On air: Cuba : a “permanent struggle” ?

cubanaWe’re live from Havana with the BBC’s Michael Voss, and Ros is at the Cubana Bar in central London. See pics of Ros, the team and our guests here.

Cuban leader Raul Castro celebrated 50 years since the revolution by telling people that :

“The enemy will never cease to be aggressive, treacherous and dominant.It is time to reflect on the future, on the next 50 years when we shall continue to struggle incessantly.I’m not trying to scare anyone, this is the truth”

What is the legacy of the revolution ? Difficult to say, says our man in Havana ( apologies ), Michael Voss.:

“There is free education and health care but the state-controlled economy means wages for many Cubans are very low, on average about $20 to $25 a month. “

David Aaronovitch in The Times :

“There is free healthcare, but often no bandages or loo paper in hospitals, or the drugs prescribed at the clinic just cannot be found. “

So much of what defines Cuba to the wider world is it’s relationship with the U.S. : Some say Barack Obama could signal a shift in policy at very little cost. Here’s what Carlos Saladrigas, a 60 year old Cuban -American living in Miami, told the BBC :

“”You don’t have to be very smart to figure out that after 50 years of trying something that hasn’t worked, maybe it’s time to try something new.” 

So has “socialism” failed ? . As you’d expect, Raul Castro (Fidel is thought to be too unwell to appear in public) doesn’t think so… but this article describes Cuba as “the longest running failure in the New World”.

Then there are the contradictions- no apologies for quoting David Aaronovitch again,  from this excellent article

“the suppression of even a fairly mild opposition movement, and the entire absence of a free press or free expression in Cuba, 50 years on, creates an almost intolerable irony. The island is festooned with slogans and images of youthful rebellion and exhortations to support revolution, while anyone who seems at all rebellious is harassed into silence or jail by the exhorters themselves. “

And talking of freedom of speech, it’s not a great time to be a blogger on the island . 

We’ll discuss this here this evening- if you’re in London, feel free to join us – we might even buy you a New Year’s drink. Whenever we discuss Cuba, it gets pretty dramatic. We’ve had walkouts, people refusing to appear on the same programme as others who disagree with them, and a fair bit of attempted speech making. 

Talking of which, thanks to all of you for the Hamas questions and again, for being robust in your views but courteous in the way you put them across. rest assured, we’ll be coming back to this issue.



77 Responses to “On air: Cuba : a “permanent struggle” ?”

  1. January 2, 2009 at 12:37

    Two slightly disparate thoughts on Cuba:

    First, I wonder if the USA would have had a communist state on its doorstep if it hadn’t been quite so robust in its support of the Batista dictatorship. If America hadn’t propped up a despot would there have been such a perceived need for a revolution.

    Second, if Cuba wasn’t in the grips of the American embargo, might its form of communism have evolved in the same way Russia and China have changed?

  2. January 2, 2009 at 13:29

    The Cuban leaders can celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their “glorious” Revolution. Its aim was to spread prosperity and equality among all the Cubans. For prosperity, it is questionable. What is certain is that they have spread equal share in poverty and lack of basic freedoms like openly opposing the government’s policies.

    Cuba needs a new generation of leaders that looks to the future. When things like the internet and the mobile phone become a common commodity among the Cubans, then Cuba can be considered as an open society. Even possessing a computer ( costing US$700) in Cuba is still a dream as the average monthly wage is US£20. Which means a computer costs at least three years of hard labour.

    Cubans can’t be fed with slogans and glorifying a revolution that managed to topple a corrupt regime. The revolution has become corrupt itself as it has failed to deliver and to move with times. Equality shoudn’t be for the sake of equality but for prosperity and benefiting fully from one’s potentials.

  3. January 2, 2009 at 13:58

    Hi my Precious Mark Sandell… Ok, I come from Iraq, a country which had been ruled by an evil and brutal dictatorship for over 35 years old, and I am not a big fan at all of the US government and its policies, but also at the same time, to me, not everything opposing the US government should be right and good, it all depends… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  4. 4 David
    January 2, 2009 at 14:05

    Cuba has the audacity to tell the US and its sick supporting nations that it has the vision for the future of its nation and humanity in general. I wish Raul the success to this end. As for Fidel Castrol, his enormous contribution to world’s peace and understanding is unquestionable. If you question this, please give e a call day or night and I will be in a position to explain further.

  5. 5 Patti in Cape Coral
    January 2, 2009 at 14:45

    Some time ago a local paper printed an article about a woman’s visit to Cuba. She wrote that Cuba was beautiful and she did not see any of the often discussed poverty. She said everything was orderly, there was plenty of food, etc. She said she decided not to believe all the negative propaganda about Cuba. I have Cuban friends who have told me about months that they lived on nothing but peas, because there was nothing else available. Can a tourist be that naive about the world, to think that the tourist gets to see the misery of the average citizen? I thought that things might get better with Raul Castro, because I have heard that he wants to help agriculture production and change the wage system, but I have spoken to my Cuban friends who tell me that he is actually much worse than Fidel.

  6. 6 Nelson
    January 2, 2009 at 14:45

    I don’t think the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution is worth celebrating for the simple reason; what concrete benefit has it brought for the average Cuban? can the the average Cuban beat his chest with confidence and say his life has improved as a result of the revolution?

    Cuba was just an unfortunate pawn in the cold war. They had better wake to the harsh reality that they could have possibly have being better off without Fidel Castro’s bravado.

  7. January 2, 2009 at 14:49

    The only way to bring freedom to Cubans is to end the embargo and show Cubans the freedoms us Americans enjoy.

