Republic of Cuba in the Twenty First Century

July 23, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

The Caribbean nation has been through many political and social challenges in the past three centuries. Beginning with colonization leading to revolutions, military coups and the unfortunate communist rule prevalent until today, the 11 million Cuban population continues to suffer in silence without any hope on the horizon.

From the Cuban revolution, Bay of Pigs invasion to Cuban Missile crisis and Guantanamo bay, Cuba has remained a significant Latin American nation.

With the political system modeled after the former Soviet Union and China the three nations’ paradoxical images in the new millennium are striking.

China as a Communist nation is regarded the emerging economic power with extraordinary privileges prominently – permanent membership at the U.N. Security Council, ‘Most Favored Nation’ status renewed regardless of the Republican or Democratic administrations at the White House. China is also a WTO, G-20 and ASEAN member.

Russia shares equivalent position with China among the international community and currently has the United States endorsement for WTO membership at the Toronto G-20 meeting held in June 2010.

Cuba, on the other hand is isolated with various sanctions particularly the economic embargo crippling the island nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Under the previous U.S. administration, there were restrictions on foreign remittances and travel by the Cuban expatriates. However, President Barack Obama reversed it in 2009 along with the resolution adopted in June last year to end the exclusion of Cuba from OAS (Organization of American States). Cuban leaders apparently expressed their lack of enthusiasm in the OAS readmission.

Cuba’s isolation is attributed to the appalling human rights abuse from the international standpoint and nationally the political oppression combined with the state controlled failed economic policies having a drastic impact on the once prosperous middle class in the society are the reasons considered for the Cuban exodus.

The parallels and the ironies between Cuba and other nations in this context are noteworthy.

Haiti – Another Caribbean nation and Cuba’s neighbor on the east was systematically deprived of self-sustenance and economic success during the currently exiled democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide due to the U.S. imposition on Haiti to allow imported crops over the national rice production and other consumer goods resulting in Haiti’s status quo.

Whereas Cuba as a Communist authority holds direct control over two-thirds of the economy with the private sector functioning under federal governance on capital investments approval to hiring policy and wage distribution.

With the exception of public education and universal health care, the state’s macro management of the economy proved to be inefficient on various accounts such as food rationing and inadequate housing for the growing urban population.

Cuba is reported to have found large oil reserves through the environmentally devastating “oil exploration” in North Cuba Basin.

It’s time for nations to realize that the planet sustenance is dependent upon the clean renewable energy resources viz. solar, wind, bio-fuel, hydrothermal projects. Pursuing other sources despite the catastrophic damages to the economy and the environment is denying reality.

On Cuba’s foreign relations – Strong ties with China and Venezuela in the aftermath of the Soviet Union collapse seemingly eased the economic sanctions impact.

National health care in Cuba guarantee free medical aid to all in the rural and urban areas.

Therefore, the infant mortality rate and maternal care are either comparable or better than some developed countries.

The trade embargo affecting the core services like the health care facilities is reportedly deficient in latest medical equipments, drugs and essential supplies undermining the expected standards.

Mandatory education at the basic and higher levels including vocational training appears to be beneficial for Cuba with the highest per capita medical personnel available to serve within and outside the country.

Notably, Cuba is acknowledged for the medical professional help in the disaster relief programs – witnessed recently to Haiti earthquake victims.

Human rights violation is not uncommon in any form of government. If not towards the majority, it is often directed against the minority or the ethnic groups in a society.

Arguably, the repressive governments’ conspicuous abuse of power against their nationals is well known.

Cuba is believed to rank only second to the People’s Republic of China in the imprisonment of journalists voicing their concern against government agenda.

Per Wikipedia.org – Thank you.

“The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (a.k.a. “El Paredón”).

The Human Rights Watch alleges that the government “represses nearly all forms of political dissent” and that “Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law”.

Cuba was the second biggest prison in the world for journalists in 2008, second only to the People’s Republic of China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO.

As a result of computer ownership bans, computer ownership rates are among the world’s lowest.

Right to use Internet is granted only to selected people and these selected people are monitored.

Connecting to the Internet illegally can lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Cuban dissidents face arrests and imprisonment.

In the 1990s, Human Rights reported that Cuba’s extensive prison system, one of the largest in Latin America, consists of some 40 maximum-security prisons, 30 minimum-security prisons, and over 200 work camps.

