On January 1, 2024, it will be exactly 65 years since the Cuban rebels led by Fidel Castro achieved victory over the dictator Batista, supported by the United States. It was the beginning of 65 years of building a utopia, a new and better society, and as many years of resisting the continuous attempts to liquidate the revolution by the imperialist superpower of the North.
In an interview we once did with Roberto Fernandez Retamar, one of the great intellectuals of the Cuban revolution and then president of Casa de las Americas, he recounted how the victory over tyranny on January 1, 1959, thrilled the entire population and the unforgettable impression caused by the entry of Fidel and his fighters into Havana a week later. “We knew we were going to have many difficulties ahead of us. You didn’t have to be very shrewd to know that. But we also knew it was an extraordinary opportunity to change society and life.”
The young Revolution succeeded in keeping the United States out. The Bay of Pigs invasion, financed, organized, and directed by the U.S., led on April 19, 1961, to what Cubans proudly and rightly called “the first defeat of imperialism in Latin America.”
But in the meantime, a whole gear of measures was set in motion to drive the Cuban people through exhaustion, hunger, and scarcity in order to rebel against their revolutionary leaders. The April 1960 memorandum from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester Mallory is eloquent. Since it is clear that the majority of the population supports Castro and there is no internal opposition, “the only possible way to extract internal support is through disillusionment and disgust based on economic discontent and deprivation.”
This led to a financial, economic, and commercial blockade that has completely upended the Cuban economy to this day. In addition, former U.S. President Trump included Cuba on his arbitrary list of countries sponsoring terrorism, with the result that international financial transactions with Cuba are almost impossible.
Cuba, as a small country, an island of 11 million people, and poor, is fighting against the greatest superpower of all time, and that is not an easy fight. But despite these difficult circumstances, the resilience of the Cuban people ensures that through all these years and until today, the utopia of a better world is being built. To name just a few elements: the island has one of the best educational systems in Latin America, a free and accessible high quality health system, as well as a decent standard of living without overburdening the planet. The latter was recognized in 2006 by WWF and the Global Footprint Network. Today, Cuba has a climate plan called “Tarea Vida”, which can serve as a model for the world. The international solidarity of the Cuban revolution in the countries of the global south, as well as in Europe during the Covid pandemic and until today, is impressive.
Of course, mistakes were also made, and there were significant failures. Cubans themselves are the first to acknowledge this. Perhaps the Cuban leadership is the only one that ever officially designated a period of its policy as: ‘Process of rectification of errors and negative tendencies.’
In recent years, since the pandemic paralyzed international tourism to the island and triggered a global economic crisis carried mainly by the working classes around the world, the Cuban people face enormous problems in their daily lives. Food, medicine, fuel, decent housing, everything is under pressure. Especially young people try to emigrate, temporarily or permanently, in an attempt to build a better personal future for themselves.
However, throughout these 65 years, new generations of young people have committed themselves to continue working for utopia. Retamar declined a professorship at Columbia University in New York in 1959 at the age of 29 to do so. Today, there are many young people who do not leave but continue to work in often difficult conditions. Like the young scientists working at the CIM (Center for Molecular Immunology), where they developed the five Cuban vaccines against COVID-19.
Or like the young Randy, Deborah, and Danilo, all three 31 years old, who continue working each one in his field to overcome the difficulties and make Cuba a better place. They do it from the realization that there is still much to do and improve to achieve that the utopia, the bet of the Cuban revolution, becomes a reality. They bear witness to this in the moving documentary “Donde están los girasoles” by the young documentary filmmaker Sergio Eguino Viera and the information platform Resumen Latinoamericano, which thus becomes an emotional and at the same time motivating birthday present for the Cuban people.
The same imperialists who have been trying to destroy the Cuban dream for more than six decades today are murdering the Palestinian people with the help of their Zionist acolytes. Thank you, Cuba, for being, in this terrible world, an example of commitment and resilience. Thank you for continuing to work for a better world in spite of all these great problems in the daily life of every Cuban family. Thank you for showing the world that there is an alternative to the destruction of human beings and the planet in the interests of ruthless capital.
Katrien Demuynck is a writer and coordinator of the Belgian chapter of the In Defense of Humanity – REDH
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