COLUMN-Cuban lessons for CARICOM
Last Saturday morning, four Cuban aeroplanes flew out of Havana and traversed the entire Caribbean, picking up some 12 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government and transporting them to Cuba for the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit, which was held yesterday, Monday, December 8.
The first point to make about this occurrence is that it demonstrates how serious the government and people of Cuba are about the CARICOM-Cuba Summit, and about the need for the people of the Caribbean to come together and build a regional economy and civilization.
But then again, Cuba has always been a country that has taken itself seriously! During the colonial era, the Cuban people rebelled against Spanish colonialism, and in 1868 commenced a war of national liberation against the Spanish Empire. The Cuban revolt was put down after ten years of fighting, but by 1895, José Marti was leading yet another Cuban liberation army into battle against the Spanish Empire. That is a measure of how seriously the Cubans have always taken themselves.
And when the United States (in cahoots with a traitorous Cuban oligarchy) imposed a neo-imperialist oppression on the Cuban nation, black patriots, led by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet, initiated an armed struggle in 1912 against the forces of oppression and white supremacy –– a struggle that was reignited in the 1950s by young militants like Fidel and Raul Castro, who established the revolutionary July 26 Movement, and led an armed campaign that culminated in a spectacular revolutionary victory on January 1, 1959. This too emphasizes just how serious a country Cuba is.
It is my hope that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the other CARICOM prime ministers who attended the summit in Havana will absorb some of the Cuban spirit during the few days they spend in that heroic Caribbean country.
I hope, for example, that they will take careful note of the Cubans’ tremendous interest in and respect for their history. All across Cuba there are statues of and memorials to the many great heroes of the Cuban nation: Felix Varela, José Maria Heredia, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Maximo Gomez, Antonio Maceo, Julio Antonio Mella, Camilo Cienfuegos, Juan Almeida, Celia Sanchez, Che Guevara –– and the list goes on and on.
Significantly, every single Cuban school possesses a bust or statue of Cuba’s national hero José Marti. Furthermore, a primary emphasis is placed on the teaching of history at all levels of the educational system, including a study of the ideas and work of Marti.
It is because of this knowledge of and respect for their history, for the struggles and sacrifices made, and for their many martyrs and heroes, that the Cuban people are able to conceive of themselves as a sovereign nation and the possessors of a unique culture and civilization.
A sovereign civilization is not an entity that is constantly looking outside –– to the white American or European foreign investor –– for its salvation. Rather, it looks within itself and seeks to develop itself by taking hold of and mobilizing its own resources, talents and skills and doing something constructive with them.
The only reason Cuba has been able to withstand the brutal 52-year-old United States economic blockade, as well as the tragic economic consequences brought on by the collapse of its main trading partner the Soviet Union, is because Cuba was, and is, a serious sovereign nation that seeks to do for self, rather than to supinely depend on so-called “foreign investors” for its salvation.
Compare the Cuban ethos of self-reliance and independence with the constant harping about “foreign investors” by the governments of our CARICOM nations. The political class of our CARICOM nations are totally fixated on the white American and European foreign investor, and pay only lip service to the notion of basing our countries’ development on the indigenous control and use of our own resources. Their constant cry is that their country is “open for business”, and that they have provided every possible incentive for the foreign investor.
The CARICOM-Cuba Summit would have examined many critical issues and concluded with a declaration speaking to improvement of air and sea linkages within the region; collaboration on facing natural disaster and climate change challenges; cooperation in tackling the Ebola, chikungunya and other health crises; collaboration on the utilization of the Caribbean Sea as a source of sustainable development; development of trade and economic linkages between Cuba and the CARICOM countries –– and the list goes on.
But none of these declarations will be worth the paper they are written on if the CARICOM political class does not seriously take to heart the notion that supposedly independent and sovereign nations must look within, believe in their own people, and do for self!
Hopefully, our CARICOM prime ministers will examine and be inspired by the tremendous indigenous developmental impulse evident in Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries; in Cuba’s development of its health services and medical expertise to unparalleled levels of excellence; in Cuba’s unwavering commitment to maintaining its provision of free education and health services to its people; in Cuba’s development of its indigenous arts and culture to the highest internationally recognized standards; in the sporting development that has permitted Cuba to win close to 200 medals at the Olympic Games –– and the list goes on and on.
The Cuban record proves that nothing is beyond our capacity as Caribbean people. We just have to know who we are as a people –– what our struggle has been, and what our destiny should and must be. It is only then that we will truly believe in ourselves; take ourselves seriously; and set out on a path of sovereign, self-reliant development.
(David Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)