Washington's 'Cuban Dissidents'
In order to achieve their avowed objective of destroying the Cuban revolution, the USA has several different strings to its bow. Apart from the economic sanctions condemned by the entire international community (1), various acts of violence and sabotage from the realms of international terrorism, or the intensive misinformation campaign minutely detailed in Colin Powell's report, Washington has also organised an internal opposition which is easily manipulated and loyal to her every wish. (2)
The report "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba," presented in May 2004, gives the names of the leaders of "civil society" around whom a broad subversive movement can be organised: Raúl Rivero, Oscar Elias Biscet, Oswaldo Payá and Marta Beatriz Roque. (3) These "star dissidents", who never stop sounding forth about the "violation of human rights in Cuba" under the halo of a legitimacy which would not support any analysis, have the task of recruiting as many people as possible in order to achieve "political and social change" in their country. This euphemism refers to George Bush's devastating policies. The fact of participation in an imperialist policy intended to set Cuba and her people back fifty years does not seem to pose them any kind of ethical problems.
The financing of opposition groups began long before May 2004. Since 1996 the Helms-Burton Law allowed for the organisation and overt financial support for a fifth column of sycophants. Section 109 of this same legislation stipulates that substantial economic aid and logistical support may be given to designated small groups in order to "encourage efforts to build democracy in Cuba" (4). This programme of political destabilisation is run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
29 million dollars have thus been allocated to the organisation of a "democratic Cuban opposition and a civil society." This sum is additional to the 7 million dollars provided by USAID. So, a total budget of 36 million dollars is earmarked to subversive elements tasked with setting up the necessary conditions for destabilising the nation. (5) These "dissidents", who are richly rewarded for their activities, are an essential cog in Washington's aggressive strategy, and are supposed to give a more respectable and credible image to world opinion of the unbearable state of siege inflicted by the United States. Under the guise of the "struggle for human rights", some individuals who are particularly lacking in integrity are promoting the White House's agenda out of financial motivation.
The US Interests Sections, directed by James Cason, has the task of uniting all the "opposition forces", giving them instructions and overseeing the smooth functioning of the subversion process. Faced with this mercenary organisation, the Cuban legal authorities arrested 75 people in March 2003 who were convicted of "conspiracy, association with a foreign power and attacks on national integrity and the territorial independence of the state", and condemned to heavy prison sentences in accord with the Cuban penal code. (6).
The international outcry which these convictions generated is entirely unfounded. The Western press and several anti-Cuban political representatives throughout the world vigorously condemned the revolutionary government, denouncing the sanctions taken against "peaceful activists and independent journalists". According to them, those who were convicted were being punished for having openly expressed their disagreement with the official line and for having published defamatory articles in the extreme right-wing Miami press. (7)
It is salutary to pause for a moment to consider these accusations. The two Cuban "dissidents" with the largest media influence at international level, who launch the most acerbic diatribes against the Cuban revolution and who enjoy the most sustained support of the Cuban-origin extremists in Miami, are Oswaldo Payá and Elizardo Sánchez. (8) Compared with them, Raul Rivero seems like a relatively moderate and cautious "opponent". However, this latter person has been condemned to 20 years imprisonment. Payá and Sánchez have never had any problems with the law, although their political writings are much more virulent than Rivero's. The explanation is simple enough: Payá and Sánchez have up until now always refused the generous financial support offered by Washington, while Rivero made the error of profiting from the financial largesse of the Bush administration. And this is what has been punished, not a supposedly heterodox literary and political output. These concrete facts clearly show that the argument accusing the Cuban authorities of imprisoning people for their ideas has well nigh zero credibility.
Becoming involved in the world of "dissidence" cannot be explained simply by a clear lack of patriotism. The economic advantages of this profession are significant and stoke the greed of un-conscientious individuals. The 75 people who were convicted did not have any paid work and lived from the financial inducements of the US authorities in return for the duties they had carried out. The salaries, which were considerable for the standard of life in Cuba, led certain people to amass small personal fortunes of up to 16 000 dollars in cash, while the average salary is between 15 and 20 dollars per month. (10) They thus had a far superior lifestyle to most Cubans and benefited at the same time from the incomparable privileges of the Cuban social system.
To appreciate the size of this sum of money, we have to remind ourselves of the value of the dollar in Cuba. For the equivalent of one dollar, a Cuban can choose to buy himself: 104 litres of milk, 45 kilos of rice, 26 tickets for baseball matches, between five and 26 tickets for the theatre or cinema, 5200 kilowatts of electricity or videos of five televised English courses of 160 hours each. All other basic foodstuffs (bread, beans, oil) are in the same price range. Added to that are the free education, health and leisure services. Given that 85% of Cuban citizens are owners of their property, they pay no rent. Furthermore, taxation does not exist in Cuba. And another unique point: medicines bought at chemists' shops cost 50% less than fifty years ago. (11) All this is possible thanks to the annual subsidies given by the Cuban state, so vilified by the "dissidents" who do not, however, miss out on the benefits of the advantageous conditions which Cuban society offers.
