|5/1/05||Cuba Confronts The New Bush Administration by Salim Lamrani|
George Bush’s re-election on 2nd November 2004 is undoubtedly one of the major current issues. In fact, the new US administration represents one of the most serious dangers for the stability and security of the world. The arrogant unilateralism which characterised Bush’s first government will now be considerably reinforced thanks to the feeling of impunity and power amongst the neo-conservatives of the White House. Cuba, already a victim of the excessive fanaticism of the imperialist hawks and the enmity of the extremist clan of the Batista exiles linked to the Bush family, will remain one of Washington’s priority targets.
Just after Bush’s investiture, the State Department, through its spokesperson Richard Boucher, once again condemned Cuba for its “abuses against the defenders of change and peaceful reform”. (1) A symbolic act carried out by these same “defenders” is highly illustrative of the interests which they defend and represent. In fact, on the eve of the US presidential elections, around a hundred Cuban “dissidents” gathered outside the US diplomatic mission in Havana – the US Interests Section (USIS) – at the request of James Cason, the head of the USIS, to take part, symbolically, in the vote. The results were extremely eloquent: 83% of those “human rights activists” came out in favour of Bush. (2)
This figure should not be at all surprising to those who pay even an ounce of attention to objective reality. Some might justly ask how people who claim to represent “civil society” can agree to meet in the company of representatives of a foreign power which incessantly harasses the Cuban people; which is responsible for the longest terrorist campaign against Cuba ; a power which has put in place a legal network of economic sanctions intended to return the Cuban people to the Stone Age and which has installed an unprecedented propaganda system with the aim of justifying an armed invasion. How could they take part, even symbolically, in the US elections, as if Cuba were a 51st state? The answer is simple : these individuals are at Washington’s service for the pure and simple reason that almost $40 million are allocated to “dissidence”, a flourishing business. They therefore defend the US aim, namely that of wiping out Cuba’s sovereignty and re-integrating it in the sphere of US dominance.(3) Naturally, this factual evidence is considered inadmissible, or even inconceivable, given the thought patterns imposed by the dominant ideology.
The first nominations made by Bush to his new government do not augur well for the stability of the world, nor of Cuba, and show the direct unilateralist line which the White House intends to follow. Colin Powell, considered by the international community to be a “moderate”, left his post as Secretary of State, which was given to Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s personal advisor. (4) Mr Powell, the “moderate”, developed and applied the heaviest economic sanctions against Cuba since the Helms-Burton law of 1996. He also consistently refused to deny the possibility of an armed intervention against Cuba.(5) As for Miss Rice, her arrogance and intransigence will only exacerbate the tensions between Washington and Havana and will increase the threat weighing on the Cuban populace.
The other nomination is that of the post of Attorney General. Alberto R. Gonzalez, legal advisor to the president who has personally justified the torture in Iraq, has inherited this responsibility and has thus replaced John Ashcroft. (6) The abuses committed against the civilian population of Iraq will intensify, as is shown by the massacres committed in Falluja by the US military, about which the information transnationals were silent. The impunity of the USA has simply been strengthened.
Added to this is the entry to the Senate of Mel Martinez, a politician of Cuban origin and fascist tendency, who has just been elected. He took part in the development of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, the aim of which was to wipe out Cuba’s existence as an independent nation. During an interview with a daily paper in Florida, he made a revealing slip about immigration policy concerning Cuba, when he admitted that the vast majority of Cubans who hope to emigrate do not meet the required conditions for being accepted as a political refugee. According to him, most of them “do not risk political persecution” in that the main driver of migratory movement is the economic situation, which is seriously affected by the sanctions imposed by the USA. Mr Martinez described Bush’s re-election and his own presence in the Senate as “a real historical opportunity” to overturn the Cuban government. (7)
Some days after the elections, James Cason also met with the mafia cells within the Cuban exile in Miami in order to discuss the practicalities of a “ transition towards a new government” in Havana. “We are considering the means to enable the transition in Cuba” and “we are depending on our European colleagues. After all, eight former Communist countries have met the conditions necessary for membership of the European Union”, he stated. He has also deplored the decline in the Cuban health and education systems, obviously leaving out the fact that the infant mortality rate in Cuba is the lowest of all Third-World countries and is even less than that of the USA itself. As for the level of education, even if it does not satisfy Mr Cason, it is still the most effective in the world according to international organisations, and the illiteracy level is once again the lowest of all under-developed nations and also less than that of the USA. (8)
True to its strategy of hegemony, the new Bush government will only take very little interest in the opinion of the international community. In fact, on 28th October 2004, the General Assembly of the UN voted, with a crushing majority and for the 13th consecutive year, against the imposition of US economic sanctions against Cuba. 179 states condemned this policy, which causes terrible moral and material problems for the Cuban people. Only four countries voted in favour of continuing the sanctions: the USA, Israel (for strategic reasons), the Marshall Islands (a tax haven whose currency is the US dollar) and Palau (also a tax haven which contains almost more headquarters of multinationals than inhabitants).(9) The Mexican representative at the UN regretted that “resolutions which are presented year after year do not have a transforming effect on the situation which they claim to modify. This means that the majority position of the international community is not being listened to.” (10)
Condemned by all international institutions and the whole of the business world, the blockade against Cuba however remains in force. Apart from governments of the USA and the above-mentioned states, only one sector has come out in favour of the economic punishment which is being inflicted on the Cubans: the “dissidents”, held up by the press as a symbol of democracy. These “human rights activists” are asking for even more suffering for the people they claim to represent. In fact, Martha Beatriz Roque, a member of the Cuban “civil society”, has made the following statement: “I think that for the first time we have felt the impact of the embargo. It is the only way to achieve the transition to democracy.” (11) It matters little that sick children are dying because of lack of a vaccine whose patent is held in the USA, “democracy” has a hidden logic which Beatriz Roque places above life itself.
