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Cuba after the 2004 US elections


Translated by Barbara and David Forbes.

In November 2004, George Bush was easily re-elected to the presidency of the United States for a further four years, with the largest majority of votes in the history of the country. This election does not augur at all well for relations between Havana and Washington. The aggressive US policy towards Cuba has followed its course, true to its declared objectives of wiping out the social system on the island. In addition to its international propaganda campaign, the Bush administration has increased its quite brazen activities aimed at further harassing the Cuban population. (1)

The new economic sanctions imposed in May 2004 by Colin Powell’s Report have cruelly affected the Cuban islanders as well as US citizens of Cuban origin. For example, family visits of citizens residing in the USA have been limited to one trip to Cuba every three years, which has led to such tragic situations as that of Emma Cruz. Mrs Cruz, a 74-year-old resident of Miami, was not given permission to go to the bedside of her 49-year-old daughter Irma Rodales, who was suffering from terminal cancer and who lived in Cuba. Ms Rodales died of her illness on 22nd July 2004 without her mother being able to join her in her last moments. The Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department rejected Mrs Cruz’s request to travel without even deigning to reply to her urgent application. (2) Many similar family tragedies have arisen in the USA and have run up against the pitiless indifference of the Washington authorities.

This distressing affair only serves to reveal a little more of the determination of the Bush administration to reduce the revolutionary Cuban project to ashes. Mrs Cruz is still waiting for permission from the Treasury Department to be able, finally, to visit her daughter’s grave and share her grief with her grand-children. ” There’s a lot of talk about humanity here, but I haven’t seen it anywhere, ” she said despairingly. (3)

Following the establishment of the measures decreed in the report ” Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba “, a C-130 Commando Solo military aircraft was provided permanently for the transmission of the existing subversive programmes of Radio and TV Martí, set up to foment illegal emigration to the USA. (4) Washington’s strategy is very clear and pursues a logical course. First of all, the fresh outbreak of economic sanctions brings in its wake serious difficulties for the Cubans on the island, who are only allowed to receive severely limited amounts of money from their relatives who live in the USA. (5) Following this, the number of visas granted by the Section of North American Interests in Havana to those hoping to emigrate legally has been considerably reduced, in violation of the 1994 agreement signed by then President Bill Clinton, which allows for the granting of 20 000 visas annually. (6) Finally, the Radio and TV Martí programmes are inciting illegal emigration by invoking the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which allows automatic right of permanent residence for every Cuban who reaches US soil. (7)

Contrary to appearances, this plan is far from irrational. In fact, in addition to the propaganda potential which illegal economic emigration can provide – which the international press will hasten to describe with great pomposity as “the flight from a totalitarian regime towards liberty ” – this strategy is intended to lead on to an armed intervention of US troops in Cuba. Washington has explicitly threatened Cuba with military reprisals if there is a fresh flow of migrants to the USA. Assistant Secretary of State at the Department of American Affairs, Roger Noriega, Cuban born and close to the extreme and ultra-conservative right-wing in Florida, has made the following remark:  ” We have already told the Cuban government that the USA will consider any attempt to manipulate or provoke a massive emigration towards our shores as a threat to their national security. “

The possible election of John Kerry to the presidency, even though a departure from the fanatical and fundamentalist approach of the Bush administration, would not have brought any major changes in Washington’s policy towards Cuba which, in any case, only reflects the continuity of an imperialist process going back more than two centuries. In fact Mr. Kerry, carried away by his election bid, denounced the Havana government which, in his opinion, constitutes ” a great obstacle to the triumph of democracy ” in Latin America. Mr. Kerry is not fundamentally wrong, if we bother to translate the aforesaid rhetoric going back to 1959. In fact, Cuba does constitute ” a great obstacle ” … to US hegemony on the continent. And this remains unacceptable to Washington. (9)

Meanwhile, Cuban extremists such as Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), have not hesitated to strategically invade the Democrat camp in order to be sure that if Kerry were to be elected, he would remain loyal to the aggressive and interventionist policies currently in force against Cuba. Mr. Garcia, who had openly taken a stand against the recent measures announced by the Bush clan, is currently a member of the Democrat Party, within which he carries out intense lobbying in favour of maintaining the unilateral sanctions against the Cuban people. (10)

CANF has openly given its support to its former executive director, hence Jorge Mas Santos, the CANF president, has admitted that it is purely a question of strategy: ” We don’t want the extreme left of the Democratic Party to guide the Cuba policy or thinking on Cuba. It is important to keep all the bases covered because we don’t know who is going to win in November and we can’t be so irresponsible as to put Cuba’s fate in the hands of one person or one party.” (11)