  8. 8 Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite
    January 2, 2009 at 14:52

    I must say I find a one-sided attitude to Cuba ambiguous. First, a small country like Cuba could not have been a nest of vice whatever its rule. But, as I see the comment above, the support of the Batista dictatorship may have strained it on one side, while the Soviet influence on the island only added up to its vulnerability. It is inevitable for a small country to take sides and material taking distant sides equals treason. Again, the statement “our purpose is not to buy friends or hire allies..” may be true but one may wonder how it applies to Cuba. It seems that both the USA and Cuba could have gained more by diplomacy: ideology may be disgusting (or ? pleasing) but tongues may lull. Oppotunities is the question. Thank you. Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite

  9. 9 Henry
    January 2, 2009 at 15:00

    I hope that Cuba’s struggle remains permanent so as to offer an alternative to the other struggle of capitalism which is presently in the throes of a spending spree in order to boost its economic fortunes that have been imperilled because of of institutional and individual greed.

    President elect Barak Obama has said that he is prepared to talk and listen. I hope that both leaders will positively examine their idealogies and implement the benefits which may accrue in an effort to ease regional and international political tensions.

    There is really no need for this David and Goliath situation to continue into the 21st century. If it does, there may be no winner.

  10. 10 Kevin
    January 2, 2009 at 15:22

    The only thing that Cubans can be proud of is that they ousted Batista, but they got Castro in return so they really didn’t gain much.

  11. January 2, 2009 at 15:35

    The truth is, it is not worth for the people of Cuba to celebrate the 50 years annivesary of Casto’s dictatorship. They live under a regime where there is shortage of almost everything, all properties in Cuba is owned 51% by Castro, so that they are under the domination in every way as slaves of Castro.
    The proof of the matter is quite simple in that many Cubans have tried to flee to the United States many have succeeded risking their lives crossing the seas and many have drowned in so doing.

  12. January 2, 2009 at 16:05

    50 years of cuban revolution must be a cause for celebration as they had the resilence to face any adversity in sticking to their socialist ideologies .added to this they for 50 years resisted american embargo under tough as nails fidel castro who best summed up american policies and gave a clarion call for developing and underdeveloped countries to come together to help one another for better living ‘its better to die on ones own knees rather than live on bended knees”..this clarion call was given in a tradeunion summit in havana in 2002and how prophetic it was with the collapse of economy which is rattling the worldover.
    cubas blemish is its humanrights violation and in future if they rectify it they can still keep their head high ..hope america under obama will rectify this cuban anamolies then only america can say that they are for liberalisation and democracy?

  13. January 2, 2009 at 16:30

    Hi WHYSers!

    I do believe there is something worth celebrating in the fifty years of the Cuban Revolution, especially in the realms of art, literature and film. The counter discourse presented through the narrative of the Revolution has produced a rich tapestry of voices speaking, in some way, to the question of super-powerdom (?) and its impact on our neighbours 145kms to the south. This leads me to question the virtues of of Capitalist Democracy, not so much because I don’t believe in them, but it certainly makes we wonder, especially in the convultions of the global financial crisis, whether small states like our really do benefit from pursuing, en masse, these ideas about statehood and international/ politics, etc.

  14. January 2, 2009 at 16:50

    By “permanent struggle”, one has to ask the question of whether the notion of small states like Cuba matter in the global economic system, where size seems to trump tailor-made versions of certain big ideas like Capitalism. It is not so much that Cuba is in a “permanent struggle”. Rather, those with the power to listen have purposefully deafened their ears to their cries. This is not to say that cracking down on ‘democratic freedoms’ is acceptable or, for that matter right. However, it does make you wonder about the virtues of ideas like ‘free trade’, etc., which are often percieved as threatening to (?) indigenous value systems, ideas and cultures, in this case the very concept of ‘Vive la Revolucion!’ How is it to be solved though? Perhaps a new approach in terms of listening to each other?…Just a thought.

  15. 15 David in Florida
    January 2, 2009 at 17:06

    The only thing Cubans have under Castro is a complete absence of basic freedoms.

  16. January 2, 2009 at 17:14

    I think the situation between Cuban and the USA in the last 50 years is a regal example of stuborness. Both of them want to prove the other they are “right”. Capitalism vs Comunism, pure competition (by the way, neither of them worked…)

  17. January 2, 2009 at 17:30

    Lift the embargo on Cuba and see where she goes. I think after 50 years she has proven that no matter what the US does to her she will be fine.

    If, like some, you put the hand of fate squarely on the shoulders of the Cuban government/dictatorship, you are wrong. The US has tried to subjugate Cuba and now is the time to let her evolve into the country that she wants to be – and that is applicable for all countries that are under the rule of the US through propped up governments and embargoes that simply don’t work other than to see the poorest of poor, die – or the governments that are overtly friendly to the US and get preferential treatment in arms and loans etc.

  18. January 2, 2009 at 17:54

    Who do we compare Cuba with?

    Mexico with two stolen elections and thousands of murders? Haiti where the elected President Aristide was sent packing by the US and people live in dire poverty? Colombia where hundreds of labor activists are murdered?

  19. 19 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 2, 2009 at 18:12

    If it weren’t for the malignant tradition of Cuban-Americans trying to keep alive the hate of 50 years ago, the American embargo on Cuba would have ended long ago.

    Non-Cuban Americans of my generation and younger (I was a child during the Cuban missile crisis) think the embargo and animosity is a fossilized hold-over of an earlier time.

    Equally, we think the Cuban ideology of “Revolution” is a relict of a bygone era.

    Let’s all get 21st Century here, n’est pas?

    Donnamarie in Switzerland

  20. 20 John Smith - Jamaica
    January 2, 2009 at 18:12

    “David Aaronovitch in The Times :

    “There is free healthcare, but often no bandages or loo paper in hospitals, or the drugs prescribed at the clinic just cannot be found. “”

    That is not as a result of the Cuban Government but is a consequence of the US embargo against the island. To get imports, Cuba has to find a party with no connections to teh United States of America. This often means importing from half way around the world, when they could easily trade with neighbours if given the opportunity.

