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 The common thread that links Cuba, Haiti, Guyana and Bolivia

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MessageSujet: The common thread that links Cuba, Haiti, Guyana and Bolivia   The common thread that links Cuba, Haiti, Guyana and Bolivia EmptyVen 31 Oct 2008 - 13:59

The common thread that links Cuba, Haiti, Guyana and Bolivia
Published on Friday,

October 31, 2008
By Jean H Charles
Rebuilding the chain of solidarity in the Western Hemisphere should start with the weakest links: Cuba, Haiti, Guyana and Bolivia. They represent some of the poorest countries of the region. They share a common thread that explains their poverty.

This thread, once untangled, can facilitate the incremental process of growth and prosperity in these four disparate countries.

At the outset, while Haiti might be extremely and hopelessly poor, that situation is not comparable to what we find in Guyana, where ninety nine per cent of the population is literate, nor is it comparable to the situation in Cuba, where the government has instituted a safety net of food distribution that covers the entire population.

Yet the social (dis)integration in these four nations impedes their potential towards full economic development. Another caveat is in order: the Cuban social disintegration is not in Cuba it is in the Diaspora.

The concept of social capital as an ingredient of economic development is often undervalued, yet it has been proven, (in a study by Fukuyama, 1995) that the high trust societies, where the intra ethnic or religious trust amongst the citizens of the same country is at the highest, growth, harmony, peace and prosperity are the ensuing results. The best example at point is the case of the Scandinavian countries. Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland have benefited in the last four decades, a period of relative bliss due to the return from the high degree of social capital within their region.

By contrast, the countries where low trust amongst classes and ethnic groups is the norm, we observe a broad range of inefficient economic policy decisions leading to chaos, unrest and poverty.

This essay is looking into the situation of Cuba, Haiti Guyana, and Bolivia to suggest the leverage of their incremental social capital as a tool of development for their prosperity.

Starting with the story of Cuba, the recent New York Times bestseller book on Bacardi depicts the situation of Cuba during the Batista era. It was the fiefdom of the American Mafia in full control of the casino and the tourist business in Havana.

Those Cubans who left for Florida after the Castro Revolution constitute now a powerful lobbyist group that influence the actual American policy of economic embargo against Cuba. Large portion of the American Congress, the American business establishment as well as most UN member nations have been advocating, to no avail, against the Cuban embargo.

Yet, as goes Florida so goes the American electorate system. No American President dares to decide the fate of Cuba without the assent and the consent of the Cuban Diaspora that controls Florida. It is still holding in hostage the economic recovery of some 11 million Cubans inside the country. The social integration of the Cubans of Florida with those of the motherland could realize what the Jewish Diaspora has been able to accomplish for the state of Israel: an effective component of the nation building process of the Jewish state amongst constant threat of survival from neighboring countries.

The case of Bolivia is different but it has been woven into the same thread of social disintegration. I was at the United Nations recently, watching President Evo Morales making a passionate speech to the world assembly denouncing the American hand in helping to foment the opposition against his government.

Morales the first indigenous Chief of State, of Indian extraction in Latin America after some six hundred years of white domination, is facing strong opposition from the Santa Cruz group in the South.

They are descendants of European colonists who maintain a firm grip on the land and in the mineral resources in the lowland areas. Branko Marinkovic a Bolivian of Serbian extraction symbolizes the voice and the leadership of that sector.

Whether Evo and Branko will find a modus operandi to create a unified nation that will be hospitable to all, this is the crux of the matter for Bolivia.

The story of Guyana has historical underpinnings; it is the consequences of the doctrine of apenja instituted by the British colonists pitting the Indian Guyanese against the Black Guyanese. Last June, I met with the President of Guyana in New York, my question to him was straightforward: what can you do to help create a society where the issue of ethnic identification will be quasi irrelevant in the concept of the nation building process? His answer -- such consideration was inconsequential in Guyana politics -- was not comforting.
There are two main political parties in the country.

The PPP (Progressive People’s Party) which is catering almost exclusively to the Indian Guyanese, while the PNC (People’s National Congress) is the party of the Black Guyanese. Imagine in the United States, the Republican Party would be the exclusive Party of the white Americans, while the Democrat Party would be the designated home of the Black Americans. The ostrich’s game that the social integration is au beau fixed in Guyana compounds the process for a true solution.

The best approach should be for each political party of the country to do its best to recruit actively from the ethnic group where it has a minority in membership. As such the country will be engaged in a vision of nation building where the issue of ethnic origin will represent not an impediment but an asset in the mosaic of the formation of the true Guyana’s ethos.

It will add into the total stock of the social capital of the nation ,leading to lasting prosperity.

Finally, the story of Haiti is pregnant with the ill consequences of the social disintegration of its society. The country was the champion of human rights, black emancipation and social justice for all. Haiti was once, a global inspiration, and a global defiance to the world order of slavery.

In fact, Bolivar the founding father of Bolivia was entertained, comforted by Alexander Petion the second President of Haiti before being sent back, with funds, firearms and faith to fight the cause of freedom against colonial slavery in Latin America.

Yet two hundred years later, the majority of Haitians, some seven million people out of the population of eight million live in a condition so abject that it is barely above the slave condition of their forefathers. Rural Haiti has not received minimal governmental support in infrastructure, institution buildings and in social integration.

Haiti has many problems in environment, security and catastrophic disaster compounded by international interference, poor national governance and the explosion of its population. Yet no problem in Haiti is larger and bigger than the poverty of its rural inhabitants.

A concerted affirmative action program by Haiti’ civil society, the government and the international institutions in rural Haiti will automatically change the vista of that country forever and for the best. It has not started yet, in spite of the many international and national commitments and engagements.

Karl Mars on the left, Milton Friedman on the right have formulated policies of action for the governments upon the governed. The destruction of the Wall of Berlin on one side and the free fall of the stock market on Wall Street on the other side dictate the need for the conceptualization of a new paradigm to insure sustainable prosperity for each nation.

The tiny city-state of Singapore has emerged as a successful global commercial hub under the leadership of its former leader, the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who ruled that country from 1959 to1990. He has applied the twin mantra of the concept of the shared vision of the future as a cornerstone of its governmental policies:

Unity amongst the different ethnic groups of the same nation, (Chinese, Malays, Indonesian, Japanese, Singaporean etc)

Hospitality towards everyone in the country, in particular towards those who are less fortunate. (Albeit he is better known in the West for authorizing once, the flagellation of a young American hooligan for his graffiti mania exported from America.)

This formula brings lasting wealth as well as equitable and sustainable distribution of the country’s resources. Singapore is the sixth wealthiest country in the world with a foreign reserve evaluated at 177 billion US dollars with a population of only 4 million people.

This new thread based on unity amongst the composite of the population, and aggressive affirmative action on behalf of those left behind could transform Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti, and Guyana into vibrant nations where prosperity can be the lot of each and everyone.

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