Resistance As The Answer

Cuba at a Crossroads

Farooque Chowdhury

Amajor US retreat on Cuba-question is evident in the US president Barack Obama's December 17, 2014 announcement: "In the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests ..."

The "failed", "outdated approach" has compelled the US to announce taking steps for "changing its relationship with the people of Cuba." Announcement is not everything required for any change as actual politics is determined by forces far away from announcement, and economy and politics spells out announcement.

It's an announcement of failure in an Empire's power. With the announcement it has been proved empires can't do and undo all the "things" in all the time in all the places as there is another power - people power, the power of people's political awareness, unity, sense of dignity that makes many powers crumble down. It's virtually Cuba's, the Cuban people's victory in their long steadfast struggle for creating a dignified life.

Raul Castro, the president of Cuba, reiterated this in his reciprocal statement made from Havana on December 17, 2014: "I have reiterated on many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally .. without detriment to the national Independence and self-determination of our people."

Nostalgia was not overpowering the US president as he was briefly referring to the history of futile US policy on Cuba: "I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America's steadfast opposition to communism."

It was his effort to construct logic for making a shift. And, it was conceding a fact: Steadfast opposition. And, with the word "communism" he meant the political-economic system the Cuban people are struggling to build up, which is still far away from communism. It's, to quote Raul, "to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism."

The US president admits the US policy was "aimed to isolate the island," Cuba. And he admits: "[N]o other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions". It's - "no other nation joins us" - conceding an empire's utter failure. With the mightiest military machine in the world, with an efficient and experienced political and diplomatic machine, with wide economic and financial power, an empire failed to pull along any other nation against an "island", actually, a nation. So, the president said: "Today, Cuba is still governed by ... the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago."

It was not only a failure. The Empire was increasingly getting isolated in the world. Voting results over the years in the UN General Assembly on Cuba is the example.

The empire's failure comes as there are the Cuban people. Raul says in his statement: "The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868." A people's soul comes to light: Faithful to ideals of independence and social justice, strongly united, unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of principles.

The US president's announcement tells an irrational policy implemented for decades: "[F]or more than 35 years, we've had relations with China, a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we re-established relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation."

If this is the fact, why the Empire kept on going with its policy on Cuba? The policy was followed for decades. It's not only the Cuban people; people in other lands also had to pay for the policy. The Bangladesh case may be cited. Bangladesh exported jute products to Cuba. The Bangladesh people had to pay a high price: thousands of death in an empire-made famine.

The Cuba policy had its parts spread over the entire hemisphere, and even in Africa. One can recollect organizing the Contra mercenaries, burning of crop fields, forests, destruction of schools, hospitals, food storages in Nicaragua. One can recollect bloodbath by death squads in El Salvador. One can recollect the Grenada invasion. One can recollect incidents engineered in Haiti. One can recollect deaths and interferences in Panama, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala. Chile and Bolivia are among other examples. In all the cases, peoples in those lands paid with blood. And, all the cases were charged with the Empire's Cuba policy.

Is the policy failure rational with the intellectual capacity the Empire commands? What's the reason for failure to identify and rectify the policy failure?

It was not a policy failure. It was not also a failure in intellectual capacity. It was part of safeguarding an interest vested in large property and unquestionable privilege. It was property and privilege of individuals tied together spanning countries and companies. They all make elites, dominant classes. Cuba stood as an example of depowering those classes.

The US president said: "Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease." The position, it seems, has shifted. Once, dirty tricks were played to oppose health workers from Cuba. And, people had to pay for those tricks played by vested quarters tied to the Empire.

President Obama has instructed the US secretary of state John Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. He said: "Terrorism has changed in the last several decades."

It seems the Empire is standing in front of a mirror to have a clear view of self. It knows best the roots, the collaboration, the fund, the training, the arms, the ideological propaganda and diplomatic support extended to today's terrorism; but it's not that, to which he was referring, that "has changed in the last several decades."

Cuba is fighting terrorism for 50 years. There were bombings, killings of Cuban citizens including children, violations of Cuban air space, air dropping of leaflets provoking people to resort to unlawful acts, bombing of the Cuba Flight 455 over the Caribbean in 1976 that killed 73 passengers including teenage members of the Cuban national fencing team, a series of hotel bombings in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian businessman and disrupted Cuba's tourist industry. These were organized and carried out by terrorist groups across the Cuban frontier. Is there any state that doesn't defend itself against terrorist acts? The US is the burning example.

Important question is the embargo. Raul says : 'We have... agreed to renew diplomatic relations. This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease."

Obama also raises the embargo issue: "The embargo that's been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation." He adds: "[W]e should not allow US sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help." He said: "[I]t does not serve America's interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse." And, he assures: "I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo."

Raul's statement makes specific proposal on the issue: 'Though the blockade has been codified into law, the President of the United States has the executive authority to modify its implementation." Raul moves further: "We propose to the Government of the United States the adoption of mutual steps to improve the bilateral atmosphere and advance towards normalization of relations between our two countries, based on the principles of International Law and the United Nations Charter." President Raul said in his statement: "Obama's decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people." A posture is revealed. And, a reciprocity is expected.

A crucial test is in the wing with the changed numbers in the US Congress. There are strong opponents to Obama's Cuba move. To Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Obama's move is "another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies." Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, and the Florida Republican, now considers Obama as the "worst negotiator" of his "lifetime." To anti-Castro hard-liners, "the deal is a betrayal and capitulation to communist tyranny."

The occasion was historic as Obama spoke with Raul Castro over telephone to finalize Alan Gross's release and the exchange of prisoners, and other related issues. Raul echoes the positive tone: "As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday [December 16, 2014] with President Obama, we have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations." The conversation was the first such contact since the Cuban revolution.

Interests including business in the US are willing to deal with Cuba. This is Obama's one area of support. Already a few countries have gained better position about prospective Cuba oil. The US can't ignore this. Discussions on maritime boundaries with Cuba and Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico will be ensued.

Release of the three Cuban prisoners is a major victory for Cuba. Raul's statement reminds: "Fidel promised in June 2001...: 'They shall return!' Gerardo, Ramon, and Antonio [the rest three of the five Cubans] have arrived ... to our homeland."

Raul's statement carries a significant indication:
"While acknowledging our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to dialogue on all these issues.

"As we have reiterated, we must learn the art of coexisting with our differences in a civilized manner."

Now, it's for the US to decide: whether or not to coexist with Cuba, an example of a positive alternative socio-economic-political system only 90 miles from the US mainland. The fear of the example led the super power to put Cuba on the chessboard of the Cold War that experienced hot days with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Cuba exists as an example to the downtrodden people of the world whatever the Empire decides. It's an example of courage with dignity for the ideals of peace and prosperity. It's an example of a geographically small country's struggle to live with honor, which is possible with a politically aware and united people imbued with sense of dignity.

Vol. 47, No. 25, Dec 28, 2014 -Jan 3, 2015