About the CNC
Letter to Obama from the Committee of Families
of Victims of Barbados
Havana, Cuba, October 2010
Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The members of the Committee of Families of the Victims of the Cubana airliner blown-up off the coasts of Barbados, a commercial flight sabotaged in 1976 that exploded in-flight taking the lives of the 73 people on board, 57 of them Cuban, are appealing to you today because the mastermind of that crime, Luis Posada Carriles, is living in the United States where the legal authorities are reluctant to try him as the terrorist he is.
Meanwhile, Posada Carriles, the man who ordered the execution of such a horrendous violent crime, has made public statements to the media in your country where in complete disregard of life, of the US legal system and of an elementary sense of humanity he has boasted about that action, which set a precedent becoming the first terrorist action on civil aviation in the Western Hemisphere.
We had the opportunity to read your sincere and heartfelt message, of last September 11, to the American people where you said: “ we mourn today with the families of the dead. We grieve for husbands and wives, children and parents, friends and loved ones. We think of those nine years that have now passed, –of births and baptisms, weddings and graduations– where there was always an empty seat.”
That same day, at the monument built in the gardens of the Pentagon, you said referring to the victims of the terrorist actions: “ They were white and black and brown –men and women and some children made up of all races And they were snatched from us senselessly and much too soon ”
Mr. President, the seats of our loved ones in the transcendental moments of our lives, –“births and baptisms, weddings and graduations”– have been empty for more than 34 years. Our relatives were senselessly deprived of their lives; they had a future to build and dreams to pursue but their lives and their dreams were shattered.
Last July 7, Salvadoran citizen Francisco Antonio Chávez Abarca arrived in Cuba. This man, extradited to Cuba by the authorities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, was the self-confessed perpetrator of terrorist actions in our country consisting in the blasting of tourist facilities. He is also responsible for recruiting Central American terrorists whose mission it was to carry out terrorist actions in Cuba. Chávez Abarca has admitted that it was Posada Carriles, in connivance with the Cuban American National Foundation, who provided them with the means, the instruction and the funds to ensure the implementation of the criminal actions that took the life of an Italian citizen: Fabio Di Celmo.
On the other hand, Mr. President, while these self-confessed terrorists live with impunity in the United States, five Cuban youths, whose mission it was to prevent the perpetration of terrorist actions in Cuba –and in the United States—against civilian aircraft and other targets, have already served twelve years of unjust and cruel incarceration in American prison centers. The possibility to put an end to such an injustice and to pardon these men who have become a symbol of the fight on terrorism and of the loftiest values cherished by human beings is in your hands.
You have received the Nobel Peace Prize; may your actions bring peace to the souls of the noble families of Cubans whose loved ones were massacred.
We request from you that, on the basis of the proofs brought against terrorist Posada Carriles, the US authorities put on trial and condemn this murderer and that all the weight of the law is brought to bear on the true culprit of so many crimes against our people and other sister nations. If your government is not prepared to take Posada Carriles to court as a terrorist, please allow his extradition to Venezuela, a country that has every right to bring charges against him as a fugitive of that country’s legal system.
Mindful of Martin Luther King, Jr, a distinguished son of the American people, who in 1963 said “I have a dream”, we, the relatives of the victims of the Barbados Crime also have a dream: We dream of the day when justice is served and the authors of such an abominable terrorist action pay for their crimes. That day, the dreams of all humanity will be spared the nightmare of living in a world where terrorist actions go unpunished.
We demand justice!
Committee of Families of the Victims of the Cubana airliner blown-up off the coasts of Barbados
The Cuban Government Urges President Obama to Abide with his Commitment to Fight Terrorism
Speech Delivered by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and of Ministers at the Ceremony Commemorating the Victims of State Terrorism Day at the Revolutionary Armed Forces “Universal” Theater on October 6, 2010
Relatives of the victims of State Terrorism against Cuba,
As set out in the Council of State Decree-Law published today, beginning this year, October 6 will be commemorated as “Victims of State Terrorism Day.”
Exactly 34 years ago, 73 innocent people were assassinated: 11 Guyanese, 5 citizens of the Democratic Popular Republic of Korea and 57 Cubans. They were killed in midair when a bomb exploded aboard a Cubana de Aviación passenger plane that had just taken off from Barbados. Among them were 24 young Cubans from the national youth fencing team who had just swept all the gold medals at the Fourth Central-American and Caribbean Championships held in Venezuela.
