Cuba and the Battle for the Summit of the Americas

Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — This year’s Summit of the Americas will be the first Cuba attends, but the central issue of debate will be, not the island’s re-established relations with the United States, but Washington’s declarations against Venezuela, a country it considers a threat to its national security.

Latin America’s response has been unanimous, because no one believes this country truly has the capacity to constitute a threat to the United States. In addition, such a label could in the future be used to justify a new military intervention in the region.

US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson seems to feel misunderstood by Latin American governments, saying: “I was disappointed that there were not more (countries) who defended the fact that clearly this was not intended to hurt the Venezuelan people or the Venezuelan government even as a whole.”

The US diplomat is upset that the tone Latin American leaders are setting “is one of demonizing the United States as the source of Venezuela’s problems, when we are not.”

What is truly surprising, however, is that she should be surprised by the reaction of Latin America, a continent that has been invaded by the US military dozens of times throughout its history, where many coups against democratically elected governments have also relied on the United States’ support.

The Toll of History

Today, things are quite different. The family of the Chilean president was repressed by the dictatorship that the United States helped set up. The Brazilian president was tortured by the dictatorship the US supported. In El Salvador, the FMLN, a movement that fought an army financed by the United States, is now in power.

The Sandinistas, a guerrilla that overthrew Somoza, a dictator the White House defended, calling him “our son of a bitch,” came back to power. Uruguay’s Frente Amplio, many members of which were murdered or disappeared during the Condor Plan (a repressive initiative that relied on US advice) now leads the country.

Some Latin American presidents attending the Summit, such as Brazil’s Dilm Rousseff, have personally suffered repression by dictatorships supported by the United States.

They questioned the link to coca leaf growers maintained by Bolivia’s indigenous president. In Ecuador, they support forces that oppose Rafael Correa’s democratically elected government. In Argentina, they defend so-called “crow funds” and sovereign control over the Falkland Islands by the UK.

While organizations seeking regional integration hope to create a peace zone (CELAC) and call for the withdrawal of foreign military bases (UNASUR), the United States increases the number of troops and military equipment at its military base in Honduras.

In addition, the United States keeps military bases in Cuba, El Salvador, Curazao, Aruba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos, Bermudas, Bahamas and Paraguay. With the Cold War behind us, it is hard to believe the aim of these bases is to protect the region from foreign invasion.

With the exception of the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, the remaining military facilities are welcomed by the governments of those countries, the same countries that unanimously vote to convert the region into a peace zone, without foreign military bases.

Beyond Public Speeches

Two Cuban delegations that oppose one another are attending the Summit’s parallel gatherings.

Five months after the announcements made on December 17, Cuba continues to face a US embargo [called a blockade by Cuba], is still on the United Sates’ list of countries that sponsor terrorism and we are now hearing about a plan to “broaden” Cuban dissident movements in Panama. There’s even a recording where we hear they will be asking for extra funds from the State Department, because they want to put together “something big.”

Panamanian authorities detained and interrogated Cuban dissidents at the airport. Late dissident Osvaldo Paya’s daughter claims they told her she would “be deported to Cuba if you cause any disturbances. Cause disturbances in your own country.”

Obama is to meet with the Cuban and Venezuelan opposition. The New York Times, a newspaper that has become the White House’s Granma, asked all of Latin America for support, but only secured the backing of its counterparts in Uruguay and Costa Rica.

The island’s government didn’t get left behind on this. It filled up a plane with civil society representatives and sent them to the Summit. This way, we will be seeing the image of a society that is divided into irreconcilable blocks, when most Cubans do not believe their country is the hell people speak of or the paradise others paint.

Cuba in Second Place

Despite the fuss being kicked up by Cubans, the central debate will be about Venezuela. Though the White House wishes to avoid the issue, it probably won’t be able to step around it because it constitutes a general concern and it will be hard pressed to silence all governments in attendance.

The reaction to US policy against Venezuela will likely cause heated discussions at the Summit.

Obama has just stated Cuba is a “miniscule country” and that having broader relations with it does not presuppose many risks for them. Now, he will have the opportunity to explain how Venezuela could constitute a risk to US national security.

If any advisor has told Obama the Summit is going to be a cakewalk, he should be fired, because he is well on his way to reliving the Colombia Summit, which concluded without a final declaration and all of the region’s presidents demanding Cuba’s participation.

Academic Luis Suarez insists this Summit and its parallel gatherings will be genuine battlefields, and his claims don’t seem to be too far from the truth. He adds that the region does not intend to slam the door in Obama’s face, but to set in motion a collective negotiation process.

