OUR CARIBBEAN: Cuba changes directions
THE THIRD Caribbean Community-Cuba Ministerial Meeting that got underway yesterday in Havana is taking place in a significantly changing Cuban environment to that in 1972 when four CARICOM countries played a most vital role to help bring the then Fidel Castro-led revolutionary government out of the diplomatic cold. It was a display of courageous defiance of the United States of America.
That was 38 years ago when Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago chose to break Washington’s crude isolationist policy against that small Caribbean nation with their unprecedented joint estalishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Fidel legendary Castro, and the administration he led for some half a century before serious illness compelled him to hand over leadership to younger brother Raoul Castro four years ago, has never failed to show his deep appreciation for that diplomatic initiative by the quartet of CARICOM states.
CARICOM ministers participating in the Havana meeting are expected to learn first-hand why Cuba – the only country to suffer from the longest and most punitive embargo enforced by the United States – is now in the process of implementing serious adjustments to its economic model from total state control, based on socialist transformation, to embrace a widening experiment in private sector operations.
The announcement earlier in the week by President Raoul Castro that half a million state workers are to be facilitated in new employment, mostly in a gradually expanding private sector – including tourism and construction industries – had followed a controversial interview by elder brother Fidel with an American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The Atlantic magazine.
Castro lost no time in telling the media at the launch of his latest book, that he was “misinterpreted on the economy” by Goldberg when he reported him as saying that “the economic model no longer works for us.” Castro, however, refrained from any criticisms of Goldberg, remarking that he would “await with interest” the journalist’s promised “extensive article” to be published in The Atlantic.
Those in the United States Congress and mainstream media, known for their propensity to ridicule Cuba’s economic model and governance system, can be expected to join in political jeerings. They would, of course, have no interest in considering, for instance, that after 50 years of admirable struggles to survive the onslaughts of successive administrations in Washington, with its suffocating blockade as a core feature, Cuba does not have to apologise for tough, pragmatic decisions on adjustments to its economic model.; not in this closing first decade of the 21st Century as we witness America’s own humiliation with the collapse of its traditionally flaunted economic model of capitalism – a development that was to spawn the still prevailing global economic crisis affecting us all today.
The adjustments are linked to reassessments of policies and programmes. They are being made all the more necessary, said Cuba, by the global crisis that affects so many poor and developing nations.
Incidentally, as readers would know, none of these nations have had to contend with a 50-year long blockade by “Uncle Sam”, now distressfully revealing the painful weaknesses of its own economic model.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.