A World to Win News Service:

Thoughts on Obama’s Springtime Latin American Offensive

March 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


March 21, 2016. A World to Win News Service.

Berta Soler
Berta Soler (AP photo)

Berta Caceres
Berta Cáceres

A Tale of Two Bertas

During his visit to Havana, in a counterpoint to his meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro, U.S. President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet with Berta Soler, a representative of “The Ladies in White,” founded by wives of political prisoners.

There is no need for Obama to visit Honduras, because it has never escaped American domination and in U.S. eyes, no changes are needed in that country. There, Berta Cáceres, another woman considered a troublemaker by her government, was murdered in bed on March 3. One difference between the two kinds of dissidents is that the Honduran regime was brought to power by the U.S.

Berta Cáceres was a leader in a movement against the devastation of Honduras’s environment and indigenous people to benefit foreign investment. She had predicted that she would be killed by the country’s military, which has repeatedly intervened in favor of U.S. interests in Honduras, a job they are trained, financed and “advised” to carry out, as are the police. (AWTWNS160307) After her death, the police detained a survivor of that attack and fellow members of her group. On March 15 Nelson García was shot dead as he returned home after a protest, the third member of her movement to be murdered in the last year.

Their blood is on Obama’s hands. Don’t tell us that the U.S., under Obama or anyone else, is going to stand up for the right to dissent in Cuba or anywhere else unless it happens to suit their interests—and those interests mean enslaving whole countries.

Obama Jokes about Flying to Cuba

Obama joked that his voyage to Havana only took three hours, unlike the last U.S. president to visit Cuba, Calvin Coolidge, in 1928. Coolidge came on a gunboat, sailing for three days.

After snatching Cuba from Spain in the 1898 war waged over Spanish colonies, the U.S. wrote an amendment into the Cuban constitution allowing it to intervene at will. The U.S. army occupied and directly ruled Cuba repeatedly. American warships were a frequent sight in Havana’s harbor. Coolidge came to salute the transformation of this former slave plantation country into a haven for U.S. interests—gambling, prostitution, the majority of the sugar plantations and almost all of the sugar exports. In particular, he came to express support for the regime of General Gerardo Machado, who faced popular unrest, particularly from students.

When Machado’s successor annulled that amendment, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent 19 warships and mobilized the Marines and bombers. Later the U.S. installed the bloodthirsty General Fulgencio Batista, who was to rule Cuba until overthrown by the revolution led by Raúl’s brother Fidel Castro in 1959.

It might look like the U.S. abandoned “gunboat diplomacy” toward Cuba after the 1961 failed CIA-led invasion of Cuba by sea, if you don’t take into account the decades of sabotage, bombings, assassination plots against Cuba's leaders, the CIA bombing of a Cuban airliner and so on, not to mention the half-century U.S. “embargo” of Cuba’s economy, the contemporary equivalent of a naval blockade, which finally forced the Cuban government to accept when Obama made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Obama didn’t come to Cuba on a gunboat, but he represents the same ruling class, the same interests, the same policies and, ultimately, the same reliance on the U.S.’s terroristic military power.

The military theoretician Carl von Clausewitz once famously wrote, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Obama’s trip to Cuba and Argentina is a continuation of the imperialist politics and goals that the U.S. has pursued by whatever means necessary at any given moment.

Next Stop: Argentina

After celebrating the re-conquest of Cuba, Obama’s next stop is to be Argentina, where a new government has pleased Washington by agreeing to pay off bonds to American investors in what respectable Western business analysts think it’s cute to call “vulture funds.”

Women holding photos of disappeared relatives, ArgentinaOctober 2014—Women holding photos of relatives disappeared in Argentina. (AP photo)

Obama is to visit there on March 25-26, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the military coup that marked the intensification of the “dirty war” during which the military kidnapped, tortured and killed tens of thousands of people, including those who could best be classified as dissidents—the kind of people Obama claims to support now in Cuba. The exact number is unknown because so many people simply disappeared. Many prisoners were taken in aircraft and dropped, alive, far out at sea. Another hallmark of the military’s suppression campaign was to snatch babies from women—sometimes raping them in prison to make them pregnant—and give them to officers and other regime supporters to raise as their own. Many adults today are not sure who their biological parents were. This is an open wound in Argentine society.

