Superpower in war against Cuba for 50 years

Excerpted from Hegemony or Survival, Metropolitan Books, 2003

The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro’s guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. “During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by exiled Cubans” based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances. Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his “assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba.” Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.

Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

For Cuba, the schemes devised by the doves were similar to those of CIA director Dulles. Warning President Kennedy about the “inevitable political and diplomatic fall-out” from the planned invasion of Cuba by a proxy army, Arthur Schlesinger suggested efforts to trap Castro in some action that could be used as a pretext for invasion: “One can conceive a black operation in, say, Haiti which might in time lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men on to a Haitian beach in what could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime, . . . then the moral issue would be clouded, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start.” Reference is to the regime of the murderous dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, which was backed by the US (with some reservations), so that an effort to help Haitians overthrow it would be a crime.

Eisenhower’s March 1960 plan called for the overthrow of Castro in favor of a regime “more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.,” including support for “military operation on the island” and “development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba.” Intelligence reported that popular support for Castro was high, but the US would determine the “true interests of the Cuban people.” The regime change was to be carried out “in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention,” because of the anticipated reaction in Latin America and the problems of doctrinal management at home.

Operation Mongoose

The Bay of Pigs invasion came a year later, in April 1961, after Kennedy had taken office. It was authorized in an atmosphere of “hysteria” over Cuba in the White House, Robert McNamara later testified before the Senate’s Church Committee. At the first cabinet meeting after the failed invasion, the atmosphere was “almost savage,” Chester Bowles noted privately: “there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program.” At an NSC meeting two days later, Bowles found the atmosphere “almost as emotional” and was struck by “the great lack of moral integrity” that prevailed. The mood was reflected in Kennedy’s public pronouncements: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong . . . can possibly survive,” he told the country, sounding a theme that would be used to good effect by the Reaganites during their own terrorist wars. Kennedy was aware that allies “think that we’re slightly demented” on the subject of Cuba, a perception that persists to the present.

Kennedy implemented a crushing embargo that could scarcely be endured by a small country that had become a “virtual colony” of the US in the sixty years following its “liberation” from Spain. He also ordered an intensification of the terrorist campaign: “He asked his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The terrorist campaign was “no laughing matter,” Jorge Dominguez writes in a review of recently declassified materials on operations under Kennedy, materials that are “heavily sanitized” and “only the tip of the iceberg,” Piero Gleijeses adds.

Operation Mongoose was “the centerpiece of American policy toward Cuba from late 1961 until the onset of the 1962 missile crisis,” Mark White reports, the program on which the Kennedy brothers “came to pin their hopes.” Robert Kennedy informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “the top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The chief of Mongoose operations, Edward Lansdale, provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that US military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted.

In February 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan more extreme than Schlesinger’s: to use “covert means . . . to lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate, into an overt hostile reaction against the United States; a reaction which would in turn create the justification for the US to not only retaliate but destroy Castro with speed, force and determination.” In March, at the request of the DOD Cuba Project, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a memorandum to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara outlining “pretexts which they would consider would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.” The plan would be undertaken if “a credible internal revolt is impossible of attainment during the next 9-10 months,” but before Cuba could establish relations with Russia that might “directly involve the Soviet Union.”

A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.

The March plan was to construct “seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and responsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States,” placing the US “in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances [and developing] an international image of Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.” Proposed measures included blowing up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay to create “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident,” publishing casualty lists in US newspapers to “cause a helpful wave of national indignation,” portraying Cuban investigations as “fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack,” developing a “Communist Cuban terror campaign [in Florida] and even in Washington,” using Soviet bloc incendiaries for cane-burning raids in neighboring countries, shooting down a drone aircraft with a pretense that it was a charter flight carrying college students on a holiday, and other similarly ingenious schemes — not implemented, but another sign of the “frantic” and “savage” atmosphere that prevailed.

On August 23 the president issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. A few weeks later came “the most dangerous moment in human history.”

