Annexation and Gravitation in Cuban History

Vicente Morin Aguado

Photo: www.american.edu
Photo: www.american.edu

HAVANA TIMES — “The annexation of Cuba is publicly and widely discussed here as an inevitable fact, as the outcome of what is referred to as ‘gravitation.’” – Spanish Consul in New York, December of 1867.

On February 24, the online journal Diario de Cuba published a note reporting that “Berta Soler has accused Raul Castro’s government of undertaking a ‘vigorous’ campaign to do away with the Ladies in White and with her in particular, owing to her stance against the lifting of the US embargo and her criticisms of how Havana and Washington are conducting negotiations to normalize relations.”

The embargo/blockade has been firmly tethered to the US Congress since March 12, 1996, when the Helms-Burton Act was approved.

Will the apple finally fall from the tree, in accordance with the laws discovered by Newton? The tree of our nation’s undertakings is many hundred years old and has born many fruits. It remains to be seen whether the laws of physics also apply to history.

Let us go back in time some, if you please:

On May 19, 1850, former Spanish army general Narciso Lopez hoisted Cuba’s one-starred flag in the city of Cardenas for the first time. Born in Venezuela, he had come from New Orleans, backed by numerous southern slave-holders and a large number of Cuban patriots. His ultimate aim was to turn Cuba into a state of the Union.

Will the apple finally fall from the tree, in accordance with the laws discovered by Newton? The tree of our nation’s undertakings is many hundred years old and has born many fruits. It remains to be seen whether the laws of physics also apply to history.

This seemingly ambiguous political aim has an explanation: at the time, it seemed as though defeating the Spanish throne required strong foreign support. The island’s economy was also dependent on slavery and local land-owners opportunistically intertwined their economic interests with anti-Spanish sentiments (commonly referred to as “patriotic”).

The creator of our national emblem and coat of arms, Miguel Teurbe Tolon, was a poet who belonged, not to the aristocracy then giving out the orders, but to the humble majority who did the fighting. His stance against Spanish monarchic despotism was a case of authentic patriotism.

Since then, we have been under the permanent influence of that “gravitational force” referred to by the alarmed Spanish consul in New York, what has been termed the “ripe fruit doctrine” (which envisages Cuba as a coveted delicacy about to drop from the tree, in passing allusion to the classic Newtonian experience).

In its proverbial obstinacy, Spain was determined not to let go and polarized opinions in Cuba. On the one hand, we had the Spartan proponents of independence; on the other, the reformists who aspired to autonomy, something akin to a form of federalism under the tutelage of Madrid. The annexationists hid in both camps, invoking the indispensable nature of northern aid as an excuse for their stance.

The autonomists and annexationists were the heads of a political hydra that spoke of avoiding great sacrifices, the way US intervention would save the island from a protracted struggle and of opportunities that would swell new fortunes from the high steps of the coming republic (under the watchful protection of the White House, of course).

At the close of the 19th century, the north’s gravitational pull was being felt all the more strongly owing to the asymmetry that existed between the humble, fighting majority (which had no means of materializing their ideals) and the aristocratic minority in command. Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo had fallen in combat and, leading a frank political minority, generals Maximo Gomez and Calixto Garcia bore the weight of the “proven ingratitude of men,” a beautiful line by Marti, addressed to Gomez in a letter inviting him to take command of the independence forces once again.

Obama y Raúl cosechan aplausos al demostrar que la voluntad humana puede desafiar las ineludibles leyes de la gravitación universal.

Sensibly, the generals welcomed Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the spring of 1898. Following the mass killings during Weyler’s murderous campaigns on the island, and in view of the 25 to 1 numerical superiority of the Spanish forces, US military aid had become crucial.

The star-spangled banner was hoisted in Santiago de Cuba on July 17, but Cuban combatants were not accorded the same privilege. They didn’t even honor the 30 years of struggle of general Garcia, the brilliant strategist behind the last battle fought for Cuban independence. Allusions to possible Cuban reprisals against the enemy were made. Immediately, the second-in-command of Cuba’s Liberation Army sent a letter to his counterpart, Gen. Shafter:

“We are part of a poor, tattered army, as poor and as tattered as the army of your ancestors, who led a noble war of independence, but, like the heroes of Saratoga and New York, we have too much respect for our cause to see it besmirched by barbarism and cowardice.”

Calixto Garcia died in Washington on December 11 that year, while trying to secure the money needed to grant his humble soldiers official retirement.

On March 3, 1901, William McKinley would sign the Platt Amendment, a document that authorized the US president to intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs. The agreement was amended to the constitution of the nascent republic. Any resemblance to another piece of US bicameral legislation, approved on the same month 95 years later by a President of the same first name, is not a mere coincidence.

