Human rights as a weapon of war

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By GILBERTO LOPES*

The US uses the human rights argument less to enforce them than to serve its political and economic interests.

For the White House, a change in policy on Cuba is currently not among President Joe Biden's priorities. But Biden administration spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on March 10, "We are carefully reviewing policy decisions made under the previous administration, including the decision to designate Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism." The United States had announced on January 11 – a few days before the end of the Trump administration – that it would once again include Cuba on the list. He accused Cuba of “repeatedly supporting acts of international terrorism”, of harboring US fugitives and leaders of Colombian rebel groups.

A formidable debate

In 2015, President Barack Obama removed the island from that classification. The US administration had then begun a process of changing its policies towards Cuba, whose objectives Obama defined five years ago, in his speech in Havana on March 22, 2016: “I have come to extend a helping hand to the Cuban people” , Obama said at the time, in the key phrase of his speech. The differences between the two governments were clear. He enumerated them: Cuba has a one-party political system, the United States is a multiparty democracy; Cuba follows a socialist economic system, the United States an open market system; Cuba emphasizes the role and rights of the state; the United States is based on the rights of the individual.

In Obama's definition, there are principles and objectives. As for the party system, someone once said that Mexico's (when the PRI dominated for decades) was the “perfect dictatorship”. The phrase never came closer to reflecting reality when the PRI and its main adversary, the PAN, unified their policies according to neoliberal criteria. It was then, when the two already represented similar policies, that the alternation in power began.

From an alternative design point of view, few systems are more similar than those of the United States and Cuba. In America's multi-party democracy - indeed, a two-party democracy - no alternative to the system Obama calls the "open market" is expressed. A definition that also does not exactly reflect reality. It is rather a system of private property that has been taken to its extreme. There is no possibility of changing to socialism. Likewise, the Cuban political system does not express any alternative to a return to capitalism.

In this context, Cuba understands that the State plays a fundamental role in the development of the economy and in the responsibility of satisfying the social demands, mainly of education and health of its population. The United States, which understands that individual wealth and private property are the foundation of society, places the State at the service of these principles, and the quality of services to which each person has access is linked to how each one has fared in life. , the size of the wealth he accumulated. It is a formidable debate, the turning point of political life in our time.

Obama went to Havana to fight it, with his pockets full, in a scenario where almost everything is missing. “Why now?”, he asked himself as he reflected on the change in policy that his country had imposed on the island for 60 years and which he was now proposing. Because “what we were doing wasn't working,” he said. It was not about accepting the form of organization of the Cuban state. "No! It was about looking for another way to transform it. To clarify, he added: “It is not about normalizing relations with the Cuban government. The United States is normalizing relations with the people of Cuba. What they were doing was hurting the people of Cuba,” Obama said. They were now betting on a different strategy: that of organizing the Cuban people to take charge of confronting the government, like the model of the color revolutions, which was applied in the countries of North Africa, or in Eastern Europe.

The change was short lived

Trump, however, did not agree. Since coming to power, he has taken drastic measures against Cuba: tightening restrictions on travel, sending remittances and imposing sanctions on shipments of Venezuelan oil to the island. Finally, days before leaving power, he announced that he would put Cuba back on the list of countries that support terrorism. The Cuban foreign minister replied: “We condemn the hypocritical and cynical classification of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism announced by the United States. The political opportunism of this action is recognized by anyone who has an honest concern for the scourge of terrorism and its victims.”

Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper said Colombia was grateful to Cuba for its role in facilitating the deal between the government and the guerrillas. “It was a discreet, timely and very effective performance,” said Samper. "Cuba's new inclusion on the list is the latest in a series of measures taken by the State Department in the final stretch of President Trump's term, aimed at protecting some of his foreign policy priorities ahead of the White House switch," he said. on the occasion Pablo Guimón, correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El País in Washington. “Indignation over Trump’s decision to include Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” read the newspaper’s headline. Public, also Spanish. This new attack on Cuba “adversely affects its international position and its social, human and economic development and is yet another misguided action, in addition to the unproductive, unnecessary and illegal financial and economic blockade already imposed on this Caribbean nation by the United States,” the United States said. Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

another twist

The United States will talk about human rights everywhere, including its allies and at home, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he presented a new report March 30 on his country's view of the state of human rights. rights in the world. “The defense of human rights is in our interest,” he added, addressing criticism from supporters of the Trump administration. The report presented by Blinken is the 45th in the series, a document in which the United States defines which aspects of the subject best serve its foreign policy. Priorities are clearly defined.

The first is China, whose authorities are accused of “genocide” against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. From Russia, it says the government has targeted political dissidents and peaceful protesters, while corruption remains rampant in the country. The Biden administration has given priority to promoting a common policy with its allies regarding accusations of genocide against the Chinese government for its policies in Xinjiang or the measures taken by Beijing in Hong Kong. And the other major adversary, Russia, was also prominently included in the report, prioritizing, in this case, the alleged poisoning of the currently jailed opposition leader, Alexis Navalny.

