By Prof. Alemayhu G. Mariam
President Barack Obama is in Cuba! On a mission. Liberate Cubans from “communist” mental slavery!
Hooray! Cuba libre! Free Cuba!
From the Spanish.
That “splendid little war”, the Spanish-American War, lasted a little over two months. The Spanish Empire collapsed and the U.S. snagged a number of Spain’s island possessions.
Ah! America’s manifest destiny of carrying on with the burdens of empire.
But Cuba was not liberated at the end of that “little war”. It became “independent”.
In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge went to Cuba to speak before the Pan American Conference and announced: “Today Cuba is her own sovereign. Her people are independent, free, prosperous, peaceful, and enjoying the advantages of self-government.”
The U.S. granted Cuba its “independence”. In exchange for independence, Cuba had to agree to U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs as it sees fit and keep a perpetual lease on its naval base at Guantánamo Bay (where nearly 800 prisoners have been detained since January 2001 without due process of law and the detention camp Obama promised to shut down).
That was the deal until Fidel Castro and crew began armed struggle in the early 1950s to liberate Cuba from organized crime and organized American companies which dominated the Cuban economy.
In January 1959, Castro and his crew became victorious. Fidel declared, “I am not a dictator, and I do not think I will become one. I will not maintain power with a machine gun.”
For 56 years, the Castro Brothers, Fidel, Raul and Ramon (recently deceased), have run Cuba with an iron fist and index fingers on the triggers of machine guns.
The U.S. imposed an economic embargo on Cuba for over one-half century.
Now Obama is in Cuba to bring Cuba in from the cold. (I did not say the Cold War.)
In 2016, Barack Obama is in Cuba not to liberate Cuban territory but to liberate Cubans from the tyranny of human rights suppression and deprivation.
A couple of weeks ago Obama announced that he will travel to Cuba in the third week of March to “press Castro on human rights.”
The U.S. “pressed” the Castro Brothers for over fifty years every which way and the Castro Brothers have proved to be tough nuts to crack (pun not intended).
Obama said, “We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world.”
Well! Well! Does America “always stand for human rights around the world”?
In July 2015, Obama traveled to Ethiopia and said, “I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.” (Emphasis added.)
The “government” of Ethiopia Obama called “democratic” is none other than the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF), currently classified as a terrorist group by the Global Terrorism Database.
The T-TPLF won the May 2015 “election” by winning 100 percent of the seats in “parliament” (one hundred percent).
“Ethiopia is the second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa,” according to Freedom House.
“Ethiopian authorities continue to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, using repressive laws to constrain civil society and independent media, and target individuals with politically motivated prosecutions,”according to Human Rights Watch.
Nevermind the facts, to Obama the T-TPLF is “democratic”.
In July 2009, Obama went to Accra, Ghana and said, “Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa does not need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
In August 2014, Obama invited the who’s who of African thugtators to the White House to wine and dine them and take pictures (selfies?).
Guess who came to dinner at the White House?
Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya who was on trial at the International Criminal Court on various counts of crimes against humanity.
Paul Biya of Cameroon who has decades-long record of gross human rights violations.
Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso who committed human rights atrocities before he “resigned” in October 2014 after a popular uprising.
Paul Kagame of Rwanda who has been “stoking a rebellion in eastern Congo” resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda known for his long record of human rights violations and stealing elections, including the last one a few weeks ago.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea who has rigged a 95 percent victory in every election for decades.
José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola who has been running his government like a family business (more like a crime syndicate).
Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who inherited the presidency from his father at age 30 and runs an empire of corruption.
Hailemariam Desalegn, the ceremonial prime minster of Ethiopia, generally regarded as a jovial buffoon.
And so on…
Under Obama’s watch, Africa’s “strongmen” have been stronger than ever before.
African strongmen have become so strong and unashamedly bold that they proudly announce winning election by 100 percent (in Ethiopia) and becoming presidents-for-life in Rwanda, Uganda or ruling-party-for-life in Ethiopia.
I coined the word “diplocrisy” in 2013 to describe Barack Obama’s human rights diplomacy by hypocrisy.
At the time, I was reacting to Secretary of State John Kerry’s statements during the release of the U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report for 2013.
Kerry remarked, “Anywhere that human rights are under threat, the United States will proudly stand up, unabashedly, and continue to promote greater freedom, greater openness, and greater opportunity for all people.”
Obama is saying the same exact thing in 2016. He will “press Castro on human rights” and “America will always stand for human rights around the world.”
I can’t quite figure out Obama’s human rights policy.
But I have figured out, rather late in the game, that Obama is a hypocrite. But not exactly the type of hypocrite he is.
There is the “true hypocrite who ceases to perceive his deception and proceeds to lie with sincerity.”
Then there is the hypocrite who is “worse than a liar”, because he is “a liar that’s also a hypocrite.”
I understand the legacy thing for U.S. presidents, especially in foreign policy.
Richard Nixon “opened” China.
Gerald Ford “ended” the war in Vietnam.
Ronald Reagan “won” the Cold War.
George Bush used weapons of mass deception to plunge America into a war of mass destruction in Iraq.
Barack Obama did the Iran nuclear deal and is working on a climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries). I am not hip with trade deals that ship out American jobs. I am with Bernie on that.
I am with Bernie when he says, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.”
I give Obama credit for “ending the wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, those it seems those countries are in a state of perpetual war drawing on American lives and treasury.
I give Obama credit for the Affordable Health Care Act and getting the economy on its “feet” after the 2008 debacle.
Bringing in Cuba from the cold is a nice feather in his presidential cap.
I had some reservations about the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement, but not anymore.
