BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Four Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have from yesterday put arrangements in place for operating a travel bubble as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Barbados ambassador to Caricom, David Comissiong, has said.
In a statement, Comissiong said that St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados have all put their arrangements in place and have commenced operating the bubble, which went into effect last Friday in keeping with a decision made at a special emergency meeting of Caricom leaders earlier this month.
“The defining feature of a COVID-19 travel bubble is that persons entitled to participate in the travel bubble are not required to take COVID-19 tests nor to undergo a period of quarantine in order to travel to countries that are within the bubble,” Comissiong said.
“Our Caricom heads of government took a major step towards resuscitating the COVID-19-challenged travel and tourism sectors, with their agreement to institute a travel bubble among Caricom member states and associate members which meet the agreed criteria,” he added.
He said the regional leaders took the decision after they acknowledged that the past six months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally, as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus.
“They noted that for Caricom, it has been particularly difficult, given the high dependence in most of the economies on the travel and tourism sectors,” Comissiong said, noting that in agreeing to establish the bubble the regional leaders were guided by a comprehensive report from the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which provided recommendations on how the bubble would operate, and laid out the eligibility criteria for countries to participate.
He said the recommendations included that countries would be categorised ranging from those with no cases to those which had low, medium, high, and very high risk with respect to the rate of positive cases over a 14-day period; the level of risk would be determined by the number of positive cases per 100,000 of the population within a 14-day period.
A name identifies, makes unique, and enamors… It is a calling card and can convey confidence and pride, which is exactly what occurred this month of August, when the people of Cuba heard the long-awaited news that our scientists had come up with an idea, an idea they turned into a vial of vaccine in just three months’ time, as one researcher said.
A name identifies, makes unique, and enamors… It is a calling card and can convey confidence and pride, which is exactly what occurred this month of August, when the people of Cuba heard the long-awaited news that our scientists had come up with an idea, an idea they turned into a vial of vaccine in just three months’ time, as one researcher said.
Soberana (Sovereign) was the name given the candidate vaccine that, August 24, began its first clinical trials to demonstrate effectiveness against the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, an illness that has taken thousands of lives and cast the world into a deep economic crisis affecting, above all, those who have historically been the world’s most vulnerable.
IT ALL BEGAN…
According to Naturaleza Secreta, that has carefully documented details of the propagation of COVID-19 in Cuba and the battle against it, the name Soberana appeared for the first time, written by hand, at the bottom of a piece of paper along with the information needed for clinical trials of the first candidate vaccine against the virus.
On this same sheet, other possible names had been noted as well, none of which appeared to work, although a designation had to be chosen, as an unavoidable requirement to register the clinical trials, thus obliging experts at the Finlay Vaccine Institute, the Molecular Biology Institute and the University of Havana – responsible for the bulk of the research process that produced the vaccine – to make up their minds.
It was Dr. Meiby de la Caridad Rodríguez González, director of research at the Finlay who had the task of filling out the forms for the registration, who proposed calling the clinical trials project for the Cuban candidate vaccine Soberana 01.
She was at home, working late along with the rest of the team, hoping to have everything ready by August 13, to honor, on the anniversary of his birth, the man who inspired Cuba’s scientific development and especially the biotechnology sector: Fidel.
Upon hearing the proposal, members of the team who developed the vaccine, led by the institute’s director, Vicente Vérez Bencomo, immediately looked at each other and nodded. Soberana was accepted without discussion, without hesitation, with the “01” designation for the project as the first clinical trial of a candidate vaccine, according to Naturaleza Secreta.
The scientists have since said that underlying the selection of the name was the comment made by President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, this past May 19, on the necessity of developing a Cuban vaccine for COVID-19, regardless of what other countries might do, to give us sovereignty.
Referring to a possible Cuban candidate vaccine, the President said at that time, “The development of a vaccine would complete the feat we have accomplished.” He emphasized that adding a vaccine to the achievements of Cuban science, as soon as possible, would be “an important contribution from all points of view.”
The rest is history, Naturaleza Secreta notes in its article. The news that Cuba has its own vaccine entering clinical trials has gone viral on the Internet and the country’s citizens have named it, on their own… sovereignly.
“It was the people who really selected the name Soberana, because of the pride it gives us, and this will be the commercial name of the vaccine used in the country,” stated Vicente Vérez, this past August 20, on the Cuban television program, Mesa Redonda.
This name is now that of the vaccine, not only of the clinical trials project. Nor will it be the name of the second candidate vaccine, already in the works,
Naturaleza Secreta concludes, reporting how difficult it was to get this story, since, “Among the team members who created the Cuban vaccine against COVID-19, no one wants to take any individual credit,” insisting that this project, with all its merits and beautiful, universally accepted name, is a collective work.
Presentation by Jamaica Peace Council submitted to the Talking On Purpose forum on the occasion of UN World Peace Dayat the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts .
The Covid-19 disease threatens the health, wellness and mortality of the people of the world at an unprecedented level. In its wake, it unveils many social inequities that are the result of the predominant social system which engenders and thrives on various types of discrimination – class, race, ethnicity, gender, age etc. The following points outline what we see as the social inequities and vulnerabilities revealed by Covid-19.
Covid -19 has exposed the inequality in internet access and unavailability of computer technology in homes. While students from upper class families pivoted seamlessly to online education, poorer students faced major problems. In many cases, the student’s only access to the internet is their parent’s phone data plan. So the disparity in education was widened by the pandemic. There is some effort to close the gap through some excellent television programming but this does not allow for interaction, personal attention and continuity. We must bear in mind that students in poor communities already face deficiencies in face-to-face education given the disparity in the resources in schools across the board. Education is promoted as the major determinant of success. Covid-19 has exposed the disadvantage students from poor families and communities face in trying to grasp the ticket to success
2. The disease disproportionately affects non-whites, especially black people. The main reasons for this is that they are disproportionately exposed to situations that make them vulnerable to contracting the disease. This includes working in frontline jobs, traveling by public transport, living and working in congested spaces with poor ventilation, and having pre-existing conditions. According to an Economic Policy Institute article by Elise Gould, “evidence to date suggests that black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 than white workers”.
The harsh economic effects of the impact of Covid-19 have been felt mostly among working class, in particular, black workers. Job loss is high and climbing, especially as many companies are increasing the use of digitization, automation and mechanization. Added to that is the astronomical increase in the cost of living. The COVID19 pandemic exposes the vulnerability of workers worldwide. We have seen television interviews with frontline workers on short-term contracts who have no health benefits which would be necessary for them to secure adequate health care.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guitierrez predicted what is now our reality when he said:
“The pandemic’s economic impacts could create “major stressors” in fragile societies or less developed countries, for example, while the ensuing economic instability will have devastating consequences for women as they make up the majority in the worst-affected sectors.”
In that statement, Gutierrez highlighted the fact that there is a gender disparity in the impact of Covid-19. We can add to that age disparity in those affected by the disease. The majority of persons who die from the disease are senior citizens who are not prioritized for life-saving in overwhelmed health systems.
