What should we do? Fold our arms and allow the US to do what it likes?
Campaign News | Wednesday, 7 April 2004
President of Cuban Parliament defends the arrest of the so-called dissidents
April 6: The President of Cuba?s Parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, met Monday 6th April with a delegation of managing editors from the Associated Press who are on a visit to Cuba.
He answered their questions with a straightforward honesty on any subject they chose.
The first question concerned the criticism leveled at Cuba for the arrest one year ago of 75 individuals who had accepted money from the United States to undermine the Cuban government.
By any standard this would warrant punishment, explained Alarcon, especially given the need for Cuban to protect its sovereignty -- even at the expense of its image in Europe.
Ricardo Alarcon: "What are you supposed to do? Just cross your arms and permit a big power to undermine and plot against you just in order to avoid bad coverage by certain media? .A very powerful country - the only super power - is involved in such activities that unfortunately place individuals at the risk of being accused and tried for working for that power, because it engages in such activity as an established policy"
"We have to defend ourselves", continued Alarcon, "and we have to convince the press to look at this issue very seriously and objectively".
Alarcon: "Serving the interests of a foreign government is a very specific charge. It is not that you may like apple pie or prefer American movies. You may be completely American in your mentality, but that's not working for the US government. Some of these people may meet with you and talk about freedom and other things, but they won't talk about the amount of money and the instructions they have been receiving for years including the intention to mislead the foreign media.
"The fact is this year has seen thousands of people being deprived of their freedom throughout the world. The only difference between the 75 and the many who have been arrested in Europe and North America - including those who are in the (US) concentration camp in Guant namo, Cuba - is that you can name the 75, all of the 75. The other thousands nobody knows even their names. They did not have defense lawyers and don't know what the charges against them are"
Stuart Wilk from the Dallas Morning News, which has an office in Havana, then asked about the racial profiling by the police of young, black men on the street, which is a common complaint here in Havana as well as in the United States.
Alarcon: "Any time that that happens, and is known and denounced by somebody, action is supposed to be taken. An officer must not do this - it is definitely illegal. Unfortunately, it happens - not only with white policemen but also with black policemen...This kind of attitude by any officer is punishable and sanctions have been taken in some cases."
The President of the Cuban Parliament went on to explain the history of slavery that in Cuba was longer than any other country in the Americas, and how certain racist attitudes continue as a remnant of slavery.
Alarcon: "The assumption - that has some objective backing - is that, generally speaking, blacks have endured more difficult conditions than whites. There is a disproportionally greater number of blacks among the poor, among the people who live in bad conditions. Usually this is associated with criminality or violation of laws or the perception of criminality by others and that is part of the prejudice that has existed throughout our history."
Asked if Cuba was intending to close down the US Interests Section in Havana or at the very least eject its head, James Cason, in view of his open undermining of the Cuban government, Ricardo Alarcon responded that a few months ago Cason said that if he was expelled then someone else would take his place. That is the best demonstration of his government's overall policy, remarked Alarcon:
Alarcon: "It's not the bad habits of an individual, it's the policy of the US government.Closing down the Interests Section has been the goal of the extremist groups in Miami - those who want to provoke confrontation and war between our two countries have always had this as one of their goals. They also want to kill the migratory agreement between our countries. They want to stop travel between both nations. They want to eliminate those positive elements that exist between our two countries. Closing the Interests Section is not in the interests of the Cuban or the American people. At the same time you cannot fail to criticize the extreme behavior of some people in the US Interests Section.
Unfortunately, mused the Cuban Parliament President, it appears these extremist groups have, for now, been successful in closing down the migratory agreements which the US recently did not attend in Havana - the first time the US has come out against the letter and spirit of these agreements, he said.
Alarcon: "I don't have any hope that the talks will continue because Mr Noriega (Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega) has been crystal clear about that. The next round of talks are supposed to take place in New York. The host country has traditionally been the party that proposed the date and made arrangements. Mr Noriega has said in several public statements that the US will not convene the meeting in New York. I have to say that the failure to attend the meeting in Havana and the decision not to convene the meeting in New York is a direct violation of the agreements. This was a concession to those in Miami who have been advocating precisely for the elimination of the migratory agreements. This is very serious because it is connected with the desire that some people have toward provoking a military confrontation between our two countries."
