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Vol. 81/No. 25      July 10, 2017

(feature article)

Havana: ‘We will make no concessions on sovereignty’

“None of these U.S. presidents could overthrow the invincible Cuban Revolution,” read the words on a poster from Cuba’s Tricontinental magazine with pictures of the 12 presidents who have been in office since the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959. Underneath the picture of President Donald Trump it says, “Nor will you.”

The poster captures the calm but firm response across Cuba to President Trump’s reversal of a few of the measures taken by then President Barack Obama after Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015.

Trump announced the shift to great fanfare in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood June 16. Flanked by veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, he saluted some of the most notorious henchmen of overthrown Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and claimed he was taking the measures to back the fight for human rights on the island.

In a press conference in Vienna, where he was on a diplomatic visit, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez denounced the steps back. “The United States has no moral authority, it cannot give lectures on human rights or on democracy,” he said, pointing to widespread police brutality, lack of adequate health care, low rates of unionization, deportations of immigrant workers, and torture of prisoners held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba.

Washington’s measures are also an attack on the rights of U.S. citizens to travel, Rodríguez said. He noted that during the presidential election campaign, Trump said he supported the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and other changes in U.S. policy but that he would seek a “better deal with our country.”

“A better deal would mean lifting the blockade, returning the territory of the Guantánamo Naval Base, accepting the concept of mutual compensation that would greatly benefit certified U.S. property owners, due to the nationalizations of the 1960s,” Rodríguez said.

President Trump had announced he was ending individual people-to-people travel to Cuba. Other travel, including group travel, will not be affected. In addition, he said that U.S. companies would no longer be allowed to have any economic dealings with companies that are run by the Cuban military.

None of the measures will take effect until the Treasury Department issues new regulations, which could take months, according to a White House fact sheet. And White House officials told Reuters that already concluded deals such as Marriott-owned Starwood Hotels’ joint venture with a Havana hotel would be left alone.

Trump also vacated Obama’s Oct. 14, 2016, directive “United States-Cuba Normalization.” A statement by the government of Cuba noted that “although it did not attempt to hide the interventionist character of U.S. policy or the objective of advancing its interest in changes in our country’s economic, political and social order, the [Obama] directive recognized Cuban’s independence, sovereignty and self-determination, and the Cuban government as a legitimate, equal interlocutor. … It also recognized that the blockade was an obsolete policy that should be eliminated.”

Washington’s economic war against the Cuban Revolution began in 1960 and has been maintained by every U.S. president, Democrat and Republican alike, ever since.

Despite all of Trump’s hype about “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” the changes leave most of the last two years’ agreements in place. Among the measures not affected are: the lifting of many restrictions on group travel to the island; ending the U.S. government’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which had encouraged Cubans to head to the U.S. in rickety rafts instead of getting visas; and allowing a little more trade with Cuba, while keeping the draconian embargo in place and continuing to fund programs aimed at undermining the revolution.

The Miami Herald noted in a June 16 editorial that it had backed Obama’s “thaw” and still does. At the same time the paper said that “Trump is right to recalibrate this policy without jettisoning it wholesale” because Washington has made “most of the concessions” and Cuban President Raúl Castro has given very little in return.

A number of mass organizations in Cuba have spoken out against Washington’s continuing attacks on Cuban sovereignty. A statement by the Union of Young Communists (UJC), pointed out that “when U.S. President Eisenhower approved, in 1960, a program of covert action against Cuba with the clear goal of destroying the revolution, none of us had been born.”

Although Cuban youth today did not live through the early days of the revolution, “we have learned from history,” the UJC said. “The empire might have changed its personalities and vintage, but its essence remains the same.”

Cuba’s National Association of Small Farmers said, “For campesino families, the work of the Cuban Revolution has meant the development of an Agrarian Program that dignified our countryside, granted ownership of land to its true owners, brought the advances of science and technology to agriculture, granted credits to finance production, a stable market for products, ensured the right to education, health, sports, access to cultures and most importantly, it gave us independence and dignity.”

Foreign Minister Rodríguez said Cuba’s revolutionary government reasserts its “willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation in areas of mutual interest” with the U.S. government, but will not “make concessions which compromise our independence or sovereignty.”
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