    The US government claims it wants people to have freedom and yet threatens those who decide to trade with Cuba with sanctions. How can the US government claim to respect free choice, when it doesn’t freely give me the choice to trade with whomever I wish.

  21. 21 Phil
    January 2, 2009 at 18:17

    Happy Birthday Cuba!

    If Obama lifts the embargo, which I’m hopeful he will, can Cuba move forward into a mixed economy – and retain it’s Socialist advantages, (some replicated only in Europe)?

    Is the investment in oil exploration paying off? Can Cuba become self-sufficient in energy?

    How much does the tourist trade currently benefit the country’s economy? How much do you expect it to grow in the future?

    Best Wishes


  22. 22 John Smith - Jamaica
    January 2, 2009 at 18:17

    Here is irony.
    1. The US wants Cubans to be free, yet it suppresses the people of Puerto Rico who are not given the full rights of US citizens but are treated as third class workers. Fix your own ills before highlighting the ills of others.

    2. The US continues to trade with China. A country which had the Tienaman square crackdown, violent suppression of the Tibetians, constantly threatening the Taiwanese, and have mass eviction of it’s populace in order to fill the pockets of a few greedy bureaucrats.

  23. 23 Peter
    January 2, 2009 at 18:23

    For context, I’m a middle aged American white guy. I’m not certain that the ‘revolution’ can be totally proud of what it has accomplished in Cuba, since the economy is perenially moribund – but that is almost a direct consequence of the onerous and ridiculous United States’ Embargo.

    I think that what the revolution CAN most definitely be proud of is keeping Cuba free of the political and economic hegemony of the United States, after overthrowing Batiste, the ruthless and corrupt dictator that operated largely with the direct support of the United States and U.S. corporations.

    The United States has for far too long been an overtly imperialistic bully, seeking to exploit the resources and populations of lesser countries for its own gain.

  24. 24 John Smith - Jamaica
    January 2, 2009 at 18:27

    @rawpoliticsjamaicastyle.wordpress.com well said fellow countryman. Without the revolution, without the oppression from the outside world, Cuba would have been as significant as the Easter Islands in the grand scheme of US politics.

  25. 25 Barbara in Portland
    January 2, 2009 at 18:30

    I visited Cuba from the US 18 months ago, thinking I’d see a different way of life, governed by the ideals of equality and the state caring for individuals. I think many people who haven’t visited idealize the revolution, idealize Che, idealize socialism. But the proof is in the pudding, and what I found was that the majority of Cubans dream of escaping the island, and have to resort to the black market or meeting and dealing with tourists in order to make ends meet. Life is not ideal. — Yes they are doing some things right, health care, education, and relatively low crime. — It has been an interesting experiment, but now you have kids and adults who have grown up under the system, and they still know that they want more out of life, want freedom to make money, care for their families, and yes, wear Addidas and have cell phones. My heart goes out to the Cubans and I hope that their lives will change for the better upon the passing of Fidel.

  26. 26 michael gagne
    January 2, 2009 at 18:32

    Cuba under the Castros is a personality cult and it is hard to imagine this government continuing after they have passed on or lost their power with increasing age. I cant foresee a smooth transition to whatever follows their reign.

  27. 27 Judith - New York, USA
    January 2, 2009 at 18:36

    Are there any women in Cuba? We wouldn’t know it from your on-air guests–all male. Are women’s voices silenced in Cuba? What is women’s participation in public life? Do macho, patriarchal values still prevail?

  28. 28 Dr Andrew Duggan
    January 2, 2009 at 18:37

    Cuba’s greatest achievement, is to create a different narrative, a narrative that helps people see that there is hope in the fight against the social and economic effects of globalization. Many of these people are from those countries that have suffered the economic and political effects of a Western political, economic and social system.

    The US has the highest prison population in the World not Cuba, and what about the America’s human rights record. You talk about ‘democracy’ does this equate to what happen’s in the US or Russia?


  29. 29 Ibrahim in Baghdad
    January 2, 2009 at 18:39

    Presumably, there will be a democracy (by all means) in Cuba, I am curious to know how many political parties would emerge in Cuba?

  30. 30 Ville Kulmala
    January 2, 2009 at 18:41

    I’ve been in Cuba few times and studied the country’s history extensively.

    I believe revolution when it came was indeed relief for most of Cubans since they were seriously used by the US. They’ve seen the worst side of Capitalism as Cubans served American corporations and Americans in good and bad (including mafia).

    Nevertheless soon after the revolution it became a brake for development of the country of Cuba rather than improvement. Fidel is militarist and his individual political interests have ruled the Cuban foreign policies. This has served only as a negative motion towards the normal population as they struggle to live and survive in their everyday life without opportunities. Country has potential for so much more.

    Eventually it can be said that the people of Cuba are the biggest losers in Fidel’s dictatorship which is pity for wonderful Cubanese population. As long as Fidel’s legacy is in power, democracy will not prevail.

  31. 31 Peter
    January 2, 2009 at 18:46

    I can empathize and largely agree with Barbara’s comment, as awell as Michael’s – I am not idolizing a socialistic ideology for the sake of ideology, and also would hope that Raul does make substantive changes, such as greater political freedom, economic development, and so forth. By the same token, however, let us not lose sight of the fact that capitalism also has serious flaws – witness the overwhelming number of people in the United States that have NO health insurance, and the millions who live below the poverty line, and have no access to quality education.

