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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba embargo’

The Cuba Embargo Has Actually Worked Like a Charm

 HNN June 21, 2015

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First item on the anti-embargo teleprompter: “But the embargo hasn’t worked. After half a century the Castro regime still stands. So why should we continue this failed policy?’

But who–besides the Castro lobby–ever claimed “regime-change” was the embargo’s rationale? To wit:

On January, 21, 1962 at Punta del Este Uruguay U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk gave a speech to the Organization of American States recommending the members join the U.S. in voting for an economic embargo of Cuba. In this speech there is not a single word–or even an inference–that regime-change was the embargo’s goal. “The United States objects to Cuba’s activities and policies in the international arena not its internal system or arrangements.” Indeed, Secretary Rusk went out of his way to stress that regime-change was NOTthe embargo’s goal.

The much-ballyhooed (mostly by KGB-trained Cuban DGI Colonel Fabian Escalante who authored “634 ways to Kill Castro”) Operation Mongoose also appears less serious and concerted under close scrutiny, and further supports Rusk’s public statements at the OAS meeting.

In fact, many of the actual participants in Operation Mongoose–both American and Cuban-exile—finally became convinced they were risking their lives on mostly intelligence-gathering missions rather than in trying to decapitate the Castro regime.

“I will never abandon Cuba to Communism!” declared JFK while addressing the recently ransomed Bay of Pigs freedom fighters and their families in Miami’s Orange Bowl Dec. 29, 1962. “I promise to deliver this Brigade banner to you in a free Havana!”

“That was the first time it snowed in the Orange Bowl,” later wrote CIA man named Grayston Lynch who was in attendance. Lynch helped train many of the Bay of Pigs freedom fighters and he landed on the beach with them, firing the first shots of the invasion. Then — from 1961-64 — he led several dozen commando raids into Cuba, as part of Operation Mongoose. Probably nobody had the “hands-on” experience with the actual nuts and bolts of Mongoose as Grayston Lynch. The “snow” comment appears in Lynch’s book Decision to Disaster published in 1998, after years of analyzing the entire Mongoose matter, and obviously refers to the “snow job” JFK was pulling by claiming he’d help overthrow Cuban communism.

The famous hearings in 1975 by the Frank Church Committee into the CIA’s deviltry as alleged by Castro’s intelligence Colonel Fabian Escalante lend further credence to Lynch’s claims:

“ In August 1975, Fidel Castro gave Senator George McGovern a list of twenty-four alleged attempts to assassinate him in which Castro claimed the CIA had been involved…The Committee has found no evidence that the CIA was involved in the attempts on Castro’s life enumerated in the allegations that Castro gave to Senator McGovern.”

In brief, the U.S. was mostly trying to contain Soviet-Cuban sponsored international terrorism. And on very sound grounds: every terror group from The Weathermen to Puerto Rico’s Macheteros, from Argentina’s Montoneros, to Colombia’s FARC, from the Black Panthers, to the PLO, to the IRA received training and funding from Castro.

Granted, while most were not immediately defeated they were certainly contained. Then for three decades the Soviet Union was forced to pump the equivalent of almost ten Marshall Plans into Cuba.This cannot have helped the Soviet Union’s precarious solvency or lengthened her life span.

Second item on the anti-embargo teleprompter: “But the Cold War’s over, for heaven’s sake! Why then continue this relic of that era?”

Because international terrorism still rages with slightly different sponsors and Castro’s Cuba is still prominent among them. A DEA report attributes half of the world’s cocaine supply to Columbia’s FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), the largest, oldest and most murderous terrorist group in our Hemisphere whose murder toll dwarfs that of Al Qaeda and ISIScombined and includes some murdered U.S. citizens. This same FARC thanks Fidel Castro for their immense fame and fortune. “Thanks to Fidel Castro” boasted late FARC commander Tiro-Fijo in a 2002 interview, “we are now a powerful army, not a hit and run band.”

But let’s forward a bit even from there:Just last month Cuba (practically) got caught red-handed supplying Chinese-made arms to the Western hemisphere’s oldest biggest and most murderous terror-group, Colombia’s FARC. The terror-death toll from these Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) exceeds 200,000, and includes more U.S. citizens than have been murdered by ISIS.

