On May 1, Fidel Castro denounced the United States before a million marchers in Havana. The Cuban leader also denounced the European Union as a mafia allied with Washington, and went on to criticise some Latin American governments, namely Mexico and Peru. Castro accused the two countries of joining the herd of hypocrites who voted to condemn Cuba at last month's meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Mexico was, he declared, now a mere pawn of the United States, its “prestige and influence gained in Latin America and the world... turned to ashes”.
These comments were no more than the truth. Under the government of Vicente Fox, Mexico has become completely dependent on Washington, and a loyal ally for its foreign policy. Following Washington's dictates, Fox joined in the noisy chorus of condemnation of Cuba over "human rights". Mexico's relations with Cuba have therefore been tense since Fox's election victory in 2000.
These condemnations, coinciding as they do with the exposure of the systematic abuse of human rights by the US forces in Iraq, cut very little ice with most people here in Mexico, who are broadly sympathetic to Cuba and bitterly hostile to US imperialism. So when Fox demanded the recall of the Mexican ambassador from Havana and ordered the Cuban diplomats to leave, the response of the masses was anything but favourable. The diplomatic crisis between Mexico and Cuba has deepened the political crisis in Mexico and further undermined Fox and his right wing PAN government.
In 2002, the rift between the Fox government and Cuba became public when Castro walked out of a summit hosted by the Mexican president in Monterrey. Castro then released an audiotape of a phone call in which his host told him in no uncertain terms that he must leave early so as not to embarrass George Bush. The famous telephone conversation has become universally known in Mexico by Fox's graphic (and not terribly diplomatic) phrase "Come, y te vas" (You eat, then you leave).
However, the tensions between Mexico and Cuba are more complicated than this. For many weeks the political life of Mexico has been rocked by a scandal in which the present mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been accused of involvement in a corruption scandal. News of the scandal every day fills the columns of the newspapers and the television screens, and is now at the very centre of the politics of this country.
The PAN government and its friends in the mass media accuse associates of López Obrador of receiving sizeable bribes from Carlos Ahumada, a Mexican businessman. Ahumada, a very shady character, apparently filmed himself paying these bribes to functionaries of the PRD (the centre-left party to which López Obrador belongs). However, the accusations have not got much of an echo among the people of Mexico, who are accustomed to believe (not without reason) that all Mexican politicians are corrupt and take bribes as a matter of course. The question is therefore why only the opposition PRD has been singled out for exposure.
The answer is not hard to understand and most Mexicans understand it very well. It is clearly part of a carefully worked-out strategy by Fox to bring discredit on the PRD and blacken the name of the popular mayor of Mexico City. The reason is that the popularity of Fox and the right wing PAN has plummeted. The old PRI party that governed Mexico for many decades, is split and in crisis. Therefore it is quite possible that the PRD could win power in the Presidential elections in 2006.
This has implications that go far beyond the borders of Mexico. The prospect of a PRD government would be most unwelcome in Washington, which is attempting to eliminate all governments in Latin America and the Caribbean that do not blindly obey its commands. The removal of Aristide in Haiti through the direct military intervention of the US army was one indication of this aggressive policy. The attempts to overthrow Hugo Chávez in Venezuela are another. The increased pressure on Cuba is yet another.
The infamous Colombia Plan is calculated not only to increase the stranglehold of the USA on Colombia but on the whole of Latin America. Finally, the so-called Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (ALCA) is an attempt to get complete control of all the natural wealth, minerals and oil of the continent, and to conquer a monopoly of its huge market, free from competition from the European capitalists.
The fall of the Fox government would be a serious blow to these plans of US imperialism. The PRD is seen as a threat in Washington. Despite all the attempts of the PRD leaders to adopt a moderate stand and renounce radical policies, the US imperialists do not trust it. They fear the masses who stand behind the PRD ‑ and in this they are not mistaken. They are terrified of a new version of Chávez on their frontiers. The hand of Washington is therefore clearly behind the recent scandal and the ever more strident attacks on the PRD.
For reasons known only to himself, Ahumada fled to Cuba immediately after the exposure of the corruption scandal in February. Cuba involved itself in Mexico's explosive political scandal when it deported him back to Mexico last week. Before deporting him, Cuban officials said that Ahumada had confessed to them that he was part of a conspiracy by Fox's people to bring the mayor down.
Mexico's government countered by accusing two Cuban Communist Party officials of spying during a recent visit to Mexico. Fox ordered the recall of the Mexican ambassador from Havana and the expulsion from Mexico of a number of Cuban diplomats and Communist Party members accused of carrying out "activities incompatible with their status". Peru also announced that it was withdrawing its ambassador from Havana.
This action is without precedent in the history of relations between Mexico and Cuba. Diplomatic relations between the two countries still exist, but only on a minimal level. Hitherto, relations were generally good. It is an unprecedented diplomatic crisis.
On May 6th the US State Department released a 500-page report, the outcome of a six-month policy review, on ways to step up American pressure against Cuba. Its proposals include restricting visits by Cuban Americans and cutting their remittances home by half; curbs on spending by Americans who travel legally to Cuba; and boosting support for anti-Castro elements and for propaganda broadcasts aimed at the island.
