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US attempts to remove Fidel Castro

Wayne Smith

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The annual vote in the UN general assembly on the US embargo against Cuba is back this month. Last year's result saw 182 member states oppose the blockade, with only four - the US, Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau - voting in favour. The embargo, and indeed overall US policy towards the island, have virtually no international support. No wonder: it is a failed approach.

The essential elements of the embargo have been in place since 1960. As recently declassified documents confirm, the objective of the policy since the beginning has been to bring about the downfall of the Castro regime, an ambition pursued in vain for 46 years.

Early on, there may have been some logic to US efforts to isolate Cuba and bring down its government - at a time, that is, when Fidel Castro was trying to overthrow the leaders of various other Latin American states and moving into a relationship with the Soviet Union, one that led to the missile crisis in 1962. But all that is now ancient history. Castro has built normal, peaceful diplomatic relations in the region, while any threat posed by the so-called Cuban-Soviet alliance ended with the demise of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago.

And yet the Bush administration's policy towards Cuba is more hostile than ever. This despite the fact that, immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, Cuba expressed its solidarity with the American people. It subsequently called for dialogue on joint efforts against terrorism. It also signed all 12 UN resolutions against terrorism.

Surely these overtures were worth exploring. But, no, the Bush administration rejected them out of hand and instead began calling for the downfall of the Castro government. As Roger Noriega, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, put it in October 2003: "The president is determined to see the end of the Castro regime, and the dismantling of the apparatus that has kept it in power."

To bring that about, the administration appointed a Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which, in May 2004, produced a 500-page action plan for the removal of the Castro government and for what sounded worryingly like the US occupation of Cuba: how to make their trains run on time, how to reorganise their schools, and so on. Shortly thereafter, it even appointed a US "transition coordinator". As Jose Miguel Insulza, the Chilean secretary general of the Organisation of American States remarked, "But there is no transition - and it isn't your country."

The underlying premise of the document was that the regime was on the verge of collapse. Just a few more sanctions and it would all crumble.

That proved wildly optimistic. Two years on, the Cuban economy has a growth rate of at least 8%. New, crucial economic relationships have been forged with Venezuela and China, the price of nickel (now Cuba's major export) is at record highs, and there are strong signs of the development of a major new oilfield off the north coast.

The Bush administration simply ignored this reality. In a new document issued on July 10 this year, it suggested that its "plan" was working and had produced a "new stage" in Cuba's transformation. It also put a new objective: to prevent the "succession strategy", in which Fidel Castro is succeeded by his brother, Raul. This was "totally unacceptable", according to the Bush administration, which hinted that the Cuban people would not allow it.

But on July 31, it happened. Fidel announced that because of an intestinal operation, he was signing power over to his brother, who would be acting president. In Miami, there were celebrations in the streets, with shouted assurances that this meant the end of the Cuban Revolution. As one celebrant put it: "We'll all be home within a month. The Cuban people will never accept Raul!"

But accept him they did. The Cuban people took Raul's promotion in their stride, with calm maturity. They had always expected that if Fidel were for any reason incapacitated, Raul would take over. Now he had. He does not have his brother's charisma, but is known to be an excellent administrator. The armed forces, which he commands, are without doubt the most efficient and respected institution in the country. Three months on, Raul is running the government effectively.

Seeming to follow Miami's lead, however, the Bush administration has refused to accept the transition. It refuses to deal with Raul, as it had earlier refused to deal with Fidel. This is especially unfortunate for there is considerable evidence that Raul is more pragmatic than his brother and might be open to some degree of accommodation with Washington. That was something at least worth exploring, but following its usual pattern, the Bush administration simply closed the door.

Bush's is not only a failed policy, it is one which does considerable harm. The US should want to see Cuba move towards a more open society, yes, with greater respect for the civil rights of its citizens. But given that the US has since 1898 been the principal threat to Cuban sovereignty and independence, any time it is threatening and pressuring the island, the Cuban government will react defensively, urging discipline and unity - which doesn't encourage internal relaxation and liberalisation.

US policy, then, is actually an impediment to precisely the kind of liberalising changes the US - and its European allies - should wish to see in Cuba. And given the counterproductive nature of US policy, any country that supports that policy in effect works against positive change in Cuba.


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Article in today's Guardian:


Richard Luscombe in Miami

Thursday November 16, 2006

The Guardian

Cuban dissidents who were given millions of dollars by the US government to support democracy in their homeland instead blew money on computer games, cashmere sweaters, crabmeat and chocolates, which were then sent to the island.

A scathing congressional audit of democracy assistance programmes found "questionable expenditure" by several groups funded by Washington in opposition to President Fidel Castro's rule on the communist Caribbean island.

The Miami-based Acción Democrática Cubana spent money on a chainsaw, Nintendo Game Boys and Sony PlayStations, mountain bikes, leather coats and Godiva chocolates, which the group says were all sent to Cuba. "These people are going hungry. They never get any chocolate there," Juan Carlos Acosta, the group's executive director, told the Miami Herald.

He also defended the purchase of a chainsaw he said he needed to cut a tree that had blocked access to his office in a hurricane, and said the leather jackets and cashmere sweaters were bought in a sale. "They [the auditors] think it's not cold there," Mr Acosta said. "At $30 [£16] it's a bargain because cashmere is expensive. They were asking for sweaters."

The audit analysed $65m of spending by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) from 1996 to 2005 and concluded that poor management was to blame for the waste. "There were weaknesses in agency policies and in programme office oversight, and internal control deficiencies," the report states.