3. Stigma against social groups, in particular, races and nationalities, is one of the by-products of Covid-19 that various nations have had to combat. For example, early in the pandemic, Asian people were stigmatized because one of the first countries in which Covid-19 was identified was China. We have subsequently learned that it developed almost simultaneously in Italy. In the US and elsewhere, Chinese citizens and people of Chinese ancestry have been physically and verbally assaulted by white nationalists and other xenophobic groups. The fact that President of the USA, Donald Trump in an unscientific way attributed COVID-19 to China, calling it the “Chinese flu”, instead of the environmental issues which gave rise to it, helped to fuel this expression of racism towards people of color in general and the Chinese in particular. Indeed, many individuals suffered severe wounds at the hands of racist thugs in the US and in other countries. Here in Jamaica, we have seen stigmatization of people based on symptoms. In one instance, a man was beaten and thrown off a bus because he was coughing.
Another dimension to our answer to the question about Covid-19’s impact on peace and discrimination, is the fact that governments have had to create extraordinary emergency conditions in the fight against Covid-19. While these extraordinary emergency conditions are necessary to protect the health of citizens, they curtail their human rights and can easily morph into dictatorships without the vigilance of constitutional lawyers, human rights bodies, other civil society groups and mass organisations.
A major danger to peace is the tendency of powerful imperialist countries to the use the severe economic realities faced by poorer countries to manipulate them into supporting actions which are against the thrust towards creating a peaceful world and maintaining our region of the Caribbean and Latin America as a zone of peace. In this region, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are primary targets for regime change, that is, the overthrow of their governments. These countries pose no threat to the imperialist countries. However, their peoples have exercised their right to control their natural resources and use them for the development of their people. The imperialist countries have used many forms of attacks including harsh sanctions to try to force them to bow to their demands. What does this have to do with Covid-19? The fact is that the economic problems of countries in the region have been exacerbated by the pandemic and they are challenged to find the resources to fight the pandemic and revitalize their economies. This makes them vulnerable to manipulation by powerful countries. This is a major threat to peace in our region.
The UN’s Secretary General stated: “In some conflict settings, the uncertainty created by the pandemic may create incentives for some actors to promote further division and turmoil. This could lead to an escalation of violence and possibly devastating miscalculations, which could further entrench ongoing wars and complicate efforts to fight the pandemic.”
We firmly believe that COVID19 which has done so much to expose the structural socio-economic, cultural and political inequities and disparities between races, genders, ethnicities and classes in capitalist societies should be treated as an opportunity to transform these societies to at least minimize, if not eliminate, the threats to peace and stability globally.
Student and other organizations across the globe must play a role in holding public officials accountable for adopting policies to foster peace and protect the health and wellness of all citizens as a matter of priority. This includes access to health care services and legal protection against discrimination and bigotry. They must also be watch dogs in ensuring that the emergency powers created to fight the pandemic are not used to establish dictatorships that rule innthe interest of the minority and against the interest of the majority of the people. They must also be vigilant in ensuring that their governments do not become puppets of imperialism.
Last but not least, we call on student and other organisations to support the nomination of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Medical Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize for their bravery in providing healthcare to peoples all over the world to combat dangerous diseases such as Ebola and Covid-19.They are setting an example of what peaceful cooperation between nations looks like.
The heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic are the Cuban health workers who are providing services to several nations in the fight against the dangerous virus.
They are committed to the mission of providing humanitarian and medical assistance to the population of countries hit by natural disasters and epidemics, and contribute to their recovery.
The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade was created on 19 September 2005, in response to the damage caused by hurricane Katrina to New Orleans in the United States, which brought about approximately 1,336 casualties and losses worth 75 billion dollars. The Brigade was called Henry Reeve as a tribute to an American young man, born in Brooklyn, New York, who joined the detachment of Cuban patriots that landed on the Eastern coasts of Cuba on 4 May 1869 to take part in the independence war against Spanish colonial domination, which had begun in October 1868. In the history of Cuba, Henry Reeve became a paradigm of international solidarity.
When an adverse healthcare incident takes place, brigade members are immediately mobilized within 24 to 48 hours depending on the type of event. Most of its members have experience in international health missions, but participation is voluntary.
Up to 10 August 2020, the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade had provided assistance to 45 nations and 5 non-self-governing territories. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Brigade has worked in 22 states: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize (twice), Bolivia, Chile (twice), Dominica (twice), Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Grenada, Haiti (four times), Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico (three times), Nicaragua, Peru (twice), Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. It has also provided services in 5 countries of Asia and Oceania: China, Fiji, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan; in 12 nations of Subsaharan Africa: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry (twice), Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone (twice), São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa and Togo; in three North Africa and Middle East countries: United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait; and in three European states: Andorra, Azerbaijan and Italy. Additionally, the Brigade has assisted the following non-self-governing British territories: Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands, and Montserrat, as well as Martinique, which is an overseas department of France.
Members of the Henry Reeve medical brigade, which will provide support to Italy in the face of the crisis generated by COVID-19, pose with a photo of former Cuban President Fidel Castro | Photo: EFE
More than 9,000 Cuban healthcare professionals have participated in these missions. They have delivered medical care to approximately 4 million people and have saved the lives of more than 89,000 people.
On 26 May 2017, the World Health Organization awarded the Dr. LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health to the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade which specializes in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics in the 70th World Health Assembly. This prize was given in recognition of the medical assistance lent by the Brigade in emergency situations. When presenting the award, Yohan Ihn, President of the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare, said that “the Henry Reeve Brigade has disseminated a message of hope to the whole world”.
On 13 August 2020, the National Congress of Honduras approved the award of the high decoration known as the “Cruz de Comendador” (the Commander’s Cross) to the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade for its outstanding contribution to the health of the Honduran people and the results achieved in combating COVID-19 in their country.
After COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and became the greatest health threat the world has been faced with in the 21st century, the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade prepared to help any nation that would request its assistance. In the course of five months, the Brigade has gone to 38 states, treating 355,785 people and saving 9,736 lives. More than 3,700 Cuban healthcare professionals have taken part in these missions; 61.2 % of them are women.
Forty-five brigades were specially created to fight the pandemic, 38 of which are still delivering care in 29 nations (Angola, Azerbaijan, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Dominica, United Arab Emirates, Grenada, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, Qatar, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Togo and Venezuela) and 5 non-self-governing territories (Anguilla, Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Martinique and Montserrat).
The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been present in most regions of the world, including 2 states of Central America, namely Nicaragua and Honduras, and Mexico. In the latter, there were four specialized medical brigades from Cuba. The six Cuban medical missions in the region have treated more than 80,000 patients. The Brigade has also assisted 12Caribbean countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Jamaica, Grenada, Haiti, Belize, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, where it has provided health care services to around 33,000 people. Moreover, the Brigade has contributed to combating the pandemic in South America, more specifically in Venezuela and in Peru with four brigades, treating approximately 19,000 people.
Four Cuban medical brigades have gone to Europe to join the domestic efforts in the fight against the pandemic in Italy (2 brigades were sent to Lombardy and Piedmont), Andorra, and Azerbaijan, where they have provided their services to more than 16,000 people. Furthermore, the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has helped several non-self-governing British territories (Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands and Montserrat) and Martinique, which is an overseas department of France, treating more than a thousand patients.
