Invited to the US Interests Section

Dmitri Prieto

US Interests Section in Havana, right side building.

Several days before May Day, I received a letter from the US Interest Section (the de facto American embassy here in Havana).  I wasn’t the only one who received one; copies were also sent to a colleague of mine and to the members of the Critical Observatory network.

A person at the US Interest Section (USINT) had taken an interest in our blogs and proposed meeting with us during the second week of May.

I would have roared with laughter if the situation weren’t so sad.

The Observatory and those of us who are members are markedly alternative worldists – meaning that we believe that another world is possible.  Each colleague acts on this principle in their own way, but we share a consensus in that we don’t care for authoritarianism, violence or aggression.  Nor do we care for economic systems that generate alienation, inequalities or consumerism.

These principles have nothing to do with the politics of the people at USINT.

Really, the only memory I have of any direct contact with that agency goes back to a few years ago when I went to request a visa to allow me to travel to an interesting conference in Connecticut and New York on the (post) Soviet diaspora in Cuba.

Of the various delegates from our island, I was the only one approved for a visa, but they granted it to me after the conference had already concluded.  They politely reminded me of that blunder but told me that now I could go travel to the US without problems…

Those of us with the Observatory don’t feel there is anything to talk with the people of USINT concerning our projects.  Our purposes and ideologies are quite different from theirs – opposed or to the contrary, one could say.

But even still, we don’t reject dialogue.  We told them that we would go there with supreme pleasure, but only after they’ve lifted the blockade of Cuba, paid compensation for the human and material damage, returned the Cuban Five prisoners in the USA and stopped the NATO bombings in Libya.


11 thoughts on “Invited to the US Interests Section

  • “Have there been any direct military aggression of the US to Cuba ? No”

    Humm, how about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion? How about the hundreds of attempts the US has taken to kill Fidel Castro? Looks like we have a momentary lapse of reason here!

    “I do agree with you that nobody have the right to force Cubans to choose one way or another and specially not a foreign government.”

    So why the hell you constantly do so, in behalf of US interests?

    “Just very recently another Cuban was murder by the repressive police. One more to a long list of abuse of power.”

    You mean Soto Garcia, right? Eyewitness said that no signals of beatings were found on his body. Stop believing everything Yoani and the big media talk about.

  • Without getting into the debate about whether or not it would have been wise to meet with the USINT people and see whether Dmitri could have outsmarted them (learned more from them than they would have learned from him), I would like to make one observation: Dmitri tells us “Of the various delegates from our island, I was the only one approved for a visa, but they granted it to me after the conference had already concluded”. He later refers to that as a “blunder”on their part.
    It wasn’t.
    The US State Dept and their factotums in Havana knew perfectly well what they were doing in granting the visa too late for the conference. That has been routine for decades. When liberals and others in the US protested the fact that 90% of all Cuban applicants for temporary visas to the US are turned down as a matter of policy, the State Dept added to this policy the tactic of “granting” a number of such applications — but only after it would be too late for them to take part in the conference or event they were invited to. Thus on paper, the figures would seem to indicate that the US had granted more visas than it actually had. While actually keeping most Cubans from taking part in international events, the US could claim to have given “x” number of visas.
    It has been part of an overall policy which includes turning down Cubans who apply for temporary visas on the grounds that they might illegally overstay their visas (which of course they can do quite easily because the Cuban Adjustment Act both allows and encourages Cubans to do so), but then turns around and offers to given them visas if they want to apply for immigration to the US. In other words: “if you see Cuba as a terrible country you want to leave forever, and see the US as a great country you want to move to permanently, we welcome you with open arms (and banner headlines if you are famous). But if you want to go to the US for a short while and then return to the country we have told everyone is so awful,…

  • Dmitri y tod@s

    What a great statement and stance you took ! I am so proud of you all. I shared your response letter to USINT with some friends of mine at the May Day March for Immigrant Rights here in San Francisco and everyone was thrilled with the response and your offer to chat after they meet your (completely reasonable) conditions.

    To the above discussion. The US’s goal in terms of meeting with people they view as being the opposition is to manipulate and control those individuals and social movements. I actually believe that part of the reason there isn’t more critical political activity is precisely because of the manipulations of the USINT.

    Dmitri and his colleagues have nothing to gain from this meeting and everything to loose. On top of it, they are fighting against authoritarianism and illegitimate power. This means that they have little in common with both those in power in Cuba and those in power in the US and by extension USINT. They have nothing to talk about.

    Good show Dmitri, you are an inspiration
    abrazos y besos … sammy

  • dmitri, I find this to be a sad stance for one so young. Until Cuba and the US both ask and do: what is it about this situation I can make better, the fencing will continue. It is unfortunate that you did not take the opportunity to visit, maybe your following article would have been written from a different position or the same.

  • Marina I do agree with you that nobody have the right to force Cubans to choose one way or another and specially not a foreign government.

    Still my claims above continues to be true.

    The US have not use their military superiority and force against a dictatorial regime that suppresses the most basic human right of their own people. Just very recently another Cuban was murder by the repressive police. One more to a long list of abuse of power.

