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America’s Cuba Policy

“I have real doubts about the value of engagement with a regime that is anti-democratic, and that appears to me to be trying to arrange a transition from one anti-democratic regime to another anti-democratic regime.” So said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her first official visit to Spain. She and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos discussed Cuba, among other topics, and apparently ‘agreed to disagree’ about that Caribbean island nation.

Ms. Rice also had doubts about the value of any engagement with Iran, but the U.S. eventually saw some potential there, and has begun low-level discussions. One wonders what makes so-called ‘anti-democratic’ Cuba a bigger bugaboo that anti-democratic Iran. A skeptic might say that perhaps the difference is the Cuban-American voting block in Florida.

But regardless of the reasons, Ms. Rice seemed miffed that Mr. Moratinos had not met with Cuban dissidents when he visited Cuba in April. She felt that this might have sent them the wrong message, when she wants them to know ” that the free world stands with them and is not prepared to tolerate an anti-democratic transition in Cuba.” She must have borrowed President Bush’s saber in order to rattle it in Madrid.

The response of Mr. Moratinos was telling, and should certainly have left Ms. Rice speechless; said he: the “government (of Spain) has no problem in talking to the dissidents. I would ask you, ‘Who has seen more of the dissidents?'” Spain, unlike the U.S., has diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The United States has maintained its bizarre non-relationship with Cuba for nearly fifty years. The apparent intent of this unusual estrangement is to force that nation to accept democratic principles. One might think that after nearly five decades, someone would decide that it wasn’t working.

It is interesting that Ms. Rice said that the world “is not prepared to tolerate an anti-democratic transition in Cuba.” When referring to the ‘world,’ did she actually mean the United States? Is the United States then prepared to intervene in Cuba as it has in Iraq when it determined the necessity for ‘regime change’ there? If Cuba, with the eventual death of the seemingly immortal Fidel Castro, does indeed transition to another ‘anti-democratic’ (as deemed by the U.S.) government, should the citizens of that nation prepare to experience the same brand of horrific terrorism that America unleashed on Iraq four years ago? Can the world look for the same degree of success in democratic nation-building in Cuba that the U.S. has had in Iraq?

The U.S. State Department’s official website describes Cuba in great detail. A few of the statements contained therein seem to accuse Cuba of offenses of which the U.S. itself is guilty. In describing that nation as a police state, it says that the Cuban government engages in “intense physical and electronic surveillance of Cubans.” Is not the U.S. government engaging in intense electronic surveillance of Americans through Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping program? Any telephone calls between the United States and any other country are subject to this scrutiny. Perhaps, as with so many other things, ‘intense electronic surveillance’ of the citizens is not wrong when the U.S. does it.

The website goes on to state that “Castro pursued close relations with the Soviet Union and worked in concert with the geopolitical goals of Soviet communism, funding and fomenting violent subversive and insurrectional activities, as well as military adventurism.” This does not seem dissimilar to the record of the United States, which has used covert and overt means to destabilize and destroy governments throughout the world with which it disagrees. Chile, Indonesia and El Salvador quickly come to mind. And can America’s latest imperial misadventure in Iraq be termed anything if not ‘military adventurism?’ Perhaps again, murder, government overthrow and civilian repression is not wrong when done in the name of America’s lofty ideals of peace and freedom.

“The government (of Cuba) incarcerates people for their peaceful political beliefs or activities.”

Again, we need not look far for U.S. parallels. As recently as November 2006, activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested in Washington, D.C. and charged with “interfering with a government function.” Ms. Sheehan and about fifty others wanted to deliver to the president a petition with 80,000 signatures opposing an invasion of Iran. She and the others tossed the petition over the White House fence and were arrested.

During the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, hundreds of protesters were arrested on a wide variety of charges. Four who were arrested for climbing the front of a hotel and hanging a banner were also charged with assaulting a police officer, because during their arrest the officer stepped on a skylight, broke it and hurt himself. Others who were arrested atop a trailer were charged with endangering a police officer, because he had to climb on the trailer to arrest them. Other protesters were kept blocks away from the convention, being denied their right of peaceful protest.

Ms. Rice’s comments about Cuba may be nothing more than the continued American rhetoric that many people have not tired of hearing, although it has played like a broken record for nearly fifty years. But with Mr. Castro now ill, and his brother Raul having been in command for nearly a year, perhaps that country will soon see a change in leadership. That potentiality necessitates the need to take Mr. Rice’s comments a little more seriously than the political posturing of past Secretaries of State and presidents. Mr. Bush may relish the possibility of forcing a government to his liking in Cuba, if for no other reason than to deflect attention from his continuing disaster in Iraq, and thus give some credence to his discredited attempts to force his brand of democracy down the throats of unwilling Iraqis. While the world focuses on Iraq and Mr. Bush’s increasing harsh words towards Iran, Cuba must not be ignored during this critical time. However, based on fifty years of spineless rhetoric on the topic, and Congress’s recent demonstration of cowardice in the face of one presidential veto, one must not expect that Mr. Bush will be thwarted in whatever plan he may have for Cuba. The result, if history tells us anything, will be simply more innocent victims of U.S. imperialism, and all the blood, death and sorrow that that always brings.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.