FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cuba’s Prisoner Release

by SAUL LANDAU And NELSON P. VALDES

On July 8, the Washington Post lead story [“Cuba to release 52 political prisoners, Catholic Church says”] reported Cuba had released five political prisoners with assurances of forty-seven more to come in the near future. Cuban President Raul Castro said all political prisoners would soon be released. On July 16, another group was freed.

The Post story and its July 9 editorial “Cuba’s marginal gesture” omitted facts readers would need in order to understand the significance of the prisoner release. Both pieces convey the image of a “political prisoner” who is dedicated to expressing unwelcome views – perhaps a poet, or a whistle blower who has uncovered corruption. But these prisoners were in jail for committing crimes that would have placed them behind bars if they were done in the United States including working for a foreign government without registering, and committing violence.

For example, Orlando Zapata the hunger striker who died in March was convicted of aggravated, assault — cutting off a man’s ear with a machete because the man had intervened to stop a street brawl. He developed his reputation as a “dissident” while serving his sentence in prison.

When James Cason arrived in Cuba in 2003 to head the US diplomatic mission the State Department reportedly instructed him to adopt the “ugly American” role, to interfere blatantly in Cuba’s domestic affairs. Roger Noriega, then Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, recently explained on a Miami radio talk show that the motive was to induce Cuba to expel him, thus providing the Bush Administration with a pretext to end formal contacts with the island. To achieve that goal, Cason openly organized and paid Cuban “dissidents.” Rather than expel the puppeteer, however, Cuba arrested the puppets Cason had used as human instruments for his machinations. (July 1, Que Pasa, Miami, referring to May 20 interview on WQBA Miami [Univision], “Lo que otros no dicen”)

The editorial also missed the fact that the United States holds more political prisoners in Cuba (Guantanamo Base) than the Cuban government does. Of the 181 remaining Guantanamo detainees, an Obama Task Force recommended 48 should be released since they have been cleared of criminal acts. Most of these people were kidnapped. No warrants were issued for their arrests (July 9, Financial Times).

The US government justified such “arrests” post 9/11 because Americans felt under attack from terrorists. We should thus be able to empathize with Cubans who at least issued arrest warrants for people who secretly received money from Cuba’s avowed enemy. Declassified CIA documents attest to thousands of CIA-backed-terrorist raids against Cuba since the early 1960s. More Cubans died in these attacks than perished in the 9/11 horrors. Cuba also suffered substantial property damage from CIA backed sabotage of factories and fields.

As for civil liberties, Cuba at least held formal trials for the dissidents and found them guilty of organizing at the behest of US officials as well as discussing future actions and accepting money, goods or services from US diplomats.  They were not charged for having opposing ideas — although the expression of opposition ideas may have motivated the arrests. The Post editorial, like a similar sermon in the Los Angeles Times (July 10), seems to have made its judgment by using a double standard.

The US media has also portrayed Ghandi-like attributes of Guillermo Fariñas, the other faster of conscience, which might have been tempered by the fact of his 1995 arrest for beating the female director of a hospital. In 2002, he attacked another woman who then needed surgery.

Zapata and Fariñas may qualify as legitimate political oppositionists, but would the editorial have talked of George Jackson and other former Black Panthers without mentioning their criminal records?

Nowhere do the double standards applied to Cuba shine more dramatically than in the issue of terrorism. Currently, the United States harbors individuals accused of horrific terrorist acts – sabotage of a Cuban commercial airliner killing 73 and a spate of bombings of Cuban tourist spots killing an Italian and wounding many. Instead of indicting or extraditing Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch for international terrorism — CIA and FBI cables point to their role in sabotaging the airliner over
Barbados in 1976 killing all aboard – Washington has protected them. The Justice Department has charged Posada with immigration fraud, a minor charge, and has allowed the case to drag on for six years.

Double standards and irony abound. Spain and the United States lecture Cuba on freedom after holding the island as a formal and informal economic colony respectively for 450 years. Somehow, both seem to claim they have a perennial right to dictate Cuban government behavior.

Saul Landau, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies is author of A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, published by CounterPunch.

Nelson P Valdes, Professor Emeritus, Sociology Department, University of
New Mexico.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail