The talks resulted from an agreement announced Dec. 17 by both U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, which accompanied the release of two U.S. agents held by Cuba and the return of the three remaining members of the Cuban Five to Cuba after 16 years in U.S. prisons.
At every critical moment for the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro has helped clarify what is at stake and helped guide the revolutionary masses in Cuba and their allies around the world.
In a widely publicized Jan. 26 letter, Castro underlined the importance of the Cuban Revolution’s example in a world of capitalist economic crisis where “chaos reigns in the distribution of financial resources and social production.”
He described Cuba’s key internationalist contribution in Angola, sending 425,000 volunteers over 16 years. They helped drive U.S.-backed South African forces out of Angola in 1988, opening the way to the overthrow of the white-supremacist apartheid system.
Castro stressed the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, recalling in the letter that he was “already influenced by Marx” when he entered the university.
Cuba survived “the Special Period in peace time, which has already lasted for more than 20 years, without raising the white flag, something we have never done, and will never do,” Castro said, referring to the hardships Cuba has endured since the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the opening of the 1990s abruptly ended the big majority of Cuba’s foreign trade.
“I do not trust the policy of the United States,” Castro said, adding he backed the Cuban government’s stance in the negotiations. “This does not in any way signify a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or threats of war.”
‘Defense of our national sovereignty’
“Cuba and the United States must learn the art of civilized coexistence,” Raúl Castro said two days later in his address to the Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Costa Rica, thanking the governments and people of the member countries for support that helped lead the Obama administration to propose talks with Cuba. “It must not be supposed that, in order to achieve this, Cuba would renounce its ideals of independence and social justice, or abandon a single one of our principles, nor cede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty.”
“Could diplomatic relations be restored without resuming the financial services of the Cuban Interests Section and its Consular Office in Washington, denied as a consequence of the financial blockade?” he said, ticking off steps Washington must take before further progress can be made. “How can diplomatic relations be restored without removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism? What will be the future conduct of U.S. diplomats in Havana in regards to observing the diplomatic and consular norms?”
“The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process which can progress toward normalization of bilateral relations,” Castro said, “but this will not be possible as long as the blockade exists, or as long as the territory illegally occupied by the Guantánamo naval base is not returned, or radio and television broadcasts which violate international norms continue, or just compensation is not provided our people for the human and economic damage they have suffered.”
Cuban leaders welcome the discussions on reestablishing diplomatic relations. If pressure can be mobilized to end Washington’s embargo, it could alleviate conditions in Cuba. But, Castro said, the shift in tactics doesn’t mean Washington has changed its state policy against the Cuban Revolution.
‘U.S. changing methods, not policy’
“No one should dream that the new policy announced means acceptance of the existence of a socialist revolution 90 miles from Florida,” he said. “U.S. government spokespeople have been very clear in specifying that they are now changing their methods but not their policy objectives, and insist on continuing to intervene in our internal affairs, which we are not going to accept.
“Our U.S. counterparts should not plan on developing relations with Cuban society as if there were no sovereign government,” he continued to applause.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who represented Washington in the talks in Havana, and other U.S. officials speak of establishing contact with what they call “civil society” in Cuba. After the talks, she met with representatives of the so-called dissident movement. This is one way they attempt to intervene in class relations in Cuba, with the aim of strengthening pro-capitalist layers and generating support for a “democratic” counterrevolution against worker-farmer rule in Cuba.
“They want so-called civil society to be present at the Summit of the Americas in Panama,” Raúl Castro told CELAC, referring to the gathering that will be sponsored by the Organization of American States in April. “Of course Cuban civil society will attend.”
“I hope to be able to see in Panama the popular movements and non-governmental organizations which advocate for nuclear disarmament, for the environment, against neoliberalism, the Occupy Wall Street and the indignados [indignant ones] of this region,” Castro said, “students, farmers, trade unions, communities of original peoples, organizations which oppose the contamination caused by fracking, those defending the rights of immigrants and denouncing torture and extrajudicial executions, police brutality, racist practices, those who demand equal pay for women for equal work.”
“We know that ending the blockade will be a long, difficult process, which will require the support, the mobilization and resolute action of all persons of good will in the United States and the world,” Castro concluded.
The Cuban president also described the contradiction between the economic potential of Latin America and the Caribbean and the exploitation and oppression the toilers face under crisis-wracked capitalism.
“Together, we are the third-largest economy in the world,” he said. “But the Latin American and Caribbean region remains the most unequal on the planet. On the average, 20 percent of households with the lowest incomes receive 5 percent of total income.”
Castro extended solidarity to anti-imperialist struggles throughout the region and the world, condemning “the unacceptable and unjustified unilateral sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
“We join the Argentine Republic in its claim to the Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas,” he said, referring to the colonies of the United Kingdom off the coast of Argentina.
“The Community will be incomplete as long as Puerto Rico is absent. Its colonial situation is unacceptable,” Castro said.
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