Archive for the ‘history’ Category

HUMANITY AGAINST THE COUP IN BRAZIL

May 16, 2016
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The undersigned, intellectuals, artists, writers and researchers from all over the world denounce the coup underway in Brazil and stand in solidarity with President Dilma Rousseff who was elected by 54 million Brazilians only one year and a half ago.

This is not a traditional “political trial”, as the Globo Group is attempting to present it. Michel Temer, the visible face of the coup, has already expressed his intentions to bring the private banking sector into the public sphere and to focus in particular on a social policy of austerity for the poorest 5% of the country, which would mean to exclude the 36 million people from the Bolsa Familia. In addition Temer intends to move toward agreements with the United States and the European Union “with or without the Mercosur”. In short his perspective is a Government for the elite of his country distanced from the majority and to wipe out forever the experience that the country had under the government of the Workers Party.

Temer envisions himself to be the “new Macri” of Brasil, using the new government of Argentina as his model and advancing toward the dismantling of the state rarely seen in Argentina. It is not surprising then that the Foreign Ministry of that neighboring country has shamelessly supported the coup in Brazil under the guise of supporting its institutions. For everything that the coup makers have expressed and with their links to big business we consider the coup of the President de facto Michael Temer illegitimate and illegal. He has long ago proven that he is a corrupt politician who takes his orders from the darkest parts of the predatory oligarchy of that country.

We are appealing to UNASUR to apply the established Protocol stating a Commitment to Democracy adopted by all the countries of the organization that could put the brakes on the breakdown of the democratic thread in Brazil. We also demand that the presidents and governments of the world do not recognize Temer and to demand the return of the legitimately elected President Dilma Rousseff. They should also end the political crisis by calling for an immediate presidential election – made by the President herself – so that the Brazilian people can once again express themselves by democratic means and not by an imposed coup d’état by a questionable and corrupt Congress.

Nao vai ter golpe!

To add to the statement send your name to: contraogolpenobrasil@gmail.com

Executive Secretariat REDH

Carmen Bohórquez (REDH General Coordinator)
Alicia Jrapko (REDH USA)
Ángel Guerra (REDH Cuba/México)
Ariana López (REDH Cuba)
Atilio Borón (REDH Argentina)
David Comssiong (REDH Barbados)
Fredy Ñañez (REDH Venezuela)
Hugo Moldiz (REDH Bolivia)
Juan Manuel Karg (REDH Argentina)
Katu Arkonada (REDH Basque Country/Bolivia)
Luciano Vasapollo (REDH Italy)
Marilia Guimaraes (REDH Brazil)
Nayar López Castellanos (REDH México)
Omar González (REDH Cuba)
Roger Landa (REDH (REDH Venezuela)

Signatures: Total 833 

http://cuba-networkdefenseofhumanity.blogspot.be/2016/05/humanity-against-coup-en-brazil.html,
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Cuba, EU Normalization Agreement Imminent

February 25, 2016

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The two parties sit down for a seventh round of talks next week.

European Union officials are set to resume talks toward normalizing relations with Cuba next week. The EU consulate in Havana reported Tuesday that an agreement is likely to be reached soon.

Representatives for both countries will meet in Havana March 3-4 for a seventh round of talks. These talks will be led by the EU’s Christian Leffer and Cuban deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno. The parties have failed to reach a consensus on human rights and trafficking issues in previous talks.

Cuba is calling on the European Union to scrap its two decade-long “common position” mandate, under which Cuba would be required to adopt democratic and economic reforms as a predicate to the restoration of full diplomatic and economic ties. The EU has eased its position on democratic reforms by Castro’s regime, following Havana’s historic July 2015 détente with Washington.

The EU formally expedited processes toward normalizing relations with the island country in mid-2014, after Washington began talks with Cuba. The July agreement between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the younger brother of the revolutionary Cuban leader Fidel Castro, fully restored US-Cuban diplomatic relations.

Cuba is the only Latin American country without full diplomatic and economic relations with the EU. In 2003, the EU suspended relations following Havana’s efforts to crack down on foreign journalists and activists investigating humanitarian conditions in the island country.

The restoration of ties with leading Western governments is seen by many as a positive step for the dictatorship, a government mired in poverty after decades of trade restrictions and embargoes left the island country resource-strapped.  Some worry, however, that the restoration of relations with leading Western economies may come at a steep cost for the Cuban people, with foreign multinationals likely to profit on cheap labor, pristine natural resources, and tourism.

Cuban relations with the West serve vital security imperatives. The island is a mere 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the US, and, during the Cold War, Soviet-Cuban relations presented a strategic threat. Cuba functioned at the time as a regional hub for possible missile launches against the US. Culminating in the notorious Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis, these early-1960s incidents chilled American-Cuban relations for over two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet state.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/world/20160225/1035306393/cuba-eu-normalization-imminent.html#ixzz41BiVTbTj

Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes

February 9, 2016

Ana Belén Montes

Posted By W. T. Whitney On February 8, 2016 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/08/cuba-war-and-ana-belen-montes/print/,

The U.S. government has imprisoned Ana Belen Montes for almost 15 years. Now an international campaign on her behalf is gaining steam with committees active in Latin America, Europe, Canada, and the United States. Arrested by the FBI two weeks after September 11, 2001, and charged with conspiring to commit espionage for Cuba, this high – level analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Service avoided a death sentence for treason by pleading guilty and telling all to the U. S. Justice Department.

Ana Belen Montes received no money. The former specialist in Cuban and Latin American affairs is serving a 25-year jail term.

Three petitions, accessible here, here and here, are circulating; one asks for her release, two for humane treatment. Defenders charge that in prison in Texas, Montes is isolated from the general prison population and prevented from receiving visitors, telephone calls and emails.

Advocates face an uphill battle. Documents relating to her trial and press reports then and since portray her as a U. S. citizen who took the wrong side in a U. S. war. Government officials probably despised one of their own who betrayed them. Maybe her family’s Puerto Rican origins gave rise to suspicions she sympathized with Cuba and Puerto Rico’s shared anti-colonial struggle. True or not, her fate stands as a warning for Puerto Ricans.

With U. S. war against Cuba continuing, the U.S. government likely will resist both easing up on her prison conditions and releasing her. For the new solidarity movement she is a hero, but really she’s a special kind of hero: a prisoner of war true to her cause.

There was a war. While the U. S. government shied away from military invasion after the failed Bay of Pigs venture in 1961, warlike aggression was the norm until the 1990s. At one time or another, U. S. government agents or proxy warriors carried out sabotage, armed thuggery in the Cuban hinterlands, microbiological warfare, bombings of tourist facilities, and miscellaneous terror attacks throughout the island. Few would deny that the bombing of a fully loaded Cuban passenger plane in 1976 was an act of war.

The U. S. economic blockade, engineered to deprive Cubans of goods and services essential for their survival, caused yet more distress. U. S. government leaders believed misery would induce Cubans to overthrow their government. Aggressors within the George W. Bush administration had a replacement government waiting in the wings.

And despite the restoration of diplomatic relations recently, there is still war. The U. S. economic blockade remains; counterrevolutionaries inside Cuba still enjoy U. S. support and money; Cuban land in Guantanamo is still occupied; survival of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 testifies to undying cold war; and Ana Belen Montes, who took sides, is a prisoner in that war.

Official rhetoric on war with Cuba informed Montes’ prosecution and trial. Having surveyed Cuban espionage activities, a New York Times reporter in 2003, for example, communicated the opinion of some U. S. officials that, “Mr. Castro’s Communist government remains a threat to American national security.” State Department official Otto Reich charged that, “These activities and others prove that they are a hostile country.” A Wall StreetJournal writer in 2002 cited State Department reports asserting that, “Cuba has at least some bio-weapons technology and has expressed concern that Cuba could share the science with rogue states.”

