Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Critical Look at the Future of Cuba, III

"A Critical Look at the Future of Cuba, III"
Alberto N. Jones
March 13, 2008

Hoping to write the third and final chapter of this article, I rose-up around 3:00 am on Tuesday February 19. At 3: 18 CNN interrupted its normal programming with a breaking news that Fidel Castro, the President of Cuba had written a letter in which he stated “I will neither aspire nor accept the positions of president of the Council of State or Commander in Chief.”

This stunning news, after leading the Cuban government for 49 years and 49 days albeit expected, left me speechless, frozen in my chair, as thousands of life changing, vivid experiences crossed my mind at the speed of light. I must digress a bit from my original line of thinking.
How could I ever envision that I would live through this unprecedented, historic transformation of Cuba and its people? It all began on Saturday July 25th 1953, when my uncle Clifford invited me to join his friends, who were going to a carnival dance that took place every year at the Hatuey beer gardens in Santiago de Cuba.

Exhausted, after having a wonderful time around 3:00 am my Uncle decided to call it quits and go home. Because it was a large group and there was few if any taxi’s at such late hours of the night, we sang all the way as we walked to our friend’s home, who hosted us for the week-end.

In one of those inexplicable twists of life, our friends lived in Sueno neighborhood, only 4-5 blocks away from the Moncada barracks, Cuba’s second largest military garrison with its threatening looks as we strolled outside of its fortified walls. As we approached one of its many gates, we said Hi to a small number of soldiers guarding one of its entrance. Shortly after reaching home and in the process of getting in bed, we heard loud, relentless explosions that we thought initially were fire crackers.

Later, wild rumors went that a gun battle had ensued between the military stationed at the Moncada and members of the reinforcement brigade that came in from Havana. Around 9:00 am, a couple of B-26’s flew low overhead threatening to bomb, which fortunately did not happen. What we did witness from our vantage point, was military jeeps constantly speeding into the garrison, sometimes with someone laying on the floor of the jeep with their feet hanging out, which was followed by sporadic shots, suggesting someone had been executed.

On Monday, as life partially returned to normal, people were allowed to leave their homes and as we walked near the garrison, more than forty gaskets were spread-out on the sidewalk, exuding a nauseating odor and covered with swarms of flies, in a repugnant desecration of the dead.

How Fidel was captured days later and was miraculously saved by Lt Sarria who had instructions not to take prisoners, attempts to poison him in jail, the trial and his self defense “Condemn me, it doesn‘t matter; History will Absolve me” became a treatise in jurisprudence.

This was followed by jail time in Cuba’s most feared prison, paroled, migrate to Mexico, regroup, military training, launching of a maritime invading force of 82 men most of whom were ambushed and murdered upon landing and with the twelve surviving men, they organized a nation-wide movement that ousted Batista and his 80,000 men-strong army, less than three years later.

Out of this victorious revolution, came a wide-range, political-ideological third world solidarity movement, that spread across the world like a wildfire, supporting every liberation movement, providing its leaders with all necessary moral and material support, denouncing and weakening tens of neo-colonial institutions that had enslaved millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin-America.

Today Cuba can proudly exhibit, thousands of people who were educated in its classrooms, a host of countries whose liberation and independence is closely tied to Cuba’s efforts and millions of people whose pain and suffering have been relieved and their lives preserved from certain death, because of Cuba’s unqualified, generous devotion to those in need.

These examples and many more may help us understand and counterbalance the difficult socio-economic conditions in Cuba today, that her enemies enjoy highlighting and portraying as a symbol of Cuba’s social failure. In fact, its low wages, crumbling housing, pathetic infrastructure, poor food and medicine supplies, insufficient personal and durable goods, etc., rather than an indictment of their system, it exemplifies their unparallel generosity, unselfishness and profound concerns for the wellbeing of those less fortunate, even at the expense of their own.

Like so many man-made projects, Cuba have had its own long list of mistakes, just as it had these incredible vision and perspective that have changed history, impacted the lives of millions and restored hope of a better world for present and future generations. These incontrovertible facts, are what have made Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro a unique, one in a century event that no government, historian or media can negate, tarnish or distort.

