RICARDO ALARCON is President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Cuba.
At the end of the last decade, when European Socialism was hastening towards collapse, many forecast the imminent demise of the Cuban Revolution. Next year, however, the revolution will celebrate its fortieth year of development, ten years after the dissolution of the Socialist bloc. There is no reason to believe that Cuba will suffer the same fate as former socialist states of Eastern Europe. Our Revolution did not collapse for the simple reason that it was not a product of the Cold War. Contrary to American propagandists, the character of the revolution is not on the verge of collapse, and Cubans are not in abject misery. Instead, the Cuban economy is recovering from recent external shocks, Cuban democracy is strong, and Cuba, like every other nation, deserves the recognition of its sovereignty and the cessation of futile attempts to topple its government.
The External Shock
In 1997, experts from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) studied the Cuban economy during the present crisis and arrived at quite enlightening conclusions. First, the report spelled out the impact of the collapse of European Socialism: "The break of commercial relations with the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) countries in 1990 brought with it a loss of markets more severe than that caused by the Great Depression." Despite the magnitude of the shock to international trade, nothing happened in Cuba that remotely approached the profound social and political convulsion experienced during the Great Depression. On the contrary, ECLAC confirms that the decline of the Cuban economy has been halted, and, furthermore, that economic growth in the last three years is increasing at a rate similar to that of most of Latin America.
This result is even more surprising if we bear in mind that, during this same period, the Torricelli Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 intensified the US blockade of Cuba. The ECLAC study's findings support the view that Cuba's socialism helped the country adjust to the fall of the Soviet Union: "Paradoxically and contrary to what has been occurring in Latin America, the liberalization of markets in a solidly social environment has served to alleviate some regressive courses in the distribution of the costs of the so-called `special period."' The report continued: "Compared to the size of the external shock, the cost of the stabilization policy was relatively low and its distribution fairer when compared to other Latin American economies, thanks to the policy of guaranteeing employment and income to the population."
Cuba is the only Latin American country to suffer from severe difficulties arising from the disappearance of the Socialist community; it is the only country to be faced with the increased hostility of the United States, the only country not to receive development aid or financing, loans, or external credit. Nonetheless, its economy continues to grow, and it maintains health standards, literacy, and social security rates higher than other Latin American countries. Furthermore, Cuba has a similar infant mortality rate to that of the United States. Without having closed a single hospital or school during the worst moments of the economic crisis and without having reduced the main social benefits, the Cuban experience favorably contrasts with those of the rest of the continent. Having left behind the most difficult stage of their history, Cubans can now smile at their hasty gravediggers.
In Cuba the crisis has been and continues to be handled in accordance with the democratic character of its society. The citizen is accustomed to participating in daily decision-making processes. The Cuban citizen nominates and elects candidates to different levels of our assemblies, analyzes the reports that assemblies submit every six months, adopts and executes production plans, organizes work and services, or approves members of the Communist Party and its youth organizations. …