Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reflections of Fidel Castro: A Noble Prize For Evo

Havana, October 16, 2009

Reflections of Fidel: A Nobel Prize for Evo

Taken from CubaDebate

IF Obama was awarded the Prize for winning the elections in a racist society despite being African-American, then Evo deserves it for winning in his country despite being an indigenous man, and moreover for keeping his promises.

It was the first time in the two countries that someone from each of their respective ethnic groups became president.

More than once, I noted that Obama was an intelligent, educated man in a social and political system in which he believes. He aspires to extend health services to almost 50 million U.S. people, to pull the economy out of the profound crisis it is experiencing, and to improve the image of the United States, deteriorated due to its genocidal wars and torture. He does not conceive of or desire, nor can he change, his country’s political and economic system.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three U.S. presidents, a former president and a presidential candidate.

The first was Theodore Roosevelt, elected in 1901, the man of the Rough Riders that landed their riders – without their horses -- in Cuba for the U.S. intervention in 1898 to prevent our country’s independence.

The second was Thomas Woodrow Wilson, who took the United States into the first war to divvy up the world. In the Treaty of Versailles, he imposed such harsh conditions on defeated Germany, that it laid the foundations for the emergence of fascism and the breakout of World War II.

The third is Barack Obama.

Carter was the former president who, several years after ending his mandate, was awarded the Nobel Prize. Without a doubt, one of the few presidents of that country incapable of ordering the assassination of an adversary, as others did; he returned the Canal to Panama, created the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and avoided falling into large budget deficits or squandering money for the benefit of the military-industrial complex like Reagan did.

The candidate was Al Gore when he was already vice president, the U.S. politician who knew the most about the terrible consequences of climate change. He was the victim of electoral fraud when he was a presidential candidate and had victory snatched away from him by W. Bush.

Opinions about the awarding of this prize have been very much divided. Many are based on ethical concepts or reflect evident contradictions in the surprising decision.

They would have preferred that prize to be the fruit of a task fulfilled. The Nobel Peace Prize is not always awarded to people who deserve that distinction. Sometimes individuals have received it who are resentful, arrogant or even worse. Lech Walesa, upon hearing the news, said disdainfully, "Who, Obama? It’s too fast. He hasn’t had time to do anything."

In our press and on CubaDebate, honest and revolutionary comrades have been critical. One of them said, "In the same week that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Senate passed the largest military budget in history: $626 billion". During the television newscast, another journalist commented, "What has Obama done to achieve such a distinction?" Others asked, "And what about the war in Afghanistan and the increase in bombings?" Those are viewpoints based on reality.

In Rome, the filmmaker Michael Moore made a lapidary statement: "Congratulations, President Obama, on the Nobel Peace Prize; now, please, earn it."

I am sure that Obama would agree with Moore’s statement. He possesses sufficient intelligence to understand the circumstances surrounding the case. He knows that he has not yet earned that prize. That morning, he stated, "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize."

It is said that there are five members on the famous committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize, all of them members of the Swedish Parliament. A spokesperson said that it was unanimous. One question fits here: did they or did they not consult the winner? Can a decision of this type be made without first notifying the winning individual? This cannot be judged morally in the same way if the person knew or did not know beforehand about the awarding of the prize. It is also fitting to affirm that about those who decided to award it to him.

Perhaps it is necessary to create a Nobel Prize for Transparency.

Bolivia has major gas and oil deposits and holds the largest known reserves of lithium, a mineral greatly needed in our era for storing and using energy.

Evo Morales, a very poor indigenous farmer, traveled throughout the Andes, together with his father, before he was six years old, shepherding the llamas of an indigenous group. They led them for 15 days to reach the market where they sold them to buy food for the community. Responding to a question of mine about that unique experience, Evo told me that at the time, "they stayed in the 1,000-star hotel," a beautiful way of referring to the clear skies of the mountains where telescopes are sometimes placed.

During those hard years of his childhood, the alternative for the farmers in the community where he was born was to cut sugar cane in the Argentine province of Jujuy, where part of the Aymara community sometimes took refuge during the sugar cane harvest.

Not very far from La Higuera, where Che, wounded and disarmed, was murdered on October 9, 1967, was Evo, who was born on the 26th of that same month in 1959, not yet 8 years old. He learned to read and write in Spanish, walking to a little public school five kilometers from the hut where, in a rustic room, he lived with his brothers and sisters and parents.

