[News] Bush's New Cuba Plan - Embargoes, Blacklists and Assassination Plots

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 12 18:22:35 EDT 2006


http://www.counterpunch.org/smith07112006.html

July 11, 2006


Embargoes, Blacklists and Assassination Plots


Bush's New Cuba Plan

By WAYNE S. SMITH

In May of 2004, the Bush Administration's Commission for Assistance 
to a Free Cuba issued an almost 500-page report that seemed to 
conclude the Castro government was virtually at the point of 
collapse. Just a few more nudges--a few more Radio Marti broadcasts, 
denials of a few more travel licenses, and support to a few more 
dissidents--and it would all be over. The United States, the report 
seemed to suggest, would then come in and show the Cubans how to 
operate their schools properly, make their trains run on time, and 
grow their crops more efficiently. It was envisaged as such a 
U.S.-run operation that in July of 2005, a U.S. transition 
coordinator was appointed. One skeptical observer noted at the time 
that in the case of Iraq, the Bush Administration had at least waited 
until it invaded and occupied the country before appointing a 
transition coordinator. Did his appointment in this case mean the 
U.S. intended to invade Cuba as well? And if not, what was the U.S. 
transition coordinator supposed to do from his office in the State 
Department building? Even today, that remains unclear.

Perhaps OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza's reaction to the 
idea of a U.S. transition coordinator for Cuba summed it up best. 
"But there is no transition," he said, "and it isn't your country."

Indeed, the transition plan put forward in 2004 had such a 
"made-in-the-USA" tone to it that it backfired in Cuba. Even Cubans 
who had their disagreements with the Castro government did not want 
to be told by the United States how they should run their country. 
Leading dissidents described the new approach as counterproductive. 
Elizardo Sanchez of the Commission for Human Rights and National 
Reconciliation, for example, noted that the U.S. policy announced in 
2004, "has had an effect exactly the opposite of the one you should want."

Cuba's Catholic Bishops also disagreed with the U.S. approach, saying 
its measures "threaten both the present and the future of our nation."

Nor did many Cubans agree with the idea that they should give up free 
health care and education, and various other services provided by the 
government

The New Report.

Now the Commission has issued a new report, at a ceremony on July 10 
presided over by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Commerce 
Secretary Gutierrez and Transition Coordinator Caleb McCarry. 
Interestingly, perhaps in response to charges that the first report 
was nothing but an American occupation plan, the new one stresses 
that its purpose is, rather, to offer assistance to Cubans on the 
island. Solutions must come from them, it insists. The United States 
simply stands ready and willing to support their initiatives. But 
having said that, the report then goes on with page after page of 
recommended actions, from reorganizing the economy and the 
educational system to the holding of multiparty elections--always 
provided, of course, that Cubans on the island wish to initiate them!

And the basic premise, that the regime is on the verge of collapse, 
is as pronounced and as unrealistic in the new report as in the old. 
Two years have passed and rather than collapsing, the Cuban economy 
has shown strong signs of reinvigoration. Even the CIA gives it a 
growth rate of 8%. Cuba has new and vitally important economic 
relationships with Venezuela and China and indications of an 
important new oil field off the north coast, for which various 
nations are bidding for drilling sites. Things are looking up, not down.

There is no indication of that in the new report, however. Rather, it 
says: "Chronic malnutrition, polluted drinking water, and untreated 
chronic diseases continue to affect a significant percentage of the 
Cuban people." And of course adds that: "Conditions will not improve 
as long as Fidel Castro remains in power."

Never mind that UN indices consistently indicate Cuba's population to 
be considerably healthier than those of most neighboring states, 
including the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico--one reason being that 
they have free health care. It is interesting to note also that life 
expectancy for Cubans is five years longer than for African-Americans!

Funds Diverted for International Meddling.

