I will give an overview of some of the achievements of Cuba and Venezuela that the other speakers, Jesus Rodriguez, head of the General Consulate of Venezuela and Dr. Lillian Holloway may not touch on.
One, most important in this century, where the US has been continually at war for 11 years, has been the example of Venezuela and Cuba in their calls for peace and negotiation. We may remember that in 2001, soon after the war in Afghanistan, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela affirmed the need to fight terrorism, but held up a photo of an Afghan family killed by US bombing. He said, fight terrorism yes, but killing innocent families and children is not the way to do it. Now 11 years later, over 1.5 million have been killed, and the world is not safer.
The US government itself admits it spends $1 million per year for every soldier in Afghanistan. There are about 100,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, you bring home 100, that is $100 million saved that can be used for education, food, health care for the US people.
Cuba and Venezuela are leaders of the ALBA countries, a group of progressive countries in Latin America that also includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean countries.
In these countries, in the past 5 years they have eliminated poverty for 11 million people in the last 5 years. In the US 47 million are in poverty, one out of 6 people. This is the highest rate in 30 years. Unemployment in the ALBA countries is now lower than it is in the U.S. Now Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have joined Cuba in being free of illiteracy. In the US 1 in 7 cannot understand a newspaper article. Infant mortality in ALBA countries has been reduced by one-third, and infant mortality in Cuba is lower than in the US. Both Venezuela and Cuba guarantee free health care and free education, including university, for all. Meanwhile, what US people owe on US college loan debt is $1 trillion.
While we are suffering the consequences of global warming due to US and other government inaction, the World Wildlife Fund declared in 2006 that Cuba was the only country in the world with a environmentally sustainable economic system.
Unfortunately, the examples and social gains of Cuba, Venezuela and ALBA countries are simply reasons why the US wants to overthrow their governments. The US rulers do not want us to know what can be accomplished by using our national resources to meet human needs not spending it on war or hand-outs to banks.
In 1959, before the victory of the Cuban revolution, conditions in Cuba were like that in Haiti today. 5 out of 6 Cubans lived in shacks or were homeless. 80% of Havana residents suffered from hunger and unemployment. 2 out of 3 Cuban children didn’t attend school. Those conditions have long since ended.
Yet even in 1960 when Cuba was still a miserably poor country, similar to Haiti, a presidential candidate said, “For the “first time in our history an enemy stands at the throat of the United States.” He added that the Cubans are our “enemies and will do everything in their power to bring about our downfall.”
No, that was not Nixon, but John F Kennedy.
JFK soon organized an economic blockade on Cuba, a state of siege imposed on the island that still exists today. What was the purpose of this blockade? A State Department official said at the time, “Every possible means should be undertaken to bring about hunger, desperation [among the Cuban people, leading to the] overthrow of the government.”
This blockade has been strengthened under Obama. ING, a Dutch company was recently fined $619 million for doing business with Cuba. How can a Dutch company, of an independent country, be fined for violating a US blockade? Because not only are US companies forbidden to trade with Cuba, but foreign companies that trade with the US can be fined for trading with Cuba. Even a Cuban child who won a UN contest was denied the prize that other winners received: a Japanese camera, because it had some US parts.
Several Cuban exiles have won multi-million dollar judgments against Havana in U.S. courts and are now trying to collect the money. The largest was the $2.8 billion awarded last year by a Miami-Dade judge to CIA and Bay of Pigs veteran Gustavo Villoldo.
The Obama administration confiscated $493 million of Cuban funds in 2010-2011. Much of this money goes to pay off these lawsuits. The Obama government continues to spend about $20 million a year to create internal opposition in Cuba.
The meanness and hypocrisy of US policy towards Cuba is shocking. When Cuba suffered serious food shortages in the 1990s, the US went out of its way to block food aid to Cuba – like it now does with North Korea – then loudly complained about increasing hunger in Cuba. Now, the US complains about the lack of internet access in Cuba, yet fines companies that provide internet services.
