[News] ‘Cuban Revolution: a challenge to US imperialism’

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 19 20:45:53 EDT 2021


themilitant.com
<https://themilitant.com/2021/10/16/cuban-revolution-a-challenge-to-us-imperialism/>
‘Cuban
Revolution: a challenge to US imperialism’
*BY MARTÍN KOPPEL,** MARY-ALICE WATERS,*
* AND RÓGER CALERO - October 25, 2021*
[image: Carlos Fernández de Cossío, head of Cuban foreign ministry’s
department for U.S. affairs.]Militant/Róger CaleroCarlos Fernández de
Cossío, head of Cuban foreign ministry’s department for U.S. affairs.

NEW YORK — Carlos Fernández de Cossío, head of the Cuban foreign ministry’s
department for U.S. affairs, was in New York at the end of September for
the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. As part of his
busy schedule, he made time to sit down and talk with the *Militant.* He
spoke about the intensified assault the world’s strongest imperialist power
is today mounting against the men and women who made and continue to defend
Cuba’s socialist revolution.

“The most enduring and successful challenge to imperialism in the Western
Hemisphere has been the Cuban Revolution,” said Fernández de Cossío. “It’s
a challenge to the U.S. as an imperialist power that they must try to
defeat.”

For more than six decades, he noted, despite the enormous resources devoted
to trying to overturn Cuba’s revolutionary government and reestablish
capitalist property relations, the U.S. rulers have failed in that goal.

Imperialist efforts and expectations notwithstanding, the revolution didn’t
collapse in the 1990s after the implosion of the Soviet-bloc regimes and
the profound economic crisis that created in Cuba.

Then the imperialist rulers “bet that when Fidel Castro was gone the Cuban
Revolution wouldn’t survive,” said Fernández de Cossío. When that didn’t
happen, they thought it would all be over when Raúl Castro stepped aside.
But the revolution continues.

“For U.S. imperialism and the enemies of Cuba, this continuity is a big
challenge,” he noted. “They cannot accept the legitimacy of a popular
revolutionary government that is no longer led by the historic generation”
— the generation that led working people to power in 1959 and established a
government that defends their interests.

“Today this government is led by new generations. Cuba is not capitalist,
it doesn’t accept capitalism. That represents an obstacle for imperialism
in this hemisphere.”

That’s why over the past several years the U.S. rulers, under the Trump and
now Biden administrations, have imposed the most comprehensive economic
sanctions ever on Cuba. These measures, more than 200 of these recently
enacted, sharply restrict Cuba’s access to the international banking system
and block foreign investment, vital fuel imports, and remittances from
Cuban Americans to their families on the island.
*U.S. targets Cuban artists, blacks*

That’s also why today Washington is waging a political offensive targeting
“several pillars of the legitimacy the Cuban Revolution has won
internationally,” he said.

One of those pillars of moral authority with working people worldwide is
how the Cuban Revolution has expanded access to culture and education to
millions in city and countryside. The revolutionary government has a
powerful, proud record of fostering the widest artistic expression.

“The U.S. government is spending tens of millions to paint the false image
of a conflict between the revolutionary government and artists, between the
government and youth,” Fernández de Cossío noted.

Washington has sought to rally artists in the United States and
internationally in support of the so-called San Isidro group, a U.S.
government-funded operation that enemies of the revolution cynically
portray as a movement of “young, black independent artists.”
[image: Artists bring theater and music to El Salvador, a rural town in
Cuba’s Guantánamo province Jan. 28, 2019. Socialist revolution expanded
access to culture and education to millions in countryside and city.]Cuba
EscenaArtists bring theater and music to El Salvador, a rural town in
Cuba’s Guantánamo province Jan. 28, 2019. Socialist revolution expanded
access to culture and education to millions in countryside and city.

“This effort goes along with their attempts to discredit Cuba’s
achievements in eliminating racist discrimination,” Fernández de Cossío
said. “With a huge dose of demagogy and hypocrisy, they seek to paint Cuba
as being a racist country — *because* of the revolution.”

Cuba before 1959 “was a racist society,” he said. “The revolution put an
end to institutionalized discrimination.

