Struggle and progress

Published : Jan 30, 2004 00:00 IST

President Fidel Castro delivering a speech at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana on January 3 as part of the 45th anniversary celebrations. - JOSE GOITIA/AP

President Fidel Castro delivering a speech at the Karl Marx Theatre in Havana on January 3 as part of the 45th anniversary celebrations. - JOSE GOITIA/AP

Taking a look at the achievements of Cuba on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the revolution.

IT was on January 1, 1959, that the Army led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara captured Havana and liberated Cuba by overthrowing Fulgencio Batista's dictatorial regime. The Cuban revolution, despite Washington's unremitting hostility, has made commendable progress in all fields in the past 45 years. Even when Cuba passed through its most difficult economic phase, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country managed to do better than its Latin American neighbours.

Osvaldo Martinez, the president of Cuba's Economic Affairs Commission, told the National Assembly that his country's socialist policies stood it in good stead during the critical period. He observed that in contrast the Latin American countries that adopted neo-liberal policies had suffered. "Between 1994 and 2003, the growth of the Cuban economy, even measured by the inexact gross domestic product, is greater by a four to one ratio than the average growth in Latin America," he said.

President Fidel Castro, while speaking to a group of Cuban schoolchildren in December, provided some interesting statistics. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is one of lowest in the world. He said that in the United States, whose government spent hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons of mass destruction, more children die in the first year of life than in Cuba. He pointed out that in no other country in Latin America there was free medical care for children without any discrimination. "In Cuba, the revolution has brought justice, equality and dignity for all citizens without exception," Castro told the schoolchildren. He told them that before the revolution hundreds of thousands of children in Cuba could not go to school.

During the course of his talk, Castro reminded his young audience about the ongoing machinations of the U.S. government to undermine the revolution. The school in which the President spoke is the one attended by Elian Gonzalez, the young boy who was held against his will in Floris of right-wing Cuban emigrants. Also studying in the same school is the daughter of one of the five Cubans incarcerated by U.S. authorities. The Cubans were given long prison terms on the pretext of indulging in espionage. What they were actually `guilty' of was warning the authorities about an impending terrorist attack against Cuba from U.S. shores.

Castro told the children about the activities of the terrorists ever since the triumph of the revolution. He said that terrorists were organised, directed and paid from the U.S. He reminded the students that it was the same terrorist groups that once blew up a Cuban passenger plane in mid-flight, killing the 73 people on board.

Cuba, he affirmed, would not be discouraged despite the "terrible injustice" it had been subjected to. "All this makes us suffer, but it does not discourage us, because we have spent the last 45 years fighting back with dignity, honour, courage and determination against the government of this superpower, which has only achieved one defeat after another in its actions against Cuba," said Castro. He said that in the most powerful country on earth, there are 40 million people who have no access to heathcare and education.

Castro scoffed at the Bush administration's accusations that Cuba was manufacturing biological weapons. Cuba, he said, was a country whose research institutes were devoted exclusively to do medical research. Cuba, he reminded his audience, was a country that reported the lowest incidence of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). He said it was a country that sought medical solutions for the prevention or cure of malignant tumours.

Castro emphasised that the revolution was not dependent on the longevity of a single individual. Cuban's history has shown that its people could not be cowed down by any power, howsoever superior. Cuba had played a key role in the de-colonisation process in Africa, Castro said. Castro's remarks were evidently a response to some prominent neoconservatives in the Bush administration talking about the possibility of a regime change in Cuba, once he was no longer on the scene.

Cuba today has a great number of doctors working in the most inhospitable places in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Cuba provides healthcare services for three quarters of the population of impoverished Haiti. No Western country has bothered to do so. "Pay what they may, the United States and Europe together will never gather the hundreds of doctors that today look after the Haitian population," Castro said. He emphasised that there was no comparison to the Cuban revolution in the entire world. "It is rewarding to feel that we have been building a heaven for the poor. We can be happy for having saved our fellow countrymen, once and for all, from the torments of hell. We can be happy for having turned an utopia into a reality," said Castro.

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