The pincers of Cuban foreign policy
The pincers of Cuban
Manuel Alberto Ramy
few days ago I was having dinner with a group of friends and suddenly the
conversation turned to politics. In the group were included two European guests
eager to know all about Cuba.
the aspects that called their attention was the issue of the Cuban government’s
foreign relations. They said they didn’t understand that in spite of the
mainstream media’s hard stance on Cuba, the country not only had relations with
practically the whole world, but that in Latin America it had been able to
neutralize political pressures by the Bush administration.
them made reference to the embarrassment felt by Condoleezza Rice in her recent
trip through several countries in the area, when she blamed Cuba for the
instability of the region and didn’t find a single echo. The other added that in
Paraguay, Rumsfeld did not find a positive response to the same rhetoric.
Several of those present gave their explanations, which in a nutshell were that
reality in Latin America has reached its limit and that neoliberalism has
created a crisis in most governments, institutions and in the proposals
contaminated with the past. Such was the discussion. Meanwhile, I kept silent
until they asked for my opinion. I had little difference with their opinions,
but much to add from another angle.
began stating that for many years the government in Havana had eliminated
ideology from its foreign policy and instead had begun a pincer movement in its
relations. One, with states and governments through agreements and cooperation,
as it is customary, and the other, also in plain view, based on solidarity
affecting citizens of the countries in question. Both levels of relations are
not contradictory, but harmonic and coherent.
first pincer – relations and agreements with states and governments – began
taking the road of assistance in fields such as education and health, an
assistance very much needed by most country-members of the United Nations.
explained that Cuba was able to do this because it has the human resources and
the political and social system that some may attack, but that allows it – makes
it possible. Thus, thousands of young people from different countries and
continents have studied in Cuba several professions. There are ministers and
heads of state that received their degrees in Cuba, and over 30,000 medical
doctors work in Third World countries through agreements of collaboration or
Recently, President Roberto Maduro of Honduras announced that he would cut in
half, down to 300, the number of Cuban doctors that have been giving assistance
to that country since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. That Central American nation has
some 6,000 doctors, but the majority of the population has no access to health
care, nor does it have the resources to pay for it. Cubans are found where the
neediest are – more than a million of them have received medical assistance from
Cubans and tens of thousands have been operated on.
pressure by communities and social organizations was so great that President
Maduro had to back down from his decision. If the reason for President Mauro’s
announcement for the partial withdrawal of the doctors was political – probably
surrendering to the Bush administration’s request – the people foiled the
maneuver. Citizens are votes and when civil society organizes them they vote
with more enthusiasm and greater knowledge. A son or relative saved from death
or from terrible pain is a more powerful reason than media campaigns. It’s a
fact, not empty rhetoric.
is only an example among many, but there are more. I said that the number of
medical students from countries of our hemisphere at ELAM (Latin American School
of Medicine) has increased by thousands, and Hondurans, for example, number 711;
assistance to those with eye diseases is reaching 100,000 patients a year. They
will come to Cuba, where they will be operated, and then returned to their
respective countries. Everything is absolutely free – from plane tickets to
complete medical treatment. Do you see the impact it’s having? I asked my
there is more. Cuba has relations of collaboration and solidarity with
municipalities of different countries, even if there is no collaboration at the
national level. In those countries the municipalities are the foundation of the
national state, the knot that organizes the primary communities. At that level
work has been done in the field of education in countries like Mexico and
Colombia, while preparations are being made in the case of Nicaragua, a country
where most municipalities are in the hands of the Sandinista opposition. In the
field of health, young Nicaraguans are already studying at ELAM.
about this, I argued: families whose children are in Cuba studying Medicine or
working for another degree, or who have been assisted by a Cuban doctor, or that
have learned to read and write with the Cuban method. The link between the
family, society’s basic cell, compounded by agreements with the municipality,
the mould of society’s political organizations, reverberates through the whole
fabric of society. Europe or the U.S. has not done this, for both tend to look
from above towards the small peaks of the rest of the countries; they are also
prone to establish relations in which human beings are lost. It is a cold policy
and people value the differences, much more so the millions that have been
mentioned that the commitment of the developed countries to donate 0.7 % of GNP
for the development of poor countries has only been met by three of the signers
of the agreement, while the powerful insist on protectionism, in projects of
asymmetrical integration, such as FTAA, and persist with IMF policies that
demand less money for social work – which means less social security, education
and health. Very often, assistance for projects never reaches them and is lost
in the web of national bureaucracies, promoting corruption – which, by the way,
is not the main cause of the area’s evils as the powerful claim, I told them.
Fortunately, several days before this conversation, I had spoken to several
members of the delegation of Bolivian mayors and aldermen visiting Cuba. There
were almost 100 members, 71 of them mayors, besides aldermen and social
activists. As a result of the visit, an agreement of cooperation was signed by
which young Bolivians will attend medical school in Cuba, and low income
citizens will receive free treatment in the island for eye diseases. There are
also projects in the field of education, culture, sports and health care for
children and senior citizens. And all is not planned for the distant future, but
goes immediately into effect.
may think, I told my two European friends, that “there is an intention,” as one
of them said, because next December Bolivia will hold an election, and a part of
the mayors and aldermen visiting Cuba are members of Evo Morales’ Movement
towards Socialism (MAS). Morales is running for president and has a chance of
winning. But, I told them, Cuba has given aid previously to governments that
have promoted resolutions against Havana, as in the case of Honduras, or has
kept hundreds of doctors in forgotten Haiti after the ousting of President
judge intentions is extremely delicate. It would be better to see that the
pincers of Cuba’s foreign policy benefits the least favored; afterwards, as a
logical consequence, solidarity has an impact that could be translated into
remembered what Adriana Gil, a young Bolivian alderperson from Santa Cruz de la
Sierra, said in answer to my question: “I believe that the (Cuban) model of
health and education is very good for Bolivia… and that doesn’t mean that we are
going to be Communists.” The problem in Bolivia is that “people should be able
to eat, get well, and be educated. Now, we can’t be boasting of a democracy in
which fundamental human rights are not fulfilled…” she concluded.
the people of the South, the critique that could be made to the Cuban political
system pales by comparison with the achievements that they have never had and
that are critical.
what about the alliance between Cuba and Venezuela? asked one of the friends. I
was expecting that, and I reminded them that last December both governments
signed a strategic agreement that includes the coordination of foreign policy,
so that the pincer grows in capacity and resources and should have a greater
weight in the future of our geopolitical area. From this alliance grew the
medical treatment of 6 million Latin Americans in 10 years, which already has
begun. Or the new ELAM that will be inaugurated in Venezuela, and the energy
policy that is being set for the benefit of governments and citizens, like the
recently created Petrocaribe Corporation. Low priced energy, with a guaranteed
initial financing, an investment fund for social projects. And this includes 14
countries that have a vote in the OAS, which has a total of 34 members.
it have repercussions? It already has. Pressures and campaigns have begun
because the joint Cuban-Venezuelan pincer, which means the alliance of economic
and human resources, undoubtedly reaches the roots, begins to benefit the
majority. It has the ingredients to change the correlation of force in Latin
great powers may buy governments, but others with their acts attract the people,
and if the result is in favor of the latter, we will see that the great powers
will abandon even the ritual of the electoral ballot.
Manuel Alberto Ramy is the Havana correspondent for Radio Progreso Alternativa
and the Spanish edition editor of Progreso Semanal/Weekly.