Louis A. Pérez Jr., historian and professor from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the United States, is the author of a number of important books about Cuban national identity. He has published an interesting essay that delves into the meaning of the present links between Cuba and the United States. The title may confuse many about its content: Visit Cuba before it changes!
“There has been something of an implacable tenacity with which the United States has pursued change in Cuba, a single-minded resolve over the course of 55 years: one armed invasion, scores of assassination plots, years of covert operations, and decades of punitive economic sanctions. An embargo –“harsher than toward any other country in the world,” as Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson acknowledged in 2015– designed with malice aforethought: to inflict adversity upon the Cuban people, to deepen Cuban discontent through economic privation, in the hope that such hardship would act to bestir the Cuban people to rise up and, in one fell swoop, bring about the overthrow of the Cuban government.”
This is how Professor Perez summarizes the tragic history of aggression and humiliation endured by the Cuban people because of their firm decision to carry out their project of independence and socialist change.
When the Cuban revolution had barely begun (although it had already produced impressive and universally-applauded popular benefits such as land reform and literacy throughout its people), Washington declared that tourism to Cuba was contrary to the foreign policy and national interests of the United States. Travel to Cuba was thus forbidden by law for all US citizens as part of a cruel policy of hostility.
It is known –because surveys indicate is– that most US citizens wanted and still want friendly relations with Cuba despite the poison that the US mass media has been injecting for more than half a century.
Regrettably, not all Americans base their thinking on the fact that these policies violate basic principles of international law and basic norms of human coexistence. There are many people who only see the issue from the point of view of what befits the corporations that, as a result of many years of media manipulation, are considered the reason and symbol of the US nation.
The merit of the Obama administration has been in recognizing the failure of the policy pursued by their country for more than half a century. The United States had insisted on political change in Cuba as a precondition for the establishment of normal diplomatic relations.
Near the end of his term, Obama turned this policy on its head, proposed normal diplomatic relations as an initial step; revitalized the system of selective authorization for “people-to-people” travel; modified regulations; softened controls and relaxed restrictions in order to expand the categories of authorized travel to Cuba. He declared himself powerless against the blockade, but urged Congress to lift it.
“Through engagement we have a better chance of bringing about change than we would have otherwise,” said President Obama to justify the modification of his policy towards Cuba. “US presence in Cuba would serve to spread among the Cuban people the values of the United States.”
Cuba accepted the challenge posed by Washington’s “people-to-people” policy because, despite its stated intention that the visitors would promote “democracy” (the term Washington uses to mean the capitalist system) among Cubans, the Cubans took that purpose as an opportunity to show visitors that the defamatory campaign, that US corporate media have been waging at global scale against Cuba for more than half a century, was false.
The distance between the manipulations of the campaign and the truth is so great that from the first minute of contact with Cuban reality, US visitors –as a rule– are open to understanding the reasons that led to the historic popular achievement that is the Cuban revolution. At the same time, they see the senselessness of U.S. government’s policy of hostility against the small island nation.
Lies crashing against evidence eventually awakened a strong current of attraction to the Cuban revolution’s process of independence and social justice.
It seems that the new US policy against Cuba is to increase contacts with the Cuban people, support what Washington means by civil society in Cuba, and so to disrupt the interaction between Cubans and their local authorities. All this is based on obvious neo-liberal goals of dividing the people from the state and encouraging the development of a capitalist class on the island.
Cuba, meanwhile, will continue in its revolutionary determination to change what needs to be changed, seizing opportunities, but avoiding traps. Revolution is the mother of change!
*Manuel E. Yepe, is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
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