  32. 32 tess
    January 2, 2009 at 18:47

    You asked if people in the US support the embargo against Cuba. Most people outside Florida do not even know there IS an embargo. When people outside Florida find out about it, most seem to oppose it.

  33. 33 Gideon, Breazeal
    January 2, 2009 at 18:48

    Hello WHYS,

    First of all, while Cuba is far from perfect, I think people should take a look at the other major Islands that have “democracy” in the region. Would people say that those in Haiti or the Dominican Republic are better off? For a Island that has so few resources I think they’re doing comparatively well.

    Secondly- I think China has proven that capitalism and democracy CAN be mutually exclusive. Nothing says that just because you have the power to shop, that your dictatorship will drop!

    Thank You,

  34. 34 Sudarsana
    January 2, 2009 at 18:51

    Some times smaller nations need different kind of democracy,

    A full emocracy like west or India would not work, take for example Singapore a controlled democracy.

    A country or people of that country depend on some bigger nations to get rid of their leaders will always suffer the consequences, like Iraq dissident leaders wanted USA to help them, so once USA helps they becomes slaves to US, they can not speak against US, similarly the people sitting in Miami wishes Fidel to fall or die or US to help them again become the slaves to the helping hand.

    If these people wish to bring change to Cuba, they should take the task into their hands, Learn from the India or South Africa, when they got and driven British from India or even later that led to Independence of many countries in Asia and Africa, how they fought for themselves they did take any help or assistance from any body.

    So my sincere advise to the people grumbling against their leaders in Cuba, to take matters to their hands and start a new revolution and see how many people would be behind these run away leaders, then if the people of Cuba support them then rest of the world will also support against Fidel, but not by saying human rights that this etc.,

  35. 35 chris campbell
    January 2, 2009 at 18:51

    I am Jamaican so you know thats not far from Cuba ,the people in need to fight for freedom thats the only waay they are going to get it ,A former leader in jamaica tired to the same kind of bull to this country and he had to leave his seat

  36. 36 olive
    January 2, 2009 at 18:55

    we were biking twice (4 and 5 weeks respectively) in Cuba through almost all cities and villages. We have seen with our own eyes how Cuban people struggle for life. On the other hand, we have seen that Fidel Castro provided Cuban people a good school and health system. Needless to say, we could drink tap water without any negative impacts afterward.

    Whilst Cuba may lack the political basis for real democracy, many Latin American countries lack the level of education and humanity for democracy.


  37. 37 Dr Andrew Duggan
    January 2, 2009 at 18:55

    Cuban’s live in these conditions because of the USA embargo, and not because of the failure of the Cuban Revolution.

  38. 38 Fred in Oakland
    January 2, 2009 at 18:59

    Cuba’s authoritarian government mixes many positive achievements with deplorable oppression of democratric freedoms. Both are true.The ridiculous embargo has forced the Cuban people to the edge of survival because capitalists don’t want any examples of alternatives to the imperial economics that are now ruining the planet. Israel has invaded, displaced, and oppressed millions of Palestinians for 6 decades, yet that nation is lauded as a bastion of “democracy” in the Middle East. The methodical corruption of U.S. elections and Wall Street catastrophes are never subjected to the same brutal scrutiny that tiny Cuba is.

  39. 39 Fred S.
    January 2, 2009 at 18:59

    The Cubans should be proud of their revolution and 50 years resisting the biggest terrorist state and bully the world has ever known. I congratulate them and their resolution in the face of all the adversity they have had to face.

    And for those that think that the capitalist ideal is so great, just take a look around at the world today, with millions starving and dieing of some very basic, curable diseases while our great capitalist democracies waste OUR money on useless wars.

  40. 40 Wayne
    January 2, 2009 at 19:20

    The loss of freedom for individuals is not worthy of celebration. Man needs to use his rational mind to survive and flourish, to make decisions in his life, so without the freedom to make those choices, socialism limits man’s life. Socialism is a small group of people deciding what values are important, and then forcing everyone to forward those values. It is immoral to force your values on others, no matter how well intended they may seem.

  41. 41 Rick
    January 2, 2009 at 19:23

    I am thinking about what we here in the USA and perhaps other western countries can learn from the Cuban Revolution (Cubans are the only people who can speak on their own self determination).

    We in the western “industrial democracies” can look to Cuba as a model in the regards to their admirable emphasis on meeting human needs, social needs, at the expense of some of the more superficial material needs. With the current meltdown in financial markets in the US and across the world, we see some of the consequences of a debt heavy consumer driven “bubble economy”. With thousands here in the US losing their homes or going into bankruptcy because they have no heath insurance we must look for alternative models toward a more just and sustainable economy. I think some of the programs in Cuba could provide that model.

    As to the Cuban leadership, as a working-class American I would like to see a model of socialism does not necessarily mean one party rule with one charismatic leader for life. Any country claiming to be building socialism, regardless of any blockade or siege, has the responsibility of modeling a radical form of democracy.

  42. 42 Christina Barber
    January 2, 2009 at 19:23

    Does anyone do any research into the beginnings of the revolution? Anyone remember that there were THREE groups trying to oust Batista at the same time???? Unfortunately, Fidel put an end to the Catholic actions (by murdering some of their youth leaders) and to a group in Sierra del Escambay.

    Fidel was often accused of his communist leanings right up to the revolution, most prominently by Huber Matos (one of Fidel’s commanders during the revolution) who was subsequently JAILED for being a dissident. It was the US negotiations that finally got him out.

    C’mon people– get a grip. This has nothing to do with the US embargo, but merely to do with a aging despot. Does anyone know where the money for Cuba’s people go? Only to Fidel’s bank in London– Havin– NOT to Cuba’s people. Do your research world!

    Get rid of the Castro regime and let Cuba get into the 21st century.

