Speech by Gloria La Riva at PSL forum in San Francisco, Jan. 2, 2015
Dec. 17, 2014, was an historic day for Cuba. On that morning, the three remaining Cuban Five members in U.S. prison flew home to freedom. At the same time, Alan Gross, an American who was arrested in Cuba 5 years ago, and convicted for illegally bringing into Cuba undercover communications equipment, was returned to the United States.
This was announced on Dec. 17 at 12 noon, simultaneously by Cuban President Raul Castro on Cuban Television and by President Obama in Washington.
Both announced that for the first time in more than 50 years, U.S. and Cuban embassies will be opened in each respective country. This means the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.
Up to now, a quasi-diplomatic relationship has been maintained by what are called “Interests Sections,” essentially diplomatic missions that are hosted by the Swiss government in both countries.
To give you a sense of what it means for the Cuban people, I have here an excerpt of what that day was like, from Michael Krinsky, a progressive New York attorney who has represented the Cuban Government in the U.S. for more than 30 years.
He was in Cuba for a seminar, and on New York City’s WBAI radio station last week he said that when Raul Castro spoke to the Cuban people on Television at noon and announced that the Five were now home:
“There was pandemonium. Unbelievable joy. Then when Raul announced that both governments agreed to establish normal relations, there was stunned silence. Then tremendous commotion and applause. There is a sense of triumph, for the person on the street, that after 55 years of holding on, despite the Bay of Pigs invasion, economic blockade, the special period when trade with the Soviet Union ended, they had held on. The feeling was, the U.S. came to us. It was a tremendous sense of vindication and triumph, you could see it in the streets, in the restaurants, they would congratulate each other, it was quite a moment.”
It is a very important development for the Cuban people and the Revolution, who have been besieged for more than 55 years by U.S. imperialism, blockaded, invaded, attacked by terrorism, to see that one small part of this cruel policy is being lifted.
But, the U.S. blockade remains in place.
And we must have no illusions about U.S. intentions toward Cuba with Obama’s announcement of new measures and steps that he will take.
What did Obama say in those 15 minutes? I will take a couple of minutes to mention some of what he said. Please listen carefully to what he says. They are loaded words, and it is critical for us as revolutionaries, especially in the United States, to know the real meaning, to read between the lines.
Obama said, “…we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.”
When he says “our interests” Obama means the interests of the U.S. government in advancing imperialist domination, by economic, and if necessary, military means. Obama admitted that the blockade policy made the United States isolated. And now, it is clear that the U.S. will try to carry out its objectives another way, for instance, by trying to influence and create an opposition inside Cuba with more direct engagement in the island.
Let’s read on: Obama said, “We’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba, and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people, and the emerging Cuban private sector.”
They don’t really mean helping the Cubans to form small businesses and self-employment in order to help stimulate Cuba’s economy and increase production for the benefit of the people. The U.S. wants to encourage capitalism, not strengthen socialism, while they work in other ways to create an active opposition against the government.
Here’s another zinger in Obama’s speech. He said, “While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.”
Obama doesn’t mention that more than 95% of Cuban workers are organized in unions in Cuba. In the United States, only 12% of workers are in unions.
Why is he talking about unions in Cuba? Why isn’t he demanding union rights at home for workers who face real repression when they try to organize a union, for the workers who make $7.25 minimum wage!
But that is not what Obama really wants in Cuba. By unions he means the so-called “independent” unions that the U.S. government has been demanding and trying to create, the tiny groups of counterrevolutionaries that demand new unions that they call independent, but are really organizations that are against the Revolution.
As I said earlier, one of the biggest motivations for the U.S. reestablishing diplomatic relations is that, Washington has become very isolated in Latin America and worldwide, and the isolation was growing.
For example, this coming April 2015 is the planned “Summit of the Americas,” sponsored by the Organization of American States, that will take place in Panama. Every country in the western hemisphere, from North and South America and the Caribbean participates, except for Cuba.
That is because the OAS, which is dominated by U.S. imperialism, expelled Cuba in 1962 for being socialist. It has been denied membership ever since.
But in the last two annual summits, because of Cuba’s undeniable prestige in Latin America, many countries said they would boycott the Summit in April if Cuba were not invited.
The announcement of diplomatic relations was met with positive reaction in many Latin American countries.
