The ongoing political pressure and more importantly, the “limited intensity” operations being carried out by the CIA and the U.S. State Department in practically every Latin American country are affecting the political situation and stability in those countries. As a result, the intertwined political and economic situations on the continent are becoming increasingly complex.
The Seventh Summit of the Americas has shown clearly that the United States is trying to tear apart everything that progressive governments in the region have created over the past few years. This includes social reforms as well as regional cooperative projects (Mercosur, CELAC and UNASUR). In this context, for historical reasons, the presence and political role of Cuba as an unwavering defender of the sovereignty and independence of all Latin American countries is indispensable. The election of Miguel Díaz-Canel as the President of the Republic of Cuba, is extremely important, for two reasons. First, the country’s economic evolution and political dynamic - the Marxist and socialist revolutionary process that Yankee imperialism seeks so desperately to destroy – will continue under his leadership, as it has ever since the Revolutionary triumph of 1959. In fact, it is a revolutionary process that with its complete and total respect for socialism’s logic, has broadened the concept of popular democracy. The real, lived experience of historic revolution has fostered continual research into how to better ensure the planning and programming that support public welfare.
Secondly, now that the State and Cuban people have begun the third stage of their Revolution - unique in time, and increasingly modern. For this reason, we spoke with Professor Luciano Vasapollo, seeking an analysis of the ideological strength of this revolution and thereby comprehension of the importance and geographical role of the revolutionary State at this particular time, not only for Cuba but the Latin American continent as well.
Luciano Vasapollo is a professor at the "La Sapienza" University of Rome. Scientific Director of CESTES (Center for Studies for Economic and Social Transformations) and editor of the reviews Proteo and Nuestra America (Italy). He is also a member of the editorial board of Laberinto. He is part of the national coordination of the Rete dei Comunisti (Network of Communists) and is one of the coordinators of the Italian chapter of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity
Achille Lollo: While Italians were being lulled to sleep by their “DiMaio X Salvini” soap opera, Cuba was active at the Organization of American States (OAS), denouncing the organization’s subservient attitude toward the White House, as well as the nefarious effects of U.S. imperialist policies against Latin America. Were the toughly worded speeches by Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parilla and later, the new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel simply brief fireworks, or do they signal a political role that Cuba wants to play in Latin America?
Luciano Vasapollo: As a matter of fact, that April 14 speech by Minister Rodriguez Parrilla caused a short-circuit at the Lima Summit, not only for OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, but more importantly, for White House strategy. The U.S. is looking to regain its influence throughout Latin America, using dirty electoral tricks, impeachments (political trials) and economic sabotage. In this sense, I’d like to take a moment to quote some of the Minister’s words: “…recent events show that the OAS and especially, its General Secretary, are mere tools of the United States [of America]. Now, the objective is to re-establish imperialist domination, destroy national sovereignty through unconventional interventions, topple popular governments, reverse social conquests and reinstall savage neoliberalism throughout the continent.”
These words from the Minister have become a political touchstone for progressive governments in Latin America and for leftist parties throughout the world, especially the following: “…Cuba will accept neither threats nor blackmail from the U.S. government. It does not desire confrontation, but it will never negotiate its internal affairs nor will it cede so much as a millimeter of its principles. The Cuban people have spilled their own blood in defense of the independence of their Revolution and socialism, assuming extraordinary sacrifices and the highest risks, therefore on the upcoming April 19, we will commemorate our victory against the mercenary aggression at Playa Giron, firmly, with self-assurance and optimism…”
In reality, these two phrases are a synthesis of Cuba’s political future, especially after the actions taken against Venezuela and Cuba at this Summit. Once again they highlight the revolutionary behavior and positions of the Cubans, which the White House believed had dissolved after Raúl Castro met with Obama. In fact, four days later, on April 19, Cuba’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel was even more pointed and radical in his remarks and to illustrate that, I’d like to quote this phrase: “…In that context, I confirm that Cuban foreign policy will remain unaltered and we repeat: no-one will manage to weaken the Revolution or break the Cuban people, because when it comes to its sovereignty and independence, Cuba does not make concessions and it will not negotiate its principles or accept conditions. We will never give way to pressure or threat; whatever changes are necessary will continue to be decided by the Cuban people.”