In Africa, 10 Cuban medical brigades have delivered care to over 38,000 people in Angola, Togo, Cape Verde, South Africa, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Kenya.
In the Middle East, four medical brigades have worked in Qatar (two medical missions), United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, treating more than 138,000 patients.
As a result of the cooperation established with the World Health Organization (WHO), in less than two weeks 5,000 Cuban doctors and nurses from the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade volunteered to assist in combating the Ebola epidemic. Out of them, more than 500 professionals were chosen for training and 256 were finally selected to participate in the fight against Ebola.
In 2010, Cuban doctors had already been engaged in the fight against a cholera epidemic in Haiti, lending medical assistance to more than 400,000 people and saving the lives of approximately 76,000 patients. Just like in 2010, in 2014 the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade worked in the Ebola treatment centers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Conakry, taking care of more than 2,000 patients. This was the only medical mission that provided direct medical assistance to Ebola patients. During this period, two brigade members died of malaria and another one contracted Ebola.
EXPERIENCE IN NATURAL DISASTER SITUATIONS
The first emergency situation the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade had to face took place just a few days after it was created, in Guatemala, where they had to assist the population affected by the floods of October 2005. A total of 688 healthcare professionals treated over 477,000 people and saved more than 1,300 lives.
Since its creation, the Brigade has completed 20 medical missions specialized in addressing natural disaster situations, more specifically 8after the floods in Guatemala (2005), Bolivia (2006), Belize (2007), Mexico (2007), El Salvador (2009), Chile (2015), Peru (2017), and Sierra Leone (2017), 7after the earthquakes that hit Pakistan (2005), Indonesia (2006), Peru (2007), China (2008), Chile (2010), Nepal (2015), and Ecuador (2016), and 5 after the hurricanes striking Haiti (2016), Fiji (2016), Dominica (2017), Mexico (2017) and Mozambique (2019). More than 4,000 healthcare professionals took part in these missions and delivered care to more than 3 million patients.
The Brigade carried out a particularly remarkable work in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Pakistan in October 2005, causing the loss of 70,000 lives and injuries to 100,000 people and leaving 3 million people homeless. In a time lapse of almost eight months, over 2,000 Cuban healthcare workers treated more than 1,700,000 patients. Over 14,000 surgeries were performed and more than 166,000 survivors received specialized rehabilitation services; more than 2,000 lives were saved.
In the course of these 15 years, the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been part of the international efforts to increase cooperation between nations in the health care sector. During this period, 71 medical brigades have been formed, including 46 to fight COVID-19, three to deal with the Ebola epidemic, two to combat the cholera epidemic, and 20 to respond to natural disaster situations, out of which eight are specialized in floods, seven in earthquakes and five in hurricanes.
The Brigade has remained actively engaged this whole time, completing between 1 and 4 missions per year. In the last five months, it has carried out a remarkably efficient work in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION-HISTORY OF THE HENRY REEVE INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL BRIGADE
For more than fifty years, Cuba has engaged in international medical cooperation projects, which have covered more than 150 countries. We have been motivated to participate by our feelings of solidarity and humanism. The origins of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade can be traced back to May 1960, when a medical team provided assistance to the Chilean people who had been struck by an earthquake and May 1963, when a group of 50 Cuban healthcare professionals traveled to the Republic of Algeria in North Africa, in compliance with an agreement between the two nations. After 57 years providing humanitarian aid, at the end of 2019, Cuban doctors had delivered preventive and curative care to a total of 1,931 million people from all around the world, thus improving their individual well-being and state of health, and saving 8.2 million lives.
From May 1960 to February 2005, which covers a span of 45 years, several medical brigades for emergency situations – the antecedent of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade – completed 30 medical and humanitarian aid missions in 19 countries; 2,055 Cuban healthcare workers were involved in those missions, which covered the following countries: Algeria, Chile, El Salvador, Peru (twice), Nicaragua (5 times), Honduras (4 times), Armenia, Iran, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Kosovo, Ecuador, Paraguay, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Guyana, broken down by geographic area as follows: 2 nations in the Caribbean, 4 in Central America, 7 in South America, 2 in Eurasia, 1 in Africa, 1 in the Middle East and 2 in the Far East and the Pacific. The humanitarian aid extended to these countries was triggered by the occurrence of natural catastrophes, specifically, 11 earthquakes, 7 hurricanes, 1 volcanic eruption, 4 landslides triggered by rainfall and floods, 4 epidemics, 1 fire and 2 tsunamis. In one particular case, humanitarian assistance was given in the aftermath of an armed conflict.
In 1998, large-scale meteorological disasters devastated vast areas of the Caribbean and Central America, in particular Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and brought about the creation of a new international humanitarian aid project to assist affected nations, which was named Comprehensive Health Care Program (PIS, by its Spanish initials). This project was complemented by the foundation of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM, by its Spanish initials) in Havana by the end of 1999. The initial aim of this school was to provide medical training to young people from those countries that had been struck by the natural disasters so that they would work as doctors in their communities of origin.
In the course of 15 years, ELAM has trained 29,749 doctors from 123 nations from every region of the world. In the current academic year (2019-2020) the school is training 1,358 students from 87 countries.
A global pandemic has changed everyday life drastically. From one day to the next, millions of people get infected and thousands die even when their life expectancy was longer thanks to development. Hospital systems with high-level services have collapsed and the health structures of poor countries are affected by their chronic lack of capacity. Drastic quarantines are turning the most populated cities into deserted areas. Social life is nonexistent except in the digital networks. Theaters, discos, galleries and even schools are closed or being readjusted.
Our borders have been closed, our economies are shrinking and our reserves are dwindling. Life is experiencing a radical redesigning of age-old ways and uncertainty is replacing certainty. Even close friends cannot recognize each other due to the masks that protect us from the contagion. Everything is changing.
Like finding a solution to the pandemic, it is already urgent to democratize this indispensable Organization so that it effectively meets the needs and aspirations of all peoples.
The sought-after right of humanity to live in peace and security, with justice and freedom, the basis for unity among nations, is constantly under threat.
Over 1.9 trillion dollars are being squandered today in a senseless arms race promoted by the aggressive and war-mongering policies of imperialism, whose leader is the present government of the US, which accounts for 38 percent of the global military expenditure.
We are referring to a markedly aggressive and morally corrupt regime that despises and attacks multilateralism, uses financial blackmailing in its relations with UN system agencies and that, in a show of unprecedented overbearance, has withdrawn from the World Health Organization, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council.
Paradoxically, the country where the UN headquarters is located is also staying away from fundamental international treaties such as the Paris Agreement on climate change; it rejects the nuclear agreement with Iran reached by consensus; it promotes trade wars; it ends its commitment with international disarmament control instruments; it militarizes cyberspace; it expands coercion and unilateral sanctions against those who do not bend to its designs and sponsors the forcible overthrow of sovereign governments through nonconventional war methods.
