Chronicle of a War Foretold: Bush’s Plan for Cuba

Campaign News | Thursday, 6 July 2006

By Cuban Parliament president Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada

Havana 05 July: On May 20, 2004, US President George W Bush disclosed with great fanfare his plan to annex Cuba. The massive 450-page creation elicited a wave of criticism from around the world.

Above all, it is the Cuban people who are threatened with extermination and the obliteration of their country. Cuba, according to the sinister plan, would simply disappear, it would cease to exist. Let’s take a quick look at what would happen if that Bush plan was ever to be applied:

--Return all properties to former owners. Millions of people would be evicted from their homes in less than one year, under the supervision and control of the United States through its Commission for the Return of Confiscated Properties.

--All sectors of the economy would be privatized, including education and healthcare services, all cooperatives would be disbanded and former landholdings would be returned to past owners; social security and assistance would be eliminated, including pensions and retirement benefits. A special program would be organized for retirees and senior citizens to labor in public works projects as long as their health status allowed it. The most rigorous neoliberal guidelines would be applied. The US government would be in charge of the implementation of all these measures through a Permanent Committee for Economic Reconstruction.

--As the implementation of the plan would be met by the tenacious resistance of the Cuban people ("It would not be easy," Bush acknowledges in his Plan), top priority would be accorded to massive and generalized repression: against all members of the Cuban Communist Party, all members of social and mass organizations and other "government sympathizers", according to the document, which also emphasizes (would it be necessary?) that the list of the victims of their repression would be long. The US government would take direct charge of this repressive body "organized by the State Department."

--The overseeing of this program would be performed by a US government official appointed by President Bush under the pompous title of "Cuba Transition Coordinator", a sort of administrator or Governor General for the island, similar to what existed over a century ago under General Leonard Wood. The official would have the same responsibilities -even the same title- that Mr. Brenner had in invaded and destroyed Iraq. But in Cuba’s case, the difference would be that the Coordinator has already been appointed, a fellow called Caleb McCarry, who has already toured some European countries in search of shameful complicity. His much trumpeted appointment was presided over by Bush himself, as testimony that the president’s plan against the island and its citizens is serious business, not something that will only remain on paper.

--The Bush Plan also included specific measures against Cuban Americans, whose ties with their relatives on the island have been severely restricted. They were deprived of a general license to visit them and the discriminatory restriction of traveling to Cuba only once every three years was imposed, and that only when granted a special permit to do so. It also cruelly makes an arbitrary definition of family that can be visited, which excludes uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and other relatives.

To reach this goal, the US government will step up its actions to put and end to the Cuban Revolution, following three main procedures: a more rigorous blockade against the Island, the increase of financing and material support for internal mercenary groups and an ever growing disinformation and slander campaign.

Anybody should know that the commitment to overthrow the government of another country, to seek a political, economic and social regime change, and submit that country to a foreign power, is a scandalous breach of international law, only conceivable in people with a fascist mentality.

The aggressive and illegal nature of the Bush plan is so obvious, so outrageously delirious, that it received criticism even from some of the organizations and individuals that oppose the Cuban Revolution and are defenders of US policies and interests. That was the case of some members of the so-called Inter-American Dialogue --which includes well known enemies of Cuba- that issued a public letter opposing the plan because they saw it as a declaration of war and violence. There were those who called it "terrifying" and "the most dangerous in the relations between the United States and Latin America in the last 50 years."

Bush succeeded in doing what many US politicians dream of: uniting the political spectrum from left to right. But this unity was critical of him and his wicked plan.

But Bush had something in his favor. The same famous media that attended his announcement in May, 2004, and echoed his publicity show, kept a disciplined silence during the rest of the year and after. Something that was "the most dangerous" in a half century, simply disappeared from the attention of the "press." The issue simply ceased to exist. And that’s how it was for a year and a half until December of 2005.

Then, without giving specifics, and when they had all forgotten the matter, it was announced in Washington that a new report on Cuba was going to be issued in May, 2006.

The speculation grew. There were even some rightwing politicians and academics who had criticized the Bush plan as too soft, and who imagined a possibility of a hardening.

May 20, 2006 arrived and the media began to ask questions. But nothing happened that day nor in the following weeks. The official spokespersons replied with evasive answers to the journalists questions. Until once again, one and all, forgot about the issue.

