Ted, a friend, had a question about Cuba: “What about that hunger striker who died in prison there.”

He didn’t know Orlando Zapata was a criminal of the usual type, who had prolonged his jail time by defying rules. He was no political prisoner. His medical care included surgical removal of a brain tumor.

Ted didn’t know that Cuba’s enemies had mounted a vicious, worldwide media campaign encouraging the hunger strike, one that afterwards painted his death as a human rights violation. Nor did he know about 2,000 murder victims found late last year in a common grave in Colombia, killed and buried by the U.S. supported Colombian Army. In March someone assassinated labor activist Jhonny Hurtado, weeks after he showed the grave to a visiting British delegation. His was the seventh unionist murder since January.

Had the Cuban Army acted likewise, had a Cuban done the fingering, U.S. and European opinion shapers could have called upon massive reserves of venom.

Ted didn’t know that many so-called prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails were actually make-believe journalists, working for a handout. At their trials in 2003, video evidence showed almost 75 of them taking money and goods from U.S. officials in Havana.

He didn’t know that in 1996 the Helms Burton Law authorized U. S. funding of an internal Cuban opposition. Cuba responded by passing laws identifying foreign mercenaries as criminals. That’s what sovereign nations do.

He doesn’t know that U.S. government money still flows to Cuba, mostly by way of Miami. The amounts dispensed rose from $3.5 million in 2000 to $20-25 million annually in recent years. A recent State Department “Congressional Notification” suggests the intended purposes of money to be to be dispensed this year: http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/Library/resources/documents/Cuba/cuban-triangle/economicsupportfunds.pdf). In 2006, investigations showed a lot of the money getting stuck in Miami rather than being sent on to Cuba. CIA money headed for Cuba is not a matter of public record.

Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s lawyer in Washington, recently outlined where the money went this year. The rundown includes: $750,000 “to promote human rights,” $250,000 for prisoners’ families, $500,000 for prisoner liberation, $900,000 for artists, musicians, and bloggers via Freedom House, $500,000 to change Cuban labor policy, $500,000 towards religions practice by individuals, $2,000,000 for individual economic initiatives, $2,900,000 so the State Department can promote “free expression,” $2,500,000 so Creative Associates can widen change-oriented “social networks,” $400,000 so the Institute for Sustainable Communities can “identify the new leaders,” and $2,600,000 so Development Associates Inc can “widen the support network.”

Ted worries about the “Ladies in White.” Cuban police, he said, beat up wives and mothers of jailed Cuban prisoners demonstrating on their behalf. In fact, female police officers ushered them into vans and took them home, protecting them from young counter-demonstrators. And the Ladies too are on the take.

He didn’t know their benefactor is Santiago Álvarez in Miami, that in 2008 Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, served as courier. He didn’t know Santiago Álvarez sent arms to Cuba, masterminded bomb attacks, and plotted to kill former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Álvarez is paymaster and protector of Luis Posada, wanted in Venezuela for having a bomb exploded on a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people

He doesn’t know why hyperbolized media accusations on human rights offend Cuba, especially when as in late March they arrived coupled with photos of Posada joining a demonstration in Miami for the Ladies in White. Those accusations flourished earlier as five Cuban men were being railroaded to prison in Florida for defending their country against terrorism. They are the Cuban Five.

Advice to Cuba on the rights of prisoners and their family members has a hollow ring. . For over a decade, U.S. authorities have prevented two Cuban women, Adriana Pérez and Olga Salenueva, from visiting their husbands in U.S. jails, two of the Cuban Five.

U.S. pontification on human rights gains little mileage in Cuba. Repeatedly commentary there returns to U.S. coups and violent repression in Latin America, civilians victimized in U.S. wars with Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and terrible prisoner abuse recently.

For “a country blockaded, besieged and attacked by the United States,” vilification comes naturally, says Jose Pertierra, who explains, “Washington cannot tolerate the island being governed outside the scope of U.S. tutelage. It has been this way for more than fifty years.”

For “a country blockaded, besieged and attacked by the United States” vilification comes naturally, says Jose Pertierra, who explains: “Washington cannot tolerate the island being governed outside the scope of U.S. tutelage. It has been this way for more than fifty years”.



W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and now lives in rural Maine. He practiced and taught pediatrics for 35 years and long ago joined the Cuba solidarity movement, working with Let Cuba Live of Maine, Pastors for Peace, and the Venceremos Brigade. He writes on Latin America and health issues for the People's World.