For half a decade, the Cuban revolution has confronted what is referred to as its "special period." This describes the severe economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of preferential trade with the Soviet Union, and exacerbated by the effects of the criminal economic and trade embargo organized by the U.S. government.
As the article appearing in this issue of the Militant reports, the first signs of economic recovery have begun to surface. While not out of the woods yet, the workers and farmers of Cuba are in a better position to address the host of challenges they face.
Contrast this with what working people in the rest of Latin America are coming up against.
In December, presiding at the so-called Summit of the Americas - which excluded representatives of the Cuban government - U.S. president Bill Clinton was giddy over the profits boom resulting from imperialist investment in Latin America. "These are remarkable, hopeful times," Clinton said, asserting that capitalist investments "are working wonders" in Latin America.
A week later, the peso was devalued and all hell broke loose in Mexico. The subsequent shock waves have devastated the lives of millions from the Rio Grande to Buenos Aires. The bourgeois regime in Mexico, egged on by Wall Street and Washington, has unleashed a draconian austerity program that has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of layoffs. Prices have soared, real wages are falling, and the banking system is shaky. Resistance in city and countryside has begun.
How far behind are Argentina and Brazil, where panicky investors have yanked capital out? Even in the most advanced capitalist powers , there are growing signs that workers and farmers will soon confront their own "special period" as fiascoes such as the Orange County collapse and the Barings bank failure point to the instability of the capitalist financial system.
Working people in Cuba are in a much better position to combat the world economic crisis than those of us living in Mexico, Argentina, the United States, or France. In Cuba, a workers and farmers government is in power. In the capitalist world, the administrations of the exploiters reign.
The first signs of economic recovery in Cuba result from the leadership role taken by Cuban workers in meeting this challenge. And despite shortages of everything from oil and soap to foreign exchange, hospitals, schools, and child-care centers are not being closed. Contrast this with the measures being proposed and implemented by the governments of Mexico or the United States, in order to satisfy the demands of wealthy bondholders.
The road taken by the workers and youth of Cuba - seizing power out of the hands of the exploiters and building socialism - is the example of how working people the world over can move forward in these tumultuous times.
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