William Blum: Cuba. Again. Still. Forever.
Cuba. Again. Still. Forever.by William Blum,
More than 50 years now it is. The propaganda and hypocrisy of the American mainstream media seems endless and unwavering. They can not accept the fact that Cuban leaders are humane or rational. Here's the Washington Post of December 13 writing about an American arrested in Cuba:
"The Cuban government has arrested an American citizen working on contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development who was distributing cellphones and laptop computers to Cuban activists. . . . Under Cuban law . . . a Cuban citizen or a foreign visitor can be arrested for nearly anything under the claim of 'dangerousness.'"
That sounds just awful, doesn't it? Imagine being subject to arrest for whatever someone may choose to label "dangerousness." But the exact same thing has happened repeatedly in the United States since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. We don't use the word "dangerousness." We speak of "national security." Or, more recently, "terrorism." Or "providing material support to terrorism."
The arrested American works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a US government contractor that provides services to the State Department, the Pentagon, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2008, DAI was funded by the US Congress to "promote transition to democracy" in Cuba. Yes, Oh Happy Day! -- we're bringing democracy to Cuba just as we're bringing it to Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, DAI was contracted by USAID to work in Venezuela and proceeded to fund the same groups that a few months earlier had worked to stage a coup -- temporarily successful -- against President Hugo Chávez. DAI performed other subversive work in Venezuela and has also been active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other hotspots. "Subversive" is what Washington would label an organization like DAI if they behaved in the same way in the United States in behalf of a foreign government.
The American mainstream media never makes its readers aware of the following (so I do so repeatedly): The United States is to the Cuban government like al-Qaeda is to the government in Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government agents. Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds or communication equipment from al-Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al-Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents' ties to the United States, evidence usually gathered by Cuban double agents. Virtually all of Cuba's "political prisoners" are such dissidents.
The Washington Post story continued:
"The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year."
What does one make of such a statement without further information? How could the Cuban government have been so insensitive to people's needs for so many years? Well, that must be just the way a "totalitarian" state behaves. But the fact is that because of the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, with a major loss to Cuba of its foreign trade, combined with the relentless US economic aggression, the Caribbean island was hit by a great energy shortage beginning in the 1990s, which caused repeated blackouts. Cuban authorities had no choice but to limit the sale of energy-hogging electrical devices such as cell phones; but once the country returned to energy sufficiency the restrictions were revoked.
"Cubans who want to log on [to the Internet] often have to give their names to the government."
What does that mean? Americans, thank God, can log onto the Internet without giving their names to the government. Their Internet Service Provider does it for them, furnishing their names to the government, along with their emails, when requested.
"Access to some Web sites is restricted."
Which ones? Why? More importantly, what information might a Cuban discover on the Internet that the government would not want him to know about? I can't imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami. International conferences on all manner of political, economic, and social subjects are held regularly in Cuba. What does the American media think is the great secret being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?
"Cuba has a nascent blogging community, led by the popular commentator Yoani Sánchez, who often writes about how she and her husband are followed and harassed by government agents because of her Web posts. Sánchez has repeatedly applied for permission to leave the country to accept journalism awards, so far unsuccessfully."
According to a well-documented account, Sánchez's tale of government abuse appears rather exaggerated. Moreover, she moved to Switzerland in 2002, lived there for two years, and then voluntarily returned to Cuba. On the other hand, in January 2006 I was invited to attend a book fair in Cuba, where one of my books, newly translated into Spanish, was being presented. However, the government of the United States would not give me permission to go. My application to travel to Cuba had also been rejected in 1998 by the Clinton administration.
"'Counterrevolutionary activities', which include mild protests and critical writings, carry the risk of censure or arrest. Anti-government graffiti and speech are considered serious crimes."
Raise your hand if you or someone you know of was ever arrested in the United States for taking part in a protest. And substitute "pro-al-Qaeda" for "counterrevolutionary" and for "anti-government" and think of the thousands imprisoned the past eight years by the United States all over the world for . . . for what? In most cases there's no clear answer. Or the answer is clear: (a) being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or (b) being turned in to collect a bounty offered by the United States, or (c) thought crimes. And whatever the reason for the imprisonment, they were likely tortured. Even the most fanatical anti-Castroites don't accuse Cuba of that. In the period of the Cuban revolution, since 1959, Cuba has had one of the very best records on human rights in the hemisphere. See my essay: "The United States, Cuba and This Thing Called Democracy."
There's no case of anyone arrested in Cuba that compares in injustice and cruelty to the arrest in 1998 by the United States government of those who came to be known as the "Cuban Five," sentenced in Florida to exceedingly long prison terms for trying to stem terrorist acts against Cuba emanating from the US. It would be lovely if the Cuban government could trade their DAI prisoner for the five. Cuba, on several occasions, has proposed to Washington the exchange of a number of what the US regards as "political prisoners" in Cuba for the five Cubans held in the United States. So far the United States has not agreed to do so.
 For more details on DAI, see Eva Golinger, The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela (2006) and her website, posting for December 31, 2009.
 Salim Lamrani, professor at Paris Descartes University, "The Contradictions of Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez," MRZine, November 12, 2009.
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org. This article is part of Blum'sThe Anti-Empire Report (6 January 2010).