CUBA HAS WITHSTOOD THE STORM OF AMERICAN IMPERIALISM
By Fahim A. Knight-EL
The United States for almost five decades has been on the wrong side of history relative to Cuba and the recent political initiatives that President Barack Obama and the United States Government have implemented toward this island nation shouldn’t just be viewed as a gesture of America's good humanity to its neighbor to the south, which sits just ninety (90) miles off the coast of Florida. However, the uplifting of some of the travel restrictions and ability to transfer some U.S. currency to Cuba; still does not resolve the long standing sanctions and embargoes that have served as an economic blockade for almost five decades and are still in tact as I write this article—this is the real issue impeding U.S. and Cuban relations. So lets not completely fool ourselves over President Obama’s so-called olive branch toward Cuba.
But nevertheless, the U.S. Government has come to the realization that, if the United States is to survive as a capitalist empire in the 21st Century, it can no longer afford to continue practicing isolationism toward Cuba and no other nation that possess exploitable markets. President Obama is slowly trying to reverse the backwards foreign policy axiom of his predecessor George Bush who labeled certain nations as part of what he called the "Axis of Evil" and the "Rogue Nations" paradigm. This was the foreign policy mindset that capitulated the Bush theory—either you were with us or against us, which resembled the old Cold War political era and President Obama is working to create more of a diplomatic atmosphere of international tolerance. (Reference: Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Damien Cave; On-line article titled, "Obama Opens Door to Cuba, but Only a Crack;" New York Times; April 14, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/world/...)/
The United States is a declining nation and it is economically bankrupt and the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Shalom Bernanke and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (look at who is running the money system of our nation, do I need to say anymore) understand that capitalism will not survive, if it can not continue to expand and produce. Cuba can no longer be viewed as being politically and economically expendable because as the United States dollar continues to weaken and decline and our international debt continues to mount with Europe, China, and other Eastern bloc nations. It is requiring that the U.S. become more economically and politically innovative. (Reference: William Greider; “Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country”).
The U.S. has no other choice but to economically engage and work to create new markets that must prove to be economically sustainable in order for our nation to survive beyond 2009 and into the near future. For example, the United States automobile industry is suffering and the Cubans have been forced since the early 1960s to import European and Asian automobiles due to the trade embargoes. Thus, when you travel to Havana and you will see all these antique and classic automobiles of the 1950s and early 1960s models being driven by the Cuban citizens. This is not necessarily an indication that the Cuban people love old vintage classic U.S. made automobiles, but it is a visual indication of the political effects of a Cold War where Cuba was not allowed to import/export United States goods and services for almost fifty years due to the United States imposed economic sanctions and embargoes.
This could have been a viable automobile market (as well as a potential market for other tradable goods and services) for the United States for the last fifty (50) years—United States based General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, etc. Perhaps this small market could have allowed the U.S. to export thousands of U.S. automobiles to our Latin American neighbor and know telling what the auto industry residual effect this would have had on the spin off market of the automobile industry (automobile parts and technology).
The Cuban Government and the Cuban people have been resilient and great improvisers, simultaneously in order to have withstood United States aggression and the gamut of propaganda spewed by the western media against Cuba. President Barack Obama and the United States Government have made more of a business decision than a political decision to slowly bring Cuba back into the full diplomatic community. This is not to suggest that many of the United States staunch European and Asian allies did not ignore the imposed U.S. Embargoes and continued to trade and do international business with Cuba for over forty years, in spite of the political antagonistic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.
Western European Governments recognized a long time ago that Cuba had economic markets and based on its long diplomatic relations with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)possessed tradable commodities, pesos and other viable currencies which to purchase goods and services (the Europeans have always kept the Cuban Tourism industry afloat during these lean embargo years). Most of the United States, European Allies in private viewed the U.S. sanctions and embargoes against Cuba as reactionary, senseless and nonproductive. The United States Government in reality had no legitimate gripe with Cuba, other than they chose to live as a Socialist Government because in all reality, Cuba hadn't committed any crimes against the United States. What are they guilty of other than their right to exercise self-determination?
Many Americans even in 2009 do not have a clue what socialism is and/or is not. The ignorant will say that the Cubans had aligned themselves with the Communist USSR for close to forty years (yet at the same time the United States was trading with the "good communist" and still yet, what crime did Cuba commit?) and perhaps would arrogantly state “we could not have this type of military threat in our backdoor”; in particular the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis incident, which was perceived by the United States as a compromise of international law and a threat to U.S. national security and stability. The United States has controlled foreign nations intervention into the Caribbean Sea and region based on the signing of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine which prohibits foreign powers and authorities of having any military jurisdiction in this vital and strategic region. (Reference: Don Munton and David A. Welch;”The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Concise History").
