Recently, the United Nations General Assembly voted in near unanimity to lift the 47-year old United States blockade and embargo of Cuba even as US president George Bush loudly rattled his jingoistic saber a little louder in a chillingly militaristic and bellicose diatribe to a hand-picked section of anti-Castro Cubans in Miami. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque in his recent address to the UN said that the near half a century embargo had damaged the Cuban economy at an approximate cost of over $222 billion. He said that the economic blockade represented a US attempt “to subdue the Cuban people through starvation and disease.”
Perhaps the true harshness and outdated nature of this blockade/embargo can be better explained by going back in history to the year 1960 and the alarm that the United States government felt over the triumph of an avowed socialist revolution right in its so-called “backyard.” When Cuba aligned itself with the then Soviet Union, the Dwight Eisenhower Administration in Washington, then engaged in the Cold War, was determined that the Soviets would not get a foothold in the Western Hemisphere – its sphere of national security interest.
The United States State Department presented a policy document to Eisenhower that would spell out the aggressive, punitive and inhuman methods that would be used against Cuba for all of 47 years. This document, in its intrinsic form, has not been altered, deviated from or discarded by successive American presidents since Eisenhower. Indeed, under the Bush Administration the Eisenhower Document has been added to, “improved” if you will, and tinkered with to the extent that the end-product is a harsh, inhuman document that seeks to punish the people of Cuba simply because they chose a different socio-economic and political path to their development that Amwerica does not like.
True, many opponents and critics of the Cuban political system and its leader, Fidel Castro, have argued that the political climate in Cuba is one of a pervasive and enduring dictatorship. The United States and its allies have branded Cuba with the “communist” brush that allows successive Administrations to whip up the “red frenzy” at home by throwing “Cuban-made red meat” to the most backward and rabid sections of the American population.
Over the years the American propaganda machine has literally isolated Cuba resulting in many Caribbean countries, for example, treating it as a giant red pariah. Indeed, the absurd stories about Cuba are laughable today but found real believability in the region in the 1960s, 7os and even 80s. Stories like: nobody can own land in Cuba, Castro kills old people, everybody has to cut sugarcane, Castro will make you marry a donkey etc. helped to reinforce – in the absence of valid, truthful counter-information – the picture of Castro as a ruthless dictator and Cuba as a society gripped in fear and paranoia with a population that is waiting for the American “Big Brother” to rescue and save it.
So let us listen to the language of destabilization written by the United States State Department on how to handle Cubathat was formulated and implemented 47 years ago. It is a "Blue Print" for the destabilization of nations, a playbook for subversion, that finds use even today. Here is what the documents said in part:
“There is no effective political opposition in Cuba...the only predictable measure we have today to alienate internal support for the Revolution is through disillusionment and desperation, based on dissatisfaction and economic duress. Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. Money and supplies must be denied to Cuba in order to decrease real wages, bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of government.”
Today, a world ashamed of its enduring, loudly conspicuous silence on this barbaric treatment of Cuba and Cubans is desperately trying to make this dreadful wrong right. But the United States is a superpower and with a neoconservative element in the Bush White House and an Administration with a militaristic ideology there is very little that the compassionate world community of humankind can do at this juncture – except to keep hope alive.
In fact, the UN General Assembly vote came weeks after President Bush went throwing red meat about to the Miami Cuban sharks and suggested that Washington was now, in the light of Castro’s failing health, stepping up its actions to force regime change in Cuba. The tone, language and stance of President Bush were taken from the same playbook used to justify his misadventure in Iraq and the harsh rhetoric now directed against Iran. This is the 16th time that the United Nations General Assembly has voted so unanimously on a nonbinding resolution.
With a tally of 184 to 4 this vote demonstrated that a number of countries are now supporting what many see as “a criminal embargo.” Predictably, the four who voted with the United States included Israel that is paying back the United States for it blind, consistent and unwavering vetoing of any and all UN resolutions – at the General Assembly or the Security Council – that call for Israel to cease its occupation of Palestinian lands and its aggression against the Palestinian people.
Two other South Pacific US “protectorates” – another name for colony – Palau and the Marshall Islands - also voted with the United States as expected, while Micronesia (another former US colony) abstained and Albania, El Salvador and Iraq did not vote.
In his address to the United Nations the Cuban Foreign Minister detailed the damaging extent of the effects of the embargo and how things has escalated and intensified under the Bush Administration. Perez Roque told the UN General Assembly that President Bush’s new measures “bordered on madness” and that it was a significant departure from that of the 10 previous United States presidents who maintained the embargo.
From penalizing churches doing humanitarian work to economic pressures on businesses that continue to do business with Cuba, to harsher travel restrictions, and limitations on remittances from families in the US to relatives and parents in Cuba, the embargo is now making life very difficult for ordinary Cubans.
“Cuban children have been particularly harmed by the blockade that President Bush has promised to strengthen,” said the Cuban foreign minister. He pointed out that in response to the US government’s threats, the American pharmaceutical company, Abbot, had cut off supplies of the anesthetic Sevorane, which is the best for use in operations on children, forcing Cuban hospitals to use inferior substitutes. Similarly, the US company Saint-Jude, which supplied pacemakers for children suffering from arrhythmia, was compelled to end its exports under pressure from the US Office for Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the blockade.
And the US government has not stopped there. No American company can provide Internet service to Cuba and the Administration in Washington has ordered United States-based hotel chains, like Holiday Inn, to cancel contracts with Cuban musicians working at these hotels around the world. Under new Bush Administration rules Americans wanting to visit Cuba as tourists or a Cuban resident in the US wanting to visit a sick relative on the island now risks penalties as severe as a US$250,000 fine or up to 10 years in prison.
More ominous, said Cuba’s Foreign Minister, is the fact over the past year at least 30 countries have been sanctioned by Washington. Among the examples he cited were the freezing of the assets of the Netherlands Caribbean Bank and the barring of US citizens and companies from doing business with the bank because of its Cuban ties and the fining of the British company PSL Energy Services $164,000 for exporting oil industry equipment to the island. He also listed several companies that were barred from exporting products to Cuba after being taken over by US-based multinationals or because the products included as little as 10 percent American components.