I’d like to point out that at this Latin American plenary, the CIA’s presence was embarrassingly blatant. Especially when a group of countries proposed excluding President Maduro in order to provide a platform for the Venezuelan opposition. It was a truly provocative electoral propaganda operation considering that on May 20, three elections will be held in Venezuela: the presidential elections, parliamentary elections and those for members of municipal councils. The media show organized by Langley’s satellites was staged with a dozen Cuban opponents, evidently imported from Miami.
Miguel Díaz-Canel’s election as president of the Republic surprised observers and especially critics, who’d already announced that the Revolution had reached its end. What does this election mean in the current political context in Cuba?
The election of Miguel Díaz-Canel is a reflection of the huge strength that present day Cuba shows in its popular, socialist and participative democracy. Díaz-Canel represents the continuity of the Cuban Revolution, being a comrade who was brought up within this revolutionary process and one who participated in every stage of popular democracy building in Cuba. I’d like to mention that from a very young age, Miguel Díaz-Canel has participated in this Revolution, first as an activist and later as a leader of the young Communists at the university. Professionally, he is an electronics engineer, and held a teaching post within the engineering faculty at the Central University in Las Villas, where he also served as dean. He directed the Communist Party for ten years in the province of Villa Clara and later in Holguin. In 1991 he became a member of the party’s Central Committee and in 2002 he entered the Politburo. In 2009 he was called to lead the Ministry of Higher Education as its minister. Later, in 2013, the Cuban parliament elected him to the post of First Vice-President to the Council of State and Ministers.
His election as president was extremely transparent, and as such represented the agreement of Cuba’s third generation, in this revolutionary process, and their perfect integration within the country’s political and ideological framework. In fact Díaz-Canel was unanimously elected by the 605 members of Parliament, for a five-year term, that is, until 2023, with the opportunity to be re-elected for a second term, until 2028. I can say, with all seriousness, that in addition to being a great Marxist leader, Miguel Díaz-Canel is a great comrade who I know like a brother and who I consider to be the best person to continue Cuba’s communist and socialist tradition. That’s why, in the capitals of the western world, they’re turning up their noses.
Miguel Díaz-Canel and his wife Lis Cuesta Peraza queuing to vote for the National Assembly on 11 March 2018
Initially, western mainstream media commented on his election with horror. Later, they all, or almost all of them, from La Repubblica to The New York Times, tried to transmit the idea that the Cuban Revolution was on its last legs “…because the Cuban family is leaving the stage…” Can you explain the reasons behind this kind of bitter media terrorism?
Unfortunately, when talking about Cuba, the First World media resort to simple adjectives rather than analysis. They lie in order to conceal the dignity of a people. They continually engage in semantic tricks in order to tear down the winning reality of a popular, socialist democracy, precisely because that reality remains alive in spite of every attack against it. I’m convinced that whenever an editor nowadays uses the same kinds of offensive words against Cuba that were used during the Cold War, like “…the Castro dictatorship…” or “…the powerful Castro family…” it is done only out of respect for the rules that imperialism’s logic has established for the media.
In reality, the objective of these kinds of expression is to deny in every possible sense that in Cuba there is a popular revolutionary process, which implies the exercise of direct and participative democracy and an affirmation of equality. That is, they want to deny the basis of socialist democracy. For example, over the years, they have frequently mentioned “…the powerful Castro family…” but they never point out that not one of Fidel’s seven children or Raúl’s four have held governmental positions!
The truth is that the Cuban people have found their own leaders in the best architects of the triumphant Revolution in 1959 and later in the Cuban Communist Party, in whom they have complete confidence. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and all the rest who fought in the Sierra Maestra set in motion a Revolution that has become deeply popular, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, socialist and faithful to the ideals of Jose Martí. Without the political and moral support of the Cuban people, this revolution could never have lasted so long, or repelled all the attacks suffered since 1959 and up to the present day!