Then in the third week of June, in an unusual and silent manner, the report appeared on the State Department website dated June 20, 2006. But, apparently nobody saw it. A week went by and the spokespersons and press remained in total silence, until some media in Miami and certain news agencies "discovered" what they called a "draft." Curiously the finding took place not at any time but precisely when the four-day July 4th holiday weekend began. This allowed for the news to be buried amidst the fireworks, patriotic rhetoric and special sales at shopping centers that usually accompany the commemoration of Independence Day.

The published text does not differ a millimeter from the original Bush plan. Just the opposite. It begins by ratifying it and welcoming the supposed successes of its application. On top of that "solid foundation" it announces "additional measures" to "accelerate" the end of the Cuban Revolution.

These measures deserve a thorough analysis and I propose doing so at a later date.

However, there is one thing that calls for an energetic and urgent denouncement. It is something absolutely bizarre.

Before listing the "additional measures" the public ones, the report says there are other contents in an appendix that remain secret for "national security reasons" and to assure their "effective implementation."

After all that has already been said -tens of millions more dollars for their mercenaries, new economic restrictions and illegal actions against international trade and the sovereignty of Cuba and other nations, additional punishment for Cubans and citizens of other countries--, and having made public more than two years ago its plan that goes into the smallest detail on their intent to re-colonize Cuba, after all that, at this stage what more could they have that warrants being kept hidden as top secret? What are they hiding for reasons of "national security and effective implementation?"

More terrorist attacks? New assassination attempts against Fidel Castro? A military aggression? Knowing Bush and his associates, anything is possible.

Commission Report for Assistance to a Free Cuba: Summary of contents

The report to be presented to President Bush by the so-called Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba was leaked this week under the names of Condoleeza Rice and Carlos Gutierrez, the Cuban-American Secretary of Commerce.

There is no link on the Web yet to the report, and at more than 80 pages, it is a long read. The following is a summary of its contents.

1. The report calls with urgency to intervene in Cuba upon the death of president Fidel Castro, clearly considering that the window of opportunity would be gone with the consolidation of a successor government. It ties Cuba to Venezuela, implying that the Commission would be glad to block the re-election of Hugo Chavez irrespective of the popular vote in that country.

2. The report does not make clear how the US should first intervene in Cuba in order to implement the proposals. Instead, it notes ominously that “For reasons of national security and effective implementation, some recommendations are contained in a separate classified annex.”

Given that Cuba's military establishment and civil defense are well-armed, highly organized and widely-supported, the implication is that the Commission is prepared to use overwhelming military force.

3. Taking as a given the intervention and a consequent downfall of the Cuban government, the report discusses two different successive governments for Cuba: one transitional and one elected. The first is to be limited in its duration and scope, and approved by the US based on its compliant conduct. Presumably, it would be the result of negotiations among power groups that the US would permit to take over temporarily.

4. During the transitional government, the focus would be on emergency response, distribution of food and services, provision of shelter as needed, medical care, and so on, to be funded largely by international donors and organizations. The document explicitly states that the government should not be “overburdened” by actual governance. Instead, the priority tasks of the transitional government would be to prepare for prompt elections following specified conditions, to facilitate the flow of foreign capital into the island, and to permit the prompt return of Cubans from abroad. The report makes clear that the elections should take place in the short term, and that the transitional government would not be favored by the U.S. to do much other than fulfill the assigned tasks.

5. The elections would be prepared by the US. The victorious candidates, destined to be the ones favoured by the US, would take over the government with a claim to representation because of elections. The new government would be expected to move promptly to return nationalized properties and to settle outstanding claims on acceptable terms. Thereafter, undertaking debts with the IMF and the World Bank, and inviting U.S. capital to invest, it would move Cuba into the orbit of the US economy. Its tasks are primarily about property and capital.

6. Until the plan is set into motion, the Commission calls for an allocation of $80 million in the first year, with a further $20 million every successive year, to fund propaganda and destabilization activities both inside and outside the island. It is to be expected that the bulk of that money would go to the professional counter-revolutionaries in Miami and elsewhere. And, the Commission calls for a further clamping down on travel to the island, as well as renewed efforts to cripple the Cuban economy in order to provoke the population into civil strife.

