September 25, 2007

Bikes in Cuba

John Peck Madison

 Gather from the opening of her article ["Can Biotechnology Save the Cuban Revolution?" May, 1993] that Julie Feinsilver drives a car to work. That scientists in Cuba ride bicycles instead is by no means "ironic," "arduous," or symbolic of "rapid deindustrialization" or "primitive work processes." In fact, a similar phenomenon occurs every day in progressive cities of the North, such as my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. The peo- ple of Cuba have every right to be proud that Havana has become the "Bicycle Capital of the Americas." Such appropriate technology not only saves the country an estimat- ed $50 million annually, but it also reduces urban pollution by retiring inefficient automobiles, provides new employment as bicycle facto- ries open, fosters green space by narrowing road ways, and strength- ens neighborhood solidarity as people commute together. The world would be much better off today if all of us had responded to the "energy crisis" as successfully and creatively as Cuba has. Unfortunately, superpowers like the United States would rather shed blood for oil than change their unsustainable lifestyle.


John Burton Washington

According to Saul Landau ["Clinton's Cuba Policy: A Low-Priority Dilemma," May, 1993], there is widespread agree- ment that in order to change our Cuba policy, alternative domestic constituencies with some clout must materialize. It seems to me that one such constituency may be those environmentalists who believe that global warming is like- ly to cause catastrophes in the next century. The cutoff of oil and economic aid from the Soviet Union has forced Castro to make Cuba a model environmental nation. The principal contributor to global warming is the carbon dioxide we put in the air by burning coal, oil and natural gas. To avoid global warming, we must reduce our use of energy from these fossil fuels. This is exactly what Cuba is now doing. Hundreds of thousands of bicycles have replaced autos; farm- ers are plowing with oxen instead of tractors; and the use of electricity in homes and factories has been curtailed. If Cuba can survive under these conditions, it will be a useful model, because we may all be forced to do so one day. In addition, the shortage of for- eign exchange has forced Cuba to find alternatives to chemical pesti- cides. Cuba is successfully using ants to combat pests in the produc- tion of bananas and sweet potatoes. In fact, it currently has 14 centers for ant production. The Ministry of Agriculture has made biological pest control a priority in its new five-year plan. Sugar is still a major source of foreign exchange, but it is also being increasingly used as a raw material for domestic industry, as a fuel, and as feed for cattle. Cuba is thus setting an envi- ronmentally sustainable example for struggling Third World nations. 


Shining Path

Peter Waterman The Hague, The Netherlands

As a one-time apologist for Stalinism, who used to send letters defending authoritarian Communism to the Left press in the U.K., I would like to respond to Carol Andreas' justification of Shining Path's assassination of Maria Elena Moyano [Letters, July/August, 1993]. The charges against her should really have been answered by Maria Elena herself, but Andreas' "Peruvian Revolution" gave her no chance to respond. She was secretly and summarily accused, tried, judged and executed by Shining Path; her public execu- tion was intended to terrorize the citizens of Villa El Salvador, Lima's largest, most complex and democratic squatter movement. Many of her immediate friends and comrades-also well-placed to defend her-have been terrorized, and forced into exile or hiding by Shining Path. Given these circum- stances, it will take some time and effort to find people able to reply to the Shining Path charges retailed by Carol Andreas. Those who sign such answers may find themselves targets of death threats or assassi- nation. Yet a response is necessary.

Shining Path represents a dog- matic, authoritarian, totalitarian, militaristic and secretive response to failed modernization strategies in Peru. Like many fundamentalist movements, it believes that it alone can possess or create Truth. It is obviously not willing to debate, far less engage in dialogue, with elected popular leaders like Moyano with whom it disagrees, and who evidently stand in its way. Operating with a Manichean world view, Shining Path divides people into the Saved-who accept in toto and religiously repeat the words of the self-anointed leader of the World Revolution-and the Damned, to be crushed or eliminated. Between the two are the clay-like masses of the misled, yet to be molded in the image of the leader. The Saved paint gigantic Maoist murals of their godhead, and stage 1960s type Chinese revolutionary operas. This is a separate planet--or sepa- rate epoch-from the mass black uprisings or gay demonstrations of the United States, or from the world of that lone Chinese citizen confronting the Chinese Revolution with his briefcase in Tienanmen Square.

I am angry with Maria Elena for putting her body where her heart was. I would like to have met this three-dimensional, independent, spirited, fallible human being. I am horrified by Shining Path for reproducing authoritarian Communism at a time when it is in cri- sis or disappearing elsewhere. For Carol Andreas, who prefers the icy logic of the "Peruvian Revolu- tion" to the complexities and contradictions of the democratic pop- ular organizations, I have no appropriate words at all. 



Read the rest of NACLA's Sept/Oct 1993 issue: "Peril And Promise: The New Democracy in Latin America."


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