[News] Cuba - Muscular Diplomacy or Law Breaking?
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 17 11:48:33 EDT 2010
September 17 - 19, 2010
Muscular Diplomacy or Law Breaking?
The Confessions of Roger Noriega
By SAUL LANDAU and NELSON P. VALDÉS
In May, Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary
of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
(2003-2005), acknowledged he conspired with James
Cason, chief of the United States Interest
Section in Cuba (2002-2005), to violate a
declared U.S. government policy of promoting in
Cuba a peaceful transition to a democratic
system based on respect for rule of law,
individual human rights and open economic and
communication systems. Noriega and Cason sought
to promote chaos in the island.
Noriega did not refer to the chaos plan as coming
from a secret decision of President Bush. Rather,
Noriega and his cabal undertook their own
initiative to foster instability. The effort led
to the imprisonment of 75 Cuban citizens who
followed the chaos-promotion instructions.
On May 20th, Noriega boasted on WQBA (Miami
Univision station) about plotting with Cason to
force the Cuban government to break its limited
diplomatic relations with the United States.
(Cason is running for mayor of Coral Gables, Florida).
In September 2002, Cason became Interest Section
head in Havana. The Mexican magazine Proceso
described his behavior as contrary to diplomatic
norms. Indeed, just one month after presenting
his credentials to the Cuban Foreign Ministry,
Cason began receiving and visiting internal
opponents, illegal but tolerated, of the Castro
government. Cason traveled throughout the island
and met with dissidents, asking them to unify
around a program which he provided. He also
promised them with moral and material aid. (La
guerra en Irak hace maniobrar a la Habana, April, 4, 2003)
Cason also broke diplomatic precedent by
attending a political event organized by
dissidents seeking the end of President Fidel
Castro's rule. (AFP February 24, 2003)
A few days later, at a press conference, Cason
declared he had no fear of the Cuban
government. On March 6th, 2003, Fidel Castro
called Cason a thug with diplomatic immunity,
but Cuba could live without the Interest Sections
if that was the U.S. governments goal. Cason,
Castro conjectured, might be seeking his
expulsion or the closing of the Interest Section,
which would block the congressional trend to lift
trade and travel restrictions with the island.
Former Interest Section chief Wayne Smith
(1978-1982) described Casons behavior as the
bull-in-the-china-shop tactics. Smith had no
doubts that the Bush Administration wants to
close the Interest Section because theyre
neither interested in travel, food and medicine
sales or more normal exchanges." He hoped Havana
would not fall for the trap. (Testimony,
Committee on Senate Finance September 4, 2003)
Cuba neither expelled Cason nor closed the U.S.
Interests Section. Instead, on March 18, 2003,
Cuban police arrested Casons key Cuban
collaborators. Applying a hitherto unused 1999
law, Cuban police arrested 75 dissidents.
APs Anita Snow noted, The crackdown marked an
end to the comparative lenience Cuban officials
showed in recent years as independent journalists
filed dispatches to Miami without government
intervention, dissidents held news conferences
and activists collected thousands of signatures
for a petition calling for democratic reforms.
(March, 22, 2003; Reuters April 6, 2003)
Cubas Foreign Minister described the arrest of
the 75 as unavoidable. Cason had to face the
bitter fact: his ground troops, to whom he had
pledged U.S. support, went to prison. Without the
dissidents free to spark fires of discontent,
Noriegas plan to foment chaos fell flat.
In 2010, Cuba released most of the 75. But did
high State Department officials conspire with
underlings in the Interest Section to foster
chaos in Cuba, a far cry from the promotion of a
peaceful transition written into the Interest Section charter?
Noriega told Roberto Rodriguez, radio host of
What Others Do not Say that he was one of the
architects of a plan to destabilize Cuba in
2003. Noriega blamed the failure of his plan to
force regime change in Cuba on Venezuelas
supplying dollars to Havana, a lifesaver for
Cuba. I think it was a great shame that this happened.
Noriega described how we opted for change even
if it meant chaos. The Cubans had had too much
stability over decades and its true that the
U.S. bureaucracy and military preferred
stability. But members of my team said stability
is the enemy and chaos is the friend if you want
to profoundly change a regime... Obviously, chaos
was necessary in order to change reality.
Did Bush really want a change in the Cuban
government, Rodriguez wondered, or did he fear
change might provoke a massive exodus? The only
option not on the table against Cuba was a military invasion, Noriega said.
He told the radio audience how we told our
friend James Cason that if only he could provoke
the Cuban regime to expel him from the country we
could respond by closing the Cuban Interest Section in Washington.
Noriega taunted Cuban intelligence
spoke openly on the phone and didnt hide our
intentions and that is what had to be
acknowledged here in the U.S. administration.
But Noriegas personal desires did not get
formally acknowledged because they countered the
words of the Interest Section Charter: peaceful not hostile behavior.
Do government officials conspiring to change
policy without a constitutional basis constitute a violation of U.S. law?
Can the victims of Noriegas bungling -- the 75
and their families -- file lawsuits for damages?
Should Roger and James seek legal counsel?
Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies
fellow. Counterpunch published
AND BOTOX WORLD.
Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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