United States and Fidel Castro’s Cuba, now more than forty years old, is still a source of great political and moral contention. The collapse of the Soviet Union and, with it, the end of the Cold War, signaled a change in the implications of the type of socialism governing Cuba. The alleged threats that had hovered so close to the continental U.S. throughout these paranoid and dangerous days of ideological impasse were now neutralized by the dismantling of the infrastructure that had brandished them. Cuba, once a unique and remote ally to the U.S.S.R., served as an outpost for anti-American hostilities and a potential vessel through which to deliver the devastating blows that may have turned the Cold War hot, now is an isolated bastion for ideals abandoned by most of the world. In the Western Hemisphere, they are alone, paying for what most American citizens will tell you is their philosophical transgression.
Today, Cuban citizens live in a state of constant depression. The American State Department will assert that this is the result of an inherently flawed form of governance, that communism is naturally inclined to fail due to its transgression of the inborn human desire for self-determination. This is a half accurate tenet. It’s true that communism cannot survive in practice in this world. But rather than assess this incapacity to some fundamental error in the design of communism (a topic too broad for discussion in this forum), it may be more accurate to suggest that communism’s unpopularity with the rest of the western world excludes it from an increasingly global economic structure. The universality of resources and freedom that globalism claims to purport are not available to those not willing to play by a set of very stringently delineated rules that has no place for socialism.
The U.S. State Department’s official policy on Cuba has been a two part one, unchanging throughout the course of the relationship therein. The first and primary part is an open stance of opposition toward the Castro government. The United States has declared itself repeatedly, and from one presidential administration to the next, in advocacy of a democratically elected head of state whose approach to governing is in line with the generally accepted western definition of democracy. Until the establishment of such a government, however, the United States is unrepentant in its criticism and animosity for Castro. As an unrecognized government, Castro’s regime is subject to all of the exclusions afforded by the global system. The United States restricts itself from trade with the nation, finds itself in constant friction over issues of immigration and takes time to diplomatically attack Cuba in the U.N. And most other global forums. The second part of American policy is to supply hungry and unemployed Cuban citizens with many of the goods and services to which global excommunication has deprived them access.
This is the surface level of Cuban/American relations. And the going theory is that this position was arrived at by way of the Cold War. Capitalism certainly did play its part in what would become hostility. But the truth has very little to do with communism. Castro, an excelling law student at the time his revolutionary fervor began mounting, did not call himself a communist, a socialist or a Marxist. He was merely an enemy of a state that had been very amenable to the U.S.
In 1952, Castro was poised to enter the Cuban government in a most modest and evenhanded fashion, campaigned for a parliamentary seat in an election. But an American supported mutiny subverted President Socarras, replacing him with General Fulgencio Batista. Batista made the U.S. investment in Cuban domestic affairs well worth their while and, as a side note, canceled the election in which Castro was slated to compete. Castro sought legal recourse by declaring such an act unconstitutional but his plea was rejected in court. When he turned to military means to make the point, his rebellion was put down. He was imprisoned until 1955. In that space of time, Batista’s Cuba became a playground for commercial imperialism. Cuba became the home to a multitude of American businesses and oil companies. Batista sold his citizens and his nation’s resources out to the highest bidder in exchange for support against revolt. The highest bidder may have been anybody from the American government to private American industry to Mafioso enterprising. Batista’s government became a corrupt tool of totalitarianism. His many human rights violations and democratic transgressions were disregarded as he was a most convenient economic partner.
When Castro was released from prison, he took refuge in the mountains of Cuba, where he and fellow revolutionaries garnered strength. In 1956, their location was a rebel base, designed to serve as an asylum for they and fellow political idealists. Communism was not a condition discussed significantly amongst them. Over only a few years, Cubans who were discontented with Batista’s unbalanced retail of their country began to surround Castro. The rebel base evolved into a community whose influence reached far into the depths of Cuba’s impoverished. Tensions erupted daily on the streets in guerilla strikes and armed conflagration. When the friction bubbled over, Batista fled and left the country’s future in the hands of the Fidel Castro.