“A bad press in some friendly countries”

Terrorist operations continued through the tensest moments of the missile crisis. They were formally canceled on October 30, several days after the Kennedy and Khrushchev agreement, but went on nonetheless. On November 8, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers, according to the Cuban government. Raymond Garthoff writes that “the Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba.” These and other actions reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.”

After the crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by US proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that “only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents . . . might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.” The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.”

Terrorist activities continued under Nixon, peaking in the mid- 1970s, with attacks on fishing boats, embassies, and Cuban offices overseas, and the bombing of a Cubana airliner, killing all seventy-three passengers. These and subsequent terrorist operations were carried out from US territory, though by then they were regarded as criminal acts by the FBI.

So matters proceeded, while Castro was condemned by editors for maintaining an “armed camp, despite the security from attack promised by Washington in 1962.” The promise should have sufficed, despite what followed; not to speak of the promises that preceded, by then well documented, along with information about how well they could be trusted: e.g., the “Lodge moment” of July 1960.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the missile crisis, Cuba protested a machine-gun attack against a Spanish-Cuban tourist hotel; responsibility was claimed by a group in Miami. Bombings in Cuba in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist, were traced back to Miami. The perpetrators were Salvadoran criminals operating under the direction of Luis Posada Carriles and financed in Miami. One of the most notorious international terrorists, Posada had escaped from a Venezuelan prison, where he had been held for the Cubana airliner bombing, with the aid of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami businessman who was the head of the tax-exempt Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). Posada went from Venezuela to El Salvador, where he was put to work at the Ilopango military air base to help organize US terrorist attacks against Nicaragua under Oliver North’s direction.

Posada has described in detail his terrorist activities and the funding for them from exiles and CANF in Miami, but felt secure that he would not be investigated by the FBI. He was a Bay of Pigs veteran, and his subsequent operations in the 1960s were directed by the CIA. When he later joined Venezuelan intelligence with CIA help, he was able to arrange for Orlando Bosch, an associate from his CIA days who had been convicted in the US for a bomb attack on a Cuba-bound freighter, to join him in Venezuela to organize further attacks against Cuba. An ex-CIA official familiar with the Cubana bombing identifies Posada and Bosch as the only suspects in the bombing, which Bosch defended as “a legitimate act of war.” Generally considered the “mastermind” of the airline bombing, Bosch was responsible for thirty other acts of terrorism, according to the FBI. He was granted a presidential pardon in 1989 by the incoming Bush I administration after intense lobbying by Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders, overruling the Justice Department, which had found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch [because] the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists.”

Economic warfare

Cuban offers to cooperate in intelligence-sharing to prevent terrorist attacks have been rejected by Washington, though some did lead to US actions. “Senior members of the FBI visited Cuba in 1998 to meet their Cuban counterparts, who gave [the FBI] dossiers about what they suggested was a Miami-based terrorist network: information which had been compiled in part by Cubans who had infiltrated exile groups.” Three months later the FBI arrested Cubans who had infiltrated the US-based terrorist groups. Five were sentenced to long terms in prison.

The national security pretext lost whatever shreds of credibility it might have had after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though it was not until 1998 that US intelligence officially informed the country that Cuba no longer posed a threat to US national security. The Clinton administration, however, insisted that the military threat posed by Cuba be reduced to “negligible,” but not completely removed. Even with this qualification, the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

In fairness, however, it should be recognized that missiles in Cuba did pose a threat. In private discussions the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba might deter a US invasion of Venezuela. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

The Bush I administration reacted to the elimination of the security pretext by making the embargo much harsher, under pressure from Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right during the 1992 election campaign. Economic warfare was made still more stringent in 1996, causing a furor even among the closest US allies. The embargo came under considerable domestic criticism as well, on the grounds that it harms US exporters and investors — the embargo’s only victims, according to the standard picture in the US; Cubans are unaffected. Investigations by US specialists tell a different story. Thus, a detailed study by the American Association for World Health concluded that the embargo had severe health effects, and only Cuba’s remarkable health care system had prevented a “humanitarian catastrophe”; this has received virtually no mention in the US.

