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Right-wingers plot regime change in Cuba
The hysteria about Castro

By Nicole Colson | August 11, 2006 | Page 2

THE RIGHT wing's obsession with Fidel Castro and his government in Cuba reached new heights at the end of July when the ailing president announced he was temporarily ceding power while he underwent surgery.

The right-wing Cuban community in Miami took to the streets in celebration--with one exile group spending an afternoon "replacing parts on aging boats its members hoped to sail soon to Cuba," reported the New York Times. "Another met all night, debating how to help dissidents on the island thwart Fidel Castro's plan for his brother Raúl to succeed him."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration called on Cubans to create a new government and threatened that the U.S. would "take note of those in the current Cuban regime who obstruct your desire for a free Cuba."

Rumors of a potential U.S. invasion forced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to record a taped message that was broadcast on state-run Cuban television. "The United States respects your aspirations as sovereign citizens," Rice said.

But in the half a century since U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista was toppled in 1959, the U.S. has never respected the rights of Cubans.

"Regime change" in Cuba has been an official feature of every U.S. presidential administration since John F. Kennedy's. The U.S. has tried to overthrow or assassinate Castro multiple times--including absurd plots involving exploding cigars.

The Bush administration in particular has put its contempt for Castro front and center, establishing the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in 2003 and ratcheting up pressure again last year with the creation of the Office of Cuban Transition within the State Department.

The administration refused to consider easing the punishing embargo against Cuba. On the contrary, in 2004, the White House imposed even harsher sanctions, limiting the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send to their families in Cuba.

And just two weeks before Castro's illness was announced, the State Department released a report announcing a plan to provide $80 million over two years to help with a "post-Castro transition." The report also calls on the U.S. "to put in place preparations that will ensure that the U.S. will be in a position to provide technical assistance in the first two weeks after a determination that a Cuban transition is underway." The report suggests sending "advisors," lending humanitarian aid and offering legal experts to oversee elections.

The irony of a president who came to power by stealing an election in Florida in 2000 offering to send election advisors to Cuba shouldn't be lost on anyone.

The Bush administration's desire to see Castro overthrown has nothing to do with caring about the welfare of the Cuban people. Castro's government has long stood long as a symbol of resistance to U.S. imperialism in Washington's own backyard, from its ties to the ex-USSR to its relationship with left-leaning governments in Latin America today.

Today, the Bush administration is particularly annoyed by Cuba's relationship with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, the target of two coup attempts supported by the U.S. Incredibly, after Castro's surgery, the Bush administration said it viewed attempts by Venezuela or other countries to "influence" the transition in Cuba as unwarranted intervention.

What will happen if and when Castro dies is uncertain. Sections of U.S. business view Cuba as a lucrative potential market, while Raúl Castro, Fidel's designated successor, has helped oversee the military's increased role in the tourism industry. According to the Miami Herald, military enterprises now control an estimated 90 percent of Cuba's exports and 60 percent of the country's tourism revenue.

But one thing is clear--Washington's talk of "democracy" for the Cuban people is as transparent as its rhetoric of "self-determination" for Iraqis.

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