    And to Judith in NY, I agree. I was scheduled to be on the panel tonight but apparently an all male one was more convenient.

    Tsk tsk BBC. You missed the boat.

  43. January 2, 2009 at 19:25

    Hello to all, I was just (briefly) interviewed by the WHYS team a few minutes for this programme. The question put to me was: Are you celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution? My reply was no. The next question was: Why? My response was (and is) because I cannot celebrate a process that has stalled so badly, that has affected the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of thousands, that has contributed to the erosion of moral values we once held dear and that has enabled a politcal elite to get rich at the expense of the majority of the population.

    Many of the correspondents here fall within two categories: either you slagg the whole system off completely or you defend it wholeheartedly. The one similarity both groups have is that most of them have never lived in Cuba (and cylcing in Cuba with a return ticket in one’s pocket does not really count, does it?).

    The Cuban Revolution had the chance of a lifetime and it blew it. Some people blame the embargo, and I partially agree with that. 50%, give or take, can be blamed on a stupid blockade that has strengthened the governement it was supposed to weaken. But let’s not rush. The other 50% is the state’s responsibility. After a very well-timed and successful Literacy Campaign, after the nationalisation of most factories and companies, the government became a bureaucratic machine. Out went the beards and the long hairs and in came censorship and corruption. You cannot blame the embargo for this. Health and education, the two pillars that always get a mention when dscussing Cuba, should be analysed more closely. They are both good at the point of access, but very, very, very flawed at the point of delivery. Health is not just a matter of whether you pay for it or not, but also whether you can prevent illnesses and conditions through good nutrition. And before you bring up the US embargo, let me just remind you that the top political elite does not suffer from the maladies as the res of the population. So the blockade affects those in the bottom, not those in the top.

    Education should also be seen through the eye of the microscope. Whereas each new school should be rightly celebrated, it’s what happens afterwards when it opens that really matters. To this day the preferred method of teaching is Cuba remains rote learning, a scheme that is highly convenient for a state that is interested in only producing robots that will quote politcal slogan after politcal slogan without giving them too much thought. No wonder double-think and lying are so common in my island.

    Many correspondents compare Cuba to the rest of Latin America or Africa, of Asia; this is one of the left’s favourite pastimes. Would it make any difference if I say that the average Cuban person will not leave Cuba in his/her lifetime and therefore cares not one jot whether they are better off than people in Haiti or Swaziland? No, I don’t think that it would make any difference, but by the same token, I don’t think that you could tell a victim of domestic abuse that she’s better off than a woman beaten by her husband just because the former gets verbally abused. You catch my drift, I guess.

    Lastly, I would like to invite those of you who want to experience socialism first hand to go to Cuba, buy a one-way ticket, drop your passports at the airport, try to get a job and a house, and above all, DO NOT USE YOUR CREDIT CARD when the going gets tough. No Banco Financiero Internacional shenanigans, right? Minimum stay, five years. Maximum… your whole life, you’ll probably like it.


  44. 44 Roger
    January 2, 2009 at 19:44

    Observations on the ground so to speak. Last month in Cuba:-

    1. My Cuban girlfriend stopped sending her 15 year old son to school, since there was no food for breakfast, – and she knows he doesn’t pay attention when he’s hungry all day.

    2. Along with other Cubans, she is now allowed to stay in hotels. Raul said he was upset because Cubans staying in hotels, mostly at the invitation of foreigners – because they cannot possibly afford it otherwise – are stealing significant amounts of food. Like three full plates from the buffet, two of which go into plastic bags under the table. This loot is spirited out of the hotel to feed hungry family on the “outside.”

    3. Raul says the State is being robbed by these “thieves.” Silly sod; I’M paying for it, and handsomely too.

    4. One security guard at my hotel literally begged me to give him a pair of shoes. His son had none to go to school with. I have no problem believing him. I gave him my spare pair of shoes. And Cubans are very proud people. They’re not beggars.

    5. Castro has produced a nation of petty criminals. They have to be to survive.

  45. January 2, 2009 at 20:28

    @ John Smith – Jamaica,

    Thanks for your kind words!

    The truth is that it is precisely the politics of globalisation that the Cuban Revolution has been so effective in critiquing, notwithstanding its success, or the lack thereof, judged in purely economic terms. What this discussions does not also acknowledge is the how Globalisation, with the capital ‘G’, erodes the capacity of many small states, like Cuba and Jamaica, etc., to (properly) socialise their own people, having to rely on American Super Power dominance, as a result of the web of dependence occassioned by economics.

    Consequently, for those who would argue that the Cuban Revolution is unsuccessful, such a response is almost typical (?), if not expected, in part because the success or failure of Cuba runs counter to the ideology of white, American ethnocentricism often encoded in such positions.

    That is not to say that all Americans are white or that all white people wish to conquer the world. Rather, it is suggest that the politics of ‘super-powerdom’ (?) represented as ‘whiteness’, in this instance, sees little in the way of opposition occassioned by the coloured peoples of the ‘Developing World’ that merits real acknowledgement, if at all.

    The slew of artistic representations of that discourse as worthy of being critiqued makes the point all the more profound – (overtly) oppose US might and dominance and you will be stiffled into oblivion, whether through rockets/ an invasion, or through deliberate efforts to ignore and undermine your economy. Talk about a display of power!

  46. 46 jfkinstitute franann
    January 2, 2009 at 20:33

    the cuban masses are being supplied with commodities that is essential for human beings. they are not living in shanty houses, in slums, dont have polluted drinking water and the most important achievement of the revolution: there is free health care and education for everybody! these things are being denied for most of the people in third world countries (and even in some first and second) who are suffering under worst conditions their- mostly capitalist – countries left them. that cubans lack food and consumer goods is the fault of the US only. the united states always acted out of wounded pride towards cuba – a communist country in their influence of spheres. since cuba and the sowjet union during the cold war hurt the “honorful” principles of the monroe doctrine, the us were always determined to restore their honor. poor tiny cuba! and how succesfully it has always defended itself!