President Bush said the United States would also spend $59m (£33m) over the next two years to promote the goal of "a democratic Cuba" (read a capitalist Cuba), including US$18m to counter Cuba's jamming of anti-Castro broadcasts.
This latest attempt at bullying will not succeed. It has infuriated the Cuban people who staged a massive demonstration on the streets of Havana. About one million marched along the Malecón, Havana's harbour boulevard, in the protest. Posters portrayed George Bush wearing a Hitler moustache alongside a Nazi swastika, while others carried pictures of Iraqi prisoners abused by US soldiers, with the slogan: "This would never happen in Cuba."
Fidel Castro said the march was "an act of indignant protest, and a denunciation of the brutal, merciless and cruel measures" announced by Bush. The Cuban leader denounced and ridiculed the US President, George Bush, saying he was a fraudulently elected leader trying to impose "world tyranny". He vowed that Cuba would never become a neo-colony of the United States.
He went on to accuse the United States of fighting "wars of conquest to seize the markets and resources of the world", while Cuba was sending abroad thousands of doctors to save lives. He insisted that Bush had "neither morality nor any right at all to speak of liberty, democracy and human rights". [For the full speech see: http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/2004/ing/f140504i.html ]
The lies of the Fox government and the new measures taken by US imperialism against Cuba have served to infuriate the Mexican public that is already tired of its anti-working class policies of neo-liberalism, downsizing and precarious jobs. Thousands of Mexicans spontaneously demonstrated at the Cuban Embassy this week. They understand clearly that their government is being shamelessly manipulated by US imperialism in the furtherance of its own reactionary policies and interests.
This is a fact. All these intrigues have been organised and orchestrated by the US State Department. It is very clear that all these events are interconnected and form part of a general plan of US imperialism to increase its domination of Latin America, silence all criticism and overthrow governments that refuse to bend the knee to George W Bush.
The latest attempt to bully and isolate Cuba is partly –but not totally ‑ dictated by electoral considerations. George Bush's hold on power gets shakier by the day. He needs to secure Florida in the Presidential election. This means adopting measures that will please the Cuban Mafia in Miami and other right wing groups. Several prominent member of the Cuban-American Mafia have top jobs in the Bush administration (although one, Otto Reich resigned this week as the special envoy to Latin America).
This miserable gang of mafiosi, thieves, drug dealers, cutthroats and pimps masquerading as respected businessmen and "democrats" are waiting in the wings for their return to Cuba where they hope to resume their crooked activities under the protection of the government of Washington, as in the "good old days" before the Cuban revolution. As an insurance policy for their future well-being they pay millions into the coffers of the Republican party. They naturally expect some kind of downpayment on their investment, and their good friend in the White House has just obliged them.
The recent intrigues are dictated by considerations that go far deeper than mere electoral tactics. After the fall of the USSR US imperialism has achieved a virtual monopoly of power in the world. Colossal power brings colossal arrogance. Drunk with power, the most reactionary circles of the US establishment are determined to impose American domination throughout the entire world.
This fact expresses itself most clearly in the policies of George Bush and the neo Conservative faction that until recently controlled his actions. Despite the defeat that is staring it in the face in Iraq, the right wing clique that has seized control in the White House is already preparing new adventures and new explosions.
The right wing of the Bush administration and its friends in the Pentagon would probably like to prepare the ground for an invasion to secure "regime change" in Havana. They have learned nothing from Iraq and are probably calculating that with the attention of the world focused on the Middle East, a couple of little adventures in Latin America will not be noticed.
These people are really quite unbalanced. They would be prepared for anything, but they no longer have the influence they enjoyed before the debacle in Iraq. The neo Conservative wing are losing ground. The war in Iraq that they planned and encouraged is ending in a complete debacle for the United States. The revelations of brutality and torture have completely demolished the last excuse for the invasion. Rumsfeld is fighting for his political life. Probably the neo Conservatives will be made a scapegoat for George Bush's disastrous miscalculation in Iraq.
Does this mean that new adventures by US imperialism in Latin America are ruled out? Not at all. The politics of US imperialism in fundamentals are not decided by who is in the White House but by the interests of the imperialists and the big US corporations that they defend. Latin America is the backyard of US imperialism. Washington cannot afford to allow Cuba and Venezuela to live peacefully because they represent points of reference for millions of poor people, unemployed workers and landless peasants throughout Latin America.
Nor will a Democratic victory in the Presidential elections necessarily signify a fundamental change of course, as some people foolishly imagine. The declarations of Kerry about Venezuela are even more rabidly reactionary than those of Bush. His attempt to enlist the Republican John McCain as candidate for Vice President has exposed his real political agenda. There is no fundamental difference between him and the Republicans. Nothing whatsoever can be expected from this quarter.
The only way to expose and defeat the reactionary and aggressive plans of US imperialism is by mobilising the might of the world labour movement. The movement against imperialism and capitalism must be strengthened. Protests must be organised. Pressure must be applied. The lessons must be learned. Let us raise a universal cry that will be heard everywhere:
Hands off Cuba!
Hands off Venezuela!
Down with imperialism!
May 21, 2004