According to Human Rights Watch, political prisoners, along with the rest of Cuba’s prison population, are confined to jails with substandard and unhealthy conditions.

Citizens cannot leave or return to Cuba without first obtaining official permission.”

Upon viewing the economic and political conditions in Cuba, it’s clear that the real beneficiaries in the economies under authoritarian rule and the democracies run by Corporations are not the average citizens, instead the ‘selective-powerful’ focused on self-interest rather than national interest.

Yet another irony is the statehood declaration as the “Republic” –

Whether it’s Republic of Cuba, Republic of North Korea, Islamic Republic of Iran, or People’s Republic of China and those not truly representative of the republic in the electoral and legislative process confirm the connotation.

A nation’s progress is measured by the political freedom, economic opportunities and social equality.

All are born to be free and economic prosperity in the absence of freedom is life without a purpose.

In the twenty first century, the people of Cuba and others facing persecution for their freedom quest deserve international support.

Liberty especially the freedom of expression is the inalienable human right.

Leadership is honorable when committed to celebrating life and not suppressing it.

Democracy is imminent with a bright future for the people of Cuba.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

The 64th Session of the UN General Assembly and G-20 Summit

September 25, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

Welcome to the forum on the important global gathering of nations to discuss the issues confronting the international community at large.

A humble request to all visitors to the website https://www.padminiarhant.com to take a moment and view the featured videos that speaks volume of the serious humanitarian crisis in hand. As we all know that pictures are worth thousand words and a confirmation of the reality.

Again, the visuals may not be appropriate for all, given the graphic content. The dire situations in these parts of the world beckon the worldwide condemnation and put an end to these atrocities against humanity and bring the perpetrators irrespective of stature to justice as an evidence there is still hope for goodness to prevail in the ever deteriorating immoral world.

Please remember silence is the worst act of crime.

The general debate by the United Nations began early this week with President Barack Obama addressing the General Assembly for the first time since elected to the office of Presidency. The debate continued then onwards with the address by the undemocratically nominated authorities like the Islamic Republic of Iran and The Great Socialist People’s Libya…

The UN Security Council Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was the highlight of the UN session. The objective of this particular conference was aimed at bringing the States that have not yet agreed to or ratified the treaty for the Non-Proliferation Treaty to come into effect.

Another attention worthy factor is “the Conference effort to bring together representatives of ratifying States, States Signatories, and States that have not yet signed or ratified the Treaty. They will examine how hold-out States can be brought in to sign and ratify the Treaty for it to come into effect.”

What’s also missing in the effort is to have the covert states like the State of Israel, Iran and North Korea to declare their nuclear capability and quantity to determine the dangers of unaccounted nuclear stockpiles by these nations.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing – Thank you.

• Soviet Union: 715 tests (involving 969 devices) by official count,[3] most at Semipalatinsk Test Site and Novaya Zemlya, and a few more at various sites in Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

• France: 210 tests by official count (50 atmospheric, 160 underground[4]), 4 atomic atmospheric tests at C.E.S.M. near Reggane, 13 atomic underground tests at C.E.M.O. near In Ekker in the then-French Algerian Sahara, and nuclear atmospheric tests at Fangataufa and nuclear undersea tests Moruroa in French Polynesia. Additional atomic and chemical warfare tests took place in the secret base B2-Namous, near Ben Wenif, other tests involving rockets and missiles at C.I.E.E.S, near Hammaguir, both in the Sahara.

• United Kingdom: 45 tests (21 in Australian territory, including 9 in mainland South Australia at Maralinga and Emu Field, some at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean, plus many others in the U.S. as part of joint test series)[5]

In 1963, all nuclear and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, while China continued up until 1980.

The last underground test by the United States was in 1992, the Soviet Union in 1990, the United Kingdom in 1991, and both France and China continued testing until 1996. After adopting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, all of these states have pledged to discontinue all nuclear testing. Non-signatories India and Pakistan last tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

The most recent nuclear test was announced by North Korea on May 25, 2009.

There have been many attempts to limit the number and size of nuclear tests; the most far-reaching was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996, which was not ratified by the United States.

Nuclear testing has since become a controversial issue in the United States, with a number of politicians saying that future testing might be necessary to maintain the aging warheads from the Cold War. Because nuclear testing is seen as furthering nuclear arms development, many are also opposed to future testing as an acceleration of the arms race.”