In sum, the report lays out a strategy to dismantle the present Cuban government and, in a blitzkrieg of elections and capital flows, transform Cuba into an economic and political appendage of the US.

The means for getting to the position of being able to implement such a plan are not the only mystery. The main mystery is this: Who or what gives the US the right to pretend to organize another nation to its liking?

A second issue is this: While for Ms. Rice Cuba is no more than another geostrategic point to take over, what kind of Cubans are they in the Commission who still cling to the idea of returning Cuba to the status quo ante 1959?

This, of course, leads on to the third unknown: What if the Cubans on the island don’t agree with the plan?

The consequence of implementing this plan will be at the very least a war in Cuba which would be disastrous for the whole of the Caribbean region and any country that has interests there.

Bush report may ban aid and church relations with Cuba

The US-based international humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) is alarmed about the recommendations in an advance draft of a new report by the Bush Administration’s Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba - which CWS says would end its ability to provide basic relief aid to people in need in the island nation and seriously hamper religious freedom.

Mainstream churches in the USA wish to see better relations with Cuba and an end to United States sanctions, convinced that this is the best mutual way to further the interests of social justice, human rights and the role of the churches there.

A draft copy of the report was supplied to Church World Service, the ecumenical relief and development body related to the National Council of Churches USA, over the weekend.

It is expected that the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and co-chaired by Secretary of Commerce George Gutierrez, will officially present its new report to President Bush next week.

“If the recommendations contained within this report are accepted by President George Bush and put into effect by the Commerce Department, it is likely that we will no longer be allowed to provide humanitarian aid through the Cuban Council of Churches, our agency’s partner in Cuba for 60 years,” said CWS Executive Director the Rev John L. McCullough.

In addition to protesting an effective ban on the international agency’s ability to deliver relief aid in Cuba, CWS is decrying the report’s limits on religious freedom. “Church World Service would view any resulting regulations indicated in this report as unwarranted incursions into religious freedom by the Bush administration,” said McCullough.

He continued: “The report is an assault on ecumenical relations not only in Cuba but internationally and sets a dangerous precedent. This tries to dictate the very ways in which we deliver humanitarian aid to people who need it. If the way we provide aid can be curtailed in Cuba, our relief and response work could be threatened anywhere else.”

One of the report recommendations is to “Tighten regulations for the export of humanitarian items, other than agricultural or medical commodities, to ensure that exports are consigned t o entities that support independent civil society and are not regime administered or controlled organizations, such as the Cuban Council of Churches.”

CWS’s McCullough noted: “It is chilling that the Cuban Council of Churches is mentioned by name and as an example of a ‘regime-controlled’ organization. Depending on how the regulations are written, food, medicine and medical equipment ? some of CWS?s main shipments to the island nation - might be exempted from this provision, but we wouldn't count on it.”

“Other humanitarian items, such as blankets, school kits and sewing supplies, and any other non-food and medicine aid will certainly be off-limits to the CCC. And this, when before us is predicted one of the worst hurricane seasons ever,” he said.

McCullough and other ecumenical representatives have been trying to meet with Mr Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, but so far Thomas has not responded positively.

“Ecumenical bodies have a right to determine their partners and to relate internationally,” McCullough said. “This raises grave concerns apart from the politics of US-Cuban relations.”

Parts of the report also refer to new restrictions on travel to and from Cuba, which Church World Service has been advocating against since early this year when McCullough addressed proposed travel restrictions at a gathering of members of Congress and officials at the Departments of State and Treasury.

In that address, McCullough noted that, “Since the late 1940s CWS has engaged with an ecumenical partner in Cuba that enables us to work cooperatively. We have no doubt that the Cuban Council of Churches is an authentic Christian expression. Our hope is that faith will not be manipulated as a tool of international diplomacy.”

An ecumenical humanitarian agency such as Church World Service is a cooperative effort. CWS represents 35 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations in the United States which themselves represent tens of millions of members in their respective local churches.

“To hinder this activity is to strike at the heart of our religious identity and freedom. Religious freedom was a key principle to the founders of the American Republic,” says Martin Shupack, associate director for Church World Service public policy.

Since 2004, the current US administration has taken a series of actions to limit travel to Cuba by scientists, academic researchers, students, Cuban-Americans wishing to visit family members, and now national religious bodies.

