twitter replicated the hashtag #CubaPaLaCalle (Cuba to the streets), with calls for protests, roadblocks, assaults on government institutions, sabotage, and terrorism, and with instructions on how to prepare homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails. Less than 2 percent of the users who participated in this virtual mobilization were in Cuba. Most of those who made the call to “fire up” the streets in Cuba were connected to American technology platforms and did so while hundreds of kilometers away from the country that remained in darkness. Perhaps some on the island kept their battery-powered radio. Still, what millions of Cubans had in the palm of their hands was not a bottle of Hemingway’s rum but a cellphone connected to the internet (the country of 11 million inhabitants has 7.5 million people with access to social media).
Let’s do an exercise. Imagine this panorama: you are anguished with the here and now. You have no electricity and no drinking water. What little food you have bought with great difficulty and kept refrigerated will go bad in no time. You don’t know what has happened to your family that lives in the western provinces, where the damage is apocalyptic. You have no idea how long this new crisis will last. Daily life before the hurricane was already desperate due to the economic blockade imposed by the United States, inflation, and shortages being faced by Cubans. Still, you see on your mobile that “everyone” (on the internet, of course) seems to be doing well and has plenty, while thousands of people on social media (and their trolls) shout that the culprit of your misfortune is the communist government. Your only light source is the mobile screen, which works like Plato’s allegory of the cave: you sit with your back to a flaming fire while virtual figures pass between you and the bonfire. You only see the movements of their shadows projected on the walls of the cave, and those shadows whisper the solution to your desperate reality: #CubaPaLaCalle.
At no other time in history has an immigrant minority had so much economic, media, and technological power to try to sink their country with their relatives still in Cuba before even trying to lend a hand in the midst of a national tragedy. What Mexican who lives in the United States puts political differences above helping their relatives after an earthquake? Why don’t Salvadorans or Guatemalans who live abroad do it now that Hurricane Julia has devastated Central America.
It is unprecedented and unheard of that the hurricane of a lifetime, and the hurricane of virtual hatred can arrive simultaneously, but that is just what happened in Cuba.
Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a Cuban journalist and founder of the site Cubadebate. She is vice president of both the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). She has written and co-written several books including Jineteros en la Habana and Our Chavez. She has received the Juan Gualberto Gómez National Prize for Journalism on multiple occasions for her outstanding work. She is currently a weekly columnist for La Jornada of Mexico City.
On September 27, 2022, a tropical cyclone—Hurricane Ian--struck Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Río. Sustained winds of around 125 miles per hour lingered over Cuba for more than eight hours, bringing down trees and power lines, and causing damage not seen during previous tropical cyclones. The hurricane then lingered over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, picking up energy before striking the U.S. island of Cayo Costa, Florida, with approximately 155 mph winds. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called it “one of the worst hurricanes to hit the area in a century.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said that this year will be the “seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.” Both Cuba and Florida have faced the wrath of the waters and winds, but beneath this lies the ferocity of the climate catastrophe. “Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Prepare and Relieve
Cuba, said the WMO, is one of the “world leaders in terms of hurricane preparedness and disaster management.” This was not always the case. Hurricane Flora hit the eastern coast of the island on October 4, 1963. When news of the approaching hurricane reached Fidel Castro, he immediately ordered the evacuation of the homes of people who lived in the projected path of the storm (in Haiti, former dictator François Duvalier did not call for an evacuation, which led to the death of more than 5,000 people). Castro rushed to Camagüey, almost dying in the Cauto River as his amphibious vehicle was struck by a drifting log. Two years later, in his Socialism and Man in Cuba, Che Guevara wrote the Cuban people showed “exceptional deeds of valor and sacrifice” as they rebuilt the country after the devastation caused by Flora.
In 1966, the Cuban government created the Civil Defense System to prepare for not only extreme weather events such as hurricanes but also the outbreak of epidemics. Using science as the foundation for its hurricane preparedness, the Cuban government was able to evacuate 2 million people as Hurricane Ivan moved toward the island in 2004. As part of disaster management, the entire Cuban population participates in drills, and the Cuban mass organizations (the Federation of Cuban Women and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) work in an integrated manner to mobilize the population to respond to disasters.