For the Cuban people, who have been the target of state terrorism since the very triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the painful losses suffered that day were added to the numerous other victims for whom we are still seeking justice today.
The phenomenon dates back to 1959 when the newly-formed Revolution passed the first of a series of measures to benefit the people.
As early as March 1960, President Eisenhower approved a program of covert actions against Cuba that were declassified a few years ago. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) took over the lead role in planning, logistics, and the recruiting and training of mercenaries to carry out terrorist actions under the protection of the U.S. Government.
Fires, bombings and all sorts of acts of sabotage were carried out; airplanes and boats were hijacked; Cuban citizens were kidnapped; there were attacks against our embassies and assassinations of diplomats; dozens of our facilities were machine-gunned; multiple assassination attempts were carried out against the main leaders of the Revolution; and in particular, hundreds of assassination plans and attempts were carried out against the life of the Commander in Chief.
This year we are commemorating five decades since the brutal sabotage against the French steamship La Coubre in the port of Havana. The attack was planned to set off a double detonation of explosive charges that would greatly increase the number of victims. This crime caused the death of 101 people and left hundreds injured, including members of the French crew.
Every new aggression strengthened the Revolution across all sectors and levels. The consolidation of the revolutionary process forced the CIA terrorists and their bosses -who with their actions intended to provoke panic and demoralize the Cuban people- to draw up a plan to invade Cuba and create, in Florida, the largest intelligence center outside of their main headquarters in Langley.
The attack against Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) caused the death of 176 compatriots and left 50 others permanently disabled. The sacrifice of these citizens helped our impassioned combatants defeat the invasion in less than 72 hours, preventing the arrival of a puppet government that was being safeguarded by the CIA in a military base in Florida. After arriving in Cuba, their plan was to request the intervention of the United States with the complicity of the OAS.
The recently elected President Kennedy inherited the invasion plan from the previous government and approved its implementation. However, he refused to accept responsibility for its resounding failure and instead decided to carry out Operation Mongoose that consisted of 33 projects that included plans to assassinate leaders of the Revolution, terrorist actions against socioeconomic objectives, and the introduction of arms and agents to Cuba to be used in espionage and subversive activities.
From the approval of the Operation Mongoose until January 1963, some 5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba have been carried out: 716 of which were full-scale sabotages against industrial facilities.
In this context, US-based terrorist organizations that were financed and protected by the CIA were the precursors to the use of airplane hijackings and civilian aircraft for military actions against Cuba.
Such actions soon turned against them, leading to a world pandemic of airplane hijackings which encouraged international terrorists to employ these methods. The situation was only resolved once the Cuban government unilaterally decided to return the hijackers.
Following the assassination of Kennedy, the new US president, Lyndon Johnson, continued with terrorist plans against the island. Between 1959 and 1965, the CIA organized, financed and supplied, from US territory, an estimated 229 armed counter-revolutionary groups, and some 3,995 mercenaries. These terrorists killed 549 Cuban combatants, farmers and teachers working in the national literacy campaign; and left thousands wounded and hundreds permanently disabled.
Shortly after, terrorist actions against Cuban embassies, offices and diplomatic officials abroad increased drastically causing the deaths of several brave comrades and many material losses.
On September 11, 1980, the Cuban representative at the UN, Félix García Rodríguez, was murdered by Cuban-born terrorist Eduardo Arocena, a member of the terrorist group “Omega 7.”
On May 5 that year 570 children and 156 workers were trapped by a fire set by terrorists at the Le Van Tan daycare center. These peoples lives were saved thanks to the quick and heroic actions by specialized forces and the solidarity of the Cuban people.
At the same time, another form of State Terrorism employed against Cuba is biological warfare developed by successive U.S. administrations. These methods included introducing diseases into Cuba that significantly affected the health of the Cuban people. In 1981, agents under the service of the U.S. government disseminated the hemorragic dengue epidemic that killed 156 people, including 101 children.
Several plagues were also introduced into Cuban territory to destroy the agriculture and livestock sector, causing incalculable losses in food stocks destined for the population and significant losses of export commodities.
