Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 11:06:47 -0500
Another milestone for Cuba. Interview with Danilo Sanchez, Cuban trade unionist on his recent visit to Ireland
An Phoblacht/Republican News, news and views of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican movement, 2 November 1995
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS the result of the latest United Nations General Assembly vote on Cuba will probably be known. The vote is being taken on Thursday, 3 November, and the result will be announced the next day. For Cuba it is another milestone on a very long road.
In 1992 Cuba was successful in winning the support of the General Assembly for its call on the United States to end its embargo on trade and commerce with its tiny neighbour. Every year since, the blockade has come up for review at the assembly. Last year the Dublin government representative abstained on the vote, in spite of the fact that the all-party Leinster House Committee on Foreign Affairs called for support for Cuba. In a Dail reply recently, Foreign Minister Dick Spring said he was "reviewing carefully" what position they would take this time, the all-party committee having reiterated its call for the end of the blockade.
Despite the 35-year long blockade, invasion, sabotage and CIA-organised terrorism, the US has failed to subject Cuba to the ignominies it has visited on other nations in the region.
According to Danilo Sanchez, a prominent Cuban trade unionist on a recent visit to Ireland, despite increasing international and domestic opposition, the US is unlikely to lift its 35 year blockade of his country voluntarily.
"The most important task for any leader in the US government is to oblige Cuban people to do what they want them to do... to determine Cuba's future. If they lift the blockade in a moment it is because they think they can dominate us, not because they want to respect our right to self-determination."
Hence, the recently approved measures strengthening the illegal blockade and the possibility of more such legislation being passed soon. Under one of the proposals currently being considered, the families of executives whose companies trade with Cuba would be barred from entering the US.
Either the US is losing patience with its own policy, or they believe Cuba to be on its last legs. The latter does not appear to be true.
"It is important to remember," says Sanchez, "that last year we stopped the fall of the economy. Last year, we had (economic) growth for the first time in four years. And in the first months of this year, we achieved 2% growth."
In part, that recovery has been spurred by growing levels of international investment, along with measures like the legalisation of foreign currency on the island. Some have criticised such moves, claiming that Cuba is in danger of creating a two-tier society.
Sanchez concedes that there are dangers inherent in such a policy, but points out that the decision to legalise foreign currency was merely a recognition of reality. That currency, he says, was in Cuba anyway - usually sent by exiles to families at home - and "it was necessary to find a way to collect it and put it at the disposal of the collective."
He also points out that because of the blockade and US domination of agencies like the World Bank, Cuba does not have access to international loans and credit, without which many supposedly healthy economies would collapse. Hence the decisi on to invite foreign investment.
Cuba, he insists, is not selling off its industry or agriculture to foreign multinationals. "In all our contracts, the factories are never sold, but always revert back to the state. Also it's not free to invest in Cuba... you must respect our laws and the laws are there to defend the national interest. It would not be permissible that after all the battles we have won, some families would be without protection."