So maybe it was a mere coincidence that the very week Obama planned to remove Cuba as a terror-sponsor the mainstream media blacked-out any mention of this blatant terror-sponsorship by Cuba in our own backyard.

Back in February, you see, Colombian authorities found 99 missile heads, 100 tons of gunpowder, 2.6 million detonators, and over 3,000 artillery shells hidden under rice sacks in a ship bound from Red China to Cuba that docked in the port of Cartagena, Colombia.

Most Cuba-watchers immediately guessed what was up. And just last month Colombian reporters (actually worthy of the name, unlike so many of ours) exposed the scheme. In brief:

*The arms were from a Chinese manufacturer named Norinco and the recipient was a Cuban company named Tecnoimport.

*But the ship stopped in the Colombian ports of Cartagena and Baranquilla (where the FARC is based, remember.)

* Colombia’s crackerjack newspaper El Espectator also reports that many Norinco-manufactured arms have already been captured from FARC guerrillas over the past ten years. This proliferation of Cuba-smuggled Chinese arms to the terrorist FARC got so bad that in 2007-08 the Colombian authorities even send a diplomatic protest note to the Chinese.

This awkward information at this awkward time, needless to say, might have hampered Obama’s plan to cleanse Castro from any taint of terror-sponsorship—assuming, that many people would have switched off the Kardashians to learn of it. Hence you’re only reading about it here at HNN.

Furthermore, last summer Cuba was caught trying to smuggle military contraband though the Panama Canal to North Korea, in what the UN Security Council itself denounced as the worst violation of the arms embargo against North Korea to date. The arms embargo was imposed in 2006 by the very United Nations.

Third item on the anti-embargo teleprompter: “But the embargo mainly punishes the Cuban people, and gives Castro an excuse for his economic failures and human rights violations.”

Well, why not ask the Cuban people themselves how they feel about it? Granted, polls are difficult to conduct in a Stalinist nation but every atom of observable evidence proves that the Cuban people actually want the embargo tightened.

In 2007, for instance Spanish pollsters conducted a clandestine poll in Cuba and found that less than a third of Cubans blame the U.S. “blockade” for their economic plight. In addition, Cuban dissidents almost en-masse condemn Obama’s loop-holing of the sanctions against the KGB-trained Stalinists who oppress them. “And now, the U.S. — our ally,” lamented Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas last month, “turns its back on us and prefers to sit with our killers.”

Cubans themselves have seen and felt it during the past few years: record foreign investment and record tourism to Cuba = enrichment of the Cuban regime and increased repression. The “libertarian” pipe-dream was blown to smithereens years ago. Alas, these dogmatists never bothered to poke their nose from their books on economic theory and look at the real world.

Fourth item on anti-embargo teleprompter: “But we trade with China, for crying out loud! So why not with Cuba?”

China’s (admittedly despicable regime) allows a genuine private sector, pays its bills and has lots of goods Americans want—even need. An American can do business with a Chinese businessman not directly affiliated to the Chinese government. Whereas Cuba’s constitution outlaws private property. Every business transaction and tourist expenditure in Cuba enriches the communist regime. As mentioned, the proof and verdict on this item has been in for years, for anyone who bothers to look.

Fifth item on anti-embargo teleprompter: “But why not try something new? At least President Obama is attempting a new policy.”

In fact every U.S. President—especially Republicans–since 1960 attempted an “opening” to Cuba. But most realized that no advantages whatsoever would accrue for U.S. interests or for those of the Cuban people. In fact Ronald “Evil Empire” Reagan probably went furthest in this regard, sending Alexander Haig to meet personally in Mexico City with Cuba’s “Vice President” Carlos Raphael Rodriguez to feel him out. Then he sent diplomatic troubleshooter General Vernon Walters to Havana for a meeting with the Maximum Leader himself.

Castro, as usual, turned on the charm but Walters returned telling President Reagan that it would be Castro’s way or no way.