The U.S. intelligence services, particularly the CIA, were directly or indirectly involved in the majority of these actions, in large part under the umbrella of Cuban counterrevolutionary organizations. It would be impossible to mention the endless chain of terrorist plans, actions and attacks committed against our country in just one address.
However, the list of perpetrators is quite short, because they are always the same.
Today we are here to pay tribute to the 3,478 Cubans who have died and the 2,099 that have become permanently disabled due to terrorist acts carried out against our homeland during half a century that add up 5,577 victims. The Barbados martyrs are part of the long list of fallen comrades who we have not forgotten nor ever will forget.
Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, the authors of the Barbados crime and countless others against Cuba have lived and still live with impunity in Miami. Bosch, thanks to an executive pardon given by Bush Sr. the CIA director when Bosch´s agents committed sabotage against the Cuban plane; and Posada Carriles, thanks to the support of Bush Jr., walks freely while he awaits a trial for minor offences and not for the multiple charges of international terrorism that correspond to him.
Until very recently, these groups publicly proclaimed their crimes and cynically announced new acts of terror.
Had impunity not prevailed, 68 acts of terrorism against Cuba would have been prevented in the 1990s and we would not be regretting the death in Havana of Fabio di Celmo, a young Italian, who perished during the wave of terrorists attacks against tourism facilities in Havana in 1997.
The revealing declarations by self-confessed terrorist Chávez Abarca -broadcasted on Cuban television September 27 and 28– who was arrested by Venezuelan authorities as he planned to attack and undermine the stability of that brother country and other Latin American nations, confirm the existence of new methods of international terror and provide irrefutable proof about the guilt of Posada Carriles and his sponsors in the United States.
Despite all these crimes, Cuba has always been an example in the fight against terrorism and has ratified the condemnation of all such acts, in all its forms and manifestations.
Our country has signed all 13 existing international conventions on this issue and strictly abides by the commitments and obligations of the UN General Assembly resolutions and those of the Security Council. It does not possess nor intends to possess any type of weapons of mass destruction, and fully complies with its obligations under existing international instruments on nuclear, chemical , and biological weapons.
The Cuban territory has never been and never will be used to organize, finance or carry out terrorist acts against any other country, including the United States.
On several occasions the Cuban government has informed the U.S. Government about its willingness to exchange information regarding assassination plans and terrorist acts against objectives in both countries.
We have also provided ample information to the U.S. Government on terrorist acts against Cuba, particularly between 1997 and 1998 when we provided the FBI with abundant evidence on the bombings of several Cuban tourists resorts, and even gave them access to the perpetrators of these crimes, under arrest here, as well as to several witnesses.
In response, the FBI in Miami, closely linked to the Cuban-American extreme right that openly sponsors terrorism against Cuba, concentrated all of its efforts on chasing and prosecuting our fellow citizens Antonio, Fernando, Gerardo, Ramón, and Rene whom the US Government should have never arrested and imprisoned.
Today, thanks to international solidarity, the entire world knows about the unjust and inhumane treatment applied to the Five Cuban Heroes who fought in order to protect the Cuban people and even the American people from terrorism.
For how long will President Obama ignore international demands and allow injustice to prevail, something that is in his hands to eliminate? Until when will our Five Cuban Heroes remain in jail?
The current government of the United States of America, by their recent ratification of the arbitrary inclusion of our country in the State Department‘s annual list of “States Sponsors of Terrorism,” in addition to this infamous measure, has ignored once again the exemplary records of Cuba in this respect.
The United States of America also has disregarded the cooperation received from Cuba. In three occasions (November and December 2001, and March 2002) our representatives proposed to the U.S. authorities a draft project for bilateral cooperation to fight against terrorism, and in July 2009 reiterated their willingness to cooperate in this area without ever receiving a response.
The Cuban Government urges President Obama to abide with his commitment to fight terrorism and to act with determination and without double standards against those who from U.S. territory have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate terrorist acts against Cuba. This would be an honorable response to the open letter published today and sent by the Committee of Relatives of the Victims of the Cubana airplane that was blown up midair over the coast of Barbados.
Not for a moment can we forget that, as a result of State terrorism, the toll of dead and missing people we have suffered is higher than those who died during the attempt against the Twin Towers and the Oklahoma bombing combined.
I would like to conclude our tribute by recalling the unforgettable memorial service given to the victims of the Barbado`s crime on October 15, 1976, when we all swore to remember and condemn with unrelenting outrage the vile assassination.
