Offensive or “Counteroffensive” by the United States against Cuba?

By José Ramón Cabañas on February 8, 2022

José Ramón Cabañas with other officials from Cuba and the US at the opening of Cuban Embassy in Washington, July 20, 2015. photo: Bill Hackwell

In conversations with neighbors, experts, young people and following the thread of our national press, it is common to hear the assessment (true by the way) that there has been a brutal onslaught of the United States against Cuba in recent years. A number of arguments have been put forward that make this assertion undeniable, the evidence is everywhere.

However, it would be useful to dwell on a small question when assessing recent events: is it an offensive against our country, or a “counter-offensive”? And many readers will say, who cares, it does the same damage! That statement is also correct, but from a political point of view it would be useful to analyze which of the two concepts best characterizes what happened, because the answer may have future implications.

On other occasions it has already been said that the level of intensity of the confrontation against Cuba during the Trump years was not constant, registering its highest notes in the last twelve months. There are also coincidences that the amorphous group of officials and opportunists that surrounded the businessman-president did not elaborate a detailed political strategy against Cuba, but rather handed over the conception and conduction of the main actions to a reduced sect of politicians with a high Cuban-American component.

What was being done against Cuba, however, was a component that fit precisely into the overall purpose of erasing from the history books any significant legacy that might have been recorded by the administration of the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama. It was also related to the long-standing consensual state policy against the island. But there is evidence that the setbacks on the Cuban issue were not as marked between 2017 and 2018, as it turned out from the second half of 2019.

Although the presidential directive on Cuba signed by Trump in June 2017 was intended to leave without effect the similar document endorsed by Obama at the end of his term, it did not suddenly cut off a group of trends that had been occurring and did not even question the 22 memorandums of understanding, which had been signed during the process of bilateral negotiations.

One of the most significant data to endorse this theory is that, although the facilities for air and sea connections between the two countries had been created in preceding years, it was in 2017, 2018 and 2019 when the main volumes of travelers from the United States were recorded. The official figures were 1,001, 424; 1,105, 801 and 1,001 391, respectively. Although the totals are divided almost in half between U.S. and Cuban-American travelers from that market, in the first two years the majority by a slim margin belonged to the first group.

On the other hand, the largest number of trips by Cubans residing on the island to other countries (in general) also took place during the same period, with historical totals of 889,542; 1,111,374 and 1,307,523, respectively. In an environment of around 80% in each case, these were trips to the United States, of which more than 70% of the people stayed for periods of less than 24 months, that is, they did not emigrate.

What did these figures taken as a whole mean? Well, at least two things:

  1. Although the relative political change with respect to Cuba had taken place in previous years, the human movement as a result of it was occurring later, in spite of the negative information flow against the Island that was already beginning to take place and the staging of the “sonic attacks” novel. At least 90% of the Americans returning from Cuba expressed that there was a difference between the reality they had seen and what they had been taught in schools, or what they received from the virtual world of the press and social networks. Of that percentage, the majority also returned with a favorable view of the neighboring country, or that at least they had not found the “enemy” that sought to attack “American democracy” in hotels, private homes, the Havana seafront, or on the country’s roads.
  2. The number of Cuban-American travelers questioned to a certain extent the discourse of the Floridian counterrevolution in its natural emporium. And if we talk about the quality of the travelers, the spectrum of travelers reached even old “anti-Castro fighters” without terrorist links, who came to reconnect with their country of origin, with their people, who recognized or not, publicly or not, that they had been on the wrong side of history, but who somehow reconciled with themselves and felt much more at ease on a second and third trip. The totals of travelers from here to there, also convey a similar message: I am free to go there (USA) to enjoy whatever spiritual or material I like, but I return to where I belong, even though they say “this is complicated”, in reference to material limitations.

Other very important events that happened in those same years can be related, but these figures that have been mentioned in previous paragraphs and their social impact on both shores, shook for the first time the scaffolding of the “hate industry” and the whole framework of federal and private financing that has sustained it for more than 60 years. How to sell hate in a circumstance in which a genuine people-to-people contact was taking place at a level unthinkable in the past, How to sell the image of “lack of rights and freedoms” when American visitors were congratulating themselves that their children had a freedom at night that they did not enjoy in their places of residence in the North?