For his troubles, Catro would become a romantically regarded radical and an iconic revolutionary. His was a revolution designed to place power into the hands of the Cuban people and the intention received much admiration from like-minded discontents around the world. This was not a perspective held within the confines of the American government. Castro’s sweeping revolution in 1959 formally ended the cooperation between the two countries that was so overwhelmingly beneficial to the U.S. One of Castro’s first acts was to lay claim to all foreign interests operating inside of Cuba’s borders. He expropriated U.S. concerns and was instantly met with hostility by the Eisenhower administration.. The warm regards in which they had held Batista were replaced by an icy disagreement over who deserved direct access to Cuba’s resources: the United States or Cuba. Castro felt that Cuba’s people did, so his reforms were centered around making Cuba an agrarian state. The United States argued on their behalf by cutting diplomatic ties with Cuba and supporting any insurgency instructed toward the subversion of Fidel Castro.
Between 1959 and 1961, Cuba was, for all intents and purposes, a new state looking to find its place in the world. Castro, for his part, was new at the game too and not strictly consigned to any one governmental faith. But the United States made democracy unavailable to him if he wasn’t willing to compromise the good of his citizens. He had become quite popular in Cuba, however. His was the face of the revolution and the bright promise of a plentiful Cuban future. His personage did so much as to inspire hope in his people. The Soviet Union recognized the asset in his popularity and, in their mutual isolation from the American empire, they became natural bedfellows. It was at this point, a year into the Kennedy administration, that Castro’s government became a totalitarian socialist regime. From this point on, there was no turning back. The United States and Fidel Castro would be eternal enemies.
The early U.S. policy was characterized by a series of aggressive efforts to turn the tides of revolution back in Cuba. This included methods as varied and extreme as furnishing dissident Cuban fighters with arms and inundating Cuban citizens with pro-American and anti-Castro propaganda. America’s opposition to Castro was extreme. His unseating was the only condition by which Cuba could return to normalized relations with the U.S. And its democratic allies. Essentially, if Cuba could not be utilized to the direct benefit of the United States and its economic reach, the U.S. was determined to punish it diplomatically.
While today the situation between Cuba and America is regarded as one spawned of those same ideological distinctions that kept America and Russia at arms for fifty years, the crux of our mutual bitterness is far more the progeny of American imperialism and the inevitable roadblocks therein. The economic disagreements caused by Castro’s reformation, that drove Cuba into the arms of Mother Russia, helped to evolve a government of socialistically inclined intellectuals into a hardliner agent of the Iron Curtain.
If this hadn’t been ensured by the circumstances surrounding Castro’s inception into authority and the concurrent American campaign to prevent and, subsequently, oppose that occurrence, President Kennedy and brother Robert shared a personal obsession with the Castro situation that would not allow them to deprioritize the conflict. Eisenhower’s plan for dealing with Castro and Cuba, though stemming from the conventional hostile U.S. stance, placed an equal if not greater emphasis on political action, propaganda and intelligence gathering than actual military action. But the Kennedy’s were determined to step up the intensity of the Cuba situation both for personal and political reasons. They considered it to be a great and perpetuating defeat that Castro was even in power. Anti-communism had become quite a crucial factor in the success of every administration during the Cold War. J.F. Kennedy was no different in his patriotic hatred for the communist threat. It was at this point, 1961, that Cuba became a major player in the Cold War. Castro derived much of his power from his image as a revolutionary. Kennedy opted to perceive him as a low-bound communist lackey.
