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Let Cuba Live
Cuba Notes for December 2009
By Tom Whitney (most recent items first)
Imports down, trade relations reshuffled
La Jornada newspaper last week reported that Cuba has cut off some 50 European and Latin American companies providing the island with goods and services. They include the Canadian oil company Pebercan, which after 15 years now accounts for seven percent of Cuba's crude oil production. Cuba has frozen accounts worth millions of dollars of several dozen companies and delayed payments. Corruption is given as the reason for a "massive adjustment" of foreign providers. Penalties may be imposed. Official sources indicated, however, that funds could be released to companies willing to renew shipments. Cuban promises of payments through foreign sources of credit are intended as encouragement. Cuban foreign trade is down 36 percent this year, due mostly to reduced imports.
Military prepares against destabilization and attacks
The fifth "Exercise Bastion" since 1980 ended on November 29, Cuba's National Day of Defense. War games this year were remarkable for focus on economic and social chaos as a prelude to enemy attacks. Personnel took part from military command and control structures and the Interior Ministry. Response to presumed enemy subversion and destabilization efforts consumed two days. A third day was taken up by defending against hypothetical enemy air and naval attacks, reported La Jornada. Cubadebate took the occasion to survey U.S. Security analysts' views as to threats posed by Cuba. They include terrorism, cyber-terrorism, biological terrorism, and uncontrolled migration.
Cubadebate also highlighted the Martinez Amendment to the 2010 U.S. Defense Appropriations Bill. It requires the National Intelligence Director to report on Cuban agreements with Iran and North Korea, economic aid to Venezuela, drug trafficking, anti-U.S. spying, relations with Latin American governments, and cybernetic and biological warfare capabilities.
Children a privileged class
In televised comments on the 20th anniversary of the UN adoption of a Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF official José Juan Ortiz indicated that of nine million children dying each year from preventable causes, none are Cuban. Nor are Cuban children among 126 million children forced to work. Ortiz praised a political will implemented over decades by public health, education, and food industry officials, as well as the Federation of Cuban Women. Additional factors explaining Cuba's excellent child welfare statistics include breast feeding, early childhood education, and immunizations, according to Cubadebate. "Cuba, a country under blockade, invests its modest resources to save children," said Ortiz, while "the most powerful nations use $14 billion to save banks." Only the United States and Somalia have rejected the Convention, signed by 192 nations.
Retamar honors Marti
Heads of state, Pope John Paul II, and former President Fidel Castro had all spoke at the University of Havana's Great Hall, which seemed to add weight to the address there Nov. 10 delivered by poet Roberto Fernandez Retamar. Inaugurating the 7th International conference on Marti Studies, the writer and Casa de las Americas president praised Jose Marti's contribution to Latin American unity and his inspiration of a "second Cuban revolution," led by Fidel Castro in 1953. Although Marti studied imperialism long before Lenin authored his classic on the subject, Marti, "born poor and died struggling," was no Marxist, asserted Retamar. Yet Marxism shaped by Marti thought is essential, he suggested, for building socialism of the 21st century. Retamar's speech is accessible at laventana.casa.cult.cu.
People's debate on socialism under way
By last month, millions of Cubans were engaged in organized nationwide discussion on the future of Cuban socialism. President Raul Castro had set the process in motion last summer in preparation for the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, postponed this year until a future, as yet unassigned, date. Informal debate was ubiquitous. Most of the problems propelling discussion are economic, stemming from severe hurricane damage last year, the world economic crisis, high food costs, idle land, corruption and reduced exports. Observers cited by the report on directaction.org.au say opinion is building in support of initiatives introduced last year such as allowing for multiple jobs, removing caps on salaries and encouragement of private farming.
Undersea cable to widen Internet access
Rogelio Polanco, Cuba's ambassador in Venezuela, recently told reporters work will begin soon on a 400-mile fiber-optic cable connecting Venezuela and Cuba. With branches to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Central America, the cable will cost $70 million. Kaosenlared.org said Information Minister Raman Linares cautioned that because of high costs and social priorities, the cable, targeted for operation in 2011, will not at once remedy Cuba's problem of reduced internet access, though it is projected to expand Internet capabilities 3,000-fold.Until now, the U.S. blockade has dictated exclusive reliance upon slow satellite connections.As of Oct. 26, Cuban authorities had not heard from Florida TeleCuba Communications Co. on plans approved by Washington to lay a cable across the Florida Straits.