“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” – Voltaire, 1767
FOREGROUNDING the 2004 United States election campaign, President George W. Bush announced on October 10 before a gathering of anti- Castro Cuban-American constituents at a ceremony in the White House’s Rose Garden that the U.S. administration was planning to bring down President Fidel Castro’s Cuban government. In the statement, Bush officially directed his Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cuban-born Housing Secretary Mel Martinez to chair a panel that would “plan for the happy days when Castro’s regime is no more… The transition to democracy and freedom will present many challenges to the Cuban people and to America, and we will be prepared.”
Bush’s announcement, which came on the 135th anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban war of independence from Spain, was timed to raise the temperatures among anti-Castro Americans and urge them to join the Bush-Powell plan against Cuba. Speaking from Washington on behalf of the world’s conscience, the U.S. President justified plans for corrective measures in Cuba as necessary, stating that Castro had acted in “defiance and contempt with a new round of brutal oppression that outraged world conscience”.
In addition to this, Bush aired a 40-second-long radio message in Spanish targeted at the domestic population of Cuba. “On behalf of the people of the United States, I send greetings to the Cuban community. My hope is for the Cuban people to soon enjoy the same freedoms and rights as we do… . Dictatorships have no place in the Americas. May God bless the Cuban people who are struggling for freedom,” he said. The taped radio message was aired on May 20 by Radio Marti, a U.S. government station, and beamed into Cuba via Guantanamo Bay satellites on the 101st anniversary of Cuban independence.
Cuban-American and other groups that include U.S. right-wing advocates have been lobbying the White House for changes in policy toward Cuba. The anti-Castro Cuban-American constituents are the most powerful of the anti-communist exile groups in the U.S. The Cuban-American National Foundation is well funded by the U.S. government and has posh offices close to the White House on Jefferson Street in Washington D.C. But the organisation is based in Florida, and has chapter offices in Chicago, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and Tampa, all of which have been ardently lobbying the Bush administration to adopt a regime change policy for Cuba.
In response, the Bush administration has been planting a series of pre-invasion-type tactics for Operation Free Cuba. With a view to gaining support for this invasive venture, to test the waters, and to identify friends and foes in Latin America, Colin Powell spoke to the delegates of the Organisation of American States (OAS) about the U.S. plans for Cuba on June 9, 2003, a week after signing the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement in the safety of an American Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Santiago, Chile. Powell classified Castro’s as “the only totalitarian dictatorship existing in the hemisphere”. Powell audaciously assumed that there is an ideological conflict between President Castro and his people. He said: “We have come too far not to continue the journey and help the people of Cuba ultimately to achieve a democratic system where they can decide who their leaders will be through a free, open democratic process.” He urged the OAS to play a key role in the “democratic transition” ! in Cuba. He asked: “What does that mean in concrete terms?” Answering his own question, he said: “We must consider that this country, Cuba, as suspended by the OAS.” He was clearly suggesting that Cuba is not worthy of its sovereignty or readmission to the OAS. Cuba remains suspended from the OAS under U.S. pressure since 1962. Ignoring opposition from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, Powell continued his assertions at the OAS. One could not ignore the parallel between this and the U.S. manoeuvres orchestrated at the United Nations and at the League of Arab Nations in its attempt to isolate Iraq before the invasion.
The challenge here is to decipher if this announcement is a part of the long-standing historical diatribes, agitation and aggression by the U.S. towards Cuba. Or is it a surge of new hostility under way for Latin America in general, and Cuba in particular, from the Bush administration? Juxtaposing its latest announcement on Cuba with the pre-emptive patterns and strategies employed on Afghanistan and Iraq, one must ask if this is another theatre of the “war on terror” and “regime change” in the works for the continuation of the U.S. war pathology. Or is it to fuel anti-communist, anti-Cuban sentiments and raise fear among the U.S. public in order to launch yet another war, with the Florida constituents, who played a decisive role in the key State of Florida in the last U.S. federal election (since it was the U.S. Supreme Court which decided in favour of Bush over Al Gore in that election, and not the U.S. citizens, as a democracy would call for) at heart? Most likely it is all of the above and more.
In an election year, the Bush-Powell malice and shameless plan for Cuba would please Florida’s Governor and the President’s brother, Jeb Bush, and his anti-Castro Cuban-American constituents. Florida is expected to be the swing vote in the next U.S. presidential election. Bush in his October 10 announcement reiterated that the U.S. would tighten the American travel embargo (this is in direct defiance of the U.S. House of Representatives’ and Senate’s decision wherein the Senate voted 59-36 to bar the use of government funds to enforce the current travel restrictions to Cuba), and also crack down on illegal cash transfers to Cuba.
