Cubans Benefit from Obama’s Self-Interest

Cubans Benefit from Obama’s Self-Interest

(a shorter version appeared in the January 5, 2015 Victoria Standard)

The cynicism behind Obama’s decision to lift the crippling U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is unstated but the move was overdue. According to reports by the Pew Research Centre, “While Obama should certainly be lauded for putting an end to an utterly disastrous embargo on Cuba; it's not exceptionally politically ambitious. The public was ahead of the curve on this issue… Latinos and Americans overall are also generally supportive of thawing the Cold War freeze on Cuban-U.S. relations. The [Atlantic Council] poll found that 62% of Latinos and 56% of people nationwide generally support normalizing relations or engaging more directly with Cuba.” Perhaps more important is the fact the Cuban and Latino Americans are shifting their political support from Republican to Democrat and Obama sees an opportunity to undermine his domestic adversaries.

Obama’s self-interest may help repair the damage caused by a succession of U.S. governments’ relentless hostility towards the fiercely-independent island nation. The United States actually owes reparations to the Cuban people who have suffered needlessly for daring to pursue their own destiny within America’s arbitrarily-declared sphere of influence.

According to Noam Chomsky, “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.”

The state of Florida is home to any number of expatriate anti-Castro Cuban militants recruited, trained and shielded by the CIA. In Cuba, they stand accused of various terroristic crimes that occurred from 1960 to the late 1990s. People like Orlando Bosch come to mind. He lives free in Miami after being pardoned by George Bush Sr. for his role in the 1976 destruction of a Cubana airliner that killed 76 people. In 1998, the Cuban government invited the FBI to Havana and provided them extensive anti-Castro terrorism evidence and the identity of Cuban agents infiltrating the anti-Castro terrorist cells in Miami. Ironically; the infiltrators, not the terrorists, were arrested and sent to U.S. prisons.

We may trace Cuban engagement with these states, particularly Soviet Russia; back to the early 1960s, when, faced with a U.S. trade embargo and covert terrorism, the Cubans had no choice but to seek assistance where they could while protecting themselves from the covert and overt tactics of a superpower determined to impose regime change. While Castro and his regime have treated their opponents harshly and even committed human rights abuses; a little perspective is necessary before we judge his regime.

U.S. Cuba rhetoric emanates from the same class of arrogant imperialists who tolerated decades of Latin American atrocities under Pinochet, Somoza, Duvalier, the juntas of El Salvador and Guatemala and the local elites who kept these countries safe for U.S. corporations. A good example of a useful and pliable tyrant is Panama’s Noriega, a paid CIA asset whose excessive independence earned him a long U.S. prison term. His miraculous transformation from ally to narco-terrorist went largely unremarked in the American press.

Ironically, independence is Cuba’s greatest sin in the eyes of U.S. power brokers, who have always viewed Cuba as U.S. property. As Thomas Paterson wrote, “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.”

After ejecting U.S. organized crime from Cuba in 1959, Castro made the mistake of defying the Monroe Doctrine and pursuing an independent course. The Monroe Doctrine, for those unfamiliar with it; was a turn of the century understanding that North and South America were U.S. territory and therefore off-limits to the European powers with the exception of the French, British and Dutch colonies dotting the Caribbean.

A brief history of the Central Intelligence Agency is necessary to illustrate what the Cubans have faced over the last fifty years. Many Canadians seem unaware of the CIA’s long and sordid record of practicing torture directly while also training the military and secret police of U.S. allies like Latin America’s fascist regimes and a host of international thugs. Vietnam’s Diem (the Phoenix Program), the pre-Taliban Mujahedeen, Iran’s Shah, Indonesia’s Suharto, Saudi Arabia’s rulers, the Turkish military and Saddam Hussein’s secret police all received CIA tutelage in the diabolical art of “enhanced interrogation”. Fingernail pulling, testicle crushing and gang rape were not the cruelest torments suffered by the captives of these monsters; many of whom were trained at the infamous School of the Americas; a U.S. army academy notorious for graduating the worst torturers of Central and South America. The school has changed its name and location a number of times to avoid public scrutiny and protest.

Largely ignored by the corporate media are the CIA’s numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and members of his inner circle. Similar attempts by Cuban intelligence to kill any U.S. president would have earned Cuba a crushing military onslaught delivered without a moment’s hesitation. The stark examples of Grenada, Panama and Nicaragua are clear for all to see in a world where naked power acts with impunity and the weak are obliged to arrange their affairs accordingly.

If Cuba-U.S. relations are to improve, the U.S. government must adopt a humane approach that acknowledges the possibility that without American interference; Cubans might have created their own modest prosperity and been more inclined to embrace liberal democracy. This program should include a formal apology for decades of oppression and economic assistance unfettered by neoliberal pre-conditions. Such an approach might also be applied globally wherever the U.S. government has trodden heavily to ensure that capital enjoys more freedom than most human beings.