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The United States and Castro's Cuba

The question of the snub suffered by Castro in Washington has elicited a lot of WAIS responses, forcing me to summarize. Bienvenido Macario says "It was more than a snub or not being properly received. It was rather that Castro was chewed out by then Vice President Nixon at the latter's office". Tim Brown says "It is based on a prior and unchallenged assumption that Castro became anti-American because of one of two events that took place during his first visit to the US. To be logically consistent, it must therefor also be true that prior to that visit Castro was neither anti-American. Nor was he prior to that visit a Marxist since, by definition, to be a Latin American Marxist during the 1950s was to be anti-American. This discussion seeks therefor only to determine which of two causal events during his first visit to the US changed him, and two alternative scenarios are suggested: One, Castro became anti-American and a Marxist because the US failure to give him loans he requested, or two, he did so because of a protocol snub at the Nixon White House". My response: No one says this. In order ingratiate himself with the Soviet Union, Castro later boasted that he had always been a Marxist-Leninist, which is not true. In the Hispanic American Report we analyzed this issue with great care. Tim's dislike of Castro is expressed in his conclusion "This labels Castro as nothing more than a giant megalomaniac on the scale of a Ghengis Khan, Count Dracula, or Nero. Personally, I think that to assume he was before, is now, and always will be a Marxist-Leninist is a far kinder interpretation of Castro's life than to argue as his admirers seem to, that everything Castro has done has merely been the result of personal pique. But then, of course, I'm not one of his admirers." My response: It is not a question of being an admirer of Castro. It is one of dispassionate and accurate analysis. Tim uses colorful language, but he is correct in that Castro is an egomaniac, but he is also and an opportunist,

The other, less academic and more urgent problem is "Where do we go from here?" Now in Cuba the principal holiday is January 1, Revolution Day, commemorating the entry of Castro into Havana. However, President Bush invited Cuban American leaders to the White House for an independence day celebration on May 18. It was very emotional,, ending with Bush embracing many members of the crowd. It marked the independence of Cuba in 1902, but Bush probably was unaware of the circumstances, thinking that Cuba owed its independence to the US. As Francis Lambert says "The USA granted independence to Cuba in 1902 but retained powers to intervene under the Platt Amendment. The US occupation produced many achievements, notable in education and medicine, but it did not create a viable political system".

Cuban resentment of the US far antecedes Castro. I was appointed to Stanford in 1941. There was in he Hoover Tower an inter.American office run by a Cuban woman who expressed this resentment verbosely and ad meam nauseam. The Cuban interpretation of Cuban history is that Cubans won the ten-year war with Spain (1868-78) and with it valuable concessions and political reform. The US found a pretext (the "Maine") to intervene in Cuba, and imposed an "independence" limited by the Platt Amendment and the loss of the Guantanamo base. There was of course no hint of this in the White House celebration,

The ceremony was important because Bush enunciated his hard-line Cuban policy. There are Americans who hate Castro vehemently but who just as vehemently argue that the US should trade with Cuba. They got no encouragement from Bush. Paying no heed to Tim Brown's warning, he tried out his Spanish and shouted "Viva Cuba Libre!, not referring to the drinks which were served afterwards." To evade the jamming to which Castro has subjected Radio Cuba Libre, sorry, Radio Marti, he said it would broadcast from a new location, using new technologies.

On top of the confusion over Cuban history and holidays, there is the contrary use of the Internet. Castro is eager to develop Cuban facilities in the area, and he is getting help from both British experts and from Tim Ashby, who at the WAIS conference will lead a WAISly dispassionate discussion on Cuba, As a Reagan Republican appointee, he played a key role in trade relations with Mexico and the Caribbean. Now, from Silicon Valley he directs an enterprise which promotes the Internet in Latin America, and in this capacity he has visited Castro's Cuba As part of his political offensive, Bush announced that he would promote use of the Internet in Cuba, This may refer to his controversial plan to support dissidents in Cuba, presumably providing them the necessary Internet equipment. He may not be aware that Castro is promoting the Internet himself, presumably to communicate with his friends around the world. This will be known in Cuban history as the Battle of the Computers.

Ronald Hilton - 5/19/01