By NICK BAKER
— SAN FRANCISCO — Miguel Fraga, first secretary of the Cuban Embassy, which opened last year in Washington, D.C., came to the Bay Area in March for a week-long tour, speaking to students and community members about life in Cuba, renewed U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, and the need to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba. The Northern California tour was organized by the International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity.
In his talks at several colleges and universities around the Bay Area—as well as in the city council chamber in the working-class city of Richmond, Calif.—Fraga presented basic information about Cuba meant to counter the long disinformation campaign by the United States. Citing statistics from the World Bank (see data.worldbank.org), he noted Cuba’s 100% literacy rate, low infant mortality rate of 4/1000 (the U.S. rate is 6/1000), and the highest rate of investment in education in the world, 12.8% of GDP in 2010.
He highlighted Cuba’s systems of free higher education and free medical care. The Cuban health system, which is the first in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, also provides over 50,000 health-care workers to 68 countries.
Fraga also pointed out that, far from being isolated internationally, Cuba has diplomatic relations with 191 countries, including 190 of the 193 members of the United Nations. He also listed Cuba’s major international trade partners, which include Canada, China, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, and the Netherlands.
But the main goal of Fraga’s tour was to win support for ending the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba. Since it was imposed in 1960, the embargo has done and continues to do incredible damage to the lives of the Cuban people. Fraga noted that the United Nations annually votes to condemn the embargo.
Last October, the UN voted 191-2 against the embargo; only the U.S. and Israel were opposed. A UN report released ahead of that vote showed that Cuba estimates the embargo has cost its economy over $800 billion during the past half-century. To put in perspective just how large an amount that is for Cuba, the country’s GDP in 2013 was $77 billion.
However, the embargo is not as popular with the American bourgeoisie as it used to be. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have come out in favor of getting rid of it. Clinton has said that, in her opinion, the embargo “no longer serves U.S. interests” in Cuba, or in Latin America in general. As Secretary of State, Clinton served those same interests by supporting a coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras. So it is not the injustice of the embargo that makes her want to get rid of it. She just thinks there are more effective ways to achieve the goals of U.S. imperialism.
Despite renewed diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the Obama administration continues to spend tens of millions of dollars every year on programs to undermine the Cuban government. In one example, begun under Obama, the U.S. created a fake social media company in Cuba called ZunZuneo, a “Cuban Twitter,” that was intended to provoke unrest by spreading U.S. propaganda to users and operated from 2009 to 2012. The U.S. also continues to operate the radio and TV stations Radio Martí and TV Martí, which broadcast U.S. propaganda in Cuba.
And these are only the mildest offenses. They are in addition to the U.S. government’s long history of training and funding terrorist groups of Cuban exiles based in Miami, whose most notorious attacks include the 1997 Havana hotel bombings and blowing up Cubana Flight 455 in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. One of the leaders of these attacks, Luis Posada Carriles, lives freely and comfortably in Miami today.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama aide Ben Rhodes, the point man in U.S. negotiations with Cuba, told a town hall meeting in Miami that the U.S. was “no longer in the business of regime change in Cuba.”
That’s an interesting phrase—“the business of regime change.” To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, the last president to visit Cuba before Obama in 1928, when it was still a U.S. colony, the business of U.S. capitalists is business. And when a government doesn’t want their business, their business becomes regime change. In Coolidge’s words, “they are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing, and prospering” in Cuba, as they did before the revolution, when U.S. capitalists owned the vast majority of Cuba’s rural land and controlled all of its major industries. Moreover, capitalists in the United States are seeking compensation on their own terms for the industries, hotels, and other property that Cuba nationalized during the revolution.
The United States is not experiencing rapprochement with the Cuban Revolution. Nor is it resigned to a socialist government in Cuba, giving up its attempts to destroy it by reconsidering the embargo. It is only changing tactics.
Miguel Fraga found sympathetic audiences in the Bay Area. At his talk at Sonoma State University, several older audience members, wanting to educate the young people in the room, prodded him to contrast the benefits to workers of Cuban socialism with the deprivations of American capitalism, and he had to decline each time, saying, “You must understand, I am a diplomat.” But the answer was plain to see in the statistics he had already given.
When asked whether increased trade with the U.S. would become a foothold for U.S. imperialism, he asked that people trust Cuba to maintain its revolution. He said that Cuba would only trade for what it needed and what benefited Cuba. He pointed out that the Cuban Revolution has faced many challenges, from the Bay of Pigs to the fall of the Soviet Union, its major trade partner, and survived them all.
Socialist Action stands in solidarity with the Cuban people and their revolution. We support the continued success of the revolution and the continued health of Cuban socialism. End the embargo! Long live the Cuban Revolution!
Photo: Miguel Fraga speaking at a Bay Area forum. By Bill Hackwell.