When asked whether, in his heart of hearts, he really believes that the United States would invade Cuba, Alarcon responded that Washington is deliberately undermining and sabotaging the very agreements set by both the US and Cuba to avoid any repeat of a migratory crisis, which might lead to a military conflict.
Alarcon: "Mr Noriega has said that a migratory crisis with Cuba would be the equivalent to an act of aggression by Cuba. In these days to accuse somebody of attacking the United States is tantamount to war. He said this in Miami in front of people openly advocating for the end of the migratory agreements and openly advocating for war. This, to people who carried a banner in Miami saying 'Iraq Now, Cuba Next'."
This is one of the best examples of the risks that Cuba is facing at the moment, added the Cuban Parliament leader. Last week, John Bolton, the US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control once again accused Cuba of manufacturing biological weapons or, ominously, weapons of mass destruction.
Alarcon: "If Americans still believe in WMDs after going to war in Iraq because of the effort to find those WMDs, imagine what the allegation that we have them in Cuba means. You expect, then, that at any moment a direct course of military action will be taken. This to us is a very clear danger."
The President of the United States and other members of his administration constantly talk about "transition" in Cuba, continued Alarcon. This, he said, is modern US language for the death of Fidel Castro. When Bush officials talk about "accelerating transition" and allow people like congressional representative Diaz Balart to openly call for the assassination of Cuba's president then what is in these people's minds?
Alarcon: "This is the way to accelerate a transition isn't it? You assassinate somebody and you have accelerated the moment of transition.
Others have also clearly expressed that when that moment comes the US should not 'wait and see', but act immediately and energetically to make it impossible for 'Castro's cronies' to retain power. I am supposed to be one of the cronies.It has been stated publicly that when our head of state dies the US will intervene to control the process of transition. Although you have not asked it, the standard question put to me is 'What will happen when Fidel Castro dies?' Well, according to expressed US policy, when Castro dies the US will invade Cuba. We cannot play games with this. We must take these things seriously."
Cuba, explained the Cuban Parliament president, unlike the Middle East, is only a matter of minutes from the United States. In this day and age Washington doesn't go through the United Nations, it just attacks. It won't be a matter of watching on TV the movement of a US army division as it heads out.
Alarcon: "It may not sound like the rational thing to do right now, but there are many people working toward this invasion today in the terrorist community in Miami. This is their goal. The US continues to be the main threat to our existence. We have to consider this very seriously given our history with the US."
After the meeting with the delegation of managing editors from the Associated Press, Radio Havana Cuba asked one of them, Ed Jones, if he had been satisfied with the question and answer session with Cuba's Parliament President.
Ed Jones: "Well, I think it was a valuable meeting for us and the President did respond to the questions that we asked. I was delighted that he was willing to be on the record and be quoted and delighted that he addressed directly the questions we asked."
The US newspaper editor also said that he would be seeking more information on the case of the five Cubans imprisoned in the US for defending their island against terrorists based in Miami and of whom Ricardo Alarcon spoke toward the end of the meeting.
Jones: "I do think one of the reactions I had to our discussion today is an interest in finding out more about the situation involving these five people. I've certainly read about it but I think the point that the President made today was that he felt that the case has not been reported to the degree that it should have been and I don't know enough about the situation to be able to personally react to that."
A response which precisely proved the Cuban Parliament president's point.
Alarcon: "One final suggestion. Americans come down here and have meetings with officials and visit institutions. If I were you I would demand my right to have as much time as possible just to walk around and meet people - not officials - and try to find the truth. You will find very diversified opinions. You will find a country that is not a rigid totalitarian society as is presented abroad. You will find a lively society. In the final analysis I am sure you will discover a proud people who simply want to preserve their independence."
By Simon Wollers Staff writer from Radio Havana Cuba