Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

Waiting for help
Waiting for help

The old fossil hate begins to change
By Gabriela Esquivada

NEW YORK — Granma, the official voice of the Cuban Communist Party,
printed several pictures of the moment when last Friday, February 28,
Fernando González stepped onto the tarmac of José Martí International
in Havana. He had been handcuffed during the flight; his
was filled with anxiety. He was also shown in an
old-fashioned VIP room — beige curtains, ornamented rug, heavy armchairs
— where grey-haired men in khakis greeted him as President Raúl Castro
hugged him and called him a hero: the second of the Cuban Five released
after serving his full sentence in the US for conspiracy and failure to
register as foreign a agent.
González Llort, René González (on parole since October, 2011; allowed to
go back to Cuba last year), Antonio Guerrero (estimated release:
September 2017), Ramón Labañino (estimated release: October 2024) and
Gerardo Hernández (two life terms plus 15 years) are considered heroes
in Cuba and have been at the centre of an international campaign for
their .
They were convicted in 2001 as part of the Wasp Network, a group of 10
people (the other five took plea bargains) sent by , still
in power, to spy on anti-Cuban militant groups in Florida. Cuba had been
the object of right-wing attacks — among them, a series of bombs in the
hotels of a newly revived industry, the main source of national
income after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In one of those attacks
an Italian citizen was killed. One of the Five, Hernández, was charged
with conspiracy to commit murder: he had infiltrated Brothers to the
Rescue before the Castro government shot down two of their planes,
allegedly over Cuban waters, killing four activists. He is expected to
spend the rest of his life in .
The trial of the Cuban Five was the longest in US history at that time
and, according to the defence, one of the most unfair; they had limited
access to the evidence and were denied a change of jurisdiction from
Miami to Fort Lauderdale, only 20 miles to the North. As a consequence,
the Jury felt the pressure of the strongly anti-Castrist media and the
extremist exiled. Five years later the UN Commission
declared that the trial had been “arbitrary,”because it “did not take
place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality which is
required.”Former US President Jimmy Carters aid in 2011, in one of his
friendly visits to Cuba: “In my private talks to President (George W.)
Bush and also with President (Barack) Obama, I have urged the release of
these prisoners.”
The Cuban Five case is a sample of the fossil relations between the US
and Cuba. Another one is the , in place for 54 years, which has
only caused suffering to the Cubans without even scratching the surface
of the Castro brothers control over the island — and maybe adding to it
by reinforcing the image of a David-and-Goliath battle.
Six statues enforce the embargo, from the Trading with the Enemy Act of
1917 to the famous Helms-Burton Act of 1996 which strengthened the ban
of business and listed requirements that Cuba should meet in order to
trade again. Nevertheless, the US is among the five largest exporters to
the island. Legal shortcuts allow the US to receive as much as
$457,318,357 in communist cash (Cuba cannot get credit) in exchange for
poultry, pork, corn, wheat and soybean oil, according to US-Cuba Trade
and Economic Council, Inc.
Even if US citizens cannot to Cuba without previous government
authorization, they do so through a third country, like Mexico or
Bahamas. The same goes for Cuban-American families who find a way to
avoid restrictions to visit or assist their loved ones on the island.
It is hardly a surprise, then, to know that 56 percent of US citizens
“from every region and across party lines support normalizing relations
with Cuba,” as a recent Atlantic Council pollproved. Over 2,000 people
were surveyed by Glen Bolger, a Republican, and Paul Maslin, a Democrat.
The supposedly stubborn Sunshine State showed a higher rate of support:
63 percent.
Democrat Charlie Crist, who wants to be Florida Governor for a second
time, is trying to change his hard-liner image and has announced his
support for ending sanctions against Cuba.“The embargo has been there —
what, 50 years now? I don’t think it worked. It is obvious to me that we
need to move forward and I think get the embargo taken away,” he said in
February on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Even sugar mogul and exile
leader Alfonso Fanjulsaid he would be “happy” to take back “the family
flag” to Cuba: “If there’s an arrangement within Cuba and the United
States, and legally it can be done and there’s a proper framework set up
and in place, then we will look at that possibility. We have an open
mind”, he said to The Washington Post.
Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Díaz-Balart,
and Senator Marco Rubio, were shocked.
But both Crist and Fanjul want simple things: one, to go back to office
with the promise of job creation for Floridians; the other, to expand
his business. They have paid attention to Raúl Castro’s measures to fuel
the private sector through foreign and the creation of local
entrepreneurship; also the change of unpopular migration policies which
now allow Cubans (at least those who can get the money to do so) to
travel abroad, and those who fled from poverty, to return.
US liberal press have also been taking note of those changes. “The
Evolution of Cuba,” was the title of a piece by Damien Cave in The New
York Times last Sunday; The Boston Globe run an editorial, “Cuba’s
reforms pave way for new US policy, too,” one year ago. The point is
also simple: if the neighbour does not step onto the island, China
certainly will.
Ever since Cuba’s Independence Wars, the love-hate bonds between the
country and the US have been deep and not only political. It is almost
natural that most of US nationals want to end the embargo and do
business with Cuba (62 percent), believe that it should not be in the
list of terrorist countries (52 percent, 61 percent in Florida), wish to
be able to travel without restrictions (61 and 67 percent) and favour
diplomatic coordination on issues of mutual concern (56 and 62 percent).
There are political prisoners in Cuba — among them Alan Gross, the US
Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor sentenced to
15 years for “acts against the territorial integrity of the state”;
there are three of the Five. There is a communist system evolving in an
unpredictable direction, lacking dissent or and
assisting growing opportunity along with economic inequality; there have
been US$17.5 million assigned for “Cuba democracy programs”out of USAID
budget every year (it seems that not in 2014, due to complaints over
mishandling) for Miami-based organizations. And there are new
generations of Cubans, both on the island and in the US, who have gone
hungry during the so-called Special Period, suffered family diaspora,
and lost the best years of their lives to Cold War leftovers. They want
change — and they’re not alone.
Harlot’s Ghost recounts the years of Bay of Pigs, the killing attempts
against Fidel Castro, the Missile Crisis and JFK’s assassination. The
three words that close Norman Mailer’s colossal worksound today as
unsettling as ever: “To be continued.”

Source: The old fossil hate begins to change – –

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