“Since then, the government and the Cuban Communist Party have led efforts
to eliminate racial prejudice. It can’t be erased by decree. You can’t
create an ‘anti-racist ministry’ to do so. Along with other steps, it
requires educational, cultural work.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I denied that we still have a ways to go. Even
with the huge advances in employment, education, health, and other
conditions the revolution has brought about for the Cuban people, it’s
still a stratified society with different socioeconomic levels. We still
haven’t eliminated the disparities we see today in urban neighborhoods that
were worst-off in social and economic conditions before the revolution.

“A Havana neighborhood that was poor 50 or 60 years ago is likely to still
have more crowded housing, poorer ventilation, a population with lower
levels of university education, more crime than other areas.

“That’s true regardless of skin color. But taking into account the
conditions the black population faced before 1959,” the disparities remain
greater for black Cubans today, he said.

For that reason, “the Cuban government and society continue to wage a fight
against racism and its legacy.”
*Internationalist doctors smeared*

Fernández de Cossío highlighted another pillar of the revolution’s support
among working people worldwide that is targeted by Washington — Cuba’s
record of internationalist medical cooperation.

“Our doctors serving in other countries are labeled ‘slaves.’ The Cuban
government’s solidarity — the imperialists call it ‘human trafficking.’

“They try to stigmatize the work of Cuban volunteers who are saving lives,
providing care to millions in some of the poorest communities of more than
100 countries.

“The U.S. State Department has sent its representatives to pressure other
governments that legitimately request Cuban medical assistance, demanding
they not accept it.”

Fernández de Cossío pointed out that “in the midst of the pandemic, Cuba is
the only government in the world — the only one — that has sent medical
brigades to help other countries fight COVID. They’ve gone to 40 countries
— from Italy and oil-rich Persian Gulf states to Latin America and Africa.

“And the U.S. government attacks us for that!”

Washington is also waging a concerted effort to undermine the legitimacy of
leaders of the new Cuban government, Fernández de Cossío said. “They
personally attack President Miguel Díaz-Canel. They say, ‘He’s no Fidel
Castro.’ At the same time, they charge he’s a dictator, his regime is
repressive.

“That shouldn’t surprise us. It’s how the imperialist propaganda machine
works.”
*Stepped-up U.S. economic aggression*

Addressing the economic situation in Cuba today, Fernández de Cossío said
the big-business media asserts that Cuba “is going through its worst
moments ever.” That’s not accurate, he said.

“The most difficult times were the 1960s, when we were engaged in a civil
war inside Cuba with counterrevolutionary groups armed, trained, and
financed by the U.S.”

The 1990s economic crisis, precipitated by Cuba’s abrupt loss of more than
three-quarters of its foreign trade after the implosion of the Soviet
Union, “was a more severe economic crisis than today. That’s hard to
explain to young people who were only children then, but we had 18-hour
blackouts, practically no public transportation. There were such food
shortages that people lost weight dramatically.” That’s not the case today.
[image: Below Some of the 100,000 young volunteers who in 1961 helped wipe
out illiteracy in Cuba. Above: Havana, February 2021. Medical students go
door to door, making sure anyone with COVID symptoms gets needed care. For
more than 60 years black Cubans have been a leading force in the socialist
revolution, fighting to consolidate social and political gains of working
people of all skin colors while uprooting legacy of discrimination against
Cubans who are black.]Above, Granma/Miguel Febles Hernández; below, Museo
Municipal de BáguanosAbove: Havana, February 2021. Medical students go door
to door, making sure anyone with COVID symptoms gets needed care. For more
than 60 years black Cubans have been a leading force in the socialist
revolution, fighting to consolidate social and political gains of working
people of all skin colors while uprooting legacy of discrimination against
Cubans who are black. Below: Some of the 100,000 young volunteers who in
1961 helped wipe out illiteracy in Cuba.

“What’s the biggest problem today? Unlike the 1990s, there are greater
social and economic inequalities in the population. In previous decades,
because of the revolution, Cuba was a more egalitarian society. But we’ve
been forced to use economic methods — some call them ‘market-friendly’ —
that have generated inequalities, although Cuba has much less social
inequality than any other country in the world.”

