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Published on January 9, 2008

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Choosing our enemies: Demonization and double standards in US policy toward Cuba:  Mike Gasser Indiana University Progressive Faculty Coalition Feb. 27, 2004 Choosing our enemies: Demonization and double standards in US policy toward Cuba Is Cuba next? The Bush Administration and Cuba:  The Bush Administration and Cuba US UN representative Sichan Siv’s speech to the General Assembly, Nov. 4, 2003 “Cuba’s best day is when the Cuban people have terminated Castro’s evil Communist dictatorial regime and said to him, ‘Hasta la vista, baby’.” Preparing for the “transition”:  Preparing for the “transition” Pres. Bush’s Cuba policy speech, Oct. 10, 2003 “Last year in Miami, I offered Cuba’s government a way forward. ...Since I made that offer, we have seen how the Castro regime answers diplomatic initiatives. ...Cuba must change. ...Our government will establish a Commission for the Assistance to a Free Cuba, to plan for the happy day when Castro’s regime is no more and democracy comes to the island. ...They will draw upon experts within our government to plan for Cuba’s transition from Stalinist rule to a free and open society, to identify ways to hasten the arrival of that day.” Preparing for the “transition”:  Preparing for the “transition” “By May 1, 2004, the Commission will provide an initial report to the President regarding the recommended elements of a comprehensive program to assist the Cuban people to: Bring about a peaceful, near-term end to the dictatorship; Establish democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and the rule of law; Create the core institutions of a free economy; Modernize infrastructure; and Meet basic needs in the areas of health, education, housing, and human services.” Preparing for the “transition”:  Preparing for the “transition” Andrew Natsios, administrator of the US Agency for International Development at the Cuban Transition Conference, Washington, Jan. 16, 2004 “The Cuban dictator has held the Cuban people in political bondage for more than four decades. So it is with great care that we should prepare for Cuba’s transition to democracy. For as we know from experience, the pent-up expectations and frustrations of a long-oppressed people can sometimes boil over and lead to ‘serious evil.’” The War on Terror and Cuba:  The War on Terror and Cuba US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Hans Hertell, Apr. 10, 2003 “The war in Iraq was aimed at all countries around the world with oppressive political systems. I think what is happening in Iraq is going to send a very positive signal, and it is a very good example for Cuba.” The War on Terror and Cuba:  The War on Terror and Cuba House Majority Leader Tom DeLay at a gathering of Cuban-Americans in Miami, Feb. 20, 2004 “ After decades of inaction and willful neglect, on September 11, 2001, the free nations of the world finally took a stand against the forces of international terrorism, its perpetrators, and its sponsors. We fought.  And we are winning. ... The war on terror is a war against evil, and it is therefore a war against Fidel Castro.” The War on Terror and Cuba:  The War on Terror and Cuba House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Feb. 20, 2004 (cont.) “ No corruption or vile oppression that exists today in Iran or the Palestinian Authority did not first exist in Castro’s Cuba. No terrorist who plots today the murder of innocents could outdo the grisly efficiency of Che Guevara. And no despot who seeks today to shackle man’s will to freedom has yet surpassed the brutality, cowardice, and greed of Fidel Castro. ... When Castro is gone – cold, dead and buried along with his decrepit ideology, either by the slow hand of nature or the quick steel of justice – Cuba will be free. Until that day, there will be no American money flowing into Castro’s regime.” But relax...:  But relax... James Cason, chief of the US Interests Section in Havana, Feb. 20, 2004 The Cuban government was “fabricating the threat of a US military attack to engender fear in the Cuban population, to spend scarce resources to maintain large military, security and intelligence structures, and to justify extreme measures in a vain attempt to crush Cuba’s nascent independent civil society.” Cuba: 60 years as a US client:  (1823: the Monroe Doctrine) 1898: the Spanish-American War and Cuban independence from Spain 1901: the Platt Amendment gives the US the right to intervene in Cuba Cuba: 60 years as a US client Cuba: 44 years as a US enemy:  1959: the Cuban Revolution ends direct US influence in Cuba 1959-now: US attempts to isolate Cuba from Eisenhower to GW Bush Sen. John Kerry, Jan. 30, 2004: “I am not prepared to lay down conditions at this time for lifting the embargo, because I believe that we need a major review of US policy toward Cuba. That review must be conducted with other countries in the region, with Cuban Americans, and, to the best of our abilities, those in Cuba who are fighting for greater political liberties.” Cuba: 44 years as a US enemy How does the rest of the world feel about our policies?:  In response to Pres. Kennedy’s request for cooperation in isolating Cuba in 1961, the Mexican ambassador responded “If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.” UN General Assembly vote against US embargo of Cuba, Nov. 4, 2003: 179-3-2 How does the rest of the world feel about our policies? Dealing with the enemy:  Dealing with the enemy The economic embargo Trade restrictions Travel restrictions Limitations