Cuba, United Sates, Something is moving – By Ignacio Ramonet

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In the book recently released on her experiences as Secretary of State during the first mandate (2008-2012) of U.S. president, Barack Obama, entitled “Difficult decisions”, Hillary Clinton makes an important statement about Cuba: “At the end of my mandate I asked President Obama to reconsider our embargo against Cuba. It fulfills no function and hampers our projects with Latin America.”
For the first time a personality aspiring for the presidency of the United States publicly said that the blockade imposed by Washington – for more than fifty years – against this island in the Caribbean has “no function”. In other words, it has not managed to subdue this small country in spite of all the unjust suffering it has caused in its population. Most importantly, Hillary Clinton mentions two factors: first it breaks the taboo of saying in a loud voice what everyone knows in Washington: the blockade is not worthwhile. And, second, and most important, she declares now that she is preparing to open her Democratic candidacy for the White House; that is to say, she is not afraid to say this – against the policy of Washington toward Cuba for the last half a century – is a handicap for her in this electoral battle she has ahead of her for the elections of November 8, 2016.
If Hillary Clinton maintains the unconventional position it is, in the first place, because she takes up the challenge without fear of the harsh criticisms directed at her by her Republican adversaries, furiously hostile against all changes regarding Cuba in Washington; and, in the second place, and mostly because she does not ignore U.S. public opinion that has evolved regarding this subject and where there is a majority today who favor ending the blockade.

As Hillary Clinton, there are a group of fifty important business persons[i], former high ranking U.S. citizens of different political and intellectual tendency, who know that the President of the United States does not have the right to lift the blockade. It does not depend on the Government but, instead, on the Democratic and Republican majority in Congress who have just asked Obama, in an open letter[ii], to use his executive right to “introduce more intelligent changes” in its relations with Cuba and approach Havana since, they point out, public opinion favors this change.

Actually, a survey made last February by the Atlantic Council Research Center reported that 56% of U.S. citizens want a change in Washington’s policy towards Havana. And, more significantly, in Florida the state with higher sensitivity regarding this subject, 63% of its inhabitants (62% Latinos) also want an end to the blockade[iii]. Another more recent survey made by the Cuban Research institute of the International University of Florida, demonstrated that the majority of the Cuban community in Miami[iv] ask that the blockade against the island be lifted (71% of those interviewed say that the embargo “has not functioned” and 81% would vote for a strategists who promotes the re establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries)[v].

And it is that, contrary to the hopes after the election of Barack Obama in November of 2008, Washington maintained immobility in its relations towards Cuba. Shortly after assuming his position as president, Obama announced in the “Summit of the Americas” held in Trinidad and Tobago, in April of 2009 – that he would give relations with Havana a “new direction”. But he limited himself to mere symbolic gestures: he authorized U.S. citizens of Cuban origin to travel to the Island and send certain amounts of money to their families. Later, in 2012, he adopted new measures, but also with scarce reach: he permitted religious groups and students to travel to Cuba, he allowed U.S. airports to receive charter flights to the Island and extended the limit of remittances that Cuban-Americans could send their families. That is very little in relation to the formidable legality that separates both countries.

Among the differences is the case of “The Five” that has moved international public opinion[vi]. Those agents of Cuban intelligence arrested in Florida by the FBI were carrying out missions against anti Cuban terrorism and condemned in a political trial typical of the cold war (authentic legal lynching) to high prison terms; condemned to such unjust penalties when “The Five” committed no act of violence nor sought information regarding United States security. The only thing they did, running mortal risks, was prevent attacks and save human lives.

Washington is not coherent when it claims to combat “international terrorism” and continues to support anti Cuban terrorist groups in its own territory[vii].

Without going farther, last April authorities of the Island arrested a new group of persons linked to Luis Posada Carriles[viii], once again departing from Florida to commit attacks.

Also not coherent when they accuse “The Five” of anti American activities that never existed while Washington continues to interfere in internal affairs of Cuba and support a change of the political system.

This again was demonstrated with the recent revelations of the “ZunZuneo[ix]” affair. That false social network of an agency of the State Department[x] created and financed covertly between 2010 and 2012 intending to cause protests similar to the “revolution of the colors” or of the “Arab spring” or the Venezuelan “guarimbas” to give the White House a pretext to demand a political change in Cuba.