  47. January 2, 2009 at 21:03

    Cuba gave rapid and gracious refuge to Chileans after the bloody coup in 1973. Individuals who were on the lists of death squads found safety in Cuba. Quite a few have made this world a better place and restored democracy in their own country. This can be said for artists and revolutionaries from many other countries as well. Whatever imperfections in the Cuban system, those of us who had friends and relatives caught in the harsh politics of the 1970’s are grateful for every life saved, every song preserved.

  48. 48 David
    January 2, 2009 at 22:11

    What is democracy? Can some one define it for me? According to my democratic knowledge, there is nothing like democracy. If there were one, countries should not be starving other countries, killing people indiscriminately, embargoes and hate with passion of people who do not agree with you.

    Countries cry aloud “we are democratic county”. What a load of rubbish. This is just like a prostitute who tells people “I have never slept with a man before, and I am a vergin”.

  49. 49 joe
    January 2, 2009 at 22:39

    what’s the big deal? – even if i had all the answers , i would not expect that to be the answers for everyone – if we spent more time listening to each other , we might come up with something different – maybe not – i wish a happy new ears ( not a typo ) to all – bye – joe

  50. 50 Peter Vine
    January 2, 2009 at 23:27

    I took part in the Jan 1 celebration by the Cuban medical brigade in Trinidad/Tobago. They were so fun-loving, dancing, joking, nothing extravagant, such love for each other & for other peoples of the world. They must be doing something right.

  51. 51 Peter Vine in Trinidad/Tobago
    January 3, 2009 at 00:15

    Thanks for the thousands of university scholarships in Cuba for overseas students who would not otherwise have had a chance of a tertiary education, thanks to the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who served in Angola helping to defeat apartheid in South Africa, thanks to the Cuban people for taking in the children from Chernobyl, thanks for the medical care for thousands of persons in the Caribbean and elsewhere, thanks for showing how to manage natural disasters … oh my gosh how could you forget all the things the people of Cuba have done for the world?

  52. 52 Brian Larson
    January 3, 2009 at 01:22

    Cuba Libre! Yeah, right. Raul, muchacho, you forgot your citizens. Vato!
    Hey, Raul, how much does your family have stashed in Geneva? Is Fidel stil capable of puta? What cabrons!
    @Bob – The U.S. cut off Batista and assisted Castro.
    @Luz Ma you are exactly right and why I love to go to Mexico. The U.S. is a big doofus, almost can’t help itself.
    Capitalism vs Communism neither ideology works. As to a partial solution, bailout GM by sending its lousy new autos to replace Cuba’s fifty year old american made junkers.

  53. 53 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 01:36

    Happy Birthday Cuba and its citizens of the country! And to answer the question: There will be a ‘permanent struggle’ for many more years until policies are changed…


  54. 54 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 02:02

    There are some good things about Cuba:

    *Education and a very low rate of people who can not write and read? Compare to most countries in the World….

    *Health Care is available to the average folk in the Communist country?
    And, they are even exporting there doctors to other counties around the world; and also, inviting medical school students from improverished countries to study medicine in the country…..

    *And, they are very good about Cuba cigars….


  55. 55 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:10

    The problems are:
    1) Lack of civil rights
    2) Political prisoners
    3)Problems with the United States and its sanctions against the island…
    4)Lack of rights to speak in a free and open way without having
    the authorities arresting the person….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  56. 56 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:13

    @ Dr Andrew Duggan
    comments January 2, 2009 at 18:55

    Cuban’s live in these conditions because of the USA embargo:

    I agreed with the sentiment 100% and, I also would further that on the condition is: The embargo at one time was including the Europeans countries to a point!

    PS: Now, that the European Union in 2008; has lifted the Embargo/sanctions against Cuba, now, EU Countries are free to trade with Cuba….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  57. 57 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:22

    David Aaronovitch in The Times :

    “There is free healthcare, but often no bandages or loo paper in hospitals, or the drugs prescribed at the clinic just cannot be found. “

    That is a disgraced against the people; but, most people in Cuba are not able to afford to get any other medical care….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  58. 58 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:26

    @Sudarsana January 2, 2009 at 18:51

    [Some times smaller nations need different kind of democracy]

    You, have a somewhat valid point; but, in reality the average Cuban could be sent
    to prison for a long period of time for speaking against the government….Is that what kind of democracy [you or anyone] wants….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  59. 59 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:38

    @ John Smith – Jamaica January 2, 2009 at 18:17

    Here is irony.
    1. The US wants Cubans to be free, yet it suppresses the people of Puerto Rico who are not given the full rights of US citizens but are treated as third class workers. Fix your own ills before highlighting the ills of others.

    [That is very true and accurate; but, here in the United States; the political parties have a tendency to step into problems, when there are none….]

    ~Dennis Junior~

  60. 60 DENNIS
    January 3, 2009 at 05:47

    [We’ll discuss this here this evening- if you’re in London, feel free to join us – we might even buy you a New Year’s drink. Whenever we discuss Cuba, it gets pretty dramatic. We’ve had walkouts, people refusing to appear on the same programme as others who disagree with them, and a fair bit of attempted speech making. ]

    I am very glad that show went to air, specially since the problems in the Middle East….

    I wish I was in London…

    Nelson January 2, 2009 at 14:45

    I don’t think the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution is worth celebrating for the simple reason; what concrete benefit has it brought for the average Cuban?

    [I totally agreed with your comments; but, it is a celebration for most of the people; who will remember for it on many grounds!!!!

