A Cuban communist speaks

Teresita Trujillo works for the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. From Cuba, she kindly agreed to answer a wide-ranging series of questions from FRFI.

The EU has recently voted to formally end diplomatic sanctions against Cuba. To what extent does this open the way to improved diplomatic and commercial links with European countries? What barriers to these, if any, remain?

The recent decision adopted by the Council, to end the diplomatic sanctions introduced in 2003, is a step forward in the rectification of EU policy on Cuba and a defeat for the present US Administration, which put enormous pressure on its European allies to prevent such a decision.

The EU Common Position on Cuba, introduced in 1996 by the then Spanish Presi­dent Jose Maria Aznar, at the request of the US, remains the main obstacle for the normalisation of relations. The Common Position has been rejected by Cuba since its adoption for its discriminatory nature and its interference in the internal affairs of our country.

An entirely different framework is requir­ed for the improvement of relations be­tween the EU and Cuba, one which is based on mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.

The recent announcement of removing wage caps for workers in state enterprises has caused speculation in the British press that this is a step towards capitalist restoration in Cuba. In your opinion what is the true content of these reforms, and why are they being implemented now? Could they increase inequalities in the standard of living among Cubans, and are there measures in place to limit this?
Some press, not only in Britain, is portraying current changes in Cuba as a move towards capitalism. I do believe there is a purpose behind it: to create confusion and demobilise the huge support the Cuban Revolution enjoys all over the world.

The changes introduced in the salary policy will not increase inequalities; they are aimed at raising efficiency levels of the socialist economy under current conditions, after the recovery from the crisis it suffered in the 1990s. The living standards of the Cuban people have been recovering in the last few years and their continuous improvement can only be possible through increasing the levels of production, productivity and efficiency. The distribution of wealth in our society is ruled by socialist principles: From every one according to his/her capacity, to every one according to his/her work.

What effect would you expect an Obama victory in the US presidential elections to have on US-Cuba relations?
History has told us not to expect much from either party administration. Their differences with regards to their policies on Cuba are not very significant.  We have always prepared for the worst and counted only on the will of the Cuban people to move forward against all odds.
Obama has made certain statements that could mean a slightly different approach. Cuba has always made it clear to the US its readiness to engage in talks. We will have to wait and see how things evolve while we continue relying on our own strength.

Increasing agricultural production in Cuba has been identified as a priority. What, in your opinion, are the most promising measures being implemented in this area? Can you describe some of the difficulties that have to be taken into account?
One of the major difficulties today is the lack of agricultural labour force. The social, cultural and educational development has had an impact on the labour structure of rural populations, which have moved to work in other areas.

Agricultural production in Cuba is handled by state farms, co-operatives and individual farmers. The bulk of the production is bought by state enterprises that provide food for schools, daycare centres, homes for the elderly, hospitals, workplace canteens, restaurants, hotels, etc. One of the measures already introduced, which is beginning to yield results is the increase of sale prices to the state.

Also there is a recent decision to grant land to any citizen willing to produce agreed volumes of agricultural produce, part of which will be bought by the state enterprises, with the remainder to be sold at the agricultural free market.

There are also plans for the intensive production of rice, in co-operation with Vietnam.

Food production is vital for any country, even more so today, given the current rise in food prices that make it almost impossible for developing countries to acquire the necessary volumes and to sell them at affordable prices for their populations.

This is definitely an area in which we need to do a lot to achieve the necessary results, and several other measures to that aim will be gradually introduced.