Whatever the earnings produced by the Cuban economy, the report 
insists they are used not for the Cuban people, but for nefarious 
purposes. "The revenue does not go to benefit the Cuban people," the 
report insists, "but is diverted to maintain the regime's repressive 
security apparatus and fund Castro's interventionist and 
destabilizing policies in other countries of the Hemisphere. The 
Castro regime's international meddling is done at the expense of the 
needs of the Cuban people."

First of all, if this were so, if funds had been so massively 
diverted, Cubans would no longer have free health care and education 
and other social-welfare programs would have long since collapsed. 
That they have not is evidence that the report's allegations are 
false. Further, it provides no example of this "international 
meddling" to which such a huge share of the Cuban economy is 
supposedly being channeled. Cuban doctors have been sent to many 
other countries, including Guatemala and Haiti, in addition to 
Venezuela and Bolivia. They have been praised on every occasion for 
their excellent and selfless assistance. If this is the meddling to 
which the report refers, there should be more of it. If it is not, 
then the report should provide examples of the interventionist 
actions to which it has reference.

Prevent Succession.

When Castro passes from the scene, he will, under the Cuban 
Constitution, be succeeded by the Vice President. At this point in 
time, that is Raul Castro. There will be many within that new 
leadership structure, and many within Cuban society, arguing for 
political and economic reforms--just as there will be other voices opposed.

The principal objective of the Bush Commission's new plan, however, 
is to prevent the succession altogether, calling on Cuban citizens 
and the international community to reject the government that would 
replace Castro under the Cuban Constitution and to insist instead on 
an entirely new one. But neither the Cuban people nor the 
international community are likely to take so frontal a position 
against a successor regime. Change, rather, will have to come about 
slowly and as the result of an internal process, not as the result of 
a formula imposed from abroad--and certainly not one imposed by the 
United States. As Oswaldo Paya, one of Cuba's leading dissident 
leaders, stated a few weeks ago in anticipation of the publication of 
this second report: "We do not accept transition programs made 
outside of Cuba."

Measures to Block Succession.

The Bush administration's objective, as stated in the new Commission 
report, is to see to it that "the Castro regime's succession strategy 
does not succeed," but the measures put forward to achieve that goal 
are as inadequate as were those put forward two years ago to bring an 
end to the Castro government.

Expanded Broadcasting.

The new report, for example, calls for increased Radio and TV Marti 
broadcasting and an expansion of third-country broadcasting. But the 
broadcasting already conducted over the past two years, of the one 
kind or the other, hasn't had any appreciable effect on public 
opinion. More of it isn't likely to have any more.

Support for Dissidents and Civil Society.

The report two years ago called for support to dissidents and 
representatives of "civil society" as a means of confronting the 
government. The new report calls for more of the same, and even for 
the establishment of an $80 million fund to increase that support. 
But as in an earlier report we quoted one dissident on the island 
summing up the effect of that support: "The good news is that most of 
that money remains in Miami; the bad news is it makes our position 
more difficult even so."

What he meant is that much of the money is given to organizations in 
Miami, some of it, supposedly, to pass on to groups in Cuba, but that 
little in fact gets through; it stays with those in Miami. Further, 
when the U.S. says its objective is to bring down the Cuban 
government, and then says that one of its means of accomplishing that 
is by providing funds to Cuban dissidents, it in effect places them 
in the position of being the paid agents of a foreign power seeking 
to overthrow their own. Inevitably, that puts them in an even more 
difficult position and severely limits their effectiveness.

That will be no less true now than in the past. The new fund, in 
short, is not likely to have any greater impact than did the old one, 
especially as, as noted above, many of the dissidents themselves do 
not agree with the U.S. action plan. It should be noted, for example, 
that one of Cuba's leading dissidents, Oswaldo Paya, on July 1 of 
this year, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post 
emphasizing that Cubans wanted to preserve the right to free health 
care and education--something at odds with the recommendations in the 
original Commission report. Paya has also said he wants the U.S. 
embargo to end and for Americans to be allowed to travel to Cuba, a 
position that has enraged hard-line exiles in Miami.