The day before Hurricane Ian hit Cuba, 50,000 people were evacuated and taken to 55 shelters. No private vehicles or public transportation was visible on the streets. Work brigades were mobilized to work on the resumption of electricity supply after the storm had passed. In Artemisa, for instance, the Provincial Defense Council met to discuss how to react to the inevitable flooding. Despite the best efforts made by Cubans, three people died because of the hurricane, and the electrical grid suffered significant damage.
The entire island—including Havana—had no power for more than three days. The electrical grid, which was already suffering from a lack of major repairs, collapsed. Without power, Cubans had to throw away food that needed to be refrigerated and faced difficulty in preparing meals, among other hardships. By October 1, less than five days after landfall, 82 percent of the residents of Havana had their power restored with work ongoing for the western part of the island (the amount of time without power in Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, is longer—a quarter of a million people remain without power more than two weeks later).
The long-term impact of Hurricane Ian is yet to be assessed, although some believe the cost of damages will surpass $1 billion. More than 8,500 hectares of cropland have been hit by the flooding, with the banana crop most impacted. The most dramatic problem will be faced by Cuba’s tobacco industry since Pinar del Río—where 5,000 farms were destroyed—is its heartland (with 65 percent of the country’s tobacco production). Hirochi Robaina, a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Río, wrote, “It was apocalyptic. A real disaster.”
Mexico and Venezuela immediately pledged to send materials to assist in the reconstruction of the electrical grid on the island.
All eyes turned to Washington—not only to see whether it would send aid, which would be welcome, but also if it would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and end sanctions imposed by the United States. These measures cause banks in both the United States and elsewhere to be reluctant to process any financial transactions, including humanitarian donations. The U.S. has a mixed record regarding humanitarian aid to Cuba. After Hurricane Michelle (2001), Hurricane Charley (2004), and Hurricane Wilma (2005), the U.S. did offer assistance, but would not even temporarily lift the blockade. After the fire at a Matanzas oil storage facility in August 2022, the U.S. did offer to join Mexico and Venezuela to help the Cubans put out the fire. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossio offered “profound gratitude” for the gesture, but the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden did not follow through.
Rather than lift the sanctions even for a limited period, the U.S. government sat back and watched as mysterious forces from Miami unleashed a torrent of Facebook and WhatsApp messages to drive desperate Cubans onto the street. Not a moment is wasted by Washington to use even a natural disaster to try to destabilize the situation in Cuba (a history that goes back to 1963, when the Central Intelligence Agency reflected on how to leverage natural disasters for political gains). “Most people don’t shout out freedom,” a person who observed one of these protests told us. “They ask for power and food.”
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
Cuba’s new Family Code, passed in a referendum with 67% of the vote, expands women’s, children’s, and LGBTQ people’s legal rights
Cuban revolutionary, Raúl Castro, cast his vote in the referendum on the new Family Code on September 25. (Photo: Communist Party of Cuba/Twitter)
The people of Cuba approved a new progressive Family Code with an overwhelming majority in a historic national referendum on September 25. On the morning of September 26, Alina Balseiro, president of the National Electoral Council (CEN), reported that with 94.25% of the votes counted, Cubans decided by a resounding 66.87% of the votes to ratify the implementation of a new Family Code, written in consultation with the general public.
74.01%, or 6,251,786 of the total 8,447,467 eligible voters living in and outside Cuba took part in the unprecedented plebiscite. Of the 5,892,705 or 94.25% of the votes counted, 3,936,790 or 66.87% of the votes were for the option “YES”. Meanwhile, option “NO” obtained 1,950,090 or 33.13% of the votes.
The new Family Code has been described by experts as the most inclusive, progressive and revolutionary code in the world. This new code legalizes equal marriage and equal adoption rights regardless of sexual orientation, recognizes the rights of surrogate mothers, recognizes women’s work in the household, and recognizes the role of grandparents in the family, among many more progressive victories.