But after forty years of the Cuban people enduring all forms of deprivations, it is past due to have a thorough, profound re-evaluation of the country’s resources, its people’s need and ways of increasing its industrial and agricultural output, in order to begin satisfying the most pressing issues affecting that nation.

Contrary to what many Cuban-American scholars may assume, that in order to address the huge material need that have been accrued over the years, Cuba will have to dismantle its political system, beg its enemies for forgiveness, plead with the World Bank for financial help, apologize to the United States government for misbehaving and invite back into the country the Cuban-American bourgeoisie with their corrupting mentality and truckload of vices; rest assured, that will never happen.

To some extent, the success and failures of the Revolution are reflected in me and many others. Rescued from a clerical dead-end job on the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1962, the Cuban government spent thousands of dollars on my education to become a Veterinary Pathologist with additional training in counter epizoothiologic bio-terrorism education in Germany in 1966, when only a handful of professionals in this hemisphere knew about this specialty.

In 1970 I became Director and Pathologist of Oriente Provincial Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory , which encompassed at the time, a territorial responsibility of 1/3 of Cuba’s agriculture expanse. In addition to this impossible task, I was later put in charge of overseeing the technical and personal needs of our foreign professional support team, I founded and became President of the Provincial Veterinary Scientific Council and in 1972, instructor of Pathology at the University of Oriente.

As difficult and overwhelming as these multi tasks complex responsibilities were, my greatest and most challenging problems arouse from my constant battle against an incipient corruption -that have since swept the country- among some co-workers in administrative positions, who misused their authority to steal, divert or bribe others with all sorts of material resources assigned to or in possession of our laboratory. Stopping, challenging, denouncing and going as far as forbidden their entry onto our premises, spurred a formidable and rabid array of enemies, that were all too willing to join forces, plot and accuse me of the worst imaginable political crimes, landing me in jail for 8 years, of which I served 4 ½.

For many, this unspeakable and unjustifiable crime meant, destroying the pride and joy they felt over the professional achievement of their country boy from Guantanamo. For me, after many years of shame, pain and frustration, thanks to the help of friends and loved ones, I was able to do an in-depth, rigorous analysis of this event and identify the human frailty that cohabitate in many of us, causing my demise and the abominable end of my professional life.

But far more important than my personal grief, was the incredible opportunity that life had reserved for me, by making me the second member of my family to ever sit in a classroom of higher education, three hundred years after our forceful removal from Africa. That’s why, knowing what I know now and given the opportunity to do it all over again, I have no doubt, I would do exactly the same.

Now, in order for Cuba to confront and begin addressing the enormous backlog of urgent, intractable social problems that have severely affected the wellbeing of the Cuban population for decades, I will put forth some unsolicited ideas that I truly believe, once they are subjected to a thorough, critical, objective analysis and added all necessary modifications, corrections or rejections, we can anticipate a 360 degree socio-economic surge in Cuba by the year 2020, that will catapult this nation into her rightful place among nations in this hemisphere, without having to alter any of the structural foundations, that constitutes the moral pillars of the Revolution.

Sources of Income
Cuba’s massive educational system has made all of its √©migr√© potentially more successful than those from other countries. This reality suggests, that every Cuban living abroad is indebted to our country and should therefore be willing to refund a portion of their education cost, which can be done, by signing a payment agreement at the closest consulate and remitting equal yearly payments for the next ten years, until his/her debt has been paid in full. Conservative estimates puts the gross income of this project on/or around $5,000,000,000.00

A rampant and uncontrollable violence that is ravaging the United States, Central America and some Caribbean islands, have left no workplace, school, healthcare facility, church, courthouse, daycare centers, congress or homes, immune to this plague. Millions of teenagers, especially minorities are confronted every day with life threatening challenges, which is expressed in the high homicide ratio, massive incarceration, and lack of basic education, drug addition and gang proliferation, placing them squarely among other endangered species.

Creating a network of boarding middle and high schools on the Isles of Youth in Cuba, could become a refuge for thousands of US, Caribbean and Latin America youths, where they could safely acquire a solid education and a technical or professional formation, which could prepare them for a creative and productive life. Conservative estimates for tuition, boarding, insurance and family visits for each 300/alumni school, could generate approximately $4,500.000.00 per year.