Therefore, those who fall back on Cold War phrases are engaged in nothing more than media terrorism. And this is as true for the prestigious editor of The New York Times, as it is for the obviously less prestigious Libero or La Repubblica. It is a media terrorism however, that does not come about by accident, because it is an integral part of the “business of political propaganda” designed by the masters of imperialism, fully underwritten by multinational advertising contracts.
Immediately after Miguel Díaz-Canel’s election, Luis Almagro, the General Secretary of the OAS, issued an absurd statement, disparaging the Cuban electoral system. Could you offer some examples to explain how Cuba’s electoral model works?
They keep on saying that Cuban elections are not democratic because they are limited solely to members of the Cuban Communist Party! Unfortunately, whether through ignorance or ill-intention, they ignore the fact that out of the eight million who voted, only 800,000 are party members and only 400,000 are members of the Communist Youth. This means that 85% of voters, that is, around 6,800,000 Cubans are not party members! Not to mention that of the 605 members of parliament, 322 are women (53%) and 338 (5%) were elected for the first time. Blacks or mixed-race constitute 40% of the parliament, the median age is 49, and 80 of the parliamentarians are between the ages of 18 and 35. There are only 60 members who fought in the Sierra Maestra, that is, just 9.5%!
Nevertheless, the most important element that analysts from “mainstream media” overlook when they criticize the Cuban electoral model is that as a matter of law, the Cuban Communist Party may not nominate electoral candidates. Those are selected and elected by the people in municipal elections, later in provincial ones and finally at the legislative leve. It’s not like it is here in Italy, where the PD or Forza Italia candidates who didn’t receive enough votes to be elected, suddenly reappear thanks to the so-called “party list!”
Luis Almagro’s statement is the result of his resentment toward the left and everything the left represents in Latin America. In fact, Almagro has always been a “Blanco,” that is, an activist in the “Nationalist Party.” But in order to make a career as a diplomat, he understood he would need to work with the Frente Amplio. That’s why he enrolled in the MPP, becoming a special adviser on foreign affairs to Jose Mujica, when he’d been the agriculture minister in Tabaré Vázquez’s government and later on was named ambassador to China. Afterwards, when Mujica became president, Almagro was named Minister of Foreign Relations, since within the Frente Amplio he was the only one with any experience in foreign diplomacy. Later on, Mujica nominated him as OAS General Secretary, where he turned back into a “Blanco,” attacking Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia above all. The Uruguayan newspaper El Observador even published a letter in which the former president Mujica called him a traitor. In Washington, Almagro is known as “Mr. Pancake,” as Antonio Mercader wrote about him in El País, because he “…changes his political positions faster than flipping a pancake and his political zigzags have been constant throughout his political career…” So everything Almagro said against Miguel Díaz-Canel’s election is part of Mr. Pancake’s glossary!
Thanks to the excellencies in the White House, is everything that falls outside bourgeois democracy, that questions imperialist logic, and denounces the effects of geo-strategic and economic dependency, to be considered an enemy, as in the era of the Doctrine of National Security?
The appearance and morphology of the media have changed but the concept of a “Filthy State” remains the same. For the White House, Cuba continues to be a filthy state, like Syria, Iran, just like once upon a time, Angola, Nicaragua, Libya and plenty of other countries with revolutionary governments. For example, if we were to flip the pages of U.S. newspapers over the years, we’d find the absurd statements by Chester Crocker in 1982, when the racist South African army invaded Angola for the second time. We would also find the twisted editorials in the leading European papers when the South African invaders were finally defeated in May, 1988, at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, thanks to the courageous participation of the international Cuban troops fighting alongside the Angolan army (FAPLA).
Unfortunately imperialism’s logic is the logic of power, that – whether under Barack Obama or the super-conservative Donald Trump – is repeated throughout the years, changing only its language and external aspects. The truth is that the White House’s geo-strategical concept has never changed, from Operation Phoenix in Vietnam to Operation Condor in Latin America, from the invasion of Grenada, to that of the Contras in Nicaragua, from the invasion of Iraq to the aerial attack against Libya, from the economic blockade against Cuba to the sanctions against Venezuela.
