Cuban Dissidents and the US Government

Vicente Morin Aguado

A day begins in Havana
A day begins in Havana.  Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — From time to time, I have a look at the reader comments published in Havana Times, comments I markedly disagree with. These are often loaded with words of praise for those who oppose the Cuban government, the sympathetic support of certain individuals in Miami who have distanced themselves definitively from the reality we face in Havana.

I do not criticize the attitude of those who have taken the road of direct opposition to the government. The crux of my disagreement with such dissidents is their attitude towards the predominant political tendencies of the power elites that govern the United States today, groups that include different leaders of the Cuban émigré community. They are referred to as “Cuban-Americans”, but they are as American as Richard Helms or Dan Burton.

That there is sufficient cause for dissent in today’s Cuba, and that many want a much better country than the one we have now, is unquestionable.

I also recognize that the government’s repressive response to those who criticize the country’s reality, proposing (inevitable) changes for the future from different perspectives, is not in step with the times.

That said, the way in which certain opponents of the government evidently abide by Washington’s dictates, which are inalterable where Cuba is concerned, is also inadmissible.

There are simple, historical truths, and one of them is the fact that, for nearly two hundred years, US policy has been openly or surreptitiously opposed to Cuba’s independence.

Today, Mr. Kerry is telling us that the United States has put the Monroe Doctrine behind it. At least at the level of discourse, they are finally acknowledging the imperial nature of a dictate declared by the US president in 1823, delimiting the country’s future spheres of influence in the face of the equally interventionist policies of European nations.

In my country, it seems there are still those who forget both the past and the present and desperately approach our northern neighbor requesting support for their cause.

For instance, while I respect Yoani Sanchez’ defiance in light of the unjustified attitude of her repressors, I also wholly reject the ambiguity inherent in raving against the blockade and later smiling at those who are the hard-line defenders of this genocidal policy that is completely out of touch with reality.

Havana Street.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana Street. Photo: Juan Suarez

Avoiding reality is, almost always, the means of escape of those who cannot find a coherent political path. That is the case of many Cuban dissidents, unable to secure support from their fellow citizens, precisely because they neglect the history of their own country as regards our long-standing, complicated relations with the United States.

The conflict between the two nations is characterized by differences that are as pronounced as the “forgetfulness” of those who are referred to as the “opposition” or as “dissidents”, both here and there. Incidentally, these words, as in many other places, are totally overblown by the media.

I consider myself a “dissident” and an “independent journalist” (freelancers, they are called abroad). However, should I publicly declare myself as such, I would be automatically thrown together with the likes of Bicet, Fariñas, Berta Soler and company.

The attitude of such dissidents is often justified by their need to look for money and other resources on US soil and through inappropriate comparisons, through allusions, for instance, to the admirable struggle against apartheid impelled by Mandela and his millions of followers.

Whoever makes such comparisons is, at the very least, quite ignorant. The difference is abysmal, undeserving of even a few lines within this post.

Another concrete aspect of this conflict to bear in mind is related to the issue of property, one of the nerve centers of the historical differences I have referred to above.

On the one side, we have those Cubans living in their country or abroad. On the other, we have Americans and Cubans who were deprived of their estates and have joined forces on US soil with the aim of taking back what they lost. If anyone believes the situation is any different, I challenge them to prove it.

Beyond all the high-sounding spiels about democracy and human rights (issues that are so serious they deserve an authentic debate), one of the roots of my disagreement with some dissidents has to do with the demands surrounding Cuba’s so-called nationalization process, the origin of socialism on the Caribbean isle.

To confirm the above, suffice it to have a look at the Helms-Burton Act or the reasons enumerated by Kennedy to justify the embargo. We could even go back further, to the reason why the USS Maine was present in Havana Bay that fateful night of 1895.

Havana.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez

The fact of the matter is that some opponents of the Cuban government scramble to get their hands on US gifts, forgetting their country’s history and without placing on the balance the profound reasons for the Cuba-US conflict, the most significant issues that characterize the difficult reality we face. Such behavior precludes all viable politics and invariably results in escapism, a surrogate of impotence.

There is one thing Yoani Sanchez, Bicet, Soler and other dissidents are right about: the current reform process, slow, incomplete, improvised or whatever else it may be, is aimed at preserving socialism.