    ~Dennis Junior~

  61. 61 Luci Smith
    January 3, 2009 at 08:49

    I liked the man on the program who told Ross that the status of black people during the last 50 years had changed from slaves to equal participants in the society.

    I cannot feel sorry for all of the people who have been living in Miami, waiting for the day when they can go back to Cuba and reclaim their lost property.

    A friend of mine had a grandmother who sold all of her jewelry in order to get people out of Austria when the Nazis came into power. Other people buried theirs.

    America used Cuba like a toilet before the revolution. Major abuses and disrespect – all that money could buy. And now Michael Moore has also made the point that Cubans have better health care for poor people than in the U.S. I respect people who respect human life – that is – the people who are alive.

  62. 62 Luci Smith
    January 3, 2009 at 08:58

    In all of this discussion about Cuba, I canno help wondering if there is a slight amount of worry about the Rise of America Del Sur?

    What if the Spanish and Portugese speaking and South American and left-leaning governments were able to work together and pull themselves out of the situations they have been in since they were colonized? A new world order.

    And nobody mentioned that GUANTANAMO has been placed on Cuba by the U.S.

    Too much talk about the cafe in London and not enough headroom this time. Alas, Friday evening and the end of the week in London will never quite mesh with a Cuba which is suffering from the ravages of 3 hurricanes and Fidel’s illness.
    Try again!

  63. January 3, 2009 at 11:02

    Hey Ros good show.

    I thought it going to be a celebration of Marxist theory and practice and instead it was a fair analysis of what happens when Socialism gets worse than Fascism.

    Well done.

  64. 64 Roberto
    January 3, 2009 at 11:53

    RE “” What is the legacy of the revolution ? “”

    ——– Castro for whatever his flaws has brought equity to Cuba.

    Having an educated populace with good health care is significant, but for what purpose one might ask when opportunities are so limited?

    There is nothing keeping Cuba from trading with the rest of the non aligned US countries, so we can’t lay blame for lack of opportunity completely on the US embargo. The struggle between the ideologies has been unfortunate and needs to stop. Hopefully the soon to be greatly put upon Obama can provide a fresh beginning.

    One could pose the counter question to the US model, having the world #1 economy with the worlds greatest number of opportunities is significant, but for what purpose if not even average working couples with children can afford a modest lifestyle with decent health care and education?

    All I know is the Cubano and American peoples are natural allies and neighbors unnaturally estranged because of bitter political ideologies, revealing much about the faults of communism and capitalism models in ruling over people.

  65. 65 kpellyhezekiah
    January 3, 2009 at 13:43

    I’m ashamed that WHYS is talking about cuba’s independence when carnage is still going on in the Gaza strip. It is we, the journalists who are the only group left to protect democracy and this is what we have just done in ghana. they(the ruling NPP supporters) attacked us beating and injured some of us from various radio and television stations but we stucked to our guns and will not allow the government to steal the peoples mandate nor plunge the country into chaos in order to perpetuate their rule through a state of emergency by STICKING to the story of attempts by the NPP to falsify the results and appealing,talking directly to the people to be calm and strengthening the hands of the electoral commission and the judiciary and by prayers. The whole world press must return to Israel and keep on hammering the story to stop the carnage. Please, let’s leave cuba for now!!!!

  66. 66 kpellyhezekiah
    January 3, 2009 at 13:55

    to me one loss of life through political violence is one too much and what is happening in Gaza MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!! This is not the time to be apportioning blame like Bush is doing. Israel must be made to STOP the killings and the Palestanians must also be made to STOP firing their rockets into Israel and let nobody tell me that the world doesn’t have the power to make this happen even if the parties involved don’t want to. Why should we be allowing ourselves to be led astray by a few evil men. Remember each of us will give an account to our creator after we leave this earth.

  67. 67 kpellyhezekiah
    January 3, 2009 at 14:03

    what they are doing is to divert attention from themselves by throwing the Israelites case at us but from now on we won’t be fooled again. The recession is the path and we are right on it and chasing them. They shall be exposed for who they are. Evil men who have no conscience but will hide behind any and everything just for their greed for money which they imagine is the real power but they are completely wrong. Truth is the real power.

  68. 68 kpellyhezekiah
    January 3, 2009 at 14:16

    I am hereby humbly calling on the whole world(including BBC especially WHYS) to return to Israel and start shouting/calling out loudly for both parties to stop. Let us not relent until they do stop. Let us make all the noise we can calling on our leaders political, religious,social, economic,entertaintment etc to come out and make statements and take steps to stop this sad even. This was one of the tools we(journalists in Ghana) used. We didn’t grant them(our leaderships in all areas) sleep/rest. They became to embarrassed not to act and they moved in to call the government to order. People like Kofi Annan and the national chief Iman had no choice but to move and talk. Guys lets go after International moral society to act and not only talk.

  69. 69 Roger
    January 3, 2009 at 20:14


    Cubans can’t contribute to this forum because they are not allowed Internet access.

  70. 70 DENNIS
    January 4, 2009 at 03:03

    16 Luz Ma from Mexico January 2, 2009 at 17:14

    I think the situation between Cuban and the USA in the last 50 years is a regal example of stuborness

    [i think it is stubborness on the governments of both USA and Cuba (and) also, The exile community in Miami [and other cities in Florida]; that did not wanted the embargo lifted earlier…]

    ~Dennis Junior~

  71. 71 Colin Hooper
    January 4, 2009 at 09:31

    Study your history and you will discover, the one and only thing that made America the enemy of Cuba, was the fact that Cuba nationalised the American Companies that were operating out of Cuba. There are always improvements that can be made in any Governments, however the Cubans receive better Education, better Health services, and better opportunities to achieve higher Qualifications than their American neighbours.
    I read a letter from an United Nations Official during the aftermath of the terrible Pakistan Earthquakes, that stated. ” A Plane load of Doctors, Medical Staff, and Equipment from Cuba, received the biggest welcome, because it was the only Country that supplied assistance without strings attached. Colin. Brisbane.