The Soviet Union so-called collapsed in 1989, which brought an abrupt end to Russian style communism and Cold War politics which had divided the world into two camps Warsaw Pact Nations and NATO for close to fifty years. But President Fidel Castro and the Cuban people had internalized true socialist principles and did not budge, although its biggest political and economic supporter the Soviet Union stood up before the world announcing its betrayal of Socialism. (Reference: Stephen A. Resnick; "Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR").
Castro and the Cuban people did not embrace the socialist ideology because they were following the former USSR; they weighed the scientific principles based on Cuban history, world history, other modes of economic systems and they saw the human contradictions in capitalism based on it being a vicious system of exploitation that gave way to classism and this served as an antagonistic contradiction in human development. Castro and Cuba in 1989 came to understand that the USSR was always a capitalist nation who had disguised its reactionary political and economic ideological principles in Socialist theories and at the same time betraying many of its Warsaw Pact Nations allies in pursuit of capitalist interest. Many pundits and political scientist expected Cuba too politically and economically collapse after the former Soviet Union deceptions was exposed, which proved they were enemies of Socialism. (Reference: Ernesto Guevara; "Che Guevara, Cuba, and the Road to Socialism").
Castro taught the people to embrace the revolution and to inculcate the principles in their lives (the revolution was not based on any perfect socialist model nor was it rooted in charismatic style leadership) and this is why twenty years later Cuba has been able to withstand a powerful Capitalist country like the United States and even overcome Russia's deception. However, after Cuba's abandonment by the former Soviet Union in 1989 they were left with many strategic challenges—politically, economically and socially, but their courage, determination and optimism have proven greater than the betrayal of their chief political and economic ally. This writer has been saying this for over thirty years that the Cuban people had the right to self-determination and that included the right to choose socialism or communism as their form of government. Why has this right kept the United States from having constructive and normalize relations with the Cuban Government for so long? Reference: Ariana Hernandez-Reguant; "Cuba in the Special Period: Culture and Ideology in the 1990s (New Concepts in Latino American Cultures)’ “.
The United States government has imposed unjustified sanctions and embargoes against Cuba since the early 1960s and former President Fidel Castro has been the target of many Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert plots and assassination attempts because he refused to bow to American imperialism. His legacy has to be considered as one of defiance and longevity and his tenure has outlasted at least eight United States Presidents. President Castro should have received a Nobel Peace Prize for his revolutionary work and Cuba’s ability to politically, economically, and socially sustain itself against one the world’s foremost superpowers—the United States.
This writer has always respected President Fidel Castro and Cuba for opening up its country to so many revolutionaries and political prisoners and most all their commitment in supporting revolutionary struggles around the world. Cuba stood with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) under the leadership of the late Yasser Arafat; Cuba stood with the Irish Republican Army (IRA); Cuba stood with the freedom fighters of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) in Namibia, Africa who had been fighting for centuries for their freedom and independence from the vicious racist regime of the South African Government; Cuba stood with Steven Biko and Nelson Mandela and African National Congress (ANC) and their fight against the white Afrikaner Government and Apartheid regime of South Africa (Azania) who had been vicious and oppressive since the Dutch arrive 1652.
Cuba stood in the early 1980s with the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada and its Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement who was later betrayed by one of his top lieutenants Bernard Coard; Cuba stood with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and their quest for a United States of Africa ; Cuba stood in the 1980s with Nicaraguan Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and its controversial leader Daniel Ortega; Cuba in the 1970s stood with Angola, Africa and their struggle for independence from the Portuguese; Cuba and President Fidel Castro in the early 1960s visited Harlem, New York and stood in solidarity with the Nation of Islam and Minister Malcolm X. (Reference: Fidel Castro; "Fidel Castro Speeches 1984-85; three volumes).
Perhaps one of the most controversial positions Cuba has taken was granting political asylum to a United States prisoner of war named Assata Shakur formally known as Joanne Chesimard of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). She was accused and convicted of killing a New Jersey State Trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike in the early 1970s and was sentenced to life in prison without parole within the U.S. Federal Prison system. But after serving five years in FCI Morgantown, West Virginia; Shakur escaped to Cuba where she received political asylum from the Cuban Government. Shakur is still considered a fugitive of justice on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Most Wanted List and on the U.S. Marshal's Most Wanted List (there is now a million dollar bounty over her head) and I am quite sure she has been upgraded to the Homeland Security top criminals priority listing. (Reference: Assata Shakur; "Assata: An Autobiography").