Ana Montes was recently labeled as “one of the most damaging spies in US history. Her involvement in shaping US foreign policy on Cuba caused grave damage to the US national security.” This was a reference to a Defense Department report she authored in 1998 rejecting the idea of Cuba as a military threat to the United States. Montes is alleged to have covered up Cuba’s supposed chemical and biological warfare capabilities.

In communicating secrets to the Cuban Government, Ana Montes, already in a theater of war, already a combatant, became a soldier on Cuba’s side. In prison now under such circumstance, she is one for whom solidarity is of a different order than the same for other political prisoners.

What may be required is, in effect, to sign up for the same war she joined, and take the same side. That approach worked in securing the release of the Cuban Five anti-terrorist prisoners. For Montes, however, there is no Cuban government on the battle lines as there was for the Cuban Five.

Combatants in an uneven fight can take encouragement from Montes herself. She told her sentencing judge that, “I engaged in the activity that brought me before you because I obeyed my conscience rather than the law. … I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it.”

In 2015, in an interview, she sounded like an unwavering captured soldier: “If I repent, I deny myself … It’s not within the framework of my logic. I always knew the possible consequences of what I did.”

“What matters to me,” she insisted, “is that the Cuban Revolution exists … What’s necessary is that there always be a Cuban Revolution … They, [the Cubans], have to take care of the Revolution. I tried to do that.”

Clearly, to be in solidarity with Ana Belen Montes and be effective is asking a lot, especially in a time of war. Montes herself voluntarily went to war in much the same way that compatriots did who joined the Republic’s side in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. That sort of internationalist commitment is what Montes needs now. Maybe it’s on the way.

Subversion Against Cuba Continues Uninterrupted Amidst Normalization

September 15, 2015

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U.S. and Cuban delegations met in Havana Friday to “focus on setting priorities for the next steps in the normalization process,” according to the Miami Herald. They set up a “steering committee in the rapprochement process” expected to hold regular meetings. The process was laid out last month after the American flag was raised at the newly-opened U.S. embassy in Havana. Secretary of State John Kerry noted on the occasion that “the road of mutual isolation that the United States and Cuba have been travelling is not the right one, and that the time has come for us to move in a more promising direction.” The Obama administration has since announced loosening of restrictions that would permit American citizens to travel to Cuba on both commercial flights and cruise ships.

Superficially, it would seem that U.S. policy has moved away from a half-century of economic warfareterrorismsubversion, and interference in the internal affairs of the nation American politicians have long considered a “natural appendage” of the United States, which would fall into the U.S. orbit like an apple from a tree, as John Quincy Adams once said.

If U.S. policy makers had indeed abandoned this attitude and actually moved in a more promising direction, it would mean they finally decided to engage their counterpart as Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez stated his government was willing to with the United States itself: “through a dialogue based on mutual respect and sovereign equality, to a civilized coexistence, even despite the differences that exist between both governments, which makes it possible to solve bilateral problems and promote cooperation and development of mutually beneficial relations, just as both peoples desire and deserve.”

But despite extending formal diplomatic courtesies and speaking in a more conciliatory tone, the Obama administration has demonstrated behind the scenes that it does not intend to demonstrate mutual respect or recognize sovereign equality.

As the delegations met on Friday, Obama quietly renewed Cuba’s status as an “enemy” under the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917. Under this Act, utilized against Cuba by every President since John F. Kennedy in 1962, the government issues the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to set the terms of the embargo (more accurately described by Cuba and the United Nations as a blockade).

By extending this enemy designation, the Obama administration is reserving the right to dictate the terms of the embargo, rather than allowing Congress to do so under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. While Obama has shown himself more willing than Congress to relax some punitive and illegal aspects of the embargo than the current Congress, by continuing to define Cuba as an enemy he is both sending an hostile signal to Cuba and employing a transparent legal fiction.

An “enemy” in the TWEA is specified as a government with which the U.S. is at war, as declared by Congress. Congress has never declared war on Cuba. They have not declared war on any country since Japan in 1941.

While it may be true that renewing the TWEA against Cuba may be more beneficial to Cuba by granting the executive branch greater flexibility, the fraudulent nature of the continued imposition of legal sanctions against Cuba should be emphasized. Though Obama has said U.S. policy against Cuba “has been rooted in the best of intentions,” it has in reality been rooted in vindictiveness and shrouded in legal distortions that continue to this day.

At the same time, the flood of U.S. taxpayer dollars earmarked with the express purpose of regime change in Havana continues unabated. The fiscal year 2016 budget contains $30 million for this purpose.

One use of these funds is for a US propaganda agency to hire mercenaries to denigrate Cuban civil and political personalities. As Tracey Eaton notes in his blog Along the Malecón: “The U.S. government wants to hire entertainers who would produce ‘uniquely funny, ironic, satirical and entertaining’ comedy shows targeting Cuban officials, politicians and others on the island. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio & TV Martí, is looking for a team that would produce 10 30-minute comedy sketch shows.”

The infamous Radio Martí has been broadcasting John Birch Society type propaganda from Miami into Cuba since the 1980s. The U.S. has continued to fund the station, despite its being declared illegal by the Cuban government. One wonders how the U.S. government itself would react if the Russian or Chinese government financed a program lambasting Obama, Kerry, and other Americans for political gain while disguising it as organically developed entertainment? It is not likely they would view a strategic attack created and financed abroad, rather than being a homegrown political expression of dissent, as protected free speech.

USAID, after being exposed for its subversive Cuban Twitter program “ZunZuneo“, which sought to sow discontent and stir unrest among the Cuban population, and its effort to co-opt Cuban hip hop artists, announced last week that it is seeking three program managers to be awarded six-figure salaries.

Eaton writes that the job description calls for “experience in the areas of democracy promotion, human rights, civil society development” and that candidates must obtain a “secret” security clearance. It is not hard to imagine that these highly compensated program managers would likely be implementing similar covert programs to destabilize Cuban society and attempt to turn its citizens away from the Revolution.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – an arm of US foreign policy that overtly carries out programs that previously were undertaken covertly by the CIA – is also hiring a Program Officer to work on NED’s “Cuba grants program” and “developing the Endowment’s strategy for Cuba.” Unlike the USAID positions, which are indicated to be in Washington, this position would require “regular field visits.”

Cuban blogger and former State Security Agent Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy writes that the position is for “someone in charge of mounting all types of subversion against the Cuban government on behalf of the NED… completely illegal, meddlesome, and violative of our sovereignty and, therefore, will not admit any of his activity in our territory.”

It is clear that the U.S. continues to act towards Cuba with utter disregard for mutual respect and sovereign equality despite the formalities uncritically accepted by mainstream media as true normalization. By looking beyond the face value of the words of American officials, one can’t help but recognize that relations are anything but normal. Until the U.S. government recognizes that normal cannot include sanctioning, illegally occupying, and spending tens of millions of dollars on subversion and interference in another country’s internal affairs, “normalization” remains nothing more than a vacuous abstraction.

The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess

August 28, 2015

Not so long ago the fictional Cuba of the US myth-making machine was a Caribbean gulag, a dictatorship that sponsored terrorism and trafficked in human beings – that is when it wasn’t torturing them. Today we are left wondering what that was all about now that Sec. of State John Kerry has gone to Cuba for a flag-raising speech in front of the newly christened US Embassy and a brief walkabout in Old Havana.

The gist of Kerry’s remarks is that Cuba should improve its behavior according to Kerry’s prescriptions. Apparently, he hasn’t been listening to the Cubans, who want the United States to get rid of the thick accumulation of obnoxious and warlike behaviors, starting with the blockade (embargo) and not forgetting to abandon the US gulag at Guantánamo.

So far the United States has offered no rational justifications for these behaviors as it seeks “normalization,” but we should at least look at how they originated. As terrifying as history is to leaders in Washington, we will take one of the key bright ideas — the (ongoing) manipulation of Cuban immigration as an example of how far it is from here to “normal.”

Creating the exile pool

Normalization has so far not included an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourages Cubans to become undocumented aliens. Mexicans are told to stay home or “get in line” for a green card, but Cubans who reach US shores can be fast-tracked to citizenship.

