U.S. policy causes Cuban human rights abuses

If the only thing you had ever read about Cuba was Monday’s letter in the Daily by Jose Gomez, “Cuba must discover democracy,” you would think that Cuba was a fascist police state complete with its own “little Gestapo organizations, the Committees for Defense of the Revolution.” I think Gomez’s article lacked the appropriate context.
First, there is a big difference between Cuba and the United States that Gomez neglected to mention. Cuba is a country under siege and the United States is not.
In a recent television interview with Dan Rather, a former high-ranking official in the CIA admitted that during his time in the CIA, Cuba was infiltrated by the United States 2,200 times, including 11 documented attempts on Fidel Castro’s life. Gomez’s “little Gestapo organizations” are in every village, town and city because the CIA has also probably been in every village, town and city.
The CDRs are citizen security forces that do, in fact, defend Cuba. The Gestapo was a fascist police force actively involved in disarming and controlling the people. In Cuba, the people are armed and in control.
Gomez should be careful not to make blatantly false statements like, “No country in the Western Hemisphere has more human rights violations than Cuba.” I don’t know which human rights report Gomez read, but as far as human rights go, Cuba is a thousand times better than Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, Chile — in fact, pretty much all of Latin America.
Gomez should also be careful not to make such blanket statements as, “In the United States … (we) are free to criticize the government.” Ask a Japanese American alive during World War II if he or she was free to criticize the government: Many were placed in internment camps. Or ask the 17 members of the Socialist Workers Party and scores of others who were imprisoned under the Smith Act for opposing the same war.
You may reply that it was because the country was in a war and had to defend itself. It is clear that when one’s government is threatened, it has to take measures. Well, today, Cuba is threatened. It is threatened by the longest and most intense economic embargo the United States has ever placed on any one nation. This embargo includes food and medicine.
Cuba is threatened by constant U.S. aggression; from the Belgian freighter that exploded in Havana Harbor in 1961, to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1962, to the Cuban Jet Liner that was bombed with the aid and knowledge of the CIA in 1976, to the brothers who, with U.S. permission, invaded Cuban airspace 24 times in the past two years before they were legally shot out of the sky. There have been countless examples of U.S. aggression and intervention in Cuba.
So we must place Cuba in this context before we can understand why it is illegal in Cuba to be a capitalist and illegal to support the United States: But this does not mean that Cuba is a dictatorship.
In fact, Fidel Castro has less power over the Cuban congress than Bill Clinton has over the United States. Castro does not have the power to veto, send Cuban soldiers to fight or accept money for his election campaign. The people, through People’s Power Assemblies in the factories, mills and communities make every decision about the things that affect them from day to day. The people also have the right to housing, education, health care, to bear arms and to practice religion. They do not have the right to profit off the exploitation of others or to discriminate against women or any group of people. Does this sound like any of the dictatorships you’ve encountered?
Castro is not a “bloody dictator,” he is simply responding to the bloody reality of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the Third World.
I would like to invite Gomez to come and hear Felix Wilson, the deputy first secretary of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. He will be speaking Wednesday at noon in the Mississippi Room in Coffman Memorial Union. For those who have been following this debate in the Daily, it is an excellent opportunity to hear his perspective on these issues.

Paul Pederson is a member of the Twin Cities Cuba Network and the Young Socialists. He is also a senior in College of Liberal Arts.