That’s to say, the reforms do not aim to hand the country over to the United States’ voracious governing elites, which legitimately include the leaders of the Cuban émigré community, illegitimately referred to as “Cuban-Americans.”

Any reconciliation with US power groups entails returning their former properties to them. Such groups do not care at all whether this is accomplished through a fierce dictatorship or a benevolent democracy.

The only other alternative is to continue in our efforts to refashion our socialist system, continuing the revolutionary process that began in 1959.

As Shakespeare eloquently put it: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
Vicente Morin Aguado:  [email protected]

23 thoughts on “Cuban Dissidents and the US Government

  • I can see that you are pissed off that, despite your best efforts — your beloved genocidal embargo, again — Cubans have not only survived the US onslaught, but they have thrived, thanks in part to inspired leadership and to countless acts of international solidarity. Despite the best efforts of your political masters to kill as many Cubans as possible and to sabotage the Cuban economy by various means, Cubans are among the healthiest in the Americas, with the best infant mortality in the region — better than both the USA and Canada. Who says so? Why, your partners in crime at the CIA! That’s gotta hurt!

  • In Cuba nearly all people are impoverished and depend on remittances from the USA to a large extent.
    Cuba’s Stalinist system never was able to support its people. For years 35% of GDP was sponsored by the Soviet Union. Now import from indentured labor, Venezuela’s subsidies, remittances and capitalist tourism keep the regime alive while the people suffer.

  • If doing what is best for the US is opposed by 99% of the world, I would urge my President to do what is best for the US. The reality is that what is best for the US is usually what is best for the world.

  • Obama was elected by a MAJORITY of the people who voted, ergo democracy. Once again, for kids on the little bus, capitalism is APOLITICAL. Your assumptions regarding what you believe other people know speaks volumes about what you don’t know.

  • As an unqualified supporter of the capitalism and oligarchy that is the U.S government you are hardly one to preach democracy to Cubans .
    Democracy literally means “rule of the people” ( majority rule) and the neither the U.S. oligarchy nor capitalism meet that sole criterion .
    I suspect that you do not know the meaning of the word “democracy” or rather choose to be willfully ignorant of what constitutes a democracy to write what you do.
    Please explain how an oligarchy is a democratic form.
    Please explain how capitalism is democratic and in each case remembering that democracy means MAJORITY RULE.

  • The US is all about “winning hearts and minds”…but we’re not shy about breaking a few when needed!

  • Such as waging a war on the Cuban people when all countries but Israel and the Marshall Islands stand and vote against that war at the U.N. ?
    Such as supporting Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population of the Occupied West Bank when again only Israel and a few island groups in thrall to the U.S are opposed to it ?
    You are shameless in your defense of the indefensible .
    You should realize that you are talking about opposing the opinion of 99% of the world’s nations which translates into a dismissal of democracy.
    People like you who believe that the world is wrong and they are right are usually and rightly confined to mental institutions

  • And you as a supporter of the U.S.’s 50+ Year War On The People Of Cuba and such horrors as the ‘Wet foot- Dry Foot” policy must also not have any relatives in Cuba or at least none that you care about.

  • I think you are right – there is a slow but sure change in US policy, but where that is coming from is Latin America and in particular Brazil. For most of Latin America the US is associated with military coups and its support for military dictators and the US needs to come to terms with the fact that it no longer dominates the continent as it used to. We can see the start of this in the half-hearted apology by Obama when he said “we were not responsible for all your problems” and his statement that he wanted a partnership of equals with Brazil. Obama knows that the embargo is a complete failure because it is an attempt to reverse a continent wide change that has already happened. The US will need/want to mend fences with its neighbours to the South. I will put my head on the block here and say that the embargo will be gone within a year of Raul Castro retiring.

    You are also right in your second comment. I’ll give you some quotes – “I am so angry with that infernal little Cuba republic that I would like to wipe its people off the face of the earth” President Theodore Roosevelt. “You just give me the word and I’ll turn that f****ing island into a parking lot” Secretary of State Alexander Haig (1981).

  • Obama’s opinions and comments regarding Cuba have not changed since his Senatorial days in 2005. He was not under any UN influence then and certainly not now. His opinion is a reflection of common sense. US policy must adjust its strategy towards regime change. The policy engaged to date has not been completely effective and is losing support among recent Cuban immigrants such as my wife. Certainly, a more creative way to bring democracy to the Cuban people is possible.