The approach to Cuban immigration after 1959 oscillated between a desire to encourage it for propaganda advantage and a concern that Fidel Castro might oblige by releasing an unmanageable torrent. A manageable number could give propagandists the chance to picture every Cuban who left by whatever means, including rafts, as a political refugee from communist tyranny. Too many could strain public services wherever the Cubans landed, create social friction and cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Jesús Arboleya Cervera has written that

…immigration was intimately related to the policies conducted by the United States against the island, conceived to drain Cuba of its human capital, dismantle the social structure, and create abroad the social bases for a counter-revolutionary movement that had no cohesion inside the island. [1]

The just-right balance of regulations could achieve all this. To make it work, Cubans immigrating illegally were placed in a newly invented category exempt from the normal rules. They were initially welcomed under a special resettlement program and helped through the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962. However, President John F. Kennedy ruined the just-right balance by suspending regular flights between Cuba and the United States later that year increasing internal pressures in Cuba. This situation created an incentive for illegal emigration, which reached its highest levels when upwards of 30,000 people emigrated that way between 1962 and 1965. In February 1963, the US government announced that any Cubans who managed to get to the United States would be granted refugee status.

Kennedy’s action was an early example of how one immigration policy decision forced the invention of another to deal with the consequences of the first. By blocking safe exit from Cuba, Kennedy provoked the first of the great immigration crises.

1965: Camarioca

Reacting to the immigration pressure built up by suspending the flights, Castro opened the port of Camarioca in September 1965, inviting Cubans in Miami to go there and pick up their relatives.

President Lyndon Johnson at first welcomed the immigrants and framed the Camarioca exodus as a public relations gain for the United States. But as the numbers threatened to overwhelm Florida’s ability to absorb them, Johnson sought an accommodation with Cuba through a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed on December 6, 1965. This new fix allowed a specific number of Cubans to emigrate on renewed flights to the United States. The Johnson administration called them Freedom Flights and presented them as a victory for the United States. It could just as well be considered a victory for Castro as Johnson was forced to reverse Kennedy’s actions in stopping the flights and to re-think how the immigration weapon was to be used. Castro reset the balance for Johnson. The flights continued until 1973.

But what to do with the Cuban immigrants? Before 1966, they were admitted on a temporary humanitarian basis because it was assumed in Washington, DC that the revolutionaries would soon be overthrown obviating the need for a permanent solution. There was no special legislation to regularize Cubans illegally arriving under the ad hoc systems then in place. Congress attempted to rectify that with passage of the Cuban Adjustment Act on November 2, 1966.

The legislation was supposed to bring order to the process. It applied only to Cubans who had lived in the United States for a least one year and who met the requirements for legal residency. New arrivals would be admitted if they could show they were in danger of persecution if they were repatriated — the standard UN criterion for granting political asylum. Cubans so admitted were granted resident status after one year in the United States regardless of how they got here; all that was necessary was to touch US soil. Most politicized Cubans in the United States were not pleased by the change, for it implied that there would be no roll back of the revolution and that the US government wanted the Cuban immigrants to become Americanized. In fact, the intention was to resettle them away from south Florida.

Thus, the Cuban Adjustment act encouraged limitless immigration, which the immigration system was ill equipped to handle. The process of determining who qualified as a refugee quickly collapsed into a policy of wholesale admission, the issuance of work permits, financial assistance and other benefits plus a fast track to permanent residency. To avoid the time-consuming process of case-by-case determination of refugee status, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (since 2003, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS) issued paroles, by which new arrivals were released (paroled) to friends or relatives.

The parole, which figured in the infamous Elian Gonzalez case some years later, short-circuited the process of administratively determining eligibility, serving a policy function for which it was not intended. Parole was not supposed to be used for groups of individuals. It was designed to insure that an alien experiencing an emergency could tend to that emergency while remaining free from detention. Eventually, parole was used to facilitate the processing of an entire population of otherwise excludable aliens who were considered by the government to be desirable immigrants.

In short, the special legal protections given indiscriminately to Cuban immigrants is not based solely on the Cuban Adjustment Act but also on the blanket designation of “political refugee” granted to any person who came from Cuba.

1980: Mariel

On March 17, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Refugee Act, which was supposed to rationalize the immigration process eliminating the parole shortcut and requiring a specific determination of eligibility for political asylum by applying the criterion of a “well-founded fear of persecution” if repatriated. The act was not specifically intended for Cubans, but a new mass exodus erupted that again demonstrated the inadequacy of legislative tinkering to solve problems created by the counterrevolutionary policies against Cuba.

The 1980 mass exodus from Cuba took place after the Carter administration and Cuba had agreed to allow Cubans in the United States to visit the island and take gifts with them for friends and relatives. Massive amounts of consumer goods entered the island for the first time since the early years of the revolution. Since these visitors were mostly urban white Cubans, the gifts went to their urban white friends and relatives in Cuba. Non-white Cubans did not benefit because at that time very few exiles were non-white. Poor urban Cubans, consequently, will become economic immigrants, using the 1966 US policy of easy entry into the United States to gain access to the consumer market.

The Mariel crisis of 1980 was precipitated when a busload of Cubans wishing to emigrate crashed through the gate of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana on April 1. They, and later thousands of others, sought political asylum at the embassy. On April 20, Castro announced that anyone wishing to leave could depart Cuba from the port of Mariel. His decision would later be interpreted in the United States as “unleashing” a mass exodus. But Castro later said he allowed the exodus to deprive Carter’s right-wing opposition with an election-year issue. [2]

Trapped by a system that could encourage but not control Cuban immigration, Carter announced that he welcomed the immigrants — a decision that ran counter to the attempt just days earlier to put some order into processing them through the Refugee Act. However, this was election time and, like Johnson before him, Carter saw an opportunity to portray the new immigrant wave as proof of Castro’s failures; he welcomed the marielitos “with open arms.”

By announcing that private vessels from Florida could go to Mariel and pick up the self-defined refugees, Carter insured that he would lose control. A massive, disorderly boatlift followed, overloading the cumbersome interview system necessary to determine well-founded fear of persecution. Consequently, once landed in Florida, the Mariel Cubans were shunted past the Refugee Act and placed in a newly invented status of “entrant.”

By early September, Castro moved to rescue Carter and help his re-election by controlling the boatlift crisis and detaining airplane hijackers landing in Cuba from the United States. He also announced that from September 25 to November 4 — Election Day in the United States — all Mariel traffic would be suspended. [3]

In October, with south Florida’s social services overwhelmed, Carter reversed his refugee policy a second time by ordering a halt to the boatlift that recently had seemed like such a good idea. He now threatened with fines anyone setting out from Florida for Mariel — the same people he had encouraged to go there. He experimented with various methods to gain control of the inflow and the problem of holding thousands of Cubans in detention centers.

The mess took years to clean up. Indefinite detention of large numbers of marielitos settled in as an addendum to the old policy. Undesirables were kept locked up indefinitely without criminal charges. Riots in detention centers and federal prisons became a regular occurrence. Twenty-five years later there were still 750 Mariel-era Cubans living in detentions centers with entrant status. The Supreme Court finally ruled against open-ended detention in 2005.

1984: Reagan avoids a crisis

In December 1984, the Reagan administration reached an agreement with Cuba that allowed the United States to send back 2,700 marielitos deemed ineligible for residency due to mental health problems, previous criminal records in Cuba or crimes committed while in the United States. As late as 2009, Cubans on a 1984 secret list of undesirables considered excludable were being deported to Cuba after spending decades in the United States. Cuba was the final destination for many “refugees” and “entrants” once welcomed “with open arms.”

Under a 1984 pact, the United States agreed to resume issuing up to 20,000 visas per year, which it had suspended because of Cuba’s earlier refusal to take back any marielitos – the people welcomed “with open arms.” Castro always maintained that the United States never consistently complied with the agreement.

