A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, the Labour Party and Hackney - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bye, bye Castro

Good to see the peaceful departure from office of a man who unfortunately morphed from youthful idealist to Stalinist dictator (albeit with better PR skills, a cuddlier image and nicer beach resorts than most of his counterparts).

Is it too much to hope that the people of Cuba might be given a vote in a free election to decide who now leads their country?

Maybe the Communists would win, but personally I hope Cubans would choose a third way which kept Cuba's commitment to free healthcare and education whilst bringing in freedom of speech, political pluralism and an end to the command economy.

24 Comments:

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I would doubt the US would want to see free and fair elections in Cuba if as you say the commies would win. I can see them trying to rig the elections in that country just as Russia tried to do in the Ukraine.

With regards to Cuba après Castro, generally I am in favour of a "command economy" as you put it, after all Cuba is an island with few resources, its seems to me a more efficient way of running a country.

Free speech and political pluralism is certainly a bedrock of good democracy, however of late even our own government has started to restrict these. I take it you, like me, oppose any restriction of peaceful protest?
Do you also believe our electoral system needs to be changed to allow better representation of the people? Should we not abandon the archaic monarchist system and House of Lords for a true depiction of democracy?

Based on the above it seems we are not in the best position to comment on Cuba's development to democracy rather wish it well on a peaceful transition of power.

2:02 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Albert Shanker said...

Ravi - you are an apologist.

Although obviously Castro is not up there with the worst dictators of all time, he is still a dictator and Cuba a dictatorship. That is, he has restricted pluralism, dissent and personal choice. He has not been so hot on critics or independent trade unionists.

Yes, heathcare and education in Cuba are relatively good by central american standards - but why do healthy, well educated people need to be told what to read and write?

2:12 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

How can Ravi be an apologist? I've just re-read his posting twice and he doesn't discuss the current Cuban regime at all, either positively or negatively.

2:15 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Dan said...

The idea that flaws in the British political system prevent us from commenting on other countries' political systems is bizarre. If Ravi applies this rule only to Cuba then he is indeed an apologist. If he applies it consistently across the world then he is merely crazy.

3:03 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

The British system needs to adopt proportional representation or something similar. At the moment we are playing round robin with politics and we don't seem to be getting anywhere. I don't agree with removing our monarchy I have a lot of respect for the Royals.

I've been to Cuba and yes they do have amazing healthcare and it's FREE which is more than you can say about the USA. It is however, a dictatorship with a poor human rights record.

3:35 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Yes, it would be good to see free and fair elections, but the US simply wouldn't allow that to happen.

3:59 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

Cuba is a wonder given the context. The people might well vote for more of the same, given the chance.

4:19 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Albert and Dan, I have said that the linchpin to a great democracy is free speech. I agreed with Luke's analysis on that point, so you're both talking out of holes in your hats.

But in case that is not clear enough for you both, communist regimes are not democratic and are nasty to live under, happy now?

My point is we are not in a position to criticise other countries on human rights when our own government is seeking to trim our rights here. Nor should we proselytise to the world (ie not just Cuba Dan) about representative democratic government when we are so clearly lacking.
Tell me chaps, would you consider George Bush, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, most governments of the EU and our own Comarade Akehurst apologists for their stances on certain arab states or Pakistan?

5:23 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Excuse me Ravi but I'm not exactly known for my support for either "certain arab states or Pakistan" - in fact I can't even visit the Arab world because I've got an Israeli entry stamp in my passport.

5:42 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Don't be ridiculous. Get a second passport like anyone else who has/wants to travel both to Isreal and the Arab world.

5:46 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger John Wiseman said...

Viva la Cuba

I am member of the solidarity campaign, which means oops I am a supporter of socialism. Stop walking with your head in the sand luke. The fact is cuba has a better healthcare than the us, is a better child mortality rate, education need I go on. I would rather live in Cuba than the US

John

6:02 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

And I would rather live in the UK or Sweden than in either.

I pity you if you believe a police state that puts people with HIV in prison camps and persecutes writers and activists for supporting democracy has even the slightest connection to socialism, and if you think there is some kind of trade-off where you have to choose between freedom and health and education. Aren't people in Cuba aren't entitled to both?

6:11 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Dan said...

Ravi, given the UK's appalling history of human rights abuse in Ireland, you are in no position to criticise human rights abuses in the US, Guantanamo, Israel or Pakistan.

See how this works?

7:25 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Podolanski said...

Why does everyone forget that before Castro turned to Russia for support he turned to the Americns first. It was the then Vice-President Richard Nixon who said no and supported the corrupt mafia supporting government Castro removed.

If that former half-wit, specialist to order thief had more sense Cuba could have been in "our" sphere of influence. But no would rather have the corrupt mafia supporting Governmant back.

Lets hope what ever happens it is for the best and the people get the freedoms they deserve whiel keeping their healthcare etc.

7:45 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

podolanski thanks for the dose of reality and historical perspective.

It was indeed the case that henchman-for-corporate-USA-in-Latin-America Nixon crudely rebuffed Luke's youthful idealist. Nixon did so at the bigoted idealogical behest of the USA corporate interests.

These same interests had found their untrammled looting of the Cuban economy ended by the arrival of the popular uprising and they were alarmed at the possible spread of real democracy to their other Carribean fiefdoms.

There is always a detestable underbelly to the dominant USA coporate interests that see the suppression, degredation and exploitation of smaller neighbouring countries as their fair right and entitlement. This is most often achieved through dictators and their clans whose barbarity and huge corruption is overlooked in return.

Castro did not need to be communist or socialist, even before he went to the USSR in desperation. He was simply in the first place not 'their' man, and so they wanted him out - end of story.