But most interesting – again in Obama’s speech – is what he said about the Summit of the Americas. He said, “This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future. … Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.”
Let’s look at that again. He said that at the Summit, “we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping their future…” Really? Is Obama planning to invite representatives of “civil society” from the United States, such as the people’s movements against police murder, imperialist war, etc. to the Summit of the Americas? I don’t think so.
What he means by “civil society” in this context may be inviting the counterrevolutionary opposition in Cuba, to take part in an international summit that is only attended by heads of state and their entourage.
The blockade remains locked in place
Some, including the U.S. government, refer to it as an embargo, but Cuba and progressives call it a blockade, because it is not simply a ban on trade. The U.S. blockade is a series of U.S. laws, and programs that enforces the ban internationally.
It punishes countries around the world for trying to do business with Cuba. For example, a ship that docks in a Cuban harbor is banned from entering a U.S. harbor for six months.
It allows U.S. corporations or individuals to sue any corporation or individual in the world who owns or does business with any Cuban property that used to be owned by the U.S.
It has allowed the U.S. to fine European banks literally billions of dollars for accepting transactions from Cuba. Obama said he has called on Secretary of State John Kerry to study the possibility of removing Cuba from the U.S. list of countries that it declares to be terrorist.
That is simply a way for the U.S. to apply sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Syria.
Another measure that Obama announced is the easing up on restrictions for travel to Cuba. Now, that doesn’t mean that travel is unrestricted. There is still a legal requirement to have a license, but supposedly it will be easier to obtain permission.
So what is the real U.S. intention with Cuba?
Let us remember that at the very same time the U.S. government is opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate just passed more sanctions against Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in December!
And only a few days before the Five were freed, Obama said he will sign into law the sanctions against Venezuela.
This is called the “carrot and the stick.” At one moment, the U.S. extends a carrot to a country, the next moment they will use the stick, the club.
This is the same government that continues to finance the terrorist organizations trying to overthrow the Syrian government, armed the opposition in Libya and then just bombed Libya to smithereens.
And it is the same U.S. government that is backing the fascist-dominated government in Ukraine, and then tried to set up a false hacking accusation against North Korea, another socialist country the U.S. wants to overthrow. Now new sanctions have been imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The U.S. politicians in Congress and the President, the establishment, have had fierce debates about what tactics to use, but the objective is the same: Expand Imperialism’s reach and power around the globe. If you are failing with one tactic, use another.
The Neo-Cons said under Bush, let’s tighten up, strangle them, because if you give them economic breathing space, the Revolution will survive and strengthen.
The liberals say, “Let’s open up economic ties, sponsor academic and cultural exchanges, bring Cuban students to study in the U.S. so they can learn our ways. We can help influence Cubans’ attitude toward capitalism, and show them that they need ‘democracy’. Let’s invest, make profits, and enjoy mojitos and cigars while we’re at it!”
Revolutionaries, true progressives, support Cuba’s right to defend its socialist system and society, its economic gains, its freedom and democracy, its right to self-determination, its right to remain independent, and to be free of the Blockade and all economic and political pressure.
And if anyone has illusions about the United States’ real intentions, we only have to read the excellent article by Estevan Hernandez, a PSL member in Sacramento, in Liberation News, about the third U.S. program of subversion that was exposed in 2014, a program aimed against Cuba.
This new counterrevolutionary program was financed by the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development–or USAID–that was trying to recruit youth hip hop groups inside Cuba to encourage them to create anti-government music and create an opposition among youth.
The article goes on to say that a Serbian contractor, Rajko Bozic, was paid by the USAID to recruit Cubans from the hip hop scene. He even sent one of those groups to Serbia for political training. And because more and more of these campaigns are being exposed as U.S. government projects, this hip hop campaign was routed through a front company in Panama and a bank in Lichtenstein.
The company in charge was Creative Associates, the very same contractor that sent Alan Gross into Cuba for illegal activity in 2009.
Lest anyone be fooled that the U.S. empire intends to respect Cuba’s sovereignty by the new diplomatic opening:
The State Department on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, announced that it will award $11 million for programs that promote so-called “democracy” in Cuba. The grants will be being managed by the so-called Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the State Department.