Along such line of action, which ignores the old principles of peaceful co-existence and respect of the right of others´ to self-determination as the guarantee for peace, the Donald Trump administration it also manipulating, with subversive aims, cooperation in the sphere of democracy and human rights, while in its own territory there is an abundance of practically uncontrolled expressions of hatred, racism, police brutality and irregularities in the election system and as to the voting rights of citizens
It is urgent to reform the UN. This powerful organization, which emerged after the loss of millions of lives in two world wars and as a result of a world understanding of the importance of dialogue, negotiation, cooperation and international law, must not postpone any further its updating and democratization. Today´s world needs the UN just as the one where it came into being did.
Something that is very special and profound has failed, as evidenced by the daily and permanent violation of the UN Charter principles, and by the ever-increasing use or threat of use of force in international relations.
There is no way to sustain any longer, as if it were natural and unshakable, an unequal, unjust and anti-democratic International order where selfishness prevails over solidarity and the mean interests of a powerful minority over the legitimate aspirations of millions of people.
Notwithstanding the dissatisfactions and the demands for change that, together with other states and millions of citizens in the world, we are presenting to the UN, the Cuban Revolution shall always uphold the existence of the Organization, to which we owe the little but indispensable multilateralism that is surviving imperial overbearance.
More than once, at this very forum, Cuba has reiterated its willingness to cooperate with the democratization of the UN and the upholding of international cooperation, that can be saved only by it. As stated by the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, and I quote: “The international community shall always count on Cuba´s honest voice in the face of injustice, inequality, underdevelopment, discrimination and manipulation, and for the establishment of a more just and equitable international order which really centers on human beings, their dignity and wellbeing.” End of quote.
Coming back to the seriousness of the present situation, which many blame only on the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it is essential to say that its impact is by far overflowing the health sphere.
Due to its nefarious sequels, impressive death toll and damages to the world economy and the deterioration of social development levels, the spreading of the pandemic in the last few months brings anguish and despair to leaders and citizens in practically all nations.
But the multidimensional crisis it has unleashed clearly shows the great mistake of the dehumanized policies fully imposed by the market dictatorship.
Today, we are witnessing with sadness the disaster the world has been led to by the irrational and unsustainable production and consumption system of capitalism, decades of an unjust international order and the implementation of ruthless and rampant neoliberalism, which has widened inequalities and sacrificed the right of peoples to development.
Unlike excluding neoliberalism, which puts aside and discards millions of human beings and condemns them to survive on the leftovers from the banquet of the richest one percent, the COVID-19 virus does not discriminate between them, but its devastating economic and social effects shall be lethal among the most vulnerable and those with lower incomes, whether they live in the underdeveloped world or in the pockets of poverty of big industrial cities.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projections, the 690 million people who were going hungry in 2019 might be joined by a further 130 million as a result of the economic recession caused by the pandemic. Studies by the International Labor Organization (ILO) say that over 305 million jobs have been lost and that more than 1.6 billion workers are having their livelihoods at stake.
We cannot face COVID-19, hunger, unemployment and the growing economic and social inequalities between individuals and countries as unrelated phenomena. There is an urgency to implement integrated policies that prioritize human beings and not economic profits or political advantages.
It would a crime to postpone decisions that are for yesterday and for today. It is imperative to promote solidarity and international cooperation to lessen the impact.
Only the UN, with its world membership, has the required authority and reach to resume the just struggle to write off the uncollectable foreign debt which, aggravated by the social and economic effects of the pandemic, is threatening the survival of the peoples of the South.
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and the early signs that it would bring a pandemic did not catch Cuba off guard.
With the decade-long experience of facing terrible epidemics, some of which were provoked deliberately as part of the permanent war against our political project, we immediately implemented a series of measures based on our main capabilities and strengths, namely, a wellstructured socialist state that cares for the health of its citizens, a highly-skilled human capital and a society with much people´s involvement in its decision-making and problem solving processes.
The implementation of those measures, combined with the knowledge accrued for over 60 years of great efforts to create and expand a high-quality and universal health system, plus scientific research and development, has made it possible not only to preserve the right to health of all citizens, without exception, but also to be in a better position to face the pandemic.
We have been able to do it in spite of the harsh restrictions of the long economic, commercial and financial blockade being imposed by the US government, which has been brutally tightened in the last two years, even at these pandemic times, something that shows it is the essential component of the hostile US Cuba policy.
The aggressiveness of the blockade has reached a qualitatively higher level that further asserts its role as the real and determining impediment to the managing of the economy and the development of our country. The US government has intensified in particular its harassment of Cuban financial transactions and, beginning in 2019, it has been adopting measures that violate international law to deprive the Cuban people of the possibility to buy fuels they need for their everyday activities and for their development.
So as to damage and demonize the Cuban Revolution and others it defines as adversaries, the US has been publishing spurious lists having no legitimacy by which it abrogates itself the right to impose unilateral coercive measures and unfounded qualifications on the world.
Every week, that government issues statements against Cuba or imposes new restrictions. Paradoxically, however, it has refused to term as terrorist the attack that was carried out against the Cuban embassy in Washington on April 30, 2020, when an individual armed with an assault rifle fired over 30 rounds against the diplomatic mission and later admitted to his intent to kill.
We denounce the double standards of the US government in the fight against terror and demand a public condemnation of that brutal attack.
We demand a cease of the hostility and slanderous campaign against the altruistic work by Cuba´s international medical cooperation that, with much prestige and verifiable results, has contributed to saving hundreds of lives and lowering the impact of the disease in many countries. Prominent international figures and highly prestigious social organizations have acknowledged the humanistic work done by the “Henry Reeve” International Medical Brigade for Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics and called for the Nobel Peace Prize to be given to them.
While the US government is ignoring the call to combine efforts to fight the pandemic and it withdraws from the WHO, Cuba, in response to requests made to it, and guided by the profound solidarity and humanistic vocation of its people, is expanding its cooperation by sending over 3 700 cooperation workers distributed in 46 medical brigades to 39 countries and territories hit by COVID-19.
In this sense, we condemn the gangster blackmailing by the US to pressure the Pan-American Health Organization so as to make that regional agency a tool for its morbid aggression against our country. As usual, the force of truth shall do away with lies, and facts and protagonists shall go down in history as they should. Cuba´s example shall prevail.
Our dedicated health workers, the pride of a nation brought up in José Marti’s idea that My Country Is Humanity, shall be awarded the prize their noble hearts deserve, or not; but it has been years since they won the recognition of the peoples blessed by their health work.
The US government is not hiding its intention to enforce new and harsher aggressive measures against Cuba in the next few months. We state once again before the international community that our people, who take pride in their history and are committed to the ideals and achievements of the Revolution, shall resist and overcome.
The attempts at imposing neocolonial domination on Our America by publicly declaring the present value of the Monroe Doctrine contravene the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.
We wish to restate publicly in this virtual forum that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall always have the solidarity of Cuba in the face of attempts at destabilizing and subverting constitutional order and the civic-military unity and at destroying the work started by Commander Hugo Chávez Frías and continued by President Nicolás Maduro Moros to benefit the Venezuelan people.
We also reject US actions aimed at destabilizing the Republic of Nicaragua and ratify our invariable solidarity with its people and government led by Commander Daniel Ortega.
We state our solidarity with the Caribbean nations, which are demanding just reparations for the horrors of slavery and the slave trade, in a world where racial discrimination and the repression against Afro-descendant communities have been on the rise.