The embargo has effectively barred even food and medicine. In 1999 the Clinton administration eased such sanctions for all countries on the official list of “terrorist states,” apart from Cuba, singled out for unique punishment. Nevertheless, Cuba is not entirely alone in this regard. After a hurricane devastated West Indian islands in August 1980, President Carter refused to allow any aid unless Grenada was excluded, as punishment for some unspecified initiatives of the reformist Maurice Bishop government. When the stricken countries refused to agree to Grenada’s exclusion, having failed to perceive the threat to survival posed by the nutmeg capital of the world, Carter withheld all aid. Similarly, when Nicaragua was struck by a hurricane in October 1988, bringing starvation and causing severe ecological damage, the current incumbents in Washington recognized that their terrorist war could benefit from the disaster, and therefore refused aid, even to the Atlantic Coast area with close links to the US and deep resentment against the Sandinistas. They followed suit when a tidal wave wiped out Nicaraguan fishing villages, leaving hundreds dead and missing in September 1992. In this case, there was a show of aid, but hidden in the small print was the fact that apart from an impressive donation of $25,000, the aid was deducted from assistance already scheduled. Congress was assured, however, that the pittance of aid would not affect the administration’s suspension of over $100 million of aid because the US-backed Nicaraguan government had failed to demonstrate a sufficient degree of subservience.

US economic warfare against Cuba has been strongly condemned in virtually every relevant international forum, even declared illegal by the Judicial Commission of the normally compliant Organization of American States. The European Union called on the World Trade Organization to condemn the embargo. The response of the Clinton administration was that “Europe is challenging ‘three decades of American Cuba policy that goes back to the Kennedy Administration,’ and is aimed entirely at forcing a change of government in Havana.” The administration also declared that the WTO has no competence to rule on US national security or to compel the US to change its laws. Washington then withdrew from the proceedings, rendering the matter moot.

Successful defiance

The reasons for the international terrorist attacks against Cuba and the illegal economic embargo are spelled out in the internal record. And no one should be surprised to discover that they fit a familiar pattern — that of Guatemala a few years earlier, for example.

From the timing alone, it is clear that concern over a Russian threat could not have been a major factor. The plans for forceful regime change were drawn up and implemented before there was any significant Russian connection, and punishment was intensified after the Russians disappeared from the scene. True, a Russian threat did develop, but that was more a consequence than a cause of US terrorism and economic warfare.

In July 1961 the CIA warned that “the extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which Castro’s Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.” The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union “hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation.” The dangers of the “Castro idea” are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes” and “the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: “The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half.” To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, “Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America.” International terrorism and economic warfare to bring about regime change are justified not by what Cuba does, but by its “very existence,” its “successful defiance” of the proper master of the hemisphere. Defiance may justify even more violent actions, as in Serbia, as quietly conceded after the fact; or Iraq, as also recognized when pretexts had collapsed.

Outrage over defiance goes far back in American history. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson bitterly condemned France for its “attitude of defiance” in holding New Orleans, which he coveted. Jefferson warned that France’s “character [is] placed in a point of eternal friction with our character, which though loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is high-minded.” France’s “defiance [requires us to] marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation,” Jefferson advised, reversing his earlier attitudes, which reflected France’s crucial contribution to the liberation of the colonies from British rule. Thanks to Haiti’s liberation struggle, unaided and almost universally opposed, France’s defiance soon ended, but the guiding principles remain in force, determining friend and foe.


  1. avatar
    Antonio Carty November 30, 2016 1:16 pm 

    Thank You Noam.
    Over 600 assassination attempts against Fidel Castro is a bizarre & misleadingly focused bit of true exotica sometimes reported & commented upon. But here is the shocking facts of a brutal murderous terrorist campaign led and sponsored for over 5 decades against all the people of Cuba by the United States of America’s leaders and agencies. Internationally highly respected researcher Noam Chomsky lists the true story of a war OF terror against the people of a brave and enduring tiny nation. That has rightly earned a huge place in the hearts & minds of the world community.