Until the current Obama opening, the United States has always refused to negotiate a return to normal relations unless Cuba first makes concessions. Helping Reagan get off the hook for Jimmy Carter’s Mariel folly is never counted as a concession from Castro.

1994: The Clinton Immigration Crisis

For Clinton, the lesson of Mariel was not to review a flawed policy but to avoid falling into an immigration trap as Carter had and ending up with thousands of unwanted Cubans stuffed away in detention centers with the bogus migratory status of “entrant.” While Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he struggled with Carter over troubles at the Ft. Chaffee detention center in 1980. On two occasions, Cubans stormed out of the army base unhindered. The base commander told Clinton that because of the posse comitatus law, the military could not perform police functions. Clinton later complained in his memoirs that Carter told the commander he couldn’t keep them at the fort against their will. [4]

In the second breakout, a thousand Cubans left the base on June 1 and headed to a nearby town where locals were in a panic and ready with their shotguns to repel them. Unable to get help from the White House or the Pentagon, Clinton ordered state police to block the advancing Cubans by firing shots in the air. Sixty-two people were injured and three buildings at Ft. Chaffee were destroyed. This might be considered the only known hostile incursion by Cubans on American soil. In his memoires, Clinton blamed Castro for his re-election defeat. [5]

Clinton’s turn came in the summer of 1994 during a rash of hijackings to the United States — some of them violent. US officials were unwilling to acknowledge the link between incentives to immigrate and Cuban hijacking, but the practice became institutionalized as part of the undergrowth of an unofficial policy apparatus.

For a considerable period, at least in the state of Florida, air piracy ceased to be an actionable offense. In 1992, for example, Cuban airline pilot Carlos Cancio Porcel and several other people with their families diverted his Aero Caribbean plane to Miami, chloroforming a security guard and tying up the co-pilot. “No crime has been committed here,” his lawyer said. Cancio was detained but released when the Justice Department ruled that his actions did not constitute a hijacking. Cancio was issued an immigration parole and released into the community.

On August 5, a Radio Martí broadcast from the United States announced the imminent arrival of a ship from Miami that supposedly would take on people who wished to leave Cuba. When the vessel did not arrive, a crowd began rioting in Old Havana. Castro portrayed the riot as the result of a US policy to prevent legal immigration by issuing too few visas and simultaneously encouraging illegal immigration with such tactics as the Radio Martí broadcast. Castro warned that Cuba would not act as an auxiliary to the US Coast Guard. “We can no longer carry this burden or assume this responsibility, while they do nothing.”[6]

In a television address August 24 Castro said, “If the United States does not take rapid and efficient measures to stop the incitement of illegal exits from the country, we will feel obliged to tell the Border Guard not to stop any vessel that wishes to leave Cuba.”[7] Clinton’s answer was that there would be no change in US immigration policy. His chief of staff Leon Panetta said Cuba could not tell the United States what to do — implying that it would continue to encourage illegal immigration — and that the United States would not tolerate a repeat of the Mariel mass exodus. Panetta said Clinton might declare a naval blockade of Cuba if Castro did not control illegal emigration from the island.” [7]

While the White House was rededicating itself to the continued encouragement of immigration with the implied promise of immunity from prosecution for hijackers, Castro issued orders on August 12 that the Border Guard should be flexible with those wishing to leave except in cases of hijacking. Clinton was now sliding toward another migration crisis and another Carteresque disaster. But the White House had a plan. Operation Distant Shore involved actually arresting rafters trying to enter the country, detaining them on military bases outside of Florida and possibly declaring a naval blockade of Cuba.

When Clinton saw that the plan included the incarceration of rafters on military bases, he “went ballistic.” “Are you nuts? Do you think I am going to do [that] again?” he yelled. [9] He opted instead for scrapping enforcement of some elements of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the most important change in Cuban immigration policy in 28 years.

On August 19, Clinton ordered the Navy and Coast Guard to pick up rafters heading north and transfer them to camps at the Guantánamo Naval Base where thousands of Haitians similarly intercepted were being kept. (There never was a Haitian Adjustment Act.) Speaking at a White House news conference that day, Clinton said Castro caused the problem by encouraging Cubans “to take to the sea in unsafe vessels to escape their nation’s internal problems.” He called this an “attempt to dictate American immigration policy.” [10]

Clinton’s welcome was not with open arms.

“Today, I have ordered that illegal refugees from Cuba will not be allowed to enter the United States. Refugees rescued at sea will be taken to our naval base at Guantánamo, while we explore the possibility of other safe havens within the region….The United States will detain, investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute Americans who take to the sea to pick up Cubans. Vessels used in such activities will be seized.” [11]

Castro thought the order as insufficient to stop the continuing flow of rafters and asked again for negotiations on all outstanding issues. Clinton refused to do it openly but instead decided to coax Castro into secret negotiations by asking Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari what he could do to move Castro to negotiate — to “check around.” [10]

In the subsequent agreement brokered by Salinas, Cuba was expected to limit illegal emigration — another example of depending on Cuba’s good offices to slow the immigration that the Cuban Adjustment Act was designed to encourage. For its part, the United States agreed to issue up to 20,000 visas per year and to send any Cubans picked up at sea to the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.

While this was supposed to be a disincentive to rafters, it was also a solution leading to a new problem. As the Guantánamo camps filled up with disgruntled would-be immigrants, something had to be done about rioting and overtaxed facilities. Furthermore, the camps represented a potential public relations disaster: the internees, who formerly were portrayed as refugees from Castro’s oppression, might now be seen as victims of US oppression.

A second set of migratory talks had to be called in May 1995 to mend some holes. The resulting agreement required the United States to take in 21,000 Cubans held at Guantánamo and to send future rafters back to Cuba, not to Guantánamo. The United States also agreed to prosecute or extradite hijackers.

This second migratory accord had its own problems. The United States now had to tone down its traditional claims that anyone sent back to Cuba would face prison, torture or death. After all, it was the United States sending them back, so the “well-founded fear of persecution” route to asylum was closed for mass migrations although it remained open in special cases.

Wet foot dry foot

Some way had to be found simultaneously to accept a manageable number of immigrants to satisfy the needs of domestic politics while turning away the unwanted surplus. The solution was another immigration policy shift known as the wet-foot/dry-foot policy.

Not a part of the agreements, the formula enabled immigration officials to placate Miami exiles by continuing to admit Cubans who arrived onshore while living up to the agreement with Cuba to repatriate those picked up at sea. The accords marked an abrupt change in US immigration policy, ending the open immigration practices under the Cuban Adjustment Act, while leaving it battered but still in force.

Even after the Clinton administration formally ended open immigration, the new formula for admitting Cubans contributed to ambiguous and even capricious interpretations of how to receive Cubans arriving by hijack. Were hijackers who landed in Florida to be admitted as dry-foot immigrants or as air pirates?

One of the more bizarre examples of the tortuous interpretations of what constituted a safe, dry-foot arrival occurred in February 2003, when the armed crew of a Cuban Border Guard patrol boat went ashore in Key West after tying up at the Marriott resort marina. After some drinks and a phone call to local police, the crew was taken into custody and swiftly given asylum.

Two facts stand out about the incident: it happened while the Department of Homeland Security had put the United States on a heightened terror alert; and the armed men arrived on a boat — technically a war vessel — belonging to a government on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the end, the Clinton administration managed to mollify the exile community for the sin of repatriating wet-foots by applying more sanctions against Cuba, stepping up propaganda broadcasts and occasionally threatening a naval blockade against any future mass exodus. He had avoided the dreaded Carter syndrome, but by inventing the wet foot/dry foot rule, the administration kept intact the incitement to illegal and life-threatening immigration.

Clinton had solved the wrong problem. The Mariel catastrophe was a foretold outcome of bad policy from another era. Encouraging illegal immigration was always a risky way to undermine a foreign government.

Like Dracula, bad policies can live almost forever. This one was tethered to Eisenhower’s original belief that welcoming Cubans would undermine the revolutionary government. Conceptually weak, the policy was subject to every kind of current from Miami, Havana and Washington. No one in the Eisenhower administration apparently considered the distorting effect that a rapid buildup of Cuban exiles in Florida would have on domestic politics or that the original bright idea could take on a life of its own that none of Ike’s successors could kill.

Today, if normal relation means that the war against Cuba is over, then the United States will have to decide if it wants to jeopardize future negotiations by defending its Draculan policies.

Notes.

1. Jesús Arboleya Cervera, Havana Miami. The US-Cuba Migration Conflict, Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1996.

2. Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel Castro, biografía a dos voces, Editorial Debate: México, DF, 2006, p. 302.

3. Ibid., p. 303.

4. Bill Clinton, My Life, New York, New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 276.

5. Ramonet, p. 614.615.

6. Speeches, LANIC. http://lanic.utexas.edu/info /la/cb/cuba/castro.html

7. The Los Angeles Times, 08/22/94.

8. Kelly M. Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010   p.112.

9. News Conference, 08/19/94, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/WCPD-1994-08-22/pdf/WCPD-1994-08-22.pdf.

10. Ibid.

11. Carlos Salinas de Gortari, México: un paso difícil a la modernidad, Barcelona: Plaza & James Editores, 2000, p. 247-265.

Robert Sandels writes on Cuba and Mexico. Nelson P. Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico.

Normalizing Relations With Cuba: Has the U.S. Learned Its Lesson?

August 13, 2015

Before 1898 Cuba was a nation without a state. It had a colonial status but also had an evolving national culture and identity, an emerging nationhood and its own history. Its sovereignty was exercised by Spain through its imperial system. The country was not yet socially integrated. Slavery had been preserved until 1886. At times the struggle for national independence coincided with a struggle against slavery.  Moreover, all Cubans were first generation Cubans since the sense of unique national identity and its symbols had emerged in opposition to the ascribed status and powers assigned to it by the Spanish colonial regime.

Between 1898 and1934 Cuba’s legal institutions and political/administrative practices were ultimately determined by the U.S. government. Under this neo-colonial system the United States acquired several military bases and other concessions that were accomplished by the forced insertion of the Platt Amendment into the Cuban constitution while the island was under U.S. military occupation in the years 1898-1902.

So Cuba then had a well-defined territory and there was a Cuban state and government. But the state did not have the power to make its own decisions due to the Platt Amendment and the formal economic, political and cultural control exercised by the United States. This was a colonial control different from what Cuba had experienced under Spain because there was now a semblance of autonomy, a situation somewhat like Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status today. In short, the closest thing to a sovereign agent in Cuba was the U.S. ambassador.

Between 1934 and 1959 Cuba was a nation state with limited sovereignty. During the FDR years the second Cuban republic abolished the Platt Amendment with the consent of the United States thus ending the era of formal U.S. control. These changes turned Cuba into a semi-independent modern republic but the United States exercised direct control over the Cuban political class and the Cuban military. Indirect influence entered Cuba through U.S. corporate presence, schools, social clubs, military integration and the newly techniques of modern advertising, through science, technology and cultural products and commercialism.

The United States limited Cuba’s self-determination and thus the boundaries of the permissible (a situation similar to the Dominican Republic). Oddly enough, during this period, which coincided in origins with the New Deal’s adoption of Keynesian economics, the Cuban state openly intervened in the workings of Cuba’s not-so-free internal market. Economic control was exercised by the U.S. government through the sugar quota system made possible by the 1934 Jones Costigan Act, as well as by trade agreements, foreign investors and political and economic “advisors.” All this was backed by a domestic political and military apparatus preserving the neocolonial arrangements; essentially doing what gunboat diplomacy and the U.S. marines had previously guaranteed.

Since 1959 the Cuban nation has had a sovereign state and government with no foreign control from within. Achieving sovereign status, however, carried huge costs for national independence as the United States engaged in coordinated, multifaceted acts of interference that included economic blockade, mass propaganda, promotion of a domestic opposition (“dissidents”) and external opposition concentrated in Miami.  Thus, Cuba is a sovereign nation state in permanent upheaval and enduring abnormal relations with its largest neighbor. The U.S. government imposed this campaign as the price to be paid by a small country wishing to be truly independent.

Cuban national sovereignty meant self-determination in the areas of politics, economy, society, culture and foreign policy. Nationally oriented policies implied a break with traditional patterns and a social, economic, political and cultural revolution, as well as independence in foreign relations.

Within the U.S. government and large swaths of American society Cuba’s assertion of national self-determination was equated with anti-Americanism. Yet, the revolutionary movement was never anti-American; but rather has been aimed all along against U.S.-imposed neo-colonial control. Behaving as a colonialist power, the United States interpreted the right to self-determination as a threat to its own interests in Cuba.

The Cuban revolution will attempt to build a new nation-state with a unified, centralized government and state institutions based on a unique national ideology derived from concepts of solidarity and defense of the less developed countries and peoples of the world.

Nation-building has been understood by the Cubans as a social, political, economic and cultural process in which decisions are made by an activated population and organized groups and institutions. It entails a process of de-colonization — taking control of its vital systems away from foreigners.  The United States, on the other hand, equated decolonization or nationalization of Cuban institutions with communism.

Cuban nationalism in economic terms meant the creation of an economy in which the major resources would be controlled by Cubans and their state. That meant nationalizing the means of production. Nationalization affected foreign investments within the island. This will be seen by the United States as an attack on capitalism even if the means of production were transferred to Cuban capitalists.

Cuban nationalism in political terms meant that the Cuban revolutionaries stressed the right to sovereignty, including the right to non-interference in the internal affairs of the island. Cuba para los cubanos, sounded very much like the southern reaction to northern carpetbaggers after the U.S. civil war. The Cubans stressed that sovereignty implied the equality of nations. But the U.S. government claimed the right to tell the Cubans how they should organize their own country. Oddly enough, the state’s rights movement in the Deep South [despite the substantive difference on matters of justice and equality] had a strong similarity to the Cuban arguments for self-determination.

Cultural nationalism also carried over into the mundane as the revolutionaries proclaimed that Cuban products were equal to U.S. products. [Coppelia vs offer compared to Baskin Robbins]  “Cuban is beautiful” became a sentiment attached to cultural independence. In 1959 Cuban capitalists advertised, “consuma productos cubanos.”

Of course, such policies had to come into conflict with the United States, which considered the Caribbean its own backyard. The Monroe Doctrine, proclaimed unilaterally by the United States in 1823, asserted the right of the United States to tell Latin America what was best for the region.

What the Cubans considered the right of self-determination the United States called “communist subversion” and Soviet penetration into its sphere of influence. Implicit in this policy toward Latin America was the assumption that the interests of Latin America should coincide with the interests of the United States.

The United States found allies within Cuba that identified with U.S. interests, but they were primarily from the upper classes that had benefited from the past relationship with the United States. The United States and its allies in Latin America spoke of Pan Americanism, but south of the border there has been, since the 1820s, a Latin Americanism based on a different concept of hemispheric unity — one among equals and without a dominant United States.

The United States saw any attempt at national independence, national liberation or social revolution in Cuba as in Latin America as anti-capitalist (meaning communist) and a challenge to its hemispheric hegemony and any government that engaged in it was “dictatorial” and pro-Soviet. The United States would hide its attempt to recover its power over Cuba under the mantle of anti-communism and defense of “democracy” and would ally with those classes and sectors within the Cuban upper class that opposed the socio-economic and political revolution.

The Cuba revolutionaries reacted by identifying the previous neocolonial status with American control and American capitalism and hence opted for an anti-capitalist position, which would be identified as socialism.

National independence and socialism would come to mean the same thing. The Cuban revolutionaries will tie their fate to the lower classes, the workers and the poor who would benefit the most from the drastic change in power relations.

Today, Cuba and a significant portion of Latin America are constructing numerous alliances, institutions and programs that eventually could become that Great Nation of the South while the United States seems incapable of understanding what is happening elsewhere in the hemisphere. Thus, the errors committed against Cuba continue to be repeated elsewhere.