  72. 72 Malcolm
    January 4, 2009 at 11:16

    Although it may be argued that Cuba is no model state, it may also be argued that the US has largely contributed to this in the form of an “illegal” embargo that has been voted against by practically every UN member state other than “you know who”, obviously if the US, defender of democracy, does not agree with a majority vote then it does not count.

    As for Fidel, well he may be no angel, but then angels do not often govern states. It is with a wry grin I read American moralism, are we to believe that all Americans live in Beverley Hills 90210? 20 million Americans lived below the poverty line, had they been Cubans then they would have had at least some free healthcare and the possibilit of a “higher” education.

    The Cuban revolution toppled an evil US backed regime and for that Fidel and co should be remembered. I hope Cuba does continue to evolve with the times as most Cubans I have met are thoroughly nice people who deserve a bit more than they have got. On the other hand I would hate to see Cuba turn into what it was before, or Puerto Rico- .

    Hasta la vittoria siempre para todas las gentes del mundo.

  73. 73 Roberto
    January 5, 2009 at 09:26

    RE “” US has largely contributed to this [Cuba not being a model state] in the form of an “illegal” embargo that has been voted against by practically every UN member state “”

    ———- The US is the 7th largest exporter of goods to Cuba according to wiki.

    Even if they were exporting zero goods to Cuba, clearly there are many more trading partners in the world other than the US, so it’s not like Cuba is really isolated other than that isolation that the US and Cuba demand of each other.

    If the economic model is tp provide well educated populace with good health care and nothing to do but pass worthless UN bureaucratic resolutions, well, gonna be a long time between meals. Is there anyone in the US blaming the Marxist dictatorship of Castro as contributing to current American economic woes and other sundry problem?

    Time for better critics and political leadership across the board. No shortage of educated well provided for populace at UN headquarters, in deed the world, but of what use are they other than production of a massive carbon footprint with very little to show but worthless resolution after resolution as they jockey for the rights to impose nonsensical bureacracies on the poor unwashed masses in the world?

  74. 74 Abigail in New York
    January 5, 2009 at 18:06

    Cuba Conversation Response:
    Basically, the key point that seemed left out of the recent BBC World Have Your Say discussion on the Cuban Revolution was to put the whole project in some context, both historically and in present-day global economic and political terms. When you look at Cuba next to other third world nations, their achievements and standards of living are extraordinary–literacy rates, infant mortality rates, nutrition and life expectancy levels, cultural and technological achievements. These are all fruits of the Revolution and essential rights that are denied most people around the world. In fact, many of these measures stand up impressively even when compared to the richest nations on the planet. It is not that the system is perfect, but the balances of its achievements and abuses is more positive than most nations. And for these gains to be achieved in the face of the US embargo, nearly universally regarded as brutally inhumane and ineffective, the picture is yet more remarkable.

    The simple point is that Cuba’s achievements are a model for many, many peoples around the world and, with full acknowledgment that there were grave mistakes made and that there is room for change, there is also much to be celebrated.

  75. 75 Ogola Benard
    January 5, 2009 at 19:59

    I love samba dance but what is scary about cuba is the drug business which never ends!

  76. January 7, 2009 at 01:53

    [Corrected text.]

    Didn’t see the show, but want to suggest two things to readers of the many comments.

    Been to Cuba a number of times and done a fair amount of study of their history and society. Also learned a long time ago, not to confuse personal anecdotes with larger social situations.

    1. I am impressed that many comments raised the larger humanitarian issues of on-going wars and poverty that oppress billions now and all of us in a future unprepared to prevent catastrophic climate change. So my first suggestion is that those who really want to understand Cuba or any country, keep in mind that one’s political values and perceptions color both what they see and how they respond. For example, if one believes that each child deserves an equal chance, why are so many millions suffering and dying in a world that is so “free” and “democratic” especially in the wealthy countries?

    2. A small example of how people form opinions or justify biased beliefs; One comment referred to how unfree the Cuban’s are because they “are not allowed to use the internet..” Blatently and verifiablly untrue. Did you know that the US embargo prevents Cuba not only from buying cheaper goods from the US or many other countries, thus raising prices and shipping costs on the goods they can get, but currently prohibits Cuba from access to the internet except through satellite connections. You may not know, but such connections are far more expensive and proved much less bandwidth than land or sea cables. This not only raises the cost to Cuba and Cubans, but limits how many people can be on line at one time. This will hopefully change with the planned undersea cable that Venezuela is providing.

    I could comment much more, but let me point out that under these restrictions and a priority of providing internet and computers to schools, medical and government facilities, some Cubans did have computers and internet for some years now. I can attest that that is anecdotally true!

    Oh, one last comment. The fact that Cuba buys an increasing amount of food from the US – for cash – isn’t proof that the embargo isn’t damaging, rather that slowly the humanitarian and commercial ills of the “blockade” are and should be challenged and defeated – for all our good.

  77. 77 ra
    December 21, 2009 at 23:30

    When will you,the freedom loving democrats[bush lovers or obama lovers] give up your colonies and denounce colonialism.Can’t you see your contradiction or will you persist in your hypocrisy.The fight to eradicate this efficient tool of genocide is far from over.Be conscious that the Caribbean,South America,Africa , Asia and the Pacific are not entirely free from this brutal and cannibalistic practice.World peace,justice and equality dictates that civilized countries remain within their borders unless asked otherwise by a truly democratic united nations.

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