In Latin America, too, enemies were chosen carefully and without surprises. He blames the corruption of President Nicolás Maduro's government for the terrible humanitarian crisis that the Venezuelan people are experiencing. The report, of course, says not a word about the dire effects of US sanctions against the Venezuelan people, nor about the growing paramilitary operations mounted from the Colombian border, with US military and intelligence support, which have cost the lives of more than a dozen people in the last month.

He accuses the Cuban government of restricting freedom of expression, association, religion and movement. In Nicaragua, he says that the corrupt government of Daniel Ortega has passed increasingly repressive laws that “severely limit the ability of opposition political groups, civil society and independent media,” many of them financed by the United States, to function. Not a word about the dramatic violence prevailing in Colombia – its main ally in Latin America –, about the prolonged repression of protests in Chile, or about the narco-regime in Honduras, even though, last month, the president's brother was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States for drug trafficking. Or even the abuses committed by Israel in Palestine, with the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank or the transformation of the Gaza Strip into a veritable concentration camp.

Although in the presentation of the report it is possible to read that in 2020 the nations had to face the spread of Covid-19 around the world, there is also not a word about the policies of the government of Jair Bolsonaro, whose refusal to adopt policies to combat the pandemic led to the country to a dramatic situation, which ended up becoming a global threat. “The country is about to reach a point of no return”, with more than 5.000 deaths per day in the near future, and 500.000 deaths in July, according to forecasts by neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.

A government allied with the military, who occupy almost half of ministerial portfolios and thousands of positions in the second and third echelons of the government. With Hamilton Mourão, a reserve general, as vice president, who on March 31 celebrated yet another anniversary of the 1964 military coup, organized with the support of the United States. A dictatorship that lasted 21 years, a period in which torture was common practice, which both Mourão and Bolsonaro defend. “Strength and honor!” was how Mourão summed up his assessment of a regime that was not ashamed to torture and kill a young man by stuffing a car exhaust pipe into his mouth.

A look into the past

Last week, journalist Anthony Faiola wrote in the The The Washington Post that “against all odds, Cuba could become a powerhouse of vaccines against the coronavirus”. Fidel Castro had promised to build a biotechnology giant in Cuba, recalls Faiola, and started the project with six researchers in a small laboratory in Havana. “Forty years later, the communist island nation could be on the brink of a singular breakthrough: becoming the smallest country in the world to develop not just one, but multiple coronavirus vaccines,” he said.

Thirty years ago, in 30, socialism in Eastern Europe collapsed and the Soviet Union fell apart. It was the end of the Cold War. The political references of this world were the former president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, and the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, architects of the neoliberal model in those years. On the occasion, Dr. Susan Kaufman Purcell was on the State Department planning team under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Reagan. The author of a dozen books, Purcell is now a member of the board of directors of Valero Energy Corporation, a Fortune 1991 company based in San Antonio, Texas. Its refineries have the capacity to produce more than three million barrels a day and its 50 ethanol plants produce more than 13 billion gallons a year, according to the corporation's website.

An independent consultant, she was writing at the time about Cuba's prospects in the face of the fall of the Soviet Union. “collapsing cuba”, is the title of the article, published in the prestigious magazine Foreign Affairs in 1991. “It's only a matter of time before Cuban communism collapses,” is the first sentence of the article. "The island's economic disintegration is accelerating at a breakneck pace." Among the things that Purcell talks about are the efforts to keep the economy running, which Fidel Castro's government was doing at the time. In an initiative to strengthen the currency, the government intended to diversify its exports, increasing the production of biotechnology and pharmaceutical products. Hopeful, she added: “The deterioration of the economic situation is turning into political discontent”.

While Castro tried to sustain the economy with projects like these, Purcell compared Cuban policies with those of other Latin American countries, which faced the “debt crisis” of the 80s with austerity and stabilization measures. But, above all, the privatization of public companies. In his opinion, a “lost decade” was ending and a “virtuous decade” was beginning. Customs tariffs were reduced and the door to foreign investment was opened. It was the neoliberal dream, the consequences of which we are living in Latin America.

disastrous effects

Cuba followed another path, as we know. The effects of 60 years of embargo are disastrous and, although it has been almost unanimously condemned in the UN, it remains the mainstay of US policy towards Cuba, while governments go from one extreme to another in their attempts to prevent development. economic, which helps to raise an internal opposition in the country. These efforts have recently been renewed.

But Obama had indicated in his speech that even if the United States lifted the embargo, Cubans would not be able to develop their full potential without changes in Cuba. He was right. Next week, from April 16 to 19, the 8th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party will take place. In recent years – says the call for the congress – “the US government has accentuated its hostility against Cuba, intensifying the genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade, and the political-ideological subversion. Added to this are the consequences of the global economic crisis”.

But this situation does not justify delaying the implementation of the “Guidelines for Economic and Social Policy” approved at the previous congress, as they claim. On the contrary, “it imposes the need to give impetus to updating our economic and social model, in order to fulfill what we agreed”. Perhaps this is the biggest challenge facing the island's government.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

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