Nicaraguans rally to Cuba's aid


By Stephen Marks

MANAGUA — Nicaraguans have contributed more than 20 tons of powdered milk, food, medicines and school materials to Cuba in response to the "pound of milk for the children of Cuba" campaign.

One of the organisers of the campaign, Gadiel Arce, explained to Green Left why the Nicaraguan people have responded with such enthusiasm. Arce is president of the Cuba Solidarity Committee organised by the Sandinista Front (FSLN) in Managua's District Six.

Arce represented the National Directorate of the FSLN at the Continental Conference of Fighters for Peace held in Havana in April. This conference made public horrific data on the social situation in Latin America to representatives of 32 countries.

Arce told me that "196 million people, or 45% of the population of Latin America, live in poverty. Ninety-three million are destitute. Unemployment and under-employment are catastrophic and affect 46% of the population. Thirty million children live their short lives in the streets. Forty-eight per cent of the population are without water or any other type of service while cholera, tuberculosis, leprosy, AIDS and other diseases strike the poor without pity. The crime rate has increased 51% in recent years."

While these figures are terrible, those of Nicaragua are even worse. "We have a beautiful country of lakes and volcanoes, yet we are going beyond poverty to misery; 70% of Nicaragua's population of four million is unemployed, and 22,000 children live on the streets in Managua alone."

In contrast, Arce explained, "In Cuba despite the blockade there is not a single unemployed person and you don't see children begging in the streets. Cuba's indices of health and education are some of the highest in the world. This is a big reason why US imperialism is so obsessed with destroying the Cuban example and taking Cuba back to capitalism.

"For the US rulers, democracy means capitalism. For Latin America, the reality of capitalism is poverty. Cuba makes it clear that the economic system imposed by the US is the cause of the hunger and the misery of millions in the world and that this system is responsible for the worst crisis that Latin America has faced in its entire history."

Arce continued, "Cuba has always been 100% behind Nicaragua, and despite our own problems we are trying to echo that support. The 23 solidarity committees in Nicaragua represent all sectors; students, workers, campesinos, intellectuals, home makers, religious, business people.

"We are also demanding that the US stop violating all the principles of the United Nations. The US must suspend the blockade against Cuba and drop the threat of sanctions against third countries that trade with Cuba."

Commenting on Australia's contribution to the solidarity with Cuba campaign, Arce said, "It's of great interest to us to hear that Australian workers, farmers and students are also supporting the right of Cubans to live as they wish by sending $350,000 worth of donations. As Cubans stand up to the empire they are an example of dignity, development and social justice for all peoples, especially the poor."