By JEFF MACKLER
In a letter read to a July 1 rally of 300,000 in the Cuban eastern seaside town of Manzanillo, Fidel Castro defiantly warned the next U.S. president not to try to defeat Cuba’s socialist revolution. The occasion was a celebration of the triumphant return of Elian Gonzalez and his family to Cuba on June 21.
The mass assemblage of enthusiastic Cubans was the hundredth such event since Washington negated its own laws and refused to immediately return Elian to Cuba seven months ago. The rally was led by Fidel’s younger brother, Gen. Raul Castro, head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
“Those who think we are ending should know that we are beginning!” Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the crowd. The 35-year-old Perez Roque, a close associate of President Castro, first presented Cuba’s position on the meaning of the Elian Gonzalez case to a rally of opponents of the embargo seven months ago during the WTO protests in Seattle.
Elian and his family were not present at the rally. Following their low-key arrival in Cuba, they were temporarily lodged at seaside boarding school in Havana, where they will live for two or three weeks along with Elian’s classmates and teachers. Later, they will return to their hometown, a small port city east of Havana.
Plans to challenge U.S. blockade laws
Inspired by the mass support both in Cuba and the United States for the return of the six-year-old Gonzalez, the Cuban government has announced that it will redouble its efforts to mobilize worldwide support in a challenge to the U.S. embargo and reactionary U.S. immigration policies, including the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Cuban leaders have also announced plans to take on all U.S. legislation that infringes on Cuba’s sovereignty, from the Helms-Burton Law to the Torrecelli Act.
“Whoever may be the new president of the United States should know that Cuba is and will be here with its ideas, its example, and the unbendable rebellion of its people,” said President Castro in his letter to the rally. “All aggression and attempts to asphyxiate us and reduce us to our knees will be conquered.”
But it was clear that Castro made a clear distinction between the American people and those who govern the United States in the name of profit. He noted: “We have not taken away any rights from any country, and we do not intend to deny anyone the fruits of peaceful labor and independence.
“We do not threaten any nation, we have not proclaimed bellicose hostility against any people, much less the people of the United States, who-despite the sea of prejudice and lies employed to try to deceive them, when pretexts are sought for committing grave crimes-supported the just cause of the kidnapped boy and his father, just as one day it was able to put an end to the bloody and unjust war that killed 4 million Vietnamese and devastated a small and poor Third World country.”
The Cuban Adjustment Act, used to delay Elian’s return, defies both U.S. immigration treaties with Cuba and international law by allowing Cubans who reach U.S. shores illegally to apply for U.S. citizenship. The law is obviously designed to encourage illegal immigration by Cubans.
But Cuba has explained time and again that any citizen is free to leave Cuba at any time. Treaties between the United States and Cuba currently allow for 20,000 people to leave each year. The only limitation on this number, President Castro has stated repeatedly, is U.S. policy.
The Clinton administration, however, has refused to rediscuss its quota on legal Cuban immigration, preferring to use the issue as a lever to maintain its present policies.
Castro on U.S. “two-party” system
President Castro’s letter to the Manzanillo rally also stated that the Cuban government has no interest in the outcome of the coming presidential elections in the United States.
This was perhaps a reference to the present debate in Congress between one wing of the U.S. ruling class-which aims to remove the Castro leadership and return capitalism to Cuba by means of the embargo and associated warlike measures-and another that has the same aims but recognizes that those tactics have repeatedly failed.
This latter wing of American imperialism argues for the opening of Cuba to the U.S. and world market as the the best prospect for destroying the revolution.
This current is today associated with the Democratic Party. It hopes to foster a breach within the Communist Party of Cuba and to seek out potential anti-Castro elements whom they consider amenable to ending revolutionary Cuba’s hard fought 41-year battle to maintain its sovereignty and socialist course.
It is clear that Cuba has few illusions in either of the twin parties of U.S. capitalism. In a June 23 speech to a meeting of UNESCO, President Castro observed:
“The United States, such a vocal advocate of multi-party systems, has two parties that are so perfectly similar in their methods, objectives, and goals that they have practically created the most perfect one-party system in the world.
“Over 50 percent of the people in that ‘democratic country’ do not even cast a vote, and the team that manages to raise the most funds often wins with the votes of only 25 percent of the electorate.
The political system is undermined by disputes, vanity, and personal ambition or by interest groups operating within the established economic and social model-and there is no alternative for a change in the system.”
Castro made a similar point in his letter to the July 1 rally: “It does not matter to us who is the next head of government of that superpower that has imposed its system of hegemonic and dominant power on the world.”
However, perhaps for diplomatic reasons, President Castro on other occasions has appeared to at least partially absolve President Clinton from responsibility for the Elian affair. Instead, he has focused his fire on the right-wing Cuban groups in Miami, who for decades have been vicious opponents of the Cuban Revolution.
Yet it is clear in this matter that the Clinton administration, not the Cuban Mafia-like elements in Miami, are the central players in U.S. policymaking.
Mumia’s son addresses rally
Raul Castro, according to an Associated Press report, told reporters that media coverage of the battle over Elian Gonzalez had helped Americans better understand Cuba and its people. Because of that increased understanding, “the second chapter will also be a triumph,” he said.
Indeed, Cuba’s stance on the Elian case has been widely featured in the U.S. press. Authorative surveys report that it was the most covered news story in U.S. history.
A significant amount of this coverage included, for the first time, reports on Cuba that had normally been banned from the U.S. media. These included favorable descriptions of Cuba’s achievements in education, health care, and child psychology and concern for its youth in general-as well as coverage of the undeniable continuing popularity of the Castro government.
The mass mobilizations in support of Elian’s return have often featured individuals who have been highly critical of U.S. policies. At the July 1 rally in Havana, the son of innocent death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mazi Jamal, praised Cuba for supporting his father’s attempts to obtain a new trial.
Said Mazi Jamal, “With the support of the Cuban people, I know my father will one day be free-as your child Elian is free.”
Cuba has expressed a particular interest in Mumia’s case. The popular two-hour Cuban television show, “Roundtable,” aired on June 18, featured Mumia’s chief legal counsel, Leonard Weinglass, as well as Pam Africa and other central leaders of Mumia’s national defense.
The show, moderated by Georgina Chabua, representing the Central Committee of the Cuban CP, focused on the U.S. criminal “justice” system, police brutality in the United States, and the impending execution, now completed, of Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham).
Launched at the time of the U.S. government refusal to immediately release Elian, the “Roundtable” program has served as a new and extremely popular way of informing Cuba’s population about the class nature of U.S. politics.
President Castro often attends its sessions and meets with American participants from diverse backgrounds.