Let us repeat Comrade Fidel`s statement on that occasion: When an energetic and forceful people cry, injustice trembles! We shall always remain loyal to those who have fallen in battle!
Glory to our heroes and martyrs!
Economic Changes and the Future of Socialism
Interview with Cuban Professor José Bell Lara, September 2010
Dr José Bell Lara, professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Havana (FLACSO-Cuba), interviewed by Johannes Wilm. Bell Lara has written essays such as "Globalisation and Cuban Revolution" (2002) and "Cuban socialism within Globalisation" (2007), and is part of the international advisory board of the journal Critical Sociology. This interview was conducted in Havana in September 2010.
* * *
Johannes Wilm: The Cuban government recently announced some changes. Among other things, it will be possible for more people to work independently. What is it that Cubans expect from these changes?
José Bell Lara: This is a time of deep economic crisis globally. And of course Cuba is affected by this crisis. For the Cuban economy it has, taken together with the the embargo by the United States, a strong impact. To maintain the socialist project it is necessary to achieve an efficient functioning of the economy. In this sense, we must extend factors that can increase productivity and better conditions of life.
For a long time we have had a paternalistic policy on the part of the Cuban state when it came to state employment. There is more personnel than is needed. Where it takes five people, we have eight. Those who can produce more, produce less... We have to find the optimal number of employees in the state sector, while simultaneously giving opportunities for the extra workforce to be employed meaningfully.
In Cuba no one will end up unemployed due to our social protection mechanisms. In any country in Europe or North America, the surplus workforce would simply be sent home with four to six weeks' of state aid. Here, together with seeking greater efficiency in the state sector, other possibilities are opened, such as working independently and through the cooperatisation of many activities.
In agriculture we are speaking both about cooperatives for the production of food crops that can be grown without much technical help, and others who produce more advanced crops and have the technological means to do so. More than 100,000 people are receiving a title of a piece of agricultural land.
Also in our towns there sometimes is difficulty with some services: general repairs, shoemaking, plumbing, personal services. Now there is an opportunity for people to develop that, both personally and as cooperatives. One can imagine cooperatives that build and repair houses or make construction materials or provide a service such as repairs or carpentry. In this area there is the prospect of growing the sector to solve both a social problem and also contribute to the efficiency of the country, resulting in a stronger economy.
It is necessary that the central state and, in my personal opinion also the public sector at a more local level through the popular councils, develops certain economic activities that benefit the community, thus contributing to the enrichment of the country.
The important thing is, the state has to have the most basic means of production, which are decisive in the economy. But many basic services are very difficult to manage centrally.
Johannes Wilm: In Nicaragua, cooperatives have been a fundamental part of the Sandinista program. Here in Cuba there are also cooperatives in sectors such as agriculture. But still not in other sectors, such as transport. Will we see them there as well?
Jose Bell Lara: There is a possibility. I cannot confirm that it necessarily will be that way, but we have a series of new mechanisms. For example, one could imagine that certain licences are handed out to cooperatives to operate in this sector, or that the state establishes a different kind of relationship with the drivers. There may be various forms within the transport sector. I think also with the production of crops, a series of foods can be meaningfully produced by cooperatives or individuals. For example, people can produce wine for themselves and their friends. Some might even produce enough to sell some.
Johannes Wilm: And the mini-company? Will that be a small business that will produce a product?
Jose Bell Lara: The idea is not new. For example, in the city of Havana there are currently 23 state-owned mini-companies. They are not part of the central state, but rather properties of the municipalities. And others are cooperatives. There is a cooperative producing yoghurt and another producing soy sauce, for example. These companies are not that big and they get results. They are not used to produce hundreds of millions of gallons of sauce. In general, Latin America's largest source of employment is not big business. Small and medium enterprises are those that produce more jobs. Why? Because those small companies that do not depend on very complicated technology generally create jobs with an investment of under US$50,000. Big companies have to get more US dollars than that to be able to hire someone.
Johannes Wilm: But if production is organised as a business, what is the difference between this and a capitalist system?
Jose Bell Lara: It is different in character. The basic means of production are state owned... such as the sugar, mining, biotechnology and electronics industries.
Johannes Wilm: How exactly does the pension system work here?