With our current President this Castroite attitude proved no impediment whatsoever, as already plumbed by some of Castro’s terror affiliates who are already gloating, snickering and rubbing their hands. Take Hezbollah leader Ammar Moussawi for instance: “The firmness of Cuba’s positions and the steadfastness and patience of the Cuban people has pushed the hand of US administration … the achievements of Cuba, which was firm on its principles, is a lesson for all people of the world who are suffering from American hegemony.”

Now that’s comforting.

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of five books, including Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, Exposing the Real Che Guevara and The Longest Romance; the U.S. Media and Fidel Castro. “The terns scoundrel and traitor should precede every mention of Humberto Fontova!” declares the Castro regime’s official newspaper Cubadebate. For more info visit www.hfontova.com.

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US-Cuba Embargo Goes Beyond the Cold War

The unequal US-Cuban power relationship stretches back to the turn of the 20th century.

Cuban propaganda poster in Havana featuring a Cuban soldier addressing a threatening Uncle Sam. Photo by KPu3uC B PoccuuCuban propaganda poster in Havana featuring a Cuban soldier addressing a threatening Uncle Sam. Photo by KPu3uC B PoccuuPresident Obama’s decision to reopen the US embassy in Havana and to begin easing commercial and travel restrictions continues to be regarded by supporters as the highpoint of Obama’s foreign policy agenda to date. But the move has its fair share of detractors, too. To understand the predominantly Republican opposition to trade liberalization with Cuba, we must look beyond the Cold War. We must look further back into America’s imperial past.

More Than a Cold War Hangover

The Democratic leadership has explained Obama’s sizeable shift in US policy toward Cuba. ‘We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests’, Obama stated. ‘Neither the American nor the Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.’ Nancy Pelosi similarly noted that ‘we must acknowledge our policy towards Cuba is a relic of a bygone era that weakens our leadership in the Americas and has not advanced freedom and prosperity in Cuba.’

Obama and Pelosi should look much farther back than the 1961 Cuban Embargo. The unequal US-Cuban power relationship stretches back to the turn of the 20th century.

Americans may have largely forgotten the first 60 years of US interventions in Cuban affairs – from the late 19th century to the mid-20th – but Cuban memories are longer. When Fidel Castro took power in 1959, his justification for doing so was not in stark cold-war anti-capitalistic terms. Rather, he harkened back to an earlier era of US-Cuban relations and to Cuba’s right to international freedom of trade. In a January 1959 speech, he warned that American diminution of Cuban sovereignty, stretching back to the late 19th century, would no longer be tolerated, and in front of the United Nations in 1960, Castro denounced American economic nationalist policies toward Cuba, declaring that it was an inalienable right that Cuba be allowed to freely ‘sell what it produces’ and to see its exports increase: ‘Only egotistical interests can oppose the universal interest in trade and commercial exchange.’ So when the Eisenhower administration showed itself indisposed toward normalizing US-Cuban relations, Castro turned instead to the other major geopolitical player, the Soviet Union, ‘to sell our products’.

In January 1961, stemming in part from the Cuban-Soviet trade agreement, the United States put in place the now infamous trade embargo against Cuba and severed diplomatic relations. The embargo has since stunted Cuban political and economic growth, and has accordingly served as an easy scapegoat for Fidel and his brother Raúl by allowing them to blame the United States for any and all economic woes befalling Cuba.

Even a cursory look at US trade policies toward other communist states shows how the US embargo against Cuba was – and remains – far more than a Cold War hangover.

Republican Imperialism of Economic Nationalism

In other words, if the embargo were merely an antiquated relic of the Cold War, how do we reconcile the contradiction of American trade liberalization with communist China during the Cold War, but not with Cuba even a quarter century after Cold War’s end? Is it perhaps from political pressure from anti-Castro groups within the United States? Considering that a majority of Cuban-American voters and US business interests would now favor easing political and economic restrictions against Cuba, that line of argument looks increasingly flimsy.

