Cuba – A First Impression, 5th to 22nd November 2016

Fidel Castro is Dead.

Long Live the Revolution! Long Live Cuba!

I`ve just returned from the Republic of Cuba after a two week study tour with the Cuban Solidarity Campaign. Now home in Leicester, the death of Fidel Castro has been announced.

This is my first impression of socialist Cuba. The revolution started out from the spark of 15 surviving revolutionary socialists including Che` Guevara led by Fidel and supported by the Cuban people. The story of the Revolution is found in graphic form in Spanish and English at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana and in cities and towns across the country.

The 50 year old US blockade of the Republic of Cuba is largely still in place. Just a couple of weeks ago at the UN 191 countries voted against the US Blockade of Cuba. Not one country voted in support of the US Blockade. Even the US abstained over its own Blockade with just one other country, Israel, also abstaining.

My first day in Cuba and I was walking the streets feeling at home. I wrote down my first impressions. `It is hard to describe how free I feel with residents, workers, children and students relaxed and at ease. The last time I felt anywhere like this was at the Durham Gala`.

Cuba has one of the lowest suicide rates in the world. No one in homeless. Children are treated as precious, loved and nurtured which includes openly receiving of hugs from their teachers.

The health and social care system is tremendous. Disabled people receive the greatest support possible and the care system appears to work. Life expectancy for women is 85 years and for men it is 81 years. Doctors and Nurses are waiting to see their patients immediately. The Cubans I met stated that their system is not perfect. What contributes to holding back the care of the people is the USA`s Blockade that includes medical supplies and the finance to acquire them. And Cuba has made it`s own medical advances such as with treating ulcers from diabetes, but is held back by the USA, a capitalist neighbour that wants to steal its social capital for profit. USA private companies before the revolution `owned` up to 80 % of Cuban land and is demanding its `return`/compensation. The Cuban people have suffered from USA aggression and demand compensation that far outweighs that of the USA including the deaths of thousands of Cubans as a result of USA imperialism.

The Cuban education system. Cuba has produced one of the highest if not the highest literacy rates in the world. This achievement is from a situation where the USA and Mafia supported Baptista Government kept over a million people in destitution, prostitution and ignorance. Again, this liberating achievement has been gained despite the 50 year US blockade of the island including murderous attacks by the CIA and its Contra terrorists.

The pressure on Cuba’s infrastructure. The cost of the Blockade is tremendous and the cracks are plain to see in, for example, the fabric of housing and municipal buildings. However, regeneration and infrastructure developments appear to be everywhere such as with the Havana Airport. Many such works may be put temporarily on hold as Cuba’s resources are focused on supporting areas hit by hurricanes.

Cuba`s response? Cuba has more medics helping people in other countries across the world for free than the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Environmental projects are prominent such as bio parks and reforestation.

Sustainable practices such as in farming and recycling are common. For example, of what are now world famous vintage cars to be found on the streets in their thousands, serenaded by the sounds of live Cuban music and dance, old and new.

In every town are seen the images of national and internationalist revolutionary heroes, from Marti to Che`.

Cuba puts capitalist and `rich` Britain to shame with our illegal child poverty, homelessness and high functional illiteracy rates. Yet £300m to £400m can be found by the British Government to gift the Royal Family for its mostly vacant Buckingham Palace. And the UN should also be held to account with its inaction to break the illegal USA blockade.

Viva La Revolution! Down with the Blockade! Return Guantanamo Bay!

Mark Mizzen

Convener, Leicester International Workers Centre for Social & Economic Justice

Note: A report of the study tour of Cuba will be given to Leicester & District Trades Union Council for the 6th December 2016 meeting.

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