On August 14, the United States government once again will have formal diplomatic relations with Cuba. Yet, most of the economic and commercial restrictions imposed since the 1960s need to be ended. Hopefully that will change in the immediate future. Then we will have to wait and see if American intervention on the internal affairs of Cuba cease as well. If that happens, then a real new period will begin in the history of the hemisphere.

This article written with the assistance of Robert Sandels.

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

July 27, 2015

Barack Obama, at the Summit of the Americas, wanted to bury the past. Argentinean president Cristina Fernández disagreed. Cuba was at the Summit, she proposed, not because of negotiations but because Cuba has fought more than sixty years with unprecedented dignity. That fight itself is not most notable; its explanatory philosophical traditions are needed and significant. Cuba’s history makes them believable.

1.

Dignity, some say, involves knowing oneself as an end. When we possess dignity, we have value, not as mere instruments toward further purposes, however noble, but in virtue of humanness.

Conceived as such, dignity is hard. We are urged to “get the most out of yourself … in a job that is spiritually fulfilling, socially constructive, experientially diverse, emotionally enriching, self- esteem boosting, perpetually challenging and eternally edifying”. In such an age of “higher selfishness”, personal choice is all important.[i] Human meaningfulness does not motivate. Indeed, it is hardly believable.

But Cuban philosopher and revolutionary, José Martí, made “radical respect for human dignity” the goal of his 1895 independence war against Spain. The Montecristi Manifesto, political statement of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, “declares [the Party’s] faith [that it can know] . . . the reality of the ideas that produce or extinguish deeds and the reality of the deeds that are born from ideas . . . so that no man’s dignity is harmed and . . . all Cubans perceive it … as based in a profound knowledge”. Remarkably, a political movement was giving priority to an ancient and fundamental philosophical question: how to know what it means to be human.

2.

Cuban history makes such motivation believable. Cuban presence in Angola, according to historian Richard Gott, was “entirely without selfish motivation”. Cuba sent 300,000 volunteers between 1975 and 1991, more than 2,000 of whom died, to push back and eventually defeat apartheid South Africa. In Pretoria, a “wall of names” commemorates those who died in the struggle against apartheid. Many Cuban names are inscribed there. No other foreign country is represented.[ii]

The United States claimed that Cuba was acting as a Soviet proxy but according to US intelligence, Castro had “no intention of subordinating himself to Soviet discipline and direction.” He criticized the Soviets as dogmatic and opportunistic, ungenerous toward Third World liberation movements, and unwilling to adequately support North Vietnam. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoire 25 years later that Castro was “probably the most genuinely revolutionary leader then in power”[iii]

US Intelligence even identified the real motivation for Cuba’s costly involvement. Castro, it was reported, “places particular importance on maintaining a ‘principled’ foreign policy . . . [and] on questions of basic importance such as Cuba’s right and duty to support nationalist revolutionary movements and friendly governments in the Third World, Castro permits no compromise of principle for the sake of economic or political expediency.” In 1991, Cuba’s “great crusade” led Nelson Mandela to ask, “What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”

Cuba’s internationalism continues. Cuba began exporting doctors in 1963, when Cubans traveled to the newly independent Algeria. After Hurricanes George and Mitch devastated Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala in 1998, Cuba sent 2,000 doctors and other health

professionals. They were replaced by other Cubans willing and able to work where no health services previously existed. After Hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered to send, at no cost, 1,586 medical personnel and 36 tons of emergency medical supplies to the United States, an offer that was turned down.[iv]

In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Few have heeded the call [to fight ebola], but one country has responded in strength: Cuba.” Cuba responded without hesitation, sending more than 450 doctors and nurses, chosen from more than 15,000 volunteers, by far the largest medical mission sent by any country.

3.

Visitors to Cuba ask why. Tour guides at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences, which offers full scholarships to foreigners who could not otherwise train as doctors, explain that Cubans believe in sharing what they have, not what they have left over. The answer elicits scepticism, even derision: a nice idea but not realistic.

It is realistic because pursuit of dignity has practical significance. Or so argued Martí. Even before him, in the early nineteenth century, radical Cuban independence activists rejected European (liberal) philosophy emphasizing individual freedoms. They faced three empires –the UK, the US and Spain – and the “necessary evil” of slavery. Dignity –and how to know it –was politically urgent. Having experienced imperialism, they knew its dehumanizing logic.

Martí urged Latin American children to know dignity. His famous children’s journal, The Golden Age, offers image after image of faraway places. He taught them that to know and respect themselves as human ends, they must experience sameness between themselves and others far away. Looking outward, not inward, one builds and feels human connection, a source of knowledge going beyond “the Yankee or European book”.

Explained philosophically, internationalism is a practical, not moral, obligation. Martí believed human beings are causally interconnected, both with the physical environment and with cohabitants of that environment. He believed in science: Human beings are part of nature, and we depend upon nature, including other human beings. On such a view, there is no mystery about why a poor country would pursue internationalism: We live better, and freely, when others live better, and freely.

4.

In 1998, Fidel Castro said that Cuba’s humanist project explains Cuba’s resistance to the US financial, commercial and economic blockade. He cited the power of ideas, specifically about dignity and its practical significance. At a 2003 academic conference, Castro added that the threat of increasingly sophisticated weapons requires ideas: “Sow ideas, sow ideas, and sow ideas; sow awareness, sow awareness and sow awareness”.

Some will shake their heads. But to give my discipline its due, philosophers have argued for more than half a century that understanding is limited by expectations rooted in background beliefs. This means that when we don’t believe something possible, we do not see the evidence suggesting it is possible. The upshot is that challenging accepted philosophical ideas, which people rely upon unself-consciously for day-to-day deliberation, is necessary for progressive politics.

Philosophers of science argue that we only find empirical evidence to support theories if we first, to some degree, believe such theories, even without sufficient evidence. This means that theoretical innovation, and commitment to such innovation, is a prerequisite for new discoveries, or even for the questions that might motivate such discoveries.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Cuba’s successes, well-documented, do not inspire alternative paths toward human development. They are not believed. James Wolfensohn, ex-president of the World Bank, acknowledged Cuba “has done a great job on education and health” and that “it does not embarrass me to admit it”. Nonetheless, “The island continues to be ignored by both development theorists and the technocrats” designing programs to promote human development. [v]

The reason may be fear. Cuba resisted the US embargo for sixty years. It defied predictions of its imminent collapse after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. And when Fidel Castro stepped down in 2006 because of illness, Cuba again defied predictions— this time of internal squabbling and chaos. Julia Sweig, US Rockefeller senior fellow, noted a “stunning display of orderliness and seriousness” and concluded that the Cuban Revolution “rests upon far more than the charisma, authority and legend of [Raul and Fidel Castro].”

The “far more” is at least partly philosophical, a vision of who we can be, and know ourselves as, as human beings. It predates Martí but was most radically realized by Martí, who thought political liberation does not long endure without spiritual freedom. For him, this meant acquiring the sensitivity and humility to be able to respond to beauty, whether in ideas, people or events. For only with such responsiveness can we know the unexpected, which may be humanness.

5.

Cuba’s philosophical traditions, closer in many ways to Eastern than to European philosophy, make plausible a competing conception of what is humanly possible, contradicting the now deeply entrenched belief, almost impossible to challenge in the North, that freedom is about having, not being.

Armando Hart, minister of culture during Cuba’s famous literacy campaign (1961-2), now a renowned philosopher, writes that anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century should consider the damage done to the world by European philosophy.[vi] European philosophy, as argued by Simón Bolívar, among others, presents a naïve (at best) view of human freedom, ignoring those disqualified from the “human” part of human freedom. Worse, though, it does not allow for alternatives. We need those alternatives.