We reaffirm our historical commitment with the selfdetermination and independence of the sisterly people of Puerto Rico.
We support the legitimate claim by Argentina to its sovereignty over the Malvinas, the South Sandwich and South Georgia islands.
We reiterate our commitment with peace in Colombia and the conviction that dialogue between the parties is the road to achieving stable and lasting peace in that country.
We support the search for a peaceful and negotiated solution to the situation imposed on Syria, with no foreign interference and in full respect of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We demand a just solution to the conflict in the Middle East, which must include the real exercise by the Palestinian people of the inalienable right to build their own State within the borders prior to 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital. We reject Israel´s attempts to annex more territories in the West Bank.
We state our solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the face of US aggressive escalation.
We reaffirm our invariable solidarity with the Sahrawi people.
We strongly condemn the unilateral and unjust sanctions against the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea.
We restate our rejection of the intention to expand NATO´s presence to the Russian borders and the imposition of unilateral and unjust sanctions against Russia.
We reject foreign interference into the internal affairs of the Republic of Belarus and reiterate our solidarity with the legitimate president of that country, Aleksandr Lukashenko, and the sisterly people of Belarus.
We condemn the interference into the internal affairs of the People´s Republic of China and oppose any attempt to harm its territorial integrity and its sovereignty.
Today´s disturbing circumstances have led to the fact that, for the first time in the 75-year-long history of the United Nations, we have had to meet in a non- presential format.
Cuba´s scientific community, another source of pride for the nation that, since the triumph of the Revolution of the just, announced to the world its intention to be a country of men and women of science, is working non-stop on one of the first vaccines that are going through clinical trials in the world.
Its creators and other researchers and experts, in coordination with the health system, are writing protocols on healthcare for infected persons, recovered patients and the risk population that have allowed us to keep epidemic statistics of around 80% of infected persons saved and a mortality rate below the average in the Americas and the world.
“Doctors and not bombs.” That was announced one day by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution and chief sponsor of scientific development in Cuba: Commanderin-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz. That´s our motto. Saving lives and sharing what we are and have, no matter any sacrifice it takes; that is what we are offering to the world from the United Nations, to which we only request to be attuned with the gravity of the present time.
We are Cuba.
Let us strive together to promote peace, solidarity and development.
The People’s Movement Has Lost One of Its Most Beloved and Treasured Activists
September 6 is a very sad day for the people’s movement in the United States. In the early hours of this day, we lost one our most beloved and treasured comrades. Kevin was not only a comrade, but a dear friend and brother to all of us. We were honored to have him as our comrade in struggle.
No one can forget Kevin’s heroic act, along with Margaret, Adrienne and David, of refusing to leave the Embassy of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, at a very high price to themselves, in order to prevent the transfer of its control to the representatives of U.S. puppet, Juan Guaidó. In doing so, they became not only our heroes, but those of all anti-imperialist peoples and movements around the world, especially the revolutionary people of Venezuela.
But Kevin’s outstanding role in the movement was not limited to his last heroic act. For years, he co-directed the Popular Resistance with Margaret Flowers — his partner in life — which has been one of the main sources of truly anti-imperialist information and analysis for the peace movement. As members of the National Board of the U.S. Peace Council, Executive Committee of the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, and Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases, Kevin and Margaret played a key role organizing two extremely successful conferences against U.S. And NATO Military Bases, the first in Baltimore, Maryland in January 2018, and the second in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2018.
Throughout these years, we have been benefitting from Kevin’s profound knowledge, wisdom and anti-imperialist commitment and vision. His absence will be felt during every step we will take from now on. But his comradely presence will be with us forever.
The universality of Fidel’s humanist ideas is recognized in every corner of the world, and he is known to be, above all, a man of peace. Naturally, in the process of historical development of humankind and of the peoples’ eternal struggle to obtain their full freedom, independence, sovereignty, dignity, and happiness, our Commander in Chief also stands out for his exemplarity as military strategist, statesman, ruler, politician, and educator, among other capacities.
These reasons lead us to clarify that the present lines are solely dedicated to present some key moments of his dimension as untiring peace fighter.
(…) peace is the secret desire of men’s hearts and their natural condition.1 Based on that thought of Martí and on his ethics, Fidel, from an early stage assumed concepts that remained present in the struggles he later waged in defense of peace, which turned him into an unequalled human being who is present in the struggle being carried out by Cubans and each revolutionary in the world to attain a better world.
By becoming, first a utopian communist and later a Marxist-Leninist – as disclosed in an interview with Ignacio Ramonet – he considerably enriched his political ideas, which timely granted him a better understanding of the obstacles he would have to overcome on the road to peace.
Having embraced the illuminated ideas of Marxism-Leninism, and always keeping in mind the teachings of José Martí, he delved deeply into the causes that generated the injustice, hunger, poverty, inequality, violence and exploitation endured by the Cuban people. And for that reason Fidel dreamed, like politicians should.2 The Moncada, the Granma, and the Sierra Maestra epics, together with the people’s support made his dreams come true.
On January 1, 1959 Cuba became free, independent, sovereign, and from that moment on it would have to struggle to cease being a country of illiterates deprived of culture and health for all. To do that it would have to attain economic development and social equality, a goal that Fidel knew could only be achieved in a context of peace, of civil tranquility, and with the participation of everyone; with the aggravating element of having to face the most powerful empire in history, which would require preparing for war as sole way of preventing it.
With this Cuban reality, our Commander in Chief succeeded in developing a political thought in which peace is inseparably linked with development and with social justice as inalienable principle, valid not just for our nation but for any place in the world where people struggle to build their own destiny.
His first trip abroad after the triumph of the Revolution was to Venezuela, in late January
There he visited the Parliament of Caracas, and on that occasion he thanked the Venezuelan people for the support it had given to Cuba’s struggle for independence. He further explained the experiences of our country in defense of peace: “(…) For example, in Cuba today we have experiences of how there is peace, there is order. Because they speak of peace and order; well, in Cuba there was never more peace and more order than there is today, without police and without force, because it is the peace that the people want and maintain, and it is the order that the people need and maintain.”3 This was perhaps the first time that the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution spoke outside his country about such a sensitive and important theme as peace.
However, it was at the scenario of the United Nations Organization on September 26, 1960, during his historical address on behalf of Cuba, where Fidel disclosed key elements of his standpoint regarding peace and the policy of the Cuban Revolution against war and the arms race.
“(…) Abolish the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will disappear! (…) War is a business. Those who make war a business, those who become rich with war have to be unmasked: it is necessary to open the world’s eyes and show the world the ones that make business with the fate of humankind. (…) Let us struggle for peace and let us struggle for disarmament.”5
From that moment on Fidel used all the tribunes that would allow him to struggle for peace, and explain new ideas and concepts to enlighten the revolutionaries and popular masses on the need to struggle for peace for all citizens. He, who had become a had intensely studied the revolutionary processes taking place in the world, and who was winning one battle after another against the fierce imperialism persisting in defeating the Revolution, achieved the understanding that peace was not only defended with firmness, decision and courage, but also with intelligence.
