“Having a sovereign state that is negotiating the normalization of its relations with the United States demand compensation will help increase awareness of the debt that Washington owes to many countries for the many damages it has caused,” wrote columnist Mark Weisbrot, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, in an article published on October 13 in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It is also good that the Cubans are raising the issue of the return to Cuba of the territory occupied by the (GITMO) Naval Base the U.S. has illegally maintained for more than a century in Guantanamo in the Eastern part of the island, said Weisbrot.
President Obama initiated a historic change when he decided last December to begin normalizing relations with Cuba. It was an acknowledgment that more than half a century of trying to topple the Cuban government, through invasion, assassination attempts, economic embargo, and other –mostly illegal– efforts had failed.
It was also a concession to the majority of the governments in the hemisphere, which had informed Washington in 2012 that there would not be another Summit of the Americas without Cuba, because they would decline to participate.
However, the U.S. has not considered it necessary to change its objectives towards Cuba, as a number of statements from the U.S. government indicate that the goal of normalizing relations and expanding commerce with Cuba is still “regime change” …only by other means.
“But it is nonetheless a major step forward,” said Weisbrot. Washington had been isolated in the entire world on this issue of the blockade for decades, with repeated votes against the embargo at the U.N. general assembly. Last year’s tally was 188-2 with only Israel voting with the U.S.
Recently, the Cuban government reiterated its position that in order for relations to be normalized, the U.S. must not only end the blockade but pay compensation for the damage that it has caused to Cuba and its people over the past 54 years.
Cuban President Raúl Castro also reminded Washington that the illegal military base turned into prison that the U.S. maintains in Guantanamo Bay must be closed and the land returned to Cuba.
According to Weisbrot, “these are entirely reasonable requests from Cuba considering that, in the early 20th Century, the U.S. occupying power forced Cuba to accede to the military base as a sine qua condition for its “independence.”
“Furthermore,” said Weisbrot, “even if one ignores the how the lease originated, it was granted for a naval and coaling station –not a prison. So the U.S. is violating the terms of the lease, just as if someone rented a residential apartment and used it to sell illicit drugs.”
And GITMO is even more of an offense to Cubans, since it is an illegal prison that has become infamous for its torture and abuse of prisoners, the majority of whom have been cleared for release or have insufficient evidence against them to be prosecuted.
The Cuban demand for reparations is equally sensible. The 54-year blockade has caused tens of billions of dollars of damage in Cuba through shortages of food and medicine, infrastructure needs (including for clean water), foreign investment that was prevented, and other economic and health effects.
The damages are difficult to estimate but certainly many times larger than those claimed by U.S. businesses and individuals who lost property in Cuba in the years following the social revolution.
Weisbrot believes that Washington is unlikely to acknowledge that it owes reparations for its crimes against Cuba, partly because of fear that it would open the floodgates of demands from many nations where the U.S. government has contributed to mass slaughter and the destruction of their material riches.
Bill Clinton is apparently the only modern U.S. president who expressed regret for any of these crimes, apologizing to Guatemala for the U.S. role in the long genocide carried out by the military dictatorships that tyrannized the country the 1950s through the 1980s. But his statement was mostly ignored and quickly forgotten.
* Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and social scientist. He is an Associate Professor at the Raul Roa Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He served as Ambassador, Director General of the Prensa Latina News Agency, Vice President of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, founding National Director of UNDP’s Technological Information Pilot System (TIPS) in Cuba and Secretary of the Cuban Peace Movement
A CubaNews Translation
Edited by Walter Lippmann
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