ONCE AGAIN, ‘HANDS OFF CUBA!’
By Jack A. Smith
Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Dec. 6, 2005

The United Nations General Assembly administered another parliamentary thrashing to Uncle Sam in November, insisting that Washington end its longstanding economic and political blockade of neighboring Cuba.
The Bush administration, however, has no intention to eliminate its draconian embargo. Indeed, the White House is actively seeking to organize a counter-revolution to restore capitalism to the socialist Caribbean island — and it does not rule out the use of U.S. force.
For the 14th year in a row, the UN overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on the U.S. to terminate over four decades of Cold War sanctions against Cuba, this time by a vote of 182-4, with one abstention and four countries not voting.
The four “no” votes were registered by the United States and Israel, of course, and two dependent island chains in the Pacific occupying a total of 247 square miles and a combined population of 76,000 people — Palau and the Marshall Islands. Abstaining was Micronesia, another small Pacific nation. Absent from the voting were El Salvador, Nicaragua, Morocco and the U.S.-controlled satrapy of Iraq.
George W. Bush, the tenth U.S. president who has sought to depose President Fidel Castro, has hardly concealed his desire to obliterate socialism’s foothold in the Americas, represented by Cuba’s population of 12 million people out of nearly 900 million inhabitants of North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean.
Bush recently established an office within the State Department to plan for the “transition” to capitalism that the U.S. intends to bring about after Castro’s death. The Cuban president will be 80 next August but appears to be in good health.
According to a recent report in the Financial Times, Cuba recently has been added to Washington’s “secret watchlist of 25 countries in which instability could require U.S. intervention.” Indeed, the prestigious British newspaper revealed Oct. 31 that the Bush administration “recognizes that the [post-Castro] transition may not go peacefully and that the U.S. may have to launch a nation-building exercise.”
The last time Washington used armed force against Cuba was on April 15, 1961, when U.S. bombers attacked Cuban defenses in preparation for the CIA-organized Bay of Pigs landing. The invasion force arrived April 17 and was completely demolished in two days. Washington had expected the Cuban masses to welcome the invasion, just as it wrongly anticipated the Iraqi people would do four decades later.
As we wrote in “The Cuban Revolution: 40 Years of Struggle,” “Humiliated and enraged by the invasion’s failure, the Kennedy and succeeding administrations stepped up their subversion against Cuba, hatching hundreds of plots for fomenting strikes, causing crop failures, poisoning sugar destined for foreign ports, assassinations of key figures [including dozens of attempts on Fidel’s life], demoralization campaigns, creating shortages, plotting new invasions, terrorist attacks and tightening the embargo.”
The blockade is the most enduring of Uncle Sam’s subversion schemes. The cost to Cuba — a poor third-world country which emerged from some 500 years of colonialism and neocolonialism less than 50 years ago — has been “$82 billion and 15 years of sustainable development,” according to an article in October by Juan Diego Nusa Penalver of Agencia Cubana de Noticias.
In recent years, the Bush administration has once again tightened the blockade, curtailing by nearly 50% family travel back home by Cuban-Americans as well by non-Cuban U.S. residents in order to deprive Havana of the proceeds from tourism and visits. Last year, Washington imposed fines totaling $1.2 billion on 77 foreign companies, banks and non-government organizations for “trading with the enemy.” So far this year, the U.S. government has fined nearly 600 Americans for breaching the embargo in one way or another, almost double the number of last year.
Speaking on the floor of the General Assembly before the sanctions vote, Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, declared: “Never before, as in the last 18 months, has the blockade been enforced with so much viciousness and brutality.”
Responding to critics, Cuba’s deputy UN ambassador, Ileana Nunez, told the body that “you can’t prevent people from choosing a form of society where the great benefits are not shared only by a few.” Nunez added, in response to comments from the U.S. and some of its European allies, Cuba “can learn nothing about human rights from the richest country in the world where 44 million people go without access to health care. . . . The march of the Cuban people is irreversible, in spite of imperialism and its acolytes.”
Some 25 countries took the floor to denounce the blockade. Among them was Tanzania. “Throughout Africa’s struggle for independence and liberation,” said that nation’s UN ambassador, “we counted Cuba as one of our strongest allies. The bonds forged in that struggle demand that we now stand with Cuba.”
Commenting on the lopsided UN vote, Reuters news agency noted that “the measure is nonbinding and has had no impact on the United States. . . . But the resolution has given Cuba a morale boost, especially from South American and Caribbean nations and Mexico, which each year speaks in favor of the resolution.”
Cuba has long been a target for regime change by the U.S. government. Soon after the 9/11 terror attacks against the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the White House began referring to Cuba as a “rogue state” and a possible target in the so-called “War on Terrorism.”
