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Ralph Nader in Cuba

 

HAVANA — Former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader stated that he is opposed to the concentration of power within corporations that is impeding the development of democracy in his country, and criticized his government’s foreign policy on the island which, he said, doesn’t give Cubans a chance to breathe.

During an almost two-hour master lecture in the University of Havana’s Aula Magna, attended by President Fidel Castro, Nader talked of the current relations between both countries, suggesting that the United States give Cuba the chance to breathe so that it can develop in its own way, without restrictions.

He also advocated that the island should transmit its experiences in various experiences to the rest of the world, and cooperation between the two nations, particularly in the health sector.

Nader began by saying he would talk about symbols and governments, the myths and realities of the United States, some of whose past leaders had warned that a concentration of wealth and power cannot co-exist with democracy.

He explained how commercial values have overtaken the interests of the U.S. people, thus weakening their civil rights to the point that freedom could be lost without even amending the Constitution.

If the United States is the greatest military power, why does it have the highest rate of child poverty in western democracies, Nader asked, pointing out that the national level stands at 20%, rising to 30% in the district of Columbia. Why has the U.S. economy doubled but six million families are unable to pay their rent?

Nader enumerated a series of questions on the U.S. system, highlighting that in the wake of September 11, his country is now spending more on security than on healthcare for its citizens.

The former presidential candidate, who did not discount running again in 2004, also criticized the way in which his country’s two political parties establish barriers to prevent other political groups participating in government debates.

Wealth is currently concentrated in the hands of the few, controlling elections, the Government and the information media, he stated. Nader referred to civil rights restrictions after September 11, affirming that this has become the U.S. response every time it feels threatened, no matter how distant that threat is.

He asked what would happen if his nation were exposed to attacks, blockades and restrictions for 40 years. What would happen? he repeated, leaving the answer open to imagination.

In his opinion, the blockade has not managed to destabilize the Cuban government, but has strengthened it, and he questioned the U.S. authorities’ double standard on that point, comparing it with the attitude of his country’s citizens who are increasingly calling for relations to be normalized.

He likewise believes that the U.S. press should make more mention of Cuban society’s achievements and positive aspects.

Ralph Nader, Green Party candidate in the 2000 presidential elections, visited the island at the invitation of the National Assembly of People’s Power, and was received by President Fidel Castro.

He has also met with Rosa Elena Simeon, minister of science, technology and the environment; Alfredo Morales, minister of labor and social security; Felipe Perez Roque, minister of foreign affairs; and Osvaldo Martinez, president of the Parliamentary Economic Commission. The rector of the University of Havana presented Nader with a commemorative plaque celebrating the 270th anniversary of the founding of that center of higher education.

 

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