The raison d’être of economic sanctions has been unmasked by the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque :
“Why does the US government not lift the blockade against Cuba? I will tell you: because it is afraid. It fears our example. It knows that if it lifts the blockade, the economic and social development in Cuba will be dizzying. It knows that we will once again demonstrate the possibilities of Cuban socialism, the potential which we have not yet fulfilled in a country free of any kind of discrimination, with social justice and human rights for all citizens and not only for some. It is the government of a large and powerful empire but it is afraid of the example of a small rebellious island.” (12)
Confronted with a new upsurge of economic sanctions, Cuba decided that from 14th November 2004, the US dollar would no longer be used as one of its national currencies. In fact, Washington forbids Cuba from using this currency for international trade and has, time and again, harmed Cuban interests.(13) For example, the Swiss bank, UBS, found itself forced to pay a fine of a 100 millions dollars to the US government for having received transfers of Cuban funds.(14) From now on, the peso and the convertible peso will be the only acceptable currencies. The government in Havana has thus taken an important step towards greater monetary sovereignty and, at the same time, reaffirmed its national independence. The quantity and circulation of currency are thus rationalised whereas in the past, it was difficult to control financial flows within the country. (15) This action will allow the increase of financial reserves and thus assure the value of the Cuban peso, while resisting the constant US economic and financial aggression.
As for the European Parliament controlled by the People’s Party of the former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, it has remained true to the US policy against Cuba by adopting a resolution repeating Washington’s arguments and condemning Cuba. (16) Mr Aznar, faithful to Mr Bush during the aggression against Iraq, is a fanatical enemy of all types of progressive social progress. He supported the fascist junta which took power in Venezuela for 48 hours after the coup against President Chavez on 11th April 2002, as has been emphasised by the current Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Moratinos. During his visit to Spain, Mr Chavez confirmed: “I have no doubt about this. It was a serious error on the part of the previous government, because I am sure that the Spanish people, the democratic institutions and the King, are good friends of Venezuela.” (17)
Only Spain, through its Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has sketched out a criticism of the EU policy towards Cuba. Zapatero’s government has emphasised the diplomatic limits of the EU strategy, which consist of inviting “dissidents” to its embassies, explicitly admitting that meeting with individuals in the pay of Washington has been counter-productive. This action had reduced to zero the contacts between Europe and the Cuban authorities. Spain has therefore decided to move away from the US position by renewing its official relationship with Havana. (18)
For Washington and the Cuban extreme right, the revolutionary Cuban project is a failure at every level. These elements are continually trumpeting their message and the tune is cheerfully taken up by the international press. On other occasions, they are more muted when they reckon that they be benefiting from the successes of the Cuban revolution. For example, José Pardo Llada returned to Cuba after more than 43 years in exile. Treatments for the creeping blindness from which he was suffering had not had the hoped-for effects in Colombia (his place of residence, for which he had been member of parliament and ambassador), in Argentina or in the USA. He therefore returned to Havana where specialists at the International Clinic for Treatment of the Retina provided him with medication which could stabilise his sight.(19) There are probably those who believe that Cuban successes deserve a better fate than that of being consigned to the dustbins of history.
