| US suffocates Cuba for unwavering victorious anti imperialism at great cost | MR Online

U..S suffocates Cuba for unwavering, victorious anti-imperialism at great cost

Originally published: The Grayzone on August 2, 2021 (more by The Grayzone)  |

Cuba’s anti-imperial foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and sustain liberation movements worldwide. Historian Piero Gleijeses says that’s one of the main reasons why the US has terrorized the island nation through today.

Cuba’s anti-imperial foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and sustain liberation movements worldwide. Historian Piero Gleijeses says that’s one of the main reasons why the US has terrorized the island nation through today. 

Cuba’s anti-imperialist foreign policy helped end apartheid in South Africa and support liberation movements around the world, much to the outrage of the US government, which has placed the island nation under a crippling blockade for over six decades. 

Historian and author Piero Gleijeses discusses the history of Cuban foreign policy and how the US has tried to vindictively punish the small island nation for resisting its global hegemony.

“There are very few examples [in history] of the idealism demonstrated by the Cuban government in its foreign policy in Africa,” Gleijeses says.

Guest: Piero Gleijeses. Professor at Johns Hopkins University. Author of “Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976” and “Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991.”


AARON MATÉ:  Welcome to Pushback.  I’m Aaron Maté.  Joining me is Piero Gleijeses.  He is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, author of Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa and Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa.  Professor Gleijeses, welcome to Pushback.


AARON MATÉ:  I wanted to have you on because you are considered a leading authority on Cuba’s foreign policy, and I think it’s an overlooked part of the story right now when it comes to the ongoing US blockade of Cuba.

Cuba’s going through a very difficult period right now, very tough conditions under COVID and with major scarcity on essentials including food.  And instead of easing the blockade as he had promised to do, Joe Biden is continuing the Trump policy of maintaining the blockade and imposing murderous sanctions.  And in discussions of this and discussions of what the US motives are—the fact that there’s a huge rightwing exile Cuban community in Florida is a major factor, also the long-standing US desire to crush socialism in Cuba and prevent any sort of alternative model in the world to US state capitalism is also a very big factor—but I wanted to ask you about Cuba’s foreign policy, which I think is overlooked in the discussion as a cause of the US animus towards Cuba.  So, before we get into that background, let me just ask you your comments right now on what Cuba is going through and Biden’s response, which is basically to try to increase the suffering.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Well, Cuba is going through an economic and a political crisis.  I haven’t been in Cuba since 2015, so I don’t have the intimate knowledge of the situation in Cuba that I would have had six or seven years ago.  The economic situation is very difficult.  The new government does not have the prestige, the charisma, of Fidel Castro or Raúl Castro, and so it’s a difficult situation.  And there is a political and economic crisis in the country.

The US sanctions have absolutely no justification.  They were imposed to punish Cuba for its foreign policy during the Cold War, for clashes between Cuba and the United States, in which the United States, most of the time, was the guilty party.  And Africa is an excellent example for that.  So, in a way there are two separate things.  On one side there is a very difficult political economic situation in Cuba; on the other side there are vindictive sanctions of a country that was often defeated by Fidel Castro’s Cuba in foreign policy.  And Americans are quite vindictive.  Fair play is not the quality of Anglo-Saxons.

AARON MATÉ:  Alright, so talk to me about why the Anglo-Saxons in Washington are vindictive.  Where should we start?  Because Cuba’s foreign policy legacy goes back many decades now.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  The Cuban Revolution started humiliating the United States in the late 1950s, early 1960s.  Our habit, the American practice, was to use force and overthrow any regime that represented a challenge in the hemisphere—in the backyard, rather—in Central America, the Caribbean, and we were used to dominating the region.  And here we have a government that stood up to the United States and was able to survive.  And you have the American aggression of the Bay of Pigs, and it was defeated by Cuba and was a humiliation for the Kennedy administration, etc.

Then you have the clash between Cuba and the United States in Latin America and in Africa.  But I would say that the very survival of the Cuban Revolution was an offense and an insult for the United States, particularly in the 1960s, and then the legacy continued.  Then in the early 1970s we were willing to quote-unquote “forgive Cuba” and accept the existence of the regime in Cuba.  Our procedures started moving towards establishing a modus vivendi with Cuba, and what do we have?  The arrival of the Cuban troops in Angola in 1975.  They defeated a major covert operation conducted by the United States and the apartheid regime of South Africa.  It was a humiliation for the United States.  But in real terms what you had in 1975 in Angola was an axis of evil—Pretoria, Washington—and they were defeated by the Cubans.  And you can imagine the humiliation to be defeated by a small country that had been a de facto colony of the United States.