Jose Bell Lara: You deduct 5% of your salary for the social security system. Retirement starts at age 65, and is automatic. A worker submits an application for retirement, and 90 days later it is approved. There is one central retirement fund. And in the state budget there is an item devoted to social security spending. Whenever workers or companies fail to meet the expenditure, the state assumes the difference. In general there is a deficit of 200 million pesos. The state has to provide this amount.
Johannes Wilm: Are there plans to change this system?
Jose Bell Lara: No. The system is indispensable. Moreover, the experiences of Chile and the countries that privatised their pension systems were quite horrible. That will never happen in Cuba.
Johannes Wilm: So what are the major problems of the Cuban economy today? Other than the changes announced, are there programs to address them?
Jose Bell Lara: These changes are not isolated. One of the fundamental problems currently is food security. And the state confronts this in different ways. For example, developing biotechnology together with vaccines. What I call our scientific-productive health constellation. And the University of bio-informatics is doing everything possible to computerise Cuban society. Another strategy is the establishment of organic agriculture in cities. There is also a program of suburban agriculture around different cities.
It is not just a spontaneous thing, although parts of it that people have created [themselves]. There is state leadership to promote this type of culture and to promote organic and urban agriculture. There state addresses many things like that, because food security is part of the revolution.
Johannes Wilm: But is that really realistic? Will, for example, every bus driver have to be able to produce food they are going to consume?
Jose Bell Lara: No one here is forced to do anything. These are people who choose to participate. The countryside has great influence in the city. There are many people here with peasant backgrounds. They are taking up tilling the earth again. I personally could not do anything like that, I have a totally urban culture.
Land being handed over to individuals. And there are municipalities where demand for such land is already greater than the supply.
We have changed our conception of food production. Before, our concept was that of the "green revolution": big machines, chemicals, fertilisers, etc. Now we must also connect it with other objectives, such as the problem of climate change and the high cost of oil. So now we are trying to lessen the use of all those products.
Since the early 1990s there have been foreign capitalists operating in Cuba. In what sense is this different to the processes in Eastern Europe before 1990? There it also began like that. How do you prevent that these investments from leading to a capitalist lifestyle and dependence on foreign capital?
Capitalism is a relation of production that goes beyond the exact amount of foreign capital investment... A revolution, in order to compete and develop in a globalised world, has to understand the logic of capital and the ideology of the market. And foreign investment can provide some of that. Therefore it is a marriage of convenience. The foreign capitalist comes here to make money. We learn to work with the world of capital. To achieve a place in the market for some of our products and to prepare people to gain experience and work in the capitalist world.
Cuba in 1989 received a maximum of 200,000 tourists. Now we receive more than 1 million a year. That is the largest increase in the Caribbean. And so it is important to learn how to manage hotels. In the Caribbean, if you go to a hotel in any other country, the directors are all foreigners and represent gigantic companies.
We ensure first that the hotels continue to be Cuban property. And on the board of the hotels, there are Cubans. They are there to learn about the world of capital. And there are other hotels, like the Hotel Nacional, that are completely run by Cubans.
The second aspect is that the capitalists who comes to Cuba do not invest whereever they want to, but where the Cuban government needs investment. In addition, large investments are approved on a one-by-one basis. They are evaluated, and the impact is measured. It is a very rigorous process, but safer for the country.
Johannes Wilm: But those who work with these tourists, do they not want that lifestyle? They mainly see foreigners throwing around a lot of money, right?
Jose Bell Lara: No doubt it has a cost, in the form of ideological influence. It is true that people who are associated with sectors handling foreigners earn much more than the rest. An engineer earns less than a person working in a hotel. But because there is this phenomenon, we cannot deny the necessity of the revolution.
The US embargo is likely the biggest problem of the Cuban economy. But at the same time, if the United States was to end the blockade tomorrow, would that not create chaos for the Cuban economy as well? Could it mean the fall of the socialist planned economy?
I wonder why one would come to such a conclusion. First of all, the embargo is not going to end. And second, if it were to be lifted, it would make the Cuban economy improve.
Johannes Wilm: Yes, but a change so abrupt? If US President Barack Obama were to sign something tomorrow to end the embargo? What would happen if 500,000 US tourists were to arrive here next week! Would that not create any problems?