Another spectacular piece of information was provided by the Cuban press, but ignored by the “democratic press”. New Zealand, a highly developed nation, enlisted the services of Cuban professionals who had worked out a literacy system whose praises were sung by the most influential international institutions, in order to help literate members of its own population. The Cuban method had already enabled over a million Venezuelans to become literate in a mere six months (from June to December 2003). (20) This type of news does not suit the western press, which deems it ideologically inadmissible. A hack from a major French daily preferred to rejoice at Bush’s re-election and the state of siege Washington is imposing on the Cuban people. The legitimacy of such an iniquitous action has not been challenged anywhere by the fawning flatterers of free-marketism. (21) However the obsequious nature of the “free” press towards those who hold power in the world has now become more or less institutionalised and would make the most despotic autocrat turn green with envy.
 El Nuevo Herald, “ Una nueva condena a Cuba “, 5th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10102421.htm (site consulted 5th November 2004).
 El Nuevo Herald, “ Disidentes ‘votan’ por Bush “, 4th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10092647.htm (site consulted 5th November 2004).
 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, May 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (site consulted 7th May 2004), p. 22.
 Mike Allen, “ Powell Successor Must Be Confirmed by Senate “, The Washington Post, 17th November 2004 : A01.
 El Nuevo Herald, “ Preocupa a Washington papel de Castro en Venezuela y Colombia “, 10th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/98804440.htm (site consulted 11th October 2004).
 Ignacio Ramonet, “ Bush II “, Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2004 : 1 ; Dan Eggen, “ Ashcroft Decries Court Rulings “, The Washington Post, 13th November 2004 : A06.
 Oscar Corral, “ Mel Martinez Says Goal as Senator Is a Free Cuba “, The Miami Herald, 15th November 2004 : 1A ; El Nuevo Herald, “ Un bloque sólido contre el régimen “, 5th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10102419.htm (site consulted 5th November 2004).
Baró Diaz, “ Seminar Tackles Cuba Transition “, The Sun
Sentinel, 10 novembre 2004. www.sun-sentinel.com.news/local/cuba/sfl-
 Granma, “ 179 países votan en la ONU contra el bloqueo “, 28th October 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/octubre/juev28/votan-e.html (site consulted 29th October 2004).
 El Nuevo Herald, “La ONU condena una vez más el embargo comercial de EEUU”, 29th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10041675.htm (site consulted 30th October 2004).
Bauza, “Bush Expected to Stay Course”, The Sun Sentinel,
7th November 2004. www.sun-sentinel.com.news/local/cuba/sfl-
 Felipe Pérez Roque, “Declaración del compañero Felipe Pérez Roque, Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, en el tema 28 de la agenda de la Asamblea General de la ONU ‘Necesidad de poner fin al bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero impuesto por los Estados Unidos de América contra Cuba”, Granma, 28th October 2004. granmai.cubaweb.com/documento/espanol04/014.html (site consulted 30th October 2004).
 Vanessa Bauza & Rafael Lorente, “ Castro Bets on Dollar Ban “, The Sun Sentinel, 27th October 2004. www.sun-sentinel.com.news/local/cuba/sfl-acubapol27oct27,0,6899932.story?coll=sfla-news-cuba (site consulted le 28th October 2004) ; Pablo Bachelet, “White House Stemming Flow of Remittances”, The Miami Herald, 26th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/cuba/10014046.htm (site consulted 27th October 2004).
 Felipe Pérez Roque, op. cit.
 Nancy San Martin, “Cuba to Take 10% of Exiles’ Cash”, The Miami Herald, 26th October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10015097.htm (site consulted 27th October 2004).
 Paulo A. Paranagua, “L’Europe se divise sur le maintien de sanctions contre Fidel Castro”, Le Monde, 19th November 2004 : 4 ; Damian Castaño, “El Parlamento Europeo a favor de la mano dura”, El Nuevo Herald, 18th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10208309.htm (site consulted19th November 2004).
 Granma, “Ratifica Chávez que Aznar apoyó fallido golpe de Estado en Venezuela”, 23rd November 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/noviembre/mar23:chavez.html (site consulted 24th November 2004).
 El Nuevo Herald, “Se reanudan los contactos oficiales con España”, 26th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10273046.htm (site consulted 26th November 2004).
 Pablo Alfonso, “Periodista cubano vuelve a la isla tras 43 años de exilio”, El Nuevo Herald, 18th November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10208590.htm (site consulted 19th November 2004).
 Lilliam Riera, “Cuba colabora con programa de alfabetización en Nueva Zelanda”, Granma, 2nd November 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/noviembre/mar2/45zelanda.html (site consulted 3rd November 2004).
 François Hauter, “A Cuba, Fidel Castro est dans la nasse”, Le Figaro, 4th November 2004. www.lefigaro.fr/etatsunis2004/20041104.FIG0056.html (site consulted 4th November 2004).