Monday, March 3, 2008

Feb. 19, 2008 Supplement

By Jack A. Smith

After almost a half-century of Washington's gratuitous hostility toward socialist Cuba, after an abortive invasion, after over 600 failed attempts to assassinate President Fidel Castro, after decades of a draconian economic embargo, after severe travel restrictions, after an endless barrage of anti-Havana propaganda, after efforts to sabotage Cuba's agricultural crops, after all this and more, it is clear following Fidel's decision to step down from leadership that neither a new Republican nor Democratic administration is willing to simply let Cuba live.

Both ruling parties, judging by statements from their leading candidates for the presidential nomination, remain committed not only to "regime change" in this small island neighbor country that never did the U.S. harm, but to replacing socialism with capitalism, and Cuba's independence with subordination to the Yankee colossus 90 miles to its north.

The Bush Administration has been preparing for years to crush Cuba's socialist system when Fidel leaves the presidency, as though the Cuban government and people have not worked hard for many years to develop a new generation of patriotic leadership and plans of their own for the future. But George W. Bush's imperial legacy will be carried forward by Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the Republican hopefuls, and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democratic front-runners. This was made clear today.

Said McCain: "Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough."

Said Huckabee: "Until Fidel Castro is dead, there can be no significant movement towards reform in Cuba. Raul Castro has proven that he's as much a tyrant and dictator as his brother, Fidel. Simply providing more power to another dictator does nothing to promote freedom and democracy to the Cuban people."

Said Clinton: "We need a president who will work with countries around the world… to push Cuba now to join the community of nations and become a democracy, and I will certainly do that as president…. I will engage our partners in Latin America and Europe who have a strong stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and who want very much for the United States to play a constructive role to that end. The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba."

Said Obama: "Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba…. Cuba's future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime."

Such dishonest, misleading Cold War rhetoric about democracy is hardly surprising in an election year when all candidates genuflect in the direction of southern Florida where the right-wing Cuban émigré vote can determine the outcome of that state's crucial 27 electoral votes.

None of the candidates provided the slightest indication that they contemplate any serious relaxation of tensions with the Havana government or any diminution of Washington's one-sided propaganda against this egalitarian society of some 12 million people.

All the candidates are hinting about increased intervention to foster what they call "democracy," but which really amounts to putting client regimes back into Havana just like in the old days from 1901 to 1959, until the Cuban people, led by Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement, seized power and booted dictator Fulgencio Batista and his patron, Uncle Sam, out of their island.

It is extraordinary that Cuba has managed to preserve its independence from the U.S. all these years while striving to develop socialism under exceptionally difficult conditions. The country has made great gains, especially in mass education of a high caliber, in a health care system that is the envy of Latin America, in biotechnology, and in environmental leadership. Given time, and a let up in subversion from Washington, the Cuban people and their government are capable of making positive contributions to our world far out of proportion to their size.

Either Clinton or Obama will probably be the next U.S. president. The left will have little influence in this matter — but we can raise the question of Cuban independence and sovereignty to the masses of people throughout the presidential campaign. We can and should show up at election meetings with literature about Cuba and signs saying something like "Hands Off Cuba!" We owe this to the Cuban people, and to ourselves as residents of what the Cubans call for good reason, "the Empire."