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Posted January 26, 2004 by publisher in Cuba-World Trade

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by David Comissiong | [url=http://www.NationNews.com]http://www.NationNews.com[/url]

By the time you read this column, I will be in Havana, Cuba, participating in the 3rd Hemispheric Congress at the “Struggle Against The Free Trade Area of The Americas”.

Bobby Clarke, David Denny and myself will be representing both the Clement Payne Movement and the Pan-Caribbean Congress at this important gathering of Western Hemispheric trade unions, political parties, academics, business leaders, government officials, youth, students and women.

Our team is making the effort to go to Cuba for this important three-day convocation because of the deep concern we have about the future of Barbados under a “Free Trade Area of The Americas” (FTAA), conceptualised and driven by the United States of America.

I think it is very appropriate that our hemispheric meeting is being held in Cuba, because that Caribbean country has been the one which, historically, has had the most intense experience of what it means to be “imprisoned” within a structure of American so-called “Free Trade”.

When the Americans say that they are going to impose a “free trade” arrangement on you, they are not simply talking about trade “free” or regulated. What they are in fact proposing is to integrate your small, vulnerable, under-developed economy into the mighty United States economy in a structurally dependent and subservient manner.

This was precisely the experience of Cuba between 1891 and 1959 the year of triumph of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.

It was in the year 1891 that the then “empire hungry” United States forced Spain the colonial master of Cuba - to sign the “Commercial Treaty of 1891”, facilitating United States “free” trade with Cuba and Puerto Rico.

By the 1890’s, the United States’ evolving system of capitalism had begun producing more goods than the United States domestic market could absorb. This over capacity had led to economic depression, and United States business interests therefore began searching for new markets and areas for investment. And of course, their greedy gaze immediately settled upon the potentially bountiful island of Cuba.

Expressing commitment to an alleged “Anglo Saxon superiority”, and driven by a belief in social Darwinist notions of the “survival of the fittest”, American businessmen descended upon Cuba in pursuit of their supposed God-given “Manifest Destiny” to take over and control the entire Western hemisphere.

United States firms moved into Cuba, acquiring vast tracks of land to grow and export sugar and bananas, and by 1894 United States business interests were entrenched in Cuba with some United States $50 million in investments.

Profits extracted from United States investment in Cuba became so attractive that the United States government was not prepared to put up with the economic dislocation caused by the Cuban military struggle for independence against Spain in the late 1890’s.

This resulted in the United States fabricating a justification for war against Spain, with the blowing up of their naval vessel in Havana harbour; invading Cuba in 1898; and installing a United States “puppet” government in supposedly “independent” Cuba.

Cuba’s subservient structural integration into the United States system of power was taken a step further in 1901 when the United States wrote the “Platt Amendment” into Cuba’s constitution, and gave themselves the right” to intervene militarily in Cuba.

By the 1930’s the invasion of United States capital had totally decimated the traditional Cuban landed aristocracy, stunted the industrial bourgeoisie, and impoverished the peasants and workers. Some 40 per cent of sugar production was United States owned, 23 per cent of non-sugar industry, 90 per cent of telephone and electrical services and 50 per cent of public service railways.

The de facto situation was legally entrenched with the signing of the 1934 Trade Treaty which secured United States manufacturers a privileged entry into the Cuban market. Henceforth, it was only worthwhile for a Cuban industrialist to set up a plant in his own country if he could do so under some arrangement with the large United States corporations.

This “imprisonment” of the Cuban economy led to extreme under-utilisation of Cuba’s resources and blocked any real economic growth. In fact, repatriated capital siphoned off to the United States amounted to US$369 Million net disinvestment between 1952 and 1958, while the economy stagnated and 700 000 men were unemployed.

Indeed, it was this condition of colonialist dependence, poverty and exploitation that compelled Fidel Castro and his comrades to lead a people’s revolution in Cuba.

This is a history that we need to carefully examine as we grapple with the FTAA.

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