And then just a week later, the State Department on Dec. 30–boy, they sure are busy during the holidays!–on Dec. 30, the State Department issued an official denunciation of the Cuban government because of the supposed violation of a Cuban woman artist, Tanya Bruguera, who announced on social media, that she was going to hold a public rally at Revolution Square, Plaza de la Revolución, on Dec. 30 in Cuba for people to speak their mind.
She is an “artist” who was granted scholarships recently to study in Chicago, received a degree in the U.S., lives half the time in New York City, has shown various exhibits in the U.S.
Her agenda is clearly counterrevolutionary. She claims to want artistic freedom.
What’s wrong with this picture? On the day that she announced on social media her upcoming provocation, Cuban telephone communications were jammed throughout the island because of her announcement. Cuba’s telephone system was disrupted because of an unidentified program–no doubt a U.S.-funded operation–that was sending out this woman’s rally announcement.
In other words, the right of Cubans to their phone calls, to their communications, was disrupted for a woman’s “art performance?”
She clearly wanted to create a provocation in the Revolution Square, and then on that day, she claimed she was abused, which is a complete lie. The picture shows that the only people there were foreign media and a handful of others.
Her real intention and that of the tiny group of mercenaries backing her, is to try to create a disturbance that the U.S. can manipulate and accuse Cuba of human rights violations.
What did the State Department do the very same day? It issued a denunciation of a supposed violation of this woman’s rights. The Cuban Union of Writers and Artists, UNEAC, issued a statement in response, saying that it was obvious she timed the event to counter the historic announcement, and create an anti-Cuba narrative in the international media.
We in the PSL say this: The real human rights violations that occur in Cuba are in Guantánamo where dozens of men are still under torture, still abused, still imprisoned with no rights. The biggest violation of human rights is the cruel and illegal U.S. blockade which tries to starve, deny medicine and essential goods to the Cuban people.
Cuba has many challenges facing it, the economic difficulties facing any country that is historically underdeveloped, an island blockaded that has lost $1.2 trillion its economy due to the blockade. It is struggling mightily to grow its economic production, both industrial and agricultural, with economic changes that are designed to encourage self-employment, small economic entities by Cubans, and to become more self-sufficient and rely less on imports.
It is of great necessity for Cuba to grow its economy, so they can continue providing free healthcare, free education, housing for all, while at the same time it extends its heroic medical aid around the world.
And they have no intention of returning to capitalism, they have no intention of becoming a U.S. colony again.
By the way, as soon as Obama gave his speech, the New Jersey state police and the FBI demanded that Cuba return Assata Shakur, an African American revolutionary, to the United States. She had to flee brutal police repression in the United States and attempted assassination. Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said Assata Shakur will not be returned. She has a legitimate right to remain in Cuba under political asylum. You can always depend on Cuba to maintain its revolutionary principles.
President Raul Castro gave a speech on Dec. 20 at the National Assembly, three days after the Five returned home.
He talked about the constant demands of those who want Cuba to give up socialism.
He said, “From abroad there are open demands for us to privatize, including the country’s main productive sectors and services. That would mean laying down our banners of socialism in Cuba. Maybe they have not bothered to read our Economic Guidelines [passed in the National Assembly after nationwide public debates], where it states clearly, ‘The economic system that will prevail in our country will continue to be based on socialist property of all the people, over the fundamental means of production, where the principle will be ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their work.””
And I will end with a paragraph from our Party’s statement, the day of the Five’s freedom and the new U.S. measures:
“Cuba, of course, with a revolutionary leadership that has weathered so many storms and been required to navigate in a tense and troubled world environment, has no illusions about the intentions of imperialism. In fact, there is no other leadership in the world more capable of dealing with the forces of imperialism than the Cuban government and the Communist Party of Cuba.
“Our job here in the United States, in the belly of the beast, is to deepen and widen the solidarity movement with Cuba, with Venezuela and with the struggling people of Latin America. Like them, we must deepen the struggle to end the blockade of Cuba and to expose every maneuver and machination of imperialism.
“We salute the Cuban Five and their families. We pay tribute to the Cuban and revolutionary forces whose determination to remain independent of imperialism and build socialism is a source of inspiration to people throughout the planet.”
Long Live the Cuban Five!
Long Live the Cuban Revolution!
Long Live Fidel and Raúl!