Redefining Washington-Havana Relations

Fifty years of pressure, sanctions, and hundreds of plots to assassinate Fidel Castro have finally drawn to a close with Washington’s admission that its policy of pressuring Cuba has failed, and it is moving toward normalizing relations.

Fidel Alejandro Castro was born to Spanish immigrants [in Cuba] on Aug. 13, 1926. Fidel’s family was considered part of the landed farming class. He was educated in Cuba and matriculated at the University of Havana in 1945, obtaining a degree in law in 1950. As a young college student, Castro joined a university society working against political corruption. At the same time, he began working as a lawyer in a small law firm, but he had loftier aspirations.

Castro was looking to join the Cuban parliament, but the American-backed coup d’état by dictator Fulgencio Batista caused the parliamentary elections to be called off. Castro, who by then had become a guerrilla fighter, attacked a military base as the leader of an organized force, but 80 of his supporters were lost, and he himself was arrested.

Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but in May 1955, well before the completion of his sentence, he received a full pardon. In December 1956, he fled to the mountains with a group of armed fighters in order to launch a guerrilla campaign against the Cuban government.

With the increase in Castro’s popularity among the people, and many members of the armed forces joining the ranks of his supporters, Batista fled the country in January 1959. Castro assumed the presidency of his nation and converted the political system to a Communist order. Thus Cuba was the first Western nation to join the Communist camp.

He quickly turned into one of the bitterest enemies of the U.S. in Latin America. The U.S. government insulted and belittled the Cubans from the very beginning of Castro’s rule.

In April 1959, Castro made an official visit to the United States, but Eisenhower refused to meet with him on the grounds that he was “busy playing golf,” so Richard Nixon, his vice- president, met with Castro instead.

In 1960, Cuba began buying oil from the Soviet Union, and signed several agreements with the Russians. In April 1961, the operation known as the Bay of Pigs was undertaken by the CIA against Cuba in order to topple Castro’s regime, but the plan met with failure.

In its first response to the American attacks, Cuba gave the Soviet Union the green light to become more involved in Cuba’s defense, and it did not take long for Russian ballistic missiles to be installed in America’s backyard. According to Khrushchev, the president of the Soviet Union at the time, these missiles were to prevent further U.S. attempts at war against Cuba.

On Oct. 15, 1962, American spy planes discovered the Soviet missile sites on Cuban soil, and they realized that the threat of potential destruction lay in wait on the 90 miles of shared border between Cuba and the USA.

The Americans began a frantic search — now Castro’s Cuba was the decisive play in the game between these two countries, and at the same time, the means of resolving the many complicated international theaters of interaction between these two centers of power. The Soviets agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba on the condition that the U.S. agree not to invade Cuba and to take its ballistic missiles out of Turkey.

Despite all this, the agreement between the two powerhouses did not prevent the U.S. government and the CIA’s continued policy of hostility toward Cuba and Castro’s person. From that time until the present, America has levied sanctions on Cuba, using a variety of justifications.

Cuba’s official news website, ANSA, reported that the 85-year-old revolutionary leader of Cuba has survived 638 attempts on his life during his political career from 1959 to 2006, all of which were carried out by the CIA, and took place before Fidel entrusted power to his brother, Raul Castro, in 2006.

ANSA reported that many types of assassination attempts have been made on Fidel, including shootings, placing bombs in his shoes, poisoning his cigarettes, and even lacing his baseball with explosives.

Gen. Fabian Escalante, former head of the Cuban secret service, has written many books about the attempts to assassinate Fidel. He claims that the most harrowing and eventful time of Fidel’s life was in 1963.

As an example of these assassination attempts, Escalante writes that in March 1963, Fidel Castro ordered a drink at a coffee shop, and a waiter was planning to drop a plutonium pill in his drink. However, the waiter had hidden the pill in the freezer, causing it to freeze. Hence, the plot was unsuccessful.

Now U.S. President Barack Obama’s statements regarding a resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States have been interpreted by some observers as the end of the line for half a century of deadlock between Washington and Havana. The American president says that now is the time to pursue a new strategy with Cuba, since the policy of isolation has not worked.

Yet, even taking into account the U.S. admission that the pressure and sanctions on Cuba have not been successful, and that diplomatic ties must be restored, it is unclear whether this development will spell the end of American hostility toward the Cuban government and people; we must wait for further developments. Only time will tell.