In May 2002, John R. Bolton, then an Under Secretary of State, alleged in a public speech to the Heritage Foundation that Cuba was producing biological weapons for use against the United States. The purpose of his disclosure was to exacerbate intense public fears of another attack, this time in the form of toxins so deadly that they constituted a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). This allegation made Cuba a legitimate target for a preemptive war according to the rules of engagement entertained by the neoconservative clique inhabiting the White House.
Bolton never produced evidence to substantiate his accusations because there wasn’t any. This was no “intelligence failure.” He simply lied. Within days of Bolton’s charge, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Speer, commander of U.S. military forces for Latin America and the Caribbean, checked his own intelligence service and publicly scoffed at the report. The State Department soon distanced itself from the allegations.
The entire project evidently was dropped when a department analyst charged that Bolton, his boss, purposely twisted the information he obtained about Cuba’s renowned biomedical research program to make it appear the program was a cover for creating biological weaponry on a mass scale. He said Bolton threatened him if he did not back up the allegation, but he refused and went public. Bush rewarded the unrepentant Bolton recently by promoting him to U.S. Ambassador to the UN, where he functions as the proverbial bull in a China shop.
But Cuba wasn’t off the hook. The White House had a new plan for regime change. Arguing in October 2003 that “the Castro regime will not change by its own choice, but Cuba must change,” President Bush launched another campaign to place Cuba under U.S hegemony — the creation of the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba, headed by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Its task was to develop a multimillion dollar “proactive, integrated and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime and contribute to conditions that will help the Cuban people hasten the dictatorship’s end.”
In May 2004, the commission issued a report of over 450 pages calling for an additional expenditure of $60 million over two years to finance an anti-socialist opposition within Cuba (the so-called dissidents), in addition to the many millions more dollars regularly spent on anti-Cuba propaganda and subversive activities. It also recommended increasing economic pressure on Cuba, and produced a blueprint for a transition to capitalism based on privatizing the country’s resources and enterprises.
Here is how a resolution by Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power described the document soon after it was released:
“Disingenuously camouflaged as ‘aid to a free Cuba,’ the [report] goes into minute detail on the measures Washington would impose if it succeeded in getting possession of Cuba. Cuban society would be entirely subjugated to the United States, which would dominate all its activities without exception. A complete account of this recipe for unbridled interventionism would be endless, but some aspects of the plan offer an idea of the degree of servitude and exploitation planned for Cubans:
“One of the first tasks of the so-called ‘transitional government’ would be to restore their properties to the former exploiters, including houses and lands sought by the annexionist mafia that supported [former President Fulgencio] Batista in the past. The process would be quick and directed by Washington, which would set up a special mechanism to that end. This infamous document also specifically decrees the eviction of those living in reclaimed dwellings or unable to pay high rents, a return to the practice of arbitrarily evicting small farmers, as well as the dismantling of the farming cooperatives and restoration of the former latifundia [great agricultural estates owned by rich landlords who employed low-paid workers]. What was already foreseen in the Helms Burton act [that strengthened the blockade] is now expressed in a more blatant form.
“All sectors of the economy would be privatized, while a permanent U.S. government Committee for Economic Reconstruction, to be set up right away, would control the economy. The subsidies and price controls affecting goods and services supplied to the public would be abolished. The social security and welfare system would be dismantled and commitments to pay benefits and pensions would be repudiated. Healthcare and education services would be privatized.
“This would be a return to capitalism in its most brutal form, under the yoke of a foreign power. The consequences for the Cuban people would be so terrible that even the report itself warns that ‘it would not be easy’ to bring about ‘the transition,’ which would meet considerable rejection on the part of Cuban society. For this reason it identifies as an ‘immediate priority’ the assembling of repressive forces that would be organized, trained, equipped and advised by Washington.“
A few days after this blast from the National Assembly, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — at the behest of the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba — named Caleb McCarry to the post of Cuba “Transition Coordinator” within the department’s newly formed Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization. This agency engages in planning and organization for pre- and post-conflict situations and reconstruction operations that benefit the hegemonic power. McCarry’s appointment was lavishly praised by the ultra-reactionary and terrorist-connected Cuban American National Foundation, based in Florida, which fully understood it to be a step toward regime-change and the restoration of class privilege.
McCarry has experience in “promoting democracy” under U.S. tutelage in Nicaragua and Guatemala on behalf of the government-funded Center for Democracy, which “assists emerging democracies” around the world. He is a Republican former staff member of the House Committee on International Relations. He is said to have worked with the International Republican Institute (IRI) to destabilize the Haitian government. The IRI was formed to carry out President Ronald Reagan's 1982 call for “helping countries build the infrastructure of democracy” — an objective President Bush claims to be seeking today in occupied Iraq. It is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, and has been active for a number of years “promoting democratic transition” in Cuba, working with other counter-revolutionary organizations.
