Cuba once more in the US military eye
Campaign News | Friday, 21 May 2004
By Ken Gill, Chair Cuba Solidarity Campaign
On Thursday 6 May, George Bush, sharing the platform with Secretary of State, Colin Powell, launched a new offensive against Cuba.
Based on a report by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, these new measures include restricting Cuban-Americans visits to relatives in Cuba and spending $59 million over the next two years to finance so-called dissidents and other subversive activities on the island.
The Commission, under the direct political supervision of the State Department, has been working for some time to hasten a ‘democratic transition’ in the Caribbean island. At 450-pages long, its report is perhaps the most thorough attempt to cover every aspect of Cuban society with the overt intention of overthrowing the Cuban revolution. Its six chapters have revealing headings, such as ‘Hastening Cuba’s transition’ which includes policies to ‘undermine regime-sustaining tourism’, ‘deny other sources of revenue to the regime’ and ‘undermine the regime’s succession strategy’.
Other headings repeat usual U.S. rhetoric on ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, including one incredibly titled ‘Addressing environmental degradation’ - as though the U.S. is a champion defender of the planet’s environment. It is sickening for this administration to present itself as a paragon of human rights considering its treatment of prisoners at the illegally occupied U.S. Guantanamo base. But all of that is just décor. The real objective can be found in the wording of chapter 4, ‘Establishing the core institutions of a free economy’.
The U.S. blockade against Cuba is already the toughest economic blockade against a country in peacetime. It costs Cuba billions each year and cruelly causes suffering and hardship to millions of Cuban citizens. Under it’s current terms, the 45 year-old blockade prohibits Cuban exports to the U.S, restricts imports, forces Cuba to engage in cash-related purchases by preventing access to financial credits, and allows its assets in dollar currency to be seized. US citizens are prevented from travelling to the island, making Cuba the only country where their citizens are not allowed to travel by law. And by prohibiting access to international financial agencies, Cuba has not received a single credit from the World or Inter-American Development Banks in the last 45 years.
These are just a few of the current blockade restrictions. Under the new measures, they will be tightened further.
Extra economic sanctions
With the new measures, instead of annual visits, Cuban-born citizens living in the U.S are now only able to visit relatives once every three years. They are further restricted to visiting immediate relatives only, and permitted daily spending is reduced to just $54. U.S. law enforcement authorities will also be directed to conduct “sting operations” against anyone who carries money to relatives in Cuba.
These policies aim to deprive Cuba of vital revenues provided from travel by Cuban-Americans and the remittances they send to family members in Cuba. To further reduce the inflow of Cuba’s tourism income, anti-Cuban campaigns will be funded in selected third countries “as part of a broader effort to discourage tourist travel.” This will increase in the slanderous, misreporting of Cuban life in the media that we already regularly witness in the UK.
Most sinister of all, the Report proposes to “offer assistance to a free Cuba to help it design an effective privatization program as well as prepare enterprises for privatization, including industries and enterprises operated or managed by the Cuban Armed Forces.” The obvious implications of which have surely not been lost on Bush, Powell, and co: the violent overthrow of the Cuban government is an absolute pre-requisite if US business interests are to reap the rewards of the re-colonization of a country which they have always viewed as existing within ‘their zone of control’.
Other measures aim to subvert the Cuban government by increasing the funds for counter-revolutionary groups. Most worryingly, $18 million is allocated for the use of military aircraft to enhance broadcasts by the US government-run propaganda stations - the ill-named Radio and TV Martí.
Using the issue of alleged human rights violations, and alleged Cuban “espionage committed against other countries”, the Bush also intends to increase the public campaign to discredit Cuba internationally with the support of third-country governments. Just part of a global media smear to undermine Cuba’s image at the international level
New funds are made available to support disaffected and marginalized segments of Cuban society too. Not only does this violate international law, but it is put forward with the full knowledge that the Draconian economic measures the US is about to unleash on the island are likely to produce precisely the groups of disaffected people in Cuban society it seeks. One can imagine the reaction in Washington if say, France, were to set aside funding to promote the strengthening of marginalised groups in the U.S.
