After maintaining a virtual war-time blockade of Cuba for 54-yrs, President Obama agreed to begin the normalization of relations w/that independent-socialist island nation on the 17th of December 2014. The Cuban Revolution and the Castros have thus outlasted 11 US presidents.
The island of Cuba is the largest land mass in the Caribbean w/a length of 777 miles and just 93 miles south of the US. Superimposed, Cuba would stretch from Chicago past NYC. It has a population of 11.3 million.
The island is believed to have been settled about 6,000-yrs-ago. The Tainos and other Mesoamerican natives called it Cuba, possibly meaning “central or great place.”
When Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo, originally from the city-state of Genoa) first started to colonize the Western Hemisphere in 1492, there were an estimated 90,000 natives living in relative peace and prosperity on Cuba.
Columbus believed that the island was actually a peninsula of southern China and that he had discovered a clear western route to Japan and the Indies.
Columbus described Cuba as a lush land of colorful vegetation, exotic fruits and singing birds. The weather was so ideal that the natives were mostly naked w/the women of fair skin and as voluptuous as those of Spain.
He further described the natives as perfectly friendly w/out any sense of private property and they had no religion other than female totems and odd masks. He wrote that a very small military force could rule the entire lot.
(Within the next century, an estimated 90% of the Western Hemisphere’s est’d population of 100 million would be slaughtered or die from Euro-diseases.)
Columbus claimed all the “new” lands for the Kingdom of Spain, his sponsor, and over the course of four trips set about a draconian rule for profit in partnership under the crown and the Church.
He created a policy of “encomenderos” (econmienda) where the natives were enslaved for their labor in order to turn natural resources into profit and wealth for their new masters. A native family was routinely issued to each of the Spanish privateers for their use and the remainder enslaved and suffered a brutal regimen of torture, limb-cutting and death for any who resisted or failed to produce.
But in the Spanish crown’s insatiable quest for greater wealth, even that was not enough. In a profit dispute, Columbus was arrested and taken back to Spain in 1500 in chains. He negotiated a plea w/the crown and was allowed to return to the West on a fourth and final trip.
Among the many particularly egregious acts in the record perpetrated upon the natives, included inviting resisting leaders and their extended families to a “feast,” locking them in a building for the occasion and burning them alive. The Spanish privateers claimed sanction for this practice because the natives were not “Christians.”
In one practice where the Church did step in was the Spaniards dashing the heads of unwanted babies against rocks. The Church required only that the babies first be baptized. One might surmise there was a shortage of Cherubim in their Heaven.
This pattern of lawless privateering (they mostly make their own laws) gradually replaced the aristocratic parasite class and evolved into private corporatist (capitalist) exploitation, which largely remains the sociopolitical ideology in rule today throughout the world.
Over the course of the next several hundred years, along w/the enslavement and elimination of most of the native population by labor conditions, execution and disease, the island was ruled between successive waves of Spanish, French and English, and back to the Spanish.
By the 1750s the main export crop was sugar cane. Many thousands of West Africans were kidnapped, transported and enslaved for Cuban labor in that period.
A series of slave rebellions and revolts later took place under the Spanish in the early 1800s against the Atlantic Slave Trade leading to the abolition of slavery in Cuba.
America’s belated foray into neo-colonialism resulted in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris by which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the US for the sum of $20 million.
Cuba gained nominal independence from the US in 1902. Under the imposed Constitution the US retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. This included Cuba being forced to lease Guantanamo Bay to the US military in perpetuity.
In 1924, Gerardo Machado was elected president, tourism increased, and American-owned hotels and restaurants were built to accommodate the influx. The tourist boom was fueled by increases in gambling and prostitution.
The Wall Street Crash of ’29 led to drops in the price of sugar (already only giving the peasants 4-months minimal-wage employment per yr), political unrest, and repression. Uprisings among students, sugar workers, and an army revolt forced Machado into exile in August of ‘33. Army sergeant Fulgencio Batista took effective power in September and dominated Cuban politics for the next 25 years … at first through a series of puppet-presidents.
In 1940, Batista was directly elected president, holding the post until 1944. In 1952 Batista staged a coup backed by the US corporate elite. Unemployment had grown significantly and much of the peasantry was impoverished. All this combined w/increasing political persecution.
As resistance grew, Batista’s army and secret police became a major terror network on the island. Batista stayed in power until he was forced into exile in December 1958.
In 1956, Fidel Castro and about 80 other rebels launched a rebellion against the government. By late 1958, the rebels w/massive popular support broke out of the Sierra Maestra mountains and launched a general insurrection.
Aided by the US, Batista fled from Havana on 1 January 1959 to exile in Portugal. As he fled he took the entire Cuban treasury of god, silver, gems and art w/him on four B-26 aircraft. Castro’s forces entered the capital on 8 January 1959. When they entered the treasury they reported a single, solitary dime sitting on a lone table.
US corporations and the mafia tried to coopt Castro and his new gov’t into maintaining the status quo, but Castro chose to honor the Revolution’s call for land, bread and freedom. The new gov’t seized those lands that the corps were not using under “eminent domain” for distribution to the peasants. Eventual payment was promised (based upon the worth cited by the corporations on their US tax returns), but they chose to oppose the Revolution and scheme to roll back the reforms.
Given the US gov’t/corp squeeze, in February 1960 Castro signed a commercial agreement with the Soviet Union, which was open to economic relations w/Cuba. It was also that month that I earned my wings in the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, KY. My division commander was Gen. William C. Westmoreland.
The next month, President Eisenhower gave his approval to a CIA plan to arm and train counter-revolutionary Cubans to overthrow the Castro regime. For the next 54-yrs, the US gov’t, a number of corporations, the Mafia and gusanos galore (counter-revolutionary Cuban “worms”) conspired to blockade and terrorize the Cuban people to reject independence and socialism.
When JFK took office in January of ’61, he inherited this mad scheme. He had ordered the CIA off of US soil in their gusano training schemes. While he nominally approved the plan already in operation, he minimized all US involvement.
The Bay of Pigs, appropriately named, occurred 3-months later in April from attacks out of Guatemala and Nicaragua. Fortunately for Cuba (and me), Jack Kennedy refused to employ US forces. The 101st Airborne was then the first STRAC unit of the military at the time; we were lock ‘n load on the airfield ready to jump into Havana. I was 18.
Everyone should know the rest of the story…the past 54-yrs, in fact. An independent socialist Cuba has survived thru a persistent blockade and incessant acts of terror both promoted and carried out by the US.
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), December 2014…