Glen T. Martin
(Published in the Roanoke Times Newspaper, 9 July 1999)
This summer I traveled once again to Cuba and Nicaragua. It was my third trip to Cuba over the past three years. There were no restrictions on where I traveled, what questions I asked, nor with whom I spoke. Over these years I have spent time not only in Havana but in Matanzas, Camaguey, and Guantanamo, and have talked not only with university professors but with people from all walks of life, including many ordinary working people. I am trying to find out the real truth about life in Cuba as well as about their political system.
But traveling abroad also helps me understand my own country, and its real truth. I want to understand why the United States, with the complicity of citizens like you and me, is willing to strangle these people economically to the point where they suffer and die. I want to understand why we are willing to destroy so many countries, such as Iraq, North Korea, North Vietnam, Sudan, Cuba and Libya, through the viciousness of economic warfare designed to hurt an entire population, including innocent children.
Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba was an economic satellite of the US, with big corporations exploiting cheap Cuban labor (cheap because they were so poor) and exporting cheap Cuban natural resources back to the US. Before the revolution, the US supported a brutal dictator named Batista who tortured and murdered his own people to stay in power. Before the revolution poor and unemployed Cuban women by the thousands sold their bodies on the streets of Havana to earn enough money to feed their children, and many of those same children crowded the streets begging for survival, instead of going to school.
Today in Cuba all this has changed. All children attend school, which is free through the university level. There is little or no prostitution. Employment is close to 100%. And there is free, universal health care for the entire population. Cuba has more doctors per capita than most countries in the world. And Cuba has a constitution, adopted in 1976, which guarantees all citizens the right to these things as well as to effective political participation in their society. It is not a dictatorship of Fidel Castro as the lies coming from Washington, DC would have it. Cubans elect representatives to municipal assemblies, to provincial assemblies, and to the National Assembly, the highest governing body in their country.
To understand why the US wants to destroy Cuba let us look at Nicaragua, to which I have also traveled several times. In 1979 the Nicaraguan people had a revolution which threw out a brutal US supported dictator named Somoza whose grandfather had been installed by the US in 1934. Conditions in Nicaragua were very much like those in Cuba before the 1959 revolution. The new government immediately instituted universal health care, a universal education program, a mass literacy program, a land reform program to give land to the starving masses, and economic reform to bring the masses out of horrible poverty and misery. But the US was not going to allow another successful Cuba type revolution, so our government (with the complicity of you and me) immediately organized the Contra Army, housed in another country (Honduras), and an economic blockade to kill and starve the people until they gave up their revolutionary idea. You and I (and our government) were successful in this bloody plan and the revolutionary government was thrown out in 1990. What Washington calls “democracy” was restored to Nicaragua.
Today (1999) thousands of women again sell their bodies on street corners in the capital city of Managua to try to feed their children. Today thousands of children, not in school, spend all day on other street corners begging for pennies from passing motorists in order to survive. Today there is 60-70% unemployment. Land reform has been destroyed and the rich have returned to claim their estates while the poor are losing their few acres on which to grow food. Bill Clinton said recently that “democracy” has been restored to Nicaragua and to all Latin American countries except Cuba. And the congressional act that tightened the economic strangulation of Cuba was called the “Cuba Democracy Act.” This is what is in store for Cuba if their revolutionary society is destroyed by the US (with the complicity of you and me). What Washington means by “democracy” is really “private property and free enterprise” — the freedom of the rich to exploit, dominate, and dehumanize the poor.