On May 20, 1902, after a brief period of US occupation in accordance with the Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898 between Spain and the US at the end of the Spanish-American War, Cuba officially received its independence.

In spite of some misjudgments and impositions due to the arrogant and imperial thoughts of some US politicians and businessmen, during the period from 1898 to 1902 the US did good things in Cuba, such as helping rebuild the infrastructure, and organizing public education and health care. Cuban teachers and doctors came to the US for training.

Since democracy was not practiced in Spain, the US tried to educate the suddenly liberated Cubans about democratic government and how to govern themselves.

May 20, 1902 saw the birth of the Republic of Cuba, after 30 years of wars against Spain to gain independence. That jubilant day gave hope to a generation of Cubans avid to live in a free nation where they could make their own decisions and prosper.

The inexperienced newly installed Cuban politicians and civil servants made their share of misjudgments and mistakes, as happens in all new nations - look what stills goes on in the US today after 223 years of its declaration of independence.

Foreseeing problems with the ability of Cubans to govern themselves, the US imposed upon Cuba the Platt Amendment to permit intervention into Cuba's internal affairs to protect American business interests in case Cuba's democracy became imperiled. The US intervened in Cuba in 1906, 1912 and 1917. And the Platt Amendment - hated by the Cubans - was removed in 1934.

In spite of bad governments, Cuba made great progress socially and economically from 1902 until 1958. Fifty six years after its independence, Cubans owned 121 of the 161 sugar mills in Cuba, while US co-investors in the other 40 were in the minority.

The total US investments in Cuba dropped to $861 million from $1,525 billion in 1929, representing less than 14% in the overall Cuban economy. Cuba’s investments in its industries other than sugar, commerce and agriculture was $6 billion, while their urban properties represented another $6 billion. Cuban banks had 61% of the private deposits on the island.

These rapid advances placed Cuba in the early 1950’s as number three in standard of living in Latin America. Today it ranks just above Haiti, the poorest country in this hemisphere.

The Cuban workers were the third best paid in the world, and had advanced legal and social laws protecting them. All workers had free pre-natal and maternity care.

Cuba had an extensive public education system open to all, from kindergarten to university in addition to more than 1,000 private schools of all denominations.

Cuba had an extensive system of HMOs that were extremely efficient and inexpensive, as well as free medical care for the poor at government hospitals. Many more accomplishments clearly define the extraordinary entrepreneurial talent of Cubans in a very brief period. Just look at what Cubans exiles have accomplished in Miami in less time.

If that energetic group of people would not have been forced into exile by a communist system, without any doubt they would have turned the already developing Cuba into the Japan of the Americas.

What happened to Cuba after Castro took power on January 1, 1959 is a tragedy. Once more Cubans are struggling and dying to regain their freedom and independence from tyranny, this time for 40 years.

May 20, 1999, should be a day of reflection and soul searching, not just for Cubans, but for the rest of the world, who in the glee over the profits of capitalism and unscrupulous business interests, is superseding sound principles and moral judgements and helping a tyrant stay afloat.

The world has turned its back on Cuban suffering. Cubans are alone, forgotten and now being double exploited by Castro and unscrupulous multinational corporations.

Lately, US businessmen, displaying the same arrogant attitude as in the beginning of the century, want to join the heard of international exploiters collaborating with Castro. They want to convert Cuba into a heaven for the exploitation of workers, as in China, where there is no political freedom and rampant violation of human rights continue.

This is a sad state of affairs. It is a betrayal from the US, a country that many Cubans admired.

What Cubans wanted a century ago was freedom and democracy. Today they long for the same two things. On May 20, 1999, not far from the new century, the international community should stand firm at the side of the oppressed Cubans and support their right to live in freedom. Cuba must be free.


ABIP 1999

Agustín Blázquez, Producer/Director of the documentary COVERING CUBA 4020
Rickover Road
Silver Spring, MD 20902
301 949-8791

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