Jose Bell Lara: It may create some problems in terms of access to hotel rooms, but it will not end the revolution. When the pope was going to come, it was said "Here comes the pope and socialism will fall". The pope came, a million people went to see him, and the revolution continued. Of course, if the embargo was lifted, it would permit us to show exactly what we are capable of doing. For example, the internet: here if you need to download a document you have to wait 30-60 minutes. While in other countries the same download takes five minutes. In this sense, the end of the embargo would allow us to do a lot of things we need to do.
In any case, it is an illusion to think that today, tomorrow or any day in the future the embargo is going to be lifted. The US will not accept the revolution. It will always do everything possible to eliminate it.
Johannes Wilm: Outside of Cuba many people probably think that when Fidel Castro dies, 20 minutes later the US marines will land in the centre of Havana, capitalism will be installed within six months, and the whole country will be sold off to multinational companies within a year. Is this a realistic prognosis?
Jose Bell Lara: It is an illusion. If the US marines show up here, the US will see its second defeat here. The first one was in the Bay of Pigs. The Cuban people are not going to allow them to land, and we have an armed populace.
Furthermore it is not only Fidel. There is an entire party. There are generations of people who have the ideology of the revolution and will stand up to defend it. The revolution is just going to move forward. In fact, Fidel already is no longer leading. When Fidel got sick, the revolution continued without any problem. Nobody here began to mourn or anything like that. I think people outside Cuba will have to learn that there are thousands here who are capable of leading the revolution and take the positions of Fidel and Raul.
Johannes Wilm: For many years Cuba was very lonely. Now it has found new allies in the framework of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA). What does that mean for Cuba?
Jose Bell Lara: It means a lot for both Cuba and Latin America. For Latin America it means that we can begin to walk on our own. The political map of Latin America has changed, slightly interrupted by the military coup in Honduras, which showed us that the rulers of the world and the local oligarchy will not allow change. However, we have not gone back to what things were like before, because there is now a group of countries that is no longer ruled by the big stick of the US.
Johannes Wilm: And what does the ALBA mean for Cuba specifically?
Jose Bell Lara: The possibility of economic cooperation. There is the possibility of a different kind of trade. There is the possibility of a common currency, which at the moment is virtual, the sucre, which allows exchange without using the US dollar. All other treaties of commerce and integration projects serve the transnationals corporations and do not prioritise social development. ALBA means another type of integration. So it is obviously important for Cuba, for the countries that are part of ALBA and the whole of Latin America.
Johannes Wilm: Abroad it is often said that Cuba is a dictatorship. But in letters to the editor in the newspaper Granma, and in discussions with students, it seems that there is quite some room for criticism of the government and the revolutionary processes. Has it always been like this or is this something new?
Jose Bell Lara: To be honest, it wasn't always like this. But without criticism, there is no real revolutionary process. There is no discussion of reality, and it is in reality that problems are encountered. Understanding that is a big step. In Granma newspaper on Fridays and in Juventud Rebelde on a daily basis, you can see letters to the editor criticising. That is part of a healthy revolutionary society -- to see where there are problems.
Johannes Wilm: In Eastern Europe they believed that it could destroy socialism.
Jose Bell Lara: That's how we're different, because we believe it strengthens us. And life shows us that we're right.
Johannes Wilm: So you don't fear that one day it will lead to ...
Jose Bell Lara: No, I have no fear.
Johannes Wilm: I have not found students who would like to introduce the "savage capitalism" of the US. But some students tell me they would like to convert Cuba into a country like Denmark, which according to their point of view is not as capitalistic, due to its high level of social security. Do you think that capitalism could be introduced so that the standard of living in Cuba would be similar to that of Denmark?
Jose Bell Lara: I think that is an illusion, because we are an underdeveloped country. If capitalism gets here, it would be the capitalism of Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua or El Salvador. Objectively it is this way because capitalism is a global system in which peripheral countries are dominated by central ones. So they cannot just turn Cuba into Denmark, just because they would like it to be that way. If we are to reach the standard of living of Denmark, it will be under socialism.
Johannes Wilm: But they say "We have an educational level similar to that of the First World.
Jose Bell Lara: ... and a health care system.
Johannes Wilm: So they wonder: "Why shouldn't we be a First World country?"
Jose Bell Lara: Because we are constantly being attacked by the US. We are only 90 nautical miles from Miami. Denmark, Norway or Sweden are not in that situation.
