Confronting rhetoric with reality

Spring 2009

Professor Salim Lamrani was one of the key speakers at the Latin America Conference 2008, and took time out to speak to Stephen Hallmark about why he has dedicated such a large chunk of his life researching Cuba

Professor Salim Lamrani has called upon the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to re-double its efforts in the battle to raise awareness about the Caribbean country and its 50-year-old Revolution.

The academic is passionate about the example Cuba sets, and the relevance it has aiding progress across the developing world. However, he stresses that Cuba needs international support to pressure the United States into normalising relations and dropping the iniquitous 46-year-old economic blockade.

The French-Algerian, an expert in North American and Cuban relations and a writer and journalist, first became interested in Cuba after reading “A People’s History”, by Howard Zinn - a piercing analysis of the US’s history which challenges many widely accepted beliefs about the country.

Prof Lamrani said: “What I read suggested US policy toward Cuba was based on a fear of the Revolution and its ideals, and it compelled me to visit and see for myself. When I did, I was impressed by the level of human and cultural development I witnessed, and obviously by the country’s healthcare system and by the fact there were no homeless people. I saw difficulties, but to me they were less important than the country’s achievements.

“The World Bank said in a recent report that Cuba is the pre-eminent model for developing countries to follow, but newspapers won’t talk about this as it would make it impossible to demonise the country. At least from a social perspective, the Cuban Revolution has given the country an independence and sovereignty that no other developing country has. It has a huge moral prestige and authority, especially in the developing world, not least because it has resisted half-a-century of aggression from the United States.

“Therefore there is a great deal to learn from the Cuban example.”

Prof Lamrani also studied in the United States for a period.

He said: “I had some nice talks with North American students! I tried to explain Cuba wasn’t a paradise, but it certainly wasn’t the living hell portrayed by the US media. It was a country with a long history of independence struggles and one that’s been under constant attack.

“Also, speculation about Cuba’s future starts from the wrong basis, which is that the Revolution rests on Fidel Castro’s shoulders. I believe the Revolution is deeply rooted in three to four generations of Cubans who struggled for independence. The institutions are strong.

“Obviously Castro’s disappearance will create an emotional and effective fracture, but it won’t put in jeopardy the economic or social systems.”

Media coverage of Cuba is something which deeply troubles Prof Lamrani, and which he believes makes vital the work of organisations such as the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC).

He said: “The sophistication of the propaganda waged against Cuba has reached such a level that even progressive sectors of society are victims of the disinformation. The role of groups like CSC is to confront rhetoric with reality.

“I start with human rights. I cannot say there are no human rights abuses in Cuba, but neither can I say that for France. One should look at the latest Amnesty International report, the charity is the most serious and prestigious organisation defending human rights and it says that throughout the whole of the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, the country with the best record is Cuba.

“If you lived in an intelligent and free society, then the information you learn from events like the Latin America 2008 Conference and through solidarity organisations would be readily available. There could then be open and informed debates about the Cuban Revolution, but instead we only hear that the country is a corrupt dictatorship and a throw back to a bygone and discredited era. That’s a great pity, because it should be the duty of journalists to approach Cuba honestly.

“Because the media is failing in its duty to objectively analyse what’s happening in the country, then it is essential that solidarity organisations challenge the disinformation and raise awareness about the real Cuba.”

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