Although it has been mentioned in other texts, it is not idle to recall that what has been narrated so far took place in a historical scenography in which an unusual cultural exchange was taking place, in which several NGOs and private groups organized the most massive and extensive tours of Cuban artists and intellectuals throughout the U.S. geography. Not only in Miami, but also in the real circuits, ranging from New Orleans to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington DC itself. Those were the years when more than 30 resolutions were passed by cities large and small asking for collaboration with Cuba, 11 of them in the area of health. In 2017 Chicago, Illinois, saw its efforts crowned when it finalized the first of these agreements with the presence of Cuban experts. The same year (under Trump) the first joint agreement between two institutions (Center for Molecular Immunology and Roswell Park Cancer Center) of the biopharmaceutical industry was signed and began to operate. Those were the years of intense academic and university exchange, where U.S. specialists came to be the majority of foreign representations in events and congresses held in Cuba, as happened even in the commemoration for the 500th anniversary (November, 2019) of Havana, when the U.S. group was the largest among the visitors. At that time, a cooperation agreement was signed between the city of New Orleans and the Cuban capital,

In mid-2019, something very close to the purest American political tradition happened, the voice of “we are under attack!” was heard in South Florida, to justify a radical reaction against the state of affairs. The proximity to the occurrence of new electoral elections in 2020 made the legislative tribe of Cuban-Americans assume that, in the absence of a “fundamental change in circumstances”, they would have to abandon the business that had opened so many doors in their lives and start working in a tangible way for the first time. Although after 2001 the Cuban-born counterrevolution in the United States had to abandon terrorism as a fundamental weapon in its “struggle”, by the end of the second decade of the 19th century they perceived that they were running out of instruments and foundations.

The rest of the story is well known: changes in the Office of the National Security Advisor, in the Office of the Director for Latin America of the same body and an agreement between a senator from Florida and an upstart president: “you completely hand over the Cuba policy to me and in exchange I will protect your back on the Intelligence Committee over which I preside”. That is more or less the genesis of the majority of the 243 measures against Cuba that were rushed through in a short period of time, without respecting the sacrosanct interagency consultations, without reviewing how much of what was being done was or was not detrimental to the “national interest” of the United States.

There were three absolute priorities: “cut travel, cut travel and, additionally, cut travel”, which happened “over night”, literally with passengers on board ships, or flying over the Island.

In addition, a lot of money was authorized, all the money possible, that which is declared in the federal budget and that which is in the secret chapters, to set up a machinery of disinformation about Cuba, to erase everything that happened, to change the content of each event, to replace the memories of travelers and hosts, of senders and receivers. A machinery that changed the bright sun for the storm and relative peace for the most unbridled rivalry.

The “counterattack” had to be massive enough to have the same effect as napalm on the skin of Vietnam, but this time on the conscience of ordinary people. And along with massive disinformation, more surgical and punctual measures: knocking on the doors of academics and journalists who gave positive opinions about Cuba; disapproval of credits to businessmen who had discovered an opportunity in the Caribbean Island and placing an ideological scanner in the Miami airport for every Cuban artist who arrived, with a big sign that said: “if you do not repeat my political creed, here you neither play, nor sing, nor get paid”.

These actions and others had for the first time a massive and reiterative dimension in the social networks with an impact that certainly sought to affect the Cuban public, but above all the millions of Americans who had already known Cuba first hand. A counterrevolution of stale racist and homophobic tradition began to try to move even in the spaces of Afro-descendants and LGTBQ communities and found some gullible people.

That’s where they were when that tiny actor that has made Humanity tremble appeared: SARS-CoV-2. By February or March 2020 there was confusion, but within a few days the thinking of what is considered the first economic world, but in reality is the third intellectual world, was enthroned. The conclusion was quickly reached that Cuba would not resist, that there would be massive deaths, that the medical system would collapse, which together with other hardships provoked from abroad, would finally lead to the longed-for “social explosion”.

That was the version delivered to Biden in 2021 by “deep state” analysts, who this time claimed to be closer to the truth than when Kennedy was convinced to sign the blockade proclamation in 1962 and Clinton to accept the philosophy of the Torricelli Act in 1992.

But it turns out that in 2022, and it seems to be 30 years in 30 years, Cuba has risen again from the last whiplash in an unexpected way: Producing five vaccines of its own against COVID-19, protecting almost the totality of its population, exporting its knowledge to those who want to share it, having one of the lowest rates of deaths per million inhabitants, being a pioneer in the immunization of minors, controlling to a good extent the risk of the opening of borders, showing an unusual success against what is called the “fourth wave”, with an adequate social order.

We know that the virtual reality counterattacks will continue, but the arguments used will also continue to blur, as happened in the recent past with the “sonic attacks”, “the troops in Venezuela”, the “generalized uprising” and these days with the “trials of minors”. Cuba and its people are well inserted in an international community from which part of the United States excludes itself. It is not the other way around.

José Ramón Cabañas was the first Ambassador of Cuba to the United States since the US severed ties with Cuba in 1961

Source: La Pupila Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English