Friday, October 19, 2007

Dissident Arrests and Their Impact

The following paragraph was included in an article about US agricuttural sales to Cuba, and prompted my response to the author.

"The following year, the regime imprisoned dozens of dissidents and journalists, and three men were executed after trying to hijack a ferry to leave Cuba. Support for loosening the trade embargo seemed to evaporate in Congress."

I would urge you to look a little more deeply into history rather than just accept the Administration's interpretation--or the conventional wisdom in Miami.

US policy was dominated during this period by hard right regime change advocates (Reich, Noriega). Their front line operative was the head of the US Interests Section, Jim Cason, whose aggressive role in direct support of dissidents would not have been undertaken by a US ambassador anywhere else in the world--and puzzled the Western diplomatic community in Havana.

Caison set up the dissident community, which he had to know was deeply infiltrated by Cuban intelligence, for a completely predictable crackdown. Cuban nationalists have been sensitive about US interference since the time of the Spanish American war and the Platt Amendment. If our government in the wake of 9/11 was prepared to shred traditional constitutional protections, it is hardly a surprise that an authoritarian regime would come down heavily on people whom it saw as complicit with the neighboring superpower that was newly recommitted to its destruction.

Whether this was simply another example of neo-con arrogance and indifference to history and the fate of local allies, or a subtle strategy to undermine the growing support in Congress for a new bilateral relationship, will only be known when classified diplomatic traffic is leaked or released.

The Cubans fell into the trap. I make no brief for the arrests or "show trials" of the 75, but I think there is evidence that they went after dissidents who were receiving some form of payment or reward from the US government, and were therefore seen to be its agents, and left other dissidents,such as Oswaldo Paya himself, undisturbed.

The only reason I go into this now is the necessity of having a more objective view (and balanced journalism) of our problematic shared history if there is any desire to untangle nearly fifty hears of hostility and misunderstanding and ameliorate the situation of its victims--families kept apart by absurd government policies, 59 of 75 dissidents still held, the harsh imprisonment of the Cuban 5, etc..

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Campaign Newsletter Notes on Internal Change

September 29, 2007

Havana is Changing Faster than Washington

What Happens When Fidel Castro is No Longer the Issue?

The obsession of the US media and political leaders with Fidel Castro makes our country completely oblivious to the significant transition underway in Cuba, The ultra wing of the Cuban American community has diminishing influence locally but dominates the national dialog.

Their frantic insistence (funded in part by our taxes) that Raul Castro offers no real change prevents the US from understanding or making a positive contribution to the process. (Phil Peters of the conservative Lexington Institute is especially insightful about the significance of what is happening. Check out his latest analysis here.)

Frank grass roots discussions now underway in Cuba reflect the complexity and the ferment that those of us who manage to get there despite travel restrictions have seen. Keeping the rest of you away from that reality has been a prime goal of the Miami ultras and the compliant Bush Administration. The last thing they want is internal reform that responds to the people of Cuba themselves.

For opposite reasons, both Washington and Havana insist that the US can play no positive role in Cuba's evolution. The former rejects any change that does not fit into its ideological model as meaningless, and the latter feels national survival depends on preserving sovereign independence from even well meaning US interference.

My own view is that hostile US demands and even overt expectations of regime change in response to a US opening, makes natural evolution in Cuba more difficult. US assertions of a desire to help carry the baggage of ideology and history. The watchword should be "do no harm". Treat Cuba as a normal country. Disagree, criticize, but respect!

When Fidel Castro is unalterably absent from Cuba's leadership, the ultras will dance in Miami's streets and indulge in fantasies of popular uprising and US intervention. The moderates in Washington and Miami will insist that existing policies be maintained until the picture is clearer in Cuba, i.e. negative sanctions must be kept in place. Other voices must be prepared to say the time for reform in US policy is also at hand and that ending all restrictions on travel is the place to start. Articles on Cuba's Internally Led Reforms


June 24, 2007

Vietnam and Cuba What was the difference again?

A personal observation, based on thirty two years of work with post-war Viet Nam...

Three weeks before President Bush held a cordial meeting in the White House with Viet Nam's President Triet, Cuba's President Castro met Viet Nam's Party Secretary Manh in Havana.

I have heard from Vietnamese friends that Castro told Manh the reason Cuba could not follow Viet Nam's path of market reform was the hostility and threat from the US.

President Clinton ended the unilateral US embargo of economic and diplomatic relations with Viet Nam in 1995. The US is now Viet Nam's largest trading partner ($10 billion per year) and one of its biggest investors.

Politically and legally there is not much difference between the two countries. Both are one party states that use controversial legal practices to curtail organized political opposition. A particular concern are groups linked to antagonistic exiles in the US.

Day to day life and personal freedom in Viet Nam liberalized considerably, and the most substantial economic reforms took place, after the US established normal non-hostile relations. Hard line Vietnamese- American leaders have opposed every step of normalization, including President Triet's visit.