As for Secretary of state Colin Powell, he has not lagged behind.  According to him, Castro (which in the US political-diplomacy language is equal to ” the Cuban Revolution”) ” has never stopped being a problem ” for the American hemisphere. (12) The State Department has even accused the Cuban government of fomenting subversion in Columbia and Venezuela by referring to ” the presence of a number of senior Cuban personnel ” in Hugo Chavez’s country. Mr. Powell’s spokesperson, Richard Boucher, obviously failed to point out that the personnel in question was entirely made up of doctors and teachers who worked in the most impoverished parts of the afore-mentioned country. Apparently, whatever the outcome of the presidential election, Washington’s aggression towards Cuba will always be the main axis of relations between the two countries. (13)

The war which the current US administration is carrying out against the Cubans is also an intellectual one. In fact, any academic, scientific and cultural writings and studies carried out in Cuba are immediately placed on a black-list and are forbidden in the USA, because they fall within the framework of the economic sanctions. This aspect is completely ignored by the international press which, on the other hand, never fails to condemn  ” thought monopoly ” in the Cuban island. A group of US authors and publishers, wishing to publish their works which had been written in Cuba, has initiated court proceedings against the Treasury Department about the application of these measures, but without any great chance of success. ” There should not be an embargo on ideas “, Janet Francendense, the director of the Temple University Press, said on this matter.(14)

Several publishing groups such as the Association of American Publishers/Professional/ Scholarly Publishing Division (AAP/PSP), the Association of American University Presses and Arcade Publishing are the plaintiffs in the court action which is taking place in New York.  ” How can the USA support our position as a beacon of free exchange of ideas and science if we ourselves are censoring authors because of where they come from ? ” asked Marc Brodsky, president of the AAP/PSP. (14)

In October 2004, the State Department refused to grant visas to around 65 Cuban university lecturers who had been invited to take part in the annual reunion of the Latin-American Studies Association (LASA) which took place in Las Vegas 7th-9th October 2004. This was unprecedented and marked the virtual point of no return reached by the Bush clan in their anti-Cuban fanaticism. In the past, the State Department had already refused to allow visas to individual university lecturers but never to a whole delegation. ” It is the first time that this has happened, ” declared Michael Erisman, professor of the Department of Political Science at the State University of Indiana. The approaches made by LASA towards the politicians in charge have not been successful, despite the mobilisation of a large sector of the US academic world and some Republican and Democrat Members of Congress. ” I think this is a most appalling decision “, emphasised Uva de Aragón, vice-director of the Institute for Cuban Studies at Florida International University (FIU). “Forbidding the meeting with Cuban lecturers, in this academic context, does not encourage the exchange of ideas which is so important for Cuba ” she regretted. (16)

The US government justified its decision on the grounds that the university staff were civil servants of the Cuban state. The spokesperson of the State Department Richard Boucher explained with a completely straight face that they represented a threat to the USA. ” We think that it is not consistent with our interests, ” he said. ” It is not appropriate that this group of Cuban government civil servants – university lecturers – should come to a conference to spread their party line, ” Mr. Boucher warned. (17)

This decision has an internal significance in the strategy to destabilize Cuban society. In fact, the propaganda and misinformation campaign launched by Washington and the Cuban extreme right in Florida knows no limits and is religiously relayed by the media multi-nationals. It is convenient for the US authorities to keep their own population stuck in this ideological fog, which allows them to legitimize their arbitrary harassment of the Cuban people. All interaction between the two peoples is damaging for the imperial manœuvre which, to succeed, has to keep US public opinion in complete ignorance on matters concerning the Cuban situation. That explains why US citizens do not have the right to visit Cuba, contrary to the constitution of their country, for fear of being prosecuted and sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment. The Cuban university staff risked showing up the tactics of the Bush administration, hence this refusal.

The crude campaigns of media hype launched against Cuba have a range of varied attacks at their disposal. One of the accusations offered by Washington has consisted of describing the island as a dangerous centre of proliferation of biological weapons. However, a study undertaken in Cuba by experts from the Washington-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) concluded that the accusations of the US authorities were without foundation. There was ” not a single piece of evidence to confirm this allegation ” declared John Tucker, a CNS researcher. (18)

The dissidence industry, established by Washington and by James Cason, chief of the Havana Section for North American Interests, has clearly demonstrated its limitations. In fact, the groups of ” human rights activists “, as the international press ceremoniously describes those opportunists who, for a fistful of dollars, have no hesitation in endangering the lives of their fellow-citizens and the sovereignty of their own nation, are tearing each other apart. Elizardo San Pedro Marín, a ” dissident “, has been accused by his fellows in the same business of being a paid agent of the Cuban government. His links with the terrorist organisation Alpha 66, whose director Andrés Nazario Sargén died on 6th October 2004 at the age of 88 (19) have not prevented his colleagues from launching diatribes against him. (20)

The reasons for this scandal affecting the ” professional dissidents ” probably arise from the problem of dividing the funds received from abroad. In fact, several ” members of civil society ” have complained that they have not received the remuneration promised for their activities, and have accused their associates of not distributing the funds raised in an equitable way.