In recent years ownership of small and medium private businesses has been
encouraged, and the number of workers who can be employed has now been
increased to 100. Farmers can sell more of their produce on the open
market. Families can sell their homes.

The expansion of tourism and other measures to gain hard currency needed
for importing essential goods have led to a disparity between those who
receive part of their income in dollars and those who don’t. Remittances
from abroad go disproportionately to better-off families rather than
working people, especially those who are black, and that has sharpened
racial tensions.

Fernández de Cossío noted that in January 2021 the government implemented a
series of economic measures. Among these, subsidies for many basic food
items were reduced. Financial assistance was cut back for families
receiving benefits for household members who are unemployed but fit to
work. A wider range of wages was established for different jobs.

The minimum wage and retirement pensions were increased. Despite that, many
Cuban families are having a very hard time. The purchasing power of the
peso has dropped with the de facto devaluation that took effect in January
through the elimination of a dual currency structure in place for more than
two decades. Today Cuba is experiencing sharply rising inflation.

“We’ve introduced measures such as these in a gradual way, and we expect to
introduce more,” said Fernández de Cossío. “But we’re not heading toward a
capitalist economy. Inequalities are greater but Cuba’s economic structure
doesn’t even remotely approach a capitalist economy.”

The increased economic and social tensions are magnified “by the social
media and digital networks that have entered the mix in Cuba, with the
harmful effects they have everywhere, including in the United States,” he
said.

“The U.S. government is spending millions to bombard Cuba with propaganda”
through social media to exacerbate antagonisms and spread lies.
*‘U.S. uses pandemic against Cuba’*

Fernández de Cossío outlined some of the main economic challenges today.

“First is the intensification of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba,”
he said. Since mid-2019 Washington has imposed sanctions on foreign
shipping companies and other measures to restrict Cuba’s imports of oil.

“Imagine if New York City suddenly faced a sharp increase in fuel prices,
or part of its supply was cut off. If Canada, which supplies electricity to
New York, said: ‘From now on New York City will only get 30% of its
electrical power.’

“Or if now, in the midst of this COVID pandemic, you had to buy medicine or
medical equipment on the international market and were told, ‘No, we can’t
sell you these products because they contain more than 10% or 12% of U.S.
components or U.S. raw materials or intellectual property.’

“Or if, because of sanctions, you couldn’t buy equipment or raw materials
from the manufacturer, but had to go through a third party and pay twice
the original price.

“That’s what they’re doing to Cuba.”
[image: Cuban health worker examines child in Djibouti, in Africa. “Cuba is
the only government in the world that has sent medical brigades to help
other countries fight COVID,” said Fernández de Cossío. Washington tries to
discredit Cuba’s internationalist doctors calling them “slaves.”]Misión
Médica Cubana en DjiboutiCuban health worker examines child in Djibouti, in
Africa. “Cuba is the only government in the world that has sent medical
brigades to help other countries fight COVID,” said Fernández de Cossío.
Washington tries to discredit Cuba’s internationalist doctors calling them
“slaves.”

Another challenge is the economic cost of the COVID pandemic. Washington,
he said, “has used the pandemic as an ally in its aggression against Cuba.
As a result, we’ve had difficulty getting medical supplies, not only for
COVID but basic medicines: for high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies,
cardiovascular disease.”

Fernández de Cossío noted that “throughout 2020 Cuba was quite successful
in dealing with the pandemic. The numbers of infections and deaths were
almost insignificant on the world scale.” This was because in Cuba, where
access to health care is universal and free of charge, doctors, nurses, and
other volunteers were mobilized to visit homes in every neighborhood across
the island, making sure those needing medical care received it. No one was
left on their own.

“In the first months of this year, however, with the Delta variant, the
pandemic began to have a big impact, and the summer was particularly hard.
Since August we’ve reached a plateau, and now there’s a downward trend in
cases and deaths as a result of the vaccination campaign,” Fernández de
Cossío said.

“But the economic costs of the pandemic have been high. We’ve had to close
schools and many workplaces. There’s been almost no tourism — the main
source of income for our country.

“And we have the increased costs of the hospitals and isolation centers. My
son was one of the many youth who volunteered at an isolation center.
Patients and workers there are fed three meals and a snack a day free of
charge. The facilities have air conditioners and fans — that requires fuel
to generate the electricity. All that has to be paid for.”