Today, the new pro-imperialist annexationists are known as “Plattists.” This political stance has not disappeared, neither in Cuba nor the United States.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro receive applause by demonstrating that human will can challenge the unavoidable laws of gravitation. Neil Armstrong was able to pronounce his famous statement after reaching the speed needed to break out of the Earth’s gravitational pull: “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Before his public execution, Cuban patriot and annexationist Narciso Lopez said: “My death won’t change Cuba’s destiny.”
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Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]



14 thoughts on “Annexation and Gravitation in Cuban History

  • Griffin, I apologize for my sloppy dictation. I agree with with you that Plattists and Annexationists were on different sides.

  • You make the mistake of accepting the author’s equivalence of the Platt Amendment and Annexation. Congress was divided between those who were for and against annexation of Cuba. President McKinley was against it. The Platt Amendment was proposed by the anti-annexation faction and was passed by Congress as a way to stop the Annexationists. By authorizing intervention to protect US interests in Cuba, the Annexationists only argument was nullified.

    True, the Platt Amendment was an infringement on Cuban sovereignty. But it was not a step towards annexation. It was a step away from it.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write a long and thoughtful response to my post. I must disagree with you on a couple of points.

    As you know, the Platt Amendment authorized the US to take military intervention in Cuba in order to ensure Cuban independence and to protect US interests in the island. Helms-Burton does not authorize military intervention in Cuba. In 1962, following got Cuban Missile Crisis, the US signed a treaty promising never to invade Cuba.

    Therefore, not only has the Platt Amendment ceased to exist since 1933, the law you are attempting to equate with it, Helms-Burton, does not authorize the objectionable terms of the Platt Amendment. Helms Burton does not authorize the US government to take any actions inside Cuba, nor to intervene in anyway within Cuba. It does ban US citizens and US companies from doing business with Cuba. Doesn’t the US government have a right to set rules for their own citizens and corporations?

    As an analogy, suppose you were a shop keeper and I’m your overbearing business parter. With the help of some of your staff, I am able to control and dominate the business. If you try to gain too much control of your own, I call security and put myself back in control again. That’s Plattism. Now consider this: one day, you manage to kick me out of the shop, you change the locks and I run away, angry and determined to get my share of the business back. After trying unsuccessfully to regain control by force, I decide to refuse to do any business with you, nor to allow any of my friends and family to do business with you. I set a condition that I won’t do business with you until you reimburse me for my share of the shop you took over. The other condition is that I won’t do business with you until you stop being such a dictatorial boss and allow your staff a vote in how the shop is run. I’m not forcing you to do anything, I’m just refusing to have anything to do with you. That’s Helm-Burton.

    Some of your staff are also complaining you are a dictatorial boss. They agree I shouldn’t do business with you until you give your staff a vote in how the shop is run. The staff is sick and tired of you telling them how you’re doing it for their own good. They want to decide what the think is for their own good, not have you tell them what to do. Your staff are not saying they want me to come back and take over the shop again, they just want to have their say in running the shop. These are the Cuban dissidents who are calling for democracy and human rights in Cuba.

    Cuba is under no compulsion to become a liberal democracy. As the Castro regime has demonstrated, they are prepared to maintain their dictatorship in Cuba for as long as they possibly can, to hell with the needs or desires of the Cuban people. But if Cuba decides they want to do business with the US, then the US has conditions under which they are prepared to do that. Cuba also has conditions. In international relations between countries, each side always has their conditions. Negotiating those conditions is what diplomacy is all about.

    Above you wrote, “Socialism is: first produce wealth, then distribute as evenly as possible”

    It should be obvious to any observer, that after 56 years of Cuban-style socialism, wealth has not been created, it has been systematically destroyed. All that has been redistributed is the rubble left behind.

    What do they call trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

  • Mr. Griffin, thank you for your ongoing feedback. If you read my articles and especially Havana Times, it’s worth me answering.

    The Platt Amendment was not only offensive to many Cubans, it was an affront to national
    sovereignty, totally unacceptable, only possible due to the asymmetry of the time. Now it’s more or less the same, between Cuba and the US. The difference
    today is the passage of history, political awareness, both here and there.

    Ninety-five years later the US Congress passed a law requiring the President to designate an
    authority to ensure the Cuban transition to democracy. Could you mention
    another more eloquent example of Plattism?

    By accepting the Helms-Burton Act as a negotiating principle, Berta Soler clearly positions
    herself as a modern annexationist, a Plattist. Of course, the polarization of political ideas requires modern annexationists to seek a protective mantle
    because the Cuban people of today want good relations with USA, and sincerely
    wish an end to the imperialist paranoia as a pretext of the multiple failures of the socialist project. Failures that to this day have not been recognized by the leaders of the Communist Party, but
    feeling the need to be Cuban, not a star added to our neighbors flag.

    José Martí spoke of those beings who “lack the courage and deny it to others.”

    I firmly believe that is possible and necessary to save the original socialist idea and I also believe that is the only sensible answer for the future of humanity.

    Obviously the ruling class in my country doesn’t seem willing; they have too much negative historical
    weight on their backs to accept the need for change.

    Socialism is: first produce wealth, then distribute as evenly as possible, under a system created
    and regulated by the human experience, obviously within democratic norms at its finest, distant from all authoritarianism.