As expression of the link among peace, sovereignty and the people’s political struggle, on January 15, 1963 he stated: “(…) We want peace with rights, with sovereignty, and with dignity! We want peace without renouncing the revolutionary condition, without renouncing the Revolution!”5
Broaching the theme again on May 1, 1965 at Plaza de la Revolución José Martí, he said: “(…) No one wishes or may wish war; people want peace, to live in peace, work in peace, grow in peace, develop in peace; the people want to build their happiness, but that happiness has to be conquered intelligentl y.”6
Conscious of the value of ideas as main weapon in the struggle against history’s most warmonger empire, which constantly puts the world on the border of a nuclear war, he reiterated the need to sow ideas and conscience among the people, which he did with passion and intelligence.
Also knowing that the struggle for peace had to face the powerful propaganda and disinformation machinery employed by the large transnational communications corporations to poison the minds of the citizens throughout the world, he participated directly in many world forums where that battle was waged.
At the UN, the Non-Aligned, the Group of 77, the Iberian-American Summits, the CELAC, CARICOM, ALBA-TCP and the World Peace Council, among other forums, his voice was always unifying, defender of the just causes of the world’s dispossessed, inspiring guide to channel the peoples’ will in their efforts to attain and enjoy peace with dignity and for all.
From the many moments in which his political genius shone in defense of peace we will quote only four: the UN, the Summit of Non-Aligned Countries, the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77, and the Iberian American Summit. United Nations Organization (UN)
“(…) Let us say farewell to arms and let us focus in a civilized way to the most stressing problems of our era.”7
“(…) It is not possible to speak about peace on behalf of the tens of millions of human beings who die every year of hunger or curable illnesses throughout the
world. It is not possible to speak about peace on behalf of 900 million illiterates.”8
“(…) We have come to speak about peace and collaboration among the peoples, and we have come to warn that if we do not solve the present injustices and inequalities in peace and with wisdom, the future will be apocalyptic.”9
Summit of the Movement of Non-aligned Countries
“(…) Without peace – we are all sure of it – development is not possible, in the same way that without development, peace would not be possible.”10
“(…) There cannot be development if there is no peace, nor can there be peace if there is no development for the huge majority of the peoples of the Earth.”11
Group of 77
“(…) Peace and the right to a comfortable and worthy life should exist for everyone.”12
It is an axiom that without peace there will be no development, but it is also an axiom that there cannot be peace without development for eight tenths of the world population.13
“(…) Peace requires many things: patience, wisdom, hope, social justice, to acquire all the strength required to achieve it.”14
One of Fidel’s many contributions in his unceasing struggle to make peace prevail as right and enjoyment for all, is to have conceived this battle without making concessions of principles, without the people having to renounce their dreams of social justice, without abandoning their principles, which is perceived in the following ideas:
“(…) the defense of peace cannot be a passive defense; the preaching in favor of peace cannot be a beatific preaching; peace at any price: no!”14
“(…) peace is not obtained with weakness; peace is obtained with firmness, courage and the peoples’ decision.”15
“A peace with respect, a peace with rights, a peace with independence, and a peace with safety for all peoples of the world: that is the peace we must all fight for!”16
Nothing escaped Fidel’s vision of the comprehensive approach that must exist to combat all attitudes that endanger the efforts to enable all human beings and world nations to live in peace. He knew that the war would be followed by one of the most terrible and deadly plagues: terrorism, and for that reason he warned:
“(…) We are and will be against terrorism and against war! Nothing will make us stray from that line!17 (…) Search for peace everywhere to protect all peoples against that plague of terrorism.18
When reflecting on the legacy of Fidel, who left us a vast and strategic arsenal of ideas to continue his struggle to conquer peace for all human beings in our planet, we must underline its full applicability even in the complex and dangerous situations in which the imperial oligarchies have placed the world, with the consciousness that there will be peace for all or no peace for anyone, and also conscious, like Fidel himself said at a meeting of the World Peace Council:
“(…) peace by itself is not the solution to all problems. Peace is only the primary condition to be able to apply consequently the huge volumes of energy and resources required to enable all humankind and not just a part of it to live in an honorable, decent and decorous way.”19
*Jorge Lezacno Pérez. Bachelor in Social Sciences. Founder of the Communist Party of Cuba. He was First Secretary of the Party in Havana and Vice President of the National Assembly of People’s Power. Nowadays, he is Collaborator of the MOVPAZ.
1Valdés Galarraga, Ramiro. Diccionario del pensamiento martiano. Ciencias Sociales Publishing House, Havana, 2007, p. 508.
2Cien horas con Fidel. Conversaciones con Ignacio Ramonet, Tercera Edición, Publications Office of the Council of State, Havana, 2006, p. 140.
3Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second revised edition. Editora Política, Havana, 2016, p. 319.
4 Address by Commander Fidel Castro Ruz, Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, at the
Parliament of Caracas, Venezuela, on January 24, 1959. Stenographic version of the Prime Minister’s Offices. 5 La Revolución cubana 1953-1980. Selection of Readings 2. Félix Varela Publishing House, Havana, 2002, pp.
150, 157, 158.
6 Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second edition, revised and enlarged, Editora Política, Havana, 2016, p.304.
7Creach Corrales, Pedro. Fidel Castro Ruz. Pensamientos. Thematic selection. Enlarged edition. La Gráfica en la Comunidad, abril de 2017, p.188. 8 Ibídem.
9 Ibídem. 10 Ibídem, p. 189.
Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second edition, revised and enlarged,Editora Política, Havana, 2016, p. 306.
Creach Corrales, Pedro. Fidel Castro Ruz. Pensamientos. Thematic selection. Enlarged edition. La Gráfica en la Comunidad, April, 2017, p.189.
Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second edition, revised and enlarged, Editora Política, La Habana, 2016, p. 306.
Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second edition, revised and enlarged, Editora Política, Havana, 2016, p. 304.
Creach Corrales, Pedro. Fidel Castro Ruz. Pensamientos. Thematic selection. Enlarged edition.. La Gráfica en la Comunidad, April, 2017, p.190.
21Susi Sarfati, Salomón. Diccionario de Pensamientos de Fidel Castro. Second edition, revised and enlarged,Editora Política, Havana, 2016, p. 305.
The following presentation was delivered by economist Micaheal Heslop o behalf of JPC on August 3, 2020 at the weekly Haitian Platform of Advocacy for Alternative Development (PAPDA) and the the Jubilee South network conference.
Thank you so much for inviting me to this important conference!
I would like to begin my presentation with a quotation from the late revolutionary President of Bokina Faso, Thomas Sankara that I believe to be apt to contextualize my presentation.
Sankara states in a 1987 address to the OAU:
“those who lent us money, they are the ones who colonized us, they are the same ones who managed our states and our economies, they are the colonizers who indebted Africa to the donors, their brothers and cousins… If we do not pay this debt, our donors will not die. Let’s be sure of that. On the other hand, if we pay, we are the ones who will die”. Thomas Sankara
I was asked to speak on the critically important topic of “Debt as it Pertains to Racism and its Afro-decendants Identity in Jamaica and the English Speaking Caribbean.”
