Ralph Nader: 'US should let Cubans breathe'

July 24, 2002


During a tour of Cuba, Ralph Nader, Green Party US presidential candidate in 2000, on July 9 stated that he was opposed his government's economic blockade of Cuba, which he said doesn't give Cubans "a chance to breathe".

During an almost two-hour lecture in the University of Havana's Aula Magna, attended by President Fidel Castro, Nader talked of the current relations between both countries. He urged the US government to give Cuba the chance to develop in its own way, without restrictions.

Nader began by talking about the "myths and realities" of the US. He explained that commercial values take precedence over the interests of the US people.

The US has the highest rate of child poverty among the Western democracies. Nader pointed out that nationally, 20% of children live in poverty. In Washington, DC, it stands at 30%. Six million US families are unable to afford their rent.

The former presidential candidate, who did not discount running again in 2004, also criticised the way in which his country's two political parties establish barriers to prevent other political groups participating in government debates. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, controlling elections, the government and the information media, he stated.

In the wake of September 11, his country is now spending more on security than on health care for its citizens. Civil rights have been weakened to the point that freedom could be lost without even amending the constitution, Nader warned.

This has been the US rulers' response every time they have felt threatened, no matter how distant that threat is, Nader noted. Imagine what would be the level of freedom in the US had it been subjected to the attacks, blockades and restrictions that Cuba has been subjected to for 40 years, Nader asked.

Nader said that the blockade has not managed to destabilise the Cuban government, but has strengthened it. He noted that the US authorities' treatment of Cuba is being increasingly questioned by US citizens, many of whom are calling for relations to be normalised.

He likewise believes that the US press should make more mention of Cuban society's achievements and positive aspects.

Nader was visiting the island at the invitation of the National Assembly of People's Power and was received by President Castro. He has also met with Rosa Elena Simeon, minister of science, technology and the environment, Alfredo Morales, minister of labour and social security, Felipe Perez Roque, minister of foreign affairs, and Osvaldo Martinez, president of the parliamentary economic commission.

The rector of the University of Havana presented Nader with a commemorative plaque celebrating the 270th anniversary of the founding of that centre of higher education.

[Abridged from Granma International. Visit <http://www.granma.cu>.]

From Green Left Weekly, July 24, 2002.
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