The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 15      April 19, 2010

Cuban students meet
Wisconsin dairy farmers
BOAZ, Wisconsin—“I want to welcome our friends from Cuba. I have been to Cuba twice and was so impressed with how well we were treated and how much freedom there is,” said John Kinsman, president of Family Farm Defenders. Kinsman was opening a meeting here for Yenaivis Fuentes Ascencio and Aníbal Ramos Socarrás, two Cuban students who are on a speaking tour of the United States.

Some two dozen people, including 10 dairy and vegetable farmers, attended the event, which was chaired by Randy Jasper, a farmer and member of Family Farm Defenders.

Before the meeting, Fuentes and Ramos toured the farm owned by Kevin and Lynn Jasper in Muscoda, Wisconsin, accompanied by several local farmers. As they led the group through the barn of 150 milk cows, the Jaspers explained the operation and the difficult situation facing dairy farmers given the low price of milk.

“For us it is a privilege to be here and learn about your farmers organization,” Fuentes told the meeting. “In Cuba there is a strong organization called the National Association of Small Farmers. One of the first conquests of the revolution was to carry out agrarian reform. It was a policy to give land to the peasants.”

Before the 1959 revolution “peasants had a difficult situation,” noted Ramos. “Today it is a different situation. But we still have problems because of the economic crisis. The principal problem is we haven’t been able to put many resources into agricultural development.”

“What you do with machines, Cubans have to do with their hands,” he said, noting that mechanization in U.S. agriculture is far ahead of Cuba. “In Cuba there is a big discussion about how to produce more so that the majority of food is produced in Cuba. Today the policy is to give land to anyone who wants to work it, to plant, or raise cattle.”

In spite of the cross breeding of cows to produce a breed more resistant to Cuba’s tropical heat, Cuba still cannot produce enough milk and has to buy expensive powdered milk from Europe and Latin America, Ramos added. “If there was no blockade, we could buy milk from you. You are much closer to us.”

During the discussion one farmer asked, “What happens to state land in Cuba?”

State land is being made available to anyone who wants to work it, Ramos said. “If someone lives in the city and wants to farm, they can have land. In the cities there is a project of organic farms for vegetables and fruits.”

Joel Greeno, a dairy farmer, said that with “mechanization comes debt, along with debt you become a slave.”

Mechanization of industry should never be turned into a tool to exploit the workers or farmers, Ramos said. “We could make more progress in Cuba with increased mechanization. It is very hard for peasants to buy fertilizer and fuel at world market prices, so the government makes it available at subsidized prices.”

Fuentes and Ramos also spoke at campus meetings at DePaul and Northeastern Illinois University during a two-day tour of Chicago, and attended a dinner organized by students at Loyola University.

On March 31 they spoke to more than 160 people from the Chicago metro area at a meeting at DePaul University, including many students and faculty. Organized by the DePaul Alliance for Latino Empowerment, the event was sponsored by a number of academic departments and student organizations.

On April 1 Fuentes and Ramos spoke to 85 students and professors at Northeastern Illinois University.

A protester who identified herself as a member of Ladies in White, an organization opposed to the Cuban Revolution, stood in the back for the entire event holding a sign. She spoke in the discussion, asserting that the Cuban government holds political prisoners, that students in Cuba only have access to books written by Fidel Castro, and that doctors are exploited and underpaid there.

“The Ladies in White say that they’re mothers and wives of political prisoners,” Ramos noted. “The fact is anyone can disagree in Cuba, and can freely explain their disagreement,” but no one has the right to carry out actions aimed at overthrowing the revolution.
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Cuban youth talk to students and workers in Twin Cities  
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