Forty seven million US citizens and presumably a large number in Latin America and the Caribbean are without a Health Insurance Policy. Creating an affordable policy that may oscillate between $25.00 and $50.00 per month, could possibly enroll between 3 and 5 million individuals, operating on a preventive medicine basis, with yearly physicals.

In support of this project, a 1000 bed Multi-Specialty Caribbean Medical Center could be built in Santiago de Cuba with a similar 500 bed satellite, specializing in certain pathologies, could be located in Holguin.

Additionally, a Regional, high-tech Caribbean Clinical Pathology Laboratory/Imaging Diagnostic Center with Pathologists strategically situated abroad to serve the area, would provide its top-notch diagnostic capabilities to a region with an anemic service in need of upgrading.

A 2000 bed Nursing Home/Assisted Living facilities distributed through Guantanamo, Santiago and Holguin, would satisfy a poorly developed service in this region. Conservative estimates sets the income that can be generated by these entities in billions.

Mental Health and illegal Drug Additions are rapidly becoming the most widespread pathology of the XXI Century. Cuba near-drug free environment, thousands of healthcare professionals in that field, its renowned track record with Spanish speaking patients and its highly competitive cost, can anticipate with an adequate promotion, registering tens of thousands of patients from our region, who have no where else to go in search of help. Income from this service may easily surpass any of the country’s main source of foreign income.

Tens of millions of people who have been the backbone of Cuba’s solidarity movement around the world, disseminating its reality, marching, holding vigils or collecting donations for its people, could be encouraged to join a new form of solidarity at this critical juncture, by participating in a Tri Party Joint Venture composed of solidarity members, Cuban retirees/unemployed organized in co-op’s and properties owned by the Cuban government, in the creation of tens of thousands of micro commercial, industrial, agriculture or hospitality ventures, expanding exponentially these activities, creating thousands of jobs and generating billions in profit, that will be disbursed equally among all three participating sectors.

Cuba’s excellent geographical location, its natural beauty, near perfect climate, educated population and having the safest social environment in the western hemisphere, seems to combine all the ingredients for the development of 200,000 home sites of 100x100 sq ft in the periphery of cities, lakes, beaches, mountain, valleys or secluded areas, upon which individuals with a longstanding friendly relation with Cuba, Cuban emigrants respectful of its sovereignty and others, retired or active, preferably those with higher education, willing to assume parcels in usufruct for 25 years for which, depending on the location of any specific lot, a users fee may range between $2,000.00, $5,000.00 or $10,000.00 per year.

Homes built on these home sites will reflect the taste and acceptable discretion of the home dwellers, who at the end of the 25 years usufruct or if death occur before, these properties in good maintenance conditions, will become part of the Cuban patrimony. In addition to the home value and yearly land payment, it is estimated that Cuba could earn millions in individuals living expense.

A worldwide demands for shorter delivery time of goods and services, have given rise to an enormous air cargo service and a constant search for establishing distribution centers closer to their marketplace. The city of Guantanamo situated on the southern tip of Cuba, have the longest airstrip in the country, a perfect year round aviation weather, abundant availability of water, electricity, good land, rail and sea conections, hundreds of thousands of underdeveloped acreage and its most attractive feature is being 2, 4 or more flying hours, closer to most of Latin America markets.

A project of this nature will require, hundreds of thousands sq ft of open air, covered and refrigerated storage facilities, thousands of employees, generating billions in rental, customs, air transport, fuel and landing fee, transforming this region into one of the most prosperous in the nation.

Funds Allocation:
If half of these funds were invested primarily in the former province of Oriente and in other specific projects around the country on a variety of social, agro-industrial development, job creation and scientific/technical development, the present unequal development gap existing between the east and the west of Cuba, could be narrowed dramatically by 2020 and wiped-out by 2050. Among the steps to be considered are:

* Assign 50 million to refurbish every middle and high school on the Isles of Youth and construct as many as necessary to reach a 20,000 capacity for middle and high school students from the Caribbean, Africa, America and Latin America.

* Assign 10 million to refurbish and expand the Frank Pais teacher’s school in Santiago de Cuba, to reach a capacity of 5000 students from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

* Assign $20 million to refurbish, upgrade and expand the School of Veterinary Sciences, the regional Diagnostic Laboratory and the Animal Research Center in Bayamo.

