Cablegate: How to Shatter a Castro-Phile's Arguments
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FM USINT HAVANA
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RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0118
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
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TAGS: PROP PREL ECON KDEM PHUM CU
SUBJECT: HOW TO SHATTER A CASTRO-PHILE'S ARGUMENTS
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1. USINT is pleased to send in this distillation of the best
of our briefings and responses to questions about Cuba,
usually from audiences that are opposed to U.S. policy
towards Cuba. These include foreign diplomats, U.S.
university students and professors, U.S. congressmen and
staff, U.S. journalists, U.S. trade delegations, U.S.
Q. The U.S. embargo (called "blockade" by the GOC and its
close allies) has not brought down the Castro regime. Why do
you persist with this failed policy?
A. U.S. trade and other sanctions are the least we can do to
respond, as we must, to a regime that has had a history of
totalitarian rule, export of violence and subversion, and
unremitting hostility to the United States. It is true that
the Castro regime has withstood the sanctions, but it is also
true that the USG has been true to its principles by seeking
to isolate a regime that is so alien to all that American
democracy stands for. We stood firm for 45 years until the
USSR and the Iron Curtain collapsed. The collapse of
communist rule in Cuba has taken longer, but is just as
Q. Didn't the U.S. Defense Department come out with a report
saying that Cuba is not a threat to the United States?
A. Yes, although the report's drafter turned out to be Ana
Belen Montes, a woman who was convicted for espionage on
behalf of the Cuban regime. Although Cuba may not pose a
conventional military threat to the U.S., it clearly
demonstrated, with Ana Belen Montes, that it is an
intelligence threat. The Cuban regime considers itself an
enemy of the USG and is an instigator of anti-American
activities all over the world, especially in Latin America.
Its functionaries in Venezuela and Bolivia right now are
helping leaders there assault those countries' democratic
institutions. Cuba is on the list of countries that support
international terrorism; any intelligence it picks up from
the USA, it can be expected to pass to other rogue states or
groups that are enemies of the USA.
Q. But aren't we missing out on great trade opportunities?
A. Cuba is an impoverished Third World country with a GNP in
the neighborhood of 35 billion dollars. The Cuban exile
community in the USA alone, with 15 percent of Cuba's
population, has a larger GNP. We can easily handle not
trading with Castro's Cuba for however much longer it takes
until it becomes a free society. In the mean time, our laws
permit sales of agricultural products to the tune of roughly
400 million dollars per year.
Q. But won't the Spanish, other Europeans, Canadians and
Asians have a leg up on us for new investment opportunities?
A. Investors in Cuba are buying into an apartheid system
that pays virtual slave wages and provides no internationally
recognized worker rights. We are surprised that people who
protested against apartheid in South Africa or against
sweatshops in Mexico or Southeast Asia are not up in arms
over working conditions in Cuba, where wages are 15 dollars a
month. Cuban citizens also have no right to stay in the
hotels that the Europeans and Canadians invest in and
frequent as tourists. The question should be: Why would
democratic countries in Europe, and Canada, want to do
business with a brutal totalitarian government like Cuba?
Finally, when Cuba truly opens up its economy, we are
confident that American businesses will take full advantage
of the opportunity to work with enterprising Cubans.
Q. Isn't the embargo hurting the Cuban people?
A. The Cuban regime's state-run, inefficient economic system
is preventing the Cuban people from prospering. This is a
deliberate policy, which keeps Cubans so busy scraping by to
put food on the table that they have no time or energy left
to protest. The embargo aims to deny U.S. resources to the
regime, but does not prevent Cuba from obtaining goods and
services from other countries.
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Q. If you end the embargo, won't the Cuban regime no longer
be able to blame the USG for its problems?
A. If we ended the embargo, the Cuban regime would continue
to blame the USG for its problems, either by presenting us a
bill for cumulative damage to their economy or finding some
other issue. For example, they have completely invented a
controversy involving five of their spies that were arrested
in the United States and convicted by a U.S. court. The fact
that other members of that same spy network confessed and
plea bargained has had no effect on the Cuban regime's
Q. If you relax the embargo's travel restrictions, wouldn't
an influx of American tourists usher in democratic change?
A. Two million Canadian and European tourists per year have
not ushered in democratic change. They have put roughly two
billion dollars in the pocket of the regime, helped
perpetuate an apartheid tourist system, and also, in many
cases, participated in sex tourism.
Q. But wasn't Cuba America's brothel and gambling casino
before Castro replaced Batista in 1959?
A. There were certainly injustices and political grievances
surrounding Batista's rule, but not many economic ones. Cuba
was, in the 1950s, a very popular destination for U.S.
tourism and investment in many sectors. It was one of the
most prosperous countries in Latin America, in terms of GNP,
cars and televisions per capita, and also social indicators.
More Americans were living in or visiting Cuba than
vice-versa; and immigrants from Italy and Spain were
sreaming in by the thousands.
Q. Isn't it true that Castro's Cuba has set an example to
the world in the areas of health and education?
