BY MARCE CAMERON
On May 1, 160 foreign intellectuals and artists — including Nobel Prize winners Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchu, Aldolfo Perez Esquivel and Nadine Gordimer — launched an international declaration in defence of Cuba. The same day, US Secretary of State Colin Powell included Cuba, along with Iraq, Iran and North Korea, on Washington's "hit list" of states allegedly sponsoring terrorism.
US actors Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover are also among the personalities who have signed the two-paragraph declaration "To the Conscience of the World", which states: "A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries... At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilisation against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion."
The declaration comes in the wake of the arrest and imprisonment of 75 Cubans in early April on charges of collaboration with the US diplomatic mission in Havana in its campaign to enforce a trade embargo against Cuba and to overthrow its revolutionary government.
Since the arrest on March 18 and the subsequent trial and imprisonment of the 75 Cubans, the Cuban government has provided detailed and compelling evidence that James Cason, the head of the US Interests Section in Havana, is at the centre of a conspiracy to recruit, fund and organise a network of counter-revolutionary political agents in Cuba (for details, see GLW #535).
At an April 9 press conference in Havana, Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque dismissed claims by human rights organisation Amnesty International that, according to the organisation's web site, "those arrested may be prisoners of conscience, detained for non-violent exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association".
Perez Roque said: "I categorically reject this notion. What have been judged here are actions and conducts typified as crimes by the law. We have not judged ideas. We know that subversion is fabricated from abroad, that [the Bush administration and Miami-based Cuban counter-revolutionaries] are attempting to create a Trojan Horse here. Thus, we are exercising our sovereign right to legally confront it, abiding by the law and ethics, never resorting to such thing as kidnapping and assassination, never creating death squads, never violating anyone's physical and moral integrity."
In a televised address to the nation on April 25, Cuban President Fidel Castro explained why it was necessary for the Cuban government to act swiftly and decisively to discourage further attempts to hijack Cuban vessels or aircraft, following a series of hijackings over the last few months. In early April, three men were executed for hijacking a passenger ferry in Havana.
"Spokespersons for the US government have expressed their concern over a massive exodus of illegal emigrants", Castro said. "Such concern could not be more hypocritical when, deliberately and coldly and for vile purposes, the Miami terrorist mob and its most important allies in high power circles are encouraging the large-scale hijacking of Cuban planes and boats by ex-convicts and common criminals, who take passengers and other innocent people hostage in order to go to the United States. What they are really after is an inevitable mass exodus as happened on August 4, 1994, which would serve as a pretext for a military aggression against Cuba."
By sharply curtailing the number of Cubans granted visas to emigrate legally over the past six months and by allowing Cuban hijackers to walk the streets of Miami with impunity, the Bush administration has encouraged further hijackings.
Were this to trigger a mass exodus, it could easily lead to a confrontation in the Florida Straits between the US and Cuban coast guards. The US coast guard would seek to prevent Cuban vessels from reaching Florida, while Cuban authorities would take action to ensure the safety of the rafters. This would be the "provocation" sought by Cuba's enemies in the Bush administration to push for military aggression.
Ever since the 1959 revolution in Cuba, successive US governments have used immigration policy as a political weapon in their campaign to undermine the Cuban Revolution. US policy has had two key aims — to deprive Cuba of its skilled workers and professionals by encouraging them to emigrate to the US, and to encourage illegal immigration to create the propaganda spectacle of Cubans setting out in small boats and rafts "to flee the repressive communist dictatorship".
In 1966 the US Congress approved the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourages illegal immigration by providing virtually automatic asylum to any Cuban who lands in Florida, regardless of whatever crimes they may have committed to get there. While Cubans who emigrate illegally are welcomed with open arms, "boat people" from much poorer Caribbean countries are imprisoned or turned away at gunpoint by the US coast guard.
The Cuban government has not sought to block Cubans from legally emigrating. Its policy — summed up in Castro's statement that "the building of socialism is a task for free men and women" — is that those who wish to leave may do so as long as they have the consent of the receiving country to visit or emigrate.
Most Cubans who wish to emigrate to the US do so for economic reasons, while others hope to join friends and family living there. Highly skilled professionals trained by the revolution can earn far higher salaries in the US than they can in Cuba.
The magnetic attraction of "the American way of life" for some Cubans is enhanced by two other pillars of the US strategy to destabilise the revolution and create conditions for "regime change". These are Washington's brutal four decades-long economic embargo, its subversive attempts to create an "opposition movement" on the island, and its propaganda war via illegal radio and television broadcasts to encourage subversive and terrorist activities, including attempts to assassinate the revolution's leaders and blow up tourist hotels.
In his April 25 address, Castro reminded Cubans that the capacity of the Cuban people to inflict heavy casualties on an invading and occupying force, making the domestic political costs of such an adventure unacceptably high for the US ruling class, is the basic reason why Washington not yet tried to use its overwhelming military superiority to invade the island.
"A country cannot be conquered with armoured divisions, thousands of tanks, helicopters, fighter planes and bombers, dozens of aircraft carriers and cruise missiles, tens of thousands of missiles. Once the cities and the whole country are occupied — and this must be considered a basic principle — millions of people in the cities and countryside have to be governed. If they think that the Miami mercenary groups will be of any use in Cuba, they will last about as long as a snowball in hell.
"Once our top leaders are dead, none of whom would ever wave the white flag, tens of thousands of fighters will take the place of the leaders who die, and the people of Cuba will fight on, generation after generation, against the forces of occupation. That is, the war would not end with the occupation of the country, it would rather begin then.
"Never in any era has any army anywhere in the world fought against the men and women of a people made up of hundreds of thousands of revolutionary professionals and millions of people with a high and thorough education, culture and consciousness, who know that there is no parallel in history for their work of justice and humanity created in decades of struggle under blockade, hostility and aggression by the most powerful country that could possibly exist."
The capacity of the Cuban revolutionaries to inflict heavy casualties on a US invasion force depends, in turn, on the political unity, organisation and fighting spirit of the Cuban workers and farmers. Were Cuba not to take decisive action to suppress the activities of counter-revolutionaries on the payroll of US imperialism, this could demoralise the supporters of the revolution in Cuba, the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people.
It would, in the words of former Communist Party of Cuba political bureau member Carlos Aldana, "legalise what the US hasn't been able to do with blood or fire; it [would] mean creating a party of capitalism representing US interests in Cuba".
Castro acknowledged that the decision of the Cuban Council of State to uphold the court's imposition of the death penalty for the three hijackers and the jailing of Washington's 75 political agents would come with a political price. "The revolutionary leaders in Cuba are fully aware of the political cost of the measures they felt obliged to take. Nobody should think that this was not thoroughly analysed, from every angle. We suffered beforehand as we realised that many of our friends would be hurt as well as a large number of people in the world whose religious, humanist or philosophical sensitivity over the death penalty we are very familiar with and in many ways we ourselves share. Thanks to all those friends of Cuba who have defended her in this glorious moment."
From Green Left Weekly, May 7, 2003.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.