In this month's Q&A, we discuss the history of Cuba with guest speaker Henry Lowendorf of the Greater New Haven Peace Council.
Knowing this history is fundamental to understanding current events in Cuba, including the recent July 11th protests, and the fact that the United Nations has passed a resolution every year since 1992 calling on the United States to end the Sanctions against Cuba started in 1960, in response to Cuba's nationalization of US-owned Cuban oil refineries after the US refused to allow these refineries to process non-American oil.
A US Department of State memo from April 1960 clarified the desired outcome of the sanctions:
"The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship." The memo recommended a policy that would be "adroit and inconspicuous as possible" while aiming to deny "money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government."
So the goal of US foreign policy towards Cuba since 1960, although rarely articulated so honestly, has been 'to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government."
This is illegal and immoral, but it is still worth asking: why?. The US claims they are trying to bring desperation to Cuba so that the government can be overthrown in order to bring human rights to Cuba like representative democracy and freedom of speech. But is that plausible?
I don't buy it for a second. The history of US policy toward Cuba show that our actions have always been been motivated by economic self-interest.
Our military has occupied the country three times since 'winning' it from Spain in 1898, the third occupation was conspicuously called "The Sugar Intervention (1917-1922)". We imposed multiple economic conditions on ending the first occupation, and demanded that they be written into the Cuban Constitution. And when a right wing dictator emerged by military coup, a murderous despot with no interest in democracy or human rights, Fulgencio Batista, the US backed his regime as much as possible - with financial, military, and logistical support.
Batista's allies were the US government, the Mafia, and US business interests. "In a manner that antagonized the Cuban people, the U.S. government used its influence to advance the interests of and increase the profits of the private American companies, which "dominated the island's economy" "By the late 1950s, U.S. financial interests owned 90% of Cuban mines, 80% of its public utilities, 50% of its railways, 40% of its sugar production and 25% of its bank deposits—some $1 billion in total. According to historian Louis A. Pérez Jr., author of the book On Becoming Cuban, "Daily life had developed into a relentless degradation, with the complicity of political leaders and public officials who operated at the behest of American interests."
Batista's dictatorship murdered 20,000 Cubans in 7 years and turned Cuba into a police state with no regard for individual liberties.
John F Kennedy said in 1963 "I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime."
Those were JFK's words, but unfortunately he was guilty himself of meddling in Cuban affairs, attempting a military invasion and takeover at the Bay of Pigs.
So America cares about restoring Cuban Democracy? That's what the sanctions are for?
It's completely implausible.
We are the country that imposed our economic will on Cuba by military strength from the Spanish War to the the Cuban Revolution; we are the country that supported a murderous dictator when it served our economic interests.
At every step we have shown that our policies towards Cuba are motivated entirely by financial self interest, NOT by altruism or by concern for human rights or liberties.
END the SANCTIONS.
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