Helms-Burton Law and a Possible Fraudulent Change in Cuba

Bill Clinton signed the Helms Burton Law on March 12, 1996.

HAVANA TIMES – On March 12, 1996, William J. Clinton enacted the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, known as Helms-Burton. Thirty-eight long years have passed, and Cuba has changed to the point of facing a widespread crisis today. The protective socialist state is incapable of guaranteeing basic rationed food and electricity supply to households.

Demonstrations in the streets are becoming increasingly recurrent, something unthinkable in a country whose political leaders arrogantly proclaimed: “The streets belong to the revolutionaries.” In prisons, barely surviving, are over a thousand political prisoners, including the most renowned opponents who have escaped death, isolated, subjected to extreme prison conditions.

A governmental response is imminent although no expert can predict the events.

However, every observer of the Cuban political landscape must agree on one thing: there is no apparent protagonism of opposition organizations within the Island, much less capable leaders to guide the protesters in their aspirations for change, whose expression combines demands for Food and Electricity with Freedom, Homeland and Life.

With dissident organizations dismantled, the scenario points towards the uniformed forces (Army and Ministry of the Interior) as the only real force capable of initiating and supporting the urgent need for effective reforms.

It is noteworthy that high-ranking officials combine membership in the Communist Party’s top echelons with military hierarchies. Meanwhile, the families of the Castro brothers have become an untouchable privileged caste, as Raul Castro still survives and commands from the shadows.

One conclusion is obvious, changes “from above,” that is, from power, point to a transition to a system that will not relinquish the privileges and powers of those who currently dominate in Cuba. Commentators resort to well-known examples: Vietnam, China, Putin’s Russia with the oligarchs, or perhaps even worse combinations, akin to the ominous North Korea.

But Cuba lies just 90 miles away the United States, where more than 2 million Cubans live. The attitude of the US government, as well as Cuban exiles, are undeniable factors of power.

Exiles almost unanimously reject the idea of a fraudulent change. As for the White House, doubts arise when considering the record of ambiguity with which various administrations have confronted the communist dictatorship.

The question arises: Can a US government, whether Democrat or Republican, accept the alleged and possible fraudulent change, disguising with new nuances the domination of the Castro heirs?

The answer is NO, due to the validity of the Helms-Burton Law.

Recalling the moment, I spoke with the Cuban political scientist Frank Calzon, a graduate of Georgetown, and one of the prominent exile activists directly involved in the enactment of this legislative effort.

Frank Calzon: “The Helms-Burton law began as an effort by Cuban-American congresspeople to codify and turn into laws the regulations and executive decrees of successive federal governments, which any president can suspend without needing approval from Congress. Laws are much harder to change. The Helms-Burton law resulted from a bipartisan consensus, but there were doubts that President Clinton would sign it.”

What motivations were there in 1996 to achieve the necessary consensus in both chambers of Congress?

Frank: “The Cuban issue: its alliance with Russia, the implementation of the Soviet model, its strategic dimension, and human rights on the island are part of the agenda. Cuban Americans in Florida and other states keep their representatives in Washington informed. Cuba is a danger because of its support for terrorism, because it is a Russian aircraft carrier, and now other enemies have joined, which cannot be sunk 90 miles from the U.S.”

Two weeks before signing the Law, on February 24, two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down over international waters. Four crew members, none armed, were killed, shot down by MiG fighter jets, under orders from Raul Castro.

Did this event influence Clinton’s decision, a Democrat, to finally endorse the law?

Frank: “Yes, Madeline Albright, the Secretary of State, denounced the crime at the United Nations, where she presented irrefutable evidence that the shootdown occurred in international airspace over the Florida Strait. The president considered this law a very harsh measure. Democratic policy has been characterized by not increasing pressure on Havana. At that moment, they shot down the planes. Then the Cuban Americans, from both parties, demanded harsh actions from the government, some even called for bombing the airfields from which the aggressor planes took off. Not to mention that he also had the pressure of public opinion because the victims were United States citizens. Faced with these dilemmas, Bill Clinton chose to sign it.”

If anyone has doubts about the clarifications derived from Helms-Burton regarding recognizing a future government called democratic, Section 205, Title II is quite clear:

Frank: “For the purposes of this law, a transitional government in Cuba is a government that meets the following requirements: it has legalized all political activity; it has released all political prisoners and allows inspections by international organizations in prisons; it has dissolved the current State Security Department of the Ministry of the Interior, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and the Rapid Response Brigades; it has publicly committed to convening free and fair elections for a new government that does not include Fidel Castro or Raul Castro, and that would be held no more than 18 months after the transitional government has assumed power.”

A fraudulent change, if it comes to recognition and/or support from the White House, is prohibited by Law.

Lea más desde Cuba aquí en Havana Times.

2 thoughts on “Helms-Burton Law and a Possible Fraudulent Change in Cuba

  • Havana Time has simply become a mouthpiece of the US government.

  • The passage from Section 205 in Title II of this bill requiring a transition government to exclude the Castro brothers no longer holds water because the Castros are gone, with Fidel dead and Raul’s death inevitable.

    Portions of the Helms-Burton Act regarding the Juragua nuclear plant, the Lourdes SIGINT facility, and the requirement for the Justice Department to indict the Castros for their role in the 1996 Hermanos al Rescate shootdown have become redundant because Cuba gave up on hopes of resuming construction of the Juragua nuclear plant in 1997 and the Lourdes SIGINT facility was shut down in 2002, but also due to the fact that indicting Raul Castro for ordering the Hermanos al Rescate shootdown was a nonstarter given the lack of an extradition treaty between the US and Cuba.

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