And then you have Carter.  Carter is willing to discuss a modus vivendiwith Cuba, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, but Carter demands that the Cuban troops leave Angola.  You had a situation in which the United States maintained hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Western Europe in the 1970s, to protect Western Europe from a non-existent Soviet threat, because there was no Soviet threat to Western Europe in the 1970s.  But the Cubans were not allowed to maintain troops in Angola to protect the Angolan government from a very real South African threat.  Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cuban troops were indispensable to maintain the independence of Angola because of the South African threat.  South Africa controlled Namibia, bordering with Angola.

And so, then you have another thing.  Beginning in 1974 you have the Ethiopian revolution.  And to make a long story short, first the conclusion, then a development.  In the summer of 1977, Somalia invaded Ethiopia in order to annex a part of Ethiopian territory which aids the Somali population—the Ogaden.  And in November 1977 Cuba sent troops to stop the Somali invasion and help the Ethiopians to push the Somali out of the Ethiopian territory.

AARON MATÉ:  So, let’s talk about why Cuba ended up in Africa and specifically in Angola.  You’ve talked about how this was the first time that any foreign country actually intervened in Africa against apartheid South Africa.  So, for people who are not familiar with that history, how did Cuba, this small island nation in the Caribbean of ten million people, how did Cuba end up in Africa, in Angola, in a complicated civil war where there was something like three different sides?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Well, you have to start with the early 1960s, because Angola is developing along a path that had begun in the very early 1960s.  And let me make two general comments.  One, the Cuban foreign policy in the Third World, in Latin America and Africa.  There are a lot of reports by the CIA and INR, [Bureau of] Intelligence and Research of the State Department, and they said that there were two key motivations in Cuban foreign policy in the Third World in the 1960s.  I’m talking of the 1960s now.  One was self-defense; that is, the United States refused to discuss with Cuba the possibility of a modus vivendi.  And instead…

AARON MATÉ:  Modus vivendi means basically like a détente, anormalization of relationships.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Yeah, normalization.  The end of paramilitary actions, trying to strangle the Cuban economy, etc.  And we refused.  And again, I’m paraphrasing CIA and INR.  You have the element of self-defense which is, ‘Well, we are trying to support revolutionary movements in Latin America and in Africa, to open more fronts against the United States.  If the United States is facing a second Cuba, a third Cuba in Latin America, for instance, they will not be able to just focus on us.  This by extension also [applies] to Africa.’

And then there is the other element, the other key motivation.  Again, I’m paraphrasing CIA and INR.  I write for an American public, so whenever possible I try to use CIA reports and the intelligence of the State Department.  And they talk of the idealism of the Cuban Revolution, the belief of Fidel Castro and his associates.  They have to fight to help the people of the Third World to free themselves.  It’s a moral duty of the Cuban Revolution.  According to the CIA and to INR, you have this dual motivation of Cuban foreign policy.

If you read CIA, INR reports in the 1960s, you will never find an explanation of Cuba’s actions in the Third World, as Cuba acting as a proxy of the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union is never mentioned as someone who determines Cuba, motivates Cuba’s actions in the Third World.  Occasionally you have references to the ego of Fidel Castro, but never is it the key reason.  The two key motivations are self-defense and idealism.  [crosstalk]

AARON MATÉ:  Well, even though Cuba was very reliant on the Soviet Union, didn’t they actually also clash when it comes to foreign policy, especially in Latin America?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Yeah, I mean there is a kind of very interesting divide.