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True Perspective: By Padmini Arhant

In light of the real scenario, it is incumbent on the nuclear powers to follow through what they are prescribing for others in the most contentious issue of WMD that is by far the significant threat to global security in the twenty first century.

The irony behind such ambition is the key members enforcing the ban have not either ratified the treaty solemnly or themselves violated the pledge on numerous occasions with the continual nuclear testing by some not necessarily in their own backyard. Further, the meeting agenda was to move towards a nuclear free world, a phenomenal shift from the past that considered such notion to be naïve and a far-fetched principle in the prolific nuclear and conventional arms race era.

It is also important for the states in possession of nuclear arsenal but not admittedly so like the State of Israel to become the signatory and the rattling sabers like Iran and North Korea to abandon their nuclear status.

Such measure is necessary to ensure the credibility of the authorities exclusively focused on cornering the overt nuclear states unwilling to ratify the NPT on these moral grounds. There are clearly double standards by the twentieth century imperial powers in their dealings on most issues not to mention their reluctance to embrace the new world development and requirements.

Naturally, the dominant nuclear powers’ isolated targeting of the confirmed nuclear states to ratify the NPT is perceived by the respective populations as hypocritical to say the least.

Moving on to other matter pertinent to the UN General Assembly meeting is –

The absolute necessity for the expansion of the present Security Council, conspicuously discarded by the members with the exception of France willing to acknowledge the new memberships with a veto power that were listed earlier on such as Brazil, Japan, India, Germany, South Africa and UAE (The United Arab Emirates).

The existing Security Council performance thus far in most global issues have been a dismal failure due to discord among the member nations and mistrust by the international community, especially with the P5 inadequately measuring up to the global decision making essential to resolve complex international issues.

Unless and until a legitimate resolution to expand the Security Council is carried out in this session, any other proposals regardless of its magnitude are irrelevant, as it would signify the P5 resilience to conform to the rapidly changing global environment besides posing a major impediment for any international progress on all issues.

There are many urgent international crisis deserving the assembled world leaders attention and action.

They range from political, economic, energy, education, humanitarian issues related to women, children and exploited labor, global pandemic and epidemic problems, environment to international security.

Although, the heads of the government from different parts of the world command the center stage with speeches that resonates the sentiments of the regions they represent, the nexus of the meeting relies on the earnest commitment towards international peace, progress and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the nations fail to recognize the individual liabilities accumulated on their part towards their own population in denying them democracy, free and fair elections, equal rights to women, trustworthy regional and global trade partnerships, cross border relationships extending to the other international area and last but not the least respect for the humanitarian laws.

The UN General Assembly in the twenty first century should no longer be the diplomatic congregation dedicated to rhetoric and abstinent in concrete actions. The unique opportunity must be utilized to the full potential by all nations to consolidate ideas and strategies in promoting regional and world peace possible upon addressing the few of the many burgeoning crisis.

The first and foremost – Freedom and Democracy in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iran and other parts of the Middle East, Tibet, Mainland and ethnic provinces in China, Burma, North Korea,

Emancipation of ethnic Tamils from the brutal genocide in Sri Lanka, Civil liberties in war ravaged Africa,

Restoration of democratic rule in Honduras and other parts of Latin America and,

Law and order in nuclear Pakistan to list a few as the priorities among the world political crisis.

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The G-20 Summit: BY Padmini Arhant

With respect to the G-20 summit, the selective nations view should encompass the rest of the world dependent on the elitists’ economic policies and environmental decisions interrelated to eliminate poverty in the impoverished regions of Africa, Latin America, Asia, notwithstanding the unemployment plight among the middle and lower income groups in the Western world.

Whether or not the summit involves the global economic challenges including the environmental issues, the consensus should be to provide pragmatic solutions to the entire world through reform and restructuring of the different economic and world agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, WTO, ILO (International Labor Organization) and review of the G-20 role in the economic recovery plan.

In this aspect, the anomalies in the trade surpluses and deficits between economic powers must be effectively resolved for global benefits rather than the personal gains of the premier membership committee.

There is enormous work required to combat the global economic woes having a ripple effect as seen in the finance sector, housing market, international trade, manufacturing demanding desperate regulations to avert catastrophes in the future.

In the environmental front, the universal green revolution is paramount for lasting life sustenance on the planet. The United States energy and environmental policy in leading the G-20 nations is vital to achieve the targeted environmental goals.

Various economic treaties between nations due for a thorough review and evaluation at the summit to improve the labor laws, ethics and industrial obligations essential to expedite the sluggish global economy and contain the environmental degradation.

