Every May 21st President George W. Bush declares a day of “solidarity” with Cuba and repeats the lies of nearly half a century trying to de-legitimize Latin America’s most successful social revolution in history. This year, the leading US presidential candidates chimed in, but a potentially explosive scandal involving an axis of US-based terrorist groups, US diplomats, and US-paid Cuban “dissidents” undermined these US efforts.
On May 19, the Cuban government revealed with copious documentation that Michael Parmly, the chief U.S. diplomat in the US Interest Section (USIS) in Havana, participated in the handling of cash transfers to Martha Beatriz Roque, a leader of so-called “dissidents” in Cuba. The monies came from a foundation headed by convicted terrorist Santiago Álvarez. Cubans, while tolerating dissidents who obey Cuban laws, refer to the U.S.-paid “dissidents” as “mercenaries.” Álvarez is serving a jail sentence in Miami for having been discovered with a huge arsenal for use in violent attacks against Cuba. Diplomat Parmly also extended a loan to the US-backed mercenaries “until Santiago Álvarez pays it back.” Apparently, the government that makes it so difficult for Cuban residents of the United States to send money to their relatives in Cuba makes easy the transfers of terrorist dollars to Cuban mercenaries.
In return for Álvarez’s support, these mercenaries, with Parmly’s collaboration, sent letters to Judge James Cohn to obtain a reduction of Álvarez’s sentence on the grounds that Álvarez’s foundation was being used to fund “human rights campaigns,” not terrorism, in Cuba. Judge Cohn then reduced Álvarez’s sentence from 46 to 30 months.
The mercenary dissidents — some of them jailed in 2003 for having violated the Cuban penal code and served a foreign state to damage “the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state” — are bent on overthrowing the Cuban government and reversing the Cuban people’s revolution. The Cuban revolution is respected worldwide for its achievements in free public education and health, as well as in sports, culture, and environmentalism. Recently, the World Wildlife Fund headquartered in Switzerland named Cuba as the world’s most advanced country in ecologically sound and sustainable development. Michael Moore’s movie Sicko showed US citizens receiving in Cuba the health treatment they could not afford or obtain at home and that is available at no charge to all Cuban citizens and immigrants.
The Cuban government is calling on the US government to investigate the shocking collaboration with terrorists by its chief diplomat in Havana. It is also asking the Bush administration to respond to longstanding Cuban queries about the illegal use of the USIS to finance, organize, and direct the carrying out of “provocative actions” by mercenaries to “destabilize” Cuba. There is ample evidence of this. In 2008 alone the US government has budgeted $47 million to destroy the Cuban revolution.
All these acts violate US, Cuban, and international laws respecting national sovereignty, including the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. One has to ask, as Cuba’s foreign minister has asked, “What would happen if the situation were reversed and Cuban diplomats participated in attempts to destabilize the US government?”
I personally validated the Cuban government’s protests against US sponsorship of “provocative actions” when I served in 2005 as vice president of the Benito Juárez Tribunal, a civil society process held in Mexico to assess US policy toward Cuba. The Tribunal’s president was renowned Belgian priest and sociologist François Houtart. After consideration of mountains of evidence, the Tribunal found US policy “of nearly 50 years” to be a series of “illegal, hostile and aggressive acts toward Cuba’s people,” including “acts of terror,” and “the application of an economic, commercial, and financial blockade depriving the people of basic necessities” – in sum, attempted “genocide.”1
Unfortunately, the administration of George W. Bush has escalated this policy with its implementation of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba Report to the President 2004, an open call for “change of regime.” The Commission’s second Report of 2006 includes a secret annex, possibly involving proposed terrorist or military actions. This is the grim but necessary context for understanding the Parmly-Álvarez-mercenaries scandal.
It should be noted that Álvarez is a long-time collaborator of self-confessed, CIA-trained terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, wanted in Venezuela for having planted a bomb on a Cuban civilian airliner en route to Cuba from Venezuela in 1976 that took the lives of 73 people. Posada also masterminded bombing attacks against Cuban hotels in the late 1990s, one of which killed Italian-Canadian tourist Fabio Di Celmo. Today, Posada walks free in Miami and is feted by US officials, as he presumably plots new terrorist attacks. More than 50,000 people have written letters to Bush demanding that Posada be extradited to Venezuela or prosecuted in the United States.
Hundreds of thousands more worldwide have joined the international campaign to pressure the US government to free “the Cuban Five.” In contrast to its supposed commitment to fighting terrorism, the US jailed five Cubans, two of them US citizens, for having infiltrated these Miami-based terrorist groups in order to prevent terrorist actions against their homeland and protect the lives of people from all nations in fulfillment of Cuban Liberator José Martí’s words, “Fatherland is humanity.”
High US government officials have not responded to the Cuban government’s calls for an investigation into the Parmly-Álvarez-mercenaries scandal except to repeat the standard hypocrisy that the United States supports “human rights” in Cuba. With the world’s highest imprisonment rate and one of its most monopolistic and self-censored media systems, the United States has little moral prerogative to speak of “political prisoners and freedom of the press” in Cuba. What about US political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, David Gilbert, and countless Puerto Ricans, not to mention the Cuban Five, two of whose wives have not been allowed to visit them in jail in ten years because of US visa denials? Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, a media research organization, has found “no evidence of overt restriction or government control” of the press in Cuba and notes that “Cuba allows CNN, AP and Chicago Tribune to maintain offices in Cuba . . . [while] the US refuses to allow Cuban journalists to work in the United States.”2
As for torture, there is only one well documented case of torture in Cuba — torture conducted by the US military at its base in Guantánamo. And “free elections”? Countless research studies have pointed out the high degree of voter participation, freedom to choose candidates, and other positive characteristics of Cuba’s form of socialist democracy. You don’t need a million dollars or a one-vote majority on the Supreme Court to win a “free” election in Cuba.
In whatever manner the Bush administration responds to the current scandal, the good news is that more and more people in the United States and the world are realizing that US policy toward Cuba is hypocritical, unjust, counterproductive, and without a viable future.
1 A declassified secret report by a US State Department official described the aim of the blockade at its outset as “causing starvation, desperation and the overthrow of the government.” See secret report by I. D. Mallory, Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. VI (1991), p. 886.
A bilingual award-winning author of 40 books on Latin America, US foreign policy, and “hidden history,” Dr. James D. Cockcroft (Ph.D., Stanford University) is a three-time Fulbright Scholar, Honorary Editor of Latin American Perspectives, and Internet professor for the State University of New York. He is the author of numerous books, among which is Mexico’s Hope: An Encounter with Politics and History published by Monthly Review Press.