Propaganda War Against Cuba
Campaign News | Tuesday, 9 November 2004
by Salim Lamrani
Further to the strategy declared in Colin Powell’s report « Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba», whose aim is to lead the Cuban revolutionary process towards its complete annihilation, the campaign of misinformation against the Caribbean island,launched by the Bush administration and the Cuban extreme right in Florida, has spread widely into Europe. (1) In fact, from 17th to 19th September 2004 the « International Summit for Democracy in Cuba » was held in Prague in the Czech Republic, under the auspices of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, which was founded by the former Czech president Vaclav Havel.(2) This meeting, the propaganda impact of which is beyond doubt, marked a new phase in the American media war against Cuba, with the collusion of the European Union. (3)
Under Washington’s remote control, the meeting brought together several right and extreme right politicians on the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, such as Vaclav Havel, former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar, and Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. They are, for the most part, closely linked to the White House and the fascist wing of the Cuban exiles which is deeply implicated in international terrorism. (4)
The Czech government, which has shown its loyalty to the United States on many occasions, was the sponsor of the meeting. A unit for « promoting the transition » in Cuba has even been recently created within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Gabriela Dlouha. (5). As early as 1999, at the request of Madeleine Albright, herself of Czech origin, the Czech authorities had tabled a resolution against Cuba during the meeting of the Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. Martin Palous, Czech ambassador to the USA, was delighted over the « role played » by his government concerning « the Cuban question ». Cuban-born Frank Calzon, a former CIA agent and director of the Center for a Free Cuba (an organisation controlled by the Cuban radical right), expressed his approval of the interventionist attitude of the Czech Republic. (6)
During this meeting on the theme of « Cuban dissidence », Vaclav Havel virulently condemned the arrests of 75 people by the Cuban authorities in March 2003. (7) In taking refuge behind the usual rhetoric about human rights, which crumbles at once when confronted by the facts, Mr Havel carefully evaded the details of this affair. He confined himself to calling for the release of Raúl Rivero, sentenced for conspiracy, subversive activities and collaboration with the setting up of the Washington blockade. In fact, on the payroll of the US government - a foreign enemy power which has been harassing Cuba since 1959 - Rivero participated in setting up the conditions necessary for destabilising Cuba, in flagrant violation of the laws of his country. (8).
The organisation of this meeting is far from innocent. In reality, its aim was to create within international opinion the conditions necessary for a US military invasion of Cuba. Several Latin-American personalities have joined the movement, such as former president of Uruguay Luis Alberto Lacalla, the former strong man of Chile Patricio Aylwin Azóca, and the former president of Costa Rica, Luis Alberto Monje, who did not hesitate for a single second to rub shoulders during the aforesaid meeting with individuals such as Carlos Alberto Montaner, president of the Cuban Liberal Union and also former CIA agent, who has a long criminal record linked to international terrorism. (9)
During the summit, Vaclav Havel publicly called for the overthrow of the Cuban government. According to him, it was necessary « to think of a means of getting rid of dictators », referring to Fidel Castro. (10) He also added that opponents « should spend as much time as possible » in preparing a post-revolutionary Cuba, in accordance with what is being advocated in the war-plan of President Bush. (11) « I think the situation in Cuba will change very soon », concluded Mr Havel. (12)
José Maria Aznar was also present. Despite his electoral defeat in March 2004, following his disastrous management of the bloody terrorist attacks in Madrid, he bustles about with remarkable zeal promoting the US policy against Cuba at an international level. He announced in particular, referring to Raúl Rivero, that « nobody should be in prison without a fair trial, nobody should be in prison for having written a poem against Fidel Castro ». This declaration, grotesque in its content and its disdain for the facts, provides a remarkable illustration of how summits are tainted by the anti-Cuban propaganda war initiated by Washington. (13) In fact, the invective against Havana by Oswaldo Payá, an occasional « dissident » and promoter of the hyped-up Varela Project (whose aim is to reinstate a capitalist economy in Cuba and which was strongly criticised by the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry) (14), has a greater impact than any supposed poem against the Cuban president. (15) However, Mr Payá enjoys freedom of movement and travels abroad regularly, because, unlike his imprisoned associates, he has always refused the financial support offered by Washington and consequently has not broken Cuban law.