To abide the anti-communist sentiment, and to compensate for his personal apprehension over an incursion of socialism in his hemisphere, Kennedy determined himself for an attack meant to topple Castro. After a long period of planning and denying, the Kennedy administration scrapped almost a year of strategizing in favor of a makeshift nighttime landing in Bay of Pigs, where the intervening American troops could land, capture the territory and insert a puppet interim government, undermining and ultimately destroying the Castro regime. The invasion become an issue of great debate in Washington, in theory not unlike the current international debate over the rightness of an invasion in Iraq. Essentially, the U.S. was determining to take pre-emptive military action in the interests of establishing a more amenable government without any genuine provocation. This became a source of much consternation for a number of Senators engaged in the debate over the properness of such an action. And as it developed into the overnight invasion of Bay of Pigs, Kennedy staffers and military strategists began to object as well, insisting that Castro’s forces were being grossly underestimated.
This instinct turned out to be an accurate one as the invasion, thwarted by ready and determined Cuban fighters, became a most notorious American military failure. Over one thousand Americans were captured and the U.S. was forced to bargain for them by granting Cuba some of the financial and resource assistance that it had sought to deny them in the first place. Bay of Pigs would go down as the most glaring black eye on the face of the Kennedy administration.
It would also set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Here, Castro would fully realize his purpose as a key firebrand in the flammable rift between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R.
At this point in history, the U.S. was well ahead of its competitor in the arms race. U.S. warheads were capable of striking any location on the globe and, most particularly, any Soviet target desired. Soviet missiles did not have said long-range capacity. Though they had long imperiled western allies in Europe and Asia, Russia could not have struck the U.S. directly. Cuba’s disenfranchisement with America determined the logical conclusion of an alliance with Russia that came to the fore when American intelligence photographs began to reveal Nikita Kruschev’s missiles on the Cuban mainland. This began one of the most tense two-week stretches in American history and Kruschev and Kennedy played games of brinksmanship, each pushing to make the other blink, operating on a risk nowhere short of total-annihilation. Cuba’s communist leanings helped Russia to introduce a fear heretofore unbeknownst to Americans and it established a very crucial standard in the conditions between the two nations. Eventually, Kruschev and Kennedy came to terms and the missiles were dismantled. But relations between Cuba and the U.S., while varying from one decade to next in intensity, have never recovered.
Incidences such as the 1996 dispute over Elian Gonzalez and the more recent Cuban irritation over American use of Guantanamo Bay as prison facilities for War on Terror POWs indicate that the inflammation of tensions is always possible. And this danger is naturally much greater by virtue of the anti-American resentment that echoes throughout the neighboring island nation.
Given America’s insistent intervention, it’s difficult to give Castro’s effectiveness a fair evaluation. He has represented all the aspirations that Cuba once had, and may have again, to be a haven for socialist ideas. A successful execution has been most elusive though. Castro has been guilty of a number of human rights violations that would seem to violate the principle of humanity underlying his revolutionary ethos. But the failure of Cuba to succeed as he and his followers once hoped to do has not been for Castro’s lack of effort, sincerity or capability. Castro happens to be the rare exception. He is a leader opposed by the United States that has been in power for over forty years. Those are few and far in between, and are usually in constant jeopardy. He, thus, stands alone and unwanted. He has persisted, though often in a visibly disillusioned state, to lead a country in spite of the sanctions it has been saddled with. The United States has made every effort to restrict Cuba’s growth and development and have accomplished much of that. So while Castro is a theoretically positive entity for Cuba, and idealistic and talented politician with the cunning and ideology to capitalize on revolution, in practice he draws so much disdain from the United States as to make him a liability to the Cuban people. Castro is much aged now, as is the conflict between the two nations. It has even gained a bit of steam as the current administration seeks to inflame all nations outside of the global economy. Cuba still rests on the periphery. And the standing relationship between Cuba and America is focused on the optimistic though somewhat hazy premise that Fidel Castro can’t live forever.
Bibliographies and Sources can be found and printed at the following sites:
Source 1. http://www.state.gov/www/regions/wha/cuba/policy.html
Source 2. http://travel.state.gov/cuba.html
Source 3. http://qbanrum.tripod.com/cuba-1.html
Source 4. http://isla.igc.org/Features/Cuba/cuba2.html
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