The US vendetta against Cuba is not limited to a blockade that has cost Cuba billions of dollars and years of economic development. A covert war of terrorism against Cuba has been waged, killing over 3400 Cubans. Anti-Cuba groups in Miami have bombed Cuban hotels and airplanes, used biological weapons against Cuba. In 1981 Miami terrorist groups dropped biological weapons on Cuba, killing over 100 children. Just as the US government has attempted to destroy the Black freedom movement in the US, harassing, jailing or killing Black leaders such as Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, even making that official FBI policy, so the US has tried to destroy Cuba.
That is why 5 Cubans left Cuba to infiltrate violent Miami groups of Cuban exiles who were planning and carrying out terrorist activities against Cuba. These groups wanted to blow up hotels, restaurants and clubs in Cuba. Just last April these groups blew up the offices of a travel agency that organized trips of Miami Cubans to be in Cuba when the Pope visited that country. The Cuban 5 uncovered plots to blow up airplanes, kill civilians, kill Cuban leaders. When the US government was informed of planned terrorist actions it used this information not to arrest the terrorists but the 5 Cubans who were monitoring it. These five have been framed up as spies, even though no evidence was presented, and imprisoned since 1998, some of them for life. The US Supreme Court, at the request of the Obama administration, refused to hear their appeal.
Cuba, in one of its many humanitarian gestures, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Cuba organized 1500 doctors to go to New Orleans to work for free. The US refused this offer, and never even said thank you.
Cuba has about 15,000 doctors working in other poor countries around the world. That is an outstanding humanitarian achievement, and it is even more doctors than the United Nations as a whole. There is a saying: “While Cuba is deploying doctors and nurses, America is deploying bombs and missiles.”
One of the innumerable examples of Cuba’s humanitarianism through healthcare is the assistance they lent to Mission Barrio Adentro in Venezuela. Mission Barrio Adentro is a nationwide healthcare system within the South American country. Cuba played a significant role in helping develop Barrio Adentro, which started delivering primary healthcare in 2003. Between 10,000 and 14,000 Cuban doctors were deployed throughout Venezuela from 2004 through 2010.
However, it does not stop there – Cuba also sent between 15,000 and 20,000 nurses, dentists, technicians, optometrists, and physical therapists. Again, this is merely one of many incredible examples of Cuba’s dedication to helping other nations (over 100) procure quality healthcare for their people. Cuban healthcare professionals can be found throughout the global south, especially in places where healthcare services were hard to come by.
An even greater humanitarian achievement than this, though, was Cuba’s aid to Angola. When racist South Africa tried to extent white racist apartheid rule in 1975-76, Cuba sent volunteer soldiers to Angola to drive them out. These soldiers stayed until 1989, in the end over 300,000 Cuban soldiers served there.
Because of the apartheid South Africa’s defeat in Angola, it had to flee Angola, and it had to grant independence to Namibia. Eventually it had to free Nelson Mandela from prison, and allow free elections in South Africa. The apartheid system, like Jim Crow here, suffered a mortal blow.
This would not have been possible without Cuba’s aid. Cuba struck a hard blow against racism and against the Western colonialism that has tormented Africa for 400 years.
Probably the greatest humanitarian achievement of Cuba and Venezuela is the example they provide, that a better world is possible. If you have been in either country, you can feel that here are people, whole societies and leaders of the country who are putting into practice the golden rule, do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.
When in human history have countries sought to follow the golden rule? How did Cuba and Venezuela manage to do this? In both countries the 99% has won over the 1%. In Cuba, US businesses used to hold the best land, the biggest sugar mills, mines, telephone and utility companies, banks, politicians, casinos. Likewise in the US today, corporations own everything in our country, including the politicians and the Supreme Court. Cuba removed the 1% from power in the space of 2 years, Venezuela is doing the same in a slow, gradual process. Both countries provide us with two quite different paths on how to accomplish this, how to create a better world that we can give our children.