In his speech to the Cuban people in Havana, President Barack Obama declared, “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. … I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.” But Obama made clear that his desire to end the decades-long US economic blockade of the island is not a response to the sheer inhumanity of the policy, it is simply an acknowledgement that it has failed to bring down Cuba’s socialist system and return the country to capitalism. Obama then proceeded to spend much of his speech telling Cubans that they should live under a US-style democracy and a capitalist economy. In other words, he has no intention of leaving behind “the ideological battles of the past.” He is simply shifting strategy. Continue reading
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The term “sustainable” has been used by so many people in so many different contexts that it has lost much of its meaning. It has become a buzzword in political, economic and development circles. But it is not the excessive use of the word that has ultimately rendered it largely meaningless but the fact that too many efforts to achieve sustainable development do not seriously attempt to actually achieve sustainable development. It is too often suggested that we can simply incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into our daily lives while only tinkering with our consumption habits in order to achieve sustainability. But this simply is not true. Each of us living in wealthy nations must massively, and I mean MASSIVELY, reduce our levels of material consumption if we are to achieve a sustainable ecological footprint. And this reality is the elephant that is too often ignored in discussions about sustainable development. Continue reading
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US Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Havana this past August for the flag-raising ceremony at the re-established US Embassy in Cuba. While this event was viewed as a landmark occasion by many in the United States, including the mainstream media, it was just the latest in a never-ending stream of landmarks for Cuba. From the victory of the socialist revolution in 1959 to emerging ties with the Soviet Union and the Socialist bloc during the 1960s to political and economic reforms in the mid-1970s to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and resulting “Special Period” during the 1990s to the far-reaching economic reforms of recent years. In other words, socialism in Cuba is not stagnant; nor is it reliant on US policy. To the contrary, Cuba’s socialism has constantly evolved as it has responded to both domestic and international conditions, and this constant redefining of the model continues today. Continue reading
Over the past thirty years, Human Rights Watch has become one of the most recognized non-governmental organizations in the world due to its global promotion of human rights. But despite its claims to be an advocate of international human rights law, the reports issued by Human Rights Watch have exhibited a bias towards certain rights over others. More precisely, Human Rights Watch repeatedly focuses on political and civil rights while ignoring social and economic rights. As a result, it routinely judges nations throughout the world in a manner that furthers capitalist values and discredits governments seeking socialist alternatives. It is this bias that lies at the root of Human Rights Watch’s scathing attacks on Venezuela, or what the organization’s executive director Ken Roth called, “the most abusive nation” in Latin America.
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Cuba proved to be an influential force at the 2012 Summit of the Americas held in Cartagena, Colombia even though the country was not represented at the meeting of members of the Organization of American States (OAS). The summit ended without a final declaration because two—the United States and Canada—out of the 31 participating nations adamantly opposed a proposal to allow Cuba to participate in the next summit to be held in Panama in 2015. Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to a lack of democracy and human rights in Cuba as the primary reasons for their veto of the proposal. Ironically, Obama stated his position on Cuba while standing beside the president of Colombia, the country with the worst human rights record in the region, in yet another blatant illustration of the hypocrisy that exists in U.S. foreign policy.
“A gripping tale of savagery and terror, but also of tenderness, compassion, and renewal.” —Noam Chomsky