And so now we come full circle with good ol' USA wringing it's hands at the 'affront to democracy' in Cuba... that their bigotry, corruption and ineptness were the prime drivers of all those years ago.

Affront to democracy? Just wait until the mad-hat Cuban expats in Florida get back to Cuba... then we will see 'affronts' - remember you heard that here first!

8:29 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I've just heard George Galloway rant on on Channel 4 regarding Cuba. His rant was his trademark style of shouting and refusing to answer his questions. Krishnan Guru-Murthy really didn't know how to deal with him.

People like George Galloway are hypocrits as on one hand they talk about democracy and socialism and on the other sympathise with regimes such as Castros. He would be the first to complain if we removed elections in the UK and installed a dictator.

I can remember being heckled by Galloway and his party followers as we prepared to leave for Iraq. I will never forget that and wonder whether he ever thinks about what effect that might of had on some of our troops.

8:47 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Cuba's treatment of gay people has been pretty appalling and I'm no friend of Castro.

But the isolation they have experienced has largely been because of the US attitude. Which in turn made them even more inward looking.

Obama appears to take a more open approach to discussions. I think that's needed, but I don;t think that the US would refrain from interfering in what they consider to be their sphere of influence if elections were he;d in the near future

11:03 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Castro didn't help relations with the US during the cuban missle crisis.

But I do agree that somethings the US did, like refusing to lift the trade embargo on pianos and brake fluid are simply madness. Hardly helps matters and often makes matters worse.

11:15 pm, February 19, 2008

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

if you think there is some kind of trade-off where you have to choose between freedom and health and education. Aren't people in Cuba aren't entitled to both?

Indeed they are, Luke. (We'll agree to differ on the economic aspect of that 'freedom' as I don't believe the freedom of a market has anything to do with actual freedom, but in as much as you're referring to freedom of expression, assembly, etc, etc, I of course agree): I think the only major dispute would be about who has made it a trade off? I would argue that the principal culprit in creating that trade-off is successive US governments who have maintained the unjust blockade of Cuba all this time, and also because I don't believe they would have allowed Cubans to 'have both' as you put it. That is not to absolve anybody of blame for their own specific actions (before somebody shouts at me along those lines) but it is an attempt to understand the situation analytically. I would love to see a time when it is possible for a developing country to have political freedom without it being abused to force so-called 'economic freedom' which, in turn, prevents achievements of political will such as free health and education. Sadly that abuse so often sullies the 'idealism' that Luke referred to in his post. We can only look with hope re: the future of Cuba, and also in the direction of other revolutions in latin america; and maybe with a change of government in the White House too, we can afford to transform hope into something like expectation?

9:36 am, February 20, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Sorry if this offends you Luke (certainly not intentional), but you have stated in the past your preference for the House of Saud to rule over the people of Saudi Arabia rather then let them choose an unpleasant cadre of fanatics (as you have said to your credit) to form a government of their own choice. You and I may fear/dislike a government like that but we certainly should not support the stifling of a population who wants that.

Dan, you make an excellent and interesting point. Of course we have moved on from Northern Ireland so the point really is no longer valid (i.e. human rights abuses expired with the ending of Operation Banner). Human rights abuse is a dynamic, current situation so comparing our rather dubious past with today’s world is a little weak. You correctly deduce my distaste for the other said regimes. I am probably reading in between the lines here, but I would hazard a guess that you, like me, apply the standards of basic human rights across the board, and probably critical of these countries yourself.
If this is the case nationality and allegiance are irrelevant. By comparing the high standards we seek to apply to other countries (which whom we disagree) with what we have here is to me a sensible projection.

11:38 am, February 20, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Ravi yes I would prefer the House of Saud to a al-qaeda - in the same way that I would prefer Stalin to Hitler.

But I would prefer social democracy to either - I don't positively support the Saudi regime I just think it isn't as bad as the alternative currently on offer - from either our perspective or that of ordinary Saudis.

A better case study to look at is Algeria as it does have a 3rd democratic force - I would prefer the military junta to the Islamist terrorists if forced to choose, but I'd prefer our democratic socialist sister party, the FFS, over both by a million miles.

11:45 am, February 20, 2008

 
Anonymous Albert Shanker said...

The mythologising of the Castro family makes me puke.

Just the other day I passed a stall of trots in Liverpool who proud were handing out leaflets proclaiming "Cuba: socialism in the 21st century."

It might all be sun and socialism for some, but let's not forget that Castro brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war, by an aggressive gambit by inviting Soviet nukes in, an intentionally destabilising move.

Robert S. McNamara met Castro well after the missle crisis and was left in no doubt that Castro would have brought the temple down around him.

1:27 pm, February 20, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Yes comrade this is all true, however as we both champion free speech and elections let the people of Saudi Arabia (and Algeria) make their choice, we will have to live with the consequences.

Just like you I am a member of the Labour Party and I (just as you) would like to see a Democrat in the White house (hopefully Obama), but we have to trust our american cousins to make their own choice to who their leader is, and if that is McCain (as disaterous as that would be) I would accept their choice. I certainly can't stand foreign politicians telling the great british public to vote Conservative!

1:45 pm, February 20, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Yes comrade this is all true, however as we both champion free speech and elections let the people of Saudi Arabia (and Algeria) make their choice, we will have to live with the consequences.

Just like you I am a member of the Labour Party and I (just as you) would like to see a Democrat in the White house (hopefully Obama), but we have to trust our american cousins to make their own choice to who their leader is, and if that is McCain (as disaterous as that would be) I would accept their choice. I certainly can't stand foreign politicians telling the great british public to vote Conservative!

1:45 pm, February 20, 2008

 

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