Following the announcement of the preliminary results, thousands of Cubans took to social media networks to celebrate the ratification of the code. “Love is already a law,” “love, respect and unity won,” “Cubans voted with whole heart in favor of unity, socialism and revolution,” and similar resonant phrases flooded WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel, celebrating the results in favor of the option “YES”, tweeted, “Approving the new Family Code is doing justice. It is paying off a debt with several generations of Cuban men and women, whose family projects have been waiting for this Law for years. From today we will be a better nation.”
Foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez also welcomed the results. “Our people opted for a revolutionary, uplifting law that drives us to achieve social justice for which we work every day. Today we are a better country, with more rights,” tweeted Rodríguez.
Esteban Lazo, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, stated, “Love, affection, peace, inclusion and social justice triumphed, it’s “YES” for Cuban families.”
Justice Minister Oscar Silvera Martínez also celebrated the results. “Our people, the sovereign protagonist of the referendum, approved the Family Code. From the Ministry of Justice, we congratulate all those who participated in the referendum on a Code of love, respect and equality. We are already working on its implementation and we will do it right,” he tweeted.
The executive secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), Sacha Llorenti, also congratulated the Cuban government and its people on the results of the historic referendum.
“We extend our congratulations to President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the government and people of Cuba on successfully concluding the popular referendum on the Family Code. The Revolutionary people have sovereignly built one of the most advanced Codes in the world,” tweeted Llorenti.
What makes Cuba’s new Family Code the most progressive in the world?
The new code enacts sweeping advances in the rights of women, LGBTQ people, children, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
The new code guarantees the right of all people to form a family without discrimination, legalizing same sex marriage and allowing same sex couples to adopt children. Under the new code, parental rights will be shared among extended and non-traditional family structures that could include grandparents, step parents and surrogate mothers. The code also adds novelties such as prenuptial agreements and assisted reproduction.
The Code promotes equal distribution of domestic responsibilities amongst men and women and extends labor rights to those who care full-time for children, the elderly, or people with disabilities. The code establishes the right to a family life free from violence, one that values love, affection, solidarity and responsibility. It codifies domestic violence penalties, and promotes comprehensive policies to address gender-based violence.
The Code also outlaws child marriage and corporal punishment, stating that parents will have “responsibility” instead of “custody” of children, and will be required to be “respectful of the dignity and physical and mental integrity of children and adolescents.” It also asserts that parents should grant maturing offspring more say over their lives.
The new code also expands the rights of the elderly and people with disabilities. It recognizes the role of grandfathers and grandmothers in the transmission of values, culture, traditions and care.
This article was republished from People's Dispatch.
Children born in socialist Cuba and China can expect to live longer than children born in the capitalist United States. | AP photos
To extend a population’s life expectancy at birth (LEB) requires capabilities that are scarce in the United States. The U.S. LEB has fallen in the recent period, quite abruptly. Meanwhile, life expectancy in China and Cuba continues its long-term rise. To understand why we should explore nations’ varying capabilities to achieve social change and promote social gains.
Medical and sociological causes of death that relate to life expectancy and are specific to the United States will not be explored here. A subsequent report will cover that ground.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics on Aug. 31 set U.S. LEB for 2021 at 76.1 years, the same figure as in 1996. The decline from 77.0 years in 2020 and from 78.8 in 2019 was the greatest continuous U.S. fall in LEB in 100 years. Life expectancy for men in 2021, 73.2 years, represented an unprecedented male-female gap of almost six years (increased male mortality is routine).
Policies put in place following the two countries’ socialist revolutions led to wide-ranging social initiatives that are protective of all people’s lives and, incidentally, crucial for long life expectancy. Capitalist governments, less oriented to social change, are prone to tolerating gaps in social development.
The two socialist countries pursued particular objectives to achieve social gains. Specifically, they have endeavored to establish working-class political power, promote decent and healthy lives for all working people, eradicate major economic inequalities, and build unity.