The demands made by the U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for a tightening of the economic blockade against Cuba, and the pressure from Donald Trump’s government on Canada to reduce the presence of the 85 Canadian companies operating there – some of whom are guaranteeing nickel refining – are they personal politics or representative of U.S. geo-strategy?
Unfortunately, in the United States, important geo-strategic questions are used to push electoral campaigns or strengthen intra-party leadership. In fact, the Senator from Miami, Marco Rubio, has already told Republican Party sponsors that the next U.S. president must be of “Hispanic” origin. That’s why his parents’ Cuban origin is useful to him: to promote his campaign within the Republican Party. Rubio defends a harsher economic blockade and the breaking of diplomatic relations with Cuba. At the same time, Donald Trump’s government is increasing the pressure on the Canadian government in an attempt to impose “imperialist command” and simultaneously please the U.S. bourgeoisie and those who rule Wall Street.
Nevertheless, the blockade has been and continues to be the central topic as far as Cuba’s economic and social development is concerned and that’s why President Díaz-Canel placed such emphasis on it in his speech before the National Assembly: “…No country has ever resisted for so long, the economic, commercial, military, political and media siege that Cuba has confronted. This is why we will continue to confront the threats from our powerful imperialist neighbor. We will always be inclined to dialogue or cooperate with anyone who approaches us on the basis of equality and respect. There is no room in this legislature for those who aspire to a capitalist restoration. This legislature will defend the Revolution and continue to perfect socialism. We can’t say this any more clearly: the Cuban Revolution continues to be dressed in olive green, ready for all kinds of combat.
With President Raúl Castro, the Cuban government has implemented a series of changes to its economic system, where strategic sectors continue to be managed by the state, in other words, in socialist planning, energy development, and the defense of its sovereignty. Will the reforms to the Cuban economic model continue?
The dramatic difficulties of the “Special Period” allowed the Cuban government to define the methodology it would use to perfect its socialist economic model. Because of this, starting in 1995, the economic indices began to improve. By 2000 the Cuban economy had stabilized, with a growth rate between 4% and 5% and by 2006 a sudden spurt that reached 11%. As a result, in 2010, the Raúl Castro government decided to reduce the state’s presence in the economy, allowing for a range of commercial activities and services to be privately run, transforming their managers into owners. Now, many of those people have been elected to municipal councils or the Parliament. In 2016, when the economic crisis exploded in Brazil and Argentina and the United States organized the sabotage of the Venezuelan economy, the ensuing recession threatened the Cuban economy in turn. This was the point where the Cuban government undertook a review of all the measures it had taken to improve the socialist economic model and began to fine-tune activities in the private sector.
Many people fail to understand that in Cuba, the political decisions and above all, economic decisions depend on accumulated real-life experience. In other words, each decision taken corresponds to a specific phase in the development process and for that reason, these decisions are studied and analyzed collectively. Miguel Díaz-Canel was part of all the discussions and research surrounding the changes needed in the development process and this means that once again, the Cuban Revolution will have a president with personal knowledge of the mechanisms and difficulties involved in the effort to perfect the planning model, which has always had its own dynamic. So much so that to date, economic planning has been redefined nine times, not only setting new sectors in motion but also correcting for their limitations, due to the economic blockade imposed by the United States.
In April 2011, the plan to update the socialist planning model was launched, involving a series of small, medium and large changes in the Cuban economy. Later, in 2015, during the Seventh Party Congress, these changes were comprehensively reviewed to determine whether they should continue or be expanded. In other words, a thorough analysis of the achievements was made, in order to define what ought to be done in the future. This is the basis for the new planning model set through 2030, that is, an updating of socialist planning in all its dimensions.
President Raúl Castro managed to open a channel of dialogue with the government of Barack Obama. Nevertheless, his successor, Donald Trump, put a stop to that right away. In order to renew that dialogue, must we wait for Trump to leave the White House? And meanwhile, what can Miguel Díaz-Canel do?
