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May 28, 1977 - Image 7

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Michigan Daily, 1977-05-28

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5ourdoV, MAY 28, 1977 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Seven
Cuba: A land of constant change

By PAUL SHAPIRO
it has been eighteen years since the
jnited States allowed travel and trade
with the island of Cuba. Although just
ninety miles separates these two coun-
tries, the difference in ideologies is im-
mense. But with a new administration in
power, international pressure building,
and both countries mutual needs grow-
ing, it finally appears as if relations will
be resumed in the near future.
Over the eighteen year embargo of
travel and trade, one of the few Ameri-
can groups to have continued contact
with Cuba has been the Venceremos Bri-
gade. David Kaimowitz, an Ann Arbor
resident currently studying economics at
Berkeley, was a member of the 1977
Brigrade. Kaimowitz was on campus last
week, speaking with professors and lec-
turing to several classes about his ex-
periences in Cuba. The following inter-
view with him attempts to cover a broad
range of issues concerning life in Cuba
today.
Q. Under what circumstances did the
Venceremos Brigade come into exist-
ence?
A. The Venceremos Brigade was found-
ed in 1969, after the Cubans announced
that they were going to have the ten mi-
lisa ton harvest of sugar cane. Some peo-
ple in the United States felt it would be
important to break the travel and trade
blockade that was imposed on Cuba. Ad-
ditionally they wished to show their soli-
darity with the Cuban people, by helping
in the historic harvest that Fidel had
said was a major step in bringing Cuba
out of underdevelopment.
Q. What did your B r i g a d e do in
Cuba?
A. 250 of us worked in construction for
four weeks in a city called Guayabal,
and then we toured the island for two
weeks. On weekends, and while we were
touring the island we had a chance to
talk to a wide cross section of the Cuban
citizenry. We also had a number of plan-
ned forums and met with delegations
from Chile, Puerto Rico, Zimbawe, An-
gola, Vietnam, Tanzania, Jamaica, and
a Palestinian delegation.
Q. How do Cubans view the prospect
of resuming relations with the United
States?
A. There is no question that the block-
ade has hurt Cuba very badly. You can
tell by looking at all the 1940's and
1950's cars and by going into the fac-
tories. On the construction site we were
running cement mixers made by U.S.
companies, and every time they broke
down we had trouble getting parts. Every
piece of machinery that comes from the
Soviet bloc essentially means exporting
it by boat 3,000 miles and that doubles
the price of Cuban machinery. But the
attitude there is that the U.S. imposed
the blockade and it is up to the U.S. to
end the blockade. Cuba has been able
to develop without tle U.S. and although
they would much prefer relations, they
will refuse to alter Cuba's internationalist
politics, or change internal affairs just
for relations with the United States.
Q. Is there fear in Cuba about losing
a degree of independenge if trade isf
resumed with the United States?
A. I think they recognize that as an
ongong problem. But as Fidel said a
couple of months ago, "What is it that
the .S. is going to threaten us with now?
Are they going to cut off our relations?
Are they going to take away trade? Are
they going to make threats against us?
h at does the U.S. think they can threat-
en us with after cutting off everything for
so many years?"
Q. Did You talk to the Cuban workers
abut Politics?
A, Yes, we spoke to a number of work-
ers about politics. The level of political
consciusness among workers is very
high, You could talk to construction
workers about a wide spectrum of isuen
and you would always get very repon-
sive answers y

Q. How do they seem to feel about
their own government?
A. The feeling is very strong. The
Cuban people love their government.
Q. Is Castro himself well-loved?
A. I think he is. But perhaps the United
States has, made a mistake in claiming
that the Cuban people love Castro as an
individual. The people have a great deal
of respect for the revlutionary govern-
ment. I don't think Cuba is persuaded
by a love Fidel movement.
Q. Has modernization come to the
Cuban countryside since the revolution
of 1959?
A. I think a lot of Americans are sur-
prised when they go to Cuba and see the
relative under development of the coun-
try. That's to be expected. Eighteen
years ago there were no schools in the
countryisde, no development going on
outside Havana, and no hospitals. 'Eigh-
teen years later evertyhing is not per-
fect. Cuban housing is the least developed
because over the years Cuba has placed
its main emphasis on building up its pro-
ductive and service forces. Their public
buildings, schools, and hospitals have
gone before private housing. What the
Brigade worked on in Cuba, residential
housing, is built in a system of micro-
brigades. Because there was always a
lack of skilled construction workers, a
factory currently picks out its best work-
ers and then agrees to make up the dif-
ference in production. Those workers
form a micro-brigade in housing and
build units for the area. The factory
then has an assembly and decides which
workers the housing should go to, based
on both need and on the exemplary work
of a worker.
Q. In your opinion are people's basic
needs being met by the Cuban govern-
ment?
A. The government does meet people's
basic needs, there is no question about
that. Medical needs are met. The aver-
age worker in Cuba sees a doctor once
a month through factory benefits. Edu-
cational needs are met. Every single per-
son in Cuba just about, is studying. That
was one of the most amazing -things for
us. If you are a member of the Cuban
Communist Party, you have to be a stu-
dent.
Q. How many universities are there
in Cuba?
A. In theory, every province is going
to have a .university. But Cuba's pro-
vincial system has just been changed.
It used to be that there were six pro-
vinces in Cuba, and since the new con-

