Resetting U.S.-Cuba relations and the Cuban 5

I was reading an article last night, "The Untold Story of the Cuban 5," by Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly.

His detailed history of the travails of the Cuban 5 reminded me once again that these Cuban men are victims of both a failed U.S. policy of hostility toward Cuba and a criminal justice system that turned reality on its head.

The only "crime" of these Cuban patriots was to expose the activities of terrorists hoping to destroy socialist Cuba. For that, the five were handed punishingly long jail sentences, including life sentences for some.

Anti-Cuba terrorists, operating out of Miami with a wink from U.S. authorities, have organized violent attacks against Cuba's citizens and property for five decades, including assassination attempts against Fidel Castro. At the same time, these hoodlums have threatened and intimidated dissenters who wanted to see better relations with Cuba.

Many hoped that the election of President Obama would inaugurate a new era of better relations with Cuba. And early on the president signaled a desire to melt the ice.

But not much has happened since. In fact, in some instances U.S. actions have been at loggerheads with those stated intentions.

In the case of the Cuban 5, the administration filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court contesting a lower court's decision throwing out the convictions of the five because of the biased atmosphere and proceedings of the Miami trial where they were initially convicted.

Then, the State Department vetoed the applications of the wives and other family members of the five simply to visit their loved ones in prison.

This is no way to reset Cuban-American relations.

Whose interests are served by these vindictive actions and, more generally, by the policy of hostility toward Cuba? Not the Cuban or American people! Not even major corporate interests who would like to trade and invest in Cuba! Not our national security! Not our international reputation! Not our relations with Latin America!

It's true that constructive overtures toward Cuba will be bitterly opposed by right-wing extremists and the anti-Castro Cuban mafia, but I'm not persuaded that it is only fear of their influence on public opinion and elections that constrains the president from making good on his rhetorical commitment to improved relations.

What else then hampers a change in our policy of blockade and hostility toward Cuba, of which the frameup of the Cuban 5 is an inextricable part?

My suspicion is that some in the president's inner circle and institutions of our "national security state" - the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc. - insist that Cuban leaders bow down to the U.S. and pledge major changes, if not a complete overhaul, in their political system.

In other words, the foreign policy establishment is ready to improve relations, but only as long as Cuba accepts a subordinate status and makes concessions in its internal life.

But this negotiating stance is badly flawed. The Cubans have long shown that they won't grovel and trade away their independence. They are asking for peace and justice, not favors, and they will negotiate only as equals, not supplicants.

More broadly, the administration's foreign policy positions though better than those of the previous occupants of the White House are still not completely in sync with new world realities - one of which is that the U.S. can no longer rule the world, by fiat or sword. A unipolar world with the U.S. at its apex is a thing of the past.

The U.S. has to yield (or be compelled to yield) its dominant status in the global theater, in its own interests as well as the interests of the world's peoples and countries. It has to become another member of the world community with no special rights or privileges.

The reorienting of our foreign policy in this way (strategic rather than tactical) will require enormous courage and skill, especially given the sure opposition of the extreme right and powerful corporate and state interests. It will also require the vigorous support of the American people, especially our working class.

But can we do anything less? Not in my opinion. The Obama administration, as mentioned above, has made some (tactical) moves toward a more realistic foreign policy and they should be welcomed. But it still maneuvers (Afghanistan, Honduras, Taiwan, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc.) to maintain its dominant position in world politics, thereby laying the ground for continued and aggravated insecurity, instability and violence, in a period that begs for an easing of tensions and a new era of cooperation and joint action.

Humankind can solve global challenges (climate change and environmental degradation, food insufficiency, poverty, endemic diseases, terrorism, nuclear weapons, and so forth), but only on the basis of mutual interests and equality between states and peoples worldwide. 

That brings me back to Cuba and the Cuban 5. One positive step in that direction would be to lift the U.S. blockade on Cuba and restore normal relations. As a gesture of good faith, President Obama should release the Cuban 5, who have exhausted all legal remedies, from their unjust and punitive incarceration.

It will be good for America, and the world will celebrate.




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  • The U.S. does demonize the bad along with the good, though. For example, it's not really possible to over-demonize the military-theocratic dictatorship in Iran, against which the people are rising.

    Posted by Dan, 03/12/2010 4:43pm (6 years ago)

  • It is really sad that our press and government choose to demonize any country's leader when they try to act independently of U.S. hegemony. For example, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran.

    Cuba is doing a whole lot with the little we have left them--for example, their medical system is a model for developing countries--they have helped Haiti more than we have, and they even offered help to us after Katrina--which was refused.

    Castro may be a bad, totalitarian leader, but we cozy up to much worse than him. So any talk about that is sheer hypocrisy.

    Sam Webb has it right. Our foreign policy has nothing to do with what is best for all concerned, or what is rational. It has only to do with what those in power think will suit them. the Caribbean newly discovered oil just might have something to do with our attitude. Our heroic leaders have already shown that they will lie our country into war because of the oil in Iraq.

    Nor we should we expect anything rational from our new leader. He has already amply demonstrated that he is going to follow business as usual, not any change that we can believe in.

    Posted by Myra Jones, 03/12/2010 11:45am (6 years ago)

  • I also am afraid we want far more then to just open up a dialog with the Cuban people in exchange for the Cuban goverment "moving toward democracy". I too am concerned because our aggressive nature toward other countries seems to be one of dominance not a helping hand as we proclaim to all who will listen. Our past relationship with Cuba is one of dominance, and slavery of the Cuban People by American Corporations. Sadly the descendants of the mega rich land owners who are living in exile in Florida seem to be calling all the shots right now for this new administration just as they have in the past. These people have only one goal, to "return Home in Victory" to "take back their lands and property" from the Cuban people so they can once again "rule the Island nation" in cooperation with the US Goverment. These 'old guard" Cubans want to return to the glory days of Fabulous casinos, with the wealthy politically powerful elite owning all of the land and property while letting the majority of the Cubans go back to being illiterate factory and field workers with out any rights. Sadly too many of the Cubans now have no memory of what life was like under AT&T and United Fruit for the average person. This younger generation is being swayed by the thought of Ipods and video games with out understanding the sacrifices that have been made so they can have basic human dignity, health care and an education. Things that were denied them before the revolution.

    Posted by Sheila Malone, 03/11/2010 1:14pm (6 years ago)

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