Question: Why has there never been a coup d'etat in the United States?
Answer: Because there is no U.S. Embassy in the United States.
That tired joke contains a large kernel of truth. Traditionally U.S. embassies have been used as centers for the planning and execution of numerous coups throughout the former colonial world, especially in Latin America.
And as a friend of Cuba (having visited ten times over the last 17 years), I fear that the transformation of Havana's "Interests Section" into a full-fledged embassy will result in intensified attempts to overthrow Cuban socialism.
The fear is not unfounded.
Cuban scholar, Cliff DuRand, who holds an honorary degree in the University of Havana and has led groups of scholars to Cuba annually for more than 20 years, agrees. He sees the restored relations as merely a change of tactics on the part of the United States in its efforts to undermine the Cuban revolution.
The previous goal of U.S. policy was regime change. Now the target is systemic change -- undermining the Cuban economy.
The first approach found expression during the Eisenhower years in an April 1960 State Department guideline:
[E]very possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. . . . a line of action which, while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government. [Office of the Historian, Bureau Of Public Affairs, US Department Of State; John P. Glennon, et al., eds., Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba -- Washington, DC: GPO, 1991, 885.]
Notice the political goal: overthrow of the government. Notice the tactic: to create hunger and desperation among the general populace. That's basic terrorism. As a result, over the nearly 55 years of following the Eisenhower guideline, more than 3000 Cubans have been killed and more than 3000 wounded or crippled.
In the meantime, Cuba has periodically enacted many economic reforms -- most recently (after nation-wide dialog involving all segments of society in thousands of local meetings) opening its economy to small and mid-sized businesses. Cubans have decided that a petty bourgeois is compatible with socialism.
In that change, the Obama administration has evidently sensed its opportunity for economic subversion in the service of U.S. corporations. The intention was expressed in the president's words on December 17th: "Our efforts aim at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state."
Notice the goal: changing the Cuban system of reliance on the state -- presumably for free health care, food subsidies, free education, subsidized home ownership, and the other conquests of the revolution. Notice the tactic: normalization of relations (without removing the crippling embargo). And don't overlook the fact that President Obama retains the conviction that the United States has the right to shape Cuban society. That's neo-colonialism.
How will Cuba protect itself from the continued assault on its revolutionary gains? According to a friend of mine close to President Castro:
- By preventing a big bourgeoisie from emerging.
- Accomplishing this feat through a system of heavy licensing fees and steep taxation of businesses.
- By mandating that firms growing beyond a certain size become co-operatives with the workers assuming control of the enterprise in question.
Will Cubans be successful in protecting their revolutionary achievements even in the face of the U.S. change of subversive tactics? The world (especially the third world) awaits the answer with bated breath.