BY VANNESSA HEARMAN
MELBOURNE "We need a new political and economic order", Aleida Guevara, Cuban paediatrician and eldest daughter of legendary Latin American revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara told 900 people who packed out Storey Hall on July 2 to hear her speak.
She explained that prior to the 1959 revolution, Cuba suffered poor rates of literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality. "The sad thing is, the situation I outlined in pre-revolutionary Cuba continues to this day in many parts of the world."
A veteran of Cuban internationalist missions providing health care to local communities in Africa and Latin America, she is only too well aware that extreme poverty and deprivation persist today in the rest of Latin America, as well as the rest of the underdeveloped capitalist world.
Guevara argued that the Cuban people's decision to challenge their country's status as a US neo-colony, while it had brought great social advances, had also had severe costs.
"The US wants us to pay for our decision to be free from enslavement, but this little country in the Caribbean has resolved never to be anyone's colony again", she said.
Guevara condemned the hypocrisy of the US invading Iraq on the pretext of searching for biological weapons. She recounted some of the US attacks against Cuba since the early 1960s which included the use of biological agents.
In 1961-62, for example, the CIA carried out Operation Mongoose which was designed to introduce an illness among sugar cane workers. "This little country had to develop rapidly in the field of science to withstand these attacks", Guevara said.
She explained that the CIA's introduction of swine fever into Cuba resulted in half a million pigs having to be slaughtered, affecting a major food source for the Cuban people. She said that haemorrhagic dengue and conjunctivitis were also introduced, which resulted in at least 100 people's deaths
She wondered why there was not more world outcry over continual US violations of Cuban air space for the purposes of covert crop spraying with unknown substances, as well as the transmission of illegal radio broadcasts.
She said that in the wake of its conquest of Iraq the US government believes it has absolute power to impose its will on Third World countries and that, as a result, Cuba is under greater threat than ever.
She said that while "a revolution made by ordinary men and women could not be a perfect revolution", Cuba's revolutionary people "must be given the chance to solve our problems internally, without US interference", referring to the US government's attempts to promote "regime change" in Cuba through funding of "dissidents".
Guevara argued that, with the widening gap between poor and rich nations, there was a greater need for unity and solidarity between poor countries to challenge the present unjust world order. She argued that the United Nations, though in need of reform, had to continue to exist and its charter be respected. These reforms included increasing the size of the Security Council and abolishing the veto power.
However, she stressed that no amount of reforms to the UN would eradicate the root causes of international inequality. "The unequal terms of trade and the reluctance of the rich countries to open up their markets to Third World products are the key to the impoverished state of the poor countries", she said.
Guevara argued that in order to achieve a new and socially just political and economic order, unity and solidarity among the oppressed peoples of the world were what was most needed.
[The next issue of Green Left Weekly will feature an interview with Aleida Guevera.]
From Green Left Weekly, July 9, 2003.
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