Is the U.S. Setting a Course for Detente with Cuba?

December 25, 2013
The ceremonial handshake between presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro at the funeral of Nelson Mandela (Photo:
The ceremonial handshake between presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro at the funeral of Nelson Mandela caused outrage among conservative circles in the U.S. and Cuban immigrants in Miami. Some even accused Obama of being a «secret communist». Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen expressed her indignation by calling this handshake a «propaganda coup» for Raul Castro. This is exactly how a number of analysts in the U.S. and Latin America have assessed the occurrence, recalling that several months ago Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry promised a «change in course» with regard to Havana…

There is other evidence of warmer relations between Washington and Havana as well. Radio Marti has reduced the amount of its subversive programming. The airplane which used to fly along the Cuban coast and rebroadcast it is now idle in its hangar (the U.S. Congress did not allocate money for its use). Educational visits to Cuba for American college students have been resumed. Limitations for Cuban immigrants traveling from the U.S. to visit relatives have been eased. The procedure for issuing visas has changed; more and more Cubans are overcoming the «iron curtain» to learn about life in the United States.

Washington's signals of a course toward warmer relations are of a forced nature. During the yearly vote at the UN General Assembly, practically all the members of the organization vote for ending the economic blockade of Cuba; only Israel approves keeping the sanctions in place. In Latin America the U.S. position toward Cuba is unconditionally condemned. At the 6th Summit of the Americas, which took place in Colombia in April 2012, calls for Washington to end the trade and economic blockade of Cuba were heard in many speeches. The countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America presented a united front, warning that they plan to boycott the summits if Cuban leaders are not invited.

The writing off of Cuba's debts by Western European, Latin American and Asian countries can be seen as a sign of solidarity with the Island of Freedom. Russia has signed an agreement with Cuba on the restructuring of debts from the Soviet period and the writing off of 29 billion dollars. Cuba, which is fighting for its very survival under the U.S. blockade, was and still is unable to service its debt. This step by the Russian government will have a positive effect on the development of relations with Cuba and the implementation of joint economic, military and political projects.

American propaganda goes on endlessly about Cuba's «isolation» on the international arena, but the facts tell a different story. U.S. means of influencing Havana have been practically exhausted. The blockade has inflicted colossal financial and economic damage on the country, but did not bring it to its knees. Cuba has held out and is implementing a plan of political and economic transformations without «shock experiments» and without sacrificing its sovereignty and social achievements. There are neither quitters nor a fifth column in the Cuban leadership. The people have not become disappointed in socialism and continue to support their historic leaders, Fidel and Raul Castro. On January 1, 2014 the Cuban revolution will celebrate its 55th anniversary.

There is no flagrant gap between the incomes of various strata of the population. The socialist education system, which provides for free secondary and higher education, has been preserved. The literacy rate is 100% among young people and 99.8% among adults. The high level of education of Cuba's population was acknowledged in a 2011 UNESCO report. The country occupied a prestigious 14th place according to the Education Development Index. Over the past 50 years Cuban universities have trained over a million specialists and have become centers of research; the results of their studies influence the dynamic development of Cuba's society and economy.

Not one country in the region has made such achievements in the field of healthcare as Cuba has. Free medical care is available to the entire nation. Cuba's vaccination program is astounding in the scale of its coverage. Cuba has attained most of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. In 2012-2013 infant mortality in Cuba was the lowest in Latin America at 4.6 per thousand live births. Other healthcare achievements are revealing: the life expectancy will reach 80 years for women and 76 for men. Despite limitations caused by the U.S. blockade on obtaining resources and technology, research to find vaccines against the cholera, dengue fever and HIV viruses continues. Socially significant programs in cardiology, oncology and transplantation are being implemented. Cuban medications are used in over 40 countries. An end to the U.S. blockade would doubtlessly lead to an increase in supplies of unique and inexpensive pharmaceuticals to the world market. Hundreds of Cuban specialists are working in various countries throughout the continent, showing the highest level of professionalism. For example, 63 ophthalmological centers and 84 surgical centers are operating in the region as part of «Operation Miracle». At least 2 million patients have received operations!

Cuba's leadership insists that the main condition for normalization of relations with the United States is an end to the economic blockade with no preliminary conditions or ultimatums. However, Washington continually states that the Cuban government is not ensuring the necessary level of «democratic progress» in the country. Without this, they say, a bilateral dialog is impossible. For Washington, the state of democracy on the island is measured by the possibility of freely interfering in Cuba's internal affairs. Such democracy will never exist in Cuba. Cubans know perfectly well that the activities of U.S. intelligence in countries with undesirable regimes have led to the consolidation of subversive elements, the creation of a controlled opposition, and then to «color revolutions». The population of Cuba understands what it will lose if renegades from CIA-funded «non-governmental organizations» come to power in the country.

Diplomats from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana regularly measure the «level of democratic development» on the island. This is done by various methods. Recently Conrad Tribble, the second in command at the U.S. Interests Section and a diplomat with 30 years of experience, met with young Cuban bloggers in Parque Villalon in Havana. The visit was improvised, and at first Tribble was tense and worried that the Cubans would refuse to talk with him. However, the bloggers listened to the diplomat, about whom they already had an idea from his writings on Twitter, with interest. The experienced professional talked with the Cubans about baseball and other neutral topics, then handed out his business card saying, «I'm always willing to meet personally». One of the Cuban bloggers wrote about Tribble's visit on the Internet: «We know why he is looking for contacts with Cuban youth; we are familiar with the U.S. Interest Section's history of subversive operations; we know about the 'soft power doctrine' the U.S. government follows. Don't think, mister, that we will be easy prey for you.»

Tribble pretended that he did not notice this message. Day after day he continues to send tweets on the «Cuban problem», advertise anti-Castroist articles on the Internet, and cast himself as a broad-minded blogger who is always ready for constructive dialog. By all appearances, one of his tasks is to recruit Internet activists like Yoani Sanchez, who is used for anti-government campaigns. The entire staff of the U.S. Interests Section participates in hostile operations. The course for detente with Cuba is no more than a front for a massive U.S. intelligence operation to overthrow the «dictatorship of the Castro brothers».

However, Cuba has many friends. In 2013 Cuba was once again elected to the UN Human Rights Council. This is an acknowledgement of its achievements in the social sphere and its role as a reliable defender of the interests of developing countries. Cuba guarantees that the UN Human Rights Council will not turn into an organization that uses double standards: no behind-the-scenes political maneuvers, but rather consistent defense of the principles of justice and democracy in the interests of all! Cuba can be believed. Cuba never gives in.