    We disagree as to the intentions of the US government with Cuba. I think facts talk by themselves.

    Have there been any direct military aggression of the US to Cuba ? No
    Is it because they lack the power to do so? No
    Have the Cuban Regime respected the right of those who oppose them? No
    Have the US government try to help those who fight peacefully for freedom and human right in Cuba? Yes.

    I think there is no evil in supporting freedom. Evil is on the side of those oppose to freedom.
    We can debate long about if the Cuban regime is a legitimate government. You can probably guess many like me think it is an illegitimate government. Because it is impose by force and not by the will of the people.
    Only when they get elected by giving Cuban different real viable options of political parties is that they will be legitimate.
    Just to be a little more clear.
    What I try to say above is that Cubans never had the chance to vote for what they now have. Those politicians that have promise many things and deliver very little and that are out of the reach of the common man.

    “Cubans choose to do, to create their own society, autonomously, and anew, is theirs to decide, and not any foreign government or hierarchical power.”

    This you write is not true. Cubans never had that chance to choose. Only a few that are in power and choose for the rest of us. The political elite. They are the one responsible for Cuba’s current economical calamities and also for the social one.

    Not sure how familiar you are with the Cuban situation but many of the youth that was born with the revolution will like to migrate to another country as a solution to their own particular problems. Any country. It is sad when the citizens of a nation have to resort to abandon their country because of the stubborn political elite that keeps dreaming utopian dreams and forgets about solving basic problems like food and a roof over the head of their citizens or something as basic as human rights.

  • Responding to the comment above – as a US citizen and someone who has studied US history and foreign policy. Unfortunately, and I say this with sadness and anger, the US is “the evil empire they have presented to you.” The list of overt and covert US government and military operations around the world and throughout history are so long they have filled volumes. The intentions of the US are not about freedom, but rather the policies of the US government. (I say this not without criticism of the Cuban government, but the Cuban state is not the issue in this discussion, the intentions of the US are.)

    What Cubans choose to do, to create their own society, autonomously, and anew, is theirs to decide, and not any foreign government or hierarchical power.

    In Solidarity and Struggle,

  • There is always this presumption that the US is out to destroy Cuba and also the identification or confusion of Cuba and the Cuban government. Clearly Cuba and the current Cuban government are two distint things. One is eternal the other is ephemeral.

    The US if it really wanted to destroy the Cuban government would have done it directly and with full force and this has not happen and will not happen. Not even when relations were at boiling point. On the other hand I think the US as any other government have the right to interact with citizens of any nation. Governments do not make nations. Citizens do.

    It is also clear that not all cuban citizens support the revolution or the Cuban regime. Why should they not get in touch and help those who stand up for freedom and against a totalitarian and dictatorial regime?

    Dmitri it is your choice. The US is not the evil empire they have presented you. You should know this. Things are not just black and white. There is always a full spectrum of color. Anyone trying to make things black and white is misrepresenting the truth. I can understand that you and your group will be estigmatize if you all decided to participate on a meeting at the US interest section and that maybe a good reason to not participate. It is your government who takes away your freedom. Because of the fear the have of losing power. If this was not true, then they would not really care who goes to the US interest section and who meets with who. Because they would know they will be secure in the power. So all these happens because they are insecure. They have fear.
    Obviously all I wrote here is my own opinion.

  • I think your response to the “meeting” with the US was brilliant. Perfect!

    The US agenda in Cuba has always been to destabilize the country. And now that there are more people within Cuba who are opening discussions with regard to change, but an anti-capitalist change, that is also a threat to the US. This is not the change the US wants for Cuba.

    I would conclude from their wanting a meeting that they see you as a threat to their capitalist agenda for Cuba.


    We are with you in Solidarity and Struggle!

  • If you think that being in the dark about your opponents intentions somehow makes you stronger you are incorrect.
    It is not at issue that your opponent is “out to destroy you” what matters is that you engage your opponent or your enemy when the opportunity is offered.
    Willfully withdrawing from discourse is not noble or efficient.

  • Dmitri,

    Thank you for a most enjoyable story.
    I totally disagree with Casey Strong that you could have gained much useful or new information from any meeting with representatives of a government out to destroy Cuba.

    I think that most politically aware people know in exactly what the United States is interested and as you succinctly pointed it isn’t anything good as regards the Cuban people.
    The problem is that a majority of the U.S. public doesn’t have the slightest clue as to the realities of either the Cuba/US relations or of U.S imperialism .

    That is why is so important.
    With the limited news available on day to day life in Cuba from either Granma and the few other Cuban government publications or any of the corporate news sources in the U.S., is an invaluable window into what Cuban life is really like and what REAL Cubans think.

    Thank you all.

  • Your position surprises me immensely I believe you might have come away from such a meeting with knowledge that you now can never attain.
    The sayings “Knowledge is power” and “Know your opponent” both come to mind.
    By making demands you know can never be met at that level you forfeit the chance to see inside the opposing camp.

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