CUBA: A US COLONY?
Most of the problems of today's world are the product of US foreign policy, according to the Marxist thinkers still prevalent in academic circles. While I agree that the US has made and continues to make mistakes, I disagree that it is the cause of so many evils. Whatever harm the US may have done, it pales in comparison with the harm caused by the former Soviet Union and the communist system they tried to impose all over the world.
It never ceases to amaze me that people who blame the US for so much that goes wrong in the world and condemn dictatorial authoritarian regimes, seldom express any outrage at totalitarian communist regimes. Case in point: Cuba.
The arrogant and imperial thoughts of many US politicians of the prior and beginning of this century are undeniable. As politicians from a fairly new nation, smoke clouded their thoughts and they made misjudgments and mistakes. The same thing happened to politicians in Latin America - newly independent from Spain. The more economically prosperous US with its democratic roots had an advantage over the less democratically inclined Spanish traditions. That was the main handicap of Latin America in relation to the US. And the arrogant and imperial way of thinking of US politicians and businessmen of that era took advantage of that situation for economic gains.
Glee over the profits of capitalism and unscrupulous US business interests superseded sound principles and moral judgements. These businesses shaped US policy. But the same thing is happening in other countries today. In the case of Cuba, we can see clearly now how other governments are proceeding according to the interests of their business communities. We don't have to strain ourselves to find the unscrupulous and immoral conduct of Canada, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, as well as Spain (now trying to reform itself because of the shameful policies toward Cuba of the former socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez), France, Italy, Germany, England and others.
Blaming the ills of Cuba, past and present, on the US may be popular but is invalid. The fact that the US got involved in Cuba's independence war against Spain after the US warship Maine exploded in Havana's harbor, cut short the struggle and saved lives. On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris between Spain and the US provided for the temporary occupation of the island by the US. During the period from 1898 to 1902, when Cuba officially received its independence, the US did good things, such as helping to reconstruct the infrastructure, and organize public education and health care. Cuban teachers and doctors came to the US for training. The US tried to educate the suddenly liberated Cubans about democratic government and how to govern themselves. Let's not forget that democracy wasn't practiced in Spain and there weren't many democratic countries in the world in the early twentieth century.
Foreseeing problems with the ability of Cubans to govern themselves, the paternalistic and arrogant way of thinking of that era in the US, imposed upon Cuba the Platt Amendment to permit intervention into Cuba's internal affairs to protect American interests if Cuba's democracy became imperiled. The US intervened in Cuba in 1906 and 1912. The last time US Marines invaded Cuba was in 1917. And the Platt Amendment - hated by the Cubans - was removed in 1934.
People who think that Cuba was a US colony should consider the following: According to Dr. Levi Marrero in his 15 volume Cuba, Economy and Society, by 1929, at the height of US economic penetration, US investments in Cuba were valued at $1,525 billion ($800 million of which were in 161 sugar mills). But this situation began to change and by 1935, Cuban nationals owned 50 of the mills. By 1958, Cubans owned 121 sugar mills while US investors (by then co-investors with Cubans) were in the minority with only 40. Also by 1958, the total US investment in Cuba was $861 million while at the same time Cubans' investments in its industries other than sugar (producing 10,000 different products), commerce and agriculture was $6 billion. And US investors in the Cuban economy was less than 14%, while the urban properties owned by Cubans represented another $6 billion. In 1939, Cuban banks had 23% of the private deposits but by 1958 their share rose to 61%.
By 1952, Cuba, as a republic, having rapidly advanced became number three in standard of living in Latin America. The Cuban workers were the third best paid in the world, and had advanced legal and social laws protecting them. Cuba had an extensive public education system open to all. In 1940, there were 30,000 primary classrooms with more than 34,000 teachers and an enrollment of 1,300,000 students, and more than 1,000 private schools of all denominations with more than 200,000 students. Cuba had an extensive system of HMOs dating from the prior century that flourished in republican times, that were extremely efficient and inexpensive, as well as free medical care for the poor at government hospitals.
It is inaccurate to blame the US for Batista when in fact, during the Eisenhower Administration, the State Department Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs' Director, William Wieland, and Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, Roy R. Rubotton, did everything to propitiate Batista's departure and Castro's ascent to power. According to the 1957-59 US Ambassador to Cuba, the late Earl E. T. Smith's book The Fourth Floor, the US promptly instructed him to recognize the new government on January 7, 1959, even before Castro made his triumphant entrance into Havana. Ambassador Smith later testified before the Sub-Committee of the United States Senate, "I believe that we were very hasty in the recognition of the Castro government."
As the record shows, in the 57 years prior to 1959, the Cuban governments that received the recognition of the US did not commit the crimes that produced the biggest exodus in the history of the Americas, and destroyed physically and economically the once prosperous island. All of this has been accomplished by Castro.
There is no comparison between the Platt Amendment and the Helms Burton Act. The latter doesn't give the right to the US to send Marines to Cuba nor does it preclude the rest of the world from doing business with Cuba. Helms-Burton is directed toward those who traffic and profit from stolen property with an unelected illegal regime by not allowing them do business with or visit the US. Otherwise, if the US would lift its embargo (which is not the main cause of Cuba's hardships), and allow its business community to descend to the levels of the unscrupulous and immoral practices of the Canadians and others, the US would be bowing to the old exploitive mentality of a prior era. For some in the business community there is a gold rush in Cuba where they can make a fast buck. But, is it moral and fair to the already exploited and oppressed Cubans?
There is nothing wrong with the US offering help to Cuba, with the condition that a democratic government replaces Castro. That is what Cubans wanted when Castro hijacked their democratic revolution. Cubans didn't want communism. They wanted to return to a democratic government with respect for its 1940 Constitution. That's why Batista wasn't acceptable to Cubans. And Castro, who abolished the 1940 Constitution in February 1959, isn't acceptable either.
Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums SuttonProducer/Director of documentary COVERING CUBA
From El Tiempo Latino, a local Spanish Language Newspaper in Washington
D.C. Spanish translation available upon request.