First, I would like to posit the idea that debt, racism and the identity of African decendants have been inseparable issues throughout the colonial and contemporary history of Jamaica and the Caribbean. The fact is that debt and its servicing as a share of the economy (GDP) whether it was on the sugar plantations of the enslavers or in contemporary Jamaica was and is always used to to enrich the mainly white and later Jewish financiers and to improverish the black majority who in the first place are not the main creators of the debt. The debt in other words originated with colonialism as Thomas Sankar poignantly said and was intensified under neo-colonialism. Today Jamaica’s external debt stands at an estimated US $14.94b though it was only US$3.9b in 2000 while that of the Caribbean stands at more than US $50 billion. Source: CIA’ WorldBook/ECLA
Nonetheless, the servicing of the debt, the “belt tightening” and the fiscal consolidation etc that occured and continue to occur in Jamaica and the Caribbean have always disproportionately impacted the black majority negatively in terms of job losses, in terms of inadequate capital availability for small business loans, in terms of deficient funding for public health facilities, increasing rates of poverty, schools and in other ways that stifle their upliftment. In other words, just like the debt of the enslavers was financed at the expense of the enslaved Africans today, the debt today is largely financed on the backs of the working and poor African decendants. As Bob Marley says in his sing Survival, “ Nothing change, Nothing strange.”
Second, the structures of dependent capitalism that emerged on the ruins of colonial slavery continued to dehumanize the Afro decendants as cheap laborers to subsidize local and foreign capital in keeping with the role their ancestors played during colonial slavery up to 1865 when this form of European savagery cane to a formal end.
Third, I would like to make it clear that I am not here today to bamboozle you with an in-depth analysis of conventional debt indicators such as debt/GDP, Public Debt/GDP, export growth/GDP, trade/GDP ratio, export/ GDP among others as important as they are for scholarly research and for the macroeconomic managers of our indebtedness to imperialism. On the contrary, I believe that to confine our analysis to these debt indicators is a failure of our political and intellectual imagination to capture alternative ways to unshackackle our peoples’ creative energies from the dominance of monopoly capital and the achievement of alternative forms of socio-economic development.
One of the problems with this type of debt analysis is that it typically accepts the capitalist status quo as its reference point though paradoxically capitalism and imperialism are fundamentally the sources of our peoples indebtedness and underdevelopment.
Four, the real challenge of the debt as a part of the socio-economic fabric of Jamaica and the Caribbean is not simply how to manage the debt as a share of the economy or the Debt/GDP ratio but more importantly it is how to fight to cancel the debt that is mathematically not payable. As Fidel Castro said “They blame me for saying the debt cannot be paid. They should blame Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, Pascal or Lovacheski, or any ancient, present, or modern mathematician you prefer. Mathematics and mathematicians’ theories are the ones which demonstrate that the debt cannot be paid.”
To fight in unity as developing countries to cancel our collective debt in the English speaking Caribbean and other developing countries is ultimately the only way to permanently free up resources to finance the development (and not simply economic growth) of our peoples since reducing Debt/GDP through fiscal consolidation only brings more socio-economic pain and marginalization for our Afro decendants. How can economic growth be sustained in the Caribbean when according to ECLA the average Debt/GDP ratio is 76% which is way above the 65% that the IMF considers sustainable? How can growth be sustained to propel development of Afrodecendants when GDP growth is sluggish and averages about 1.8% in the English speaking Caribbean?
How can growth be sustained in Caribbean economies when the fiscal space is getting smaller to invest in education and other infrastructure, when there there is declining FDI, higher borrowing costs due to higher risk premium on loans to its increasing size among other favors that constraint growth required to foster survival and presumably grow out of our indebtedness?
How can economic growth be achieved and more importantly sustained to advance the domestic structural transformations in Caribbean economies so strategically necessary to end dependent capitalism in order to improve the lot of the Afrodecendants who are required to be at the center of development to address the historical injustices so patently evident in our nations?
How can economic growth occur in the context of COVID without attention to the racist inequities that are more glearing than ever because of the impact of COVID that makes them ever clearer to even those without eyes?
Development, if it is to be taken seriously, must mean that our challenge is to ensure that the marginalized and dispossessed Afro decendants (landless/ small farmers, underprivileged youths, the hopeless and destituted masses etc) must become the principals rather than the agents in Jamaica and the Caribbean. They must as the creators of wealth become the beneficiaries of the wealth they create. They must be empowered from the bottom up in society to be the decision makers in society. Their days of being second class citizens must come to an end at the same time as debt as a tool of their poverty be ended as its unpayable.
However, if development is to be driven by growth in a sustained way to transform the lives of the Afro decendants and all Caribbean peoples, economic growth as Norman Girvan, George Beckford, Lloyd Best and other regional giants of the economics profession have argued must be driven internally by domestic aggregate demand within these economies.
Indeed, the Haitian people, the Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and others have shown with their blood and examples what’s possible when the working and downtrodden masses construct their own lives free of imperialist domination!!
Fifth, the battle to end the use of debt to strangle our peoples’ development is simultaneously a battle to ensure that our resources are used to invest in health care services, in education, housing, industries to create employment and incomes for our peoples as late PM Manley used to say for the first time at last.
In other words, we must battle with the former colonial enslavers and the imperialists for reparations as we have already repaid the debt many times over. As Fidel said in 1973, we are not debtors, we are in fact creditors to the imperialists. They are the ones who owe us and not the other way around. This must be made very clear to our people.
Finally, we are here to make the case for the full liberation of our Afrodecendants not solely from debt and racism but from the very fountain of debt and racism, namely, the capitalist /imperialist systems that use debt as a leverage, or club against Caribbean governments to impose their neo-liberal policy agenda of deregulation, privatization and the minimalist state to keep us as neo-slaves within the racist dependent capitalist system.
The fact is that since slavery until now monopoly capital has subjugated our peoples on the basis of a stratified racist system with Afro-Caribbean peoples at the bottom and whites at the top and typically the so-called mullatoes in the middle who acted as intermediaries between the powerful classes and the marginalized and dispossessed black majority. The neocolonialists have never seen us as equals and as a result they have used racism as a means to an end to divide us, subjugate us and exploit us as sub-humans to foster the capital accumulation process using us as unpaid laborers under slavery and as cheap labor today.
Though debt is a powerful tool that is used by imperialism ( the former colonializers) to sustain our dependency on them for funding, for markets for our exports/imports, technology etc, it is but one as they use culture, education and other means to shackle our minds and if we are not careful our bodies will be shackled too.
To conclude, it’s critical that we recognize that colonialism and neocolonialism are the origins of the indebtedness of Jamaica and the Caribbean as accurately posited by the late Thomas Sankara of Bokina Faso.
Afterall, it is colonialism and neocolonialism that have implanted dependent capitalism in the Caribbean in order to dominate Caribbean economies by making them dependent on imperialism for finance, markets, technology and a lot more. Evidently, colonialism and neocolonialism never worked to benefit the African decendants in the Caribbean because they were never designed to benefit them just like slavery before never benefited our ancestors for the same reason.
