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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Cuban travelogue—socialist system examined—“meet the President”—Part 1

By SJ Otto
These last two weeks I spent on a caravan with Pastors for Peace (IFCO). The caravans extend solidarity to the Cuban people and provide an opportunity to learn about Cuba through direct experience. The overwhelming issue that is taken up by IFCO is to stop the US blockade of Cuba. That blockade has done some serious damage to the Cuban economy. There are shortages of medicines and other needed basic materials. The caravans bring some materials, such as medical aid, to counter the devastating effects of the blockade.
While I was in Cuba, I could not find a single Cuban who favored the blockade. I also found no Cubans who liked President Donald Trump—that included both people connected to our organizations and government institutions and a few Cubans who I met in informal settings while I was away from our groups.
Everyone had their own interest in going to Cuba. I wanted to see how the socialist government is organized, how it works—or does it work? It does work. The idea that socialism historically never works is total bull shit. Since 1959, Cuba has had what I consider a non-capitalist, socialist system. Not only that, I saw no evidence that the economic and political system was in ANY DANGER of collapse. I later plan to write an analysis of Cuba’s socialist economy.
There was a little over 30 people on this caravan. We spent two days in Mexico City, mostly for orientation. Some of our time was spent touring a left-wing cooperative adventure, called Los Panchos. This included a few small gated communities in Mexico City. They were completely self sufficient. I plan to write about these communities later. I wanted to focus first on Cuba. That was the main point of our trip.
When we got to Cuba, we were treated like VIPs. People who were a part of the government especially treated us well. The government there seemed to really like our efforts. Our first night in Cuba, we arrived at the Airport, which was considerably small for an international airport. It was somewhat simple and yet fully functional. We went to a place called the Martin Luther King Center. When we got their, that first night we were in for a real surprise—the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel wanted to meet with us. We couldn’t take in our cell phones or a notepad. So any quotes I recorded might not be that accurate. Here is what he had to tell us:

President Miguel Díaz-Canel:

While many US news pundits I’ve heard in the US were disappointed to hear that Cuba has no plans to open up their system (that means open up to free markets and space for reactionary political parties).[1] I was glad to hear the president say they are determined to keep their socialist system.
“We made mistakes,” he said. “But many of our past programs worked. They said socialism was dead in the 1990s. We proved them wrong.”
He also made it clear that his country supports the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and its legitimate President Nicolás Maduro.
“We can help other country’s revolutions,” he said. “But we can not impose our system on another country.”
It was no surprise that Díaz-Canel slammed the treatment that Maduro is getting from the US.
He said the US has worked to undermine revolution and the development of socialism.
“The US uses fake news,” he said.
He added that the US government said that Cuba sent 20,000 troops to Venezuela.
“They were doctors not soldiers,” said Díaz-Canel.
He also said that Venezuela was determined to resist US attempts to sabotage them.
Díaz-Canel said he met Maduro at the UN, while the former leader Fidel Castro was alive. He made it clear that he was in support of the Bolivarian Revolutions. There is a similar socialist leader in Bolivia today, Evo Morales.

I plan several other articles looking at various aspects of Cuban socialism and other institutions, along with culture issues—to be continued=>


Granma, Cuba’s main newspaper, took a picture of the caravan after we listened to president Díaz-Canel speak.


Here Gail Walker, a caravan organizer, talks with President Miguel Díaz-Canel.



[1] See NPR- “Cuba’s New President.”

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