Aznar’s eagerness might be surprising but it becomes less so when his close links with George W. Bush are taken into account. He was one of the few European political personalities to give his support to the US military aggression against Iraq, rejecting with contempt the fundamental principles of international law and Spanish public opinion, which showed that more than 80% were against the intervention and the participation of Spanish troops. Another aspect of the company Aznar keeps is less known, but essential for the understanding of his position. In fact, the former Spanish prime minister has been linked to extremist Cuban groups in Florida, advocates of terrorism against Cuba, for more than ten years.(16) As a fervent follower of ultra-liberalism, Aznar is obsessed by the success of Cuba’s socialist structure in terms of economic and social rights, as underlined on many occasions by international organisations.
The meeting ended with the publication of the « Declaration of Prague », which recommends an increase in the sanctions against Cuba, the maintenance of the current common position of the European Union and a growth in aid to movements which are likely to be in favour of subversion within Cuban society. James Cason, in charge of the US diplomatic mission in Havana, who has played a fundamental role in destabilising Cuban society, together with the ex-ambassador from the Reagan administration Jeanne Kirkpatrick, supervised the smooth running of the meeting. The declared objective of this common position from Prague is the overthrow of the Cuban government. Radio Martí, an official mouthpiece of the US government, whose purpose is to foment disorder in Cuba through its programmes, has « allocated prime time to this event » and is preparing « a special programme to be broadcast on the island via TV Martí », according to Pedro Roig, director the office for transmissions to Cuba. (18)
The Prague meeting was regarded as aggressive interference not only by the Cuban authorities but also by several groups which are regarded as opponents. For example Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, leader of the counter-revolutionary movement Cambio Cubano, published a declaration with the title « Dollars don’t buy the spring », in which he denounced the organisation of the meeting which in his view only served to make use of « unscrupulous plans for destabilising Cuba ». (19)
Gutiérrez Menoyo is a living legend within the Cuban extreme right in Florida. He spent 22 years in Cuban prisons for terrorist activities. Sentenced in 1964, he was freed in 1986 following a diplomatic intervention by the then Spanish prime minister Felipe González, and emigrated to Miami. Following the initiation of a more open policy by the Cuban government, Gutiérrez Menoyo returned to live in Cuba. On the subject of the « dissidents », he has said that he has no contact with them because « it is a minefield. Many of them are financed by the USA or by spies for the Cuban secret service. » (20)
The US House of Representatives clearly rejected and defied Bush’s aggressive plan, made public in May 2004, when it voted 225 to 174 in favour of an easing of the sanctions which would have limited the Cuban-American community to one visit of 14 days every three years, a proposal which was considered inhumane by Florida’s Democrat Representative Jim Davis. The draft, which now needs to be approved by the Senate, will in any case be rejected by Bush, who, according to a White House spokesperson, will veto it. (21)
The violence of the new economic sanctions has isolated the Bush administration from the Cuban community in the USA and from one part of the extreme right-wing exiles. Joe García, former executive director of the National Cuban-American Foundation - an extremist organisation involved in terrorism against Cuba - who has re-joined the Democratic Party, has described the Bush clan as « probably the worst administration which we have ever had as far as Cuban policy is concerned. » (22)
In the face of the growth of US hostility against Cuba, the British House of Commons recorded a 79% vote in favour of a common declaration condemning the current Bush policy against the Havana government, and warning against a future military aggression against the Cuban people. Peter Hain, Leader of the House of Commons, offered the following comments : « I am absolutely opposed to military action being taken against Cuba and also opposed to the continuing blockade of Cuba by the United States. I visited Cuba two years ago and was very impressed with the social advances that have been made despite all the pressure from the US.” (23)
The impressive level of human development reached by Cuba is totally censored by the media monopolies. On 17th September 2004, the United Nations Population Fund called the Cuban health model exemplary and praised the social policies of the Cuban government. The report of the aforementioned organisation underlined that Cuba is the only Third World country to have achieved an infant mortality rate comparable to that of industrialised nations, namely 6%.