Johannes Wilm: True, but wouldn't that end if Cuba changed to a capitalist system?
Jose Bell Lara: North American investors would come to take our wealth. They do not care about Cuba, but what they can earn. That is, simply, the real problem. There is a statement by Columbus: "I went to find gold." And that's what they would come here to look for.
Johannes Wilm: But the US knows that here there is no gold left!
Jose Bell Lara: Oh, there is! If they privatise the institute of bio-genetics, for example. That is worth a lot of money. We are underdeveloped because we had great wealth in gold and silver. That was shipped off to Europe. And now we're rich too, because we have human capital. And they want to take that.
Johannes Wilm: Cubans read a lot and are aware of what's happening in the world. For example, Cuba now plays a central role in the fight to prevent a nuclear war between the US and Iran. But given the US embargo, internet access is through a slow and expensive satellite. Most Cubans still do not have access to this medium. Is that going to change?
Jose Bell Lara: They're working on it and possibly by the middle of next year Venezuela will have a cable installed that will allow faster and wider access. Meanwhile we have to use a system of privileges. In colleges we have internet, for example, because it is prioritised. It is not our fault, but we must work with that.
Johannes Wilm: Critics say it is the Cuban government that wants to prevent ...
Jose Bell Lara: That is a mis-information. You can open any newspaper in Miami and it will tell you that. It does not affect us, but it can affect those who are intoxicated with North American propaganda.
Johannes Wilm: So when you finally get this internet cable to Cuba, and access is given to more people, through public computers or something like that, will that change Cuban society?
Jose Bell Lara: I cannot say how exactly, but it will be good. I am no prophet, but I think no matter what, it will be for the better, even though the US has people paid to try to dominate public opinion on the internet and restrict access to it. At least it will help me a lot to do my job!
Johannes Wilm: So it will not change the ideology of Cuban socialism?
Jose Bell Lara: On the contrary, I think it's going to strengthen us. People are going to have much more information about other countries and their problems. It will allow more development in social science.
Johannes Wilm: In the northern part of Latin America, there have been three leftist revolutions that survived at least a few years during the last century: Mexico 100 years ago, Cuba a little more than 50 years ago and Nicaragua about 30 years ago. In the case of Mexico, the revolution ended in a deadly mix of corruption and neoliberalism. Will the same happen in Cuba? Is it impossible to make such revolutions last for more than a certain number of years?
Jose Bell Lara: Well, the problem is in the nature of the revolution. What social forces made these revolutions? In the case of Mexico, the fundamental social force was largely rural. It was a revolution against the Porforio Diaz dictatorship. But the leadership of this revolution was in the hands of the middle classes. And their social project went no further than to install a capitalism without the evils of the Porforio Diaz regime. And although there was a lot of participation by poor people, during the first decade of the revolution, most revolutionary leaders who had support among them were killed by other middle-class revolutionaries. It happened to Zapata, who represented the south and its peasant population and the most radical revolutionary project. The same happened to Pancho Villa.
A new group assumed the leadership of the revolution and decided the direction of where the revolution was going: rebuilding a capitalism that was the Latin American equivalent of European welfare states. It reached its high point at the end of the 1930s, during the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas. During those years the oil was nationalised and there were a series of measures to increase living standards.
However, the restructuring of the ruling class in Mexico and the readjustment of Mexico to the worldwide capitalist system, always followed the general trend of the system. And the general trend of the system today is neoliberalism. Because there is no competition with the Socialist camp anymore, all the social gains in Europe and North America are being lost. And that is also the case in Mexico.
The case of Nicaragua was also a revolution of the middle classes. However, it was a revolution that was immediately attacked by US imperialist aggression, and the revolutionaries committed some mistakes. It was a revolution that attempted to find a third position, although there was a project of the poor masses, the "Sandinista" project. Nicaragua sought non-alignment, political pluralism and a mixed economy. That led to something like Venezuela's capitalism today.
The Nicaraguan capitalist class did not have the political power, but continued to control much of the economy. The revolution was unable to resist imperialism and it led to a counterrevolution. The country experienced aggression in the form of low-intensity war developed by the US administration of US President Ronald Reagan. There was economic crisis. And some mistakes were committed in the war against the US-backed contras, such as the imposition of obligatory military service. All that accumulated in the minds of the population. In the end the revolution was finally ended through elections, which were lost by the revolutionaries.