International events do not depend on individuals, but on relations and the balance of power developed at the international level. I repeat, Miguel Díaz-Canel – especially because I know him personally – will try to demonstrate Cuba’s willingness to have a peaceful, balanced relationship with the United States. I might add that the attempt to open negotiations with the United States has always been a political decision taken by the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban people. As president, Raúl Castro represented and coordinated this collective decision from the people. It’s a process that began thanks to the repeated calls for dialogue from many international entities, Pope Francis above all. In this context, the manifestations of solidarity carried out throughout the world were very important, because they also contributed to the definitive liberation of the Five Cuban Heroes. Unfortunately, after this positive beginning, Obama tried to impose impossible conditions, while the international mainstream press tried to corner the Cuban government, pushing the idea that normalization of relations between the two countries had been achieved and capitalism was on its way back to Cuba!
The truth is that Obama and his advisers never allowed a discussion to occur regarding the core problems related to normalization. There was instead a timid first step toward normally functioning embassies but it was not followed by any kind of decision from the US administration on questions associated with the economic blockade and its occupation of territory at Guantanamo. In fact, for Cuba, these are the “sine qua non” arguments, and until the United States decides to change them, it’s impossible to talk about normalized relations between Cuba and the United States.
With Trump, the negotiation process has been definitively terminated, not because he’s a wild hardcore reactionary, but because he represents the interests of a portion of the ruling class in the United States. As a result, the White House has tightened its economic blockade against Cuba because it wants to expand this blockade to include Venezuela under President Maduro. Therefore, it’s a decision that falls within the framework of strategic actions for a return to US domination over Latin America, through the elimination of all progressive governments. It’s a strategy that starts by breaking with Cuba. In fact, as far as imperialism is concerned, a negotiation process with Cuba has become politically incompatible with the judicial coups d’etat underway in Brazil, Paraguay and Ecuador as well as the sabotage of the Venezuelan economy, tied to subversive actions by the opposition. For this reason, everything depends on the United States’ willingness!
In fact, former President Raúl Castro said as much: “…the prevailing sentiment among US citizens and Cuban émigrés is that of opposition to a continued blockade and favors an approach that seeks improved bilateral relations. Paradoxically, the individuals and groups that currently appear to have the greatest influence over the US president are partisans of an aggressive and hostile behavior toward Cuba…Today US imperialism creates conflicts…it uses its multinational corporations and hegemonic technology platforms to impose just one way of thinking, to manipulate human behavior, practice cultural invasion, erase historical memory and national identity, while controlling and corrupting political and electoral systems…” Actually, negotiations will only begin again when the United States demonstrates respect for the following rules: 1) respect and equal dignity between the counterparts, 2) Cuba’s refusal to renounce its socialist and revolutionary project, 3) an immediate end to the economic blockade, 4) immediate return of Cuban territory at Guantanamo, where the US has a military base.
The first presidents to greet Miguel Díaz-Canel after his election were the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivian Evo Morales. Was this simply a display of diplomatic relations, or does it point to a strengthening of a political, economic and strategic alliance?
I was thrilled to see Maduro meet with Díaz-Canel right after his election and later, thanks to Telesur, see the meeting between Díaz-Canel and the Bolivian president, Evo Morales. These were two meetings that were not simply diplomatic displays. Just as you suggested, they represent the strengthening of an economic, political and strategic alliance. In real terms this means a strengthening of ALBA, CELAC and UNASUR, because US imperialism is trying to undermine these regional organizations created by progressive governments, after having managed to dismantle Mercosur through an “ad hoc” exploitation of the crisis in Venezuela and Brazil, after falsely accusing Dilma Rousseff and jailing ex-president Lula.
