Fidel Castro rebuts Rumsfeld on Cuba and Venezuela

Campaign News | Sunday, 28 August 2005

It is neoliberalism that is causing discontent, says Cuban leader

Havana, Aug 27 Cuban President Fidel Castro has strongly rejected declarations by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who brazenly accuses Cuba and Venezuela of destabilizing Latin America.

Speaking on Cuban TV's Round Table discussion programme on Friday, the leader of the Cuban Revolution noted that the winds of change blowing in the region are a direct result of the critical social and economic conditions. “People are becoming aware of their problems;misery, unemployment and the lack of medical care are the main causes of dissatisfaction,” he assured.

The Cuban President quoted several news articles dealing with Rumsfeld?s claim that Cuba and Venezuela are involved in the crisis in Bolivia and the Bush administration’s deep concern about the possible election of left wing candidate Evo Morales in December. There’s no need to blame us, it’s their own neoliberal and interventionist policies coming home to roost, said Fidel Castro.

Fidel then referred to Rumsfeld’s request for total immunity for the US Armed Forces

during military exercises in the region. “Who are they going to fight in Paraguay? Where is the threat? They are obviously searching to establish new military bases and create conditions to intercede in Bolivia or Brazil in case of revolutions,” he said.

President Fidel Castro noted that the White House sees force as its only card after the possible collapse of its Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) project and the steady progress of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) that stresses solidarity and regional cooperation.

With Venezuela and Cuba spearheading the ALBA and the efforts to unite Latin America and the Caribbean to work together in the social, economic and political spheres, the Cuban leader said Rumsfeld had nothing left but lies to attack the two countries.

US in search of military bases and demonising Cuba

The hidden agenda of Rumsfeld’s tour of Latin America

BY JUANA CARRASCO MARTIN -Special for Granma International-

WASHINGTON’S public relations with its Latin American neighbors are increasing, and following imperial logic, there is a hidden agenda.

The most noteworthy recent visit, and the one with the most commitment to the southern geographic area, has just been made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on his fifth tour of the region and his third in just 10 months, this time through Paraguay and Peru. He suspended his stopover in Uruguay given that the work agenda had been made public.

The greatest interest for a while now has been the search for territories to install military bases that, just in case, would allow them to have a contingent ready to send to war in the vicinity, in line with the current U.S. military doctrine that has already become a reality in other parts of the world.

The pretext in this hemisphere is the so-called war on drug trafficking, which Washington also calls "narco-terrorism," a euphemism for its process of taking over key spots in the extensive, convulsive and strategic backyard that seems to be slipping out of its hands.

Rumsfeld’s other interest is related to the growing attempt to demonize - as always - Cuba, but above all to increasingly include Bolivarian Venezuela in this category; hence, they have invented an entire alleged conspiracy between presidents Fidel and Chávez to "destabilize" the continent, a plot in which the perverse U.S. propaganda machine has not left out the popular Bolivian presidential candidate, Evo Morales.

The White House of George W. Bush continues to play out those lies without realizing that it is the unsatisfied needs of the peoples that stir up governments and societies. Hunger, shortages, unemployment, lack of opportunities and social exclusion form the foundations of discontent, and it is hardly necessary to note that the exploitation imposed by the transnationals, particularly from the United States has provoked and aggravated this situation on a daily basis.

Rumsfeld made his remarks in Lima at the end of his regional tour: "There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways," and he labeled President Hugo Chávez with a cliché expression to be used as propaganda to be shouted from the rooftops: "anti-social, destabilizing behavior."

Rumsfeld’s tour was viewed by many, rightly so, as a message to the governments of Havana and Caracas - even if that imperial arrogance falls on deaf ears - but also to anyone who maintains normal or close relations with the revolutionary duo, given that a different kind of integration, an effective, solidarity-inspired one, is of concern to Washington, not only because it exposes the selfish and exploitative nature of the United States, but also because it interferes with its economic, political and military interests in the region.

This time, the Pentagon hawk aimed for weak links, and met not only with presidents, but also with his fellow defense ministers. In Asuncion, he doubtless reviewed the state of the U.S. troops there - the ones who have won immunity despite Paraguayans’ opposition - who have been deployed there in 100-man units since July, and who will remain in Guaraní territory until December of 2006, in a permanent exercise; after that, it remains to be seen, but they already have their advance in hand.

According to the magazine Koeyú, in Mariscal Estigarribia, a small town of 30,000, U.S. military forces have built a barracks infrastructure to house up to 16,000 troops, in addition to a 3,800-meter airstrip that technically enables the take-off and landing of B-52 and Galaxy aircraft, which would make the recently installed Mariscal Estigarribia Military Base "the principal and most important U.S. military enclave in the Southern Cone."

The Paraguayan government has denied the possibility of handing over a base, but the 18-month U.S. military presence could open that door, and the revelation on the installation should not go unheeded.

However, not everything was looking rosy for the northern hawk, given that he found reluctance among the highest Paraguayan and Peruvian authorities to blindly concede their cooperation in containing "the threat to the security of the Western Hemisphere" - the one that supposedly comes from Cuba and Venezuela. And that reluctance stems from a logic that George W. Bush’s White House does not practice: respect for sovereignty.

Rumsfeld had barely picked up from Asuncion and taken off for Lima when Defense Minister Roberto González announced that the Paraguayan government respects freedom of ideas, but in its foreign policy, "will do what is best for our people, beyond prejudices."

In statements to the daily ABC Color, he explained that "President Duarte Frutos was very explicit when he emphasized that Cuba, ‘in spite of its shortages, practices effective solidarity in the field of education.’ A total of 700 young Paraguayans are studying in Cuban universities, González noted, pointing out that those countries which possess science and technology should also offer "free academic spaces."

With respect to Venezuela, he referred to the trade agreement on oil that provides great savings for Paraguay and thus better possibilities for investing in social issues, and at the same time affirmed that Paraguay agrees with Venezuela on the need to build a united South America, with greater political power in international decisions, particularly those related to issues of finance, information and knowledge.

In Lima, Rumsfeld met with Alejandro Toledo, just two days before the swearing-in of that country’s new Cabinet. The president is in the last year of his five-year mandate, and along with "enjoying" enormous unpopularity, faces corruption charges.

But the U.S. Defense Secretary could be a good candidate for a project announced by Fidel and Chávez during the most recent "Aló, Presidente" program: 600,000 surgical operations per year for the continent’s neediest people, to restore their vision.

With that usual Bushite-team blindness, Rumsfeld told the Peruvian president: "We recognize and respect the leadership role that you have taken in this country politically and from an economic standpoint as well as a security standpoint."

And - surprise! -, while Toledo affirmed that "encouraging democracy is a shared responsibility," he also stated that he did not want to discuss other countries’ internal affairs.

That’s how things go, although the peoples should rightly be on the alert. The United States is threatening the peace in the region and is very much disposed to follow an interventionist policy on the continent.

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