Well, first of all, Cuba clashed with the Soviet Union openly.  Fidel Castro made speeches in which he criticized, in a very severe way, the Soviet Union; 1966-1967 Cuba criticized the foreign policy of the Soviet Union in Latin America, the lack of Soviet support for Vietnam, the domestic policies of the Soviet Union—openly.  No Western European country dared to criticize, to clash with the United States as much as Cuba clashed with the Soviet Union.  Not even the France of de Gaulle, which makes it completely comic.  When people talk of Cuba as a client of the Soviet Union and in terms of policies in the 1960s, Cuban and Soviet policy in Africa went in the same direction.  There were no clashes.  But Cuban and Soviet policy in Africa after 1963 clashed because Cuba continued supporting armed struggle in Latin America, and the Soviet Union opposed the Cuban support for armed struggle because the Soviet Union was trying to launch a diplomatic offensive in Latin America to establish diplomatic relations.

AARON MATÉ:  Right, yeah.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  You had clashes.

AARON MATÉ:  Okay, so take us to Angola.  How does Cuba end up in Angola in 1975, and what was going on then?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Cuba had already played a role in Africa in the 1960s, the first Cuban participation.  There is no way to avoid the 1960s to explain 1975, and 1975 is not born from the air.

So, we have the first Cuban intervention in Africa in 1961.  During the Algerian War of Independence, you have a Cuban ship that arrives in Casablanca, Morocco, which was the rear guard of the Algerian freedom fighters, with weapons for the Algerians, and leaves Casablanca with Algerian wounded and Algerian orphans, war orphans, who will be educated in Cuba.  So, that’s the beginning of Cuba’s relationship with Africa.

And in one shape you have the two key dimensions of Cuban aid to Africa: military and humanitarian.  And this continues in the 1960s.  You have the Cuban intervention in Congo Léopoldville, the former Belgian Congo, and you have, beginning in 1966 the Cuban assistance to the rebels in Guinea-Bissau, fighting for independence against Portugal.  And you already had in 1965-67 the establishment of relations between Cuba and the MPLA, the [People’s] Movement for the Liberation of Angola, because you have a Cuban presence in Congo-Brazzaville; they trained guerrillas, etc.

In the early 1970s—except for Guinea-Bissau, now we have Angola—Cuba was not particularly involved in Africa.  I remember my own opinion of Cuba in the early 1970s:  a nice client of the Soviet Union, a tropical Bulgaria.  And all of a sudden, we have these thousands of Cuban troops that arrive in Angola.

And what triggered the Cuban intervention?  Well, the Angolans turned to the Cubans in early 1975, the MPLA, this movement in a situation of common civil war in Angola, and the Cubans give some assistance, but very limited.

What motivates the Cubans is the South African invasion, is when they see that South Africa is trying to dominate Angola, which means strengthening the grip of southern Africa, of apartheid over southern Africa.  My personal opinion is, that without the South African invasion, Cuba would not have intervened.  Fidel Castro called it in a conversation with aides—and they have the document—it’s a struggle against apartheid, la causa más bonita romanidad, the most beautiful cause of mankind.  And I think again that what Fidel Castro, what the Cubans understood is that the victory of the axis, Washington and South Africa, would have strengthened apartheid in southern Africa.

Look, it’s very interesting.  In terms of realpolitik, the intervention was against the interest of Cuba.  In 1975 Kissinger had begun a process to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  There were secret conversations going on and the aim was the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.  With the permission of the United States, the Organization of American States lifted the sanctions against Cuba.  Cuba was receiving, for the first time, lines of credit from major European powers—France and England, and even Germany promised development aid, as did Canada.

Clearly, if you intervene in Angola, all this is at risk, plus Cuba intervened without any agreement with the Soviet Union.  Cuba did not inform the Soviet Union of its decision to send troops because they knew that the Soviets would have been opposed, because [Leonid] Brezhnev, the secretary general of the Soviet Communist Party, was obsessed by the idea of détente with the United States.  I’m paraphrasing.  ‘The director of Central Intelligence called me in a meeting of the National Security Council, I think, in August 1975, when he told Ford that Brezhnev knew that the first common congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February 1976, would be his last congress because he was in poor health, and he wanted to go with congress having concluded the SALT-II treaty [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks] with the United States.  This was his obsession.  And obviously, if Cuba sends troops to Angola, this is going to affect détente.  So, Cuba intervened without any promise of Soviet support.  And the Cubans did not fear at that moment that the United States would respond militarily, because Ford was a president who had not been elected—his legitimacy was very limited.  And so, you wouldn’t make such a great decision as to attack Cuba.

