LOUIS PEREZ, perez [at] ad.unc.edu
Professor of history at the University of North Carolina and editor of Cuban Journal, Perez is author of several books including Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution.
He said today: “There’s tremendous ignorance about Cuba in the U.S. — and a real lack of self-reflection. People rightly talk about the deplorable state of the Cuban economy, without acknowledging the ways that decades-long punitive U.S. embargo contributed to the condition of the Cuban economy. The purpose of the embargo was in fact to induce hardship as a way to provoke the Cuban people to rise up and obtain the regime change desired in Washington.
“Most everyone is subscribing to the ‘great man thesis,’ which is fine up to a point. But Fidel Castro resonates because the Cuban revolution resonates, and the revolution resonates because millions of Cubans responded to a historical appeal of national sovereignty and self-determination.
“It has long been the policy of the U.S. to overthrow the Cuban government. President Obama pursues similar goals. He has just changed the means, not the ultimate objective. The U.S. demands open elections, democratic systems, freedom of the press — processes all very easy to subvert if the intention is regime change.
“The Cuban government has spawned a surveillance system, arrest and harassment on a national scale in the name of national security. Cuba offers a cautionary tale to those who would pursue policies of national security at the expense of civil liberties and due process.
“Cuba under Castro in 1959 inaugurated liberal reforms, like land reform — and there was immediate push-back by the U.S. government. It became apparent that the U.S. would not acquiesce to liberal reforms by the new government. By the autumn of 1959, when Che Guevara became minister of the economy, the Cuban government went forward with some of the most radical reforms in the history of Latin America.
“The Cubans had the whole history of Latin American to study, and the U.S. response to reforms. They were not going to go quietly into the night. It became apparent early that liberal reforms would not be workable in Cuba due to U.S. opposition. Reform governments — democratic governments, whether in Chile or Guyana, or Guatemala — are readily circumscribed in their freedom of actions. Cubans in 1959 did not need to have a prophetic gift to see that what was coming in the immediate future. They had a history.”
KEITH BOLENDER, bolodive [at] gmail.com
Bolender is author of Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba and Cuba Under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People. He is currently in Europe. He notes that while the U.S. government for years had Cuba on its “terrorism list,” that in fact, “the Cuban side has claimed more than 3,000 of its citizens have been victimized by acts of terrorism dating back to the 1960s, conducted in the majority by violent anti-revolutionary Cuban-American organizations based in Florida, often with the backing of the American government.
“Acts include the destruction of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in 1976, resulting in the deaths of all 72 on board, as well as the bombing campaign against Cuban tourist facilities in 1997. Cuban-American Luis Posada Carriles, the acknowledged mastermind of the Cubana Airlines and tourist bombings, continues to reside in Miami, despite requests for his extradition to Havana. Other acts of terrorism against Cuban civilian targets include the torture and killing of Cuban students for teaching adults to read and write during the Literacy Campaign in 1961; the introduction of biological germs such as Dengue 2 that resulted in the death of more than 100 children; attacks on small villages and the psychological terror program known as Operation Peter Pan that convinced thousands of Cuban parents to send their children out of country.”