Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Fidel: The truth about his struggle

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Since the death of Fidel Castro on Nov 25, I have been trying to assess how far sections of the mainstream media (MSM) would go in their vicious campaign to denigrate and demean a leader who had defied the world's sole military superpower just 145km from his small island state. Since the MSM knwe that Fidel's remarkable resistance to US hegemony would be highlighted in tributes to the man, they decided to tarnish his image by presenting him as a womaniser with an insatiable appetite for sex. A number of newpapers played up the ludicrous story of how Fidel had slept with 35,000 women. The MSM is fully aware that it is this fort of scurrilous lie that will divert attention from his stupendous achievements as a principled, resolute champion of justice.
This preposterous tale was often justaposed in the MSM with a more serious allegation of how Fidel had crushed dissent when he was in power. While all of us value dissent, its character and its role in a particular setting can olny be understood if one appreciates the overall context. Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the US elite sought to overthrow the Fidel government. There was the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961; a total economic blockade imposed in the same year which is still in force; terrorist attacks in Cuba; and hundreds of attempts to assassinate Fidel. No leader and no nation have been subjcted to such threats for such a long time. It explains why the Cuban leadership was often forced to act against individuals and groups who in the guise of dissent were subverting the Revolution.
The MSM have seldom paid attention to this organised subversion and de-stabilisation of a small, independent, sovereign state by a superpower which characterised most of Fidel's period in office, first as prime minister and then as president. What was behind this subversion? Was Cuba a threat to the US? Did Fidel seek to destroy the US?
The main reason for the hostility of the US elite towards Fidel was because he and his comrades had through a popular movement ousted a US puppet in Havana, Fulgencio Batista, and established a government that was determined to safeguard its independence and sovereignty and ensure that the Cuban people shaped their own destiny. In his passionate desire to protect the right of his people to determine their own future, Fidel was in the same category as Mossadegh of Iran, Lumumba of the Congo, and Sukarno of Indonesia, among others. But for the US elite, this commitment to a nation's independence, a people's sovereignty, was an unpardonable sin which had to be punished.
The continuing imposition of an economic blockade against Cuba is part of the punishment. Other countries in Latin America do not condone the US attitude towards Cuba which is why it has found itself increasingly isolated in the region in recent years. It explains to a great extent why President Obama had no choice but to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba in July 2015.
In fact, the whole world does not approve of the US's stance towards Cuba. For a number of years now, the vast majority of nation-states have asked the US to end the economic blockade of Cuba. At the recent 2016 UN General Assembly, 191 states voted against the blockade. Only two countries – US and Israel – abstained.
The UN vote is, in a sense, an indirect endorsement of Cuba's desire to preserve its independence and sovereignty. This is Fidel's greatest achievement. He had not only succeeded in the face of huge odds to protect his people's independence. He had also persuaded the human family to recognise the central significance of this principle. It is not just countries in the Global South with their colonial background that should uphold their independence, whatever the costs and consequences. Even countries in the Global North faced with the challenge of US control and dominance, should assert their independence.
If Fidel's struggle to assert his nation's independence resonates with people elsewhere, it is because it was accompanied by a gigantic effort to improve the well-being of the ordinary Cuban. With almost 100% literacy, Cuba has a comprehensive education system which is free right up to the tertiary level. Its much lauded health care programme sustained through neighbourhood clinics, polyclinics and hospitals provides free, good quality health care service to its entire population. The Cuban ratio of one doctor for 159.2 persons is among the best in the world and its under 5 infant mortality of six deaths per 1,000 live births equals that of developed societies in the West.
Under Fidel, Cuba had also developed a reputation as a leader in medical research. It has pioneered new vaccines and made significant advances in the study of certain types of cancer. It is largely because of its solid scientific base that Cuba has emerged as a major player in the field of biotechnology.
It is its emphasis upon science that enabled Cuba in the nineties when it was undergoing grave economic difficulties following the collapse of the Soviet Union, to convert its fertiliser and pesticide dependent agricultural sector into organic agriculture. Today, its organic agriculture is one of the pillars of its economy. It is perhaps the first nation in the world to have transformed its agricultural base in this manner on such a vast scale.
It is equally significant that the Cuban economy organised through state and municipal corporations, cooperatives and collectives in agriculture, commerce and industry has up to this point succeeded in keeping income differentials to the minimum. There is no privileged economic class in Cuba. It is a society where egalitarianism is the order of the day.
This is due in part to Fidel's determined endeavour to ensure that those who were entrusted with more power and authority than others did not abuse their position. While he was in power, he strove to curb corruption. His own simple, unostentatious lifestyle set the right example for others in the leadership stratum.
Fidel's other outstanding accomplishment was the eradication of racial and cultural discrimination. A deeply segregated society before the 1959 Revolution with whites enjoying privilege and prestige, Cuba today is one of the most harmonious multiracial and multi-cultural societies in the world with equal opportunities for blacks, meztizos (people of mixed ancestry) whites and minority groups. The various professions and social life reflect the integration of Cuban society.
Gender equality was also at the top of Fidel's national agenda. Not only are there equal opportunities for women in the workplace, in a number of critical professions there are in fact more women than men. A total of 56% of all doctors are female. Women constitute 36% of the National Assembly and are well represented at all levels and in all spheres of public-decision making.
In evaluating Fidel's record, one cannot overlook his patronage of the arts and culture. Musicians, dancers and film-makers have carved a niche for themselves in the international arena. Indeed, the various facets of Cuban culture, already vibrant before the Revolution, have become even more dynamic since 1959.
The same can be said about sports. From baseball to boxing, from athletics to cycling, sports as a whole figure prominently in the life of the nation.
It is not just in the domestic sphere that Cuba has registered spectacular success. For Fidel, reaching out to the poor and needy beyond Cuban shores was always in the forefront of his struggle. Thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have served in other parts of Latin America, Africa and Asia. Cuba also offers medical training to students from other countries and has established medical schools in other Caribbean and Latin American countries. There is perhaps no better proof of how much Cuba's humanitarian medical assistance means to people in other countries than its Operation Miracle programme through which Cuban ophthalmologists have restored the vision of tens of thousands of mostly poor people in Latin America and the Caribbean.
There is another dimension to Fidel's involvement with other countries that the MSM had manipulated to malign the man. Fidel was ever willing to send his soldiers to fight against oppression in other lands. Cuban soldiers fought against the South African apartheid regime in Angola forcing out the aggressors and compelling them to leave illegally occupied Namibia. The defeat of the apartheid regime especially in the decisive battle of Cuito Cuanavale shattered the myth of white supremacy and inspired the South African people in their struggle against apartheid. As Nelson Mandela himself put it, "during all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength – (they) destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the fighting masses of South Africa – a turning point for the liberation of our continent – and of my people – from the scourge of apartheid. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations with Africa?"
Whether it is in the international arena or on the home front, Fidel's selfless service and sacrifice had no equivalent. This does not mean that there were no shortcomings in his governance. He made mistakes, some more serious than others. For instance, he made the grievous error of equating small and medium sized businesses with capitalist enterprises and sought to eliminate them to the detriment of the Cuban economy. His view of private property had some of the rigidity of Marxist dogma.
Nonetheless, if one considered the larger picture, Fidel's contribution to Cuba and the world was immense. For centuries to come, people will remember his resistance to the unjust and arrogant power of the mighty and how he bestowed the Cuban masses – and indeed the poor and oppressed everywhere – with dignity and self-respect.