Some capitalist countries have also attempted to fulfill a few of these objectives when under left-wing governance, with mixed success. A look at how well they may have succeeded, and at some of the consequences when they have not, may shed light on the failings of capitalist states to support the lives of their people, particularly the U.S.’ failure to sustain a LEB that in 2020 was already lower than that of 53 other countries.
The subject of providing social support is, of course, vast. On that account, the discussion here pays more attention to health care and less to other areas. It draws on the insights of Vicente Navarro, professor of public health and public policy at universities in Baltimore and Barcelona.
As regards working-class political power, Navarro maintains that “countries with strong labor movements, with social democratic and socialist parties…have developed stronger redistribution policies and inequality-reducing measures…. These worker-friendly countries consequently have better health indicators [including LEB] than those countries where labor movements are very weak, as is the case in the United States.”
Navarro blames the lack of universal health care in the United States, unique among industrialized nations, on the lack there of a strong labor movement and/or a labor or socialist party. Political power exerted by the organized working class in industrialized nations may vary, but it almost always exceeds workers’ power in the United States, where statistical markers of health outcome are decidedly less favorable.
The political weakness of the organized workers’ movement in the United States is clear. “The working class,” Navarro writes in 2021, does not appear anywhere in the Cabinet nor the Senate, and only appears in the House with an extremely limited representation of 1.3 percent.” Most “members of these institutions belong to the corporate class, closely followed by upper-middle class.” He condemns the “privatization of the electoral process,” in which “there is no limit to how much money can go to the Democratic or Republican party or their candidates.”
Decent and healthy lives are far from routine in capitalist countries, where poor health is associated with low social-economic status. Navarro reports that, in the United States, the “blue-collar worker has a mortality rate from heart conditions double that of the professional class. Mortality differentials by social class are much larger in the United States than in Western Europe.”
He notes that “top level British civil servants live considerably longer than do lower level ones,” and that “members of the [Spanish] bourgeoisie…live an average of two years longer than the petit bourgeoisie…who live two years longer than the middle class, who live two years longer than the skilled working class, who live two years longer than members of the unskilled working class, who live two years longer than the unskilled [and unemployed] working class.”
Alienation under capitalism exacerbates health problems. According to Navarro, “the distance among social groups and individuals and the lack of social cohesion that this distance creates is bad for people’s health and quality of life.” The social isolation he describes adds to challenges faced by social support systems and detracts from the usefulness of interventions.
Attempts by capitalist countries to remove wealth inequalities, especially in the health care arena, show mixed success. As commercialization of healthcare advances, difficulties mount. As the result of profit-taking in that sector, society-wide inequalities are aggravated, and working people lose equal access to quality care.
And yet some form of public overview of, or support for, health care sectors is more or less routine in the various capitalist countries. In many, public authorities operate and pay for hospitals, nursing homes, staffing, drugs, equipment, and training. But the infiltration of market prerogatives and privatization in the health care systems of richer countries now threatens long established goals of accessible health care for all.
In Europe, austerity campaigns under neoliberal auspices have led to cutbacks in publicly provided care. Privatization inroads blunted the institutional response in Europe to the COVID-19 pandemic. Investor groups have been eyeing the hospital and nursing home sectors as profit-making opportunities. According to the Lancet medical journal, privatization within the British National Health Service contributed to an increase in preventable deaths from all causes between 2013 and 2020.
The United States is the poster child of war in defense of privilege. There are stories, from health care:
In 2020 salary and benefits for William J. Caron, Jr., CEO of MaineHealth, a major care provider in the author’s locality, were $1,992,044; for Richard W. Petersen, Maine Medical Center CEO, they were $1,822,185. A commentator notes that “Hospital CEOs are compensated primarily for the volume of patients that pass through their doors—so-called “heads in beds.” Average annual income for U.S. primary care physicians was $260,000 in 2021; for specialists, $368,000.
