By MICHAEL STEVEN SMITH
One of the most interesting documents that we uncovered and published in our recent book (“Che Guevara and the FBI,” by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith, Ocean Press, 1997) was about Che Guevara.
Che represented the government of Cuba at a meeting in Punte Del Este, Uruguay, in 1961. The Organization of American States (OAS) was meeting there and Richard Goodwin, who wrote this document, was representing President John Kennedy and the United States.
One of the purposes of the OAS meeting was to kick Cuba out of the organization-which they did. Che gave a very fine talk there about the situation of Cuba and Latin America, and then on the very last night of the meeting he made sure he would run into Richard Goodwin at a party.
Goodwin wrote back to President Kennedy about his meeting with Che. He reported that Che was a personable, likeable, and very humorous person, that he was extremely intelligent, that his presentation was totally thought through and organized, and he said in essence that what Che was telling him-and this was in 1961, right after the Bay of Pigs-that Cuba would like to see a modus vivendi with the United States, get things on a different path, and end the tension and aggression.
So Goodwin wrote all this back to Jack Kennedy, and then he added that his recommendations were (1) continue the economic blockade, (2) continue the propaganda against Cuba, (3) try to overthrow the Cuban government.
What do we learn from this? That the onus for aggression and violence, for the whole campaign against Cuba, rests solely on the United States and has all the way back to the beginning. And what we get from studying the recent Cuban law suit puts the onus of violence right on the United States, where it belongs.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of eight organizations in Cuba, the trade unions, the small farmers, the women’s organization, the college students, the middle students, the children, the Committees to Defend the Revolution, and the veterans. These organizations make up most of the Cuban population.
The suit alleges and identifies acts of aggression by the United States, its agents, servants, and employees from the period of 1960 to date-that is, for the last 40 years.
It doesn’t mention what the United States did from 1956, when the motor yatch Granma landed with Fidel and the others who began the movement that eventually overthrew Batista. It doesn’t mention the fact that the United States trained, armed, and supplied the soldiers of the Batista dictatorship. It doesn’t mention the 20,000 Cubans who lost their lives in the Cuban war for independence. It doesn’t start there.
It starts instead in 1960 with a list of what has been done against the Cuban people. I’ll give you a cold statistic: in the period of 1960 to date, the suit states, the U.S. government has been responsible for killing 3478 persons in Cuba and it has been responsible for bodily injuring 2099 people. It is those incidents of injuring and killing that this lawsuit covers.
Another example regards biological warfare: our government says it is against biological warfare and it would never use it. Yet Fort Detrick in Maryland is the biggest biological warfare armory in the world. The suit alleges that it was in Fort Detrick that the mosquito was developed that carries Dengue 2 fever.
Dengue 2 causes internal hemorrhaging. The suit alleges that it was an agent of the United States that brought the Dengue 2-carrying mosquitoes into Cuba, which caused 24,000 people to hemorrhage.
When you bleed internally you lose blood. You need blood to bring oxygen to nourish your brain. If you don’t have enough blood going to your brain you go into shock-and 10,224 people went into shock.
If you are in shock long enough you die. Who dies easiest? Children. One hundred fifty-eight people died, and of those, 101 were children, killed by the United States with Dengue fever.
The U.S. didn’t confine itself to people. It thought it could attack Cuba’s food supply and brought in African Swine Fever-a disease, like Dengue 2, that had never been present in Cuba. The Cubans had to do away with 500,000 pigs to prevent the further spread of the disease. Tobacco blight was another disease that they brought in.
When the revolution succeeded on Jan. 1, 1959, one of the first things that the revolutionary government did was to create a law-which was very popular because a lot of the people who had fought on the side of the revolution benefited directly from it-initiating a comprehensive land reform.
Previously, large tracts of land had been owned by American corporations. The average Cuban peasant worked part time, seasonally, was not literate, and lived from hand to mouth. What the revolutionary government did was to nationalize these big properties-which was their right under international law.
Not only did they nationalize them. They told the owners they would pay for them. They said to the American owners: “We will pay you exactly the amount you say they are worth, according to the taxes that you pay on the land.” But they were turned down.
In retaliation, the United States, which was refining all of Cuba’s oil in American-owned oil refineries, stopped refining oil, and Cuba was cut off from gasoline.
What did the Cubans do? They nationalized the refineries, and willy nilly, the bus company was nationalized, the phone company was nationalized, the nickel mines were nationalized, the economy was rationalized.
Instead of having production for profit, which is really irrational, anarchical, they had a planned economy-that’s what we call a socialist revolution. That’s what happened very quickly in Cuba.
What was the response of the United States? That’s when the blockade started. It was not just before the missile crisis, in 1962. It was right then in 1960.