Shakur has now lived in Cuba for over three decades in which many rightwing U.S. politicians over the years have tried to issue extradition warrants (of course these actions were non-binding) and in an attempt to pressure Cuba to releasing her into United States custody. But Cuba has refused to capitulate to U.S. pressure and this also has been a thorn in the side of U.S. and Cuba relations. Cuba and the U.S. do not have an agreed extradition treaty. Many believe to this day that Assata Shakur was innocent of all charges and was a mere victim of the former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his counter intelligence program called Cointelpro which was aimed at radical militant and not so radical black leadership during the 1960s and 1970s. (Reference: Assata Shakur; "Assata: An Autobiography").
Hoover used a gamut of dirty tricks to destabilize, neutralize, assassinate, incarcerate, imposed illegal wiretapping, spied, sent paid informants to disrupt progressive black organizations, placed agent provocateurs in strategic leadership positions within some of the most militant black organizations in America, etc., which to closely monitor the leadership and the organizations. Shakur has maintained her innocence and she outlined her legal case and personal history in her autobiography titled, "Assata" and chronicled her side of the story relative to the events that led to a N.J. State Trooper being murdered on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. (Reference: Elaine Brown; "A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story").
The United States Judicial system has not always provided its political prisoners with a fair and impartial legal process—this was seen in cases of Black Panther Party members such as George Jackson, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu Jamal, Huey P. Newton, Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin etc., so from that perspective Assata Shakur presents a credible argument relative to how she was treated within the U.S. judicial system, as well as within the penal institutions of America. This writer believes that she could never receive a fair trial within the United States based on racism and the case being a high profile case of killing a white police officer. Now! If President Barack Obama wants to do something honorable and noble, why do not he commute Assata Shakur's criminal sentence and issue her a presidential pardon? What would be the difference in lieu of President Bill Clinton issuing a presidential pardon to a criminal like Marc Rich? (Reference: Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Assata Shakur, and Mumia Abu-Jamal; "Still Black, Still Strong").
This writer believes that the Cuban Government was right in granting Shakur political asylum and they too believe that she was a United States political prisoner and met the international legal criteria to be considered as a political prisoner. This new so-called goodwill political approach that President Obama is offering in U.S. and Cuban relations, it essentially has to be viewed as a good step and will prove to be a positive refreshing new era in the area of U.S./Cuba international diplomacy. In spite of it being a politically opportunistic maneuver on behalf of the United States (Cuba needs the United States and United States needs Cuba).
The political awkwardness between the two nations could be partially blamed on the petite bourgeoisie Cubans who left Cuba in 1959 as a class of self-imposed exiles after Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was deposed and setup a defacto exile Cuban Government in Miami, Florida—acculturated and assimilated somewhat into American life—this wealthy and well educated class of Cubans who once lived privilege lives in Havana worked to create strong and effective Cuban-American political lobby groups inside the boarders of the U.S. and for fifty (50) years have garnished their influence to shape public policy and direct U.S. Foreign relations relative to Cuba. (Reference: Martha Harnecker; "Fidel Castro's Political Strategy").
Thus, U.S. politicians often took their lead from the Miami based Cuban-American community who had become very thrifty business people; in particular in the areas of finance and banking. Cuban-Americans were politically savvy enough to leverage their economic prosperity, which to make large financial contributions to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party (they had learned and master the political game). So American policy makers did not make any decisions on Cuba without being in direct consultation with the Cuban-Americans on all matters concerning their homeland and carried out the political aspirations of these well financed and organized Cuban-American political action groups. (Reference: Patrick Haney and Walt Vanderbush; "Cuban Embargo: Domestic Politics of American Foreign Policy").
The Cuban-American position toward President Fidel Castro often made the case for reactionary and racist U.S. politicians such as the former Republican Senator of North Carolina Jesse Helms (a tobacco chewing redneck that constantly spewed rightwing propaganda against President Castro and the nation of Cuba) this made room for strange bedfellows because the United States reactionary foreign policy toward Cuba was being driven by the Miami Cuban-Americans and United States Politicians had their biggest ally, which to justify demonizing Castro and isolating Cuba. (Reference: Jeffrey Elliot; "Nothing Can Stop the Course of History").
