Cuba: Saramago, Galeano and human rights, cont.

I did not mean to give the impression that either José Saramago or Eduardo Galeano had signed the letter of the self-styled "intellectuals, artists and politicians of the democratic world" making demands of (presumably undemocratic) Cuba (see link below) -- even though whoever posted the letter quoted them. I don't think either of them would or could. They are both articulate and savvy and neither needs me to defend him. Saramago's letter was quite brief and very narrowly focused, and the link below gives it in full. Galeano, a Latin American and therefore a man with a very different experience of the world, and with a longer and more intimate relationship with Cuba, actually said much more, and much more nuanced, than what the letter-signers chose to quote. His article, which appeared in the Mexican daily (pardon the redundancy) Jornada, is worth reading in full: Cuba duele.

Galeano writes of his enormous sadness that such a little country, which has so valiantly resisted the foreign boot and has achieved so much for its people, still lacks essential freedoms -- but this does not mean that he turns away from all that it has won. My friend Mark Fried is Galeano's preferred translator to English, and has done wonderful renditions of some of his recent books, but Mark probably has not got to this yet, so if you don't read Spanish, you'll just have to do with my version of Galeano's closing and crucial paragraph:

"It has to be the Cubans, and only the Cubans, who with no interference from anybody outside, open new democratic spaces and conquer the freedoms that are lacking, within the revolution that they made and from the deepest spirit of their land, which is the most solidary that I know of."
A second addendum to my earlier note: I said Cuba was defending "the most fundamental human rights of all: health, housing and education." I've done a little Google research just to make sure. On health, Cuba is doing spectacularly well. Infant mortality is lower and life expectancy (both male and female) indices are not only far, far better than those of any other Latin American country, they are better than any country in the hemisphere except Canada. Just plug in "health" and "Cuba" in Google and see for yourself. Here's a stunning example from World Health Organization. Education in that little country (check on "literacy statistics," for example) is also just fine compared to almost any country on the planet. But on housing -- well, I overstated the case. They haven't solved that problem yet. (Nobody else has, either, especially not in my hometown of New York, but that's no excuse; we expect revolutionaries to be better, but sometimes, as Galeano sadly notes, they are just more bureaucratic.) But Susana and I will have much more to say about that. It's part of what our next book will be about.