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..

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