The Caribbean region is currently being ravaged by cyclones which have caused dramatic human damage, especially in Haiti. The United Nations has praised the organisational model used in Cuba for the prevention of damage from cyclones. Hurricane Charlie cost the lives of four people in Cuba while thirty people died in Florida as it swept in. Similarly, in 1998 Hurricane George caused the death of four people in Cuba while more than 600 died in the other Caribbean countries. “Several factors can explain the low rate of mortality caused by the hurricanes in Cuba in comparison with its neighbours, such as education, damage prevention and capacity to respond”, underlined Salvano Briceno, director of the Institute for Disaster Reduction at the United Nations. As for Brigitte Leoni, spokesperson of the World Conference for Disaster Reduction which will take place in Japan in January 2005, she has commented that all countries have at their disposal the means to limit the consequences of these catastrophes, but they sometimes lack “specific programmes of action and the political will to put them in place”. (25)
In contrast to the media trans-nationals, the United Nations retains a certain objectivity about Cuba and bases its arguments on statistics and facts, putting ideological prejudices to one side. Bruno Moro, representing the United Nations Programme for Development, has affirmed that Cuba has at its disposal an advanced level of local progress with the reduction of inequality and poverty, and the country is a point of reference in this field. He underlined in particular the quality of social cover, the programmes to combat AIDS (contrary to what the international press reports on this topic) and local economic development. (26)
Cuban reality is a constant victim of distortions manufactured by the grail-bearers of the free-market religion. Washington and the extremists of the Cuban community in Florida, along with all their allies such as Havel and Aznar, seize every opportunity to destroy the Cuban revolutionary project. The American film-maker Oliver Stone had a bitter experience with them. Speaking to bemused journalists during a press conference at the San Sebastian Festival in Spain, he went back over the reasons for the censoring - which, according to him, “reached untenable levels in the USA” - of his film “Comandante”, which dealt with Fidel Castro and his vision for Cuban society:
The demonstrations that take place in the Cuban streets to favour Fidel Castro are not a fake, and if they were, the people should be awarded with the Oscar for their performance, for I have seen the joy in their faces when they approach the leader.
I found an openness and a freedom in Cuba that I have not found in any other country of the area, neither in the Caribbean nor in Central America. I have been with many world leaders in Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and I have never seen the spontaneous affection in the streets that I have seen in Cuba toward Fidel Castro.
These crowds were totally spontaneous. There were visits to hospitals and perhaps people there could have known that we were going, but looking at the faces you know nothing was a fake. I’m a director of actors and I know when people pretend, and when they don’t. Castro asked where I wanted to go, and people approached him in a very natural way. Where in the world could this happen?
[Fidel Castro] is one of the few presidents in the world who has no money abroad and has led his people to a very high educational level. [...]
[The anti-Castro lobby] was decisive because it allowed Bush to defeat Gore in the 2000 elections. The right wing is the same everywhere, whether it is in Cuba or Vietnam. It is like an octopus whose tentacles reach everything. It controls the Internet, TV and radio stations, newspapers. And above all, it is perfectly organized. They master the art of negative publicity and the destruction of those they consider enemies. As soon as they see something they don’t like, they discredit you with campaign of e-mails, comments and articles. In the U.S.A there is censorship [...] [The anti-Castro lobby] hated my film about Castro, Comandante, and they killed it almost before it was born. It just frightened them". [...]
[When asked about dissidence:} What right do the political dissidents of Guatemala have, or those of El Salvador, where your tongue is cut off if you protest and the archbishops are executed, or in other Latin American countries where the U.S.A. has demolished democracy and imposed military juntas according to their interests? Let us look at things from Fidel Castro’s point of view. What would happen if he opened the doors? The next day the CIA would be there publishing newspapers and controlling television, buying people with dollars and seeking to get rid of him with the same tactics they use in other parts of the planet, whether it is in Central America, in Afghanistan or in the Arabic Persian Gulf. Fidel says it in the movie, Washington only accepts the unconditional surrender of its enemies. It is terrible.
If an embargo had been imposed on Bush like the one imposed on Cuba, he would have immediately declared a state of war. It is ridiculous to claim that a small island of the Caribbean constitutes a threat for the security of the giant U.S.A. The present President lacks any scruples, and if, in order to win the elections in Florida, he needs to exploit the Cuban threat, he won’t hesitate for a single minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if something unexpected took place in October". (27)
The Prague meeting had the sole aim of preparing public opinion psychologically for military aggression against Cuba. The fanaticism of the Bush administration could eventuate in a bloody disaster on the Caribbean island, for the Cuban people will not lightly give up their Revolution.
(1)Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, May 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (site consulted 7 May 2004).
(2) Agnès Vaddé, « International summit for democracy in Cuba : political and intellectual leaders from the whole world are meeting in Prague », Radio Praha, 17 September 2004. www.radio.cz (site consulted 18 September 2004).
(3) Agnès Vaddé, « International summit for democracy in Cuba : political and intellectual leaders from the whole world are meeting in Prague », Radio Praha, 17 September 2004. www.radio.cz (site consulted 18 September 2004).