Cuba’s long struggle, and the ideas that explain it, offers such an alternative. Cuba’s ideas could be known. But it takes effort. Martí scholar, Pedro Paulo Rodríguez writes that even Latin Americans do not sufficiently acknowledge the philosophy grounding their region’s innovative development direction.[vii]

History inspires imagination, as Fernández suggests. And as Eduardo Galeano wrote, imagination allows us to interpret the world as what it might be, not what it is. At least occasionally, though, we need moral imagination in order to discover it. For we have to believe alternatives are possible, and needed, including philosophical ones, in order to pursue them. If we take seriously Cuban, and Latin American, history, we will benefit. But if we consider the possibility, unexpected for some, that Cuba’s resistance is morally unprecedented, offering options for human development, we will gain even more.

6.

As relations between the US and Cuba thaw, Cuba changes. Some hope it will not change much but they often miss the real reasons. In what Charles Taylor describes as the “age of authenticity”, in which personal choice is paramount, some philosophers, especially feminists, emphasize relationships and emotional sensitivity. They urge connectivity as an antidote to liberal individualism, and a source of radical knowledge. Cuba’s philosophers, especially Martí, broke that trail in this hemisphere long ago. Cuba should not turn from its philosophical traditions, urgently needed in the North.

Notes. 

[i] cited in Taylor, Charles, A secular age (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2007), 473-479).

[ii] Gleijeses, Piero, Conflicting missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–

1976 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2002) 300-327.

[iii] Gleijeses, Piero, Visions of freedom: Havana. Washington, pretoria and the struggle

for southern Africa (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2013) 306, 373, 521, 525, 526

[iv] E.g. Brouwer, Steven, Revolutionary doctors (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011)

[v] Cited in Saney, Isaac, Cuba: A revolution in motion (Blackpoint, NS: Fernwood, 2004).

[vi] Ética, cultura, política (Havana: Estudios Martianos, 2006) 174

[vii] Rodríguez, Pedro Paulo, Pensar, prever, server (Havana: Ediciones Unión, 2012) 177

Susan Babbitt is associate professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada and author of José Martí, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Global Development Ethics: The Battle for Ideas (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance

Let Cuba be Cuba

July 22, 2015

jose marti 5

by Michael Steven Smith

Washington DC
July 20, 2015

“The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support (of the Cuban revolutionary government) is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship…Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba…A line of action which…makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government. “. Secret memorandum of Lester D Mallory, deputy assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, April 6, 1960

A brass band played the Cuban national anthem this morning as I watched the Cuban flag being raised in front of the Cuban embassy for the first time since 1961 when the United States government cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Getting them restored was a great victory for the Cuban people and their government, although relations between the two countries are far from normal.

The United States still spends $30 million a year to subvert the Cuban government, illegally keeps a chunk of their country at the prison camp known as Guantánamo, and enforces a crippling commercial, economic, and financial blockade which has had the intended effect of stunting Cuban economic development by an estimated 1.1 trillion dollars in order to demonstrate to the world that there is no alternative to capitalism. But the Cubans despite the problems have shown that there is.

“Regime change ” is still part of American law. I was one of 500 people invited by the Cubans to celebrate the victory and re-dedicate ourselves to completing it.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez addressed the overflowing crowd packed in to the 1916 elegant limestone mansion on Embassy Row. He said that “In 1959, United States refused to accept the existence of a fully independent small and neighboring Island and much less, a few years later, a socialist revolution that was forced to defend itself and has invited, ever since then, our people’s will…. only the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade which has caused so much harm and suffering to our people; the return of the occupied territory in Guantánamo and the respect for Cuba’s sovereignty will lend some meaning to the historic event that we are witnessing today.”

He expressed the resolve of the Cuban people and concluded by saying that “to insist in the attainment of obsolete and unjust goals, only hoping for a mere change in the methods to achieve them will not legitimatize them or favor the national interest of United States or its citizens. However, should that be the case, we would be ready to face the challenge. ”

Why was Cuba finally recognized? After the Cuban revolution of 1959, United States successfully isolated the Cuban people from the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Any government that did not go along with America’s policy paid a heavy price.

The democratically elected governments of Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and most famously Chile, the other 9/11, were replaced by US friendly dictatorships. Cuba was thrown out of the Organization of American States. Che Guevara call the organization the Ministry of Colonies.

But last year the head of the Panamanian government told the United States that it and the other Latin American countries wanted Cuba back in at the next meeting and if United States didn’t like it they didn’t have to come. That may have been the turning point. United States threw everything it had at Cuba.

Even before the revolution, they supported the Batista dictatorship, giving it arms, training it’s secret torturing police, and supply and its army. 20,000 Cubans lost their lives in the revolution That was just a start.

In 1959 many Cubans worked seasonably, lived in a grass thatched hut and , was illiterate, unhealthy, and died young. This all changed with the revolution. The large American owned landed estates were broken up and the land was redistributed to the peasants who worked it; many of them had fought in the revolution.

The American owners were told they would be paid for the land according to how much they listed its value for tax purposes. The Americans turned down the offer and closed the oil refinery, threatening to stop the Cuban economy, which would run out of gasoline. So the Cubans nationalized the oil refinery, then the phone company, then the bus company, and the nickel mines, and on and on.

This became the Cuban socialist revolution. To reverse it, the United States relied on terrorist groups helped by the CIA and centered and trained in Florida. They unleashed several thousands of CIA trained counterrevolutionaries in the infamous and failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

When the Cubans began their literacy campaign the terrorists killed the teachers. They burned down the sugarcane fields. To cripple the tourist trade they placed bombs in hotels. They bombed a Cuba commercial airplane, killing 73 people including the entire young Cuban fencing team.

They introduced dengue fever into the island which killed a lot of children. More biological warfare was used against the Cuban pig population. A half a million pigs had to be destroyed. Altogether 3098 people were killed in 2011 were injured.

A Congressional committee asked Cuban counterrevolutionary the infamous CIA agent Felix Rodriguez if he ever tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar. Rodriguez said, “no sir, but I did try to kill the son of a bitch with a high-powered rifle. “.

In 1967 Rodriguez and another Cuban counterrevolutionary Gustavo Vilolldo worked with the American installed Bolivian dictatorship and succeeded in assassinating Che Guevara as Michael Ratner and I demonstrated in our book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”.

Nonetheless, the Cubans have achieved some remarkable goals. Their population is100% literate. Education is free. So is health care. People are healthy and live longer than they do in United States. Cuban art, music, and dance is fantastic.

The “lack of freedom “and “repression" by the Cuban government is wildly exaggerated by American propaganda. The fact is that there is more participation by the Cuban population in the running of their country than there is by the American population in the running of ours.

What’s next? Obama could ease off on the economic sanctions if he wanted to. The problem United States has with Guantánamo could be solved simply: give it back. The US could stop trying to subvert the Cuban government and stop paying and directing a lot of the so-called “dissidents". Americans could be allowed to travel freely to Cuba and see for themselves the real situation there.

It has been assumed by American policymakers since Thomas Jefferson that Cuba was part of the American orbit, the madura fruta, the ripe fruit,that should fall into America’s lap. The Cubans have resisted this. They need all the solitary they can get. Our movement in the United States should say with one voice, in the words of Sandra Levinson, the Director of New York City’s Center For Cuban Studies, who was there in Washington,”let Cuba be Cuba. ”

By Michael Steven Smith

Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of the WBAI Radio show “Law and Disorder” on the net at laws disorder.org. He and Michael Ratner wrote the book “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder”. The book was recently published in Cuba and Argentina.

Europe Was Too Slow in Bridging Cuba Ties

July 21, 2015

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Cuba does not need Europe and does not see it as a priority, which the EU’s ‘Common Position’ on Cuba does not help, Spanish political expert Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

The European Union was too slow to bridge ties with Cuba because of its “Common Position” agreement on the country, Spanish government RTVE television journalist Jose Manuel Martin Medem told Sputnik.

According to Medem, Spanish businessmen are very worried because there are now new economic players in Cuba. Meanwhile, the European Union remains behind the US in repairing its relations with Cuba.