According to bain.com, “Medtech companies are among the most profitable in the healthcare industry, with margins averaging 22%…profit pools [will] grow to $72 billion in 2024.” And “HME (home medical equipment) retail companies average 45 percent gross profit margin (GPM).”
Researchers found that between 2000 and 2018, the “median annual gross profit margin” (gross profit is revenue minus costs) of 35 pharmaceutical companies was 39.1% higher than that of 357 non-pharmaceutical companies. The CEOs of three major pharmaceutical companies” increased their wealth by “a total of $90 million” in 2018. As for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers: “Moderna’s and BioNTech’s 2021 net profit margins reached 66% and 54%, respectively.”
The matter of creating unity to establish socialism and arrange for the common good needs little comment. Unity within society is a near impossibility under capitalism, inasmuch as divisions there are inherent to a world of greed and individualism. Meanwhile, China, opting in favor of life, put on a magnificent display of socialist unity as its people grappled with the pandemic.
The government imposed strong preventative measures and accepted the inevitability of economic disruption and loss. China’s COVID-19 mortality rate is 1.07 deaths per 100,000 persons. Its U.S. counterpart never seemed to choose and, that way protected economic growth. The U.S. COVID-19 mortality rate is 319.59 deaths per 100,000 persons.
It is important, finally, to lay to rest any suggestion that the riches of the United States and other capitalist nations automatically enable them to offer long life expectancies. Individualized entitlement to wealth is basic to how they operate, and that’s a contradiction and an obstacle.
A society aiming to pursue social initiatives that are comprehensive and directed to all population groups equally is a society that has to redistribute wealth. Wealth redistribution is the necessary adjunct to the objectives already discussed. The message here is that capitalist-inspired measures don’t make the grade and that socialist programs, as in Cuba and China, do work and do offer the promise of decent and secure lives to entire populations.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
This article was republished from People's World.
Cimavax-EGF, a Cuban therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, conquers the scientific community and the population of the United States based on the achievements compiled in studies carried out.
Cimavax-EGF, a Cuban therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, conquers the scientific community and the population of the United States based on the achievements compiled in studies carried out. The vaccine was obtained after more than two decades of research and have shown satisfactory results in patients in advanced stages of lung cancer.
The Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) and the Roswell Park Cancer Research Center in Buffalo, in the United States of America, joined forces a few years ago to facilitate access to equipment and reagents in order to promote the development of the drug, reported Russia Today.
The creation of the only joint venture between Cuba and the United States, the Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance, a biotechnological company to insert the drug in the U.S. society, facilitated Cuba's access to equipment and reagents which are very difficult to obtain due to the limitations of the coercive measure of the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by the United States on the island, and the northern country can have access to a drug with excellent results and prospects.
Doctor Elia Neninger, who participated of in the clinical trials of the therapeutic vaccine from the beginning, assured the Russian TV station that the drug has two great advantages: few adverse reactions and a solution to lung cancer, which is a serious health problem in Cuba.
Deputy director of the Molecular Immunology Center Kalet León Monzón said that the patients who have received the vaccine are recovering from advanced tumor cancer and could have the prospect of survival in normal conditions in the very short term, according to Russia Today.
One of the beneficiaries of the vaccine, Miguel Creus, a patient who began to receive Cimavax 15 years ago, when the disease was in stage four and the vaccine was in clinical trials, assures that the drug has prolonged his life with a satisfactory state of health, and that at present he has no traces of tumors or symptoms of the disease.
Despite the effects of the economic blockade of the United States against Cuba, the collaboration between the two institutions continues and Cimavax overcomes the challenges. At present, there are clinical trials that combine this Cuban vaccine with other successful cancer treatments and their effects in high-risk people or patients in the initial stages of the disease are being studied.
According to some studies, lung cancer is the third most frequent cancer in the United States and the deadliest. This Cuban drug could be a promising relief, a good example of the benefits both nations would obtain if they had a normal relationship. (International News Office)
Translated by ESTI
This article was republished from Granma.