(4) Pablo Alfonso, « Plan de apoyo a la libertad de Cuba », El Nuevo Herald, 19 September 2004. www.miami.com/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9701733.htm (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(5) Anne Lise Rodier, « Prague au secours des dissidents cubains », Courrier International, 25 September 2004. www.courrierinternational.com/article.asp ?obj_id=27212&provenance=accueil&bloc=15 (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(6) Dinah A. Spritzer, « Cuba Libre », The Prague Post, 16 September 2004. www.praguepost.com/P03/2004/Art/0916/news1.php (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(7) Radio France, « Vaclav Havel lance un appel à la solidarité avec l’écrivain cubain Raul Rivero », 16 September 2004. www.radiofrance.fr/divers/thematiques/radiodulivre/actualite/index.php ?numero=100051232 (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(8) Rosa Miriam Elizalde & Luis Baez, « The Dissidents » (Havana : Editora Política, 2003), pp. 153-74.
(9) Pablo Alfonso, « Cumbre en Praga honra al escritor Raúl Rivero », El Nuevo Herald, 17 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9683912.htm (site consulted 17 September 2004).
(10) Paulo A. Paranagua, « A Prague, Vaclav Havel appelle à aider l’opposition cubaine pour construire l’après-Castro », Le Monde, 21 September 2004
(11)Jean-Luc Testault, « Havel inaugura conferencia en apoyo a la oposición cubana », El Nuevo Herald, 18 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9693402.htm (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(12) Karel Janicek, « Spain’s Ex-Leader Blasts Castro », The Miami Herald, 18 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9695158.htm ?1c (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(13)Jean-Luc Testault, op.cit.
(14) David Brooks, « Kerry’s Cruel Realism », The New York Times, 19 June 2004 :editorial ; Mike Allen, « A Worried Bush Revisits Florida », The Washington Post, 28 August 2004 : A04.
(15) Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, « Mensaje de Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas a Vaclav Havel, presidente de la República Checa en su visita a la ciudad de Miami », 23 September 2002. www.pdc-cuba.org/paya_havel.htm (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(16)Pablo Alfonso, « Aznar visita a disidente Sebastián Arcos », El Nuevo Herald, 25 November 1995 : 1A ; Pablo Alfonso, « Homenajea Aznar », El Nuevo Herald, 29 November 1995 : 3A ; Pablo Alfonso, « Aznar se reúne con grupos del exilio », El Nuevo Herald, 30 November 1995 : 1A.
(17) El Mundo, « Aznar demands that Cuba release all prisoners of conscience » 15 September 2004. www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2004/09/15/espana/1095268466.html (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(18) Pablo Alfonso, « Plan de apoyo a la libertad de Cuba », El Nuevo Herald, 19 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9701733.htm (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(19) Wilfredo Cancio Isla, « Payá a favor de la Cumbre de Praga », El Nuevo Herald, 21 September 2004 : www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9716158.htm (site consulted 22 September 2004).
(20) Jens Glüsing, « The Wall of Water », Der Spiegel, 20 September 2004. www.spiegel.de/spiegel/english/0,1518,318909,00.html (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(21) El Mundo, « La Cámara Baja de EEUU desafía a Bush y aprueba reducir las restricciones de viajes a Cuba », 22 September 2004. www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2004/09/22/internacional/1095824286.html (site consulted 25 September 2004) ; Pablo Bachelet, « House Defies Bush on New Cuba Travel Ban », The Miami Herald, 22 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9726054.htm (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(22) Karl Ross, « Exile : President Bush Has Failed to Bring Democracy to Cuba », The Miami Herald, 22 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/9729520.htm (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(23) Cuba Debate, « House of Commons Says No to U.S. War on Cuba », 23 September 2004. www.cubadebate.cu/index.php ?tpl=noticias-show-fulliciaid=3375iciafecha=2004-09-23 (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(24) Granma, « ONU cita a Cuba de ejemplo en materia de salud », 17 September 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/septiembre/vier17/39salud.html (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(25) Granma, « ONU : Cuba es un ejemplo de cómo enfrentar ciclones », 15 September 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/septiembre/mier15/15onu.html ; Naomi Koppel, « ONU : Hay que aprender de cuba en preparativos para huracanes », El Nuevo Herald, 14 September 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9661076.htm (site consulted 20 September 2004).
(26) Granma, « Reconoce la ONU avances de Cuba en Desarrollo Local », 23 September 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/septiembre/jue23/reconoce.html (site consulted 25 September 2004).
(27) Rolando Pérez Betancourt, « Hablando con Oliver Stone », Granma, 21 September 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/septiembre/mar21/oliver.html (site consulted 25 September 2004). English version http://www.tribuna.islagrande.cu/Especiales/oliver1.htm (site consulted 5 November 2004)
Translated by Barbara and David Forbes for ZNet, Central America & Caribbean: