The announcement that the US and Cuba are to begin the process of normalising relations after decades of a US-imposed economic blockade and policy of undermining the Cuban Revolution is long overdue.
Cuba and the Cuban people have successfully defied the world's most powerful superpower for decades, which history will record as a triumph of self determination, dignity, and justice over a global economic system under which nations of the Global South have been denied same. Because for all the mountain of anti-Cuban and anti-Castro propaganda that has been erected over the years by the US and its supporters- slating Cuba on its alleged lack of human rights, democracy, and freedom - Washington's enmity towards this tiny island in the Caribbean has been the result not of the bad things Cuba has done, but the good.
The human right in Cuba to be hungry or homeless or mired in extreme poverty alongside millionaires and billionaires does not exist. The right to be educated, receive healthcare, and be housed does, regardless of wealth or status or luck. It is a society whose people enjoy freedom from illiteracy, poor health, low life expectancy, and infant mortality. And what could be more democratic than a revolutionary process constantly renewed with a level of participatory and grassroots democracy that working people and poor people living in the West could only ever dream about?
In following an economic and social system founded on the principal of justice and dignity for all, and continuing to do so even in the face of an unremitting economic blockade designed to starve it out of existence, Cuba has stood as a beacon throughout the developing world. Its remarkable achievements in literacy, healthcare, and education in conditions of economic scarcity has over many years put the industrialised world to shame. A recent example of Cuba's priorities is its leading role in the fight against Ebola and West Africa, where it has sent hundreds of doctors and medical professionals.
Cuba's international medical missions, in fact, are legendary, even though they have gone largely unheralded in the West.
When the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, overturned the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Cuba was glorified bordello and fleshpot for visiting American tourists, mafia hoods, politicians, and businessmen. Its social and economic development, as with comparable countries in the region, had been retarded as a consequence of its control by the US and US corporations.
The imposition of an economic blockade, which in its early years ran in conjunction with terrorist attacks, repeated attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, sabotage, and the threat of invasion, was a measure of the threat of a good example to US interests in the region. The fact Cuba survived Washington's campaign to return to its former status as US satellite is testament to the consciousness and resilience of its people.
Of course, Cuba is not a socialist utopia. Those only exist in books. It has suffered and had to deal with real life challenges of scarcity and economic paralysis throughout its history, especially in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, referred to in Cuba as the 'special period'.
Ironically, there are some who believe that most challenging period in the history of the Cuban Revolution is about to begin with the normalisation of relations with its neighbour to the north. Speculation that the embargo has benefitted the Cuban government, allowing it to ascribe the island's problems to factors outwit its control, is about to be tested.
But, then, such speculation is surely the product of wishful thinking when we consider the inordinate ability of the Cuban government and its institutions to adapt and overcome the huge challenges it has had to face over the past six decades.
Those voices in the West, and they still remain, that have come out in condemnation of this historic development, announced in Washington and Havana, are marginal and antediluvian. Punishing countries and their people for exercising their right to self determination is never done in service to democracy, whatever that word means in states where the only people in power are the rich and connected, but rather in service to a political and economic order under which human beings are considered the means to the end for a narrow economic elite, rather than the end in themselves.
The difference between both when written in a sentence is a semantic one. But when applied in practice it is the difference between dignity and degradation, independence and servitude, indeed life and death itself.
Now, at last, the ideas that have guided the development of Cuba since the revolution can be placed against the ideas that have driven its neighbours - the Dominican Republic and Haiti for example - to the depths of despair and immiseration.
The Obama administration deserves credit for ending the anachronism of a vindictive policy that only succeeded in making the case for Cuba rather than diminishing it. But by far most of the credit for this new departure must go to the Cuban people. Without their determination and unwillingness to submit to the writ of Washington, and often doing so in conditions of extreme hardship, they have won a hard fought victory for right over might.
The words of Nelson Mandela are apposite: "From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist-orquestrated campaign to destroy the impressive gain made in the Cuban Revolution.
Long live the Cuban revolution!"Suggest a correction