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 Jamaica and Cuba: Before and after Fidel

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MessageSujet: Jamaica and Cuba: Before and after Fidel   Jamaica and Cuba: Before and after Fidel EmptyLun 10 Mar 2008 - 17:07

Jamaica Gleaner Online
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Jamaica and Cuba: Before and after Fidel
published: Sunday | March 9, 2008


Cuba's former president Fidel Castro (left) and Golding has changed JLP's tune on Cuba (right). Robert Buddan

Fidel Castro has had a 'forceful impact on the consciousness of mankind' to an extent that would ensure his place as 'one of the great leaders of the 20th century', said Bruce Golding in Parliament. He admitted, too, that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had been a fierce opponent of Cuba but that was now behind the party.

No one could dispute Fidel's steadfastness, courage, strength of leadership and unswerving commitment to the Cuban people, he said. The isolation of Cuba should end and relations with Cuba should be normalised around the world. Raul Castro had invited Golding for an official visit to Cuba and he had accepted.

Power brings responsibility and responsibility brings realism. The JLP had stopped bad-mouthing Cuba around the time when important business families connected to the party had established tourism business there. But it had never spoken well of Cuba either.

We hope that Mr Golding's new enthusiasm for Cuba is not founded on any need to please his business sponsors in tourism and such businesses that are eying the Cuban market. Rather, we would hope that it is based on the principle that Cuba is a part of the Caribbean family; has helped Jamaica in a number of ways, and has been willing to do so regardless of which party is in power; has stood up to American bullying and inspired small, dependent states to talk back to power; and has invented its own model of development, which more states are compelled to do because of the failures of the international economic order and western models of development.

Ideological division


Cuba's former president Fidel Castro (left) and Golding has changed JLP's tune on Cuba (right).

During the period of great ideological divide it was the People's National Party (PNP) and progressive-minded Jamaicans at home and abroad who stood with Cuba.

Probably the greatest test of that friendship was Jamaica's decision to support the deployment of Cuban troops to Angola to fight off the troops of South Africa's apartheid system on the verge of defeating the African National Congress (ANC). That decision saved the ANC and the liberation of South Africa.

When Nelson Mandela was freed, the first two countries he visited were Cuba under Fidel and Jamaica under Manley.

Jamaica's decision had angered Henry Kissinger, the American secretary of state who told the CIA to make the Jamaican economy 'scream'. They did, and the JLP made good politics out of Jamaica's misery saying 'Is Manley Fault', its spin on 'IMF'. The PNP took to spelling Mr Seaga's name CIAga, suggesting complicity. Somewhere in all that lay the political violence of the 1970s, and this cannot simply be written off as PNP-JLP tribalism. There was a strong cold war dimension to it.

Phillip Agee, a famous CIA defector who died in January, began doing speaking tours back then to expose the role of the CIA in countries of Latin America and Jamaica.

The Americans and the British blamed his expose for Manley winning the 1976 elections.

Making Jamaica communist

After a JLP propaganda campaign that Manley and Fidel were trying to make Jamaica communist, the party took power in 1980 and broke relations with Cuba, to the delight of the Americans. The PNP restored those relations in the 1990s and Fidel made his last visit here in 1997 when he attended Manley's funeral.

Now Fidel himself has stepped aside and more Americans, including members of Congress, are also closer to bringing sanity to US-Cuban relations. American business is increasingly vocal too. The United States is the biggest supplier of agricultural products to Cuba and 2007 was a record year. The embargo was relaxed on those items to suit the farming states and lobbies.

While principle compels us to treat Cuba as a partner, profit might be the great motivator for businesspersons. Others, however, take the ideological position that we should be wary of trading with countries like Venezuela and China and concentrate on the US market.

We have never done well in the US market, or any overseas market for that matter, because our private sector is an import sector of merchant traders. Besides, the United States does not let ideology get in the way of profits. Its second biggest trading partner is com-munist China and Venezuela ranks at number 12.

Realism has also caused the JLP administration to drop its rhetoric against Venezuela.

It should.

The Jamaican economy is being propped up by the oil facility provided to Jamaica under PetroCaribe, which allows Jamaica to keep enough foreign exchange on hand to support the exchange rate and prevent runaway devaluation, inflation, and shortage of goods if it were to pay current world market prices for oil, now at US$106 a barrel.

Golding made sure to attend the PetroCaribe Summit in Cuba late last year. He has been invited to Cuba by its president.

He has not been invited to the US by the American president.

Visit to cuba

Things have changed. Golding was probably the first CARICOM prime minister invited by Raul Castro to visit Cuba. Back in 1980, Seaga was, I believe, the first head of government invited by the cold warrior, Ronald Reagan, to visit the United States.

Golding might find Chávez inviting him to Venezuela before any United States president invites him to America.

Golding's party might be pro-west but it finds itself in an international structure where logic demands that its policies are more centrist and aligned with the Third World. The progressive tradition in the Caribbean recognised a long time ago the need for a Third World policy that supported alternative options for development and hemispheric integration.

Logic is forcing many Caribbean countries to move closer to CARICOM, Cuba, and Venezuela, to compensate for shortcomings in western agreements.

Jamaica must also embrace Haiti, our nearest CARICOM neighbour, which the JLP in opposition had ignored, even opposing Aristide's forced exile to Jamaica, which any humane neighbour was duty-bound to provide.

Jamaica's minister of health says the Cuban eye-care programme will be expanded to permit treatments in Jamaica at a local hospital. This is good. We can do even more. When Golding visits Cuba he can ask that Jamaican doctors be allowed to train at the Latin America Medical Centre in Cuba on the condition that they work in underserved communities in Jamaica.

This is the model followed between the United States and Cuba. Congresswoman Barbara Lee has made it possible for over 100 Americans to study at this centre in Cuba and then to serve in such communities in the United States. We would not be doing anything with Cuba that the United States is not doing.

Cuba needs economic investments and Jamaican investors would be welcomed on Cuba's terms.

But Cuba wants to make social investments in other countries and Jamaica needs social and infrastructural investments of the kinds that Cuba and Venezuela can make. After all, Goldinghas made election promises to the health sector that he cannot fulfil.

Cuba has never refused Jamaica, regardless of the politics we make of its relations with us. So for the sake of the poor, let us work with a country that knows best about helping the poor.

Robert Buddan lectures in the Department of Government, UWI, Mona. Email: Robert.Buddan@uwimona.edu.jm.

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