Exporting democracy

Published : Aug 11, 2006 00:00 IST

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO in Cordoba, Argentina, on July 21. - ROBERTO CANDIA/AP

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO in Cordoba, Argentina, on July 21. - ROBERTO CANDIA/AP

The latest U.S. scheme for Cuba has classified sections that are believed to contain plans of attack and assassination.

IN the first week of July, Ricardo Alarcon, the President of Cuba's National Assembly, revealed to the world the latest United States plan to destabilise his country. A few days later, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the existence of an $80-million "Cuba Democracy" Plan. The Report, dated June 20, 2006, had first appeared in a seemingly innocuous manner on the State Department's website in the third week of June and had gone unreported in the Western media.

The document was presented in the second week of July at a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council, especially devoted to Cuba. It was attended by President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Intelligence Chief, John Negroponte. Alarcon said that what made the Report more sinister than earlier ones on Cuba were the classified sections that had detailed plans to attack the country and assassinate its leaders. The document states that there are contents in the appendix that remain secret for "national security reasons" and to ensure their "effective implementation".

President Bush asserted in the second week of July that the $80 million would help the Cuban people in their "transition to democracy". The Cuban people are not too enamoured of the kind of democracy they have seen in neighbouring Florida. Iraq and Afghanistan are other illustrations of American-sponsored democracies at work. The recent elections in Mexico have not been advertisements for U.S.-style democracy, either.

Cuba is all set to host the Non-Aligned Movement summit in September. Cuba was recently elected to the United Nations Council on Human Rights. The American moves also come at a time when the Cuban people are getting ready to celebrate the 80th birthday of President Fidel Castro.

American officials have been speculating about the post-Fidel Castro political scenario in Cuba. Castro and the Cuban Communist Party have prepared a blueprint for a new leadership to take over. The first Vice-President of Cuba's Council of State and Defence Minister, Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother and a prominent leader of the revolution that overthrew the puppet regime of the U.S. in 1959, will take over the leadership if Fidel Castro decides to retire or is incapacitated. Fidel Castro, in many of his speeches, has stressed that he wants the younger generation in the Party to take over after a transition period under Raul.

Alarcon has termed the U.S. document "a politically delirious provocation". The Cuban government said that the latest American plan was an act of aggression that violated the country's sovereignty as well as international law. "They will not destroy the nation. They will not succeed in doing that. But they will cause harm and deprivation and suffering of individuals," Alarcon stressed. He was reacting to a statement by Bush approving of the report by the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. The Commission's members included Secretary of State Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez. Among the measures envisaged in the plan is a tightening of the sanctions against Cuba. The plan recommends that the U.S. spend $80 in a two-year period "to empower... the Cuban democratic opposition to take advantage of the [new] opportunities".

In a separate 90-page report, grandiosely titled "Compact with the People of Cuba", the U.S. State Department accuses Cuba of being a "destabilising force" in the region and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela of providing Cuba with funds to subvert governments in the region. The Bush administration even went to the extent of offering help to a post-Castro government, provided there was a genuine commitment to hold "free elections and set up a market economy within 18 months".

Washington's posturing has shown how out of touch with reality it has become. Its outrageous offer was received with embarrassment by the handful of dissidents in Cuba. Many of them were quick to distance themselves from the move. Martha Beatriz Roque, a dissident leader, acknowledged that $80 million was a considerable sum but "almost all of it stays in projects made in the U.S.".

If the Bush administration's pipe-dreams are fulfilled, the rich Cuban exiles in Miami, who facilitated George Bush's rise to the presidency, will go back to reclaim their properties and swap up all state-owned ones. The dissidents cannot disregard the tremendous strides the Cuban revolution has made in improving the quality of life in Cuba for the average citizen. Interestingly, the latest American document allows the U.S. to sue, in American courts those companies or business people from third countries who do business in Cuba with nationalised companies which originally belonged to U.S. citizens or to Cubans who have become American citizens. A sum of $15 million out of the $80 million is earmarked for "international efforts" to terminate the Cuban revolution.

Warsaw and Prague are the two European capitals where much of these efforts are currently centred. Others in the pay of Washington are people like the former right-wing Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar. Individuals from Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries visit Cuba to hand over American slush funds to the clutch of dissidents.

There was a similar provocation two years ago. On May 24, 2004, Bush announced a plan to annex Cuba. The 450-page document released that year graphically outlined the plans the Bush administration had in store for the sovereign country. This included the return of all properties to former owners and privatising all sectors of the economy, including health and education. The U.S. government would be in charge of implementation of all these measures through a Permanent Committee for Economic Reconstruction. The supervision of the programme would be done by a U.S. government official with the grandiose title of "Cuba Transition Coordinator". The Bush administration has already named an official, Caleb McCarry, as the coordinator. McCarry has visited a few European capitals in this capacity. "Anybody should know that the commitment to overthrow the government of another country, to seek a political, social and economic regime change, and submit that country to a foreign power, is a scandalous breach of international law, only conceivable in people with a fascist mentality," wrote Alarcon in a recent article titled "Chronicle of a War Foretold".

The new report only adds additional measures which, according to the State Department, are meant to "accelerate" the demise of the Cuban revolution. At a recent round-table conference, Alarcon quoted Fidel Castro as describing the report as "not a very serious document that has to be taken very seriously" and added that it came from "not a very serious government that has to be taken very seriously". Alarcon told the round-table in Havana that "the drunkard opines one thing and the bartender another," but, as far as he knew, "W. Bush is no bartender". The Cuban leader was no doubt referring to the American invasion of Iraq and the recent events in Lebanon. The memory of the "Bay of Pigs" invasion sponsored by the Americans is still fresh in the collective memory of the Cuban people.

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