Even tighter restrictions on educational trips and academic exchanges by U.S. citizens and institutions will be introduced, supplemented by the continued denial of visas to Cuban officials who need to travel to the U.S. These decisions come on top of ever-increasing prohibitions for Cuban scientists, academics, artists and athletes to enter U.S. territory.
And just to show exiled Miami Cubans how serious it is, the Bush administration will appoint a Transition Coordinator for Cuba to check that all these measures are applied.
With these new measures U.S. Government is evidently trying to increase the difficult conditions it has already enforced on the Cuban people through 45 years of the illegal blockade - a blockade that costs Cuba over US$ 72 billion and violate the human rights of 11 million Cubans. The new measures, by increasing hardship, are a further attempt to subdue the Cuban population through hunger and disease, and as such constitute a flagrant breach of international law.
This new escalation in US aggression against Cuba would be worrying enough if it were the only measures that the Bush administration has taken. But when it is added to other recent actions, the picture becomes more alarming. Members of the Bush administration have made allegations that Cuba is trying destabilize other countries in the region. John Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control, has also persistently - and without a shred of evidence - attempted to link Cuba to the development of biological weapons, stating that it poses a terrorist and bio-terrorist threat to the U.S.
In its attempt to destroy the Cuban Revolution, successive U.S. Governments have resorted to all kinds of illegal means: acts of sabotage, assassination plots against Cuba’s main leaders, terrorist actions, diplomatic isolation, biological warfare and economic blockade, all the way to direct military invasion, the dangers of which are now resurfacing, especially with the approaching US presidential elections and Bush’s reliance on the Cuban exile vote in Florida.
Responding to this new US offensive, the Cuban government has announced austerity measures which limit the amount of goods that Cubans can buy in hard currency and increase the price of petrol. It has also warned the population that there may be difficult times ahead. By making it harder for dollar-holding Cubans to purchase goods that may be in short supply due to US policies, it hopes it will be easier to make them more available to peso-earning Cubans. On May 14, more than 1.2 million people took part in a demonstration in Havana against the Bush measures. There is no doubt that the move has served to unite the Cuban people in rejecting the policy.
These events must be taken extremely seriously by all governments concerned to preserve peace and stability in the Caribbean. On 12 May, the Spanish and Mexican foreign ministers issued a joint statement denouncing the Bush measures. In the U.S., Democrat Rep. José E. Serrano, stated: "This is a terrible policy. Entangling the military in our international broadcasting operations sets a dangerous precedent for military action and jeopardizes the credibility of our broadcasts. How would we feel if Havana began using military aircraft to broadcast into the United States?" Even some so-called Cuban dissidents have made statements denouncing the measures.
Given Blair’s slavish support for Bush’s disastrous foreign adventures, the British Government must state it’s opposition to this policy. The much vaunted current UK position of ‘constructive engagement’ is incompatible with these latest US measures which are clearly not about any kind of positive engagement but blatant pre-emptive manoeuvres towards forced regime change. The UK Government should therefore urgently distance itself from a US policy towards Cuba of aggression that can only lead to conflict.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign has launched the Hands Off Cuba campaign to raise awareness of the current situation and to push the British parliament to state its opposition to any US military action against Cuba. Already, three-quarters of all MPs in Parliament have been contacted by their constituents on the issue, and campaigning and lobbying will be stepped up in the coming weeks and months. Readers can view lists of those MPs who have responded and send model protest letters by contacting CSC or going to www.handsoffcuba.org.uk
As Washington’s closest ally, the U.K. government must be forced to make it clear to the U.S. that its policies are fundamentally flawed. They are illegal, inhuman, and will never succeed in achieving their stated aim to overthrow the Cuban government. Hands Off Cuba Now!