He also announced plans to increase the number of visas for Cuban immigrants to the U.S. and said that aggressive campaigns would be undertaken to inform Cubans about safer routes to reach the U.S. Bush said that his administration would increase U.S. radio and television, satellite and Internet broadcasts to Cuba to break the “information embargo” that President Castro has in place to protect his nation from the U.S. meddling in its internal affairs. Bush also indicated that he was setting up a “Commission for Assistance in a Free Cuba to plan for the day when communism would collapse”.
These tactics undoubtedly mean that Guantanamo Bay will become the headquarters of Operation Free Cuba. Commercial flights will operate from there for fleeing Cubans, and radio and television satellites directed at Cuba will be set up. Its growing capacity as a military launch pad cannot be ignored either.
Such grandiose political inflection of the New American Empire’s expansionist mission for the world becomes even more evident if one simply replaces Cuba with Iraq in Bush’s statement. The wording will echo his Iraq war forespeak and strategies. As for “weapons of mass destruction”, in Cuba’s case it is the manufacturing of biological weapons. One must not forget that in May 2002 former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize that same year, made a landmark visit to Cuba after the U.S. made allegations about Cuba’s biological weapons. His trip included tours to scientific centres that were allegedly producing these weapons, but he found no evidence for the allegations. Carter is the first former U.S. President to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power.
If one compiles the nourishing of the anti-Cuban sentiments within the U.S. before the 2004 elections; the reach into Cuba with radio/television facilitated by the Guantanamo Bay satellite dishes; the continued support for anti-Castro Cuban dissidents; the economic positioning of the U.S. in Latin America; the diplomatic venture at the OAS led by Powell; the military strategy related to allegations of biological weapons manufacture; the recent overt and covert U.S. operations to destabilise Latin American governments (such as those in Venezuela and Colombia) which raise eyebrows at the U.S.; and the punitive actions against those that supports Cuba; the similarities to the pre-Iraq invasion tactics become rather plain.
YET one would think that the Bush administration would be a bit more gun-shy and cautious of defending the “democracy and freedom” in Cuba given the historical record of failed U.S. attempts in Cuba, which is just 90 miles (about 145 km) across the Florida Strait. Since the 1820s, Cuba has been targeted by U.S. administrations as a state that needed to be controlled because of its geographical proximity to the U.S. The latest U.S. plans for Cuba – 42 years after the Bay of Pigs debacle of the John F. Kennedy/Lyndon B. Johnson administration – shows that the U.S. will persist with its aggression towards Cuba. The arrogance, ignorance and incompetence displayed by the Kennedy/Johnson administration towards Castro’s revolution have not informed the Bush- Powell administration well enough. What awaits them in Cuba and Latin America at large is underestimated. As the U.S. queers the pitch for an economic and military aggression on Cuba and Latin America, the resistance of the targets grows.
By now it is clear that the U.S.’ continued slander of President Castro as a fanatic, totalitarian dictator is no different from their accusations against Saddam Hussein. In the latter case they managed to convince their allies and most U.S. citizens. And they may do it again in Castro’s case. Nevertheless, what is the real angst that the U.S. has about Cuba? There is only one answer – Cuba’s resilience. For such a small nation it has been remarkably ardent in its continued resistance against the U.S. in spite of economic embargos that threatened to strangle its fragile economy; denial of essential medical supplies; military threats; and diplomatic haranguing. Cuba has stood tall against American dominance of the world for well over four decades. It had taken the leadership mantle in the Non-Aligned Movement to oppose the war on Iraq and to lead the struggle against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Finally, it survived the collapse of the Soviet Union. Further, Cuba has rallied social movements and their intellectuals behind its efforts. Cuba recently hosted the 21st Assembly of the Latin American Social Science Council (CLACSO), a network of research institutions, in Havana. Castro opened the session. Prominent leftist intellectuals with international profiles, such as Perry Anderson, Noam Chomsky, Eric Toussaint, Samir Amin and Robert Dahl (Professor Emeritus on Latin America, Yale University), attended the conference. Among the many significant Latin American intellectuals and leaders of social movements were Atilio Boron (Argentina), Ana Cecena and Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (both Mexico) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). The respect that Fidel Castro has earned in resisting U.S. efforts to annex the Latin American continent is phenomenal. Cuba has without doubt been a huge blow to the American ego.
What then is in reserve for the U.S. if it continues this aggression beyond covert operations in Cuba? The Bush administration will have to contend with the U.S. Congress and the Senate, and also an ever- growing resilience in Latin America itself. Large, influential nations such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are supported by populations that have clearly articulated a growing resistance to U.S. economic, military and political dominance in their countries and in the region. The recent developments in Bolivia (where the President was forced to resign in October and take refuge in Miami like many other U.S.- supporting leaders in Latin America who endorsed the neo-liberal agenda), have been seen by Latin American left analysts and intellectuals as a trajectory of political shifts yet to come. All these developments go to say that Cuba is not alone in its battle against the U.S. Empire.
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