By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Lusaka, Zambia
It is perhaps befitting that Fidel Castro has left the world’s political stage in the same year that one of the world’s most vexing questions has been answered in Cuba’s favour. That is that the United States policy on Cuba has been wrong and unjustified since its inception more that 50 years ago. President Obama’s visit to Cuba in early 2016 to normalize relations with Cuba was a testament to this realization and acknowledgment. Thus Castro went to eternal rest knowing that his eternal enemy, the USA had finally realized the futility and imbecility of its policy towards Cuba. And that despite all attempts to bring Cuba to its knees based on this wrong aggressive foreign policy came to naught and Cuba survived.
When David Remnick, the Editor of the Prestigious Newyorker Magazine wrote his book on Obama entitled, “The Bridge” depicting Obama as the bridge president between old and new USA, he could hardly have known that the book also applied to the world at large. Obama was the world’s bridge President from old white US supremacist presidents who refused to give an inch to the dignity of other countries’ sovereign economic stirrings to the new world where the first non-white president in Obama recognized that this world is and should not be prioritized by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant economic, political, moral, religious and cultural values. Obama became the first post war US president to visit most American hot spots where white US presidents feared to tread: Nagasaki, Vietnam, and Cuba. He also signed a much feared but necessary nuclear non-proliferation pact with Iran. Listen to Obama’s speech in Cairo extolling the virtues of how to reconcile Islam and western values, you will realize you lived in an era of a great president. No American President has ever made those speeches on race relations in America. They may not have amounted to much in visibly moving A to B but words mean a whole lot in history. They are a force unto themselves. The true impact may be down the road or even now in unforeseen and hidden crevices. When the record is finally tallied, history will record that Obama was truly the greatest American President in history in terms of both domestic and foreign policy reform successes despite unrelenting Republican roadblocks at home. Trump will not be able to reverse all of Obama’s successes. I have already written over 150 pages of published articles on the Obama Presidency and his greatness will be showcased when these articles are put as one piece. And others have written and will write.
It is befitting as well that Obama is winding his Presidency after attempting to normalize relations with Cuba and now the most vexing American foreign policy has been given an opening that America was wrong on Cuba. Obama ended up fulfilling Castro’s prescient tongue-in-cheek observation of 1974 when he jokingly said that US-Cuba relations with normalize when there will be a Black President in the US and a Pope in Rome from Latin America. Both happened in our life-time. Trump will never be able to reverse historical trajectories try as he may. He will score some successes here and there as history is won’t but the future relations between Cuba and the US that Obama mended, will endure.
Cuba was a Superpower to developing nations, thanks to Fidel Castro’s selfless justice-oriented foreign policy, just as America pretended to be the world’s superpower based solely on America’s selfish foreign policy interests. Cuba’s successful foreign policy has already been written a lot about. Cuba helped defeat Apartheid South Africa. As I am writing now, there are Cuban doctors in Zambia and many African countries working for free at Cuban expense improving the health care systems of Zambia and other countries. There are no such equivalent western doctors. As I am writing now, there are thousands of Zambian and other students including Americans training in Cuban medical schools for free at Cuban expense while there are no equivalent assistance programmes by western governments. The only western systems that exist are training of military and intelligence personnel to safeguard western interests and promote dictatorship in developing countries, including siphoning off of land, mineral and oil resources. Cuba is truly a positive partner of developing countries.
And I am not writing in the abstract. I have visited Cuba about 11 times and have been to almost all provinces of Cuba. There was no hunger in Cuba. I saw organized Sugarcane, Mango, Orange, Banana, Rice, Maize, etc plantations from which most developing countries can learn. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the embargo was unrelenting, tourism and agriculture saved Cuba. Tourism and Agriculture can save Zambia and every developing country.
Despite the stifling negative western propaganda about Cuba, there was no rebellion, partly because Cubans are well fed and secondly they knew that there were restrictions on their freedoms in order to prevent American repenetration of Cuba and bringing back Fulgencio Batista-type class divisions and false capitalist freedoms like those in favelas of Brazil, Mexico City and elsewhere. The critics never ask or answer the question: what should Castro have done in Cuba given that free elections would have led Americans sponsoring a reactionary party and stooges of American imperialism? It was the order of the day in Africa and Latin America and elsewhere. It wasn’t hidden. Where the Americans and Europeans failed to influence the elections, they overthrew the freely elected regimes. It is all written. I summarize most of that history in my book “Thoughts Are Free”, Chapter 9. I also have a poem in that Chapter on Castro which I wrote on the occasion of his 58th birthday. That poem was published in ‘Monthly Review” Magazine( New York, November issue, 1984). Castro had a tough choice. It was a forced choice. He chose not to be an American puppet. He chose to serve the interests of the Cubans, warts and all. Why should he have chosen to serve the interests of the Americans when the Americans chose not to serve the interests of the Cubans when they had a chance?
Castro is perhaps the last of the greatest revolutionary guerrilla leaders whose unselfish commitment to his country and people was unsurpassed. Venceremos.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa is a Senior Lecturer in Law student Zambian Open University, Lusaka, Zambia.