“The EU was too late again because it created a ‘Common Position’ on Cuba, following the US, and now, as Washington and Havana are again opening embassies, Brussels is still discussing whether this ‘Common Position’ should be abandoned,” Medem said.

According to Medem, Spain performed very poorly since the premiership of Jose Maria Asnara, who insisted on the “Common Position” in Brussels, thereby closing the doors for talks with Cuba. The situation only slightly improved under prime minister Jose Luis Sapatero.

Medem sees integration with other Latin American countries as the best option for the island’s development. According to him, Cuba does not see the EU as a priority.

“Today Cuba has a broader spectrum of diplomatic relations than ever before, and Europe presents neither political, nor economic, nor geostrategic interest,” Medem added.

Medem brought up the example of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, who visited Cuba in November 2014, but was “humiliated” by not being received by Cuban President Raul Castro.

Cubans’ Rejection of Rubio Demonstrates Their Independent Thinking

July 21, 2015

A recent New York Times profile of Marco Rubio accurately describes the junior Senator from Florida, and member of the three-ring circus that is the Republican Presidential primary field, as Cuba’s “least favorite son.” The piece quoted a Havana resident as saying Rubio is “against Cuba in every possible way… Rubio and these Republicans, they are still stuck in 1959.” Presumably this view was representative of others that Times writer Jason Horowitz encountered while conducting his research in Cuba. This should not come as a surprise. Rubio is a reactionary fanatic who demagogues incessantly about the evils of the Cuban government. He supports illegal and immoral policies that cause vast damage to the Cuban economy and needless suffering by the Cuban people.

But Rubio cannot accept that Cubans’ nearly unanimous rejection of his right-wing politics might mean he is badly mistaken in his Manichean view of the Cuban socioeconomic system. Rubio wears Cubans’ disapproval of him as a badge of honor. For Rubio, Cubans are incapable of independent judgement. If the Cuban people are against him, it means they must be brainwashed by the evil Castro regime.

“If that’s the line the Cuban government has taken against me and is trying to indoctrinate their people in that way, it shows that we’re on to something,” the Times quotes Rubio as saying. But instead of acknowledging Rubio’s refusal to accept Cuban popular opinion as evidence of his megalomania, the Times accepts his delusional dismissal of his critics.

The Times notes that Rubio “has been identified in the state-controlled newspaper here as a ‘representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia’.” This claim is not analyzed; it is supposed to be self-evident, hyperbolic slander. In reality, Rubio has always marched in lock-step with the Cuban-American community in Miami that portrays Castro as diabolical and advocates for regime change and the overthrow of socialism. That much is beyond dispute. Is calling the Cuban-American community a “terrorist mafia” an exaggeration?

Terrorists operate freely in and around Miami. The Omega 7, Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Alpha 66 and other groups have openly declared their intention to use violence to topple the Cuban government while training on U.S. soil. Many have carried out machine gun raids on coastal villages and attacks on Cuban fishing boats. Among many in the reactionary Cuban-American population, terrorist leaders are revered as “freedom fighters.”

In its obituary of Orlando Bosch, described by George H.W. Bush’s attorney general as “an unreformed terrorist,” the New York Times noted that “his supporters called him a hero, holding rallies for him and lobbying to name a Miami expressway after him.” The Miami city commissioners even declared an Orlando Bosch Day. Luis Posada Carriles, Bosch’s partner in planning the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, which killed 73 people including the medal-winning Cuban fencing team, lives freely in Miami to this day. He has marched with the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White and Gloria Estefan, and taught courses at local colleges.

If it is not exactly precise to say Rubio is a “representative in the Senate of the Cuban-American terrorist mafia,” he does represent the hard-line of refusing to normalize relations with the Cuban government and maintaining punitive policies that harm the Cuban people – positions shared by both terrorists within the Miami Cuban-American community and a broader segment of that community that don’t actively participate in terrorism but support those who do.

The Times‘ piece notes that a sign on the road in Cuba read “Blockade: The Worst Genocide in History.” A man sitting next to a sign with revolutionary slogans said of Rubio: “He wants to kill us! He’s our enemy!”

Rubio defended himself by saying it was “sad” the government tried to say he intended “to starve the Cuban people.” Rubio says such views of him are evidence of the “information blockade that the people in Cuba are facing,” thereby exonerating his opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations.

In reality, the claims by the Cuban government, and people such as the man interviewed, have merit. The Cuban government says the “US genocidal blockade” is responsible for “severe adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people.” They justify their language by stating: “the blockade qualifies as an act of genocide by virtue of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and as an act of economic warfare according to the declaration regarding the laws of naval war adopted by the Naval Conference of London of 1909.”

While genocide is a legal term that should be examined by the proper legal authorities such as the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court, the Cuban government clearly has a legitimate case it could make. Serious study of the consequences of the embargo lend credence to the “severe adverse effects” that the Cuban government describes.

In 1997, a nonprofit charitable organization undertook a year-long research effort to assess the impact of the American policy of embargo on the health of the Cuban population. Their findings conclusively verified the arguments the Cuban government has been making since the embargo was implemented in 1960.

“The American Association for World Health has determined that the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens… It is our expert medical opinion that the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering – and even deaths – in Cuba,” states their reportDenial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health & Nutrition in Cuba.The study also found that “a humanitarian catastrophe has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all its citizens.”

So it is hardly an exaggeration for a Cuban to say Rubio wants to kill him, or to believe that the policy Rubio ardently advocates qualifies as genocide. But the Times doesn’t bother to examine whether the policies Rubio supports are inhumane and potentially criminal. Rubio defends himself by saying that people are “scared” to oppose the Cuban government line, and that they don’t know any better because they country is “dominated by government-controlled media.”

The Times acknowledges that Cuban have a “uniformity of opinion” about Rubio, but attribute this to the popularity of Granma, the official paper of the Communist Party. One man interviewed by the Times tells the reporter he is informed, and points to a story “linking the C.I.A. to a notorious Cuban-American extremist suspected of blowing up a Cuban airline filled with passengers.” This is implicitly another example of the embellishment and exaggeration of the Cuban government, spreading fantasies and conspiracy theories to turn its people against the United States.

The article most likely mentioned was “United States Considers Posada Carriles Probable Author of Terrorist Act,” published in Granma on June 4, 2015 (about a month before the Times profile of Rubio.) The article, by a Cuban news service, reprints an article that appeared in the Miami Herald the same day.

In fact, there is extensive documentation of the article’s claims on the National Security Archive’s Web site that states unequivocally that “the CIA had concrete advance intelligence… on plans by Cuban exile terrorist groups to bomb a Cubana airliner.” A section of the site titled “The CIA Connection” includes multipledocuments implicating Posada.

It was previously mentioned that Posada – who nearly 20 years ago acknowledged responsibility in the pages of the Times for hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist – enjoys sanctuary in Miami and is active among reactionary Cuban-American political groups.

So, rather than allowing Rubio to speculate on how the Cuban government allegedly manipulates Cubans into hating him, the Times might ask if it may have something to do with Rubio ignoring the fact that one of his own constituents is implicated in the murder at least 75 innocent Cuban civilians?

It seems the Cuban public is much more informed about the terrorist activities by the CIA and extremists it was affiliated with than the American public, who will not find out from the Times that the allegations printed by Granma are substantiated by official declassified U.S. government documents. Neither will the Times hold to account a Presidential candidate who allows an unrepentant terrorist to enjoy safe harbor within the state he represents in Congress.

Cubans despise Rubio because he is a belligerent, war-mongering fanatic who panders to a reactionary base that demands the continuation of the most punitive policies of economic warfare in modern history. Instead of allowing Rubio to state unchallenged that he considers this a point of pride, the New York Times – the most prestigious paper in the vaunted American Free Press – should ask what is wrong with the United States itself that someone so contemptuous of humanitarianism, international law and world opinion can be a considered a serious candidate for President? And what might that say about which people are really indoctrinated by their government and media?

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.


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