    In Ireland’s year of commemorating our own brave and audacious rising that began to crumble the lies of a brutal empire, anyone vacillating about ‘whether or no’ to acknowledge a solidarity with Fidel Castro should read the truth of what they have been and are up against.

    • avatar
      James November 30, 2016 9:31 pm 

      Not sure if it’s about solidarity with Castro. I would prefer solidarity with the Cuban people. Solidarity with the idea of a true participatory society where decisions are made by all in proportion to the degree they are effected. Solidarity with the idea of economic decisions made through federated councils, consumers and workers, in mutual cooperation rather than centrally planned. Where political decisions are made via the same participatory structures and where the cultural and kinship spheres are equally determining and determined factors. Where leaders and experts are helpful figures but nothing much more.

      I’ll pass the pedestal with maybe a glance to see who’s casting the shadow and move on towards the light thanks.

      • avatar
        Antonio Carty December 1, 2016 5:25 am 

        They’ve been under siege, you’re ignoring the massive evidence of what they where up against. (Documented here above.) It wasn’t an undisturbed canvas or blog where they could pick an open democracy and not have it usurped like all the other nations around them where. Look at Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras all of them really. Coups & pretend USA fund for democracy protests that can then be used to allow a coup. The USA did & does not allow democracy to such small nations.
        The Cuban revolution fought to protect what was the essential. While under siege. Your ideal is disconnected from the reality they endured, it is the same what the USA & its terrorism against the Cuban people tried to pretend, that the only problem was a stubborn dictator and all the people the USA bombed and killed was Castro’s fault as they tried to emancipate and help the people and depose the dictator.
        Democracy would be better, Castro said so to, but if they did not face the USA terror, betrayal and coup. that is their reality, that was why they had a popular revolution, and all its faults are there in its actions to be judged, Castro acknowledged them, but the reason is the unacknowledged fact of terrorist siege.
        Arguments that happily isolate Fidel Castro from the reality he & the Cuban People faced, are content to ignore the 5 decades of terror & strangulation of blockade that beset them for their popular revolution.
        The sincerity and ingenuity of that revolution can be seen so clearly in the wealth of education, healthcare employment and professions & cultural, sport & sciences their priorities and combined efforts produced. It can be seen to in all the African nations and other American ones that thank it.
        Thats an odd dictatorship.

        • avatar
          James December 1, 2016 9:46 am 

          No, you are wrong. I’m not an idiot. (Well….) I am well aware of all the things you say. I am well aware of the history leading up to the Rev, and subsequent to it (although my memory is terrible). I’ve read Chomsky on this before over the years. It doesn’t change my position on Castro. I realise the historical contingencies and historical interpretations are many. That ain’t my point. I’m not interested in the figure of Fidel. There are always gains. Gains and losses. Gains you’d expect and want. Gains that are always hard fought for considering the considerable outside pressure applied to revert back to business as usual, which is always about “business” and not people. But I’m not interested in Fidel. Clap him if ya want, and if you’re Cuban, although many Cuban anarchists would not, and say thanks and shit, but then yank him down off the pedestal and get on with building a more participatory society, without the market creep and central command economy and shit.

          Look, you can do the history thing, become a scholar, read N Chomsky, and A Chomsky and hundreds of others, but the pedestal thing…kick it over. Jesus, it’s 2016. Or maybe one should do that here…go grab some assault rifles, grab a few willing participants, hide out in the Dandenongs training and shit, until the time is right, then move north slowly, and make an assault on Canberra. I’m not sure why the Aboriginal Tent Embassy hasn’t done that yet, come to think of it…perhaps because it would be friggin’ stupid.

          • avatar
            Antonio Carty December 2, 2016 2:52 am 

            I didnt call you an idiot James.

            The problem often is that people mis characterise what some one is saying to be what they want to talk about anyway. Its good to talk, but not to mis characterise what someone is saying.

