Quiet May 20 in DC is gain for Cuba in clash

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed May 21 14:40:44 MDT 2003

After enormous rumbling, the imperialist monster barely squeaked at the
Cuban revolution in the celebration of the aborted Cuban independence
which, for Washington, meant independence under U.S. occupation and a puppet
government.  The real independence that Marti, Maceo, and others fought for
was won only in 1959.

The caution in Washington is an indication of the depth of the popularity
and self-defense organization of the revolution in Cuba, which -- together
with the standing of Cuba on the world scene -- ontinues to force U.S.
administrations to keep the option of invading Cuba on the back burner, and
this limits some of their other policies as well.

It indicates Washington's continued reluctance to engage in military
conflicts where their forces are likely to meet massive resistance.  The
"shock and awe" that US military commanders voiced over the stiff initial
opposition they met in southern Iraq was an indication of their
unpreparedness for this kind of fighting.

In the last 20 years, Washington has launched "victorious" wars against
Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again, all incapable
of effective resistance politically, militarily or both.  Taking on the most
important strategic targets in its current war drive against the
semicolonial world -- Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and --slowly creeping up the
target list -- Venezuela will require taking on countries where the people
and military are more likely to fight back effectively, countries that can
be occupied but will be difficult or impossible to pacify.

If Washington had, for example, eliminated the remittances or cancelled the
migration agreements -- almost certainly forcing the Cuban government to
permit a mass migration -- this would have showed a will to provoke a
situation that could lead to military confrontation.  (And to take such
measures without a plan for toppling the revolution would have risked losing
the Cuban vote in 2004.)

The Cubans directly forced the crisis into the open by cracking down on the
Cubans who were eing paid with US funds to organize into opposition groups
politically directed by the US embassy, and by executing three violent
hijackers who had threatened the lives of dozens of Cubans on a ferry boat.
While they had to face a heavily manipulated firestorm in world public
opinion at first, the Cubans have been slowly regaining some of the lost
ground.  They have responded with patient explanation of the US
provocations, their situation, and their actions.

Among other things the Cuban government has made their political position on
the death penalty more widely known--they consider it vindictive and
barbaric.  Cuba regards itself as part of the international effort to bring
an end to capital punishment.  The government  imposed a three-year
moratorium on the death penalty which ended with the recent executions.
However, the siege conditions theyhave continually faced have made it
impossible to completely dispense with this admittedly barbaric punishment
at this time.

If the Cubans had waited until a full-scale migration crisis was forced on
them before standing up to the mounting provocations, the US might have been
able to take much stronger action in the initial confusion and "emergency"
atmosphere -- since US law proclaims a new wave of unauthorized immigration
from Cuba to be an "act of aggression" against the United States.

The Havana government explained the trials in details, showing the growing
pattern of provocation from Washington that was steadily rising -- and still
is.  They countered the campaign to isolate Cuba as a supposed violator of
human rights by making known the facts and organizing a countercampaign in
defense of Cuban independence and sovereignty.

The US failed to prevent Cuba's election to the UN Human Rights Commission
or to gain a vote condemning Cuba in the Organization of American States.

Strong support for ending the travel ban was not decisively shaken, with
even anti-Cuban forces becoming more divided over this.  The confrontation
is not over, however, not by a long shot.  It seems unlikely to end, in
fact, as long as both the Cuban revolution and US imperialism exist in the

The Brothers to the Rescue, who provoked the Helms-Burton bill by violating
Cuban airspace with hostile aircraft and forcing Cuban pilots to defend
their control of their airspace, are promising more air raids into Cuba.
The Cuban response to such violations and threatening activities could be
used to generate more propaganda, more threats, and more  economic/military
anti-Cuba moves.

Among other things, the National Network on Cuba has called for local
activities across the country to educate people about Cuba, the Cuban
revolution, and the real issues in the clash with Washington.

The fact that Washington has backed down for now does not eliminate our duty
to take their threats to Cuba or any other country with complete
seriousness.  Washington is not invincible -- Cuba is showing that once
again -- but we have to avoid replacing the rulers' unfounded triumphalism
with one of our own.
Fred Feldman

Inter Press Service, 20 May 2002
No New Moves from Bush on Cuba's National Day

Jim Lobe

Reflecting deep splits inside his administration and the
community over future policy toward Cuba, U.S. President
George W. Bush
announced no new policy initiatives toward the Caribbean
nation on its
national day Tuesday.

WASHINGTON, May 20(IPS) - Instead, Bush met privately with a
number of
dissidents and family members from the island in the White
House and
released a short statement expressing his ''hope ... for the
Cuban people
to soon enjoy the same freedoms and rights that we do''.