The Cuban-Americans have been relentless in their uncompromising and unwillingness to pursue a calmer and gentler political strategy with Castro for the greater good of both sides. This writer believes after almost fifty (50) years they have finally come to their senses and to the realization that it benefits both sides by working to ease the political tension and suspicion. Thus, by the U.S. uplifting of some of the travel restrictions, if nothing else allows Cuban-American family members to visit their relatives in Cuba which has to be considered a positive step in the right direction. This common sense approach will benefit the spirit and booster the psychological morale of both nations.
This writer must say the Cuban-Americans for many years sold—shaped and molded the American polity that the Cubans who left Cuba on poorly built rafts and fishing boats were so-called escaping political persecution (the minute they illegally left Cuba and entered international waters they were deemed political prisoners) at the hands of a repressive Cuban dictator and this made them entitled to U.S. political asylum, as well as other diplomatic status.
Yet, also many have argued for years that the Haitians were escaping political tyranny from Port-au-Prince, but they were met with hostility and political opposition from the United States Government and were denied the diplomatic status of political asylum which was often granted unconditionally to the so-called fleeing Cuban refugees. There were no goodwill ambassador and open arms policy shown to the Haitian refugees. Many of the Haitian refugees were criminalized and placed in federal detention camps and were eventually deported back to Haiti. (Reference: Randall Robinson; "Quitting America: Departure of a Black Man From His Native Land").
Perhaps this was an example of the influence and the political power that the Cuban-Americans had in swaying the U.S. Judicial system and manipulating U.S. extradition laws and deportation policies to their benefit. This immediately put the Cuban refugees on track to become United States citizens and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) granted them rights and privilege and resources. But others argued that the Haitians were black and African in which at the root of the Haitian refugee issue was American style racism and this was the driving force behind this political double standard. No doubt the Haitian community in the United States did not have the political clout and the financial wither all, which to influence United States foreign policy like their Caribbean counterparts the Cubans. (Reference: Carol Bohmer and Amy Shuman; "Rejecting Refugees: Political Asylum in the 21st Century").
Haiti is considered the poorest nation in the western hemisphere and essentially is a powerless people in comparison to the Cuban-Americans. This writer believes that the Europeans are still punishing Haiti for the historical events of 1803 where Haiti became the first independent black nation in the western hemisphere due to Toussaint L'Overture defeating the powerful French military that was led by Napoleon Bonaparte. These events have haunted the island nation of Haiti for over two hundred years. (Reference: Paul Farmer; "The Use of Haiti").
However, in 1999 a little Cuban boy refugee named Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the coast of Florida by some deep sea fishermen and Elian Gonzales relatives in Miami declared the boy was a political refugee escaping the tyranny of a Castro led government. The Cuban-American lobbies had immediately turned this incident into a political football; hoping to further exposed President Fidel Castro as a ruthless and repressive dictator and this innocent little boy and others (Elian mother was one of the fleeing Cubans to lose her life in this allege escape attempt) would risk their lives to escape to freedom by any means necessary. They thought they had the right political ammunition by using Elian Gonzalez as the poster child to contest international human brutality coming out of Cuba. However, this strategy and tactic would later backfire in their faces. (Reference: Michael John; "Betrayal of Elian Gonzalez").
Elian Gonzalez's father traveled to the United States and legally declared parental rights to his son and petitioned the United States Courts and lawmakers to declare him the right to take his minor child back to Cuba where he was a citizen. The State Department eventually sided with Mr. Gonzalez—he was granted the legal right to take his son from U.S. soil back to Cuba. This legal decision devastated the powerful Cuban-American lobby in Miami and even after the legal decision was rendered the American Gonzalez family and Cuban-Americans refused to relinquish the little boy back to his father. But the United States Attorney General Janet Reno and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals, INS, ATF, etc., with power and force and in no uncertain terms demonstrated to the Cuban-Americans that they were not above reproach and the law. The United States Government could not allow any arm group inside the U.S. to dictate their own law and to publically defy a U.S. Court order to relinquish Elian Gonzalez. If they hadn't respond the way that they did, perhaps this would have sent the wrong message to other political renegades. (Reference: Michael John; "Betrayal of Elian Gonzalez").