on cultural and scientific interaction Immigration Direct destabilization Violence Support for dissidents Trade restrictions:  Prohibits, or severely inhibits, most imports from and exports to Cuba Since 2000, food sales for cash are permitted Denies entry to US ports by any ship that has docked in Cuba during the prior 180 days or is carrying Cuban goods Prohibits commercial transactions between overseas US subsidiaries and Cuba Trade restrictions Trade restrictions:  Requires opposition to assistance by international financial institutions Prohibits recognition of trademarks associated with companies that were nationalized by Cuba since the revolution without consent of the original owner Bacardi vs. Havana Club Trade restrictions Travel restrictions:  Travel of US citizens to Cuba is restricted. This year the restrictions have been extended to include many educational programs and most trips involving contact with government officials. The government has recently started pursuing criminal prosecution of those violating the travel ban, including travel agencies. In Nov. 2003, both houses of Congress voted to lift the travel ban. However, this provision was removed from the final bill by conference committee leaders. Travel restrictions Restrictions on scholarly and cultural interaction:  US visas for Cuban scholars, artists, musicians are routinely denied (to all 151 musicians since Nov. that have applied). Asst. Secretary of State Roger Noriega to the Cuban Liberty Council, Jan. 2004: “Castro sends hundreds of performers to the United States to earn dollars to send to the regime! Castro’s cash cows will not be grazing through the United States under this administration.” Since Oct. 2003, editing a research paper by a Cuban (Iranian, Libyan, Sudanese) scientist can constitute “trading with the enemy”. Restrictions on scholarly and cultural interaction Effects of the embargo:  Effects of the embargo Economic Health Availability of drugs, medical equipment, parts for water supply system AAWH report (1997) “caused a significant rise in suffering – even deaths” “since 1992, the number of patients going without essential drugs or doctors performing medical procedures without adequate equipment has sharply accelerated” US business Immigration:  The Cuban Adjustment Act (1966) Allows Cubans who reach the US to have legal immigrant status Encourages illegal immigration Immigration Violence:  The 60s: sabotage, invasion, assassination attempts Later: attacks on Cuban (and US) targets carried out by organizations based in US 1976 bombing of Cubana airliner, killing all 73 aboard 1997 bombings of tourist hotels in Cuba, killing an Italian tourist Many others Violence Support for dissidents:  The Torricelli Act (1992), “Track II”: authorizes US government aid to “individuals and organizations to promote nonviolent democratic change in Cuba” USAID budget for Cuba, March 2003: $26,335,24 “Building solidarity with Cuba’s human rights activists” “Giving voice to Cuba’s independent journalists” “Helping develop Cuban NGOs” “Defending the rights of Cuban workers” “Providing direct outreach to the Cuban people” “Planning for transition” Support for dissidents The “independent librarians”:  The “independent librarians” Rhonda Neugebauer, a UC Riverside librarian who visited “independent libraries” in Cuba “The “librarians” in Cuba told us that they purposefully have aligned themselves with foreign operatives because they feel that intervention is a legitimate course of action to destabilize the country. They openly ... characterized their work as political opposition, reporting that many of them had been dissidents for years, and that their “independent library” and “independent press” work was intended to heighten their profile internationally and to provoke the Cuban government. Finally, they admitted to us that most of their books ... were available in Cuban libraries, and that they had little or no contact with real Cuban librarians about their “library” work.” What did Cuba do to deserve this?:  Two kinds of justifications for US policy Cuba is a threat to us and to its neighbors. Cuba’s government is just plain evil. What did Cuba do to deserve this? Cuba as a threat:  Cuba in the Cold War Cuba and the Soviet Union Cuban support for “the other side” in conflicts in Latin America and Africa Cuba today Cuba as a threat Cuba: a “terrorist” country?:  Cuba: a “terrorist” country? State Department, May 2002 Cuba has “vacillated” in the War on Terror Cuba has “continued to view terror as a legitimate revolutionary tactic” Cuba is “safe haven and refuge” for Colombian, Chilean, Irish, Basque and American terrorists or fugitives Cuba: a “terrorist” country?:  Cuba: a “terrorist” country? Since 9/11, Cuba has repeatedly condemned terrorism signed all 12 UN counter-terrorism conventions offered to cooperate bilaterally to fight terrorism Basque, Irish, Chilean, and Colombian “terrorists” in Cuba either don’t exist or apparently pose no threats to those countries. There are US fugitives in Cuba, but apparently none is plotting actions in the US, and Cuba has returned some fugitives to the US. Double standards: harboring terrorists:  Double standards: harboring terrorists The US harbors a number of Cuban fugitives, some of whom count by any definition as terrorists. One blatant example: Orlando Bosch US Associate Attorney General, 1989 “For 30 years, Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. ...The security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists. ...We could not shelter Dr. Bosch and maintain that credibility.” Pres. Bush pardoned Bosch in 1988. Cuba as a threat: biological weapons?:  Cuba as a threat: biological weapons? Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, May 6, 2002 “The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort.” Disappearance and reappearance of the accusation May 2003 report from CDI on tour of Cuban biotech facilities Cuba: a threat to its neighbors?:  Cuba: a threat to its neighbors? Asst. Secretary of State Roger Noriega, press conference, Jan. 6, 2004 Accused Cuba of “actions to destabilize Latin America [that] are increasingly provocative to the inter-American community.” Apparently in response to the relatively good relations among Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil Cuba’s government as evil:  Is the Cuban political-economic system bad for the Cuban people? How does the U.S. government evaluate political-economic systems? Are the standards applied fairly? Cuba’s government as evil Figuring out Cuba:  Figuring out Cuba Getting your terms straight:  Getting your terms straight President Bush counts democracies:  President Bush counts democracies Pres. Bush’s speech to NED, Nov. 6, 2003 “In the early 1970s there were about 40 democracies in the world ...As the 20th century ended, there were around 120 democracies in the world, and I can assure you more are on the way. ...Our commitment to democracy is tested in countries like Cuba and Burma and North Korea and Zimbabwe, outposts of oppression in our world. The people in these nations live in captivity and fear and silence. Yet these regimes cannot hold back freedom forever. And one day, from prison camps and prison cells and from exile, the leaders of new democracies will arrive.” How do you evaluate a political-economic system??:  How do you evaluate a political-economic system?? How well does it serve people’s basic needs? How equitable is economic and political decision making? To what extent do people have access to the information they need to make decisions? What effect does the system have on other countries? The historical and the current context: compared to what? Access to information in Cuba:  Access to information in Cuba State-run press Access to other news sources (CNN) Libraries under-funded but with relatively diverse collections Availability and popularity of US films Limited access to internet Decision making and power sharing:  Decision making and power sharing Limitations on freedom to criticize the system Political operations directed from abroad are illegal. One labor union, the CTC; no right to strike Dual economies: pesos and dollars Elections No parties, no campaigning Very high participation rate Provincial, national: uncontested Municipal: candidates nominated in public meetings Double standards: “democracy” and “human rights” elsewhere:  Double standards: “democracy” and “human rights” elsewhere Saudi Arabia Pakistan Central Asia Colombia Central America Serving people’s needs:  Serving people’s needs UN Human Development Reports HDI rank: 52/175 (world), 10 (Western Hemisphere, behind US, Canada, Barbados, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Chile, Bahamas, St. Kitts & Nevis) Education, adult literacy: 96.8% Health Life expectancy: 76.5 years Infant mortality: 2nd lowest in Western Hemisphere Doctors per capita: highest in the world, 2X US Population growth, 2000-2015: 0.2% Serving people’s needs:  Serving people’s needs Sustainable agriculture 90s: conversion to almost entirely organic farming in 10 years 3.2 million tons of food produced in urban gardens in 2002 (Food First articles) Bio-technology Production of a wide variety of drugs Research: HIV, genetic engineering, etc. Effects on other societies: Cuban internationalism:  Effects on other societies: Cuban internationalism Cuban participation in Angola’s Civil War, fighting against invading South African forces Medical diplomacy Thousands of Cuban doctors have served in 3rd World since 1963 Education Thousands of foreign students studying in Cuba Latin American School of Medical Sciences 6000 students from disadvantaged countries, including 64 from the US Assistance with literacy projects Other signs of success or failure:  Other signs of success or failure Crime + Drugs + Prison population + Emigration - The “sex trade”:  The “sex trade” From Pres. Bush’s Oct. 10, 2003 Cuba policy speech “By cracking down on the illegal travel, we will also serve another important goal. A rapidly growing part of Cuba's tourism industry is the illicit sex trade, a modern form of slavery which is encouraged by the Cuban government. This cruel exploitation of innocent women and children must be exposed and must be ended.” Double standards! (Valdes’ article) So what are the real reasons?:  So what are the real reasons? The real reasons:  Cuba is a threat to US hegemony in Latin America. State Department Policy Planning Council (1964) “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.” The real reasons The real reasons:  Supporting the isolation of Cuba results in significant campaign contributions from the Cuban-American right and significant help in Florida elections. The real reasons So what can we do?:  So what can we do? Spread the word. Make sure Congress knows how we feel. Find out more about Cuba. How hard this is Some suggested resources Summary:  Cuba is not a threat to the United States or its neighbors. Isolating Cuba has hurt Cubans and made the US look hypocritical to the rest of the world. Cuba’s political-economic system has made impressive achievements, though it may be in need of overhauling. But whose job is this? Summary

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