  • The very fact that Obama is even paying lip-service in the vaguest possible terms to changing the criminal US policy on Cuba is proof that his allies at the UN must be finally getting to him. Or maybe China has finally found their cajones.

    You are squeamish about carpet bombing, but have no qualms about a little genocide at a distance. Something about plausible deniability? What a beacon of morality you are, Moses!

  • American ‘Exceptionalism’ sometimes demands that we must go it alone. As Americans, it is not our first choice but we don’t need the approval of the majority to do the right thing.

  • ‘What “heat” is Obama feeling? Please give one example of pressure put on this administration by anyone that can make a difference in the lives of Americans. Your “carpet bombing” comment is inappropriate. You obviously don’t have family or loved ones in Cuba to even consider such a terrible thing.

  • The US regime (the 0.01 percenters?) feels strongly enough about recolonizing Cuba that, for decades, it has been willing to withstand the near universal condemnation by the international community of its genocidal embargo targeting every man, woman and child on the island. Obama is obviously feeling the heat, but will do nothing substantive. Only the very real prospect of another Vietnam or Iraq is stopping the regime from carpet bombing the island from one end to the other.

  • You could not have picked a worse example to support your genocidal embargo. Here is what Mandela had to say about it:

    “If today all South Africans enjoy the rights of democracy; if they are able at last to address the grinding poverty of a system that denied them even the most basic amenities of life, it is also because of Cuba’s selfless support for the struggle to free all of South Africa’s people and the countries of our region from the inhumane and destructive system of apartheid. For that, we thank the Cuban people from the bottom of our heart….

    “As the beneficiary of international solidarity that helped make it a member of the community of free nations, democratic South Africa is proud to be amongst the majority of nations who affirm the right of the Cuban people to determine their own destiny, and that sanctions which seek to punish them for having decided to do so are anathema to the international order to which we aspire.”

    Source: “Speech by Mandela at Castro banquet,” 1998

    “Many people, many countries, including many powerful countries, have called upon us to condemn the suppression of human rights in Cuba. We have reminded them they have a short memory.

    “For when we battled against apartheid, against racial oppression, the same countries were supporting the apartheid regime. A regime that represented only 14 percent of the population, while the overwhelming majority of the people of the country had no rights whatsoever. They supported the apartheid regime. And we fought successfully against that regime with the support of Cuba and other progressive countries.

    “They now want to be our only friends, and dare to ask us to renounce those people who made our victory possible. That is the greatest contempt for the morality and the principles which are the basis of our relations, not only with the various population groups in this country, but with the entire world.

    “And I wanted to make a commitment that we will never let our friends down, friends during the most difficult period of our struggle, especially Cuba.”

    Source: South Africa president Nelson Mandela addresses Cuba solidarity conference, 1995

    Last month, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly, for the 22nd year in a row, to condemn these cruel and inhumane sanctions of yours. Only Israel voted with you against the resolution, but they trade freely with Cuba anyway! Only a handful of tiny US island-colonies in the South Pacific abstained from the vote. Even your closest allies have refused to buy into your lies and rationalizations in support of what amounts to a form of genocide. On this insane policy, the US regime is truly isolated on the world the stage.

  • Like Milton Freidman admitted once, “there would be no McDonalds without McDonnell Douglas”. You boast about the universality of American economic and cultural dominance as if it occurred in a vacuum. There is a lot of blood behind our presence, something you appear quite proud of.

  • U.S. hegemony and hyper-power influence in the world hardly translates into a democratic choice for those nations once and still subject to the Neo-Monroe Doctrine.
    Guatemala , Honduras, El Salvador Argentina, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic , Haiti , Guyana, Surinam , Chile, Grenada and probably a number of others not on the top of my mind at the moment have all had U.S. policies and desires enforced upon them over the years much in the way the Mafia enforces its criminality upon the communities it runs by knee-capping those who fight them .
    A badly maimed neighbor sets the example , instills the fear necessary to have them comply .
    Anyone who wants to read up on some 54 cases of this in detail should really pick up a copy of “Killing Hope” by William Blum .
    If you have only one book on U.S. imperialism , IMO this book is the one to have..
    I lent my copy to a friend and he immediately went out and bought his own copy saying it was the best book he’s read on the subject and he’s been politically active for some 45 years.
    You can and should go to the website ( Killing Hope) and read the lengthy introduction and a few of the free chapters and learn what Moses must avoid due to the cognitive dissonance it creates in his “thinking”.
    And no….I have no financial interest in book sales.

