Our meetings are open to all
3rd Wednesday of each month
Note: Usually we meet in Brunswick, but ocassionally at other locations around the state, so contact us just to be sure.
(207) 743-2183 (207) 273-3247 (207) 443-2899
mail (at) letcubalive.org
Let Cuba Live
U.S. blockade against Cuba:
By Tom Whitney, July 3, 2010
Through manipulation of human suffering via economic blockade, the U.S. government aims to finish off the Cuban Revolution. According to Deputy Under-Secretary of State Lester D. Mallory in 1960, “The majority of Cubans support Castro…The only foreseeable way to reduce his internal support is through disenchantment and dissatisfaction that would arise from economic malaise and material difficulties.” Mallory called for “a line of action that, if carried very cleverly and discretely, would achieve major progress in denying Cuba money and supplies [and] thereby cause hunger, desperation and the collapse of the government.”
No matter that the blockade is illegal. According to Canada’s Pugwash group eight years ago, this is “the only embargo in recent history that explicitly included food and medicine. In so doing U.S. policy is in direct violation of Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, Article 12 of the UN Charter on Human Rights, and various other international human rights accords.”
Under the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, the U.S. president annually signs on to one of two conditions used to justify an embargo, either military engagement or a “national emergency.” In September 2009, President Obama opted for the latter, thereby attesting to an emergency lasting 47 years. The U. S. embargo became a blockade through restrictions on Cuba’s international trade, financial dealings, and communications, also on travel to Cuba and people to people contact.
In 1991, collapse of the Soviet Bloc, Cuba’s main trading partner, led to loss of 85 percent of Cuba’s overseas trade, 34 percent of its GDP, and 90 percent of its oil imports. Sea-borne shipping, agricultural production, and transportation came to a near standstill. Fertilizers, animal feed, spare parts, and consumer goods all but disappeared.
That was the signal for Washington to intensify its blockade. Earlier easing of the embargo had allowed foreign affiliates of U.S. corporations to export goods to Cuba, including 75 percent of Cuba’s food and medical supply imports. In 1992 the Cuban Democracy Act barred from Cuba foreign goods containing over ten percent U.S. materials or produced via partial U.S. financing. Prohibitions were placed upon foreign banks using U.S. dollars to trade with Cuba. Ships were blocked from entry into U.S. ports up to six months after a stop in Cuba. These rules still apply.
Thus began Cuba’s “special period.” During the 1990’s, average caloric intake for adults dropped from 2500 calories daily to 1400, housing deteriorated, automobiles and tractors were idle, and lifesaving drugs and hospital supplies disappeared. Since then, Cuba has had to buy medical supplies through third parties at inflated prices. Economists estimate the U.S. blockade has cost Cuba $236 billion.
Government leaders explained the origins of the crisis, warned of continuing privations, and outlined remedial steps. The food rationing system came to include consumer goods. Milk was reserved for children. Unemployed people drew salaries and retained pensions. For transportation, Cubans resorted to trucks, makeshift buses, and bicycles. And they walked. Work animals replaced tractors. The government instituted joint ventures with foreign corporations and expanded its tourist industry.
But “no Cubans lived in the street, nor were schools or hospitals closed,” reported analyst Gracielia Guerrero Garay. (www.rebelion.org) Construction of new schools, highways, and clinics continued. Infant mortality fell and life expectancy improved.
Even today, pediatric hematologists cannot obtain a crucial children’s anti-leukemic drug manufactured by Merck Corporation. Pediatric cardiologists are deprived of catheters, coils, guides, and stents. The necessity to import educational supplies from Europe and Asia rather than from the United States adds five percent to educational costs because of long distance shipping. Widely used U. S. psycho-educational testing materials are unavailable to educators.
Examples of continuing shortages, frustrations, and grief attributable to the blockade are legion. The story of U.S. Treasury Department dealings with Dutch- based Phillips Corporation serves as an example of how institutionalized cruelty interferes with health care.
Philips paid a $128,750 fine in 2009 because its Brazilian subsidiary had supplied Cuban hospitals with X-ray, ultrasound, cardiac catheterization, and mammography equipment. Philips Corporation operates in 60 countries and last year took in $38 billion. U.S. investors contribute 20 percent of the multinational corporation’s operating capital.
Each year for eighteen years, the UN General Assembly has condemned the US blockade. Negative votes increased from 59 countries in 1992, to 179 in 2004, to 187 last year when only Israel and Palau joined the United States.
