Saturday, 29 September 2012


Cuba has achieved
much in spite of US sanctions
BBC Latin America and Caribbean
Cuba has survived more than 40 years of US sanctions intended to topple the government of Fidel Castro. It also defied predictions that it would not survive the collapse of its one-time supporter, the Soviet Union.
Since the fall of the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 Cuba has been a one-party state led by Mr Castro and - since February 2008 - by his anointed successor, younger brother Raul.
Fidel exercised control over virtually all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy and the state security apparatus.
Exploiting the US-Soviet Cold War, Fidel Castro was for decades able to rely on strong Soviet backing, including annual subsidies worth $4-5 billion, and succeed in building reputable health and education systems. But, at least partly because of the US trade sanctions, he failed to diversify the economy.

Decades of punishing sanctions by the US has meant that Cuba is a living museum of ancient cars
The disappearance of Soviet aid following the collapse of the USSR forced the government to introduce tight rationing of energy, food and consumer goods. The economy soldiered on with the help of Canadian, European and Latin American investments, especially in tourism.
Controls were relaxed in the 1990s, with companies allowed to import and export without seeking permission and a number of free trade zones opening up.
Some of these economic reforms were later rolled back, with Fidel Castro denouncing what he called the "new rich".
However, after Fidel Castro was succeeded as president by his brother Raul, the pace of economic reform picked up once more.
Cuba has forged closer ties with China and with oil-producing Venezuela. The latter supplies cheap fuel, while the former is helping Cuba to develop its own oil industry.
But the money sent home by Cubans living abroad - many of them in the US city of Miami - is still crucial to the economy. Hardships have led to an increase in prostitution, corruption, black marketeering and desperate efforts to escape in search of a better life.
Cuba has fallen foul of international bodies, including the UN's top human rights forum, over rights abuses. The UN's envoy has urged Havana to release imprisoned dissidents and to allow freedom of expression.
The US leases the Guantanamo Naval Base on the eastern tip of the island under a 1903 treaty, and continues to send Cuba payment for it. Cuba under the Castros disputes the lease, saying that it was concluded under duress, and has refused to cash any of the cheques since the early days of the revolution.
Relations with the US showed signs of a thaw following the election of President Barack Obama, who in April 2009 said he wanted a new beginning with Cuba.
Russia has also taken steps to revitalize ties with its Soviet-era ally, and in July 2009 signed an agreement to explore Cuba's offshore oil deposits, which are believed to be substantial.

Cuba according to Wikipedia
Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, (Description: Listeni/ˈkjuːbə/; Spanish: República de Cuba, pronounced: [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkuβa] (Description: listen)) is anisland country in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and severalarchipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city.[10][11] To the north of Cuba lies the United States (140 km or 90 mi away) and the Bahamas, Mexico is to the west, the Cayman Islands andJamaica are to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on and claimed the island now occupied by Cuba, for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a territory of Spain until the Spanish–American War ended in 1898, and gained formal independence from the U.S. in 1902. A fragile democracy, increasingly dominated by radical politics eventually evolved, solidified by the Cuban Constitution of 1940, but was definitely quashed in 1952 by former president Fulgencio Batista, and an authoritarian regime was set up, intensifying and catalyzing already rampant corruption, political repression and crippling economic regulations.[12][13][14] Batista was ousted in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, and a new administration under Fidel Castro established, which had by 1965 evolved into a single-party stateunder the revived Communist Party of Cuba, which holds power to date.
Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area. However, the population density is lower than in most Caribbean countries. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, such as the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves and its proximity to the United States.
Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate,[3][15] an infant death rate lower than some developed countries,[16] and an average life expectancy of 77.64.[3] In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the WWF's definition of sustainable development; having anecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007
More on Cuba: Wikipedia

Peter’s Piece

It’s time the extreme, and opposite, political ideologies and relations of the USA and Cuba got much closer together. In this regard the USA is in the best position to start the process of healing the rift.

It’s time the USA accepted that it is now 110 years since Cuba was a US colony (except for the US puppet dictatorship of President Batista) and that Cuba has survived for over half a century in spite of US sanctions.

Cuba poses no threat to the USA and could be a great ally and trading partner. It’s time for President Obama to do something positive about the new beginning that he promised.