But I give Obama no credit for improving human rights globally and particularly in Africa.
Obama says he is going over to Cuba to talk about human rights. Is human rights the reason for the 56 year iron-clad embargo on Cuba?
If the Castro Brothers haven’t learned much about human rights in 56 years, is it possible to teach old dogs new tricks now?
It is perfectly sensible for the U.S. to normalize relations with Cuba after 5 decades. It makes diplomatic and humanitarian sense to reestablish relations, restore flight services and relax travel limits and allow Cubans greater access to U.S. financial institutions.
The way I see it, whatever Brother Obama does for the African Brothers (handout billions of dollars), he should also do for the Castro Brothers (at least in millions).
It is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to isolate and punish Cuba for its poor human rights records when the U.S. provides billions of dollars in aid to prop up African thugs in power who commit massacres and genocide every year.
I admit I have difficulty making distinctions in the human rights records of the Tweedle Dees and Tweedle Dums of the world.
But are the human rights “sins” of the Castro Brothers any worse than the “sins” of the African Brothers? I am just sayin’.
Hands down, the T-TPLF regime in Ethiopia has a far, far worse human rights record than the Cuban regime. Yet the U.S. pumps billions of dollars every year to prop up the T-TPLF.
What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.
But such is Obama’s double standard of human rights diplocrisy.
The Castro Brothers have been around the block with the U.S. a few times over the last one-half century.
They know what’s up. They know who talks the talk and who talks the walk.
They know Obama only talks the talk when it comes to human rights.
Also, if there is anything the Castro Brothers hate, it is criticism of their human rights record.
But Obama says he wants to restructure U.S.-Cuba relations on a foundation of human rights and relaxation of state controls on the Cuban economy. He seems to believe that with more commerce, communication, tourism, social and cultural exchanges Cuba can be transformed into a more liberal democratic society. That remains to be seen.
As Obama visits Cuba, I wonder if he will call for the release of political prisoners. He says he will meet with the families of political prisoners and dissidents.
What will he say to them?
Don’t you ever feel sad/ Lean on me, when the times are bad
When the day comes and you’re down/In a river of trouble and about to drown
Just hold on, I’m comin’/ Hold on, I’m comin’.
That’s Sam and Dave.
Talking about political prisoners, the Castro Brothers may just casually mention something about the human rights of the prisoners in Guantanamo.
Fidel Castro once remarked, “I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life.”
Fidel Castro is a Marxist-Leninist, an autocrat, a dictator and so on.
But Fidel Castro is no hypocrite. Fidel Castro does not speak with forked tongue. Fidel Castro says what he means and means what he says.
I disagree with Castro on press and individual freedoms, property rights, due process and so on. But I give him credit for his literacy campaign and vast improvements in health and education.
But I respect Castro because he is no hypocrite.
What kind of speech will Barack Obama give in Havana?
I think he will say something along the following lines:
Good afternoon, everybody. It is a great honor for me to be in Havana…. I am deeply grateful for the welcome that I’ve received…
We must start from the simple premise that Cuba’s future is up to Cubans.
I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the Caribbean.
This is the simple truth of a time when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections. Your prosperity can expand America’s prosperity. Your health and security can contribute to the world’s health and security. And the strength of your democracy, once you get to enjoy it, can help advance human rights for people everywhere.
I do not see American and the people of Cuba as a world apart.
After all, Cuba is only 90 miles away!
I see Cuba as a fundamental part of our interconnected hemisphere — (applause) — as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today.
Now, to realize that promise, we must first recognize the fundamental truth that Cuba needs to catch up with the rest of the world in its economic development. Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in Cuba for far too long. That’s the change that can unlock Cuba’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Cubans.
This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I’ll focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Cuba and the Caribbean: democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments.
As I said in Cairo, Ankara and Accra, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.
Democracy is about more than just holding elections. It’s also about what happens between elections. Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty.
No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. (No applause.) That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end. (No applause.)
In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges — (no applause); an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. (no applause.) Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.
America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. But what America will do is support good governance, promote the rule of law and accountability.
With better governance, I have no doubt that Cuba holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity. Witness the extraordinary success of Cubans in my country, America. They’re doing very well.
America can also do more to promote trade and investment. That will be a commitment of my administration. And where there is good governance, we can broaden prosperity through public-private investment partnerships, capacity-building and financial services.
This is also in our own interests — for if people are lifted out of poverty and wealth is created in Cuba, guess what? New markets will open up for our own goods. So it’s good for both.
In Moscow, I spoke of the need for an international system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed. And that must include a commitment to support those who resolve conflicts peacefully, to sanction and stop those who don’t, and to help those who have suffered.
In places like Cuba, young people make up over half of the population.
And here is what young Cubans must know: The world will be what you make of it. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, and end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can — (applause) — because in this moment, history is on the move.
But these things can only be done if all of you take responsibility for your future. And it won’t be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way — as a partner, as a friend. (Applause.)
Cuba, freedom is your inheritance. (Yeah! Cuba Libre!) Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Havana and say this was the time when the promise was realized; this was the moment when prosperity was forged, when pain was overcome, and a new era of progress began. (Applause.)
Finally, make no mistake: History is on the side of brave Cubans, not with those who cling to power for 56 years. (No applause.)
Cuba doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. (No applause).
Thank you very much.
Sounds vaguely like the speech Obama made in Accra, Ghana back in July 2009.
De ja vu!
I am not sure what the Cubans will see over Havana’s sky on March 20. “It’s a bird! It’s a Trojan horse (in the form of Pegasus) with wings. No, no, it’s Air Force One!”
People of Cuba: Hail, Barack Obama, Diplocrite-in-Chief !