But the Cubans considered the serious threat that South Africa might escalate.  And if the South Africans escalated their intervention in Angola—when Cuba decided to send troops in November 1975 there were 3,000 South African soldiers in Angola—if South Africa escalated, because South Africa was neighboring Angola, there was no way the Cubans could compete.  So, the Cubans took a very big risk.  And, so the question is, why did Cuba do this?

AARON MATÉ:  Yes, that’s what I was going to ask you, because…

PIERO GLEIJESES:  The answer is provided by Kissinger.  In the third volume of his memoirs, he has a chapter on Angola.  And Kissinger in general lies very much, but this is one occasion where he did not lie.  He writes—I’m paraphrasing from his memoirs—’that when Cuba intervened, I was convinced that the Cubans were acting as Soviet proxies, because I could not imagine that such a small country would take such risk so far from home.’  But all the evidence that has come out—these are Kissinger’s memoirs—demonstrate the Cuban position was taken without informing the Soviet Union.  And Kissinger then asks, ‘Why did Cuba do it?’, and he says, ‘Fidel Castro was arguably the greatest revolutionary leader then in power, the most sincere revolutionary.’  Essentially, it was a demonstration of Cuban idealism.  If you look at Cuba’s foreign policy in the Third World in the 1960s, you have idealism and realpolitik that go in the same direction.  The United States refuses to negotiate with [Cuba] for a modus vivendi, therefore. But in 1975 Kissinger was negotiating.

AARON MATÉ:  Let me ask you, do you think if Cuba hadn’t done this idealistic act of intervening against apartheid in Angola, do you think that there would have been détente between the US and Cuba?  Did Cuba undermine its chances at détente with the US?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Absolutely.  The negotiations were going on, were secret negotiations; now the documents have been declassified.  And there would have been some kind of normalization between Cuba and the United States, yes.

AARON MATÉ:  So, that’s a huge sacrifice, and I just want [to talk about] this because it’s a fascinating history.  That’s a huge sacrifice that this small island nation made, for what?  For the goal of Third World liberation and defeating apartheid?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Yes, and not only this, but then with Carter, the Carter administration really was willing to establish relations with Cuba.  And there are conversations in some of the American documents declassified by Carter, when he went to Cuba, where Fidel Castro says, ‘We are not going to negotiate Angola with you.  We will negotiate Angola with Angola, but not with you.’  It was a sense of honesty and commitment towards the Angolan government, a government that desperately needed the Cuban troops to be protected against South Africa.  You know, it sounds very rhetorical saying this, and I’m aware of it, but there are very few examples of the idealism demonstrated by the Cuban government in its foreign policy in Africa.

AARON MATÉ:  Yeah, so this is why I wanted to do this interview, because when we talk now about why the US has maintained this blockade of Cuba, I mean, the obvious answers are, they want to crush any alternative economic system, they want to make sure that socialism fails, the influence of the Miami Cuban exile population is very strong in US electoral politics.  But what I thought was overlooked in this conversation is, I’m wondering your thoughts on this, to what extent is the US also motivated by just animus and bitterness towards Cuba at its foreign policy of undermining the US-backed apartheid regime?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  I think 95 percent.

AARON MATÉ:  95 percent.


AARON MATÉ:  And what do the US internal documents say about that, when it comes to how angry the US was at Cuba undermining US imperialism and US allies like South Africa?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Very, very angry.  Look, Kennedy was furious because of the Bay of Pigs.  Johnson didn’t have a particular animus against Cuba.  And paradoxically Nixon didn’t have a particular… yeah, he didn’t like it, but the hostility, that degree of hostility, the Kennedy hostility, if you want, starts again with Ford and continues from Ford on, because that’s when the Cubans humiliate again the United States.

Look, there is a conversation, I think it’s early 1982—the documents have been declassified between Secretary of State [George] Shultz and Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, the vice president of Cuba—a conversation in Mexico, through the Mexican government [which] organized it.  And Shultz is very polite; he thanks Rodriguez for having come all the way, etc.  And the message of Secretary of State Shultz…sorry, [Alexander] Haig, Secretary of State Haig.  The message of Secretary of State Haig, the message of President Reagan is, ‘We are not like John Kennedy, we are not trying to overthrow the Cuban government.  Indeed, we coexist with communist governments in Eastern Europe; we can coexist with you, but you have to stop supporting the Sandinistas and you have to get out of Africa, you have to get out of Angola.’  And the Cubans again refused.

