What will never be forgotten


Yesterday, Sunday October 12, in the morning, the Internet Sunday edition of The New York Times –a newspaper that, under certain circumstances, has set the guidelines on the political course of action that is most convenient to the interest of its country- published an article entitled “Time to End the Embargo on Cuba” including opinions about what, in its view, the country should do.

There are moments in which such articles are signed by some prestigious journalist, as the one I had the privilege of meeting personally during the early days of our struggle in the Sierra Maestra, when we were fighting with what was left from a troop that had been almost completely annihilated by the Batista’s air force and army.  Back then we were all quite inexperienced; we had not even considered that the fact of creating such an impression of strength in the press could be something that might deserve some criticism.

This was not the way that Herbert Matthews, the courageous war correspondent whose story made him a person of renown during the hard times of the struggle against fascism, thought.

Our alleged ability to struggle in February of 1957 was a bit lower, but more than enough to weaken and defeat the regime.

Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, a leader of the People’s Socialist Party, was a witness to what I said after the battle of Jigüe –in which an entire elite military unit was forced to capitulate after 10 days of combat- when I expressed I was afraid that the regime forces were to surrender in July of 1958, at a moment when its elite troops were desperately beating a retreat from Sierra Maestra, despite their being trained and advised by our neighbors to the North.  We had managed to figure out the appropriate way to defeat them.

I found it unavoidable to elaborate on this issue if I wished to explain the spirit with which I read the aforementioned article published by that American newspaper on Sunday last.  Next I will quote some essential excerpts of it:

“…President Obama must have a sinking feeling as he contemplates the dismal state of the bilateral relationships his administration has sought to turn around. He would be smart to take a hard look at Cuba, where a major policy shift could yield a significant success for his government.

“For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting public opinion in the United States and a series of reforms in Cuba make it politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo. The Castro regime has long blamed the embargo for its shortcomings, and has kept its people largely cut off from the rest of the world. Obama should seize this opportunity to end a long era of enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously since Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro assumed power.

“… a devastated economy has forced Cuba to make reforms— a process that has gained urgency with the financial crisis in Venezuela, which gives Cuba heavily subsidized oil. Officials in Havana, fearing that Venezuela could cut its aid, have taken significant steps to liberalize and diversify the island’s tightly controlled economy.”

 “…the Cuban government has begun allowing citizens to take private-sector jobs and sell properties such as cars and houses. In March, Cuba’s National Assembly passed a law to encourage foreign investment in the country. (…) In April, Cuban diplomats began negotiating a cooperation agreement hey hope to sign with the European Union. They have shown up at the initial meetings prepared, eager and mindful that the Europeans will insist on greater reforms and freedoms.

“The authoritarian government still harasses dissidents, who are frequently detained for short periods of time. Havana has yet to explain the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the political activist Oswaldo Payá.”

As can be seen, this is a slanderous and unwarranted accusation.

“Travel restrictions for Cubans were relaxed last year, enabling prominent dissidents to travel abroad. There is slightly more tolerance for criticism of the leadership, though many still fear the consequences of speaking openly and demanding greater rights.

“The pace of reforms has been slow and there has been backsliding. Still, these changes show Cuba is positioning itself for a post-embargo era. The government has said it would welcome renewed diplomatic relations with the United States without preconditions.

“As a first step, the White House should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organizations.  At present the only nations in the list besides Cuba are Sudan, Iran and Syria. Cuba was put on the list in 1982 for backing rebel movements in Latin America, although such links no longer exist. The US Government recognizes that Havana is playing a constructive role in Colombia’s peace process by hosting peace talks between the government and guerrilla leaders.

“Starting in 1961, Washington has imposed sanctions in an effort to oust the Castro regime. Over the decades, it became clear to many American leaders that the embargo has been a failure. But any initiative to end the embargo has angered Cuban-American voters, a constituency that has had an outsize role in national elections. (…) the generation of Cubans that adamantly supports the embargo is dying off. Younger Cuban-Americans hold starkly different views; many have come to see that the embargo has failed to bring about a political change. A recent poll found that 52 per cent of Cuban-Americans in Miami feel that the embargo should come to an end. A significant majority of them favor restoring diplomatic ties, mirroring the views of American voters in general.

“Cuba and the United States have diplomatic missions in their respective capitals called interests sections, which operate much like embassies. However, American diplomats have few opportunities to travel outside the capital to engage with the Cuban people, and their access to the Cuban government is very limited.

“The Obama administration in 2009 took important steps to ease the embargo, making it easier for Cubans in the United States to send remittances to relatives in Cuba and authorizing more Cuban-Americans to travel there. He also designed plans to expand Internet access and cell phone coverage on the island.  But there is much more the White House could do on its own. For instance, it could lift caps on remittances, allow Americans to finance the new private Cuban businesses and expand opportunities for US citizens to travel to the island.

“Washington could do more to help American companies that are interested in developing the island’s telecommunications network.  Very few have dared to do so out of fear of possible legal and political consequences.

“Failing to engage with Cuba now will likely cede this market to competitors. The presidents of China and Russia traveled to Cuba in separate visits in July and both leaders pledged to expand ties.

“Relations could be significantly deepened and expanded, thus giving Washington new tools to support democratic reforms. The US would find it feasible to help preventing a new wave of migration to the United States by hopeless Cubans on board of rafts.

“Closer ties could also bring a breakthrough on the case of an American development contractor, Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned by Cuba for nearly five years. More broadly, it would create new opportunities to empower the civil society, gradually eroding the government’s ability to control the lives of Cubans. While the White House could take certain steps unilaterally, fully dismantling the embargo will require a legislative action in Washington.”

“…several leaders of this hemisphere will meet in Panama City for the seventh Summit of the Americas. Several Latin American governments insisted that Cuba be invited, thus breaking with its traditional exclusion at the insistence of Washington.

“Given the many crises around the world, the White House may consider that a major shift in its Cuba policy is not a priority. Yet, engaging with Cuba, the Caribbean’s most populous island, and starting to unlock the potential of the citizens of one of the most educated societies in the hemisphere, could end up being an important legacy for the US administration. It would also help improve Washington’s relationships with governments in Latin America and promote regional initiatives that have suffered as a consequence of the antagonism between Washington and Havana.”

“…following the invitation conveyed to Cuba to attend the Summit, the White House has not confirmed whether Obama will attend.

“He must. It would be important for him to attend and see it as an opportunity to make history.”

One of the most educated societies in the hemisphere!!! That is some recognition.  But, why doesn’t it say, once and for all, that our education is in no way similar to the one we inherited from Harry S. Truman, when his ally, the biggest plunderer of Cuba’s public treasury, Fulgencio Batista, orchestrated a coup d’etat on March 10, 1952, only fifty days before the general elections. That is something that will never be forgotten.

As can be seen, the article has been skillfully written, always looking for the biggest gains for the US policy in the midst of a complex situation, at a time when the political, economic, financial and commercial problems are spiking.  Added to these are the problems resulting from the accelerated climate change; the commercial rivalry; the speed, accuracy and destructive power of weapons that threaten the survival of humanity.  What has been written today has a completely different connotation as compared to what was published only forty years ago when our planet was forced to provide shelter, food and water to a number of persons equivalent to half of the current world’s population –not to mention the combat against the Ebola virus, which is threatening the health of millions of persons.

In addition to all that, within a few days the international community gathered at the United Nations will state whether or not it agrees with the blockade against Cuba.


Fidel Castro Ruz

October 13, 2014

8:30 pm