Despite a brutal economic blockade which has lasted over 30 years and the loss of 70 percent of its trade when the socialist bloc in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union dissolved, the Cuban revolution continues to develop and remains strong.
In a speech marking the 42nd anniversary of the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes garrisons (July 26, 1953), Cuban President Fidel Castro said the economy was recovering from the initial shocks of the Soviet Union's collapse and that there is a "renewed revolutionary spirit" among the Cuban people.
Part of this new spirit is a rededication of the Cuban people to the revolution's ideals and a determination to forge ahead in the process of socialist construction. However, Cuba has had to take special measures to account for its lost trade and the increased hostility of the U.S. government to this island nation of 11 million people.
Cuba has legalized the possession of hard (U.S.) currency and exchange of such. It has also opened the country to tourism and developed close trading partnerships with the European Union, Mexico, Canada and many Latin American countries. Even some U.S. businesses, contravening U.S. law which bans trade with Cuba, have established business in Cuba.
"As true Marxist-Leninists we have to take this course of action, with all the courage and realism demanded by the circumstances," Castro explained. "However, this does not imply, as some people seem to think, a return to capitalism, and much less a crazy and unchecked rush in that direction."
Castro said the main challenges of the new period were "how to ensure that no child goes without milk, that the sick do not lack the medical care they need, that there are minimum levels of food, electricity, water, domestic fuel, transportation and many other products and services required by the population."
Castro continued, "It is a historically unprecedented feat that not one single school, hospital, senior citizens' home or children's daycare center has been closed. The infant mortality rate is now lower than at the beginning of the special period."
However, the Cuban president warned of more intense and dangerous struggles that lie ahead. The U.S. is now entering an electoral period in which the extreme right wing seeks to take control of all facets of government, according to Castro.
Part of what the right has in store for Cuba is revealed in the barbaric Helms-Burton bill which would further tighten the blockade by imposing stiff penalties on countries which do business with Cuba and non-U.S. companies that establish businesses in Cuba.
Yet, the Cuban people are determined to "fight for a hundred years more," if necessary, to defend socialism and the revolution. "The revolution will not renounce its principles," Castro told the cheering crowd. "And it will never be forced to its knees before the United States."
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