Thanks to Cuba
July 24, 2018
Thanks to Cuba

On Thursday of this week, July 26, the people of Cuba, and millions of friends and well-wishers worldwide, will celebrate the 65th anniversary of what is now one of the two most important dates on the Cuban calendar. The attack on the Moncada barracks, was led by a valiant group of young people, headed by Fidel Castro which, although not successful militarily, paved the way for the eventual overthrow of the cruel Batista dictatorship and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution five-and-a-half years later.

Understandably, it is a milestone in Cuba’s history, but what significance does it have for people in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean and the rest of the world? Why should people, far removed from Cuba’s shores, celebrate such an occasion, particularly in light of the fact that many of us do not necessarily share the political or philosophical outlook of the Cuban government?

The reality is that July 26, 1953, opened a whole new can of worms, for the Cuban revolution which triumphed in 1959 was not just nationalist in character. It turned out to be fundamentally internationalist, having an influence of one kind or another on global, hemispheric and regional affairs completely out of proportion to Cuba’s size and resources.

Much has been said and written of the military aspects, including Cuba being at the very centre of a near-nuclear confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union in 1962, and its military support for liberation movements in several countries. But for people like us, outside of the military confrontation, Cuba’s influence has been much more profound, its so-called “soft power” has touched many more lives than the propaganda over its military exploits suggests.

It is true that Cuba has made a fundamental contribution towards African liberation, including the military defeat of the South African racists in Angola, which paved the way for the end of apartheid and the colonial stranglehold over Southern Africa, but for people like us, Cuba has made an incalculable contribution towards our social and economic development.

Its emphasis on development in the fields of health and education in particular, has not only brought tremendous benefits in enhancing the quality of life of its own citizens, it has in turn assisted hundreds of millions of poor people in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia to raise their own living standards. Scholarships were provided free of cost to enable these countries to develop their own experts in critical fields and Cuban assistance has enabled two small Caribbean countries, SVG and Grenada, to be able to build their own international airports.

The Cuban hand has especially touched us in the fields of education and health, and the VISION NOW programme and our own Diagnostic Hospital in Georgetown are the most outstanding examples. No praise is too high for the selfless contribution of a sister Caribbean nation, itself facing severe challenges from a US trade and economic embargo.

For all these reasons, irrespective of our political orientation or ideology, the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines have benefited a lot from Cuban solidarity. It is only fair that as the Government and people of Cuba celebrate what for them is the beginning of a process, we too, as beneficiaries, should congratulate them and express our solidarity. We do not have to be revolutionaries, communists or socialists to do this, merely grateful human beings who know how to reciprocate solidarity.