  • Thank you Vicente for a very well written and researched piece .

  • The purpose of the 50+ year U.S. War On The People Of Cuba was explicitly to overthrow the socialist revolution and/or impoverish the population to the point that Cuba’s state socialism could not provide the good example it would to most other Latin American and Caribbean nations with large percentages of their populations living in poverty caused directly by U.S. enforced capitalism .
    This was specifically stated by the U.S. government at the outset of the war.
    That the over 100 year old anti-socialist ( read economic democracy ) U.S. foreign policy continues long after the end of the Cold War and the demise of the so-called “monolithic communist threat” points to the fact that enforcement of totalitarian capitalism has always been the aim of the U.S. government and crushing socialist ( democratic ) economies and societies is part and parcel of that policy.
    Cuba is just the latest would-be victim of this policy .
    To say otherwise is simply to be dishonest or willfully ignorant of U.S. foreign policy history.
    In your case Moses, I suspect both apply.

  • Hyperbole? You better check with al-Assad of Syria or Rouhani of Iran. They came to understand before it was too late whether the enforcement of American “decrees” was hyperbole or real. Too bad you can’t call Gaddagi or Saddam Hussein. Latin America’s favorite car…Chevrolet. Favorite soft drink…Coca Cola. Most watched international news…CNN Espanol. It seems the “Grand Illusion” is not dead just yet.

  • The author of this post has written an excellent description of US/Cuban relations cerca 1968. Today, there is no, I repeat NO, interest in the re-colonization of Cuba by US “power elites”. This acknowledges that there are certainly Cuban-American businessmen in Miami who are chomping at the bit awaiting the day to conduct business with and buy property in the post-Castro Cuba. But this group is no more sinister than the Brazilian, Chinese, Spanish or Canadian businessmen waiting to do the same. They are matched by a like-minded group of Castro military and party elite anxious to do business with and sell property to these very same foreigners. Vincent appears to suffer from the still too commonly-held belief that Americans want make Cuba the 51st. state. He could not be more wrong! US relations with Cuba is driven solely by the politics of south Florida. The other 99.5% of America could not care less about Cuba. Vincent also appears to carry the paranoia that to accept financial support from the US corrupts the dissident message for more democracy and freedom. Yoani Sanchez with or without financial support would feel the same and have the same political message. It’s a fool’s errand to want to own property in Cuba under the current Castro regime except as it serves to buy and hold this property in anticipation of the post-Castro period to come. However, to be clear, this is NOT official US policy. This is standard business practice shared by businessmen from around the world with a eye on Cuba. Were it not so, interest in the Port Mariel project would be non-existent. There is a criticism of generals who make obsolete battle plans based on experiences from the last war. Vincent’s fears regarding US intentions toward Cuba are based on experiences made obsolete more than 30 years ago. BTW, whether my wife shares Vincent’s political beliefs or not, she is just as Cuban as he is. He has no right to declare who is “Cuban” and who is not.

  • Vicente,

    You should know that Mandela supported the economic sanctions against South Africa in order to promote the end of apartheid, sanctions that undoubtedly harmed the poor in South Africa. He did it because he considered the end of apartheid a goal worth economic suffering.

  • Excellent Commentary! History defines who we are and how we approach the future. Denying empirical evidence of abusive Colonial Ambitions on the part of the US, and justifying the blatant land grab advocated in the Monroe Doctrine is nothing but hypocrisy.

    England, Spain, and France all tried to ignore the disillusion of grandeur voiced by Monroe. Cuba, and the other ALBA Members, along with a growing number of other ex-Colonies in the Caribbean and Latin America have matured enough to defend their Sovereignty, in words and deeds if not militarily. The real problem is the threats created by the over-development and pollution of the Earth. It has become a race between survival of Humanity, and the greedy excesses of the ‘One Percenters’.

    Feral Capitalism does not have to be the only choice of economic structure in developing Nations. The claim that US Exceptionalism gives them the right to enforce any, and all, decrees made by the elected sock-puppets fronting the Plutocrats in Charge is hyperbole at best. Latin America is not the only continent tiring of the Grand Illusion!

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