Finally, the UN General Assembly and the G-20 summit are worthwhile with the global community engaged in harmony rather than acrimony to confront the humanitarian crises at all levels for the universal cause.

On that note, every United Nations and G-20 member visit as well as the non-member nations’ participation is appreciated not barring their interest and contribution to the myriad of international achievements thus far.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


P.S. The featured videos contain graphic content that may not be suitable for all.

Obama Administration – Performance Assessment

April 29, 2009

It is one hundred days since the new administration under President Obama took office on January 20, 2009.

Precisely, around that time the nation was in a precarious situation specifically with the economy in severe recession heading towards a possible depression. It required urgent policy decisions to avert the serous economic crisis contributing to the crumbling housing market, potential bankruptcies of the auto industry, tremendous job losses, failing financial institutions and volatile stock market.

Even though, the crises are far from over, the administration demonstrated diligence with the legislation of the $787 billion stimulus bill through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act accompanied by various strategies to reform and revive the financial institutions and housing market.

The financial bailouts were justifiably controversial and awaiting the stress test results due on May 4, 2009. Meanwhile, the alternative of inaction would have proven equally detrimental and exacerbated the liquidity crisis in the financial market.

In addition to the measures in stimulating the economy, the administration’s effort to sustain the existing jobs in different sectors particularly the auto industry is noteworthy. Further planning and policy decisions to create new jobs phrased, as ‘green jobs’ through vigorous environmental and energy programs is the right course of action to efficiently deal with the challenging issues of global warming and energy independence.

Other achievements in promoting science and technology such as the stem cell research within the realm of ethical code, proposal to digitalize medical records as one of many innovative solutions in the health care policy, coordinating with the environmental agencies in the protection of threatened and endangered species are impressive. However, the request from the environmental groups to rescind the rule that limits the protection of polar bears from the melting Arctic ice caused by climate change is pending approval.

In social programs, the signing of two major pieces of legislation into law – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, ensuring equal pay for men and women and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that guarantees 11 million low-income children affordable health care are significant actions.

World health crisis in the wake of the ‘pandemic swine flu’ appropriately handled by the Obama administration thus far.

Despite the fragile economic conditions, the Obama administration’s response and reaction to most issues has been right on target. The anticipated legislation of the budget focused on education, energy and health care should accelerate the economic growth for rapid recovery from the existing crises.

The administration must strive hard to isolate investment from wasteful spending i.e. earmarks or pork barrel that often finds its way through major budgets and stimulus packages. Likewise, preventing the special interests and lobbyists’ continuous dominance should be part of the administration’s agenda.

With respect to transparency and accountability, the recent scandals involving legislators raises credibility issue for the majority party. It is important to maintain bipartisanship in legislative matters for national interest since future holds no guarantee with the majority rule. Moreover, divisive politics contributes to polarization jeopardizing national unity and ultimately election results.

In foreign policy matter, the recent participation in international summits appears promising with the exception of the boycotting of the Geneva conference on ‘racism.’ Please refer to the article on ‘Racism – The Durban II Geneva Conference’ @ www.padminiarhant.com.

Obviously, the rising tensions in the international arena from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are few of the many challenges ahead. Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the form of two states solutions is paramount to attain permanent peace in the region. It would create a pathway for others sharing similar aspirations.

Combat troops withdrawal from Iraq and simultaneous deployment in Afghanistan deserve individual criteria and attention. Military operation always yields immense casualties and often precious lives are lost in the process.

President Obama’s initiative with Russia in the reduction of conventional weapons and other arsenal is praiseworthy. Nevertheless, it remains subject to the real statistics and the actual defense spending contraction by the geopolitical powers. The bold and audacious declaration of nuclear disarmament was music to ears, although the reality of it relies on the willingness and commitment by the other nuclear nations.

At the G-20 summit, the United States’ reluctance to support France’s proposal to force international financial institutions unveil the corporations using tax havens for tax evasions was disappointing. The unpopular yet meaningful recommendation contributed to a major disagreement between France and China leading to the mediation by the U.S. President Barack Obama. The international sources attributed China’s objection to the potential ramifications on the foreign investments in that nation.

In conclusion, the result oriented performance reflects President Obama’s admirable leadership skills and the administration’s ambitious goals in education, energy and health care is a step in the right direction.

I wish President Obama and the administration success in all endeavors.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant