Wednesday, May 27, 2009

an email correspondence ....

it's always interesting when people point to the 'poverty' in cuba, jeff. they have community. there's a doctor living in each neighbourhood. they have organic urban gardens. they share, care, and look out for each other. they're not dependent on the world bank and the imf and i'll bet the big crash of 08 didn't affect them one bit. we didn't hear about massive layoffs from cuba corporations, because everyone in cuba earns the same amount of money via a 'guaranteed income' from their government. doctors and farmers earn the same! so there's a real sense of equality. people can choose careers based on what they love to do rather than what makes them the most money. they can choose to be a doctor because they want to heal. how many canadian doctors really want to heal?

as i mentioned, cuba's not perfect. they are lacking a lot of things. i don't think i could live without internet. but then we have to ask - is it because of the us blockade that they don't have that stuff? on the other hand, they live in a world without corporate advertising! there are no kfcs killing animals and hiring cheap labour in lousy working conditions. (though cubans eat their share of meat, unfortunately). there's no starbucks, no corporate banks, no billboards, no glossy magazines with half naked women staring at you as you try to buy soy milk. there's been an increase in prostitution along with the tourist trade, though they're not very good at it - last year one of our caravanistas was offered a blow job for, i can't remember, 5 or 10 pesos. they're obviously not capitalists!

so, yeah, there's 'poverty.' compared to mexico, though, they have potable water. apparently that's one of the first things they did after the revolution, fidel insisted they clean up the water supply. they've done incredible things despite the big blockade that prevents, for example, a company in germany from selling a pacemaker to cuba because it has a component that's made in america.

and if you compare the emergency response, last year during hurricane season, between haiti (a country so capitalist that even canadian forces helped remove their democratically elected leader so gildan t-shirts could continue to take advantage of haitian sweatshop labour, the cheapest in the world) and cuba, it's unbelievable. the cuban government and its people are prepared for emergencies. i think i heard they lost three people last fall. the corporate media would never tell us that ... they just showed the devastation of the neighbouring island of haiti, where many many more people were killed and injured.

capitalist governments don't care about people, they care about profit. you're right, there's still poverty in the industrialized work, lots of it, and it's inexcusable that the ultra rich can have sooooo much while people freeze to death in canadian winters, denied even the opportunity to construct their own shelters.

the blockade against cuba is a double edged sword, no doubt. but things are changing in south america, and now cuba is trading doctors for oil. so they have fuel, but unfortunately they're still driving those big old cars which are feats of engineering, i suppose, but also very stinky.

i really recommend going and seeing for yourself. when i was describing it to my mom, last year, she said it sounds like northern england when she was growing up --- everyone was poor, so nobody realized they were! they made do with what they had, and they didn't miss what they didn't have because they didn't know about it. cuba's future is interesting to ponder ... the people who remember what it was like before the revolution, when fulgencio batista and the american government and the cia stole land from peasants and ran a gambling empire, they don't want that again and they love their revolution. they're very proud of what they've accomplished, citing birth mortality and literacy comparisons before and after that would blow your mind. but the youngsters, they see touristas with ipods and cell phones and it's just natural to want stuff. ultimately, i hold onto faith that an educated populace will make the right decisions -- they will not choose to surround themselves with stuff made by oppressed peoples using unsustainable environmental tactics.

i'm very much looking forward to cuba again this year, and the journey through america. it's good to remember there are so many good ones --- though the obama koolaid crowd is a bit scary.

have a great day, jeff, hope you've got some springtime weather!



Janine, I was very impressed to hear of the free holistic health care system and University education and organic coop farms. My limited familiarity is another example of how propagandist corporate (and government) media are so willing to prop up the (US) blockade. As you say, Cuba is not perfect. An acquaintance who has made several trips after falling in love with a Cuban citizen tells of widespread poverty and local government corruption. But we are well familiar with that here too.

Sincere wishes for good luck and success on the next caravan.



On 26-May-09, at 4:12 PM, janine bandcroft wrote:

looking for a good news story?

2009 marks the 50th year of the Cuban Revolution. Now before your brain starts regurgitating those words you've been fed ..... 'dictatorship,' 'communism,' 'human rights abuses' ..... allow me to tell you a little story....

Last year I travelled with the 19th Friendshipment Caravan, bringing over 100 tons and as many Americans (including a few Internationals) to Cuba. I began the journey in Canada, crossed the border into Washington State, then travelled (on one of 15 routes) through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and finally to challenge the 47 year old US blockade (the most incredible act of civil disobedience I've ever experienced) at the Mexican/American border, and through Mexico where we left 100 tons of computers, health care equipment, school supplies etc to be shipped - not to the Cuban government, but to the people of Cuba. We caravanistas jumped onto an old Russian plane and flew to Havana where we were treated like long lost friends. In Cuba I spent 8 days learning about their revolution - their cradle to grave inclusive and holistic health care system, their free education through University, the Latin America School of Medicine which trains (for free) young people from poor neighbourhoods and ships doctors to poor neighbourhoods all over the world.

Cuba is not a perfect society, but they do some things really really well - and I'll bet your readers, like ours, would like to know more about them.

IT'S A BIG STORY!!! And it's ignored by the corporate media who prefer to propagate the 'dictatorship' myth and keep people ignorant about this tiny island nation that is nearly 100% self-sufficient with organic cooperative farms, in addition to their free health care and education.

Street Newspapers across Canada and the USA -- don't miss this opportunity to present an incredible story of grassroots activism (chances are a caravan will be passing through your city!), and infuse your readers with hope and inspiration that another world is possible!

The Pastors for Peace (<> was founded by an African-American man named Lucius Walker who was shot by a contra bullet and decided he could do something better with taxpayer money. This year will be the 20th annual Caravan (they've also sent caravans to Central America were one of the first groups to bring aid to New Orleans), and I'll be on it!

For more information about Cuba and the Cuban Five (a terrifying story of injustice):

Tune in this Thursday afternoon, May 28th from 2 to 3 pm (PST) and hear a special radio interview with Ambassador Teresita de Jesus Vicente Sotolongo, Canada's first woman Cuban Ambassador, speaking about the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution along with other updates on Cuba's ongoing struggle for human rights and justice. Listen LIVE at

To learn more about the Cuban Five Political Prisoners, held in U.S. prisons for more than 10 years, go to and the Cnd - Cuban Consulate's website is For more updates, check out, and

"May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true. May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young." Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941