Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And With That, Fidel Stepped Down

By: Pascual Serrano

2008-01-10 | 11:49:09 EST


After seventeen months since the Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down for health reasons, people in Spain are wondering what the situation in Cuba is now; few believe that normality and institutional order reign. This does not mean that what happened —or did not happen— on the island has been something accidental or surprising; rather, it is an example of the ignorance and disinformation that the international community suffers from concerning Cuba.


For decades we have been hearing about the imminent collapse of Cuban socialism, about a popular rising against its rulers and unbearable mass desperation. However, since his illness forced Fidel Castro to delegate his responsibilities as head of state, government officials have functioned normally, the parliament has met regularly, in October two rounds of local elections took place without incident and virtually without abstention, and on January 20 legislative elections will be held.


On the other hand, in nearby Belgium —with the corporate media and analysts commenting little— the country has been without a government for months, and continues to rely on an interim administration.


In Cuba, none of the prophetic forecasts of destabilization, boatpeople crises or demonstrations on the Malecón came to pass. The obsession of some people to present a country as one without institutions has been so demented that they have ended taking the issue of whether Fidel Castro is or is not the head of state to the Spanish Supreme Court. This an act of absurd and arrogant interference can only serve to awaken understandable indignation on the other side of the Atlantic.


Cuba has witnessed impeccable institutional government. Its president delegated his responsibilities for health reasons. He has reserved himself to playing the role of temporary adviser to the degree his illness allows him. He has been substituted by First Vice-president Raúl Castro, around whom are drawn the highest-ranking government officials. On January 20 there will be parliamentary elections, in which it is known that Fidel will be a candidate, which indicates that he is interested in maintaining a role in Cuban politics – as this could be no other way. Meanwhile, thousands of community and workplace meetings have been held across the island to discuss and debate peoples’ concrete problems; these generated almost two million proposals that will be addressed by those responsible. At the end of December, ten working commissions of the parliament analyzed and debated the main economic and budgetary issues facing the country. Critical topics such as the production and distribution of food, labor efficiency, productivity and discipline, and the energy situation were approached —without Fidel Castro’s presence— in another example of political normality.


While some continue with their Cuban destabilization fantasies, the country has been able to produce half of the oil that it consumes – its historical economic nightmare. Its commercial relationship with the region is unprecedented: as demonstrated though its involvement in PetroCaribe, ALBA, international educational and healthcare missions, bilateral agreements with numerous countries, etc. In foreign policy, its annual claim against the blockade by the United States has reached the greatest support in the history of UN General Assembly votes.


Cuba has been the country most victimized by lies and deceit. They say that there is repression though no one has ever seen the police charging against demonstrators; many in the opposition live better than government ministers; it is alleged that Internet is forbidden, though it is used at no cost by free by students, teachers, doctors, journalists... While they accuse the country of being governed by a few communist dinosaurs, its senior diplomat is 44 years old; and while they say that there are no elections, people vote voluntarily, through a vote secret ballot and with a turnout of 96 percent.


Of course Cuba has many problems, uncertainties and needs for change. These relate principally to housing, transportation and the improvement of food production for the public. However, these are problems that have already been shown to be more easily solved though socialism than under capitalism. With housing, the solution is to build; while in Spain the market fails to solve this problem even though two million houses stand empty. Transportation is easier for Havana to solve; it can institute a good network of buses or trams, despite these having collapsed in market economies in cities such as Caracas or Mexico City. With food, the challenge is to begin to farm half of the country’s arable land that today lies fallow. It is true that there are also problems of inefficiency and graft, but in Cuba no one pockets millions of dollars by rezoning land, as is committed in Spain. No government minister spends 150,000 Euros on trips in private airplanes nor 183,000 on «protocol,» as did Eduardo Zaplana (as revealed by journalist Alfredo Grimaldos in his last book). To convince citizens to work efficiently in the socialist system is not easy. Under capitalism it is sufficient to confront people with starvation to motivate them to work. One of the challenges facing Cuba is to find incentive mechanisms that do not generate insulting and intolerable inequalities. That discussion has not been avoided; Raúl Castro approached it clearly in his speech this past July 26.


Those who are obsessed with overthrowing Cuban socialism and beginning the looting made a mistake over the decades by planning for Castro's absence, and they have made another mistake now since nature has distanced him from government affairs. There are so many the lies about Cuba that even the liars have begun to believe there own. The upshot is that they clearly understand nothing.


(Taken from Rebelión)

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