The Bush administration has released a 450-page report by its Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The report outlines steps the U.S. government is taking to bring down the Cuban government. They seek to isolate Cuba, promote internal opposition, and make people there suffer, presumably to “soften them up.”
The report is arrogant, clueless, and belittling of our intelligence. It calls for launching a nationwide childhood vaccination program in Cuba, once the revolutionary government is gone. But 99 percent of Cuba’s children today receive both polio and “DPT” immunizations. Talk of a U.S. takeover team upgrading public health in Cuba is, of course, ludicrous. Health statistics in Cuba are tops among the world’s poor countries and rival those of the United States, where 44 million people have no health insurance.
The White House report offers “support for pro-democracy efforts for Cuban young people and men and women of African origin,” as if the U.S. were free of racism, as if the Cuban revolution had not dedicated itself to hope for children and equal rights for Cuba’s Afro-Cuban majority.
The Bush administration plans to spend $59 million over the next two years to weaken Cuba’s government. The verbiage is of building “civil society,” or “supporting pro-democracy efforts,” or planning for “transition.” Are we incapable of connecting the dots showing that most of the money will go to pay for individual Cubans to subvert their own government? Last year U.S. leaders denounced as preposterous the charge that 75 jailed so-called dissidents were foreign agents, despite videos played at their trials showing money and equipment changing hands. We wonder what happened with the $24 million set aside every year under the Helms Burton law to support an internal political opposition? Where might that have gone?
Then there’s a plan to fly an airplane over international waters around the island to block Cuba’s interference with U.S. radio and television propaganda. This epitomizes U.S. bullying worldwide. The annual cost will be $18 million.
And our leaders’ tactical finesse must be slipping. New regulations on family visiting and financial support are likely to alienate some of their Cuban American friends. Aunts and cousins no longer make the grade as close enough family to visit relatives in Cuba. Visits are reduced from one a year to one every third year, for which special permission is required. And the amount of money visitors can spend in Cuba is cut.
Many Cuban Americans already have reservations about U.S. Cuban policy, and regulations seen as anti-family may aggravate their disenchantment. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Cuban Americans feel that politicians mislead them about their positions on Cuba to gain votes. In this same poll, 55 percent said they would support candidates who favor an overhaul of U.S. Cuban policy.
The report reads as if the Cubans’ devotion to national independence were a fiction. But even prominent dissidents reject U.S. meddling. Oswaldo Paya, the Varela Project leader, stated, “It is not appropriate or acceptable for any forces outside Cuba to try to design the Cuban transition process.” And Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, jailed for over 20 years for anti-government conspiracies, said, “This is a total interference that does not benefit the building of democracy in Cuba.”
Currently, each Cuban living in the U.S. may send $300 every three months to a household in Cuba. Dollars from relatives enable Cuban families to contend with shortages. The dollars make their way into the national economy where they are used for the purchase of foreign goods. President Bush is expected to use May 20, the inauguration date in 1902 of the Cuban Republic, to announce a significant cut in allowable remittances.
The Cuban people have long memories. They are making comparisons between the suffering expected to flow from the Bush policies and the death and disorder caused by Spain’s Gen. Weyler in 1896 when he forced Cuban peasants off the land into camps and cities to wean support away from independence forces. Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, notes: “Our people can draw their own conclusions. … This is the plan for Cuba’s annexation and the return to the fake republic of the Platt Amendment [which essentially annexed Cuba to the U.S.]. … Cuba will never return to the horrible, merciless and inhumane condition of a U.S. colony.”
W. T. Whitney Jr. is a pediatrician in rural Maine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.