Before he died, Fidel had expressed the wish that his name and likeness should never be used "on institutions, streets, parks or other public sites and that busts, statues and other forms of tribute" should never be erected. He will not need them. For Fidel will live forever in the heart of humanity, an eternal inspiration for all those who yearn for justice and dignity.

Written by : Chandra Muzaffar
Date : 14 December 2016

Fidel: Kebenaran mengenai perjuangan beliau

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Apabila Fidel meninggal dunia pada Nov 25, saya cuba menilai sejauh manakah media arus perdana (MSM) akan berusaha menjalankan kempen yang berniat jahat untuk memperkecil-kecilkan dan merendahkan martabat pemimpin yang telah menentang dengan berani kuasa besar dunia yang hanya terletak sejauh 145km daripada negaranya yang bersaiz kecil. MSM mengetahui penentangan luar biasa Fidel terhadap hegemoni AS akan diketengahkan sebagai penghormatan kepada beliau. Mereka akan mencemarkan imej beliau dengan menunjukkan beliau kaki perempuan. Beberapa surat khabar mensensasikan perkara ini. MSM menyedari penipuan seumpama ini dapat mengalihkan pandangan dunia daripada pencapaian beliau yang menakjubkan seorang yang sebagai berprinsip dan menegakkan keadilan.

