[News] Cuba - Muscular Diplomacy or Law Breaking?

Anti-Imperialist News 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


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. government’s 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 Cason’s behavior as  “the 
bull-in-the-china-shop tactics.” Smith had “no 
doubts that the Bush Administration wants to 
close the Interest Section because they’re 
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 Cason’s key Cuban 
collaborators. Applying a hitherto unused 1999 
law, Cuban police arrested 75 “dissidents.”

AP’s 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)

Cuba’s 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, 
Noriega’s 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 Venezuela’s 
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 it’s 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 
 because we 
spoke openly on the phone and didn’t hide our 
intentions and that is what had to be 
acknowledged here in the U.S. administration.” 
But Noriega’s 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 Noriega’s 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 

Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico.

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