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BBC - Will Obama shift policy on Cuba

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Joined: 19 Oct 2005
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Post Post subject: BBC - Will Obama shift policy on Cuba Reply with quote

Dear Ms Ghattas,

I read your recent article "Will Obama shift policy on Cuba?" with interest.

"And with so many thorny, complex issues awaiting the incoming president, analysts say Cuba might provide Mr Obama with an easy opportunity to bring about the kind of change to America's foreign policy that the world and Latin America in particular are waiting for. "

A good start then would be to explore exactly what US policy towards Latin America has been. You briefly mention the travel restrictions and Embargo but there is so much more. Although the Cuba embargo is bad, US policy towards Cuba and the rest of Central and South America has been a very nasty indeed. In the case of Cuba, the US waged a terror campaign which involved (amongst other things) a wave of bombings. (House Select Committee on Assassinations Report, Volume IV, page 125. September 22, 1978)

Former CIA Director Richard Helms testified before the US Senate in 1978 on the programme. He stated "We had task forces that that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy."

Then of course there was the infamous "Operation Northwoods", a de-classified plan to stage terrorist attacks on US assets and blame them on Cuba to provide a Casus Belli for an invasion of Cuba.

Is this nastier side of US policy towards Cuba not worthy of a mention?

As for the rest of Central and South America, US policy gets even uglier. The US has installed and/or supported a string of dictators across the region.

Augusto Pinochet - Chile
The Somoza Dynasty - Nicaragua
Fulgencio Batista - Cuba
General Efrain Rios Mont - Guatemala
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo - Dominican Republic
The Argentine Military Junta

In the case of Argentina, the US knew that a coup was about to take place. Henry Kissinger was told that it was likely that after the coup, left wing activists and union leaders would be murdered. Despite this the US did not warn the Argentine government about the coup and Kissinger is on record as saying that the Junta should be encouraged. e.g.

"I do want to encourage them"
"I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States."

After the coup, thousands of people were murdered by the Junta.

In the case of Nicaragua the US was condemned by the World Court in 1986 for its terrorist activities which included mining the civilian shipping lanes and supporting the murderous Contras. The US was ordered to pay reparations, a ruling which was ignored.

Possibly one of the most interesting US coups in the region is the one against the democratic government of Guatemala in 1954. The new government of Guatemala instigated land and tax reforms that threatened the profits of the US United Fruit company, which was a major corporate force in Guatemala. United Fruits lobbied the US government to intervene and the result was a huge propaganda campaign which aimed to present the leader of Guatemala as a puppet of the Soviet Union. An exiled army officer, Carlos Armas, was used to effect the military side of the coup. After the US-backed coup, hundreds of Guatemalans were rounded up and killed.

If this coup had taken place today, no doubt we would have been treated to a long line of BBC articles about Arbenz being a Soviet puppet and a danger to the region. Probably in a very similar way to the articles about Chavez which attempt to paint him as a dictator rather than a democratically elected leader.

Some might say the US had to do these bad things because of the cold war, but the fact US policy towards Cuba has not changed despite the end of the cold war, really puts the lie to that. This is of course not the first time that the BBC has failed to explore the bloodier side of US policy in the region. Justin Web wrote a series of articles on "anti-Americanism"

Anti-Americanism - Part 1

Anti-Americanism - Part 2

Anti-Americanism - Part 3

Reading the articles, you would be perplexed as to why anyone would be angered by US Foreign policy (or in Webb's world view, why anyone would be anti-American). In the Venezuelan stop, Webb even failed to mention that it is widely believed by Venezuelans that the US was behind the 2002 coup attempt. As I have discussed above, Central and South America have been such a hotbed of US interventions (many of them incredibly bloody) that it is truly beyond belief that none of them were mentioned. The articles are a true tour-de-force of historical amnesia and I would recommend anyone to read them.

"He said the best way to bring about change inside Cuba was to allow Cuban-Americans to become the agents of change by letting them visit the island."

What kind of change would the US be happy with though? If Cuba was to become a socialist democracy along the lines of Bolivia, the US would certainly not be happy and it's unlikely that Cuba would be left alone. It is likely that the US would fund opposition groups via USAID as is the case in Bolivia. It is also possible that the US might back a coup against a left-wing democratic Cuban government. The US is widely believed to be behind the coup against Chavez in 2002, with Bush officials meeting plotters several weeks prior to the event.

"Attitudes are especially changing amongst the younger generation, which does not bear the scars of life under Fidel Castro - but some older Cuban-American have also had a change of heart."

They also do not bear the scars of life under Batista, the previous dictator of Cuba who was backed by the US.

Hostile US policy towards Cuba goes back a very long way of course. Many people I have talked to have never stopped to ask why the US has a base (Guantanamo Bay) in a "hostile" country. The answer of course is the Platt Amendment (1901). The Cuban people had been struggling for independence from Spain for years but then suddenly found themselves occupied by US troops. A condition of withdrawal was that Cuba agree to the Platt Amendment, an amendment which heavily infringed upon Cuba's sovereignty. Amongst the clauses were:

1. Cuba would not transfer Cuban land to any power other than the United States.

2. Cuba would contract no foreign debt without guarantees that the interest could be served from ordinary revenues.

3. The right to US intervention in Cuban affairs and military occupation when the US authorities considered that the life, properties and rights of US citizens were in danger.

4. Cuba was prohibited from negotiating treaties with any country other than the United States which will impair or to impair the independence of Cuba.

5. Cuba was prohibited to permit any foreign power or powers to obtain... lodgement in or control over any portion of Cuba.

6.The Isle of Pines (now called Isla de la Juventud) was deemed outside the boundaries of Cuba until the title to it was adjusted in a future treaty.

7. The sale or lease to the United States of lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon. The amendment ceded to the United States the naval base in Cuba (Guantánamo Bay) and granted the right to use a number of other naval bases as coal stations.

In 1934 the Platt Amendment was repealed as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbour policy" toward Latin America. Well, everything was repealed apart from the Guantanamo Bay clause.

I don't expect a BBC article to cover as much as I have done here, but a brief exploration of the more bloody and oppressive side of US foreign policy in the region is surely not too much to ask. Surely thousands of people being killed by US backed/installed dictators is at least worth as much a mention as economic embargoes and travel restrictions.
Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:28 pm
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