What is the US government planning for Cuba?
By Tamara Hansen
"…All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty…America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country."
- US President George W. Bush, Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba
“After having divulged everything that they [The United States] have divulged – tens of millions of dollars more for their mercenaries, new economic restrictions and illegal actions against international trade and the sovereignty of Cuba and other nations, additional punishments for Cubans and for citizens of other countries – and having made public more than two years ago their Plan that describes to the finest detail their intention to re-colonize Cuba; after all that, what is there at this height to conceal with maximum secrecy?…In the case of Bush and his buddies anything is possible.”
- President of the Cuban National Assembly of People's Power Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada responding to US government’s Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba
In July 2006, the so-called "Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba" was released by the US state department’s "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba”. Promising to free the people of Cuba from so-called “tyranny and hopelessness” this report- signed by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and US secretary of trade Carlos Gutiérrez -was seen by many as just another step forward in the aggressive and inhuman policies of the US administration towards Cuba.
What is the report?
As explained directly from a communiqué signed by George W. Bush, "This is an example that we are actively working for a change in Cuba, not simply waiting for a change.”
Somewhat like the idea of ‘pre-emptive’ strike in Iraq, this report says that the United States will not wait it will act. But unlike threats of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ the US administration has not been able to label the government of Cuba a ‘terrorist’ or even aggressive with any substantiated evidence. Instead it has tried to discredit the internal policies of the Cuban government accusing Castro of suppressing the population of Cuba or claiming that there are no elections and charging Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” because of its relationship with Iran.
We will examine these allegations more coming up, and why the US is targeting Cuba specifically. For now, we need to understand a bit about the history of US-Cuba relations in order to figure out where exactly this report comes from.
In a special article written by Manuel E. Yepe in the last issue of Fire This Time (Vol.3 Is.4), US plots to annex Cuba were well documented. They began in 1783 when US president John Adams stated that the annexation of Cuba was absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the US, and have continued since. Attacks included everything from the US suppression of the Cuban independence army after the Spanish colonizers left, to the ‘permanent treaty’ of 1903 granting the US the unlimited lease of Guantanamo Bay, to US military interventions in Cuba in 1906, 1909 and 1912, to the series of US backed dictators including Batista, who held power in Cuba until the revolution won in 1959.
The Cuban revolution, lead by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, fought for justice, independence, nationalization of land, jobs, healthcare and education.
Once Cuba began nationalizing US properties and US owned companies, the US implemented an immediate blockade against Cuba in order to deny or limit Cubans access to medicine, food, sports equipment, school texts, and basically any goods needed for life. This policy was made official in 1961 and continues today. The goal is to impoverish Cuba to a point where people become fed up and revolt against their government.
Looking at the facts, Cuba currently has the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America, has the highest number of doctors per capita of any country in the world, and has universally accessible education (up to completing post-secondary) and health care.
The US blockade has not been an effective deterrent, and Cuba has stood strong, even inspiring two new countries to follow on a similar path - Venezuela and Bolivia. Today these countries are working together. Cuba and Venezuela are working on Operation Miracle, where they have provided free eye surgery for cataracts to over 350,000 people from different parts of Latin America. Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela have also recently signed the Boliviarian Alternative for the people of Latin America (ALBA) agreement, which promised Cuban doctors for Venezuelans and Bolivians and cheaper oil and gas for Cubans, among many other things.
What does Plan Bush establish?
The so-called "Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba" contains seven chapters titled a variety of menacing things from Chapter 1: “Hastening the end of the Castro dictatorship: transition, not succession,” to Chapter 4: “Helping Cubans create market-based economic opportunities,” to Chapter 7, “Preparing now to support the transition”.
The details, according to AIN, a Cuban news agency, “include the return of properties which belonged to the rich prior to the revolution, the destruction of the island's social security programs (from which millions of Cubans benefit), the privatization of schools and hospitals, as well as the trying and prosecution of members of political and grass roots organizations on the island”.
Within all this, the US “plan” states that once it does have control it will, “encourage assistance from other countries, associations and private companies; and discourage third parties from intervening to obstruct the will of the Cuban people”. It will achieve this by privatizing all of the companies that were nationalized after the revolution, and then destroying Cuba’s hard-earned highly rated and celebrated education and health systems by privatizing them both as well.
The document allocates $80 million in US taxpayers’ money over the next two years towards these projects.
The report issued by the US state department also contains a classified chapter. The introduction to the report reads: “THIS is a NON-classified report: for reasons of security and EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION, some of the recommendations are contained in a separate appendix.” But as Ricardo Alarcon the President of the National Assembly of People's Power in Cuba said, “After having divulged everything that they have divulged…what is there at this height to conceal with maximum secrecy?”
Could it be a plot to overthrow the government of Cuba? Seeing as sections of their report have titles like, “Hastening the end of the Castro dictatorship: transition, not succession,” it seems unlikely that this goal is much of a secret. More likely contained in these secret pages are the strategies and plans of how they are going to hasten the end… thus their “effective implementation” is at risk if they are made public.
What democracy can the US bring anyways?
What kind of democracy does the US have to offer Cuba when it is well documented that Bush stole both of his elections through fraud and manipulation?
What kind of democracy is it when you need millions of dollars to run a campaign that has even a small chance of winning?