Following Spain's diplomatic intervention, several individuals who had been in prison since March 2003, amongst them Raul Rivero, were released at the end of 2004 for humanitarian reasons. (12) It should be emphasised that Rivero has benefited from an international media coverage solely because he was the only person of the 75 imprisoned who had genuinely worked as a journalist. His case is interesting inasmuch as it casts light on the breadth of the disinformation campaign launched against Cuba. In an interview with "Reporters Without Borders", Rivero's wife Blanca Reyes confirmed that he had been held in "inhuman and unacceptable conditions of detention". She also added that he had lost 40 lbs (19.5 kilos). He "was hungry. I want people to know that Raul Rivero suffered from hunger," she complained with melodramatic fervour. (13) This information was received with great solemnity by the entire international press.
However, on his release from prison, Rivero appeared in excellent health, with a noticeable stoutness, as the Cuban authorities have continued to point out. (14) While Washington and its lackeys were denouncing, with remarkable media resonance, the "dreadful living conditions" of the prisoners, Rivero himself admitted that he had had unrestricted access to literature and had avidly read the latest novel by the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Historias de Mis Putas Tristes, a work still difficult to find in French bookshops. (15) Obviously Rivero had not been living in a four-star hotel, but neither was he in a "tropical gulag", as some people like to describe Cuban prisons, as if the penitentiaries elsewhere in the world were holiday resorts. (16) Are the prisons in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where the torture of prisoners of war was institutionalised by Washington, more comfortable? And what should we say about the jails of Guantanamo, a zone where law does not exist and where the hell unleashed on the detainees has led to numerous attempted suicides by very pious individuals for whom death by one's own hand is a cardinal sin. (17) What should we think about the criminal silence and complicity of the international community and press on this matter? In any case, very few inmates can boast that they have had access to García Márquez's latest novel even before some specialist European bookshops.
The US authorities have vilified Spain's constructive position in refusing to take part in their strategy of isolation of Cuba. Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State, has made a strong declaration against the Spanish government: "The people who give credit to a regime which frees innocent people from prison are not only humiliating themselves but are also the accomplices of such regimes. Making concessions to a regime of this kind is a really erroneous policy." (18) Noriega, who is close to the Mafioso extremists of Florida, has on several occasions expressed the hope of sending armed forces to "liberate" Cuba.
As for the State Department, in a political attempt to claim the credit for the releases, its spokesman Richard Boucher has said, in a complete contradiction of Noriega's statements, that it was "important to remember that it was the pressure of democratic nations which contributed to the release" of the individuals. (19)
Another event illustrates the ideology of the groups of "dissidents". Beatriz Roque, a "member of civil society", organised a meeting on 20th May 2005 in order to celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Cuba. (20) This date refers to the treaty signed between Cuba and the USA at the beginning of the 20th century, which includes the Platt amendment. This amendment makes Cuba a quasi-protectorate of the USA, and, for example, forbade the Cuban government to sign an agreement with a foreign power or to contract a loan from another state. It also gave the USA the right of military intervention in Cuba at any point. (21) Under the Platt amendment, which was repealed in 1934, Cuba did not exist as a sovereign and independent nation. Apart from the extreme Cuban right-wing in Florida, heirs of the former dictator Batista, and the "human rights activists", nobody in Cuba celebrates this date, which is recognised only by the USA.
On 10th December 2004, at the request of Mr Cason, several "dissidents", including Payá, met with the US representative to hold a "ceremony of hope" which consisted of placing wishes in a safe which contained, among other items, the threatening speech made by George Bush on 20th May 2002. The box has been buried, to be opened once Cuba has regained "its liberty". (22) Some patriotic symbol!
As for Cason, he has continued his provocations with the hope of being expelled from Cuba. Apart from organising subversive activities, he walks around with a US army badge pinned to his lapel and does not hesitate to compare his work with that of a soldier. (23) Ignoring diplomatic protocol, he tries to create the greatest possible tensions between Havana and Washington with the intention of triggering an armed conflict. (24) Confronted by constant threats from the neighbour to the north, the Cuban government has organised a large-scale military exercise involving more than four million people, intended to show the USA the level of preparation of the Cuban population in the event of an invasion. (25)
In view of the history of the relations between Cuba and the USA since 1959, every political opposition movement which is linked to Washington loses any credibility in that it can only serve US imperialist interests. The Bush administration's only goal is to reintegrate Cuba into its sphere of influence. It is also destined to failure because it will never be able to draw on any significant level of popular support in Cuban society, which is undoubtedly the most politicised in the world and which strongly identifies with the revolutionary project in which it is deeply involved.