Curtail Travel. Measures were introduced two years ago to sharply 
reduce the travel of Americans and especially Cuban-Americans, and to 
curtail remittances and parcel deliveries. Claiming that these 
measures have had great success, the new report calls for their 
strengthened implementation. But while the new restrictions on the 
travel of Americans and Cuban-Americans to the island have of course 
reduced revenues from that source, overall revenues from tourism have 
not fallen, since Canadians, Europeans and Latin Americans 
(especially Venezuelans) have continued to travel in even greater numbers.

Moreover, this is a problem with several dimensions. It had long been 
an article of faith, for example, that the best way to get the 
message of American democracy abroad was through the travel of 
American citizens. Does reducing their travel to Cuba, then, not work 
at cross purposes with the broader objective of encouraging change in 
Cuba? And whether the pain caused to divided Cuban-American families 
is worth the few millions denied to the Cuban government is an open question.

No Assistance to the Cuban Council of Churches.

New measures are called for even against Cuban churches, through a 
tightening of regulations for the export of humanitarian items to 
ensure that exports are not consigned to entities that are "regime 
administered or controlled organizations, such as the Cuban Council 
of Churches." This follows on denial of visas to various members of 
the Cuban Council of Churches, which the Bush administration insists 
is controlled by the Cuban government. As an American religious 
leader countered heatedly: "In that they have to play by the rules 
laid down by the Cuban government, they are of course 'controlled.' 
But to suggest that the Cuban Council of Churches is simply an 
instrument of the government is absurd. They are legitimate religious 
leaders whose cooperation we highly value."

Be that as it may, American churches will no longer be able to send 
the Cuban Council of Churches humanitarian assistance, a prohibition 
the U.S.-based Church World Service is already vigorously protesting.

Effort to Monitor Nickel Exports.

Given that nickel exports are now such an important source of 
revenues for the Cuban government, the Commission report calls for 
the creation an inter-agency Cuban Nickel Targeting Task Force to 
strengthen measures to control imports of nickel-bearing substances 
or products (i.e., "we won't buy your steel if there's any chance it 
contains Cuban nickel!"), and for several other measures to 
discourage other countries from buying Cuban nickel. Such tactics 
have been tried in years past with very little success. They are not 
likely to have any greater success now. Indeed, they are more likely 
to cause a strong negative reaction in the international community.

Reaction of the Cuban People to Efforts to Undermine Their Economy.

One must wonder also how the Bush administration expects the Cuban 
people to react to its call for measures which can only have the 
purpose of making their own lives more difficult? Are they supposed 
to be grateful to the United States should its policies result in new 
shortages and thus be ready to support its campaign against their own 
government? Not likely. On the contrary, fostering a siege mentality 
in Cuba can only work against any popular support for U.S. policy.

The Secret Annex.

The measures to block the succession process that are discussed in 
this report--or, at least those that are openly discussed--aren't 
likely to work. However, the report carries an annex which it is said 
must remain secret for "reasons of national security" and to maximize 
its chances of success. We can only guess what is in the annex. Given 
the history of U.S.-Cuban relations, however, there will inevitably 
be speculation that it contains new assassination plots against 
Castro (although this time against Raul) and new plans for exile 
raids if not direct U.S. military action. There is already virtually 
no support in the international community for U.S. policy toward 
Cuba. The uncertainty and suspicion resulting from this secret annex 
are likely to reduce it even further.

Wayne S. Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the 
<http://www.ciponline.org/>Center for International Policy and 
perhaps the most veteran U.S. observer of U.S.-Cuban relations, 
having been a Cuba analyst in the State Department's Bureau of 
Intelligence and Research (1957-58), Third Secretary of Political 
Affairs in the American Embassy in Havana (1958-61), Cuban Desk 
Officer (1964-66), Director of Cuban Affairs in the Department of 
State (1977-79), and Chief of the U.S. Interests Section Havana, 1979-82


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