On Oct. 10, 2003, George W. Bush gave a Rose Garden rundown of a hard-line position on Cuba made even harder. It’s election time, and the prevailing wisdom is that the president is currying favor with right-wing Cubans in Miami so that, if need be, Florida can once again be used to select a president.
While many right-wing Cuban Americans in Florida have indeed advocated a “tougher” attitude toward socialist Cuba, and while these same elements are by no means blameless in the dirty deeds department, it’s the U.S. government itself that has been the driving force to bring down the Cuban revolution.
Yes, the top dogs in Washington do tend to look the other way when the Miami bunch misbehaves – terrorism out of Florida being the prime example. Such thuggish behavior by ultra-right Cuban Americans serves as a useful sideshow to divert attention away from the real nerve center of the U.S. assault on Cuba, which is located along the shores of the Potomac.
Tough guys in Miami take the heat, and Washington has a cover. Were this not the case, the image of the world’s only superpower beating up on a tiny, once-dependent island with the gloves off would come across as a bit unseemly, a little out of control. The U.S. attack on Cuba is far more usefully perceived as a matter of intra-Cuban “domestic” politics than as a matter of official government policy.
The Cuban revolution’s ideals, achievements, and survival are an enormous embarrassment to the United States, a money-obsessed superpower. Thus, from the very beginning of the revolution, Washington’s political operators and corporate chieftains have never been inclined to leave the important work of “regime change” in Cuba to chance.
Suffice it to set forth a couple of images of what Cuba represents to the poor people of the world, and then speculate on how the revolution’s stature and drawing power has weighed on the imaginations of political leaders in the United States. For them, Cuba’s achievements are a recurring nightmare.
Cuba has long set a positive example of social development and justice to other peoples of the world, including people in the United States.
Historian Avi Chomski describes how putting economic and social justice into practice poses a threat to ruling circles in the United States: “The U.S. travel ban and the distorted portrayal of Cuba in both popular and scholarly media ensure that the majority of North Americans do not learn that a poor, Third World country, gripped by economic crisis, and under constant attack from the most powerful nation in the world, is still able to achieve health standards higher than those in the capital of that powerful nation, Washington, D.C.”
Socialist Cuba’s existence also means there is unfinished, anti-communist business left to do.
Oxford historian Robert Young notes Cuba’s starring role on the world stage, a role that, of course, continues to infuriate Washington and Wall Street: “The active business of developing Marx’s legacy in the past fifty years (took place) in the course of the anti-colonial struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. … Against huge odds Cuba has survived, with its sovereignty intact and its dignity ever increasing. Its survival into the 21st century marks it out as one of Marx’s great legacies, as a nation that continues to function as an example of a state dedicated to values of humanity to which ordinary people aspire. Cuba … has survived as a phenomenon that increasingly … stands for the most significant alternative to the globalized culture of Anglo-America, namely Hispanic America, the America of Jose Marti. (Cuba is) a living socialist society that is confident, energetic, and youthful.”
Cuban-American right-wingers in Miami will continue their hostilities toward Cuba. But make no mistake: the power behind them lies in Washington.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a pediatrician in rural Maine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.