Interview with UK Ambassador

Campaign News | Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Interview with RENE MUJICA CANTELAR Cuban Ambassador the the UK

INTERVIEW: Cuban ambassador to London RENE MUJICA CANTELAR reflects on Washington's ongoing attempts to strangle a country that refuses to bow down to its will.

CUBAN ambassador Rene Mujica Cantelar's compact central London office metres away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street is a world away from the imposing US embassy in plush Grosvenor Square.

The contrast between the two buildings brings home the massive gulf between the world's sole remaining military superpower and little Cuba, the island country which has, since its revolution, become an unhealthy obsession in the corridors of the White House.

Over the years, Washington's near psychopathic persecution of Cuba has prevented an estimated $90 billion in direct trade from reaching its economy, let alone the indirect financial cost.

Effectively, says the ambassador, the US "dirty war" is penalising Cuba's 11 million population for having the audacity to support a government that pursues its own national interests instead of falling neatly into line as the 51st US state.

Mujica cites declassified documents showing that, as far back as as 1960, Washington decided that its best option was to pour misery on Cubans in the hope that they would withdraw their support for the government.

The ambassador states unequivocally: "The measures were intended to cause suffering and difficulties to the Cuban people.

"This policy ... qualifies as an act of genocide under the Geneva conventions and also as an act of war under the terms of the London naval conference in 1909."

Not that Cuba has either the means or any intention of taking hostile action against its powerful neighbour to the north, despite the impression given by George W Bush's hysterical rhetoric.

In 2002, Bush's administration even labelled the island part of a global "axis of evil," a statement which might seem laughable outside the US, but which nevertheless set off alarm bells in Cuba.

"They are clearly not interested in negotiations. They are arrogantly pursuing their agenda of regime change," he says.

Mujica is adamant that his country is willing to work towards a normalisation of relations - but not at the cost of its independence. That's one of the central reasons for Washington's continued persecution of Cuba, says the ambassador.

"The US establishment continues to fear the effect that the example of Cuba has and may have throughout Latin America.

"They wouldn't want to recognise the fact of an independent Cuba 90 miles south when it was, pre-revolution, the state most subjected to US views and interests," he says.

"It's a matter of arrogance - many reactions of successive US governments can only be explained by arrogance.

Mujica singles out ex-president Jimmy Carter for praise as the only US leader who has ever had the political willingness to try to solve the impasse.

But, under Carter's successors, things deteriorated as the socialist bloc collapsed and Cuba was left to fend for itself in the face of even tougher US sanctions enshrined in the 1992 Torricelli Act and the 1996 Helms Burton Act.

Both were designed to penalise US and foreign firms with a relationship with Cuba in the hope of dealing a knockout blow to its economy.

Mujica condemns Washington's hostility, which has intensified under Bush Jr, as "persecution."

"They've even interfered with payments to international organisations, so banks have refused to transfer Cuba's contributions," he adds.

And Mujica accuses European Union members, despite voting unanimously for an end to US sanctions at a symbolic United Nations vote on Wednesday, of failing to act against Washington's meddling in the affairs of individual companies.

Crucial "antidote legislation" designed to combat the effects of US anti-Cuba policy has never been invoked, he complains.

The ambassador warns that US politicians are heavily influenced by the "agenda of revenge" of wealthy Cuban-Americans in Miami whose families lost out when the corrupt dictatorship was overthrown in '59.

"They have learnt to use their power," says Mujica starkly.

Underlining the disproportionate importance of these exiles on the US political scene, Bush delivered a speech heavy on rhetoric last week to an audience which included many wealthy Cuban-American donors to his Republican Party.

Bush declared: "Now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuba's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise."

Wednesday's UN vote highlighted how out of step Washington is from the rest of the world, with only three countries supporting its blockade and 184 opposed to it, but, with a US election due next year, Cuban-American support is deemed crucial.

Mujica issues a blazing condemnation of US-style "democracy" which Washington wants to export to Cuba.

"In my concept of democracy, where it is not limited to political realm, the US is very undemocratic on any count," he declares.

"Candidates in the US are nominated by party machinery and require hundreds of millions of dollars to get elected.

"US democracy is a form of political democracy by the rich and for the rich.

"If you're talking about political democracy, I might accept that it's a form of limited political democracy. But it doesn't involve ordinary citizens apart from in an orchestrated way to go with the flow.

"It's not a social or economic democracy - the social and economic reality is that tens of millions of US citizens have no medical insurance or are homeless, illiterate or jobless. Then you have millionaires in palaces."

While some commentators have dismissed Bush's speech last week as an attempt to head off the embarrassment of a crushing defeat at the UN on Wednesday, Cubans know that, all too often, the rhetoric of US presidents has been backed up in bloody deed.

Mujica highlights the hypocrisy of the "hoax" US war on terror in the light of Washington's blood-drenched history with regards to Cuba.

"The US has practised what could not be called anything but state terror for five decades - sabotage, attempts on the lives of Cuban leaders, burning cane fields, bombing movie theatres, bombing stores," he says.

"It has caused Cuba more than 3,000 dead and many wounded.

"These activities were carried out from the US with the complicity of the US authorities, if not the direct support and direction of agencies such as the CIA."

'The US has practised what could not be called anything but state terror for five decades - sabotage, assassination attempts and bombings.'

And, while known terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Possada Carilles, who took part in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which left 73 dead, have been pardoned by Washington, the US state has exacted revenge for Cuban independence on five Cuban men who infiltrated Miami terrorist networks in order to halt planned bomb attacks on tourist resorts in their country.

Known internationally as the Miami Five, the reward for their anti-terrorist actions was some of the harshest sentences ever seen on US soil.

Mujica describes as "unprecedented" the outcome of a flawed trial in the hostile environment of Miami which saw all five men convicted on all counts and handed maximum sentences, ranging to life in prison.

Attempts to overturn their conviction have so far been thwarted due to the direct intervention of the US administration.

"Clearly, it is a political process in which the US government is throwing obstacle after obstacle in the way of justice to keep them in jail, separating them from their families and preventing families in Cuba visiting."

But, as Washington's obsession with crushing the Cuban example continues apace, there are signs that its self-appointed sphere of influence to the south is wriggling free of its grip.

Countries across Latin America have swung to the left, reacting against years of US-imposed economic policies and brutal dictatorships bankrolled by Washington.

"This has created hope for Latin American people that they can find the means to become masters of their own destiny and realise their aspirations for economic and social development," says Mujica.

"This is not something that US strategists will be happy about, but it doesn't threaten the US in any way."

The ambassador advises Washington that it should have other concerns.

"The threat to the US is much greater from Latin American societies that might deteriorate and explode, which would create mass emigration," he warns.

Given the current backlash to Washington's meddling in Latin America and a poll by the University of Miami suggesting that over 50 per cent of Cuban-Americans supported an end to the blockade of Cuba after decades of failure, you'd perhaps think that common sense would dictate that a change of policy was required.

"It need not be this way - it could play out differently if US politicians had enough vision to handle it differently," comments Mujica.

Unfortunately, common sense is something that is notably lacking in US corridors of power.

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