I’m talking not just about the upcoming elections in Venezuela, where the PSUV and the parties within the Frente Popular are sure to win, confirming Maduro as president and head of government, increasingly determined to carry out the sovereign decisions taken by the Venezuelan people. I’m also talking about elections in Paraguay, where the opposition – united in the Frente GANAR – has registered 47.8% approval, blocking the rightwing from an absolute majority. I’m talking about Nicaragua, where Langley is hard at work on a subversive plan, manipulating certain disagreements with the government regarding legislative reform to address pension contributions. I’m talking about Brazil, where the process of totally privatizing natural and structural resources to the benefit of multi-national corporations is underway, and the former president Lula was arrested and unjustly convicted, thereby preventing his victory in the October elections. I’m talking about the situation in Argentina, where Mauricio Macri’s conservative government has tilted the country into recession once again. I’m talking about the situation in Colombia, where the peace agreement with the FARC has begun to unravel and an accord with the ELN continues to be ever more uncertain and distant.
On April 18, the foreign ministers of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru declared that they would temporarily suspend their membership in UNASUR. Does this mean that UNASUR runs the risk of meeting the same fate as Mercosur?
It’s possible and even probable! After all, it’s what the United States has always wanted and what Mr. Luis Almagro – Mr. Pancake – has helped bring about. Remember, the disagreements and divisions within Mercosur began precisely when Almagro said “…Nicolas Maduro is not fit for the presidency of Mercosur, because he’s a dictator…” Unfortunately, Chile’s election of the conservative Sebastian Pinera Echenique, combined with the opportunism of the Peruvian president, Martín Vizcarra, has brought UNASUR to the grave, to such an extent that Paraguay’s foreign minister, Luis Loizaga, one of those who instigated the accusations against president Fernando Lugo, said “…UNASUR needs a new ideological rinse…”
Clearly, behind the scenes, the men tied to the excellencies in the White House are at work, trying to undermine UNASUR’s projects, especially those related to regional energy programs. They want to reinstitute neoliberal formulas, including those of the “Washington Consensus.” In fact, the United States plans to remake Mercosur in the image of the Pacific Alliance, where US multinationals set the rules. Nevertheless, what’s worse is that here in Italy and the European Union, for lack of taking a defined political position, the so-called Euro-centered left, the reformists and certain leftist sectors are ignoring the dramatic situation underway in Latin America.
The silence of the mainstream press and especially that of the Venezuelan right wing confirms the predictions that the Frente Popular and President Maduro will be victorious in Venezuela. Do you believe that a new success for Chavismo will trigger even more aggressive actions in imperialist strategy, with Cuba and Venezuela now considered “common enemies”?
The United States is promoting subversion, sabotage and media terrorism against the Bolivarian government and president Nicolas Maduro, because they are blocking the US multinationals from exploiting Venezuela’s enormous oil and mineral resources. If Chávez had allowed Chevron, Mobil and Texaco to continue pumping oil and gas as usual, the US Sixth Fleet would surely still be parked at the Norfolk naval base.
Unfortunately, the economic interests of the multinationals and Wall Street rule out any truce for Venezuela, or Cuba. I’m sure that with the victory of the Popular Front and the confirmation of Nicolas Maduro, the United States will turn up the pressure as well as the economic and financial restrictions against Venezuela. In fact, by attacking Venezuela economically and financially, the United States is aiming to weaken ALBA and therefore impose its influence throughout all the small countries of the Caribbean. Some of those countries joined ALBA mainly to take advantage of the oil contracts offered through Petrocaribe. If the Venezuelan government continues to be forced to import 80% of its foods and industrial products, previously produced in Venezuela, the national oil company PDVSA will no longer be able to guarantee special prices and sufficient oil for Petrocaribe. For instance, the “impeachment” carried out in Paraguay against Fernando Lugo, prevented the signing of a Petrocaribe contract, the participation of Paraguay in ALBA, and its vote favoring Venezuela’s entry to Mercosur. Nevertheless, a majority victory by the Frente Popular in Venezuela is extremely important, because it has the potential to revive the hopes and willingness to consolidate democracy and popular sovereignty among many Latin American countries.
“Cretin's Corner”, in the Museum of the Revolution, Havana : fr. l. Fulgencio Batista, the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown by the Cuban Revolution, Ronald Reagan (U.S. President from 1981- 1989), George H. W. Bush (U.S. President from 1981-1989) and George W. Bush (U.S. President 2001 to 2009)