The unfortunate fall of Cuban president Fidel Castro during a ceremony at Santa Clara was the object of an amazing and unprecedented media storm. The pictures went round the world and streams of ink flowed in the editorial offices of the main international newspapers for several days. There was general and irrational jubilation, embellished by speculation which was as scattered as it was preposterous. (21) At the same time, Washington refused to allow a Dutch company, Intervet, to sell a vaccine vital in the battle against cancer to Cuban sufferers from this illness, because the remedy contained 10% of an antigene produced in the USA. Not a word of this was reported in the international press. This fact indicates the low level of intellectual freedom and ethical scruples reached by western society, in an age when cynicism has been raised to the status of a virtue. (22)

 

Notes

1 Salim Lamrani, “Propaganda War Against Cuba: The Prague Summit”, ZNet, 9th November 2004. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=54&ItemID=6612 (site consulted 10th November 2004).

2 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, ” Fuerte impacto de las medidas de Bush en los viajes a Cuba “, El Nuevo Herald, 4th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9828423.htm (site consulted 5th October 2004).

3 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, ” Demora en permiso empide a madre ver a su hija moribunda en Cuba “, 4th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9828333.htm (site consulted 5th October 2004).

4 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, May 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (site consulted 7th May 2004).

5 Ibid.

6 Felipe Pérez Roque, Nous ne comptons pas renoncer à notre souveraineté, Conférence de presse offerte par le ministre des Relations extérieures de la République de Cuba le 9 avril 2003 (La Havane : Editora Política, 2003), pp. 20-21.

7 Department of State ” Cuban Adjustment Act “, Public Law 89-732, 2 novembre 1966, Office of Cuban Affairs, Bureau of Western Hemisphere. www.usembassy.state.gov/havana/wwwhact.html (site consulted le 28th January 2003).

8 Pablo Alfonso, ” Washington advierte a Cuba que no tolerará nueva ola de balseros “, El Nuevo Herald, 2nd October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9814351.htm (site consulted 2nd October 2004).

9 El Nuevo Herald, ” Kerry ataca a Castro y responde a Powell “, 7th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9853176.htm (site consulted 7th  October 2004).

10 Karl Ross, ” Exile : President Bush Has Failed to Bring Democracy to Cuba “, The Miami Herald, 22nd September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9729520.htm (site consulted 25th September 2004).

11 Cuban American National Foundation, ” Executive Director of CANF Leaves to Join Democrats “, September 2004. www.canf.org/2004/principal-ingles.htm (site consulted 25th September 2004).

12 El Nuevo Herald, ” Preocupa a Washington papel de Castro en Venezuela y Colombia “, 10th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/98804440.htm (site consulter 11th October 2004).

13 Warren P. Strobel, ” Castro Still a Problem, Powell Says “, The Miami Herald, 8th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9864385.htm (site consulted 25th September 2004).

14 Christina Hoag, ” Suit’s Topic : Ban On Cuban Books “, The Miami Herald, 28th September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9775614.htm (site consulted 29th September 2004).

15 Christina Hoag, ” Quieren levantar el embargo sobre libros cubanos “, El Nuevo Herald, 28th September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9775614.htm (site consulted 29th September 2004).

16 Pablo Alfonso, ” Niegan las visas a 64 académicos cubanos “, El Nuevo Herald, 30th September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9793751.htm (site consulted 30t hSeptember 2004).

17 El Nuevo Herald, ” Firme Washington en su negativa de visas “, 8th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9862970.htm (site consulted 30th September 2004).

18 Nancy San Martin, ” No Evidence Cuba Working on Bioweapons, Expert Says “, The Miami Herald, 22nd October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9982994.htm (site consulted 23rd October 2004).

19 Elaine de Valle, ” Anti-Castro Group Leader Dies “, The Miami Herald, 8th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9982994.htm (site consulted 9th October 2004).

20 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, ” Afirman que disidente es un espía castrista “, El Nuevo Herald, 29th September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9784462.htm (site consulted 30th September 2004).

21 Mary Jordan, ” Castro Falls, but Says He’s ‘in One Piece’ “, The Washington Post, 22nd October 2004 : A16.

22 Granma Internacional, ” Estados Unidos impide la venta de vacunas a Cuba “, 12th October 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/octubre/mar12/42venta-e.html (site consulted 13th October 2004).

 

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