None of the 36 groups that received money were identified in the report, but others admitted to the Miami Herald in advance of its publication on Wednesday that they had been investigated.

Frank Hernández-Trujillo, executive director of Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia (Group for the Support of Democracy), said his organisation received more than $7m from USAid, a programme that has been a central part of President George Bush's policy on Cuba.

"I'll defend that until I die," Mr Hernández-Trujillo said of his decision to spend part of his group's allocation on boxes of computer games. "That's part of our job, to show the people in Cuba what they could attain if they were not under that system."

Most of the items were distributed to dissidents in Cuba by US diplomats in Havana, who were sometimes unaware what was in the shipments. The US government, however, has previously accused the Cuban government of hijacking consignments sent to its mission.

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interesting articles in the papers in the backyard photos

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I've had this on my mind for quite a while, and whether or not it is related to the JFK assassination I do not know...

Nevertheless, if one looks at the various nations that have come in and out of "favor" with the United States' since the end of WWII, there are only two that I can think of (off the top of my head) that have held a consistent position: North Korea and Cuba.

On the surface, the situation in North Korea seems fairly straightforward. I'm sure it isn't, and I don't want to derail this thread with an NK discussion.

Cuba, on the other hand, puzzles me.

Why, after all these years, does the US continue with a cold-war-era policy toward Cuba? Cuba isn't a Soviet puppet or military base -- the Soviet Union is gone. The USA can't claim too much in the way of "human rights violations" as we have granted "most favored nation status" for trade with China (a nation with an incredibly dubious record with respect to the treatment of its citizens).

The USA gets all sorts of cheap labor and goods from sweatshops in China, but these things must be shipped across the Pacific at tremendous cost and delay. Healthy trade with Cuba would help both American businesses AND the people of Cuba tremendously.

It seems to me that normalizing relations and trade with Cuba is probably long overdue. Why is is that the US Government continues the policies from 40+ years ago? Just what is the big deal with Cuba?

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It seems to me that normalizing relations and trade with Cuba is probably long overdue. Why is is that the US Government continues the policies from 40+ years ago? Just what is the big deal with Cuba?

According to Peter Levenda (Who lives in Miami), author of a trilogy entitled Sinister Forces:

The Cubans are our Palestinians. Refugees who came to America during and after the Castro revolution of 1959, they became the largest immigrant population in Florida, eventually rising to prominence in government and business circles to the extent that they exert an uncomfortable control over virtually every aspect of cultural life in the southern part of the state. They want their homeland liberated, and the US government keeps assuring them they will do what they can to free Cuba from the grip of Castroism.

Sort of.

In my discussions with Cubans in Florida and Puerto Rico, I have pointed out that the US government does not really care about liberating Cuba. The Democrats have no real reason to see Cuba liberated. Ever since the Kennedy administration was viewed by anti-Castro Cubans as a disaster for their agenda, the Democrats can no longer count on Cuban-American support. The Republicans have no real reason to see Cuba liberated, because they count on the Cuban vote to swing Florida’s elections. By continually assuring the Cubans that they despise Castro as much as they do and promising that they will do whatever they can to bring Castro down, they are shoo-ins for every election in the state that matters.

Should the Cubans return to a free Cuba, the Republicans would have lost the only platform that makes sense in Florida. Otherwise, they would have liberated Cuba long ago.

I mean, Republican administrations have sent armies into Panama, Grenada, and Kuwait without blinking an eye. They overthrew the Allende regime in Chile. They gave secret support to the Contras in Nicaragua. What about Cuba?

But the anti-Castro Cubans don’t see it. They don’t want to admit that they have been manipulated and used by the GOP since the Nixon administration.

I think Levenda's explanation may be a bit simplistic.

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I'd agree with all everyone said above, but add:

-American, as constructed, needs and wants 'demons' which it makes believe to battle against for purposes of domestic American control of propaganda and the population. What better to have such a nice, convenient and close 'demon' to use as the boogieman for a large part of the population all these years...and still do.

- The are very likely aspects of the JFK Assassination and related matters that would come out after a Fidelista Cuban Government ended and the USA Govt. doesn't want that very dirty linen washed in public - ever!

- After any change in Government in Cuba and a free mingling of the Cuban populations in Florida and Cuba I believe many would piece together how they were used, duped and played with by the USA in ways the US would rather they not really piece together.

- The USA doesn't like to admit to its mistakes and free travel to Cuba now or even after a change would bring home to the populace at large all the lies, deceptions, hidden history and mistake that was Cuban policy all the years...and likely restart Cuba an off-shore Las Vagas [which it was before the Revolution] and trigger yet another anti Oligarcy and US action]. Many of those who owned the casinos and brothels etc. [and their families] still hold promises from the US for their being able to return and revive those horrors.

- As long as the JFK Assassination is kept in muddy waters, the multitude of covert operations all these years up to and beyond 911 kept unclear, and the same old same old of National Security State in the USA continues - Cuba will remain frozen as the 'bad apple' off shore 'demon'.....IMO


I think you make some good points. The Cuban population in Florida has most certainly been politically parlayed for the past 40+ years. It does seem, also, that one cannot discuss the JFK assassination without "Cubans" entering the discussion somewhere, somehow.

While I agree with the "demon" concept you brought forth, it just strikes me that "dirty laundry" *has* to be at the forefront of the ongoing policy. Considering all the despicable regimes that America has proverbially climbed into bed with, that laundry must be "some kinda dirty!"

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