This terror was explicitly supported by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who told a leading general, “We wish the new government well. We wish it will succeed. We will do what we can to help it succeed.... We understand that you must establish authority.” In this meeting he also said, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But then you should get back to normal procedures.” The “dirty war” lasted seven years. (National Security Archive, nsarchive.gwu.edu)

Under the U.S.-supported “Operation Condor”, generals who took power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay similarly took vengeance on an enormous and unknown number of people considered problematic to the interests of U.S. imperialism and its domestic allies.

Obama’s ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly and literally embraced Kissinger, calling him “a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as Secretary of State.” (Quoted in the New York Times, February 26, 2016) It has been written that her role in supporting the 2009 military coup in Honduras was “pure Machtpolitik [might makes right], the kind Kissinger deployed in Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina and elsewhere.” (The Nation, February 5, 2016)

Apparently Obama wasn’t aware of the significance of the date when making plans to visit Argentina. In reply to criticism that this could seem as a celebration of the 1976 coup, his current Secretary of State Susan Rice said, “On this anniversary and beyond, we’re determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation.” Except, of course, that this nation includes two opposing sides, the victims and their children, those kept and those stolen, and the torturers and murders who have prospered in civilian life, and the same Argentine ruling class that called in the generals.

Can you imagine going jogging and running into the man who tortured you? What do the words “heal and move forward” mean when they come from the mouths of Kissinger’s successors, including Hillary Clinton and her former employer Obama, and the American monopoly capitalist, imperialist ruling class that continues to fatten from the countries they dominate, including Argentina, and are now once again eyeing Cuba as a source of great wealth?

A Final Note: Why Is Obama Visiting a Dictatorship?

Is the Castro regime a dictatorship? It is not, actually, the kind of openly terroristic strongman regime the U.S. has so often installed, in Cuba and many other countries, especially in its “back yard,” Latin America. But the regime does represent the dictatorship of a reactionary class, a monopoly of power—and ultimately force, a state apparatus run by a class of people based in the state and economic institutions organized from what was once the property of U.S. capitalists and their allies, plantation owners and a handful of big-time capitalists. It has been called “a kind of repressive welfare state in which the masses are kept powerless and economically chained to the logic of world capitalism.” (Raymond Lotta, Revolution no. 367, revcom.us)

Just as this state, based on a new exploiting capitalist class despite its (now all but forgotten) socialist pretenses, could not transform the society as it had been shaped first by slavery and then U.S. domination, with all the oppression and inequalities that produced, so also it could not reduce the economy’s dependence on foreign capital, going from dependence on the Soviet Union (where “socialism” had also become a hollow shell since the 1950s) back to the U.S. today.

“The lack of political rights and the ferment of dissent that the Cuban regime’s reactionary critics complain about is stultifying. Yet the most central right such people never talk about and will never agree to anywhere, and that the Castro regime never dreamed of, is the right of the masses of people to increasingly take part in running society through a new kind of state, transforming economic, social and political relations and themselves, leading to a world free of all oppressive relations among human beings.” (AWTWNS150413)

The U.S., too, is a dictatorship, where total power is in the hands of a monopoly capitalist ruling class, whether in the form of elections (which made Obama the empire’s CEO) or otherwise. It has no lessons about people’s rights to give Cuba, even when it comes to prisoners: As of 2013, 518 out of every hundred thousand people were in prison in Cuba, compared to 730 people per hundred thousand population in the U.S. (International Prison Studies, prisonstudies.org) Mass imprisonment in the U.S. is directly connected with the oppression of minorities, including the gunning down of youth in the street by the police, a signature feature of daily life in the USA.

Not to mention that the most notorious prison in Cuba, a torture site contrary to international and even U.S. law, is run by the U.S.—Guantánamo. Obama said that he will refuse to even discuss giving Cuba back this infamous piece of stolen land. It could be asked that if it is true Obama wants to close the prison, why does the U.S. need to keep the major naval base, if not for “power protection” throughout the Caribbean, including Cuba’s sister islands, Puerto Rico (an outright colony) and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic)?

The most important difference between Obama’s U.S. and the Castro’s Cuba is not that one is “free” and the other isn’t, but that the U.S. is an imperialist country that has thrived through global exploitation enforced by global domination.

American media say that some Cubans hope they will be able to get jobs at Guantánamo. This symbolizes the future the U.S. has in mind for many Cubans.



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