Photograph: Franklin Reyes/AP

“You strangle us [for decades] and then you criticize us for the way we breathe.”
— Fidel Castro

“Cubans came to our region as doctors, teachers, soldiers, agricultural experts, but never as colonizers. They have shared the same trenches with us in the struggle against colonialism, underdevelopment, and apartheid. Hundreds of Cubans have given their lives, literally, in a struggle that was, first and foremost, not theirs but ours…Many people, many countries, including many powerful countries, have called upon us to condemn the suppression of “human rights” in Cuba. We have reminded them they have a short memory. For when we battled against apartheid, against racial oppression, the same countries were supporting the apartheid regime…They supported the apartheid regime. And we fought successfully against that regime with the support of Cuba…They now want to be our only friends, and dare to ask us to renounce those people who made our victory possible. That is the greatest contempt for the morality and the principles which are the basis of our relations, not only with the various population groups in this country, but with the entire world.”
— Nelson Mandela

Yoani Sanchez — and her fawning US promoters — presents herself as a persecuted “dissident” who, in her “courageous” blog, tells truths that the “repressive,” “totalitarian” Cuban government wants to hide, suppress, or cover up.

This is infinitely more a case of myth than the actual political reality in Cuba today. The truth is that Sanchez’s base of support is not inside Cuba, but in the United States, among government officials and Republican and Democratic politicians, corporate media and some liberal and conservative “bloggers,” and academics and others hostile to the revolutionary socialist Cuban government. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Cuban working people, private farmers and members of agricultural co-operatives, Afro-Cubans, women, students and young workers, professionals, artists and intellectuals, as well as the emerging, growing layers of self-employed small-business owners and retailers, act on their grievances, complaints, and demands within the framework of fiercely defending their socialist revolution and their national independence and sovereignty, which continues to be under attack from the same bipartisan Washington that showers Sanchez with praise.

By placing herself outside of that framework , Sanchez has excluded herself from the intense discussions and debates that have been taking place inside Cuba — open and democratic and contentious — for many years now, and which are deepening today on how to implement in law and in practice the necessary economic, financial, social, political, and institutional changes necessary to defend and advance Cuba’s development and industrialization, and to deepen its impressive social progress.

Those ignorant or naive about Cuban political reality should understand that bipartisan Washington openly funds (leaving aside continuous “covert” operations) a tiny layer of Cuban clients with infinitesimal popular support on the Island to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. These clients of Washington, in both Florida and inside Cuba, go through the motions of acting to carry out the official US policy of trying to subvert and destroy the example and influence of the Cuban Revolution (Mostly, on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico, these anti-revolutionary grouplets and individuals mostly just pocket the funds.) This is largely a sick joke, with zero impact on the actual, flourishing mass discussions and debates inside Cuba on changing what needs to be changed and moving the Cuban economy, society, and political structures forward. Cuban working people are fiercely proud of their achievements and social conquests since the triumph of the 1959 Revolution in fields such as international solidarity, free top-quality medical care and education, world-class sports programs, and amazing gains in women’s rights and the struggle against racism.

Nevertheless, they have no illusions about their need to raise labor productivity and food production, to eliminate bureaucratic deadwood in the state and government, and to increase the size and weight of the industrial working class along with the expansion of small family wholesale and retail businesses and services aiming to improve the quality and quantity of consumer goods. In the actual Cuba of today, there are continuous mass forums for debate and policymaking decisions on all these questions and more in trade unions, and mass-based grass-roots organizations of women, private and co-operative farmers, students, artists and intellectuals, and within the Cuban Communist Party. The revolutionary Cuban government is actually encouraging and promoting this process of real participatory democracy. And the fruits are already apparent in legal and other positive changes on questions ranging from expanded travel rights to ending all legal discrimination and vastly opening up social and cultural space for LGBT Cuban citizens.

In her current US trip, Sanchez has ripped off the veil she barely wears inside Cuba covering her affinity with the US government and politicians openly committed to the overthrow of the revolutionary Cuban government by any means possible. After leaving New York City, Sanchez is scheduled to receive an award from the US State Department, that is, a central arm of the federal government defending and promoting the decades-long economic and political war of bipartisan Washington against the Cuban Revolution. The same State Department that, infamously and shamefully, includes Cuba — for decades the recipient of US-government sponsored or tolerated terrorist assaults — on a list of “terrorist nations.” Does Sanchez agree with that? Sanchez will also meet with the most notorious anti-Cuban politicians, Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz Balart and Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and others that push hard for the deeper US sanctions and aggression. Both Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz Balart openly identify and associate with the notorious terrorists Orlando Bosch and Juan Posada Carriles, who blew up a civilian Cuban airliner in 1976 murdering 78 people; both want to reverse the right of Cuban-Americans to visit Cuba and their family members.

Bipartisan Washington has never accepted Cuban sovereignty and instead launched economic, political, and physical violence against the small island. Over 3000 Cubans have died in violent assaults and terrorist acts from counter-revolutionary Cuban-American exiles operating from US soil, against US formal law, but with the support or tolerance of US authorities since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Economic sabotage and the impact of US sanctions have caused billions of dollars in physical damage to the Cuban economy. In the mid-1970s an official US Senate Report documented hundreds of assassination plots against Cuban leaders and even biological attacks against Cuban crops by CIA operatives. These are the objective facts that lead the Cuban government and mobilized, organized conscious people, to act in self-defense against US aggression which has not stopped for one second from President Dwight Eisenhower to President Barack Obama.

The decades-long, bipartisan economic and political war against revolutionary Cuba has failed…but it is nonetheless ongoing and active. Every year the United Nations General Assembly votes overwhelmingly against the US economic and financial embargo by a vote of 188-3 with 2 abstentions. It was the 21st year in a row, each year still more lopsided. Even quasi-puppet regimes installed by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan could not stand the embarrassment of siding with Washington. In the US-dominated Organization of American States, Washington, with occasional support from Canada, stands totally alone in its anti-Cuba policy.

But it has exacted a great price not only economically and financially but inevitably in political norms and procedures. Living under siege from the greatest economic and military power on Earth which is utterly devoted to your destruction is not exactly conducive to building the most open, transparent, and democratic norms. Forcing an end to the US embargo, travel restrictions, political hostility and the constant threat of military intervention or terrorist attacks, in short, normalizing relations between the US and Cuba is the best way to create the conditions to further institutionalize democratic rights and civil liberties in Cuba. But the truth is that Washington is not actually interested in “democracy” or “human rights” except for use as a club for lying propaganda. Washington wants to destroy the continuing influence and example of the Cuban Revolution in a Latin America and Caribbean undergoing great progressive social and economic changes that is no longer under Washington’s control.

Yoani Sanchez is no hero. She has chosen to align herself politically with international forces that are still trying to subvert and destroy the Cuban Revolution. There is nothing admirable about this. She gets prizes from outfits like the European Union, which is presently engaged in vicious austerity assaults, driving millions into poverty and utter destitution from Greece to Italy to Spain, in order to protect and defend bankers, bondholders, bosses, and billionaires. Yoani Sanchez is a mercenary and a disgrace, not a hero.

Welcome to New York, Yoani! Enjoy your visit. This is our answer to your posturing and the marketing acumen of your branding agents…and your deceit.


by Ike Nahem

About Ike Nahem

A longtime anti-war, socialist, and labor activist Ike Nahem is the coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York and a founder of the July 26 Coalition. Nahem is an Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. He participated in a panel on Latin American politics at the 2011 Left Forum. These are his personal political opinions.
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