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      Why the US-Cuba Deal Really Is a Victory for the Cuban Revolution

      No one in the mainstream media will acknowledge it, but the normalization of American relations with Havana, symbolized by release of prisoners today, is a huge success for the Cuban Revolution.

      The hostile US policy, euphemistically known as “regime change,” has been thwarted. The Cuban Communist Party is confidently in power. The Castros have navigated through all the challenges of the years. In Latin America and the United Nations, Cuba is accepted, and the United States is isolated.  

      It is quite legitimate for American progressives to criticize various flaws and failures of the Cuban Revolution. But the media and the right are overflowing with such commentary. Only the left can recall, narrate and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.

      For those actually supportive of participatory democracy in Cuba, as opposed to those who support regime change by secret programs, the way to greater openness on the island lies in a relaxation of the external threat.

      Despite the US embargo and relentless US subversion, Cuba remains in the upper tier of the United Nations Human Development Index because of its educational and health care achievements. Cuba even leads the international community in the dispatch of medical workers to fight Ebola. Cuba is celebrated globally because of its military contribution to the defeat of colonialism and apartheid in Angola and southern Africa. Now a new generation of Cuban leaders who fought in Angola is coming to power in the Havana and its diplomatic corps. For example, Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Cuba’s representative to the United Nations, today walks on an artificial limb as a result of his combat in Angola.

      When few thought it possible, Cuba has achieved the return of all five prisoners held for spying on right-wing Cubans who trained at Florida bases and flew harassment missions through Cuban air space. The last three to be released served hard time in American prisons, and are being welcomed as triumphant heroes on the streets of Havana. Three of the Cuban Five served in Angola as well.

      Tens of thousands of Americans, from the veterans of the cane-cutting Venceremos Brigades to the steady flow of tourists insisting on their right to travel, deserve credit for steady years of educational and solidarity work and for pushing a hardy Congressional bloc towards normalization.

      President Obama has kept his word, despite relentless skepticism from both the left and the mainstream media. He is confounding the mainstream assumption that the Cuban Right has a permanent lock on American foreign policy, especially after the Republican sweep in the November elections.

      In this case, Obama’s extreme emphasis on diplomatic secrecy worked to his advantage. For over a year, leaders in both countries have conducted regular private debates and consultations, which resulted in the detailed normalization plan released in both capitals today. No one was more important on the American congressional team than Senator Patrick Leahy. Their tight discipline held until the final moment.

      It is known that the private US-Cuba conversations about Alan Gross and the Cuban Five were the most difficult. The US has never acknowledged that Gross was a de facto spy of a certain type, having traveled five times to Havana to secretly distribute advanced communications technology to persons in Havana's small Jewish community before he was arrested in 2009. Also problematic for American officials immersed in decades of Cold War thinking was the task of wrapping their minds around the idea that the Cuban Five were political prisoners and not terrorist threats.

      Finally, when both sides had achieved an internal consensus, the project was derailed by the furious Republican-led blowback against Obama’s trade of five Taliban captives for captured American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in May 2014. Then the November elections interfered with, and threatened to indefinitely delay, the normalization announcement further. Chanukah was the last date for an announcement before the installation of the new US Congress.

      Because of the anti-Cuban slant of mainstream thinking, the media will make much of the anger of the Cuban Right exemplified by Senator Mario Rubio. But while it’s too early to know, it’s hard to imagine his presidential ambitions being enhanced by arguing in 2016 that Obama should have tried to overthrow the Castros. Senator Bob Menendez has been a leading Democrat trying to block the Obama initiative from his chairing position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Most Democrats will be delighted to see Menendez, who represents Cuban exiles in Union City, diminished in the Senate.

      Going forward, the US will remove Cuba from the “state terrorism” listing, which will ease the possibility of funding from the international financial system. For American citizens, permission to travel to Cuba will be significantly widened. Business and trade possibilities will increase. Starting with the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama, the American and Cuban delegations will sit at the same table. The so-called interest sections will be upgraded to formal embassies. The embargo is going to be hollowed out from within, with American tourist and investment dollars permitted to flow. With or without Congressional action to lift the 1996 Helms-Burton act, the embargo is being dissolved. Over 400,000 Cuban-Americans traveled to Cuba last year alone.  

      And here's a prediction: if the president has his wish, the Obama family will be seen on the streets of Havana before his term is up.


      Editor's Note: "Two Old Guys Talking" is the introduction to Tom Hayden's forthcoming book, Listen, Yankee!, Why Cuba Matters, to be published next year by Seven Stories Press. The piece was finalized last month. The "two old guys" are the author, now 75, who first visited Cuba in 1968, and Ricardo Alarcon, now 77, former president of the Cuban National Assembly, foreign minister, and UN representative.

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      Reader Comments (5)

      There were many in the West who wanted an embargo of East Germany during the cold war. Willy Brandt masterminded a political approach of "Wandel durch Handel", meaning change through trade. The peaceful revolution in East Germany 25 years ago was the result of this approach. Embargo politics seldom work as well as communication and reconcilliation through fair trade.