The primary inspiration for the Cuban embargo is something much more emotional and irrational than some outdated fear of communism at America’s backdoor. It is something that reaches back more than a century to America’s imperial past, something ingrained in the American psyche, a collective unconscious support for the nineteenth-century Monroe Doctrine: the self-ordained, unilateral US right to intervene in Western Hemispheric affairs. More specifically, the Cuban embargo is a modern-day manifestation of the Republican party’s longstanding imperialism of economic nationalism.

After the American Civil War, the Republican party stood proudly upon a political economic platform of high protectionism. And by the 19th century’s fin de siècle, it also stood proudly in demanding American colonialism. These two Republican planks – imperialism and economic nationalism – became entwined.

Republican President William McKinley, the ‘Napoleon of Protection’, oversaw the acquisition of a formal American empire following a successful US war against the Spanish in 1898. Newly obtained American colonies now included the Philippines and Puerto Rico, and, more informally, Cuba.

Cuba had been guaranteed ostensible independence from the United States, but the 1901 Platt Amendment allowed the United States ‘the right to intervene’ in Cuban affairs, including through military occupation, throughout the early twentieth century. The Republican administration of Teddy Roosevelt soon thereafter doubled down on undermining Cuban sovereignty through the restrictive 1903 Reciprocity Treaty, which maintained a discounted protective policy toward Cuban exports to protect US sugar growing interests. Following the treaty’s passage, Roosevelt expressed his private delight at the coercive idea of pulling Cuban political-economic strings through Republican-style trade reciprocity.

This despite the fact that Cuban liberals wanted free trade with the United States. In 1902, for example, the Corporaciones Económicas, an influential conglomerate of Cuban creole businessmen, lobbied the US Congress for Cuban-American free trade. Luis V. de Abad, representing Cuban tobacco interests, at the same time was also appealing to Washington for trade liberalization instead of ‘prohibitive’ tobacco duties of over 125 percent, which had left the Cuban worker with ‘less bread and butter in his home’, and more ‘worse off than under Spanish domination’. And Juan Gualberto Gómez, leader of the Cuban Liberal Party, similarly castigated the 1903 Reciprocity Treaty, calling instead for unrestricted free trade with the United States.

But Republican economic nationalist politicians ignored such cosmopolitan Cuban demands. As historian Mary Speck has explored, Republican protectionist unwillingness to grant free trade to Cuba would thereafter culminate in the 1930 Hawley-Smoot Tariff, ushering in a new Cuban ‘era of economic depression and political unrest’.

Cuba’s Century-Long Desire for Free Trade

So when Raúl Castro called for an end to the embargo based on economic and humanitarian grounds in late December, he was therefore just reiterating a century-long Cuban call for free trade with the United States – a call that has for so long fallen on deaf American ears.

From this longer perspective of US-Cuban trade relations, the 1961 Embargo Act marked not the beginning, but the high-water mark of American economic nationalist imperialism towards Cuba.

When Republican politicians today like former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida say liberalizing trade ‘undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba’, or when House Leader John Boehner suggests that normalizing relations ‘should not be revisited… until the Cuban people enjoy freedom’, they are in fact undemocratically ignoring a century of Cuban demands for free trade.

Republican opponents of diplomatic normalization and trade liberalization also appear woefully ignorant of the fact that since the Second World War, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have advocated international trade liberalization for the expressed purpose of increasing political and economic freedom throughout the globe, even more so since the end of the Cold War. As Bill Clinton’s National Security Council advisor Anthony Lake put it in 1993: ‘On one side is protectionism and limited foreign engagement; on the other is active American engagement abroad on behalf of democracy and expanded trade.’

Thus, when Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio says ‘this entire policy shift… is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people’, he is reflecting a bygone Republican sentiment that was used to justify American imperialism toward Cuba a century ago: a protectionist sentiment that baldly contradicts the Republican party’s own neoliberal free-market rhetoric that it has espoused in the decades following the Second World War.

Rubio and other Republican detractors of Obama’s Cuban policy must throw away the antiquated remnants of America’s imperial past. Ending the Cuban embargo would be an excellent start.

Dr. Marc-William Palen is a lecturer in imperial history at the University of Exeter, and a research associate in US Foreign Policy at the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney. His forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press is The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalization, 1846-1896.

 

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