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Pepe Escobar on the need for independent trade unions

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: There has been some criticism over the last few years that with the introduction of tourism, the availability of certainly American dollars and other foreign currencies, that there’s been the development of a kind of elite in Cuba, partly to do with the political elite, partly to do with those who are into small businesses, like either restaurants or tourist enterprises, and that there aren’t the kind of organizations of people to resist those kinds of pressures, for example trade unions independent from the government, who’s also a partner in many of these enterprises. How much of this is an issue, the development of an elite and the lack of free and independent trade unions?

PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: Exactly. This is one of the things that Raúl Castro and Carlos Lage want to tackle, both of them, actually, the older generation and the relatively younger generation. They want to allow some forms of private property, private investment, totally dissociated from state interference. This is something that is going to start happening very, very soon, at first, I would say, with the Latin American partners, with Venezuela, with Bolivia, Nicaragua, and also with Brazil.

JAY: And Spain seems to be a major player as well.

ESCOBAR: Yes. But Spain, they are in the hotel-tourism business. You know, they don’t have many productive investments. Many Europeans, like the French and the Germans, they’re also present in Cuba, but they aren’t tourism based. So they need infrastructure projects. They need, like, I would say, for example, Brazilian construction companies over there and rebuilding all their roads. That kind of stuff.

JAY: And there’s quite a big Canadian company there named Sherritt that’s *involved in mining and—.

ESCOBAR: *Exactly. They need Canadian companies to build ports for them, modern ports for them. This is what they need. This is going to happen in the next few years. It’s part of the liberalization process. They already know, and Fidel already knew, that they cannot live in a closed economy. It’s absolutely impossible.

JAY: And what do you make of this critique that if you’re going to allow these kinds of partnerships with capitalist countries, capitalist companies, then there also has to be on the other side some kind of freedom to organize trade unions that are independent of the government?

ESCOBAR: Absolutely. This is something they will have to deal with, because it’s inevitable. When you have this kind of investment, free trade unions will appear everywhere. But this does not necessarily mean that these free trade unions will be against the state. Not at all. As long as they have, you know, good working hours and decent salaries, you know, that’s okay. It’s going to work.


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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.