Cuban children - a privileged class
By Tom Whitney, July 3, 2010
While 218 million children of the world between 5 and 17 years of age are obliged to work - 74 million under age 14 - Cuban children enjoy free education and health care. Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights two years ago, Brazilian liberation theologist Frei Betto noted that Cuba guarantees three basic rights – food, health, and education.
José Juan Ortiz, the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) representative in Cuba, recently spoke of how Cuba puts children first. After each of the three devastating hurricanes of 2008, for example, children “were back in school the day after the storms had passed—whether classes were held in a home or a cafeteria. These children, even those temporarily housed in shelters, were back learning the next day…In the fantastic world of children, the tragedy loses some of its magnitude and it becomes almost a game once they recover their routine.” (www.medicc.org).
“I always say that applying the tenets of the Convention of the Rights of the Child isn’t a question of resources, but rather one of political will,” he suggested. “Cuba has demonstrated that a country doesn’t need to be rich to protect children’s rights. The Convention has been in place for 20 years and we’re still talking about hundreds of millions of children living in the street, not in school, or enslaved as laborers or sex workers, but not one of those children is Cuban and that’s due to the government’s political will to create a protective, rights-based environment.”
Education in Cuba
UNESCO’s “Education for All Global Monitoring Report” of 2005 gave Cuba high marks. Together with Canada, Finland and Korea, Cuba was singled out a “high-performance country and role model.” It was the only Latin American and relatively poor country to receive such recognition. Cuba spends 10 - 11 % of its GDP on education, tops in the world, with next highest Finland spending 6 percent. With 2% of the Latin America’s population, Cuba provides 11% of its scientists.
Education is mandatory in Cuba through the ninth grade, and is free of charge at all levels. There are now 45 Cuban universities, up from four in 1959. One of every 15 Cubans holds a university degree. There are 250,000 college and university students, taught by 25,000 professors. Presently, a system of television and computer assisted learning is available to students of all ages throughout the island.
In 1959, less than 0.5 percent of Cuban children graduated from high school. Urban illiteracy was 11.6 percent, rural illiteracy 41.7 percent. Joining the literacy campaign of 1961, 100,000 high school and college students taught reading and writing to illiterate people in rural and urban areas. Literacy rose to 97 percent within ten years and has recently remained at 98%.
Soon after 1959, 25,000 new schools were created, including schools for handicapped children. Now, of 9000 primary schools serving 823,000 students, 6,663 are in rural areas with 1500 of them attended by 5 or less students. Cuba’s pupil-to-teacher ratio is now 13.5 in primary school and 15 for all levels of education; 86.9% of students attend classes of less than 20.
According to UNESCO, Cuba "promotes the education of the whole individual (including physical, sports, and artistic development) while explicitly linking education with life, work and production."
Health Care for Children
The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) reported that in 2008 9.5 million children worldwide five years of age or younger died of “largely treatable and preventable causes.” By contrast, health outcome for Cuban children has steadily improved, as demonstrated by data over many years.
The infant mortality rate (IMR) represents the number of babies dying in their first year per 1000 births. Hovering at 60 or more during the 1950’s, Cuba’s IMR fell to 10.7 in 1991, 6.5 in 1999, 5.3 in 2007, and 4.8 in 2009. The overall U.S. IMR for 2008 was 6.3, although the IMR for African American was 13. Infant mortality worldwide was 52, that for Latin America, 26; West Africa, 108; Haiti, 84; and for industrialized nations generally, around five.
Life expectancy at birth in Cuba was 78.3 in 2007; in Canada, 80; USA, 78.2; China, 73; Haiti, 61, and in the world overall, 67.2. Maternal Mortality rates (number of women dying for every 100,000 births) for 2007 included Cuba’s at 21 along with rates for industrialized countries at 20, Latin America at 190, poor countries at 440, and all countries at 400.
Superior health care for Cuban children testifies to construction over decades of a health care system providing curative, preventative, and rehabilitative health care for all. From 3000 physicians practicing in Cuba in the early 1960’s, mostly in cities, their number had increased to 72,417 by 2007. The number of medical schools rose from one in 1961 to 23 at present. At 1/155, Cuba has more physicians per capita than any other nation. Comparable rates for Europe and the United States are 1/330 and1/417, respectively. Covering 99 percent of the population, almost 30,000 family doctor - nurse teams care for 500 – 1000 people in neighborhoods where the doctors live. While Cuba’s GDP dropped 35 percent between 1990 and 1998, the health care portion of the national budget rose from 7.4 percent to 13.1 percent.