Officials said that senior officials, who were still arguing
about whether
to take any new initiatives just hours before Bush's meeting
with the
dissidents, could not agree and that the most dramatic step
on which there
was consensus - the expulsion from the United States of 14
Cuban diplomats
- had already been taken.

Political hardliners close to the more radical sectors in
Cuban-American community in Florida and New Jersey had
reportedly argued
for reducing or cutting off remittances that U.S.-based
Cubans can send to
their relatives on the island and suspending charter flights
used by
Cuban-Americans to fly directly to their homeland.

But others argued that such steps would not only play into
President Fidel
Castro's efforts to stoke anti-U.S. feeling on the island,
but also
alienate much of their own community, including followers of
increasingly moderate Cuban American National Foundation

In addition, congressional sentiment in favour of lifting
the ban on travel
by U.S. citizens to Cuba remains high, and, while the White
House has vowed
to veto any legislation that would ease Washington's
43-year-old trade
embargo, Bush's advisers concluded it would make little
sense to draw
attention to the divide now.

The result appears to be an impasse at the policy-making
level at a
particularly sensitive moment when bilateral ties have
plunged to their
lowest level in at least a decade.

Much of that is due to what U.S. officials and even
organisations (NGOs) traditionally more sympathetic to
Havana called a
major crackdown by the Castro government against dissident
Cubans that
began as the U.S. invasion of Iraq got underway in

Some 75 dissidents were arrested and given prison terms as
long as 28 years
for subversion, while hijackers of a ferry who tried to flee
to the United
States were executed by firing squad after a summary trial
that rights
groups denounced as unfair.

Many analysts here blamed Castro for seeking to take
advantage of
Washington's invasion to decapitate what they describe as a
pro-democracy movement energized by the so-called Varela
Project, a
petition drive led to force elections in Cuba based on a
specific provision
of its constitution. More than half of those arrested and
imprisoned were
associated with the Project.

At the same time, some observers here said that Bush
contributed to growing
concern in Havana about U.S. intentions beginning last May
20, when he
announced a series of measures to tighten the embargo in a
speech to a
staunchly anti-Castro crowd in Miami.

It was also last spring that Undersecretary of State for
Arms Control and
International Security John Bolton publicly accused Havana
of developing
biological weapons in what was widely seen as an effort by
hard-liners to insert Cuba into the ''axis of evil'' - North
Korea, Iran
and Iraq. Similar accusations were repeated most recently
last September.

Late last year, the head of Washington's Interest Section in
Havana, James
Cason, began a series of high-profile meetings with Cuban
attending meetings in their homes, offering them the use of
his residence
for meetings and publicly affirming his support for them -
all of which the
Cuban government interpreted as direct challenges.

In February, the Treasury Department proposed new rules that
eliminate ''people-to-people'' educational travel to Cuba,
while senior
U.S. officials began issuing warnings to Havana that any
mass exodus from
the island would be considered a threat to U.S. national
security. At the
same time, U.S. consular officials in Havana slowed the
approval of visas
to Cubans who wanted to emigrate to the United States.

''It is hard not to read these actions by the Bush
administration as a
deliberate attempt to increase tension between the two
countries,'' said
Geoff Thale, a Cuba specialist at the Washington Office on
Latin America
(WOLA) here.

Washington then launched its invasion of Iraq without
securing the approval
of the United Nations Security Council, an action described
by the U.S.
ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Hans Hertell, as ''a
very good
example for Cuba''.

On top of all this came the decision last week to expel the
14 diplomats
from the Cuban missions here and at the United Nations in
New York City for
''conduct incompatible with their diplomatic duties'',
normally a phrase
used to refer to spying.

But the 'New York Times' reported several days later that
the Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is responsible for all
counter-intelligence activities carried out in the United
States, had not
made any findings about espionage. It quoted one anonymous
FBI official as
saying that the expulsions appeared to be a political
decision, a comment
strenuously denied by the White House.

Most analysts believe the expulsions were designed to ease
pressure for
stronger action by Cuban-American hard-liners closely
associated with
Bush's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush. They are
associated with a
split-off from the CANF, the Cuban Liberty Council, and
Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
two of
Castro's most militant foes in Congress.

But the expulsions left them with virtually nothing
practical to offer
hard-liners Tuesday, something which clearly disappointed
them. ''It's
about time some action is taken,'' Ninoska Perez Castellon
of the Liberty
Council, told the 'Miami Herald'. ''I don't want to hear any
more 'Viva
Cuba Libre'.''

On Sunday, Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National
charged that the U.S. administration was being urged by
various hardliners,
including Jeb Bush, to invade Cuba. The governor strongly
denied ever
making that recommendation Monday, but the flap might have
been another
reason why the White House decided to play down the
significance of
Tuesday's national day. (END/2003)

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