When the US promises “assistance” to Cuba what does it mean? Will they receive the same assistance to ‘free’ them of their ‘tyrannical regime’ as Iraq did? Because in July 2006 the United Nations reported that there were 100 civilians dying a day in Iraq, and this does not sound like the kind of “assistance” Cuba needs.
When presenting this report, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez promised, "emergency food, water, fuel and medical equipment." If the US is so concerned about the availability of water, why doesn’t it provide these things while “assisting” the people of Iraq? Or more recently, even for the US’ own troops?
According to Reuters in January 2006, "A Halliburton Co. subsidiary provided water to US troops at a camp in Iraq that was twice as contaminated as water from the Euphrates River...Kellogg Brown and Root [a subsidiary of Halliburton], also blocked employees' attempts to inform the US military at Camp Junction City in Ramadi that the water was foul…[Halliburton] was once headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney and has huge contracts to provide services to the U.S. military in Iraq”.
How can we believe the US will bring water to Cuba if it is even willing to give its own troops dirty water?
As for Iraqis, Dr Muhammad Khalid, a pediatrician at the Children's Teaching Hospital, reported to IRIN news that since last December, at least one child a day in Baghdad had contracted some form of water-borne disease. He said that since June 2005, "We've observed a 30 percent increase in cases of waterborne diseases, especially cholera."
Plan Bush also promises the immediate immunization of all children under five in Cuba. However, Granma International explains that interestingly, “To propose such tasks would seem cynical in [the United States] where the reserve of vaccinations for its own children has been almost completely drained and, as The Washington Post has reported, there are no immediate prospects of replenishing it.” Also, an example of this hypocrisy is exposed in UNESCO’s Human Development Indicators from 2005, which show that 93% of 1-year-olds in the US are fully immunized against the measles, while Cuba sits at 99%.
How exactly is the US planning to “assist” Cuba again?
Only a month after Plan Bush started gearing up to hasten “the end of the Castro dictatorship,” Fidel Castro announced that he was ill and under went surgery leaving his responsibilities to Raul Castro.
In the immediate days following the Miami Herald reported that, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, “likened the Cuban government to a helicopter -- a ‘single fail-point mechanism.’“ The US Secretary said, “When a rotor comes off a helicopter it crashes…When a supreme leader disappears from an authoritarian regime, the authoritarian regime flounders. It doesn't have the direction that it requires. I think that's what we're seeing at this moment.’''
What were we “seeing at this moment”? It just so happens that I was in Cuba with the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade at the time Fidel’s illness was announced and we saw exactly what happened in Granma province in the weeks following the announcement. Based on our experience, what we saw at that moment was a group of veterans who fought alongside Fidel and Che during the revolution discussing their continued dedication to defending their country should the United States try to intervene. We met a group of 15-18 year olds studying to become instructors of art who all expressed that they were concerned about the health of Fidel; and we saw a cultural performance at a local theatre where the performers dedicated their show to the health of “el Commandante en Jefe Fidel Castro”.
The most moving thing I heard about Fidel’s health while in Cuba came from one of the students named Leidis who, when asked why people in Cuba are so happy with so little material goods, explained that there are three reasons. 1) Because they have a great commander in chief - Fidel Castro, 2) The social programs in Cuba such as healthcare and education, 3) the fact that Cuba is an island with over 11 million people who live together with one heart.
This made it clear to all of us on the brigade that Cuba needs no “assistance”, only support and solidarity to push their revolution further and increase the gains it can make.
Plan Bush: Why now?
After 45 years of blockade against Cuba, the United States is getting frustrated that the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro is still a leading example for people fighting for access to education, jobs, healthcare and other fundamental human rights.
Because the Cuban people and their revolution have not succumbed to the pressure of the blockade, the United States has developed various slanderous campaigns against Cuba in order to justify its cruel and inhuman policies and this new $80 million “plan” is no different.
Recently, however, Cuba has been striding forward and making many allies and friends on the world stage. First, Cuba was elected, by a wide majority (135 votes) to the United Nations new Council on Human Rights- despite the fact that the United States (along with Canada) have a long standing campaign trying to discredit Cuba’s exemplary human rights standards.
Recently, Cuba was host to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Havana, an organization of which Fidel is currently the chairman. US media, like CNN, tried to paint this summit as a meeting of America’s enemies only 90 miles off their shores. Conversely, according to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C., the US ignoring or slandering the NAM shows that they are "refusing to acknowledge the changes that are taking place in Latin America…That's why they are losing influence so rapidly."
From here Cuba is continuing its 47-year-old struggle against the US’ attempt at hegemony and annexation. Because of its firm position against US intervention in any country, as well as Cuba’s willingness to make friends and send professionals and doctors for free around the world, Cuba is making friends quickly with other world leaders. Because of Cuba’s firm stance in the fight for social justice, as well as its universal health and education systems Cuba is making friends with regular working and oppressed people from around the world from Venezuela and Bolivia to China and Pakistan, from South African to Harlem in US, from Iran and Palestine to Brazil and Angola. Cuba has proved that internationalism based on international solidarity is the way of liberating countries from the yoke of imperialism.
As a show of support for Cuba after the announcement of Plan Bush, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez made the bold recommendation that Washington not develop a transition for others but for its own political system.
STOP PLAN BUSH!
LIFT THE BLOCKADE AGAISNT CUBA!
STOP U.S. AGRESSION AGAINST CUBA!
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