Cuba concern over US plans

New US government report zeroes in on Cuba's close ties with Venezuela

This report is from BBC news, views expressed within it are not those of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

A senior Cuban official has sharply criticised a US report on the future of Cuba after Fidel Castro leaves office.

A draft of the report calls for a "democracy fund" to boost opposition to Cuba's communist government.

The report is being issued by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, created by President George W Bush in 2003.

Cuba's government has had notoriously bad relations with Washington for well over 45 years.

For the government, the fact that the US would plan for the day when Fidel Castro's time in power ends should come as no surprise.

However, the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, feels there is cause for anger and even concern.

Mr Alarcon describes the report as nothing short of an aberration which should be read as an act of war, as it publicly contemplates how to bring the government of a sovereign foreign nation to an end.

Speculation ongoing

A draft version of the report by the commission, a final version of which is due out next week, calls on President Bush to create an $80m pro-democracy fund to boost support for political opponents of the island's communist government.

It also says that Cuba, along with its political ally Venezuela, is a threat to political and democratic stability in Latin America.

And it says President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been subverting democracy in Cuba by giving money and financial assistance to the Cuban government.

One thing is certain: speculation on what will happen in Cuba when President Castro dies or is no longer capable of governing the country has been on the increase in recent months, and not only in Washington.

The Cuban leader, who has been in power since 1959, turns 80 in August.

US report: Get ready for post-Castro Cuba

This report is from CNN news, views expressed within it are not those of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Some of the facts as reported reflect a pro-US bias.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. should have assistance in Cuba within weeks of President Fidel Castro's death to support a transitional government and help move the country toward democracy, a government report recommends.

The report was prepared by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, an interagency group co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban-American.

President Bush created the commission in 2003 to "help hasten and ease Cuba's democratic transition," according to its Web site.

The report, obtained by CNN in advance of its scheduled release next week, is billed as a strategic plan to promote democracy on the island once Castro is no longer in power.

"The U.S. government will need to be prepared well in advance to help in the event assistance is requested by the Cuban transition government," the report says.

Castro has been in power since 1959 and has shown no signs of stepping down despite being 80 and despite rumors of his deteriorating health. Castro's brother, Raul, is believed to be his successor.

The United States and Cuba, which have no formal diplomatic relations, are constantly at odds, but tensions between the two countries have increased in the past year.

Earlier this month, the Cuban government cut off electricity to the U.S. interests section in Havana, the capital. The State Department said requests to have the power restored went unanswered for several days.

Cuba was accused by the State Department of engaging in "bully tactics" to thwart pro-democracy efforts in the country.

The Bush administration already has tightened the four-decades-old U.S. embargo of the island, increased Radio Marti news broadcasts into Cuba, curtailed visits home by Cuban-Americans and limited the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send to relatives.

In September, Bush appointed Caleb McCarry, a former Republican staff member of the House International Relations Committee, as Cuba transition coordinator -- or point man on regime change in Cuba. The position was among the commission's earlier recommendations.

While noting that Castro has plans for a successor, the commission says the message that the U.S. would assist a democratic Cuba could bolster democratic forces in the country and create an environment where democracy and economic reforms could thrive.

Lending a hand with health care and clean water would be good starts, the report says.

The report also calls on the the U.S. "to put in place preparations that will ensure that the U.S. will be in a position to provide technical assistance in the first two weeks after a determination that a Cuban transition is under way."

That would include legal experts to help with elections. Training judges and police would be essential, according to the report.

The six months immediately following Castro's death or ouster would be key to determining U.S. success in the mission, the report says.

"This critical 180-day period could mean the difference between a successful transition period and the stumbles and missteps that have slowed other states in their transitions toward democracy," the report says.

It calls for an $80 million "democratic fund" for two years to strengthen civil society, boost opposition to Castro's regime and facilitate the free flow of information. It recommends at least $20 million a year for democracy programs "until the dictatorship ceases to exist."

The report recommends offering a substantial aid package to the transitional government if it met certain criteria under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.

Those criteria would include freeing all political prisoners, legalizing all political activity, conducting democratic elections and establishing a free press.

The State Department had no comment on the report because it hasn't been officially released, but officials did say the report could change.