Consequently, not only must we fight to cancel our unpayable collective debt that has made us poor and underdeveloped as Afro West Indians. However, we must also struggle to end the racist structures that have demeaned and denied us resources because of our African ancestry even as our labor subsidized and continues to subsidize the creation of wealth to finance industrial capitalism in Europe and North America. Thus, morally, politically and economically as Afro decendants, we who have been crushed, brutalized , cheated and exploited to create wealth like our ancestors before us for the heirs of our collective enslavers have no choice but to fight for Reparations to correct multiple historical injustices. The latter includes the robbery of our resources through debt, trade, technological transfers, underpaid labor and forfeited opportunities.
However above all else, we must radically transform the dependent capitalist system that has been imposed on Caribbean societies and that has disproportionately improverished and marginalized the Afro decendants of enslaved Africans. Indeed, the COVID19 pandemic has exposed the gross inequities in health, income-wealth, education and so many other social indices that only confirm the historical roots of these inequities.
For these reasons and more, the debt must be canceled so as to free up financial resources to fund an internally driven growth process to power a radical development path with the Afro descendants as its principal decision makers and beneficiaries instead of being its agents. The time has long past for this transformation that is required to complement the correction of the historical injustices meted out to our African ancestors and their descendants in the Caribbean!
We, the undersigned labour organisations from the Caribbean, the African Diaspora, the African continent, and other territories, sign this letter to express our solidarity with the Belize Christian Workers Union (C.W.U.), Belize’s workers, and labour movement.
The CWU has recently won a tremendous achievement: they signed a 3-year collective bargaining agreement for Belize City’s stevedores. The CBA comes after 16 years, and an intense 6 months of labour organising by the majority Black longshoremen*.
The Christian Workers Union is a Belize City and Belmopan-based union made up of 1,300 members. They are from two major cities spanning industries as diverse as: the Statistical Institute of Belize, the National Institute of Culture and History, Citrus Products of Belize Ltd., St. Martin’s Credit Union, the Central Bank, the Social Security Department, the Belize City Council and the Port of Belize’s offices and stevedores.
The CWU, an umbrella union, serves a leadership role in Belize’s labour movement. The majority of the workers in the Central American and Caribbean nation of 400,000 people, are employed on a seasonal basis and often under precarious conditions. The era of neoliberalism has ravaged our communities with a vicious assault on labour codes, trade unions, and workers’ rights. Before the global COVID 19 pandemic- and during- organised labour has been on the frontline, protecting working families against corporate greed, persecution of grassroots leaders, mass lay-offs, and insufficient subsidies and social protections.
The CWU fights for dignified working conditions, dignified wages and benefits, year-round. They fight for these rights across different trades. The members build multi-sectoral labour power and worker solidarity. We need strong labour unions and strong labour laws and the CWU is a model for the global movement for labour, justice, and #BelizeSupportsBLM.
THE BLACK STEVEDORES OF THE CWU
Belize City’s longshoremen are indispensable to the country’s economy. Many of them have been stevedores for most of their lives after taking on the difficult trade from their forefathers in their youth. The job, by tradition, is held by Black or African-descendant Belizeans. It is one of the few in which labourers are able to earn income that approximates a living wage – not without great risk. They handle shipping cargo at ports and operate heavy machinery with expertise, under rain or shine, to move goods in and out of the country. The workers play an important role in African-Belizean livelihoods, history, culture, and well-being. Dock workers are the heart-beat of the working class of Belize City’s Black communities.
A HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT BY THE CWU AND STEVEDORES
On the 2nd of August, after a harrowing 16 years of labouring without a collective bargaining agreement, the stevedores have signed a 3-year collective bargaining agreement. The CWU finalised the marathon of negotiations with the Port of Belize Ltd (PBL), a Michael Ashcroft-owned corporation that took over receivership of the port in 2012. Since the neoliberal privatisation of the Belize City port in 2004, successive government administrations have sided with multinational interests over the welfare of the workers. They failed to ensure fundamental labour protections for the longshoremen.
The struggle continues, but today we celebrate: the workers have been victorious! The CBA provides legal protections for health coverage, retirement, earnings, and benefits, and shows the strength of Black workers’ collective power.
CWU President Evan “Mose” Hyde Jr. was the lead negotiator along with long-time labour organisers Mr. Guy Neal, Mr. Kenton Blanco, Mr. Raymond Rivers, Mr. James Neal, Sr., Mr. Wendell Wittaker, Mr. Windfield Dennison, Anthony Sylvester (attorney at law) and CWU Sec. Gen. Floyd Neal.
We hope this will be trend-setting in Belize and in the global labour movement and fight for Black workers and Black lives. Long live strong labour codes and workers’ rights in the face of the global pandemic, and beyond.
WE STAND WITH BELIZE’S WORKERS AS THE FIGHT CONTINUES
This victory has not been without serious warning signs of the continued neoliberal attacks against unionisation efforts. The historic antecedents of this trend include when, in 1995, the Belize government sided with multinational interests against banana-growing migrant workers who attempted to unionise. The Central American workers, many of whom were Indigenous and Mestizo, were met with persecution, detention and deportation.
This year, the CWU signalled concerns over the impact to port workers that the monopolisation of the sugar export industry might have. In 2015 the Florida-based multinational American Sugar Refineries/Belize Sugar Industry (ASR/BSI) broke up the united front of the northern Belize’s small sugar cane farmers or cañeros/as. Today, the ASR/BSI and Santander, another foreign corporation, have made indications that they may export out of a southern dock, where workers have not yet unionised. CWU President has warned that leaving Belize City’s port will result in “devastating economic losses to one hundred and fifty stevedores, approximately almost a third of which will become unemployed, and those that remain will have their annual earnings reduce by 40%”*. Workers across the country are being forced to organise against continued threats to their livelihood.
On the 22nd of July, we were horrified at the state violence meted out against PBL office workers*. During a protest against PBL’s plan to reduce pay and terminate 36 workers (29 of whom are union organisers), the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) descended upon them and fired at the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets*. The GSU, a well-funded and militarised police unit, has received consulting from the USA’s infamous William Bratton, formerly of the Boston, Los Angeles, and New York Police Departments *; Bratton is an early supporter of racist Broken Window Policies, a critic of US’s Black Lives Matter and attributed for using “the coercive arm of the state to push vulnerable people out of public view”*.
In the face of union-busting, brutality and repression by the GSU and other state actors, the PBL stevedores and office workers stood together in solidarity. The CWU President has said that he hopes the CBA for the stevedores “аugurѕ wеll fоr thе реndіng nеgоtіаtіоnѕ оn bеhаlf оf РВL Ѕtаff, whо fоrm а ѕераrаtе Ваrgаіnіng Unіt оf Unіоn”*.
We call on the Belize government to stand with the workers and the farmers at the heart of the economy and communities. We celebrate the victory of Belize’s Black stevedores and their union, the CWU. We stand with them as the Belize National Teachers Union, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, and other organised labour stands with them.
We join Belize workers in their call: “Let’s make it known that Belizeans deserve to have jobs, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, a job to ensure we can support our families, a job to allow us to live in dignity.”
The Global Afrikan Congress
Caribbean Peace Movement
Jamaica Peace Council
The 13th June 1980 Movement
Caribbean Labour Solidarity (UK)
We invite you to sign on and to share this with your networks. Please reach out to union signatories, particularly Black, African Diaspora, African Descendent, African Continent, Caribbean, longshoremen/stevedores, as well as every other workers’ organisation.