Cuba: Itinerary of an Obsession

By Rosa Miriam Elizalde on December 12, 2019

You could fit Cuba’s archipelago 90 times into the United States. There is no lithium, nor large mineral resources, and so far, not a single field has been found—as in Mexico—to awaken the unquenchable thirst of the oil industry. “Cuba is a palm grove in the middle of the ocean,” said Jose Fornaris, a romantic poet of the 19th century. “An island trapped in the infernal cycle of sugar cane,” as Jean Paul Sartre described it in his book Hurricane Over Sugar (1961), trying to explain the reasons for the 1959 Revolution.

Without riches like those in Bolivia, Venezuela, or Mexico, and without Cuba being a threat for the US, the historic obsession of the US government to control the Caribbean country has appeared to surpass common sense.

The Trump Administration chose Human Rights Day, December 10, to ban all flights from the US towards Cuba except for Havana, a measure branded as “a stupid political trick” by Congressional Democrat James McGovern. As if they hadn’t exerted enough pressure, at a top secret meeting in which Vice-President Mike Pence discussed the failure of US policies on Venezuela, it came out that they would increase their pressure on the island, which they blame for Nicolas Maduro’s strength while self-proclaimed Juan Guaido has deflated. US Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo was interviewed by the Voice of the Americas and blamed Havana for everything human and divine, including social unrest in Chile, Colombia, and Bolivia. And all this happened in a single week.

Obviously, with all the noise about Trump’s impeachment and the huge scandal about almost 20 years of lies from the White House about Afghanistan, it’s hard to find out about this escalation against Cuba, that has been rising dizzily since June 2017 to date, spoiling the timid steps taken by Barack Obama to approach the Island, perhaps fantasizing of subjugating it through different methods.

It’s distressing to wake up in Cuba every morning with threats and sanctions from the North but no one here is surprised. Fidel Castro, the Cuban who got to know the US better than anyone, never thought that the best version of Obama would be able to act against the instinctive nature of the relationships that were born in the 18th century under an imperial logic. “Many dream that just by changing its head, the empire would be more tolerant and less warmongering… It would be extremely naïve to believe that the good intentions of one intelligent person would change what centuries of interests and selfishness have created,” Fidel wrote in one of his Reflections, on November 15, 2008.

The Cuban leader was perhaps thinking about that, a few years after proclaiming its independence in 1776, US leaders set their interests on the Caribbean island that they saw as Florida’s natural extension. John Quincy Adams, the sixth US President, said: “There are laws of political as well as physical gravitation… Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain can gravitate only towards the North American Union…” Offers to buy it from Spain so that it would cede the pearl of its crown in the Caribbean came in before the US Civil War.

In 1960, former US Ambassador to Havana Earl E. T. Smith declared to a Senate subcommittee: “Until Castro came to power, the US was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that its ambassador was the second most important man in the country, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.” Few analysts saw a display of immodesty in this statement, cited by Eduardo Galeano in Open Veins of Latin America, which expresses the contempt and the dependence that characterized the years from Spain’s military defeat in 1898 until the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

The US has never overcome the significance of a revolution 90 miles from its shores, a “remede de cheval” as Sartre said in his memorable 1961 essay, a drastic remedy, strong medicine, in which a society “breaks its own bones with a hammer; demolishes its structures; overthrows its institutions; transforms its property regime and re-distributes its assets; guides its production according to other principles; tries to rapidly increase its possible growth rate; and, in the most radical destructive moment, tries to reconstruct itself, by trying through bone grafting to rebuild a new skeleton.”

Throughout sixty years, this “drastic remedy” has been seen by some as a  spectacle; by others, as a mystery; or a suicide; a scandal; or as a beautiful challenge. But the definitive key is that it happened without the US ambassador as a leading protagonist in the local political scene. The height of the empire’s obsession about this is pathological. We can understand that.


Source: La Jornada, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau, & Change Links

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