It is no accident the United States’ policy of rapprochement with Cuba was celebrated by the entire continent. The region calls for a new kind of treatment, to be considered neighbors rather than a “backyard.” This will be President Obama’s last encounter with Latin America, and it is up to him to decide what kind of a farewell he wants.
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(*) Visit the website of Fernando Ravsberg.

  • Moses Patterson

    Fernando underestimates the power of commerce. He glosses over the reason why US military bases are welcome in those Latin American countries where they are located. (Hint: Lots of money) The progressive voters who have elected left – leaning governments in Brazil, Venezuela, El Salvador and Chile are demanding that their leaders make good on campaign promises. These leaders, as a result, will go only so far in their rhetoric against the US, not wanting to fully offend their best customer. Cuban political analysts like Fernando see the world in black and white. The reality is that the gray in the middle tends to dominate.

  • Dan

    First order of business should be a Truth Commission. Have equal members from each country in Latin America. Let’s put Cuba’s human rights up along side the United States’ behavior in the hemisphere in these last 50 years. Maybe then, the West would stop talking so much basura, but probably not. The Central American truth commisions, which found the overwhelming preponderance of the human rights violations there to have perpetrated by the US-sponsored governments, not the guerilla, were promptly consigned to (Western) history’s memory hole, allowing Cuba-haters to continue railing undisturbed by facts, about the human rights hell which is Cuba.

  • Gordon Robinson

    Both the Presidents of Cuba and the USA are on their last terms so I expect major good news from this meeting.

  • Gordon Robinson

    From the Economist Magazine – five hours ago :::
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/04/economist-explains-5

  • bjmack

    I think that there will be major ongoing changes in the coming months along with the summit in Panama. Cuba off the terrorist list is within hours and AIRBNB along with Google should raise the bar
    for creativity and intelligent conversations with USA and Cuban citizens. The clock is ticking and the train has moved in that direction.

  • N.J. Marti

    What a load of nonsense. Just more prapoganda by these failing regimes to deflect failure away from their own incompetent leadership. The US has been an incredible force for good in the world. Obama has his faults but the last thing this guy is trying to do is invade these banana republics.

    Obama is about as left as these leaders are going to see. This would be the time to play nice. Beating their drums over 1800 grievances is only going to get under his skin. Stop with the whining all ready.

  • Fez Fernandez

    Who cares what an uruguayan with all the privileges that cubans can’t have in Cuba has to say about Cuba? Not me, not any cuban.

    • dani

      How do you know what privileges Fernando has or hasn’t got in Cuba? Why don’t you deal with what he has to say instead.

      • Fez Fernandez

        Hi Dani. He has internet access, he can express himself without being harassed by the government. I don’t care what foreigners have to say about my country.

  • CUBAQUS

    The actions of the Cuban “delegation” led by Abel Prieto, ex minister and close adviser to Raul Castro, and Miguel Barnet and supported by the lies of Eusebio Leal and officially supported by “heir apparent” Diaz-Canal only have show the world – again – how vile the Castro regime is.

  • Griffin

    To their great shame, the Panamanian authorities allowed a group of Cuban State Security agents to assault a group of Cuban dissidents at a park in Panama by a stature of Jose Marti. The Cuban dissidents were detained by the police, while the criminals who assaulted them were allowed to walk away.

    One of these attackers has been identified as Col. Alexis Frutos Weeden, who is the head of Cuban intelligence in Venezuela.

    I’ll repeat that: “Col. Alexis Frutos Weeden, Head of Cuban Intelligence in Venezuela”. More about Alex Frutos here, (from Juan Reynaldo Sanchez was personal bodyguard of Fidel Castro between 1968 and 1994):

    “Between 1999 and 2003, Frutos was as charge d’affaires at the Embassy of Cuba in Panama… Frutos then went to Venezuela to hold the formal position of minister counselor of the Cuban embassy in Caracas, but in reality his appointment would be as the Cuban intelligence chief in the South American country. The colonel was also commissioned by the Cuban authorities with responsibility for monitoring the health of President Chavez and especially to maintain control over the Cuban medical teams working in Venezuela.

    Besides keeping close watch on the official members of the Marti Mission and preventing the leakage of information regarding the health of the president, Frutos kept Fidel and Raul Castro informed of all the details of Chavez’s health since 2003. During this time also came to Venezuela the General Fabián Escalante Font, alias Robert, manager for years to Cuban counterintelligence and with vast experience in tasks confronting subversive activities against the Castro regime.”

    While Fernando and the leaders of some of the leftist countries in the Americas are droning on about the US violating their sovereignty, they are turning a blind eye to the violation of national sovereignty of Venezuela, and apparently now Panama, too, by the Castro regime.

    An even greater shame is that President Obama seems perfectly willing to go along with this charade and debasement of the principles of democracy in the Americas.