The Cuban-Americans felt betrayed by Reno and the Clinton administration and perhaps in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, it would be Florida after much political confusion and debate that would decide the United States presidency for the Republican candidate George W. Bush. This writer used to work in the field of international commodity trading and import/export and were in talks with Cuban officials over ten years ago relative to the U.S. and Cuba import/export markets; I believe under the Clinton administration and later under President George W. Bush, Black farmers in the United States had convinced the U.S. State Department in allowing them to export some of their agriculture products to Cuba and not be penalized or effected by the sanctions and embargoes laws and policies.
Kwesi Mfume, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) led a U.S. Delegation of mainly African Americans to Cuba to explore this new economic open door policy created by the Clinton and Bush administrations. Cuba was prepared to engage the African American farmers in an import agriculture agreement, but Mfume and the other Black intelligentsia were out of their league and none of them had any real expertise in import/export business procedures and we witness a golden opportunity end in blunder. (Reference: Zamgba J. Browne; "U.S. Black farmers to supply Cuba" on-line http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-79492632... New York Amsterdam News; November 27, 2002).
This was ashamed and yet the group this writer was associated with had the expertise and knowledge to consummate the deal, but due to politics and the crabs in the barrel mentality; these high level talks seven years ago never amounted to anything. U.S. Black Farmers have been discriminated against and many of the their farms are being foreclosed on—they are the last to receive governmental subsidies, as far as low interest loans and grants and they do not receive the assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (Reference: John Boyd Link National Black Farmers Association http://www.blackfarmers.org/ (click icon that says media).
Some of the Black Farmers activists have filed federal law suits against the U.S. Government. These small farmers have legitimate legal grips and yet there is a double standard where the large commercial farms are constantly receiving bailout money and USDA incentives, but the small U.S. black farmers are in a fight for their economic survival. This is why this writer views Mfume and the Black leadership with contempt and disgust because they are part cause of the predicament black farmers are in 2009.
Many have yearned for this day when United States citizens could freely travel and engage Cuba in its rich social and cultural history. However, many Americans have been traveling to Cuba in spite of the U.S. Embargoes by way of Mexico and Canada and the Mexican/Cuban Customs Officials understood the political complexity of U.S. and Cuban relations; they often took the liberty not to officially stamp U.S. Passports and not documenting U.S. citizens travel to Cuba based on the prior travel restrictions and economic sanctions and embargoes imposed on Cuba. This non-passport action also protected United States citizens from being legally prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office; (Reference: Helen Osieja; "Economic Sanctions As an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy: The Case of the U.S. Embargo Against Cuba").
But others found loopholes in the policy and laws outlined by the United States Treasury Department relative to U.S. citizens traveling to Havana. They often brought back firsthand accounts relative to the political, economic, and social condition of the people on this Caribbean Island nation. But this only furthered my curiosity and it was difficult for me to reason that because these people were Socialist, it led the United States toward a policy of isolationism for almost fifty years toward Cuba. Our foreign policy toward Cuba even to date just does not make any sense.
The United States once served as a colonial master of Cuba and Cuba was once a lucrative slave port where African slaves (Cuba in the 1920s was ninety percent black) were brought into work the massive sugar plantations from the 15th Century to 19th Century known as the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The Spanish and the British exploited Cuba—raping and robbing the land and the indigenous people of their wealth and resources for European economic gain. (Reference: Eric Williams; Capitalism and Slavery").
This was a great criminal act and it created a system of economic, political and social inequality and classism that has haunted this nation until 1959 when Fidel Castro overthrew the repressive regime of Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar. Batista had turned Cuba into a den of inequity—gambling casinos, prostitution houses, drugs, organized crime, etc., it was the play island for wealthy Europeans who looked to bathe in the Caribbean sun and all rules were negotiable. This writer has always agreed with Comrade Fidel Castro and the political positions he took against the United States. He nationalized the Cuban sugar industry which gave the Cuban people more economic control over this and other cash crops commodities. Bloodsucking capitalist companies such as ConAgra, Archer Daniel Midland, Cargill. etc., have also played a huge part in United States and Cuban relations because Cuba would not allow them to exploit its people and resources.
The citizens of the United States should demand that President Barack Obama and the United States Congress rescind and overturn all the embargoes and economic sanctions against Cuba and work to reverse this devastating foreign policy that has created so much political tension for the last fifty years. Perhaps President Obama will seize the moment and not be swayed by the politics of yesteryear and work to completely change U.S. relations toward Cuba for the better. We know the blockades and embargoes have been ineffective and this writer believes that the people on both sides will welcome normalize relations between the two sovereign governments. The time is now.
Fahim A. Knight-EL Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-EL