      December 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Steltzer

      Hey Tom, good for you! I will look forward to your upcoming book. I hope it will be on "Talking Books" as it is so much easier (with my failing eyesight) to "read" books this way.
      You probably don't remember , but "once upon a time" when you were still in the Legislature, we brought you to the Sacramento Unitarian Universalist Society to speak. I introduced you.
      I was in Cuba in 1994--went with Global Exchange. Have been saying good things about it ever since.
      Next year (if I am still able--now 89--I hope to go to the Hague to celebrate 100 Years of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Come Join Us! Men are welcome to be members. My son-in-law is proof! All best. E. Franklin

      December 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEsther Franaklin

      Finally, like the old South, the hard Cuban right dies grudgingly.

      December 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLionel Hereia

      I have no doubt that liberal/progressive pundits (like Tom Hayden) will try to sell this as some "bold achievement" by Obama. Hayden and others will parade this around town as some amazing "leftist coup" by the Obama administration and will use all sorts of reactionary right-wingers as proof that Obama has done wonderful things for the Cuban people. The lie will be told that if you are not with Obama on this you are with those right-wing troglodytes as was the case with the election of Obama and subsequent policies from Obama (ALL of which benefited the %1 at the expense of the people). This BS must be countered at every turn.

      Now let's look at just 5 of the "benefits" of this so-called "normalization" process:

      What the US will give Cuba:

      1) "Diplomatic opening: The U.S. will take steps toward restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba, severed since 1961."

      What does this mean? What was Cuba like directly preceding the Revolution in 1959 and what role did the US play in this? In 1934 US puppet-dictator Fulgencio Batista took over the Cuban government in what became known as "The Revolt of the Sergeants." For the next twenty-five years he ruled Cuba with an iron fist with the full blessing and endorsement of the United States government, who feared a social and economic revolution and saw him as a stabilizing force with respect for American business interests.

      If we are to take this first piece of normalization at face value then we can conclude that the US will actively work to install an oppressive government in Cuba friendly to US business interests to the detriment of the Cuban people as it has done elsewhere in the region. No crystal ball needed here.

      2) "Embassy in Havana: This will include the goal of reopening a US embassy in Havana in the coming months. The embassy has been closed for over half a century."

      What are the benefits of having a US embassy in your country? What does this mean for the Cuban people? All we need to do is look at past history and examine the following coups which emanated from various US embassies to make an educated guess as to what the purpose of an embassy in Havana will be for the US. Consider the following:

      Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).

      3) "Release alleged Cuban spies: The US will release three Cubans who were convicted of espionage and imprisoned in the US: Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina, and Antonio Guerrero. All three prisoners were members of the "Wasp Network," a group that spied on prominent members of the Cuban-American community. CNN reports that Hernandez, the group's leader, was also linked to the downing of two two civilian planes operated by Brothers to the Rescue, a U.S.-based dissident group."

      This should be celebrated but don't be fooled- this is only window-dressing.
      And let's not forget that these Cuban intelligence officers were sent to Miami to monitor the terrorist groups that had carried out bombing attacks on the island.

      4) "Easing business and travel restrictions: The U.S. will make it easier for Americans to obtain licenses to do business in Cuba, and to travel to the island. CNN reports that the new rules still won't permit American tourism, but will make it easier to visit for other purposes."

      This is perhaps the most dangerous of the so-called benefits. As this moves forward- if it does- you will gradually see more US business interests invade Cuba with the ultimate goal to be a complete takeover of the economy ala Haiti.

      Consider the following from an article at WSWS:

      "Other US citizens will also be permitted to provide such financing. In addition, banking ties will be expanded, with US travelers allowed for the first time to use credit cards issued by American banks.

      US companies will be allowed to export telecommunications equipment and “establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure” in Cuba to provide telephone and Internet services. Companies will also be allowed to export building materials, agricultural equipment, machinery and other goods “to empower the nascent Cuban private sector” and foster “greater economic independence from the state.”

      This means economic terrorism the likes of what we have read from Perkin's, "Economic Hit Men." It's the same formula all over the world. Prepare to see the World Bank and Cuba's obligation to "harmonize" it's economy with Wall St. if this moves forward as predicted by the likes of the liberal pundits.

      5) "Review of basis for sanctions: Secretary of State John Kerry has been ordered to review Cuba's status as a "state sponsor of terrorism." If his review determines that Cuba no longer deserves that status, that will be a first step towards lifting at least some US sanctions."

      How will this work? What does this mean? As always the statement from the State Department is an inversion of reality. And as we know any and all reviews will be vetted by the Business Round Table and if Cuba does align with US business interests they will be deemed a favored nation, if not they will be tagged as terrorists no matter how generous they may be in the world.

      December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaxwell

      Hi Tom, looking forward to your upcoming book. My son, now 26, traveled twice to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, turned 18 in Havana. And I have represented many VB members after they got the nasty letter from OFAC. This is a great day for Cuba and the US.

      December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLynne Williams
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