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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Change and continuity in Cuba

The news is filled with articles and broadcast segments about change in Cuba. They all agree there has been continuity and not radical change since Fidel transferred power six months ago. Despite that, however, hope still persists in the savage breast (i.e., the heart of imperialism) that socialism is doomed once Fidel dies (sadly for them, not as soon as they had hoped, as evidenced by the latest pictures).

What's strange about all these articles and speculations is that none of them mentions the "Special Period in Peacetime," which just happens to be the subject of a new documentary entitled "The Power of Community – How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," which deals with what happened when Cuba faced a crisis vastly larger than the death of one individual, namely, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc in 1990. That crisis placed Cuba in much the same position with respect to oil that the entire world is going to face someday, hence the allusion to "Peak Oil" in the title of the documentary.

As discussed here:

Cuba lost approximately 80% of its imports, 80% of its exports and its Gross Domestic Product dropped by 34%. Along with food and medicines that were imported, half of the oil it used came from the USSR and all oil imports trickled to a mere 10% of previous amounts. The effect was felt immediately; dependent on fossil fuels to operate, transportation, industrial and agricultural systems were paralyzed. This time in Cuba’s history is known as the Special Period, when waiting for a bus could take three hours, power outages could last up to 16 hours, food consumption was cut up to 1/5 and the average Cuban lost about 20 pounds. Although starvation was avoided, hunger was a daily experience and initially, malnutrition in children under five was evident after just a few weeks of food shortages.
This was, of course, before a revolutionary government in an oil-rich country (Venezuela) came to power which could help alleviate the difficulties. Despite that fact, Cuba survived, using socialist planning to massively reorient its society toward greater sustainability.

If Cuba could survive the Special Period, and it did, it can survive any change of leadership. And it will, much to the consternation of the wishful thinkers to the north.

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