One of the first things the revolutionary government did was to send people out into the countryside on a literacy campaign so that all the Cubans could learn how to read and write. So the U.S. government supported terrorists who murdered the teachers.
When the collective farms were organized, what did the U.S. government do? They supported groups who set fire to the sugar crops, killing people in the process. That’s documented in this law suit.
In the United States, we have what is called common law-under which you proceed by first making allegations and when you go to trial you have to prove them. In Cuba it is different. The plaintiffs must submit proof along with the allegations. So appended to their complaint is proof of what they are claiming, much of it in documents the U.S. government itself released. That’s why I think the Cubans are going to win this lawsuit.
A Cuban airplane was blown up by two agents of the United States, Orlando Bosch, who is living in comfort in Florida on our tax dollars (along with Che’s assassin, Felix Rodriguez) and Luis Posadas Carriles. Bosch and Posadas caused a bomb to be planted in a Cubana Airline plane, which killed 72 people-including the young Cuban fencing team. That is one of the causes of action in this lawsuit.
American policy has killed and injured over 5000 people and that’s not to speak of the hundreds of thousands of persons who have to live with the psychological burden of having this beast 90 miles north of them waging continual aggression. So there is a psychological aspect to the suit too. In the United States, we call this “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and there is a demand for compensation for this also.
Why do I think that the bringing of this lawsuit, which was filed in the Provincial Court in Havana on May 31, 1999, is important at this time? For two reasons:
One has to do with the Brothers to the Rescue. For years they had been flying low over Havana, dropping leaflets on the city. Can you imagine what would happen to an airplane if it flew low over the White House? It would be vaporized.
For several years, the Cubans put up with this nonsense. They kept protesting to the United States, “Tell them to stop it, they are taking off from American territory, they are violating Cuban air space.” But the U.S. would not stop it.
Finally, the Cubans said, if they do it one more time we will shoot. They did it one more time and the Cubans shot, which was their right. Four pilots were unfortunately killed, although they chose to do this.
The estates of these four pilots brought a lawsuit in Florida and they won a verdict of $187 million dollars against Cuba. That’s just not a paper verdict because the Cubans have assets in the United States that they built up with the telephone company. After the verdict these assets were seized.
There remains a question whether the Cubans will be able to collect if they win this lawsuit because they brought it in Havana; although the United States was duly served through its interest section there, the United States refused to appear as a defendant.
The Cubans will need to enforce a default judgment, which may not be recognized in the courts of other countries. Why didn’t the Cubans bring the suit in the World Court? Because when the United States was brought in front of the World Court for mining the harbor in Nicaragua and for supplying the Contras, and a judgment was awarded to the Nicaraguans, the United States pulled out of the World Court. They don’t recognize the World Court anymore.
So whether Cuba can collect on the judgment remains to be seen. But apart from the money, the morality of the case-and getting the message out to people-are important.
Another thing that I think makes the lawsuit important at this time is in relation to the action that the United Nations Committee on Human Rights took at its recent meeting in Geneva in response to the trial of four Cuban citizens who had been convicted of economic sabotage and sent to prison for three to five years.
What the four Cubans did was done in concert with the American Interest Section in Havana. The Cubans are very strapped now for hard currency. In order to get it they are doing joint enterprises with foreign capitalist companies, like going 50/50 with an Italian company on a hotel, or sharing profits with a Canadian company extracting nickel from a Cuban mine.
The four convicted Cubans, working with the United States, would go to companies considering a joint enterprise with the Cuban government and tell them that there is going to be a counterrevolution in Cuba, and when the new government comes to power these investments will not be recognized.
In that way, they tried to scare away potential foreign investors-undercutting the Cuban economy and Cuban people. The Cuban government has a right to make this illegal.
But the United States set up a hue and cry: “They’re human rights violators!” They went to Geneva and made a big pitch. They always make this pitch in Geneva-and never win. But last time they won. Why? There was a lot of economic pressure put on Ecuador, which had a vote. Ecuador finally relented and voted with the United States. The United States won by one vote and had Cuba condemned as a human rights violator.
We ought to get out the truth about what really happened there, and this law suit is a good vehicle for doing that. I would like to conclude with one thought. There is an old blues song by Leadbelly, a blues singer from the 1930s. The last refrain of his song goes: “Land of the brave, home of the free, I don’t want to be mistreated by no bourgeoisie.” Neither do the Cubans.
The text of their law suit has been published by Ocean Press in a pamphlet titled “Washington on Trial: The people of Cuba versus the U.S. Government.” It can be purchased for $4.95, including handling, from Ocean Press, PO Box 834, Hoboken, NJ 07030. Fax (201) 617-0203.