Illustrating how tight the economic situation is today, he said, “Every
week our government has to review its list of pressing needs and — based on
the limited income from foreign tourism and exports — make decisions on
what we can allocate funds for and what we have to postpone.

“The cost of what needs to be done is always higher than the income
received. Every necessity that is postponed becomes an additional problem.

“And there’s a third list: what we allocate for longer-term development.

“Some critics, outside and inside Cuba, ask: if there’s a shortage of
chicken and other food, why do we keep building tourist hotels? The answer
is: we can’t consume everything we have today and leave nothing for our
children to live on.”

Fernández de Cossío explained that during the economic crisis of the 1990s,
known in Cuba as the Special Period, “we developed what today is
BioCubaFarma, the state biotechnology and pharmaceutical enterprise that
allows Cuba to produce vaccines and other medicines of its own.

“We also began to invest in tourism, which made it possible for Cuba to
stop being a country that depended on sugar exports as its main source of
income — a legacy of colonialism.

“Those investments required capital, funds that were not used for public
transportation or electricity or food. They were invested with an eye to
today’s generation of Cubans. And that’s a challenge we continue to have.”

Fernández de Cossío noted that, even after the intensification of U.S.
sanctions beginning in 2017, “Cuba registered some economic growth up until
mid-2019. That’s when the U.S. government took steps to block our fuel
imports — a big blow to our economy. Then in 2020 we were hit by the COVID
pandemic that has affected the entire world.

“All that has limited our plans to reduce dependence on food imports.” For
example, he said, Cuba has sought to boost domestic pork production. But
raw materials for animal fodder, such as soy and corn, are still largely
imported, and Cuba’s lack of hard currency limits its ability to buy those
components on the world market. Efforts to produce varieties of corn and
soybeans suited for Cuba are underway, but cannot yet meet demand.

“So today we sometimes have to choose: do we import chicken or medicine for
the population, or do we buy fodder in order to produce more pork?

“It’s like the family that’s gathered around the table, deciding how to
spend its money for the week. That’s the challenge we face in Cuba.”
*U.S.-orchestrated July 11 events*

These acute economic pressures, combined with Washington’s political
offensive, “came together and were the context for the protests of July
11,” said the Cuban official.

He countered the lies by the U.S. government and capitalist media
internationally, which claimed a massive anti-government “uprising” swept
the island that day.

“The image presented by the international media is one of days or weeks of
protests. That’s not true. They were on one day, July 11. They happened in
11 towns and cities. They were not massive demonstrations.

“In fact, the largest numbers in the streets were people who came out to
support the revolution.”

The capitalist media “broadcast old photos of big demonstrations in
Alexandria, Egypt, or in Buenos Aires, and presented them as if they were
pictures taken in Cuba that day. Or they broadcast photos of pro-revolution
demonstrations in Havana, claiming they were scenes of counterrevolutionary
protests in Cuba!”

Who took to the streets on July 11?

“The majority were people genuinely frustrated by the blackouts, the food
shortages, the problems with public transit. They were frustrated because
the schools were closed and they had the kids at home all day. Because
there was no entertainment — you couldn’t go to parties or the beach.
Because there are inadequacies in the administration of community and
government services. All these things are true.”

The protests, however, were not spontaneous as claimed in the foreign
big-business press and social media.

“Some of those in the streets were incited by social media outlets that had
been campaigning for weeks” for such actions, Fernández de Cossío said.

“The first protest on July 11 took place in the town of San Antonio de los
Baños, 40 minutes from Havana. When protesters first began to gather at a
small park at 11 a.m., two correspondents from major foreign news media
were already on the scene.

“These protests were directed by elements financed by the U.S. government.

“We have evidence that people were offered money, like: $150 to throw a
rock at a police officer, $200 for a Molotov cocktail, $500 to set a car on
fire. Vandalism and violence were planned and instigated.”

Fernández de Cossío noted that there was one incident the following day in
the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera. “A group of people who had firearms
tried to attack a police station. One person was killed. They planned to
head next to the Havana harbor, where they had been led to believe that
boats had arrived from Miami to take them to the U.S.!”