And you can understand the fury of this giant which is willing to coexist with this miserable island ninety miles from our shores.  We are willing to forgive them if only…

AARON MATÉ:  Forgive them from being free from independence.  Sorry, I was just saying, willing to forgive them for being independent of US control if they stop…

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Not only for being independent; it’s much more than that.  It’s for doing things we don’t like — maintaining troops in Angola, helping the Sandinistas.

AARON MATÉ:  And so, to be clear, what did Cuba say in response?  Did Cuba then abandon the Sandinistas?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  It’s the same thing Carlos Rafael Rodriguez says: ‘We are not going to negotiate Angola.  We are not going to negotiate Nicaragua with you.’  The same thing they were telling Carter.  And what makes that conversation even more scary when you read it is, again, Haig is very polite, but at the same time he’s very threatening.  He says, ‘You think we are using force against Cuba now, the embargo, what you call the blockade, etc.?  You have seen nothing.  We can do much more than that.’  And the Cuban response is the same.  And until 1987, until the entire Iran-Contra affair, Cuba lived with the nightmare of an American attack.

And you must know that in 1981, 1982, the Reagan administration was seriously considering an invasion, an attack against Cuba.  And the two groups we see in the administration that opposed it were the Department of Defense and the CIA, because their message is, there would be very serious losses for the United States.  The US defense intelligence agencies as published in the 1980s through studies about the Cuban armed forces—they’re public, anyone can get them—and they talk about how strong the Cuban armed forces are and how the Cubans would fight against the US invasion.

But this was a serious consideration.  And at the same time the Cubans knew, and [Yuri] Andropov, who became the general secretary of the Soviet Union in 1982, told Raúl Castro, who was sent to Moscow to talk [with] the Soviets, that ‘if the Americans attacked, there is nothing we can do.  You are too far away.’  Because Raúl went to say, ‘We are worried.  We see all these signs.  The Americans might attack.’  And Andropov said, ‘What do you want us to do?  There is nothing we can do.  We can give you more weapons, more visits by Soviet ships, more declarations of friendship to achieve with Cuba, but there is nothing concrete we can do if the Americans attack you.’  And this was the nightmare of the Cubans until 1987, when, again, there is the scandal of Iran-Contra and Reagan is weakened, and from a Cuban perspective Reagan is defunct.

AARON MATÉ:  So, Cuba took a huge risk in standing by its support for liberation in Angola and its defense of Nicaraguan sovereignty from the US terror war there against the Sandinista movement.  But also, in 1987-1988 you have a decisive battle in Angola, once again, that helped end South African apartheid.  Can you talk about that?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Sure, because the South Africans, the Americans consider possibly that the South African troops will enter Namibia, which is a de facto South African colony.  And the South Africans are not willing to risk a major confrontation with the Cubans because the conclusion of both the US military, the Department of Defense, and of the South African military is that the Cuban troops in southern Africa, in Angola, are stronger than the troops South Africa can muster to fight against the Cubans.  So, the threat of a Cuban invasion of Namibia, of the Cuban army entering in force [into] Namibia which is a de facto South African colony, makes South Africa negotiate what is essentially a negotiated surrender.

AARON MATÉ:  And what did Nelson Mandela say about this in terms of the contribution of Cuba, this period…

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Nelson Mandela said two things at different moments.  One, he said that no people have done as much for Africa as the Cuban people have done, and they saw that Africa has an immense debt of gratitude towards the Cuban people.  And he also said that the Cuban victory in Angola was part and parcel of the victory of the South African people against apartheid because it encouraged the South African people and demoralized the South Africans.

In a colonial war, in a colonial situation like South Africa, the psychological element is very important.  What was the psychological element in 1988-1989?  First of all, in 1988, the people of South Africa and Namibia saw the apartheid army defeated by the Cubans.  This had a huge psychological impact, both on those who fought against apartheid and on those who defended the apartheid, both in South Africa and Namibia.  And US documents and South African documents testify to that.  Then the second thing that intervenes in that in 1989, because the of the military victory of the Cubans in 1988, South Africa has to agree to free elections in Namibia, which are won by the black guerrilla movement.