During his eventful childhood, wherever there was a teacher, Evo was there. From his race, he acquired three ethical principles: not to lie, not to steal, and not to be weak.

When he was 13, his father permitted him to move to San Pedro de Oruro to go to high school. One of his biographers tells how he was better in geography, history and philosophy than in physics and mathematics. The most important thing is that Evo, to pay for his studies, would wake up at 2 a.m. to work as a baker, construction worker, or in other physical labor. He attended classes in the afternoon. His classmates admired him and helped him. From the very start, he learned to play wind instruments and was a trumpet player in a prestigious band in Oruro.

When he was still an adolescent, he organized his community’s soccer team, and was its captain.

Access to the university was not within his reach, being an Aymara Indian and poor.

After his last year of high school, he served his mandatory military term and returned to his community, located high up in the mountains. Poverty and natural disasters forced his family to migrate to the subtropical region of El Chapare, where they were able to obtain a small land parcel. His father died in 1983 when he was 23 years old. He worked hard on the land, but he was a born fighter; he organized all of the workers, created labor unions and with them filled the vacuums to which that the state was not paying attention.

The conditions for a social revolution in Bolivia had been created over the last 50 years. On April 9, 1952, before the start of our armed struggle, the revolution broke out in that country with the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement of Víctor Paz Estenssoro. The revolutionary miners defeated the forces of repression and the MNR took power.

Revolutionary objectives in Bolivia were far from being met. In 1956, according to well-informed people, the process began to fall apart. On January 1, 1959, the Revolution was victorious in Cuba. Three years later, in January 1962, our country was expelled from the OAS. Bolivia abstained. Later, all of the governments except for Mexico broke off relations with Cuba.

Divisions in the international revolutionary movement made themselves felt in Bolivia. Still to come were 40 years more of blockading Cuba, neoliberalism and its disastrous consequences, The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the ALBA; still to come, above all, were Evo and the MAS in Bolivia.

It would take to long to sum up that rich history on a few pages.

All I will say is that Evo was able to overcome the terrible and slanderous campaigns of imperialism, its coups d’état and interference in internal affairs, and to defend Bolivia’s sovereignty and the right of its millenary people to have respect for their customs. "Coca is not cocaine," he exclaimed to the largest marijuana producer and largest consumer of drugs in the world, whose market has maintained the organized crime that costs thousands of lives every year in Mexico. Two of the countries where the yanki troops and their military bases are located are the largest producers of drugs on the planet.

Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are not falling into the deadly trap of drug trafficking; they are revolutionary countries that, like Cuba, are members of the ALBA. They know what they can and should do to bring health, education and well-being to their peoples. They do not need foreign troops to combat drug trafficking.

Bolivia is going forward with a program of its dreams under the leadership of an Aymara president who has his people’s support.

In less than three years, he eradicated illiteracy: 824,101 Bolivians learned to read and write; 24,699 did so in the Aymara language and 13,599 in Quechua; it is the third country to be free of illiteracy after Cuba and Venezuela.

Free medical attention is provided to millions of people who had never received it. It is one of seven countries in the world that in the last five years has most reduced its infant mortality rate, with the possibility of reaching the Millennium Goals before 2015, and it is the same case with maternal deaths, in a similar proportion. Restorative eye surgery has been performed on 454,161 people, 75,974 of them Brazilians, Argentines, Peruvians and Paraguayans.

An ambitious social program has been established in Bolivia: all of the children in public schools from first to eighth grade receive an annual donation to help pay for their school materials, benefiting almost two million students.

More than 700,000 people over the age of 60 receive a voucher for the equivalent of some $342 annually.

All pregnant women and children under the age of 2 receive assistance of approximately $257.

Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, has placed under state control the country’s principal energy and mineral resources, respecting and compensating each one of the interests affected. It marches along carefully, because it does not wish to retreat a single step. Its hard currency reserves have been growing. Evo has no less than three times what the country had at the beginning of his administration. It is one of the countries that makes the best use of foreign cooperation and firmly defends the environment.

In a very short time, he has been able to establish the Biometric Electoral Register, and approximately 4.7 million voters have been registered, almost one million more than on the last electoral register, which in January 2009 had 3.8 million.

On December 6, there will be elections. It is a sure thing that the people’s support for their president will grow. Nothing has been able to stop his growing prestige and popularity.

Why isn’t he awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

I understand his big disadvantage: he is not a U.S. president.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 15, 2009
4:25 p.m.

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