    Many Thanks,

    Vicente.

  • Puerto Rico, by law, holds a referendum every five years with three choices on the ballot: Remain a US territory, become a US state, or become independent. So far the independence movement has failed by a wide margin and the become the 51st State loses by a squeaker. There is no undue coercion unacceptable in a democracy. The other territories are not financially independent enough to begin to consider independence. By US territorial law, it is a choice they have to change their status. I don’t know the politics in each of these places but I assume they are choosing to remain territories of the US. I have not seen images of citizens from Palau marching in front of our embassy demanding independence. Have you?

  • Hi Moses. Are you suffering from memory loss? Do you remember an island called Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, Palau and many others?
    Are you suggesting that if a rapist enter the same house for a second time and says: Do not fear, this time I will not rape you, you should trust him and go to sleep? That is what Cuba and tens of other countries learned the hard way.

  • Just what I thought: You can’t name even one country. Enough with your book references. I have read those books and, like you, no facts just innuendo.

  • I have continually posted the titles of several books and websites which list the more than 54 countries into which the USA has intervened to maintain capitalism in the face of democratic opposition.
    Your post indicates what I learned long ago : that people on the center-right -right side of the political spectrum will not look at evidence that belies their positions .
    If you had , you would not have asked that question.
    Willful ignorance is a sad thing when that is what you must use to maintain your erroneous thinking in place of valid arguments. .

  • The U.S. congress struggles to authorize a budget, much less annexation. Taking over another neighbor is what Russia does, not the US. Putin would already have liberated Cuba much as he liberated Crimerea and is now liberating Ukraine. Obama for all his faults is nothing like Putin.

  • It would be impractical. The era of such things has passed.

  • Name one country that the US controls by what you have described that effectively sounds like a “Vulcan mind meld”. Please leave off the list those countries who enjoy an otherwise higher standard of living based on trade with the US.

  • Could the author, or any commenter for that matter, please identify a single person alive today who advocates for the annexation of Cuba by the USA? Provide a quote to verify that position, if you can. I have not found any such person, neither among the dissidents on the island, nor among the most fervently anti-Castro old guard in Miami. Annexation died a long, long time ago.

    The movement for Annexation reached it’s high water mark in the first decade of the 20th Century. The Platt Amendment, offensive to so many Cubans then as now, and justly so, was a compromise amendment between the Annexationists in the US and the more liberal elements who favoured independence with US influence in Cuba but not outright annexation.

    The Platt Amendment never authorized annexation, only intervention for the purpose of preserving Cuban independence and protecting US interests in Cuba, in practice, more the latter than the former. Even so, the Platt Amendment was repudiated and stripped from the Cuban constitution in 1933. It ceased to exist from that day forth.

    To talk about the Platt Amendment today as if it remained a sword dangling over Cuba’s head, instead of as a historical relic which no longer exists, is to engage in histrionics and emotional manipulation for propaganda purposes. The author uses the Plattist smear to tar the Ladies in White ( http://www.fhrcuba.org/2015/02/statement-regarding-recently-assaulted-ladies-white-member-digna-rodriguez-ibanez/) as a means to void their credibility and avoid discussion of their real message.

  • A very nice straw man you’ve constructed there.
    The U.S. stopped occupying countries in the old-fashioned imperial way of France and Britain long ago and now just keeps them subjugated with as-needed wars and intimidating military incursions that crush the aspirations for democratic ( read socialist ) and humanitarian movements of the moment .
    These actions of the world’s only hyper-power serve as an example to those who also may be thinking about creating democratic societies out of the capitalist totalitarianism imposed upon them .
    The people who own and run the GOUSA are not interested in holding territory . All they want is the money they can drain out of the particular countries natural and human resources and that they can do without physically controlling the population.
    All they need control are the governments which will continue to pay huge loan payments to the U.S. and the West and permit exploitation of those human and natural resources .
    In the case of Cuba, it is the resistance to imperialism and the possible existential threat to the totalitarian oligarchic systems of the United States as represented by a possible democratic Cuba. under socialist principles, that is the reason for al, U.S. hostilities and exactly as has been U.S. foreign policy for 100 years.

  • Vicente’s post hints at a lingering desire that “Plattists” and their desire to annex Cuba remains a possible outcome of normalizing US/Cuba relations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Though once a real possibility, 150 years ago, Americans want no part of a poor, dilapidated and politically backward country like Cuba. On the contrary, as a source of cheap labor and as a safety valve for the sale of grains and meats, Cuba is an ideal future market. Far too many Cuban thinkers, including many of the Cuban writers who post here at HT, have been brainwashed to misunderstand US intentions toward Cuba. If the US annexed Cuba, it would cost US taxpayers far more to support Cuba than the revenues Cuba would contribute to the US treasury. On the contrary, US business sees Cuba as a profit center where products can be made cheaply and excess agricultural goods can be sold at a huge profit. To do this we don’t need to make Cuba the 51st. state.

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