AARON MATÉ:  In Namibia.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  In Namibia.  And South African documents and US documents since the late 1970s had always said the same thing:  that the victory of this guerrilla movement, if there were free elections, everyone agreed this guerrilla movement would win the elections.  And the victory of this guerrilla movement would be very destabilizing for South Africa, within South Africa, because of the psychological impact for the whites of the loss of Namibia and for the blacks of the liberation of Namibia.  So, what you have are two blows, one after the other, defeating Angola and defeating Namibia.  According to Nelson Mandela these were very important blows against apartheid, and this was the result of Cuba.  There is no way around it.

AARON MATÉ:  Right.  Okay, I have two more questions.

The first is about Cuban doctors.  In the US media Cuban medical professionals are heavily vilified.  You go to foreign countries, it’s much different.  We saw during COVID how essential Cuban medical personnel were in helping to combat COVID, especially in the hard-hit areas of Italy, among many places around the world.  What does history tell us about US hostility towards Cuban medical missions, and how do these Cuban medical missions fit into Cuba’s internationalist foreign policy of the kind that you’ve been speaking about?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  You had Cuban missions in the 1960s; the United States did not pay any attention to these.  Then you have Angola beginning in 1975, and Cuban doctors played an extremely important role.  The Carter administration didn’t have a particular venom against Cuban doctors and so on.  The Reagan administration did because what these doctors did [was] increase sympathy for Cuba.  They were Cuba’s ambassadors.  And obviously, medical assistance was the most effective part of Cuban humanitarian assistance in the Third World.

So, in the 1980s we really did not like Cuban humanitarian assistance, including Cuban medical assistance.  It was subversive.  And [it wasn’t that it was just] in Africa, it’s also [in] Latin America, is in Nicaragua.  And eventually Fidel Castro did something that was also shocking for the United States.  In 2001- 2002, he created a medical university for poor foreigners, where they would come and study medicine in Cuba the first two years in that school, then they would move to Cuban universities, and the idea was the hope.

Look, I don’t know Cuban doctors now.  As I told you, I haven’t been in Cuba for five years.  And Cuban doctors during the Cold War and in the early years after the Cold War, a university professor made more than a doctor in Cuba.  If you wanted to be a doctor in Cuba…in the United States you go to a doctor, the first thing an American doctor sees are the dollar signs.  There are a few exceptions, but that’s essentially it.  And medicine in Cuba had a completely different idea; you really wanted to help patients.  It was very different from the United States.  And this was Cuban medicine.  And I have spent time with Cuban doctors, both because they were part of the family of my closest friends and because on a couple occasions I was not well in Cuba.  It was a different kind of breed.  I don’t know now because the situation of extreme scarcity, things start changing, even idealism.

AARON MATÉ:  So, final question.  Cuba is going through a very difficult period right now.  Huge economic challenges, scarcity on the island when it comes to the basic essentials like food.  What do you see for Cuba and the period ahead?  What are its biggest challenges, and how can it navigate them as it lives under this crushing US blockade that is designed to impose suffering on the Cuban people?

PIERO GLEIJESES:  Look, in a way it’s very sad.  Cuba had immense victories in the field of medicine, in the field of education.  If you read even reports of the World Bank, they speak very highly of what Cuba did for its people in terms of medicine, etc.  Now, you have a dramatic situation because you still have very good doctors, but they don’t have the medicines, they have problems with equipment.  You have doctors who abandon medicine to work as drivers, as chauffeur taxi drivers, because they can get some money in dollars.  I think the Cuban government, in a very difficult situation, has to start considering the possibility of opening the political system, which is not very easy because you no longer have people who have the charisma, the history of Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, but I think that the task of the new generation of leaders is to open the country politically.

It’s extremely difficult.  It’s very easy to say sitting at my desk in Washington DC.  But I cannot imagine trying to open the country politically while retaining the achievements of the Cuban Revolution, the dignity of the Cuban Revolution, not to fall into the hands of Miami, essentially.  But there must be the beginning of the political opening.

AARON MATÉ:  We’ll leave it there.  Piero Gleijeses, professor at Johns Hopkins University, author of Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa and Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa.  Professor Gleijeses, thank you so much.

PIERO GLEIJESES:  My pleasure.