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U.S. continues campaign against socialist Cuba

Published Jun 2, 2012 8:48 PM

Cuban President Raul Castro’s daughter heard nothing but applause on May 23 as she made her first public appearance in San Francisco.

Mariela Castro, the niece of retired President Fidel Castro, received a pair of standing ovations as she took part in a panel at San Francisco General Hospital on health care for transgender patients. The panel was part of a larger conference of the Latin America Studies Association.

Although her hour-long talk focused on medical issues, she nevertheless strongly condemned the U.S. embargo on Cuba and called its supporters in this country “a tiny mafia” who have “no scruples.”

Speaking through a translator, Castro said she had successfully worked within the Communist Party in Cuba to repudiate “all forms of discrimination in our society,” particularly bias against gays and transgender people.

As a member of the Communist Party and as the director for the National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex), Mariela Castro is one of the most prominent and outspoken gay rights activists on the island. Her work has been pivotal in the many reforms that have been enacted in favor of recognition and acceptance of LGBT human rights, and it has also resulted in pioneering legislation, including allowance for transgender individuals to receive gender reassignment surgery without charge (as a health care provision), and to change their legal gender.

“If we don’t change our patriarchal and homophobic culture that brings stigma,” Castro said, “we cannot advance to a new society. That is what we want — the power of emancipation through socialism.” ­(SFGate, May 24)

Right wingers all over the U.S. attacked Ms. Castro and condemned the Obama administration for granting her a visa. These critics failed to mention that that very same State Department had denied visas to 11 other scholars hoping to join the same conference. Some of those turned down were prominent Cubans who have been allowed U.S. visas in the past, including Rafael Hernández, the editor of the Cuban intellectual journal Temas, who has taught at both Harvard and Columbia universities.

The pretexts for the denials were that those denied were security risks and that their presence would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States,” (Washington Post, May 18) which seemed contradictory and baffling to some observers.

“It’s just bizarre,” said Joy Olson, executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America, an independent think tank. “I have trouble believing that all of these people who have been up here working at the most prestigious universities in the United States have gone from one day to the next to being a security threat.” (CTPost.com, May 18)

Yet, one of those who was, in fact, granted a visa was Eusebio Leal, a historian who has spearheaded the renovation of Old Havana and sits on the Communist Party Central Committee. He spoke at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.

Rafael Hernández attributed the seeming contradictions to politics: “They have denied visas to several of us who frequently travel to the United States,” Hernandez said. “That is the cost, I suppose, that they are paying to bring in the rest. They have to throw a piece of meat to [Cuban American right-wing politicians] … because they gave a visa to Mariela and Eusebio.” ­(ctpost.com, May 18)

A policy of terrorism against socialism

The above should be seen in the context of the long-term, unremitting hostility of the U.S. towards Cuba and its socialist system ever since 1959. Whether Washington uses war and terrorism, trade, or cultural exchanges, the U.S. goal remains ending socialism in Cuba. Even some who oppose the U.S. blockade of Cuba say they want to “open up” Cuba to better overturn the socialist government.

President Barack Obama has emphasized his “people to people” and cultural exchanges, saying it is a cornerstone of his Cuba policy. While it is true that such cultural exchanges have increased during Obama’s administration, the illegal U.S. blockade of Cuba has remained firmly in place, and four of the Cuban Five remain in jail, finishing their 14th year of tortuously long sentences including double-life for Gerardo Hernandez. Although the fifth man, Rene Gonzalez, was released from prison on Oct. 7, he is forced to remain against his will in the U.S. — in Miami where his life is endangered — for three years supervised release.

Shortly after President Obama took office, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla observed that “the economic, commercial and financial blockade has been interposed between us and remains intact. There has been no change in the policy of the United States on Cuba.” (Cuban Foreign Ministry website, 2009)

Meanwhile, terrorist activities continue against Cuba.

At 3 a.m. on April 27, a Coral Gables travel agency exploded into flames. Police dogs detected accelerant inside the burnt-out building, and the agency’s owner said she suspected it was firebombed in retaliation for booking flights to Cuba.

“It’s not that it’s burned. It’s pulverized,” Airline Broker owner Vivian Mannerud told Channel 10. “All I know is that I have never seen a fire pulverize things. I’ve seen it in pictures of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.” (Miami New Times, April 27)

A billboard in Little Havana advertising a video that defends the Cuban Five was taken down just hours after it went up, amid anonymous phone calls threatening to attack a restaurant beneath the sign.

Radio Miami commentator Max Lesnick, who regularly demands the release of the five anti-terrorist Cubans, said the Alianza Martiana paid for the advertisement. Lesnick is also one of the leaders of the Alianza.

The ad went up on a billboard on the roof of a restaurant on the corner of 1st Street and 17th Avenue SW around noon Wednesday and was already down by about 7 p.m., Lesnick said.

Restaurant owner Liliana Vásquez said she received several anonymous phone threats, including one saying, “We’re going to destroy your place.” (Miami Herald, May 27)

There are some who maintain that terrorist acts against Cuba are solely the work of right-wing Cuban exiles. But the U.S. has had an active policy of terrorism and murder against the Cuban people going back five decades.

Stephen Kimber, an award-winning Canadian professor of journalism, says that the Cuban Five were arrested only after they discovered a boat-bomb anchored in Miami, part of a plot against Cuba, and after the FBI found out that the Cubans had this information. (Sting of the Wasp, April 23) It is just as unbelievable that the U.S. knew nothing of the many terrorist acts against Cuba over the years, as it is that prominent Cuban scholars are a security risk.

Cuban Foreign Minister Rodríguez Parrila said before the United Nations :

“In Cuba, children ask how it is possible that in this country [i.e., the U.S.], terrorists walk the streets and anti-terrorists are jailed. The five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters have suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions for simply trying to prevent terrorist acts. They must be freed, including the one who is currently on supervised release and is being prevented from rejoining his family. It would be an act of justice and if that is not to be, at least, a humanitarian act.

“Only in a country like the United States, could the chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs … lead a tribute to international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for the in-flight downing of a civilian aircraft and, only here, could a group of children, from a theater company visiting the United States, be called terrorists and spies.

“The political battle which took place here today validates what our Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz wrote … in an article entitled, ‘NATO’s Genocidal Role’: ‘The necessity of ending not only the blockade, but the system which engenders injustice on our planet, squanders its natural resources and is placing human survival at risk.’” (Cuba MinRex, Oct. 25)