All this demonstrates that Washington continues with a reactionary attitude against Cuba, typical of the cold war, a period that ended a quarter of a century ago…Such archaic clashes with the positions of other powers. For example, all the States of Latin America and the Caribbean, whatever their political orientation, have lately strengthened their ties with Cuba and denounce the blockade. This was evident last January, in the Summit of the Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC) meeting, precisely, in Havana. Washington suffered a new snubbing last month in Cochabamba (Bolivia) during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) when Latin Americans – with a new show of solidarity with Havana – threatened not to attend the next Summit of the Americas that is scheduled to be held in 2015 in Panama, if Cuba is not invited to participate.

For its part, the European Union (EU) decided, last February, to abandon the so called “common position” in relation to the Island imposed by José María Aznar in1996, then president of the government of Spain to “punish” Cuba rejecting all dialogue with the authorities of the Island. But this action was sterile and failed. Brussels recognized it and has begun now negotiations with Havana to reach an agreement of political and economic cooperation. The EU is the first foreign investor in Cuba and the second trade partner. In this new spirit several European ministers have already visited the Island. Of these, last April, Laurent Fabius – first French foreign affairs minister to visit the Caribbean nation in over thirty years – who declared that he aimed to “promote alliances between companies of both countries and support French societies that wish to develop projects or settle in Cuba”[xi].

And it is that, contrasting the immobility of Washington, many European foreign affairs ministers observe, with interest, the changes being produced in Cuba promoted by Presidente Raúl Castro in the framework of the “up date of the economic model” and in the guidelines defined in 2011 in the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) for important transformations in the economy society. Particularly, the recent creation of the Special Zone of Development of the port of Mariel and approval last March the new Law of Foreign Investment has promoted a large international interest.

Authorities consider that there is no contradiction between socialism and private initiative[xii]. And some officials consider that this last (that includes foreign investment) could cover 40% of the economy of country while the State and public sector maintain 60%. The purpose is that the Cuban economy be more compatible with its main partners in the region (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia) in which there is coexistence between the public and private sector.

All these changes imply, in contrast, the intent of the U.S. administration to self blockade itself in an ideological position of another era. Although, as we have seen, every day there are people in Washington who admit that the position is mistaken, that in policy towards Cuba it is urgently needed to withdraw from international isolation. Does President Obama listen to them?

[i] These business persons are: Ricky J. Arriola, president of the powerful Inktel company; magnates of sugar and Andrés Fanjul of the real estate sector, and Jorge Pérez; businessman Carlos Saladrigas, and oilman Enrique Sosa, as well as other multimillionaires
[ii] Refer to El Nuevo Herald, Miami, 20 May 2014.
[iii] Refer to Abraham Zembrano, ” ¿Se acerca el fin del embargo a Cuba ? “, BBC Mundo, London, 20 February 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2014/02/140211_cuba_eeuu_embargo_az.shtml
[iv] In Miami the largest city of Florida there are 650 000 Cuban expatriates.
[v] El País, Madrid, 17 de junio de 2014. http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/06/17/actualidad/1403022248_144582.html
[vi] Last June 4 to 10 the Third Meeting “Five Days for the Five” was held in Washington. It gathered participants from dozens of countries in the world who demonstrated in front of the White House and the Capitol demanding the freedom of the “Five” http://www.answercoalition.org/national/news/5-days-for-the-Cuban-5.html
[vii] Cuba es uno de los países del mundo que más ha padecido la lacra del terrorismo ; (3500 personas asesinadas y más de 2000 discapacitados de por vida).
[viii] Head of several anti Cuban terrorist groups Posada Carriles is mostly responsible for blowing up a passenger Cubana de Aviacion plane in 1976 that caused 73 deaths. He lives in Florida where he enjoys the protection of U.S. authorities.
[ix] Revelations made by the AP (Associated Press) news agency
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2014/04/140403_zunzuneo_cuba_eeuu_msd.shtml
[x] United States international Agency for Development (USAID) is an institution that operates under the direction of the Department of State.
[xi] About 50 large French companies are present in Cuba. Most important among these is the Pernod-Richard group that commercializes “Havana Club” rum in the world. As well as Accor groups, Nouvelles frontières, Fram-voyages in the tourism sector, Bouygues in public works, Alcatel-Lucent in telecommunications, Total and Alstom in energy and Air France for air transport, among others.
[xii] It is estimated that there are about 450 000 “independent workers” and small businesspersons in Cuba.

Translation by the Network in Defense of Humanity

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