Cuba expert Philip Peters of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank, said normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States could take time.

"Despite extensive planning for a full transition, it seems more likely that after Fidel Castro's departure, we will see a socialist successor government that will decide whether, where, and how fast to reform the policies it inherits," Peters wrote in a recent column.

"Washington will then have to decide how to use U.S. influence to promote positive change," said Peters, a former State Department appointee during the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

He noted that U.S. influence "will be limited by decades of policies that have blocked communication between our peoples and governments, and by the all-or-nothing posture that the Helms-Burton law imposes on U.S. diplomacy."

Miami Herald: Report urges funding Castro foes


WASHINGTON - The commission that steers Bush administration policy on Cuba is recommending creating an $80 million fund to boost opposition to Cuban leader Fidel Castro and tightening economic sanctions on the island, The Miami Herald has learned.

A draft of the commission's report also recommends a major diplomatic effort to offset the "Venezuela-Cuba axis" and identifies President Hugo Chávez as a key player whose oil wealth could help extend the communist system after Castro's death.

The report summarizes the work of more than 100 officials from 17 government departments and agencies on behalf of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban American.

The recommendations must be approved by President Bush, although he approved virtually all the items on the commission's first report in May 2004. That led to tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, especially by Cuban exiles.

Unlike the 2004 report, the current set of recommendations include an annex that will remain classified "for reasons of national security and effective implementation," according to the text. There was no immediate indication of what the annex might contain.

No major changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba are recommended, and the text repeatedly underscores that it is the Cubans, and not the U.S. government, who will decide the future course of their transition.

Government officials confirmed that the copy of the draft obtained by The Miami Herald is legitimate, but cautioned that some of its figures could change before the final text is presented to Bush. A formal unveiling is planned for next week.

The new report focuses on U.S. actions in the months that will follow the death or incapacitation of Castro, and calls for the creation of a two-year $80 million ``Cuba Fund for a Democratic Future."

The money is to ``increase support for Cuban civil society, expand international awareness, break the regime's information blockade, and continue developing assistance initiatives to help Cuban civil society realize a democratic transition."

After the initial two years, the commission recommends adding at least $20 million annually to the fund ``until the dictatorship ceases to exist."

The draft recommends using $31 million of the fund to support "civil society on the island"; $10 million to finance academic exchanges and a new scholarship program for Cubans to study abroad; $24 million to break the Castro government's "information blockade" by financing the transmission of anti-Castro broadcasts via satellite and distributing equipment on the island to receive international broadcasts; and $15 million to support international efforts to aid the opposition and plan for a post-Castro transition to democracy.

The report does not specify if the money is on top of the aid the U.S. government already provides for anti-Castro programs. Radio and TV Martí already get $35 million for their broadcasts to the island in 2006.

The draft also takes a conciliatory approach on hot-button issues such as the return of Castro-confiscated properties to their previous owners, many of whom live in the United States. The Cuban government criticized the 2004 report as a blatant disregard for Cuba's sovereignty.

"It is a change in tone more than a change in substance," said Phil Peters, a Cuba analyst with the Lexington Institute who has read the draft copy. Saying that the previous report suggested people would be evicted, Peters added, ``This report tries to reverse the political damage by placing property decisions in the hands of the Cuban government and urging Cubans to consider property claims in the context of national reconciliation."

However, the text recommends "vigorously" enforcing Title IV of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which gives U.S. officials the power to recall or deny U.S. visas to company managers whose firms invest in confiscated properties -- a sanction that has been used only cautiously so far.

Companies investing in industries that provide the Cuban government with hard currencies like oil, tourism, nickel, tobacco and rum and will be especially targeted for sanctions, the report said.

The report also says there is growing evidence that "senior elements of the regime" are hiding their financial assets overseas, including properties and bank accounts. It recommends tracking down these assets and returning them ``for the benefit of a Free Cuba Government."

According to the text, Castro and his inner circle "have begun a gradual but intrinsically unstable process of succession" working with ``like-minded governments, particularly Venezuela, to build a network of political and financial support designed to forestall any external pressure to change."

Venezuela provides more than $1 billion a year in energy subsidies to the island, it said, and there are indications that Cuba is using money from Venezuelan President Chávez to ``reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments."

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