            Happily I decided to read today what type of constitution and government Cuba has actually developed since 1959. Instead of taking those who have waged, promoted and supported the siege, murder and sabotage campaigns against it since 1959 for their word. The President is unelected. But besides this un democratic part seen as a safeguard for security from attack. In a country as we both understand, has faced all the vindictive bad will of its unfriendly superpower neighbour, as documented above, since 1959.

            Besides this the country has a Peoples Democracy instead of a Liberal Democracy. Here is a short explanation of how that works, the source is Ireland Cuba Solidarity & I did check the explanation with Wikipedia & it matches fairly, I think you will be surprised and perhaps happy to read its qualities. I was.

            Cuban Politics & Democracy

            Cuban elections are an authentic way for people to participate in the life of the nation, far from the glorified advertising campaigns that pass for elections in many countries.

            The Cuban electoral processes take place from the grassroots up in the selection of those who will represent the people at all the levels of government.

            Local elections are organized to select the municipal delegates (city council members), and general elections take place to choose provincial assembly delegates and the members of the national Parliament.

            According to Cuban law, these elections are called by the Council of State with no less than 120 days notice.

            A successful electoral experience that took place thirty years ago in Matanzas province led to a green light for setting up what are called the People’s Power government institutions. These are considered the highest form of truly representative and genuinely democratic government and provide the people with real institutional participation.

            An element that makes the Cuban electoral system unique is the way candidates are nominated, a process in which individuals nominate those who they think should be candidates.

            The process is not done in the name of Communist Party of Cuba or of any other political, mass or social organization, and takes place at urban and rural community meetings where residents select the nominees by raising their hands.

            During these meetings, participants propose candidates for the city councils based on their merits as citizens of the community, and their capacity to act as government representatives.
            In each electoral district the maximum number of candidates is eight with a minimum of two. From these, people elect by secret ballot the city council representative from their neighborhood or community.

            The correct functioning of the electoral system resides precisely in the high participation at local meetings. This an essential element of the Cuban democracy, sustained by a government of the people, by the people and for the people, as national hero, Jose Marti, and US President Abraham Lincoln proposed.

            Voting is not mandatory in Cuba, but it is a right of all eligible citizens, who when going to the polls have only to show their national identity card. According to Cuban law, only the mentally disabled and persons serving time in prisons are not allowed to vote.

            Among other aspects of interest to foreign observers is the fact that 16 year olds have the right to elect and be elected and that members of the armed institutions are also able to vote. In the case of the military the right to vote is unique in Latin America, with the exception of Venezuela in 2004.

            The absence of military patrols in the streets on election days is something that captures the attention of visiting members of parliaments and other public figures invited to observe elections taking place in Cuba.

            Military personnel are not on duty at the polling stations, because school children are the ones that guard the ballot boxes.

            At the very moment that elections are called, electoral commissions are created at the national, provincial and municipal levels, formed by citizens known for their praiseworthy work records.

            The only pre-condition to be a member of the electoral commissions is to have the right to vote.

            Electoral commissions are in charge of determining the electoral districts, they direct the nomination process and the choosing of candidates, and create the proper conditions for the electoral process to take place.

            Once the elections are completed they must organize the swearing in of the assemblies and their executive committees at the municipal, provincial and national levels.

            Voting is voluntary, secret and direct, and vote counting is done in public. Foreign diplomats and observers can also witness the process.
            In order to be elected, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the votes.

            Today’s Cuban electoral system is very different from the one that operated here prior to 1959, when the system of voter registration allowed for “miracles” such as deceased persons voting and for others to cast more than one ballot.

            Elderly Cubans recall the dirty tricks used by politicians who withheld voter registration documents, where you could read a statement saying that voting was mandatory for all citizens.

            The elector that didn’t vote could be fined and even banned from assuming government jobs or holding office.

            The ethical standards that are part of the Cuban electoral process today explicitly prohibit political campaigns to convince voters to choose a specific candidate or to attack the prestige of an opponent.

            The delegates, who form part of the municipal People’s Power Assemblies, have to provide voters with a yearly report of their activities and receive absolutely no payment for their work as council persons.

