A 2004 report of President Bush’s “Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba” called for escalating economic pressure on Cuba, funding internal opposition forces and developing mechanisms for privatizing the island’s enterprises in a post-socialist society. It also called for a high-level Washington appointee to take charge of Cuba’s would-be return to capitalism.

On July 28 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced Caleb McCarry as Washington’s new “Cuba transition coordinator.” His assignment is to “accelerate the demise” of Cuba’s revolutionary government.

No doubt alluding to the role of counter-revolutionary Cuban exiles in southern Florida, McCarry said, “It will be brave souls on the island itself and Cubans from around the world who will determine the future of a free Cuba. It is the responsibility of the civilized world to act to see that the Cuban family is reunited under political and economic freedom. … Viva Cuba libre.”

McCarry served eight years on the staff of the House Committee on International Relations. During that time he reportedly worked with congressional Republicans and the International Republican Institute to provide money and arms for paramilitary groups preparing to overthrow President Aristide of Haiti.

His appointment comes at a time when Cuba is facing new difficulties. The Bush administration has cut back the flow of remittances to families on the island. Blackouts are more common, as Cuba replaces obsolete electrical generating equipment. The summer has been extraordinarily hot, damage from Hurricane Dennis was extensive, and several unexplained epidemics have cropped up.

Despite recent wage increases, some families are experiencing food shortages.

Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said July 30 that the appointment of a “transition coordinator” is proof that the U.S. is going forward with efforts to “overthrow the revolution.”

The prospect of a high U.S. official on the ground in Cuba comes as no surprise to those with a historical bent. Early in the 20th century, several Cuban presidents had to answer to U.S. prefects, among them General Leonard Wood, Charles Magoon, General Enoch Crowder, and Sumner Welles.