A. By repeating this mantra, you are unwittingly duped into
perpetuating "the big lie." A lie, if repeated many hundreds
of times, is still a lie. The Cuban health system was the
best in Latin America before Castro took over. The regime
invests heavily in the health system but in ways that are
inefficient: Cuba has more doctors per capita than Denmark,
yet hospitals lack bedsheets and simple medications like
aspirins. Health care is politicized, forcing thousands of
doctors overseas on "international missions" while Cubans
back home are uncared for. Doctors in Cuba spend half their
time at political meetings, drawing them away from patient
care. Medicine is administered via an apartheid system: The
best facilities and doctors are reserved for foreigners,
tourists and regime nomenklatura; facilities for ordinary
Cubans are no better than in most other third world
countries. Ordinary Cubans, even if they have hard currency,
are not allowed to buy medications at the best pharmacies,
which are reserved for foreigners and nomenklatura.
Q. But what about education? And that high literacy rate?
A. Cuba had levels of education and literacy among the top
tier of Latin American countries in the 1950s. The Castro
regime's literacy campaign claimed to have raised the rate,
but did so with a heavy ideological component. Cubans are
largely literate, although younger ones nowadays are
struggling with basic reading and math skills. Additionally,
all through the grade levels they are force-fed propaganda
and given grades and opportunities in accordance with their
political loyalties (and their parents' political loyalties).
Because the Cuban regime restricts access to free
information, including the internet, Cubans grow up with
limited options for reading and use of computers. They are
among the most computer illiterate societies in Latin America.
Q. But back to health care, isn't it true that Cuba has a
world-class low level of infant mortality?
A. Not necessarily. One problem is with statistics. Even
UN and other international statistics are provided by the
Cuban regime, which defines the truth in political terms.
Additionally, Cuban obstetricians regularly insist on and
administer abortions for most pregnancies where there is any
suggestion of health risk for the newborns. The high rate of
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abortions has the effect of skewing the numbers in a way that
produces better statistics for infant mortality, as well as
Q. Hasn't Fidel Castro had broad popular support among the
A. It is impossible to measure how much support Fidel Castro
has. Obviously, he has never measured his popularity by free
elections. Public opinion polls are not possible because of
the climate of fear that pervades Cuba. Spying and reporting
on the citizenry is one of the regime's most labor and
resource-intensive activities, and is backed by brute force.
Stating one's opposition to Castro's rule is a crime,
punishable by many years of imprisonment. Unable to vote at
the ballot box, Cubans vote with their feet. Emigration from
Cuba is massive, and is the desire of most young Cubans.
Their preferred destination is the USA, but they settle in
many other countries too, including relatively poor ones in
Q. But now that Fidel Castro is incapacitated, shouldn't we
sit down and talk with Raul Castro? Isn't he a more
pragmatic, nicer guy?
A. Raul Castro has participated in every aspect of the Cuban
regime's totalitarian rule, including mass murder of Cubans
and kidnapping of American citizens. We have many grievances
to discuss with a Cuban government, but we do not accept that
passing command from a dictator to his brother represents any
kind of legitimacy worthy of a change in policy. Raul Castro
may be more pragmatic than Fidel Castro; but that's not
saying much. Raul Castro himself has stated that he has no
intention to change the communist nature of the regime. No,
what's not needed is a US/Cuba meeting that legitimizes Raul
Castro, but rather a full consultation between the regime and
the Cuban people regarding the future of their country.
Q. But we talk to China, and they are a communist country
that violates human rights.
A. The USG does not have a one-size-fits-all foreign policy.
Our relationship with China has a much different history and
its own texture -- including considerable advocacy for human
rights in China. Regarding Cuba, no effort to embrace the
regime, either by ourselves or any other country, has made a
dent in its totalitarian nature.
Q. Isn't U.S. policy toward Cuba held hostage to right-wing
exile Cubans in Miami?
A. That question is insulting to Cuban exiles, who have come
to America under difficult circumstances and managed to
succeed, in the aggregate, based on hard work, education, and
other values that have brought about success to any immigrant
group that has sought the American dream. To the extent that
Cuban Americans have elected leaders with a point of view
about Cuba, that is the way our democratic system works, for
Cubans, or for any other immigrant community. Opinion polls
show that Cuban exiles have a diversity of viewpoints on Cuba
and on other political issues; they vote both Republican and
Democrat. They know and care more about Cuba than other
Americans, so it is normal, and desirable, that they have an
impact on U.S. policy. In any case, their wish for democracy
and freedom in Cuba is consistent with U.S. policy worldwide.
Q. Aren't Cuban dissidents who receive aid from Miami pawns
of U.S. policy?
A. The Cuban democratic opposition is a home-grown response
to lack of freedom on the island and grotesque abuses of
human rights by the Cuban regime. There are many components
to this opposition: Independent journalists, librarians, and
teachers; political movements and parties; free labor
leaders; human rights monitors; and The Ladies in White.
This latter group is made up of relatives of Cuban political
prisoners. The U.S. is proud to provide assistance to these
people, who in most cases have nowhere else to turn. Who in
their right mind would suggest a U.S. policy that turns our
back on courageous people seeking freedom?
Q. How can the USG let Posada Carriles walk free? Isn't
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that inconsistent with our counterterrorism policy?
A. In the recent legal proceedings regarding Luis Posada
Carriles, the USG was on the side arguing for keeping Posada
in jail. A judge ruled differently, and the executive branch
must abide by that decision. However, Posada is not now a
legal US resident and is subject to expulsion. There are
active legal cases regarding his connection to violent crimes
that cannot be commented on because they are active cases.
As of today, Posada Carriles has been accused of many crimes
but not convicted of any of them.
2. We have deliberately made this message unclassified with
the hope that it is circulated widely and used to rebut Cuban