Speaking at a meeting at the University of Auckland organized by the Students Association and the Cuba Friendship Society, Morales said he was eight years old when the Cuban Revolution triumphed on Jan. 1, 1959. Born into a peasant family in Granma Province in eastern Cuba, the eldest of five boys, he began working at age seven to help support his single mother and brothers. He described working as a shoeshine boy for 45 cents a day and paying 5 cents a day to learn to read and write.
He joined the 1961 literacy campaign organized by the new revolutionary government. More than 100,000 volunteers, most of them young people like Morales, went into the countryside in a yearlong campaign to eradicate illiteracy in Cuba. Morales described how they worked alongside people, convincing them to learn to read and write. Helping one farmer with the harvest, he talked about the new agrarian reform law in Cuba that guaranteed peasant families title to the land they worked. It was then the farmer realized he would need to be able to read and write to participate in the land reform.
Morales also spoke about the economic reforms under way in Cuba today. The guidelines adopted by the recent congress of the Cuban Communist Party dont mean the country is moving towards capitalism as some claim, Morales said, and are different from those in China and Vietnam. The goal is to increase productivity, to produce more efficiently, he said.
Addressing the limitations on Internet use in Cuba, he described the new fiber-optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela that will soon be operational, superseding the existing costly access via satellitethe result of Washingtons refusal to allow Cuba access to the undersea cable a few miles off its shores. The limits on Internet access do not mean there is no freedom of speech in Cuba, Morales said. In Cuba we dont tell people to believe, we tell them to read.
Morales displayed his marked-up copy of the Draft Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, a document produced by the Cuban Communist Party last November for discussion leading up to the Sixth Congress of the party in April. He was one of millions who participated in meetings at workplaces and in communities to debate the provisions in the document. More than 180 of the nearly 300 proposals in the draft guidelines were amended coming out of these meetings, Morales said.
Morales also described the advances in health care and education in Cuba as a result of the revolution, and the attitude of doctors trained in Cuba. In Cuba a sick person is a patient, in other countries that person is a client, he said.
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