            In the elections of 2003 for example, voter turnout was 95.75 percent to elect the municipal and provincial delegates, and a 97.61 percent turnout when the elections for the national Parliament took place.

            The above figures contrast with the situation prevailing before 1959, when, for example, in 1944 Ramon Grau San Martin was elected President of Cuba with only a 44.71 voter’s turnout, and in 1954, a similar situation occurred when Fulgencio Batista was elected with only a 45.61 percent participation at the ballot boxes, this despite all the fraud that took place.

            The low abstention in Cuban elections compares very favorably with what happens in many so called First World elections. A shining example is the United States of America, where in order to elect George W. Bush as President in the year 2000, only thirty seven percent of voting age citizens went to the polls, in one of the lowest voter turnouts of recent years.

            Here is a link to the site I took this from:

            Trumpeting the line that Cuba doesn’t have the right type of Democracy & that it has a brutal dictator is not supporting the Cuban People as you wish, it is supporting the strategy of the superpower who as we know from the facts has been murdering, blockading, sabotaging & trying to punish the Cuban People into giving up and submitting for 57 cowardly & criminal years, despite every other nation except Israel been against the blockade ect.

            I am glad I finally just read what type of Democracy Cuba has.

            And who ever has read this far, I’m glad you did to!

            Viva Cuba & its Peoples Revolution & Independence.

              • avatar
                Antonio Carty December 2, 2016 3:36 pm 

                My comment on Peter’s blog you have linked to I will give here as well.

                Fidel did acknowledge the wrongness of imprisoning gay people. I have heard and read interviews where he acknowledged things that where wrong and where learnt from. Cuban people are critical of many problems in their system. Much is still far from right in their besieged tiny nation. But Peter’s blog paints a dark dictatorial un democratic oppressive and corrupt picture. He even tries to suggest Cuba’s doctors giving their practical life saving human aid to other poor countries is a sinister form of soft power and a crime against the Cuban people. He says he is aware of their besieged state under attack from USA superpower but yet this adversity doesn’t figure in his understanding of the way they have had to have security mixed with democratic freedom. Perhaps the USA’s war of terror and subversion against Cuba’s people is just ‘romanticism & hagiography’ of a left that doesn’t believe in the simplicity of having a democracy in the free world?! He ignores the colossal adverse obstacle and danger they’ve lived, endured & created exemplary human achievements to overcome with little or nothing but human effort and lectures this country that has had to live in a real world of violent back yard capitalism while trying to enact a peoples revolution. The Castro family is not wealthy, they don’t have foreign bank accounts. Some generals where corrupt & stealing from people and they where exposed and executed.

                Here is a quote from Richard Gott’s recent article in Guardian & on Znet. “Castro’s revolution was a remarkably peaceful process, apart from a number of Batista’s henchmen shot in the first weeks. Some revolutionary enthusiasts of the first generation could not stomach the government’s leftward drift, and swaths of the professional middle class left for Miami, but the revolution did not “eat its children”. Much of the inner group around Castro survived into old age.”


                also I found Aviva Chomsky’s interview to give a good perspective on Cuba’s history in this world.


                I was vaguely aware of Cuba having a form of participatory people led democracy but happily I decided to read today what type of constitution and government Cuba has actually developed since 1959. The rest is written in my comment perhaps un read above.

                I am glad I finally just read what type of Democracy Cuba has.

                I will add for emphassis that I hope others will to, as Cuba becomes more dangerously vulnerable than ever to the malice and murderous danger of its Superpower neigbour’s new fascist leader & his facilitation of all violent and anti democratic organisations and lobbies in the USA.

            • avatar
              James December 2, 2016 10:38 pm 

              “Others will see the situation differently. But those who think that having the audacity to criticize dictatorship, the death penalty, and violations of political liberty more broadly is somehow casting aside radical commitment and aligning with imperialism, ought to think twice.” (M. Albert, June 2003)

  2. Barry Wood November 28, 2016 2:45 pm 

    This report illustrates that the past, and present, USA administrations were, and still are, anti-democratic and the World’s No. 1 terrorist!

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