stitution of 1975 there are now 14 pro-
vmces, to restructure it in terms of ad-
ministration. There are still a few pro-
vinces that in reality don't have univer-
sities yet. But those are being set up.
Q. How do the universities in Cuba
compare with those in the United
States? -
A. Well. I'm an economics student at
Berkeley, and the economics they are
studying there is a lot different than
the economics we're studying. For a
progressive people, it's like we're study-
ing pre-history at Berkeley.
Q. Is there a variety of media in
Cuba, and how much freedom is the
press there allowed?
A. There are a number of different
Cuban newspapers and magazines. The
most read newspaper is the Granma,
which everybody reads. It comes out of
Havana but every province has its own
edition with local news. All the press
there is run by the government. Except
for minor criticism, you rarely see any-
thing negative about the government.
Q. How do you view that control?
A. My personal feeling is that the
major need of the Cuban people today is
not a free press. I think that democracy
has come in Cuba over the years. The
best example of this is the elections last
year. There is new participation at many
different levels. Freedom of the press
will, come when things cool off with the
United States regarding the present situ-
ation of crsis that has gone on in Cuba
over the past 18 years. The Cubans have
constantly been on the defensive of the
U.S. just 90 miles away. When this situa-
tion calms down, there will be a level of
calm and criticism will be allowed to
come out.
Q. You feel that restrictions on the
press are warranted?
A. Yes. They are today. The Cubans
themselves do realize the problems with
the sitaution. One of the problems we
discussed with people there was the ques-
tion of how 1o get information to people
without it being the government position.
They are looking for alternatives. One
possibility may be that in the next few
years a non-government newspaper will
develop.
Q. Are the cities in Cuba similar to
those in the United States in terms of
problems with violence?
A. People walk anywhere in Cuba, at
any time of night. We talked to different
judges and we asked teem when was the
last time they could remember a violent
crime. They said they couldn't remember

one at all.
Q. Recent Amerman newspaper arti-
cles painted a picture of Havana as a
run down city with severe problems.
Did you find that to be the case?
A. Inner city Havana, partictlarly Old
Havana which dates foir ceotries back,
is an old city and does have severe prob-
lems. One- of the greatest problems is
with drainage. The Havana drainage sys-
tem goes ba-k to the -olonial period and
is not able to deal with the modern sani-
tation problems th-t th'y have. Basically,
Cuba has had very s-are resources for
the past 19 years Triitionaly, the con-
ditions in underd-eloned countries is
that the capitol city de-elops, while the
rest of the country rita Since the revolu-
tion in Cuba, there is ,o question it has
been going the othr 'wav. We went out
to rural areas w h e r e there were no
schools before and 'here are now huge
modern facilities.
- Q. What is happening on a cultural
level in Cuba?
A. The most important thing is the
popularization of the arts. Eerywhere
you go there are painting exhibitions and
music is all over. The Cuban National
Ballet is of course very famous. The
other aspect of colore is education. One
of the major campaigns in Cuba now is
the campaign for the sixth grade. The
campaign's goal is that every worker
and peasant in the contry will reach the
Cuban sixth grade level. When they say
the sixth grade, well we saw people read-
ing articles in the sixh grade that col-
lege students here couldn't have figured
out.
Q. Is the educational system struc-
tured differently there?
A. The main difference is that Cuban
students have something called circles
of interest, and that means from the
start Cuban students begin working heav-
ily in areas that they might eventually
be interested in going into. For example,
we visited pioneer camps where they
go in the summer. One camp had a circle
of interest in dairy farming where stu-
dents learned a great deal about that
subject. Other camps specialized in in-
dustrial and creative subjects. As part of
the school's curriculum they have cul-
tural events. All the students in Cuba
are involved in sporting events. The stu-
dent control over their education is
greater than in this country. Students
have assemblies that elect representa-
tives to work out problems, curriculum,
internal disciplinary situations, and who
work on having students help other stu-
dents with their materials.
Q. Did you sense among the Cuban
people a continued commitment to the
revolution?
A. I think the commitment to the revo-
lution gets stronger every year. As peo-
ple see their problems being solved, their
commitment becomes more solid.
Q. What are some of the major is-
sues concerning the Cuban people?
A. The major question is that of mate-
rial goods as opposed to moral incentive.
The spreading of unequality on one
hand, as compared to the injustice of
some people who work less getting as
much as those who work more.
Q. Is Cuba heading towards material
incentives?
A. No question about it. Basically, as
one of the Cuban leaders put it, in 1962
the only thing the Cuban government'had
to offer the Cuban worker was batro
muerte. Basically there was nothing ma-
terial they had to offer. The only thing
they had to offer the Cuban workers in
1962 was the stubborness of the Cuban
people that they would not give up in
the face of the U.S. threat, and in the
face of other people's attempts to de-
stroy their revolution. In 1977 that is not
true. Currently the Cuban revolution
stands on its own merit in terms of the
material welfare that they've been able
to give the Cuban people. It creates a
very different situation where people are
becoming more interested in material
incentives.

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