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Why the US fears Cuba

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  • Djehuti Sundaka
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4723393,00.html Why the US fears Cuba Hostility to the Castro regime doesn t stem from its failings, but from its
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 10, 2003
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      http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4723393,00.html
      Why the US fears Cuba

      Hostility to the Castro regime doesn't stem from its failings, but from
      its achievements

      Seumas Milne
      Thursday July 31, 2003
      The Guardian

      Fifty years after Fidel Castro and his followers launched the Cuban
      revolution with an abortive attack on the dictator Batista's Moncada
      barracks, Cuba's critics are already writing its obituaries. Echoing
      President Bush's dismissal of Cuban-style socialism as a "relic", the
      Miami Herald pronounced the revolution "dead in the water" at the
      weekend. The Telegraph called the island "the lost cause that is Cuba",
      while the Independent on Sunday thought the Cuban dream "as old and
      fatigued as Fidel himself" and a BBC reporter claimed that, by embracing
      tourism, "the revolution has simply replaced one elite with another".

      Bush is, of course, only the latest of 10 successive US presidents who
      have openly sought to overthrow the Cuban government and Batista's heirs
      in Florida have long plotted a triumphant return to reclaim their farms,
      factories and bordellos - closed or expropriated by Castro, Che Guevara
      and their supporters after they came to power in 1959. But international
      hostility towards the Cuban regime has increased sharply since April,
      when it launched its harshest crackdown on the US-backed opposition for
      decades, handing out long jail sentences to 75 activists for accepting
      money from a foreign power and executing three ferry hijackers.

      The repression, which followed 18 months of heightened tension between
      the US and Cuba, shocked many supporters of Cuba around the world and
      left the Castro regime more isolated than it has been since the collapse
      of the Soviet Union. Egged on by Britain and the rightwing governments
      of Italy and Spain, the EU has now used the jailings to reverse its
      policy of constructive engagement and fall in behind the US
      neo-conservative line, imposing diplomatic sanctions, increasing support
      for the opposition and blocking a new trade agreement.

      But it's not hard to discover the origins of this dangerous standoff,
      which follows a period in which
      Amnesty International had noted Cuba's "more open and permissive
      approach" towards dissent. In the aftermath of September 11, the Bush
      administration - whose election depended on the votes of hardline Cuban
      exiles in Florida - singled out Cuba for membership of a second-tier
      axis of evil. The Caribbean island, US under-secretary of state John
      Bolton insisted menacingly, was a safe haven for terrorists, was
      researching biological weapons and had dual-use technology it could pass
      to other "rogue states". He was backed by Bush, who declared that the
      40-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba would not be lifted until
      there were both multi-party elections and free market reforms, while
      Cuba was branded a threat to US security, overturning the Clinton
      administration's assessment.

      Into this growing confrontation stepped James Cason as the new chief US
      diplomat in Havana, with a brief to boost support for Cuba's opposition
      groups. The US's huge quasi-embassy mainly provided equipment and
      facilities, but millions of dollars of US government aid also appears to
      have been channelled to the dissidents through Miami-based exile groups.
      The final trigger for Castro's clampdown was a string of US-indulged
      plane and ferry hijackings in April, against a background of US warnings
      about the threat to its security and Cuban fears of military
      intervention in the event of a mass exodus from Cuba - a scenario long
      favoured by Miami exiles.

      Some have concluded that a paranoid Castro walked into a trap laid by
      Bush. After 44 years of economic siege, mercenary invasion,
      assassination attempts, terrorist attacks and biological warfare from
      their northern neighbour, it might be thought the Cuban leadership had
      some reason to feel paranoid. But perhaps significantly, the US has in
      the past few weeks adopted a more cooperative stance, returning 15
      hijackers to Cuba and warning Cubans that they should only come to the
      US through "existing legal channels", which allow around 20,000 visas a
      year.

      And however grim the Cuban crackdown, it beggars belief that the
      denunciations have been led by the US and its closest European allies in
      the "war on terror". Not only has the US sentenced five Cubans to
      between 15 years and life for trying to track anti-Cuban, Miami-based
      terrorist groups and carried out over 70 executions of its own in the
      past year, but (along with Britain) supports other states, in the Middle
      East and Central Asia for example, which have thousands of political
      prisoners and carry out routine torture and executions. And, of course,
      the worst human rights abuses on the island of Cuba are not carried
      under Castro's aegis at all, but in the Guantanamo base occupied against
      Cuba's will, where the US has interned 600 prisoners without charge for
      18 months, who it now plans to try in secret and possibly execute -
      without even the legal rights afforded to Cuba's jailed oppositionists.

      Which only goes to reinforce what has long been obvious: that US
      hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime's human rights failings,
      but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding
      independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled
      with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40
      years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a
      third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now
      rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third
      smaller than in Britain - while next door, in the US-backed "democracy"
      of Haiti, half the population is unable to read and infant mortality is
      over 10 times higher. Those, too, are human rights, recognised by the UN
      declaration and European convention. Despite the catastrophic withdrawal
      of Soviet support more than a decade ago and the social damage wrought
      by dollarisation and mass tourism, Cuba has developed biotechnology and
      pharmaceutical industries acknowledged by the US to be the most advanced
      in Latin America. Meanwhile, it has sent 50,000 doctors to work for free
      in 93 third world countries (currently there are 1,000 working in
      Venezuela's slums) and given a free university education to 1,000 third
      world students a year. How much of that would survive a takeover by the
      Miami-backed opposition?

      The historical importance of Cuba's struggle for social justice and
      sovereignty and its creative social
      mobilisation will continue to echo beyond its time and place: from the
      self-sacrificing internationalism of Che to the crucial role played by
      Cuban troops in bringing an end to apartheid through the defeat of South
      Africa at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988. But those relying on the
      death of Castro (the
      "biological solution") to restore Cuba swiftly to its traditional
      proprietors may be disappointed, while the Iraq imbroglio may have
      checked the US neo-conservatives' enthusiasm for military intervention
      against a far more popular regime in Cuba. That suggests Cuba will have
      to expect yet more destabilisation, further complicating the defence of
      the social and political gains of the revolution in the years to come.
      The greatest contribution those genuinely concerned about human rights
      and democracy in Cuba can make is to help get the US and its European
      friends off the Cubans' backs.

      s.milne @...
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