On this point, a Russian newspaper has stated in its analysis of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba that America’s main motives are to make a play for Cuba’s oil, and to lay the groundwork for regime change. The headlines of international news agencies in the past few weeks have been full of controversial stories about Cuba, the USA, and the improvement of relations after many decades of mutual enmity. The news has been covered in such a way that you would think McDonald’s branches were about to start popping up all over Cuba, or that great waves of immigration were poised to flow between the two nations. But if we distance ourselves from the media frenzy, we can get back to some of the realities of the situation that form the basis of the Cuba-U.S. relationship.

After a phone call between the two presidents, Raul Castro, the Cuban president, reported historic developments in his country’s diplomatic relations. Barack Obama also spoke of a new chapter in Cuban-U.S. relations.

Despite this, the reality that lies behind the curtain of these statements is a history of inhumane American sanctions against Cuba, sanctions that have put the Cuban people in dire straits. The Russian newspaper Pravda has discussed this subject at length in a detailed report. One day after the U.S. president called Castro, Castro announced his country’s new position and its decision to normalize diplomatic relations with the USA. But, Castro emphasized that these ties did not mean a solution to the fundamental issue of oppressive economic sanctions against Cuba had been reached; rather, these sanctions need to be lifted.

There are several reasons why America chose to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba in particular. First, America has always been alone in the international community, and within the United Nations General Assembly, in terms of its policies against Cuba, and as such has been the target of serious criticisms from other nations.

Obama understands very well at this moment that he no longer enjoys the support of global public opinion. In the contemporary world, the U.S. has turned into an unpopular figure that interferes in the affairs of other countries with its 150 military bases abroad. America’s interference [in other nations’ affairs] mirrors Russia’s involvement in Crimea, actions that the U.S. has tried to condemn.

Second, by re-opening an embassy in Cuba, the U.S. can reinstate its nongovernmental organizations in the country, and by acts of subterfuge, prepare the ground for a color revolution or regime change. Additionally, Cuba has just recently discovered new oil deposits on its northern shores. These new-found oil stores could be one of the U.S. motivations to resume relations with Cuba.

Context of Recent Events

In its report, Pravda describes the history of American foreign policy in the last few decades as “evidence of the egregious disconnect between stated U.S. policy and that policy in practice.” It’s enough to reverse what American politicians say in order to arrive at the real policy behind the curtain.

As such, when Obama claims that America does not intend to continue its former approach to relations with Cuba, and wants to aid the Cuban people, he means that now that Cuba possesses vast oil reserves and that the economic sanctions have lost their effectiveness, the U.S. intends to lay the groundwork to topple the Cuban regime and install a Washington-friendly government by exploiting Cuba’s oil resources.

If America is genuine about its purported goals in Cuba, why didn’t it lift the sanctions against Cuba years ago? If America is interested in freedom and democracy, why did it support the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s elected government in Kiev? If America is really antiterrorism, why did it put the weapons of terrorism into the hands of the extremist group the Islamic State and support Syrian and Libyan terrorists?

At the end of its analysis of Cuba’s response to reconciliation with the USA, Pravda concludes that after 50 years under U.S. sanctions, Cuba will no longer need the U.S. because it has discovered oil deposits that will yield 5.4 to 5.9 billion barrels of oil.

Under these conditions, it will be the U.S. and its oil companies that have lagged behind their competitors in Russia and the other BRICS countries.

After more than five decades of animosity between the two nations, the announcement of normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba serves to highlight once again that sanctions have been an ineffective tool, and usually are.

Few are those in the media or in international relations who haven’t heard or read extensively about the ups and downs in the U.S. relationship with Cuba, a relationship that was cut off by the U.S. in the early 1960s. Following those events, the Cuban revolution turned the government into a Communist state, and Washington imposed economic sanctions against Havana. Because of the way the small island of Cuba is situated so close to the United States, the sanctions morphed into a kind of all-out economic blockade.

But during the years under sanction, Cuba stood firm and defiant in the face of widespread, multilateral sanctions, so that in the end, it was the Americans who had to capitulate and admit their sanctions had failed.

On Dec. 17, Barack Obama appeared before television cameras and announced a historic decision — the resumption of normal diplomatic relations between the two nations. Admitting the sanctions had been ineffective, Obama said, “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.”

Although the American president stated that the sanctions had been implemented with the aim of supporting human rights, he admitted that the policy had been a failure. He emphasized that he would request that Congress have an “honest and serious discussion” about lifting the unilateral sanctions on Cuba, which came into effect in 1961. Following this speech, while also announcing the normalization of relations, Cuba released American spy Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

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