BY KAREN FLETCHER
HAVANA — Through the US government's anti-Cuba propaganda outlet Radio Marti, the right-wing "Miami mafia" provoked a break-in and occupation by hooligans of the Mexican embassy in Havana on February 27.
Beamed from Miami into Cuban living rooms, Radio Marti takes full advantage of the many economic hardships in Cuba, caused by the US blockade and the "Special Period" that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, singing the praises of the capitalist system and urging Cubans to leave their country.
On February 26, Radio Marti broadcast a distorted report of a speech given by Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castenada at the opening of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Miami.
According to the EFE News Agency, Castenada declared the institute open "to all Mexicans, all Latin Americans and all Cuban Americans". He also made some comments about the Mexican government's relations with Cuba, indicating that Mexico now considered itself to be conducting relations not with the Cuban Revolution but with the Republic of Cuba.
Radio Marti made repeated broadcasts framing Castenada's remarks in a way that could be interpreted to mean that Mexico had broken off diplomatic relations with Cuba, and that Mexico would grant entry visas to any Cubans who wished to leave the island.
Cuban fans of Radio Marti began loitering around the embassy in the province of Playa in the afternoon of February 27, and at about 9.30pm a group of 21 Cubans hijacked a bus, violently ejected the passengers and crashed the bus into the Mexican embassy compound.
Cuban police, and President Fidel Castro himself, were quickly on the scene.
Following a request by the Mexican government, on March 1 some 122 intruders were arrested by Cuban police and removed from the embassy compound in a non-violent operation that took less than five minutes.
In an appearance on a nightly TV current affairs program on March 5, Castro said the hijackers had been identified as "lumpen" and "anti-social" elements, many of whom had previous criminal records. A subsequent investigation has revealed that 13 of the 21 had convictions for a variety of criminal acts, mostly theft and burglary. According to Castro, all 21 would be charged and tried for the theft of and damage to the bus.
At a news conference in Havana on March 2, Mexico's ambassador to Cuba, Ricardo Pascoe, explained that after questioning the intruders on February 28, the embassy staff had established that "we were not being presented with any political demands", and the Mexican authorities decided not to give the intruders visas.
After a lengthy dialogue in which the intruders were informed that they would not receive any special migratory treatment, the Mexican authorities decided to formally ask the Cuban government to remove them from the embassy.
Pascoe stated that on March 1, he participated in a television call-in program with a "group of virulent anti-Castroites from Miami and they insulted me." He expressed the view that Radio Marti was used intentionally and inappropriately for political purposes.
There can be no doubt that there are Cubans who believe that capitalist streets are paved with gold. There is also no doubt that life has been extremely hard for Cubans in the last decade when basic essentials have been in very short supply, as a result of Cuba's loss of its east European trading partners and the tightening of the 40-year US economic blockade.
Supermarket shelves are just beginning to fill again, but many of the best-stocked shops trade only in US dollars, causing great resentment among those Cubans who only have access to pesos.
Nevertheless, the majority of Cubans are highly educated about the real situation of Third World migrants and refugees in countries such as the US and Australia and remain dedicated to the defence of the social gains of the revolution.
From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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