Kisah tidak munasabah sering kali ditunjukkan dalam media arus perdana dengan tuduhan bernada serius mengenai bagaimana Fidel telah menghapuskan pihak yang menentangnya ketika beliau berkuasa. Walaupun kita menyokong penentangan, alasan untuk penentangan mudah difahami jika keseluruhan konteks penentangan difahami. Sejak Revolusi Cuba 1959, pihak elit AS berusaha untuk menjatuhkan kerajaan Fidel. Berlaku pencerobohan Bay of Pigs pada tahun 1961; sekatan ekonomi dikenakan pada tahun yang sama masih kekal hingga hari ini; serangan pengganas di Cuba; dan ratusan cubaan membunuh Fidel. Tiada ada seorang pemimpin dan tiada sebuah negara diancam sebegitu lama. Ini menjelaskan tujuan kepimpinan Cuba yang terpaksa bertindak terhadap individu dan kumpulan yang bertindak secara diam-diam untuk memesongkan tujuan asal Revolusi.

MSM sering tidak mengendahkan cubaan pemesongan yang sedang dilakukan oleh organisasi kuasa besar ini terhadap negara yang kecil serta berdikari. Usaha ini banyak berlaku pada era pemerintahan Fidel sebagai perdana menteri pertama dan kemudian sebagai presiden pertama.

Sebab utama permusuhan golongan elit AS terhadap Fidel ialah beliau dan angkatan beliau terkenal dengan gerakan yang berjaya menggulingkan kerajaan boneka di Havana iaitu Fulgencio Batista dan menubuhkan kerajaan yang dapat menjaga kemerdekaan dan kedaulatan Cuba serta memastikan rakyat Cuba menentukan nasib mereka. Matlamat beliau untuk melindungi hak rakyat beliau meletakkan beliau sebaris dengan Mossadegh dari Iran, Lumumba dari Congo dan Sukarno dari Indonesia. Akan tetapi bagi elit AS, komitmen seumpama ini bagi sebuah negara merdeka adalah dosa yang tidak boleh dimaafkan dan mesti dihukum.  

Sekatan ekonomi di Cuba dipanjangkan sebagai sebahagian daripada hukuman. Negara lain di Amerika Latin tidak membiarkan tindak-tanduk AS menyebabkan AS terpinggir dan keseorangan di rantau itu. Ini menjelaskan tujuan Obama terpaksa menjalankan hubungan diplomatik dengan Cuba pada Julai 2015.

Dunia tidak menerima pendirian AS. Majoriti negara meminta AS menghentikan sekatan ekonomi Cuba. Di Persidangan Agung PBB 2016, 191 buah negara menentang sekatan ini, cuma dua buah negara yang terkecuali - AS dan Israel.

Undian di PBB merupakan usaha menyokong keinginan Cuba mengekalkan kemerdekaan dan kedaulatan negaranya. Inilah kejayaan terbesar Fidel. Beliau tidak hanya berjaya mengharungi halangan besar bagi melindungi kemerdekaan rakyatnya malah beliau turut telah berjaya memujuk semua orang mengiktiraf kepentingan prinsip beliau. Bukan negara di bahagian Selatan Amerika yang mempunyai sejarah pemerintahan kolonial yang ingin mempertahankan kemerdekaan mereka, negara di bahagian utara turut menghadapi cabaran AS yang ingin mengawal dan mendominasi negara mereka, harus mengekalkan kemerdekaan mereka.

Jika perjuangan Fidel bagi mengekalkan kemerdekaan rakyatnya mendapat sokongan rakyatnya kerana ia disertai dengan usaha berskala besar untuk meningkatkan taraf hidup rakyat Cuba. Hampir 100% rakyat Cuba celik huruf, Cuba mempunyai sistem pendidikan komprehensif yang diberikan percuma hingga ke peringkat tinggi. Program kesihatan Cuba memberikan perkhidmatan percuma serta berkualiti kepada keseluruhan rakyat negara Cuba. Nisbah satu doktor bagi setiap 159.2 penduduk merupakan antara terbaik dan kematian bayi lahir bagi setiap 1,000 kelahiran adalah 6. Ini meletakkan Cuba sebaris dengan masyarakat maju.

Di bawah pemerintahan Fidel, Cuba telah muncul reputasi sebagai peneraju kajian perubatan. Cuba menjadi perintis bagi vaksin dan memajukan lagi kajian bagi beberapa jenis kanser. Kemajuan ini hasil daripada asas saintifik kukuh yang telah menyumbang Cuba muncul sebagai pemain utama dalam bidang bioteknologi.

Kepentingan terhadap sains yang membolehkan Cuba yang sedang melalui masalah ekonomi pada tahun 90-an berikutan keruntuhan Kesatuan Soviet telah menukar sektor pertanian yang menggunakan baja dan racun kimia kepada pertanian organik. Hari ini, pertanian organik telah menjadi kekuatan ekonomi. Mungkin juga Cuba ialah negara pertama di dunia yang menukar amalan pertanian kepada pertanian organik dengan skala besar. 

