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Rodney Hide Corrected Over Cuba

Rodney Hide Corrected Over Cuba

The following was issued October 22, 2003 by the Cuba Friendship Society in Auckland in response to ACT MP Rodney Hide’s comments against Cuba.

Act MP Rodney Hide is reported as being “staggered” that the Cuban government is assisting Te Wananga o Aotearoa develop a programme to improve literacy skills, and that he “wouldn’t be looking to Cuba to succeed in anything”. Contrary to Hide’s opinions, Cuba’s educational achievements are hailed internationally.

Within Cuba, illiteracy has been virtually eliminated, and access to and participation in education is given high priority. There are no school fees required or student loans - all courses are free and government-funded. The Cuban government provides free educational assistance to other countries as it is doing here. In September, UNESCO presented an award to Cuba for this, in the field of literacy.

Contrast this to New Zealand, where the NZ Herald reported on December 3, 2001 that an OECD survey found 45 percent of adults here were below the literacy level “required to meet the demands of everyday life”.

Rodney Hide asserts that, for Cubans, “The only thing they get to read is what a great man Castro is.” This is not true. For example, currently there is a drive within Cuba to expand book publishing. This includes a family library programme to provide every Cuban family with the classics of Cuban and world literature, published in boxed 25-book sets of inexpensive newsprint editions. The annual Havana International Book Fair, which attracts hundreds of thousands of Cubans to it, is being broadened to more than 30 cities across the island.

Every school in Cuba is being provided with a television, video, and computer, complemented by a national network of local computer centres for young people. Presumably, if they chose to do so, they could read Hide’s comments regularly on the internet. There is a national TV programme called the University for All, which offers courses for people of all ages and occupations, in everything from English and French to world geography and art criticism. Not to mention the ready access to radio, music, movies, art from a wide range of countries, in particular from one of Cuba’s nearest neighbours, the United States.

The NZ Herald’s deputy political editor, Helen Tunnah, in reporting Hide’s comments on October 21, adds her own thoughts, that the Cuban government “is also known for jailing and torturing writers and poets”. Known by whom? What evidence does she have that anyone in Cuba has been put in jail without trial or tortured since the 1959 revolution?

Perhaps she is mistakenly referring to Guantanamo Base, a piece of Cuba’s territory that is controlled by the United States government against the wishes of the Cuban people. Prisoners from the war in Afghanistan are being held there without trial under conditions that have met with international condemnation.

Rodney Hide also is reported as asserting that the Cuban government has not done well in feeding its population, and “people are climbing on boats to get out of it”. Cuba is a Third World country and does not have the wealth, including of food, of a country like New Zealand. But no one is starving in Cuba, no one is dependent on private charities or food banks for their next meal, because of the system of providing all citizens equally with basic necessities. A major factor negatively affecting Cuba’s economy is the economic embargo on trade that successive governments in the United States have imposed against that island nation for more than 40 years.

Some Cubans want to emigrate, which, as for people all over the world, can be for a variety of reasons. The Cuban government does not prevent them leaving. A few Cubans are climbing into boats to reach the United States because the policies of the US government encourages migration by dangerous means. The United States government will not issue its agreed-on quota of visas for legal migration from Cuba, while granting residency to Cubans who reach its shores illegally - in marked contrast to its treatment of people arriving from Mexico, Haiti, or elsewhere by similar means. At the same time, citizens of the United States are prevented by their government from freely traveling to Cuba.

Janet Roth

Cuba Friendship Society,
Auckland, NZ.

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