The U.S. capitalist media painted a picture of largely black, working-class
La Güinera as a neighborhood in revolt against the revolutionary government.

That image was refuted by local residents, who were joined by Gerardo
Hernández, national head of the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution. He explained on Cuban TV that most of the protesters there were
working people fed up by the daily economic hardships who were drawn into
an action instigated by opponents of the government. “There are many
revolutionaries in La Güinera,” he pointed out.

Speaking to the Cuban press, Hernández said residents of neighborhoods such
as La Güinera — which is in the area of the city where he himself grew up —
by organizing collectively to improve conditions, gain confidence in their
ability to make a difference. Working together to repair streets and homes,
as they involve youth who are not working or going to school into
productive activity, they begin to transform not only their surroundings
but themselves.
[image: Building housing in Havana’s La Güinera barrio this month. Despite
severe shortages due to intensified U.S. efforts to strangle Cuba’s
economy, government is giving priority to neighborhoods with worst
conditions.]IPS/Jorge Luis BañosBuilding housing in Havana’s La Güinera
barrio this month. Despite severe shortages due to intensified U.S. efforts
to strangle Cuba’s economy, government is giving priority to neighborhoods
with worst conditions.

“These experiences help revolutionaries understand that we have to make
changes in how we do things,” Fernández de Cossío said. “Historically,
Fidel always explained this to us. We have to get out and work more. The
answer lies not in use of social media, but our physical presence,” working
in communities around the country.

Over the past two months, the Cuban government has given special priority
to dozens of Havana neighborhoods with some of the worst conditions. Work
is underway there to repair streets, housing, local stores, doctor’s
offices, parks, and other facilities. Backed by national and local
government bodies, the Federation of Cuban Women, Committees for the
Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of University Students, and other
mass organizations are working to involve local residents, including
unemployed youth, in this effort.

Fernández de Cossío pointed out that conditions vary from one neighborhood
to another. “So the approach used in La Güinera may not be exactly what’s
needed in the Chicharrones neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba, or the San
Isidro or El Fanguito barrios of Havana.

“And we can’t forget that this is Cuba in 2021, with our shortage of
resources, lack of capital, debts to pay and the ever-present U.S.
blockade.”
*Cuban vaccine: at home and abroad *

We asked Fernández de Cossío about how the vaccination campaign against
COVID is progressing. Cuba has developed five vaccines and has already
begun to use three of them, Soberana II, Soberana Plus, and Abdala.

“Thanks to President Díaz-Canel’s foresight, we began to develop a COVID
vaccine very early, in March 2020, when there were still no cases reported
in Cuba.

“Our vaccination process takes longer than in some countries because people
receive three doses. That also means producing a larger quantity than for a
vaccine requiring two doses.

“As of now, nearly 50 percent of the Cuban population is fully vaccinated.
We plan to vaccinate practically the entire population by November.”

Cuba is now immunizing children two years and older, the first country to
do so, Fernández de Cossío said. This is possible because — drawing on
decades of work developing and producing vaccines for a range of illnesses
and ages — Cuban researchers designed their COVID vaccines based on
biotechnology known to be safe for children.

Cuba’s revolutionary government is also making its vaccines available
beyond its borders. The process is currently underway to obtain their
approval by the World Health Organization, which many governments rely on
before authorizing their use.

“We want to make sure to provide all the documentation and evidence showing
that the vaccines are safe and effective,” Fernández de Cossío said.

“Governments such as the U.S. have a lot of influence on international
bodies like WHO. And the experts used by WHO to evaluate vaccines are often
executives from big corporations like Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and
Sanofi Pasteur. So to be sure we exceed the standards of these
organizations, we are being especially rigorous in preparing the
documentation.”

He said the governments of Iran, Vietnam, Mexico, and Venezuela have
already accepted the Cuban vaccine. Iran is now producing Soberana II and
Vietnam plans to manufacture Abdala. But many other countries don’t have
such capacity, and Cuba plans to produce millions of doses for
international distribution.

“Once a large enough part of the Cuban population is vaccinated, we’ll have
greater ability to export the vaccine,” said Fernández de Cossío. “Cuba is
committed to making it available to other nations that need it.”
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