However, it was not the end, and 16 years later Daniel Ortega has regained power, although not with the same force as before.
In Cuba, the middle class had a very important role. However, it committed suicide as a class and identified with the interests of the rest of the Cuban people. It ditched its own ideology and took as its own the ideology of the poor. Che Guevara wrote an article about it, "War and peasant population", that explained how people like him, coming from the urban middle class, identified with the rural peasant population. This identification led the middle class to be more radical. Besides, the revolution against imperialist aggression has not receded.
Imperialism cannot tolerate a revolution that is popular, that is anti-imperialist. No wonder Cuba has been blockaded 50 years. In the last 50-60 years, all popular revolutions in Latin America have been destroyed, minus that of Cuba: Guatemala in 1944/54, Bolivia in 1952, Chile in 1971-73 and Nicaragua in 1979-90.
Cuba has been able survive, although the US has committed sabotage, organised contra-revolutionary groups, and continues to publicly dedicate a tens of millions of dollars every year to defeat the revolution.
Johannes Wilm: So it is impossible for neoliberalism to reach Cuba?
Jose Bell Lara: Objectively speaking, it is impossible. At what point should that happen? Today the system is in crisis and all Latin American governments have anti-neoliberal positions, although admittedly the economic practice of some countries is still the same. Neoliberalism did not come here in the 1990s when Cuba had a much bigger crisis either. So why now?
Johannes Wilm: Speaking of how revolutions were structured: in Mexico many different groups of revolutionaries were part of the revolutionary process. In Nicaragua there was a strategy of uniting almost all radical leftist forces, everything from Marxist-Leninists to anarchists, under the title "Sandinista". But here in Cuba it is the Communist Party that is in charge. Does that make it easier?
Jose Bell Lara: Well, in the end it makes it easier, of course, because all revolutionaries are under the same flag. But that does not mean that it was easy to reach this unity. Creating a unified party was an experience we have had before, with José Martí and the struggle for independence from Spain. Martí founded a political party to lead the struggle for independence. That was the first time in the world that a political party led a war for national liberation.
[To make the Cuban revolution] Fidel managed to gather groups together in the early years, like the July 26th Movement and the Popular Socialist Party, which previously had also been called the Communist Party of Cuba. The new party took the name Communist Party, but it was a project unique to the Cuban revolution.
Johannes Wilm: And the former communist party is part of this.
Jose Bell Lara: It was subordinated. Yes, exactly.
Johannes Wilm: And the ideology of the new Communist Party ...
Jose Bell Lara: ... is Marxism.
Johannes Wilm: But was there a difference between the Popular Socialist Party's ideology and the new party's?
Jose Bell Lara: It was different because it had a very important national component... Socialism in Cuba is a system highly adapted to the Cuban reality. It is not a copy of models that exist in other countries. And each socialism in Latin America will be different. In Venezuela it will be marked by the Bolivarian component, in Ecuador it will carry an important project of citizen rights, in Bolivia there is the Indigenous part. If it were any different, it would not be Latin American socialism. Copies of Cuba or Venezuela will not succeed because the realities are different.
Johannes Wilm: But everybody has always the option to learn, right?
Jose Bell Lara:... learn from mistakes?
Johannes Wilm: Yes, for instance in the case of Nicaragua, the Sandinistas, they had the option to learn from Mexico and Cuba. Of the things that worked well and the things that did not work so well. But do you think they took this opportunity?
Jose Bell Lara: I think partly yes and partly no. Making a revolution is not like going to a school, as if you are an architect and you do X years of college, learning how to build houses and then do exactly that later.
You have to learn how to make a revolution while doing it. And what you're creating, you have to defend. We are not speaking about a single person, but millions of people who are to make a revolution, all learning and participating at the same time.
In addition there are a lot of illiterate people. The average Cuban had only reached the third grade when the revolution triumphed. In the case of Nicaragua, the number of illiterate people was much higher. The illiterates now suddenly have to organise a revolution and manage factories. Often it is the former workers who are managing the factories. And they have to learn all these things. That makes the process much more complex.
Plus you have to learn how to manage a state: social aspects, the economy, welfare, and be always think about all possible future developments. Then there's aggression from outside, not just military aggression. It also includes ideological elements through the press, radio.