On 28th December 2004, the French authorities arrested Philippe Brett and Philippe Evanno, who both collaborated closely with the UMP member of parliament for Seine-et-Marne, Didier Julia. They had been at the centre of a fruitless attempt to free the two French hostages in Iraq, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, in September 2004. The two individuals were questioned about "intelligence with a foreign power liable to harm the fundamental interests of the state", and were taken before the anti-terrorist judges Jean-Louis Brugière and Marie-Antoinette Houyvet, who deal with matters linked to state security. They were accused of having made contact with the Iraqi resistance and of having received logistical aid from the Ivory Coast. Brett and Evanno are liable for ten years imprisonment and EU150 000 in fines. M. Julia evaded justice thanks to his parliamentary immunity. The seriousness of the charges aroused no outcry in the international press. (26)
On the other hand, this same press raised a hue and cry when the Cuban authorities arrested several dozen collaborators of the USA –a hostile foreign power responsible for hundreds of attacks on Cuba– in March 2003. They were controlled, advised and paid by Washington and carried out activities which seriously affected the national integrity of their country. Here again, the variable geometry of indignation can be shown, because the threat which Iraq represents for France –if it is possible of talking about a threat without arousing horse laughs– cannot be measured against the serious danger which the Bush clan represents to the Cuban people. But the doctrine of double standards has become the norm, for there are truths which are hard to swallow. The same criteria do not apply to everybody. Raising basic and essential questions about the survival of the Cuban revolution is thus considered inadmissible and even irrational.
 Granma, " 179 países votan en la ONU contra el bloqueo ", 28 October 2004. www.granma.cu/espanol/2004/octubre/juev28/votan-e.html (site consulted 29 October 2004).
 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington : United States Department of State, May 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organizatio... (site consulted 7 May 2004), p. 22.
 Ibid., p. 16.
 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), Section 109, P.L. 104-114.
 Colin L. Powell, op. cit., p. 25.
 Felipe Pérez Roque, Nous ne comptons pas renoncer à notre souveraineté, Conférence de presse offerte par le ministre des relations extérieures de la République de Cuba le 9 avril 2003. (Havena: Editora Política, 2003).
 Reporters sans frontières, " Un an après l'arrestation de 75 dissidents, Reporters sans frontières mobilise l'Europe contre la répression à Cuba ", 18 March 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3 ?id_article.47 (site consulted 20 March 2004).
 Oswaldo Paya, " Mensaje de Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas a Vaclav Havel, Presidente de la República checa en su visita a la ciudad de Miami, Florida ", 23 September 2002. www.pdc-cuba.org/paya_havel.htm (site consulted 25 September 2004) ; El Nuevo Herald, " Piden a Europa más firmeza contra el régimen ", 7 October 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/9853178.htm (site consulted 8 October 2004).
 Raúl Rivero, " El cartel del queso blanco ", Luz Cubana, January/February 2003, n°1 : 9-10.
 Felipe Pérez Roque, " Conferencia a la prensa nacional y extranjera ", MINREX, 25 March 2004 : 5-7.
 Gouvernement révolutionnaire de Cuba, " Documents ", 18 April 2003. www.cuba.cu/gobierno/documentos/2003/fra/n180403f.html (site consulted 2 December 2004).
 Andrea Rodríguez, " En libertad el poeta y disidente cubano Raúl Rivero ", El Nuevo Herald, 30 November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10303056.htm (site consulted 1 December 2004).
 Reporters sans frontières, " La mujer del periodista encarcelado Raúl Rivero denuncia unas condiciones de detención 'inaceptables' ", 5 August 2003. www.rsf.org/imprimir.php3 ?id_article
v98 (site consulted 17 Décember 2004).
 Nancy San Martin, " Cubans Tell Rivero to Consider Leaving ", The Miami Herald, 1 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10308130.htm ?1c (site consulted 2 December 2004).
 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, " Un símbolo en libertad ", El Nuevo Herald, 1 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10307173.htm (site consulted 1 December 2004).
 Olivier Languepin, " Dans les prisons de Castro ", Le Monde, 31 December 2004.
 Robert Scheer, " A Devil's Island for Our Times ", Los Angeles Times, 28 December 2004.
 El Nuevo Herald, " Washington critica política de España hacia la Habana ", 4 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10335708.htm (site consulted 4 December 2004).
 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, " Liberan a tres disidentes en Cuba ", El Nuevo Herald, 30 November 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10298864.htm (site consulted 30 November 2004).
 El Nuevo Herald, " Convocan un congreso disidente en la isla ", 8 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10362354.htm (site consulted 10 December 2004).
 C. I. Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949 (Washington D. C. : United States Government Printing Office, 1971), p. 1116-17.
 El Nuevo Herald, " Disidentes realizan acto en casa de diplomático de EEUU ", 12 Decembre 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10396554.htm (site consulted 17 December 2004).
 Tracey Eaton, " U.S. Diplomat Pushes democracy in Cuba ", The Dallas Morning News, 17 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10437638.htm (site consulted 17 December 2004)
24] El Nuevo Herald, " Guerra de imágenes entre Washington y La Habana ", 18 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10444442.htm (site consulted 18 December 2004).
 El Nuevo Herald, " Movilizan a cuatro millones para maniobras ", 13 December 2004. www.miami.com/mld/elnuevo/news/world/cuba/10402349.htm (site consulted 18 December 2004).
 Pascal Céaux & Gérard Davet, " Didier Julia se démarque de ses équipiers en Irak et contre-attaque ", Le Monde, 31 December 2004