A New Year with a More Dangerous and Unequal World

By Elio Delgado Legon

Cuban doctors in Peru. Photo: granma.cu

HAVANA TIMES — When a new year begins, good people wish for a year of peace, health and progress for themselves and others, for things to get better. For some strange reason, there are people who selfishly only think about themselves and they don’t care about other people’s suffering.

With news of the new year, we have received news about a great range of different situations, from Pope Francisco’s good wishes for all human beings, to the humanitarian crisis that the people in Yemen are experiencing, and it seems that this doesn’t seem to bother rich and powerful politicians very much,.

Starting with Latin America, which is our region, the social landscape reflected in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (CEPAL) report is truly worrying. First of all, it states that poverty levels have increased, after more than a decade of this falling in most countries.

The report reveals that the number of people living in poverty increased from 168 million in 2014 to 186 million in 2016, while the number of those living in extreme poverty rose from 48 million to 61 million over the same time period. These are alarming figures which relate to political changes in the region as some countries have gone from having a left-wing government, concerned about their fellow countrymen’s wellbeing, to neoliberal governments who care very little about the suffering of their people and they dedicate themselves to sinking their countries into more and more debt so as to increase their own personal fortunes as well as those of their capitalist friends. These are the governments that Washington supports and approves of.

Latin America has been labeled the most unequal region in the world, as great accumulations of wealth exist alongside great concentrations of poverty and extreme poverty, with all of the human suffering these entail; but capitalists don’t care about any of that.

In other parts of the world, like in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, millions of people die of hunger and vaccine-preventable and treatable diseases, without effective aid measures being adopted. UN agencies do what they can to help, but available funds aren’t enough and in the meantime, rich countries such as the US are cutting their contributions without caring about just how much suffering this can cause.

While the United States is cutting its budget to slow down the UN’s humanitarian aid work, it is increasing its military budget greatly so as to keep this huge war machine going all over the world, creating more humanitarian crises, such as what has happened in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and they want to wipe Palestine off the map, so they send enormous sums in military aid to Israel every year, this country being the greatest abuser of human rights in that region.

The UN has declared a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the images you can see on TV are blood-curdling, but rich people look the other way so as not to see them or they pretend they don’t know what is going on.

With just a small part of all that is spent worldwide on weapons to kill, millions of lives could be saved and a lot could be contributed to the development of many countries which today are struggling with extreme poverty, starvation, unhealthy living conditions and growing underdevelopment. Even the problem of millions of people living in the richest country in the world without a roof over their head and healthcare could be solved.

This whole situation contrasts with the Cuban government and people’s attitude, which in spite of being a poor country and having suffered a strict blockade for more than half a century, has provided aid to over 160 countries, with over 370,000 health professionals being deployed, who have saved thousands of lives and improved healthcare services in most of those countries, at no cost to patients. Plus, they have given over 2 million people their sight back or stopped them from going blind in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, via its Operacion Milagro program.

We can also add the creation of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) to these efforts, which has thus far trained over 28,000 doctors from 103 countries, including 170 doctors from the US, where poor people can’t study medicine because the degree is so expensive.

These are just some small differences between rich, developed capitalist countries and a small, I repeat, poor and blockaded country, but with a very high morale and a caring and altruistic people who do shudder when they see images of children dying of hunger, or worse still, as a result of bombs being dropped by US fighter planes, or of Israel, or any other friend of Imperialism, in wars that make no sense, which only make the world a more dangerous and unequal world every day.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

19 thoughts on “A New Year with a More Dangerous and Unequal World

  • Elio implies a causality between the shift in politics from left to center-right in Latin America for the rise in poverty in the region. Assuming his numbers are correct (and I do so with great trepidation), he is misinterpreting cause and effect presented by the data. The REASON for the shift in politics is due to the rise in poverty. Not the other way around as he suggests.

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    • Happy New Year Mr P !!
      I wish you a great 2018 !!!
      Are you actually suggesting that political moves to the right are ever likely to solve the issue of poverty?

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      • Thank you. Same to you. I believe that political moves to the right will increase economic stability. Economic stability will attract foreign investment. Foreign investment will create more and better-paying jobs. More jobs will reduce poverty.

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        • An interesting belief.

          So do you think tax cuts for the wealthy, which always seem to follow political lurches lurches to the right, are more likely to solve poverty issues, rather than the implementation of policies which actually address them (eg FDR’s ‘New Deal’) ?

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          • No, or at least marginally so. The Laffer Curve theory has been disproven. Giving rich people tax cuts does not “trickle down ” to produce more real jobs. However I do believe a more attractive environment for foreign investors will attract more capitol investment in Cuba. That means more jobs in manufacturing and construction. These types of jobs generally pay higher salaries

          • There are many politicians who still use Laffer style non-logic to justify tax cuts for the rich whenever they can get away with it.
            I would agree with you that the famous ‘trickle down’ does not produce more real jobs.
            Political moves to the right tend to produce greater inequality.
            In reality it is more of a ‘trickle up’.
            It would be rare for me to agree with you twice in one comment but I would have to say that ‘a more attractive environment for foreign investors will attract more capitol investment in Cuba’ does make sense to me.
            Defining what is required to produce this ‘more attractive environment’ is, I guess, the heart of the debate. Can a degree of political movement towards the right produce certain positive economic outcomes in the short to medium term?
            Sure.
            But it is always worth remembering that sudden large scale blunders to the right can have some unpleasant and disastrous consequences (eg Russia from the 90’s onwards).

          • Rare to agree twice but wise. (Smile).

          • Typical sorry-ass tactic. Shift the discussion from Cuba & Latin America to US criticisms – both implicit and explicit. Your squirming uneasiness to stay on-point is glaring.

