People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 49

December 06, 2009

CHAT WITH CP CUBAN LEADER

 

“Where is the Change, Mr Obama?”

N S Arjun

 

US president Barack Obama's talk of change is limited to words and does not find reflection in reality as far as Cuba is concerned, says Oscar Martinez Cordoves, deputy head, international department of Communist Party of Cuba.

 

Speaking to the Party media on the sidelines of the 11th IMCWP held in New Delhi, the Cuban leader cited the continuance of the cruel economic blockade against their country by the United States as a proof of no change. “In fact after Obama assumed presidency, his administration has punished 26 corporations for dealing with Cuba. Among them included an European bank which had to pay a hefty fine as a result of this punishment”, revealed Martinez. He told how the almost all UN member countries in the world barring the United States and two tiny island countries voted in favour of lifting the blockade. If Obama is really serious about bringing in change, he should have heeded this call, felt the Cuban leader.

 

Cuba is facing a big impact of the ongoing global financial crisis. With tourism being the main revenue generating avenue, the crisis has resulted in a sharp fall in tourist arrivals. Money earned from this sector has shrunk by around 11 per cent compared to last year. The surge in prices of commodities, including food and oil, has increased the burden of imports. Cuba imports much of its food from outside. Moreover, due to the crisis those who would have normally given credit for such imports have now ceased to give. No investment is coming into the country due to the blockade. On top of all this the country is also facing the devastating effect of climate change. The Cuban leader said the number and the frequency of hurricanes hitting his country have gone up in recent years. These hurricanes leave a trail of severe destruction requiring the government to spend huge amounts on relief and reconstruction thus affecting the economy adversely. He said that the Communist Party of Cuba's assessment about the ongoing crisis is that it would be a protracted one.

 

Asked about the Cuban people's response to the government measures to tackle the crisis, Martinez at the outset asserted that people have trust in the government about its intention and ability to protect their interests. The Cuban government has assured the people that despite the crisis, there would be no changes or cutbacks in the ongoing social welfare programmes. A whopping 40 per cent of Cuba's budget goes to funding these programmes, through which people are guaranteed 100 per cent free access to education, health, food, culture, sports, housing etc. The Cuban leader also told about how the government is taking measures to promote self-sufficiency in the main crops of rice, potatoes etc. Presently rice is being imported from Vietnam. Today there are about 2.6 million hectares of productive land in Cuba where nothing is being produced. The governm,ent has decided to distribute around 1.7 million hectares of this land to the people in order to improve agricultural productivity.

 

Queried for the reasons as to why communist parties in Latin America are weaker than the new progressive forces that have emerged, the Cuban leader felt that one of the reasons for this is the intense anti-Communist propaganda carried out by the United States in the region post Cuban revolution. He pointed out that many communist parties in the region did not support the Cuban guerilla struggles carried out by Fidel and Che. He however said that presently all these parties support these new outstanding progressive forces whether it be in Venezuela or Bolivia. About the Cuban-led regional initiative of ALBA, Martinez felt that it has evolved from being a merely economic initiative into a political and social platform for progressive regimes of the region. He called for greater international solidarity for the campaign to get the Cuban Five released from US jail. Asked to comment on reports about changes in Cuban government policies after Raul Castro's assuming of presidency, the Cuban leader said “Cuba is indeed changing .. changing from a Socialist State to a better Socialist State”.