Socialist Cuba has won some major victories today. It has been announced that the last three of the “Cuban five”, which remained until today in US prisons, have been freed in exchange for American USAID spy Alan Gross.
The three Cuban heroes; Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero will join their families for the holidays after more than 15 years in jail. They will also join Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez who were released in 2013 and early 2014. These five men had infiltrated a group of anti-Cuban terrorists in Florida in the late 1990s. The US government proceeded to jail them for espionage, despite their work in uncovering plans for attacks against civilians in Cuba, and their willingness to share this information with US authorities. Attacks against Cuba, largely planned by groups operating on US soil with the complicity of the US, have led to the deaths of around 3,500 Cubans since 1959.
In an address delivered at noon, Cuban President Raul Castro gave more details about this victory and ongoing negotiations with the US government. He started his speech with the acknowledgement that Cuba has been “loyal in defending all the principles of our independence war” since the revolution of 1959. Raul mentioned that in 2001 Fidel Castro had promised the return of the Cuban 5 to Cuba, and that today was a realization of the goals of this long struggle. Raul expressed gratitude to the “hundreds of committees and solidarity groups, governments, institutions and personalities” that had struggled in their “efforts for liberation” of the Cuban 5 heroes. Millions of people around the world have participated in demonstrations, conferences, petitions, letter writing and more to demand the release of the Cuban 5.
Raul Castro mentioned conversations between President Obama and himself as recently as yesterday, leading to the release of US spy Alan Gross “for humanitarian reasons” and an anti-socialist Cuban spy. He said that there has been an agreement to “re-establish diplomatic relations” between Havana and Washington.
|President Raul Castro announces the return |
of Gerardo, Ramon and Antonio
He also clearly stated, “This doesn’t mean that everything is solved”. He called on Obama to use his executive powers to lift the economic blockade against Cuba saying, “the blockade that generates economic losses and humanitarian problems to our country must stop”. He went on to say “we must learn the art of living with our differences in a civilized way”.
This fall has put new pressure on the US government to concede in its unjust and inhumane blockade of the socialist island. As reported by Rebel Youth, in October 2014 the UN voted for the 23rd consecutive year for the US to lift the blockade, with only two countries voting against the motion (the US and Israel). Cuba has publicly shamed the US by providing hundreds of doctors to West Africa in the fight against Ebola, while the US sent soldiers. It is estimated that the US blockade has cost the Cuban economy 1.1 trillion dollars since the US first imposed it in 1962.
The White House released a statement and President Obama made an address at the same time as the Cuban government. It announced a number of changes to the blockade but refuses to fully normalize relations. While acknowledging US isolation of Cuba “has failed”, the main thesis of the statement is that Washington has something to teach Cuba about “democracy”, “human rights” and “private property”, implying that the US’s game plan for Cuba, the dismantlement of socialism and the reintegration of Cuba into US imperialism’s control, has not really changed.
On the question of democracy and human rights, the US has no business preaching these values anywhere, especially Cuba, which has built a vibrant socialist democracy. Perhaps it would be better for Obama to tackle other problems of democracy and human rights: racist police murdering unarmed African Americans, voter suppression and capitalist control over elections in the US, the CIA admitting and defending the use of torture, drone strikes, invasions, occupations, etc.
But there are other reasons, in addition to some easing of the blockade and freedom for the Cuban Five, to view these events as a victory for Cuba and peace-minded peoples around the world. The head of USAID, Rajiv Shah, resigned on the same morning that USAID contractor Alan Gross was released by Cuban authorities. USAID has been implicated in destabilization schemes all over Latin America. Rajiv Shah was no doubt involved in overseeing two recent high profile attempts of subversion in Cuba. USAID was caught red-handed trying to develop a Cuban social media platform and paying Cuban Hip Hop artists in order to develop an anti-socialist movement on the island. The US has spent $264 million since 1996 on these kinds of subversion efforts. Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela have all spoken out and restricted the operations of USAID in their countries as well.
The US also announced that it would “review” Cuba’s inclusion on the US’s list of states that support terrorism. Cuba was placed on this list in 1982, while the US was deeply involved in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, the use of death squads, and the subversion of the Nicaraguan government in the region.
The hypocrisy of the White House remains towards Cuba, but there are strong reasons to view these developments as a victory for the Cuban people. After 15 years of prison for the Cuban 5, and fifty-five years of Revolution, today the United States has been forced to make some significant concessions towards an island of 11 million people. A defiant island 100 miles from the US, which continues to be a living example that a socialist world is possible. As Raul Castro said in today’s address: “Cubans have courageously shown that, despite the adversities, the Cuban people is committed to the Revolution”.
Interested in learning more about Cuba? Check out the Che Guevara Volunteer Work Brigade which is travelling to Cuba this May 2014.