Kepentingan juga diberikan kepada ekonomi Cuba yang disusun menerusi koperasi negeri dan majis perbandaran telah berjaya mengecilkan jurang pendapatan pada kadar miniumum. Tiada keistimewaan kelas ekonomi. Ia mengamalkan konsep masyarakat egalitarianisme.

Cara ini merupakan cara Fidel memastikan pegawai yang berkuasa tidak menyalah gunakan kuasa mereka. Beliau berusaha menghapuskan rasuah. Beliau menjalani kehidupan biasa bagi menjadi contoh kepada lapisan pemimpin.

Kejayaan beliau lain adalah beliau telah menghapuskan diskriminasi kaum dan diskriminasi budaya. Sebelum Revolusi 1959, Cuba ialah negara kuat mengamalkan diskriminasi masyarakat. Namun, hari ini Cuba ialah salah satu masyarakat aman di dunia dengan pelbagai kaum dan pelbagai kebudayaan dengan kesama rataan bagi rakyatnya.

Kesama rataan gender juga menjadi agenda utama dalam agenda negara Fidel. Bukan sahaja terdapat peluang sama rata diberikan kepada wanita di tempat kerja malah bilangan wanita lebih ramai daripada lelaki dalam bidang kritikal - 56% doktor ialah wanita. Wanita juga mewakili 36% di Persidangan Negara yang diwakili dalam semua peringkat dan mengambil bahagian pada peringkat membuat keputusan.

Siapa yang boleh lupa akan sumbangan beliau untuk dalam bidang kesenian dan kebudayaan. Ahli musik, penari dan pembuat filem berjaya mengukir nama mereka di peringkat antarabangsa. Begitu juga dalam bidang sukan.

Fidel sentiasa mengutamakan golongan kurang kemampuan dalam perjuangan beliau. Ribuan pegawai perubatan Cuba berkhidmat di bahagian Amerika Latin, Afrika dan Asia. Cuba juga menawarkan latihan perubatan kepada pelajar dari negara lain dan berjaya menubuhkan pusat pengajian perubatan di negara lain. Bukti bantuan kemanusiaan perubatan Cuba menerusi program Operation Miracle bertujuan membantu orang lain di negara lain. Menerusi operasi ini, pakar mata Cuba berjaya memulihkan masalah penglihatan bagi puluhan ribu rakyat Cuba yang kebanyakan ialah golongan pendapatan rendah di Amerika Latin dan di Caribbean.

Pada peringkat lain, pembabitan Fidel dengan negara lain brjaya dilaksanakna dengan penggunaan MSM. Fidel bertekad mahu menghantar tenteranya menentang penentang di negara lain. Tentera Cuba menentang dasar aparteid di Afrika Selatan di Angola dan berjaya memaksa golongan penentang mengaku kalah dan meninggalkan Namibia yang diduduki secara haram. Kekalahan rejim apartheid dalam pertempuran Cuito Cuanavale melenyapkan mitos kekuasaan orang putih. Ini memberi inspirasi kepada rakyat Afrika Selatan menentang dasar apartheid.

Fidel memberikan khidmat tidak mementingkan diri sendiri yang tiada tandingan. Ini tidak bermakna perjuangan beliau tidak menghadapi masalah. Beliau pernah melakukan kesalahan. Beliau telah melakukan kesalahan dalam meletakkan paras sama rata kepada perniagaan kecil dan sederhana dengan perniagaan kapitalis dan berharap cara ini dapat menghapuskan masalah ekonomi. Pandangan beliau mengenai hartanah persendirian ketegaran dogma Marxist. Jika dilihat secara luas, sumbangan Fidel untuk Cuba dan dunia tidak dapat dinafikan. Rakyat Cuba akan ingat penentangan beliau terhadap ketidak adilan dan keangkuhan kuasa besar dan bagaimana beliau menghargai rakyat Cuba - golongan miskin dan golongan yang ditekan - dihormati dengan penuh maruah.

Sebelum beliau meninggal dunia, Fidel telah menyatakan hasratnya namanya dan apa sahaja yang berkaitan dengan namanya tidak harus digunakan pada institusi, jalan raya, taman atau tempat awam dan patung dan sebarang bentuk penghargaan tidak harus dibina. Beliau tidak memerlukan semua itu. Bagi Fidel, beliau sentiasa hidup selama-lamanya di hati semua orang yang menjadi inspirasi kepada mereka yang dahagakan keadilan dan maruah.

Diterjemah oleh : Teratai Melur
E-mel : terataigenius@gmail.com

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