According to the Oct. 28 issue of the Cuban newspaper Granma, “Caleb McCarry, the proconsul designated by the Bush administration to [bring about] the annexation of Cuba, belongs to a mafia of U.S. politicians and officials who provoked the kidnapping and outrageous eviction of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti [in a U.S.-backed coup in late April 2004]. . . . McCarry and his buddies developed their conspiracy with a political activist linked to the Duvaliers [the vicious former ruling family of Haiti] and a band of mercenaries and criminals, in a dirty operation handled by the most fanatical far-right sectors of the Republican Party.”
McCarry’s assignment is to “accelerate the demise” of socialism in Cuba, as soon as possible after the death of President Castro. According to the Financial Times article Oct. 31, “McCarry declined to comment on his work. . . except to say that it would be ‘thoughtful and respectful of the Cuban people and their wish to be free. The transition genie is out of the bottle,’ he said referring to opposition activities inside Cuba, and a ‘broad consensus’ was reached with the exiled community. ‘They are the ones to define a democratic future for Cuba.’”
The Financial Times also reported that “officials say the U.S. would not ‘accept’ a handover of power from Mr. Castro to his brother Raul, 74.” In fact it is unlikely the Bush administration will “accept” any transition in Cuba that does not result in the restoration of capitalism and the leadership of the far-right sector of the Cuban-American self-exiled community, backed by Washington’s money and armed might. The quid pro quo would be the restoration of the U.S. government as neocolonial hegemon over the Pearl of the Antilles.
The Cuban government and people immediately understood from the new plan that Bush was planning to displace their government and political system by violence if necessary when the opportunity arises. Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said McCarry’s appointment as “Transition Coordinator” was proof that the U.S. is going forward with efforts to “overthrow the revolution.” Armando Hart, a member of Cuba's Council of State, declared: “Be careful, Mr. Bush. Cuba is not alone; don't go looking for another Vietnam in the Caribbean in the 21st century.”
A week after the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba delivered its report last year, President Castro led a mass march in Havana to denounce U.S. preparations for a takeover. He also addressed his speech that day to President Bush. It’s worth quoting a few paragraphs:
“You have no right whatsoever, except for that of brute force, to intervene in Cuba’s affairs and, whenever the fancy takes you, to proclaim the transition from one system to another and to take measures to make this happen. Our people can be exterminated . . . but cannot be subjugated nor put once again into the humiliating position of [being] a United States neocolony [as Cuba was from 1898 to 1959].
“Cuba fights on the side of life in the world; you fight on the side of death. Whereas you kill countless people with your indiscriminate, preemptive surprise attacks, Cuba saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, mothers, old and sick people all over the world [via its international medical aid program]. . . .
“Human beings are not aware of, nor can they be aware of, freedom in a regime of inequality like the one you represent. No one is born equal in the United States. In the black and Latin ghettos and on the reservations for the Native Americans, . . . there is no other equality but that of being poor and excluded.
“Our people, educated in solidarity and internationalism, do not hate the American people nor do they want to see young white, black, Native Americans, mestizo or Latin soldiers from that country die — young people driven by unemployment to enlist in the military to be sent to any corner of the world in traitorous, preemptive attacks or in wars of conquest.
“The unbelievable torture applied to prisoners in Iraq has rendered the world speechless. . . .
“Since you have decided that the die is cast, I have the pleasure of saying farewell to you like the Roman gladiators who were about to fight in the arena: Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you! My only regret is that I will not see your face because you will be thousands of miles away while I’m in the frontline ready to die fighting in defense of my homeland.“
Why has the U.S. consistently sought to destroy this small outpost of socialism in the Americas since it was established in 1959? The reason is certainly not because Cuba threatens the U.S. or anyone else. The island’s entire defense budget is less than 10% of what U.S. citizens spend on cosmetics every year.
The explanation for Washington’s animosity is fairly obvious. United States imperialism has exercised economic, political and military hegemony over Central and South America and the Caribbean for over 100 years. About 45% of the 570 million people in this region are poor or living in dire poverty. Many more in the working class and middle class are insecure about the future. Many resent the overlord to the north.
Tens of millions of these people do not see Cuba through the distorted lens of Yankee hubris and continual Cold War propaganda against the Havana government. They see it as an inspiration — a former oppressed colony and neo-colony which freed itself, shared its limited wealth among the working people, ended racism, developed exemplary educational and health care systems, holds its head defiantly high despite difficult conditions, and regularly lectures a perennially perturbed Uncle Sam despite threats and subversion. For its size, Cuba exercises an exceptional degree of moral and political influence throughout the world.
Washington fears that the example of revolutionary Cuba might be replicated in various Latin American countries unless it can be weakened, isolated and, if possible, destroyed. Socialist Cuba, however, has survived some 46 years of daunting circumstances, and has a fighting chance against the Bush administration’s imperial proclivities, particularly if the left and progressive forces in the United States take up the old battle cry with gusto, “Hands Off Cuba!”