In late 1958, things were not going well for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Cuba's economy was on the ropes, with thousands of rural and urban poor people idled and destitute through much of the year. Three quarters of agricultural land was controlled by big landowners. In some rural areas, only half the adult population was literate. U.S. conglomerates dominated the economy. Batista's gangsterish regime had opened up Cuba to U.S. organized crime, turning Havana into a center of gambling, drugs and prostitution. But the Cuban people would no longer tolerate this state of affairs, and the combination of repression and bribery could no longer hold things together. The revolutionaries of the 26th of July Movement headed by Fidel Castro were defeating Batista's army in every battle. The Eisenhower administration in the United States ditched Batista and tried to find a pliant leader who could fend off Castro. They could not. As a general strike swept Cuba, Batista fled.
On January 1 1959, revolutionary forces headed by Fidel and Raul Castro, Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos took full control, and began a process which transformed Cuba into a socialist state and a bulwark of solidarity for people's struggles all over the world.
For 55 years, successive U.S. administrations and their allies in other countries have done everything humanly possible to reverse the consequences of that historic day. Terrorism, sabotage and the Bay of Pigs invasion did not work. Economic strangulation has not worked. Lies have not worked. Cuba was battered by the collapse of Soviet and Eastern European socialism, but did not go under. Each year, claims that Cuba is "isolated' ring hollow when the U.N. General Assembly votes, by increasingly lopsided margins, to denounce the U.S. policy of the economic blockade of Cuba. In November 2013, it was 188 to 2 with 3 abstentions. The nay votes were those of the United States and Israel only. It is the United States that has isolated itself from the world family of nations with its policy toward Cuba.
The blockade has inflicted billions of dollars on the Cuban economy and denied Cubans access to medical and technical supplies. It has also cost workers and farmers in the United States thousands of lost jobs as opportunities for the export of agricultural and manufactured goods have been denied.
In spite of this, the socialist government in Cuba has made enormous progress in meeting the needs of all of its people. Cuba has the highest standards in Latin America and the Caribbean in educational achievement, health care and infant and child welfare. It has more doctors proportional to its population than does the United States, and Cuba's infant mortality rate is lower than that of the United States (4 infant deaths per 1000 live births per year as opposed to 6 in the United States).
Cuba is a founding member of the nine-nation Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). Within that organization, Cuba works to create models of trade and development that will allow the poorest countries of the hemisphere to serve the needs of their peoples without having to bow down to the richer countries or to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Cuban military aid missions helped to end the apartheid system in South Africa. Today, Cuban non-military aid is providing vital help to poor countries all over the world in the fields of education, health care and science. To the poorest countries, this aid is provided free of charge.
Under President Raul Castro, socialist Cuba continues on its revolutionary course.
We in the United States have a responsibility to do more than just praise and admire the Cuban Revolution. We have a responsibility to change our own country's policies toward Cuba, and we can make that change it if we enlist the support of the American people. Let us resolve that in the year 2014, we join with our coworkers, neighbors, friends and relatives to pressure the U.S. government to:
*Talk to the Cuban government about freeing the four remaining members of the Cuban 5 group, who were given draconian prison sentences for their work against terrorist groups in the U.S. These groups have caused death and destruction in Cuba. The door is wide open for this: The Cuban government has stated that it is always ready to talk, and imprisoned U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross and his family are also demanding the U.S. negotiate with Cuba.
*End the restrictions on the right of U.S. citizens to visit Cuba. These restrictions are a violation of our own rights.
*End the blockade of Cuba, a sovereign country that has never done anything to harm the people of the U.S.A., and restore normal diplomatic and trade relations between our two countries.
To accomplish this will entail visiting members of Congress, contacting the White House and the State Department, circulating petitions, passing resolutions in labor unions, faith based organizations and other groups, writing letters to the editor and op eds in the press, organizing and participating in demonstrations and other events and taking advantage of every opportunity and using every available platform to patiently explain the real issues to our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. All is worthwhile if it is done with perseverance and is addressed to the whole of the U.S. people.
We can do it! Let's get this done this year!
¡Viva la Revolución Cubana! ¡Viva Cuba Socialista!
Photo: Prensa Latina