* Assign 60 million for the construction of a Solar, Wind and Environmental Sciences University for 2000 students, a Solar Research Center and an Energy Saving bulb factory in Guantanamo.

* Assign 15 million for the construction in Guantanamo of the National English, French and Creole Language Academy with a capacity of 5000 students, staffed with teachers from the English and French Speaking Caribbean islands.

* Assign 20 million for the construction of the Planetarium, Aeronautical and Aerospace and Cosmonaut Museum in Guantanamo.

* Assign 50 million to transform the Avenida Michelsen in Santiago de Cuba, into the Developing World Cultural, Expo and Business Center, where every African, Latin America and Caribbean country can exhibit their arts, culture and heritage to promote economic agreements among nations.

* Assign 30 million for the construction of the Faculty of African, Caribbean and Latin American studies, with its museum and visual arts center in Santiago de Cuba.

* Assign 100 million to refurbish thousands of colonial homes and others of unique architectural value throughout Oriente, create co-op of employee/operators in partnership with the Tourist Industry, turning them into moderate cost Bed and Breakfast lodging.

* Assign 300 million for the environmental clean-up, dredging of the port and restoring Ciudamar, Cayo Granma and Punta Gorda in Santiago de Cuba to its original beauty.
Assign 500 million to construct waste water treatment facilities in Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Bayamo, Holguin and Las Tunas.

* Allocate 800 million for the Plan Salcines hydrology complex in Baracoa, to satisfy the drinking water needs of Santiago, Guantanamo and Palma Soriano.

* Establish a 25,000 family Guest Worker agreement with Haiti, Brazil and other Caribbean Islands and for every Cuban family interested in relocating from the inner city to the countryside and assign 50 acres of land in northern Oriente and Camaguey in usufruct for 25 years, in order to revitalize the sugar cane plantation and restore the production capacity of the sugar industry. A Sandino type home with windmill, septic tank, means of transportation and a $10,000 loan, will be part of this package.

* Establish a 20,000 family Guest Workers agreement with Haiti, Brazil, other Caribbean islands and every Cuban family wishing to relocate from any inner city to the mountain range of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba , El Escambray and la Sierra de los Organos, and assign 50 acres of land and personal facilities as described above, for a massive revitalization of Coffee, Cocoa plantations, fruits and produce production.

* Establish a 10,000 family Guest Workers agreement with Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, relocate to southern Oriente and assign 50 acres per family of semi-arid lands for herding sheep, goats and growing nuts, cactus, olives and other typical middle eastern produce. As in previous examples, similar start-up kit is included.

* Establish a 10,000 family Guest Workers agreement with Viet Nam/China, allowing their relocation and assigning each family 50-75 acres of wet lands in the delta of the Cauto river, for the expansion of rice production. All other initial benefits are included.

* Assign 50 acres of land in usufruct for 25 years and a $10,000.00 loan, to every new and old farmer in the country, interested in revitalizing fruit production in Santiago de Cuba, Contramaestre, Ciego de Avila and the Isle of Youth. All other offer applies.

* Create a similar project with 50,000 inner city dwellers with agriculture background, interested in developing feed cattle production in Camaguey, Bayamo, and Sanctis Spiritus and the Havana/Matanzas corridor. All other offerings apply.

* Provide a $5,000.00 loan to every home owner interested in refurbishing their home and a $15,000.00 loan for every new home construction.

* Assign $20 million for the construction of a motorcycle (scooter) assembly plant in Santiago de Cuba, to provide basic means of transportation to every citizen and for export in the region.

These ideas, which may seem idyllic to some, are solely intended to improve the living standard and quality of life of the exceedingly generous and deserving Cuban people, who have done so much for those society deem unworthy and have left on their own to perish. Cuba must survive, strive and continue to extend its care around the world.

No philosophical, political, racial or social difference should ever be more important than the sanctity of life and its inalienable right of happiness.

If any or all of these suggestions were applied and they would achieve the anticipated economical development, the fossilized, cruel, inhuman embargo would implode as it happened with China, Viet Nam, Russia and everywhere else, where the enforcer recognizes they have become an irrelevant spectator.