Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Reshaping of Cuba

After more than half a century some myths need dispelling about U.S.-Cuba relations and Washington’s demand for “changes.” On the Cuban Revolution Ernest Hemingway said: “I think the people [of Cuba] now have a decent moment and I don’t believe that they ever had one before. (“Lo que dice el novelista Hemingway,” Noticias de Hoy, January 25, 1959)

In Washington, Hemingway’s description amounted to na?ve idealism, tolerating unacceptable behavior from an upstart bunch of rebels. Hemingway, however, lived in Cuba, and understood what the State Department feared. Fidel and company took independence and social justice seriously. To accomplish these agenda items, Cuba began to treat U.S. properties disrespectfully (real estate, agribusiness, utilities and telephone and banks).

In March 1960, before the Soviet Union entered the equation as a major player, President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to overthrow the revolutionary government. This plan morphed into a terror war before and after the April 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.

In October 1960, U.S. Ambassador Phillip “Bonsal turned up one Thursday looking very serious. He brought Ernest an important, although informal message from Washington D.C. The U.S. government was beginning to think very seriously of breaking off diplomatic relations with Cuba,” wrote Hemingway’s granddaughter. Washington wanted him to “terminate his residence in Cuba,” and “also publicly declare his displeasure with the Castro government.”

Valerie Danby, who worked for Hemingway, recalled that Bonsal agreed with Hemingway, “but added that in Washington they saw things differently and that he could find himself obliged to face reprisals. He was exposing himself to being considered a traitor.” (Valerie Hemingway, Running with Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways ? Ballantine, 2003)

In his January 2, 1961 speech, Castro demanded Washington reduce its embassy staff in Havana from some 300 to 11, the number of Cuban diplomats in Washington. Eisenhower used that remark as a pretext to break relations. In reality, Cuba’s nationalizing of U.S. property (even with offers of payments) went beyond the pale.

In 1954, Ike had ordered the CIA to axe the Guatemala government under President Arbenz for lesser “offenses.” The impressive U.S. record for using violence in Latin America to maintain its hegemony (Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary) has endured for half a century during which U.S. officials tried or encouraged Cuban exiles to assassinate the Cuban president, and sabotage strategic Cuban installations: terrorism.

Ironically, Washington has continued to accuse Cuba of human rights violations (rights more sacred than life?), subversion and terrorism. Cuba’s crime from the outset of the revolution was disobedience. Washington punished. This pattern will continue, unless Cuba “adjusts” (unlikely) to U.S. demands: surrender.

China, Brazil, Russia and Spain (Venezuela gives oil aid), however, have, by making substantial investments, acknowledged steps taken by President Raul Castro to move the economy and political structure of the island into the 21st Century because he and most Cubans recognize that as necessary.

As Cuba’s economy opens to different forms of enterprise, the State has begun to decentralize its power bases toward provincial and municipal governments, better equipped to manage the changing economy. In small cities like Remedios and Caibarien local governments oversee development projects, and keep half the income and taxes generated by the new local enterprises. Norway has provided assistance for such local community initiatives in larger cities including Havana.

The U.S. media has not reported on such efforts, nor has it explored the implications behind a TV series showing U.S. officials in Cuba delivering sophisticated communications equipment to Cuban agents. Cuban police surreptitiously filmed these activities, but didn’t arrest either the Americans involved or the Cubans who received the equipment. Was Cuba sending a message to Washington?

The U.S. media also hasn’t covered Cuba’s state-controlled media’s opening of space for criticism. Juventud Rebelde now includes astute columnists like Jos? Alejandro Rodr?guez and Luis Sexto (a Progreso Weekly contributing columnist) and publishes harsh opinions of Cubans confronting the vicissitudes of daily life.

Granma, the Communist party daily, prints citizens’ complaints against administrators and bureaucratic inefficiency. Indeed, state officials now feel social pressure to respond publicly to such grievances. Radio Progreso’s “Punto de Vista” deals with demands to which the government has not responded. Radio Rebelde’s noontime “Hablando Claro” holds debates and offers criticisms of public services, and routine economic mishaps.

At a monthly forum discussion of the magazine TEMAS on the proposed economic changes an uninvited guest joined the debate. The debate moderator recognized the famous (in the U.S., not in Cuba) anti-government blogger Yoani S?nchez (despite her blonde wig and dark glasses), and asked for her opinions. The audience laughed and replied to her remarks.

Cuba in 2011 has also become “Bloggers Island.” In the widely read Catholic Espacio Laical, blog academics and Party members share thoughts. Two Cuban bishops reflected this new dialogue at a meeting with other clergy in Uruguay. “The country [Cuba] is taking steps not exactly like those in the past. This indicates it is possible for us to achieve a democracy with our own characteristics and with its own way of governing.” (Bishops Juan de Dios Hern?ndez and Emilio Aranguren, La Rep?blica, Montevideo, May 21, 2011).

Washington (deaf to the Bishop’s words) demands did not provoke Cuba’s moves toward de-centralization and her opening of space for expression and non-State initiatives. Necessity, not U.S. posturing, triggered these moves. Despite President Barack “Change” Obama’s lack of response, Cuba will continue to pursue much needed reforms.

Saul Landau’s feature-length film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is distributed by CinamaLibreStudio.com.

Nelson Vald?s is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico.

May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail