Since the early days of the Cuban Revolution assorted
anti-communists and capitalist true-believers around the world have been
relentless in publicizing the failures, real and alleged, of life in Cuba; each
perceived shortcoming is attributed to the perceived shortcomings of socialism
-- it's simply a system that can't work, we are told, given the nature of human
beings, particularly in this modern, competitive, globalized, consumer-oriented
In response to many of these criticisms, defenders of Cuban
society have regularly pointed out how the numerous draconian sanctions imposed
by the United States since 1960 are largely responsible for most of the
problems pointed out by the critics. The critics, in turn, say that this is
just an excuse, one given by Cuban apologists for every failure of their
socialist system. It would be very difficult for the critics to prove their
point. The United States would have to drop all sanctions and then we'd have to
wait long enough for Cuban society to recover what it's lost and demonstrate
what its system can do when not under constant attack by the most powerful
nation in the world.
The sanctions (which Cuba
calls an economic blockade), designed to create discontent toward the
government, have been expanding under the Bush administration, both in number
and in vindictiveness. Washington has adopted sharper reprisals against those
who do business with Cuba or establish relations with the country based on
cultural or tourist exchanges; e.g., the US Treasury has frozen the accounts in
the United States of the Netherlands Caribbean Bank because it has an office in
Cuba, and banned US firms and individuals from having any dealings with the Dutch
The US Treasury Department fined the Alliance of Baptists
$34,000, charging that certain of its members and parishioners of other
churches had engaged in tourism during a visit to Cuba for religious purposes,
i.e., they had spent money there. (As George W. once said: "U.S. law
forbids Americans to travel to Cuba for pleasure.")
American courts and government agencies have helped US
companies expropriate the famous Cuban cigar brand name 'Cohiba' and the
well-known rum "Havana Club."
The Bush administration sent a note to American Internet
service providers telling them not to deal with six specified countries,
including Cuba. This is one of several actions by Washington over the years
to restrict Internet availability in Cuba; yet Cuba's critics claim that
problems with the Internet in Cuba are due to government suppression.
Cubans in the United States are limited to how much money
they can send to their families in Cuba, a limit that Washington imposes only
on Cubans and on no other nationals. Not even during the worst moments of the
Cold War was there a general limit to the amount of money that people in the US
could send to relatives living in the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.
In 1999, Cuba filed a suit against the United States for
$181.1 billion in compensation for economic losses and loss of life during the
first 40 years of this aggression. The suit held Washington responsible for the
death of 3,478 Cubans and the wounding and disabling of 2,099 others. In the
eight years since, these figures have, of course, all increased. The sanctions,
in numerous ways large and small, makes acquiring many kinds of products and
services from around the world much more difficult and expensive, often
impossible; frequently, they are things indispensable to Cuban medicine,
transportation or industry; or they mean that Americans and Cubans can't attend
professional conferences in each other's country.
The above is but a small sample of the excruciating pain
inflicted by the United States upon the body, soul and economy of the Cuban
For years American political leaders and media were fond of
labeling Cuba an "international pariah." We don't hear much of that
any more. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote at the United Nations on a
General Assembly resolution to end the US embargo against Cuba.
Cuba's sin, which the United States of America cannot
forgive, is to have created a society that can serve as a successful example of
an alternative to the capitalist model, and, moreover, to have done so under
the very nose of the United States. And despite all the hardships imposed on it
by Washington, Cuba has indeed inspired countless peoples and governments all
over the world.
Long-time writer about Cuba, Karen Lee Wald, has observed:
"The United States has more pens, pencils, candy, aspirin, etc., than most
Cubans have. They, on the other hand, have better access to health services,
education, sports, culture, childcare, services for the elderly, pride and
dignity than most of us have within reach."
In a 1996 address to the General Assembly, Cuban
Vice-President Carlos Lage stated: "Each day in the world 200 million
children sleep in the streets. Not one of them is Cuban."
On April 6, 1960, L.D. Mallory, a US State Department senior
official, wrote in an internal memorandum: "The majority of Cubans support
Castro . . . the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is
through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and
hardship. . . . every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken
the economic life of Cuba." Mallory proposed "a line of action that
makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease
monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow
of the government." Later that year, the Eisenhower administration
instituted the embargo.
Hugo the demon dictator strikes again
The latest evidence that Hugo Chavez is a dictator, we are
told, is that he's pushing for a constitutional amendment to remove term limits
from the presidency. It's the most contentious provision in his new reform
package, which has recently been approved by the Venezuelan congress and awaits
a public referendum on December 2. The lawmakers traveled nationwide to discuss
the proposals with community groups at more than 9,000 public events, rather
odd behavior for a dictatorship, as is another of the reforms -- setting a
maximum six-hour workday so workers would have sufficient time for
The American media and
the opposition in Venezuela make it sound as if Chavez is going to be
guaranteed office for as long as he wants. What they fail to emphasize, if they
mention it at all, is that there's nothing at all automatic about the process
-- Chavez will have to be elected each time. Neither are we enlightened that
it's not unusual for a nation to not have a term limit for its highest office.
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, if not all of Europe and much of the
rest of the world, do not have such a limit. The United States did not have a
term limit on the office of the president during the nation's first 175 years,
until the ratification of the 22nd Amendment in 1951. Were all American
presidents prior to that time dictators?
Is it of any significance, I wonder, that the two countries
of the Western Hemisphere whose governments the United States would most like
to overthrow -- Venezuela and Cuba -- have the greatest national obsession with
baseball outside of the United States?
 White House press release, October 10, 2003
2] Press release from the Cuban Mission to the United
Nations, October 17, 2007, re this and preceding three paragraphs.
 Department of State, "Foreign Relations of the
United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba" (1991), p.885
 Washington Post, October 31, 2007, p.12
is the author of "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since
World War 2," "Rogue State: A Guide to
the World's Only Superpower," "West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War
Memoir" and "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American