Addresses U.N. Summit
A Laughing Matter
09 September 2000
There are few surviving dictators around the globe whose tenure
in power has been as long lasting and persistent as that of Fidel
Castro Ruz, head of Cuba's ruling minority. Many of those who have
met him in person agree that he comes across as a friendly and honest
individual, a passionate believer in Communism and the emancipation
of the poor and oppressed in all nations. The problem, of course,
is that, even in socialist Cuba, few share his ideals. Consequently,
his actual political identity today is that of a tyrant, an animate
barrier standing in the way of true popular power on the island.
As has been the case with many passionate socialists who got involved
with the nitty-gritty job of running a country, Castro's practices
stink, yet his worlds are often remarkably powerful and, indeed,
true. Take, for instance, his address delivered a few days ago at
the United Nations summit in New York. "The 30 developed and
wealthy nations of the world", he declared in Spanish, "which
have the monopoly over economic, technological and political power
are meeting here with us to offer us more of the same prescriptions
that have only served to make us steadily poorer, more exploited
and more dependent". And he went on to continue: "[t]he
fundamental causes of current conflicts are to be found in the poverty
and underdevelopment prevailing in the immense majority of countries,
and in the unequal distribution of wealth and knowledge reigning
in the world. It should not be forgotten that this underdevelopment
and poverty are the direct consequence of the colonial powers' conquest,
colonization, slavery and plunder of most of the earth, the emergence
of imperialism and bloody wars fought in order to carve up the world
again and again. Today they have the moral responsibility to compensate
our countries for the damage they have inflicted on them over centuries".
There is nothing particularly communistic or radical in the above
statement, which was delivered to the greatest gathering of world
leaders in history. Since the end of direct colonialism, a few decades
ago, the underdeveloped nations of the world have been growing steadily
poorer, steadily miserable and steadily desperate to the point of
no return. Their weakness and misery has prevented them from bringing
to the table of negotiations the issue of the untold damages inflicted
upon them by the colonial powers, and their post-colonial Cold War
strategies. Some think it is strange that countries like Congo,
India, or the Philippines, are so insistent on receiving compensation
for pains inflicted upon them by the industrial powers 50, 60 or
100 years ago. Yet the same issue does not seem so strange when
it comes to the case of Nazi Germany. The plight of the Jews is
but the tip of the iceberg. During WWII, German soldiers fought
and died in over 100 countries around the word, and there are today
dozens of nations who still press Germany for adequate compensation.
A couple of months ago, the Greek courts ordered the repossession
by the Greek state of all German government property in Greece,
in order to meet the financial cost of the damages inflicted upon
the country by Nazi forces during the war. That is a rare, brave
step in today's world.
Castro's speech continued: "[n]othing in the existing economic
and political order is of service to humanity. It cannot be sustained.
It has to be changed. It is enough to recall that we are now six
billion inhabitants, 80% of whom are poor".
Again, there is nothing particularly radical in the above statement.
It is largely a descriptive and logical proposition, which, even
if it can be shown to be erroneous, requires a good deal of discussion:
what are the moral and ethical reasons in insisting on the continuation
of an economic and political system, which is unable (or, indeed,
unwilling) to lift 80% of the world's population out of almost absolute
poverty? Such statements do not even belong to Castro; before he
expressed them, they were voiced repeatedly by visionaries such
as Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., figures whom the world recognizes
as national and international heroes.
It is regrettable that the above statements originate from the
lips of a tyrant who, for the most part, operates without the consent
of its subjects (note: wouldn't it be interesting to exercise upon
our Western parliamentary systems the same degree of detailed, uncompromising
criticism and dissent that we exercise upon those nations whose
forms of government we disapprove of?). Yet these statements are
real concerns, representative of the feelings of numerous U.N. members.
It was interesting to note the sheer number of heads of state who
walked up to Castro and shook his hand once he had delivered his
It is even more regrettable that, in a fashion typical of the conglomerate
media industry, Castro's address was under-reported or, when reported,
ridiculed. Most of the world's wire services paid more attention
to Castro's move of using his handkerchief to cover the speech indicator
light next to his microphone, in an attempt to extend his speech
time over the 5 minutes allocated to him by the summit's organizers.
"Colorful Castro" was the headline of ABC's reporting
of the speech, in which more words were devoted on Castro's handkerchief
than to the content of his speech. Even the supposedly more serious
BBC, reported sarcastically: "if the gathered monarchs, presidents
and prime ministers cast a thought to their watches, they need not
have worried. Exactly five minutes after he began speaking, President
Castro stopped, removed his handkerchief and stepped down".
Evidently, the covering of the indicator was a symbolic move, expressing
the Cuban ruler's dissatisfaction with the limited speech time allocated
to the heads of less powerful nation states represented at the summit.
But even that move failed to penetrate the minds of the editors-in-chief
of the world's media oligopolies. They treated Castro' speech as
a 'colorful' and 'picturesque' presentation that expressed views
and opinions so untypical of our times that they cannot possibly
be taken seriously. And, rather predictably, this is increasingly
becoming a trend, a functioning principle, at the U.N. Criticism
at the organization has been reduced to a laughing matter, and there
is not much that one can do about it. As Castro himself keeps finding
out lately, these are extremely hard times for revolutionaries.
© The News Insider 2000
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