            Tax cuts for the wealthy, on face value, in toto, are generally unjust. I qualify this viewpoint because the assertion is a hugely generalized political mud-sling that has lost virtually all contextual merit.
            On the other hand, corporate/business taxation strategies tailored to keep US businesses viable, increase/maintain jobs, and expand the tax base (overcoming tax-cut deficits) are sound.
            One part of the New Deal set for reset is infrastructure rebuilding. This will hopefully boost employment both short- and long-term as well as provide a foundation for future economic expansion. (By the way, reference to “New Deal” is an anachronistic misnomer that is almost a century old.)
            As to whether a shift to the right will address poverty (in Cuba), let me just say that the Cuban experiment has more than confirmed the adage “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.” Teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime; or in more relevant terms, provide opportunity for self sufficiency.

          • And a very Happy New Year to you Joseph!
            A new year is with us but alas, nothing remotely new from yourself.
            You still appear entirely incapable of entering into reasoned debate without the usual recourse to lame high school style insults.
            Pity.
            As I have mentioned on several occasions, I am not going to be dragged down to exchanges of puerile trash talk.

          • You say that I’m “incapable of entering into a reasoned debate” yet you’ve squandered an opportunity to respond substantively. You’ve managed to write yet saying nothing. Show me what you have; as I’ve said before, you fail to show you have the intellectual chops to do so.
            “Puerile” huh? While you have the dictionary in hand, perhaps you should look up “pedantic.”

      • Well, Cuba’s economy before the Castro family took over was the four in Latino America USA, Canada, Brazil and Cuba. Cubans life standard was higher that Belgians, Italians and Spaniards. Cuba was a country of immigrants Europeans were competing with Cubans for jobs. So I you don’t believe me just go to UN 1958’s data and see for yourself. Castro’s = lack of freedom, repression, two and half Cubans in exile. More that 90 000 deaths in the see running away for the paradise you defend, and on and on.

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        • I don’t think Cuba is a Paradise.
          I’m not particularly defending anyone.
          There have been many political lurches to the right. This has not solved the problem of poverty. Neither in The Americas, nor globally.
          I think your figures are perhaps, a little inaccurate.

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        • So true. In 1958, Cuba was an accomplished country with many advances. It had plenty of opportunities, but in no way has the scourge of Soviet Socialism provided what it needed. Soviet socialism was a disaster for Cuba. The revolution could have given Cuba a true democracy, but it failed.

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    • There are two different things being mixed up here. There is a relative poverty measured by the Gini factor which is comparison between the top quarter with the bottom quarter. Right wing governments pretty much always increase this relative poverty and left wing governments almost always lessen this relative poverty. But then there is the general prosperity of a country. Though this may increase at a rapid rate the poverty of the lowest quarter may get worse as inequality increases. Also it is possible for the lowest quarter to get more wealthy in an expanding economy due to the elastic band effect. This general prosperity of a country is not confined to any political hue. There have been successful as well as disastrous examples of all types of government. It seems that policies that work in one situation may not work in another and that there are lots of extra factors that the ruling government may not have any control over. For example the Thatcher government is credited with increased prosperity when in fact her government benefited hugely from north sea oil revenue which had nothing to do with her policies. Also governments can simply benefit from the natural cycles of an economy if they are lucky enough to get elected as the economy turns around.

      As far as right wing governments being more stable. I don’t think there is any evidence to back that up. Possibly right wing governments appear more business friendly for inward investment. However increased inequality causes instability as well. I would recommend The Spirit Level https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirit-Level-Equality-Better-Everyone/dp/0241954290 which makes a well documented and convincing case for greater equality.

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      • Valid commentary. Generally speaking, I agree with you. However, in the context of Elio’s article, I stand by my guns.

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      • Very well put.
        Nailed it.

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  • A suggestion for everyone here: we really ought to study, without preconceptions, those societies which have been successful in reducing poverty dramatically.

    Let’s take a nation with no natural resources, and no hinterland: Singapore. In 1985, Singapore’s per capita GDP was about $500 a year, on a par with Mexico. Twenty-five years later, per capita GDP was $13 000 a year, putting Singapore ahead of South Korea and Israel. By 2015, it had risen to $56 000 a year, on a level with Germany and the US.

    There is extensive state involvement to make sure everyone is housed and has medical care, and, at the same time, Singapore is rated as one of the most free economies in the world — and also among the least corrupt.

    Those who believe a benevolent society cannot risk much liberty among its subjects won’t have too much to complain about with respect to Singapore. It doesn’t rate very high on the liberty index, although there is a (small) opposition party. The main newspaper in Singapore (I think there is only one) always praises the government, while carrying occasional articles exposing this or that problem. So no pesky free press, and if you write a book critical of the government, or insult the memory of the late Leader Maximo, you can find yourself in prison.

    The Chinese Communist leadership has studied Singapore extensively. Perhaps the Cuban leadership should as well.

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  • The America’s ruling governments have moved right because of the failure of the hard left to deliver a better living standard. The Venezuela experience is a lesson to the world of what a disaster a hard left government can produce. Governments from Argentina to Brazil remain plenty socially responsible. What everyone from China, Vietnam, Singapore to Russia have figured out is that a functional economy is the heart of funding the needs of a society. While Cuba has been hesitant to legalize its own private market, it has little option in the long run.

    The whole world is moving towards a mixed economy. How much state control versus how much free market will be the distinguishment for individual countries. Any country that gets to far down state control path will suffer economically. Countries that ignore social welfare will find themselves with new leadership.

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  • Your articles are so refreshing. You a beacon of great light. Long live the People’s revolution.

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