The Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), held April 17-21, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s historic defeat of the US-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs and Fidel Castro’s proclamation of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution. When Fidel, 85, made a surprise appearance at the Congress closing session, many of the thousand delegates were overcome with emotion as aides helped him to his seat next to President Raul Castro.
Seven years after being launched by the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) has become an important voice on the global stage willing to stand up and denounce capitalism. ALBA has grown to include eight Latin American and Caribbean countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
In October, the Sydney branch of the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS) toured Dr Merita Armindo Monteiro, an East Timorese doctor trained for free in Cuba. Armindo Monterio is also an activist in the Timor Leste-Cuba Friendship Association. Since 2004, Cuba has undertaken a large-scale medical training program for East Timor and sent hundreds of Cuban medical personnel to work on the island. Cuban medical collaboration in the region has since been extended to Kiribati, Nauru, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands. Papua New Guinea may soon benefit from Cuba’s generosity as well.
Cuba is a world leader in ecologically sustainable practices. It is the only country to have begun the large-scale transition from conventional farming, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to a new agricultural paradigm known as low-input sustainable agriculture. Thriving urban organic farms feed and beautify Cuba’s cities, strengthen local communities and employ hundreds of thousands of people thanks to government support.
On October 7, Rene Gonzalez will be released from a United States prison in Florida after serving a 15 year sentence. Gonzalez is one of the Cuban Five — five Cuban men jailed in the US for infiltrating right-wing anti-Cuban terrorist groups to defend the security of the Cuban people. The US government is now trying to stop Gonzalez’s immediate return to his homeland after his release. In the most cynical and mean-spirited fashion, a US court is extending his punishment by making him spend three years on probation in Florida.
With some exceptions, the powerful international media has ignored a recent Cuban parliamentary bill that would deepen democracy on the island. The reason is obvious: the news is not convenient. The initiative is made within socialist institutions, not in terms of the “transition” that is highly anticipated and promoted by certain hegemonic interests in this world. The idea is to give the green light to an experiment in the new provinces of Mayabeque and Artemisa. If it bears fruit, it would be extended to the whole country through constitutional reform.
On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny females resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba's colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the United States' blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.
The sixth congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ended on April 19. Not by accident, the date chosen for the meeting coincided with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the victory of Playa Giron [Bay of Pigs — at which the Cuban people defeated a US-sponsored invasion in 1961].
The Venezuelan government has repeated its request to the United States government for the extradition of terrorist and ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles. Posada Carriles was found not guilty by a Texas court on April 8 of charges of violating US immigration law. Posada Carriles is wanted by Venezuela for his role in blowing up a Cuban plane in 1976. The plane’s 73 passengers, all civilians, were killed. Posada Carriles escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985. Venezuela’s foreign ministry issued the statement abridged below on April 8. * * *
Five revolutions in postwar Latin America have seen illiteracy as a neocolonial battleground. Salvador Allende’s Chile — birthplace of How to Read Donald Duck, an iconic attack on cultural imperialism — reduced illiteracy from 15.2% to 6.3% in under two years (1971-73), triple the rate of any regime before or since. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas slashed the Somoza dictatorship legacy of 50% illiteracy to just 13% before the end of its first full year in power (1980), catapulting women to cultural and political prominence in the process.