MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While the US has been causing impoverishment and the breakdown of civil society in Latin America - as noted in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday - it has been continuing its decade-long boycott of Cuba. That action has lost US businesses hundreds of billions of dollars as other nations invest in the island. The boycott is a symbol of the lingering visceral vile toward Castro and the word communism.
Castro is in ill health, and Cuba appears about ready to burst out of the Soviet era as one of the last two communist nations on earth (along with North Korea). Cuba, however, differs from North Korea in that, while it is still subject to the cult of a one-man dictatorship, Cubans are on the last legs of a fading and disintegrating experiment in Soviet-style government. North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world; Cuba since the former Soviet Union cut it off years ago has a military force that is a shadow of it former strength.
Nonetheless, the aging pro-Batista exile community in Florida and the neocons with a Cold War hangover continue to enforce a boycott on the island 90 miles from the Keys that now threatens national security much less than Cliven Bundy and his militia supporters. In fact, on a threat-level scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the greatest threat to the US), Cuba probably scores about a 25.
There is another very interesting aspect of the US government's focus on Cuba as a political punching bag. Virtually any Cuban who makes it to dry ground in the US will not be deported. It used to be that no Cuban immigrants were kicked out of the US, but after the 1980 Mariel boat lift, in which Castro allegedly put "undesirables" and boats and sent them sailing to Florida, Cubans had to make it to the US land mass to be considered refugees who would not be deported. Only if they are intercepted at sea are they sent back to Cuba.
This brings us to the current influx of young immigrants, the vast majority from Central America. Recently, according to the The Atlantic, President Obama expressed little sympathy for the young people fleeing for their lives. As The Atlantic characterized his position on deporting the youth, it was unsympathetic, even cruel:
Obama, according to those present, would have none of it. Kids all over the world have it tough, he said. Even children in America who live in dangerous neighborhoods would like to live somewhere else, but he can't solve everyone's problems. He told the groups he had to enforce the law—even if that meant deporting hard cases with minors involved. Sometimes, there is an inherent injustice in where you are born, and no president can solve that, Obama said. But presidents must send the message that you can't just show up on the border, plead for asylum or refugee status, and hope to get it.
"Then anyone can come in, and it means that, effectively, we don't have any kind of system," Obama said. "We are a nation with borders that must be enforced."
As BuzzFlash pointed out yesterday, these kids are not seeking the golden goose egg; they are primarily just trying to survive, to stay alive. The life-threatening violence and poverty that they are fleeing are caused, in large part, by US policies supporting neoliberal corporate expansion and oligarchical governments in Latin America.
Meanwhile, in Cuba, very few residents experience hunger. They have free medical care. There is comparatively little violence. Yes, some human rights are denied, but what about the human right of staying alive that is denied in many parts of Latin America due to plutocratic rule and militaries supported and trained by the US? Then, of course, there is a war on drugs that is largely a smokescreen for keeping the poor from rebelling politically by creating a permanent state of fear.
The irony is ghastly. We allow any Cuban who can get to dry US land to stay here, but our president boasts of callousness toward children whose lives are at risk because of our policies in Latin America.
The US is becoming a vampire, sucking the wealth out of Latin American nations through extraction, US corporate market control and the seizure of indigenous lands - along with the forced elimination of a high percentage of subsistence farming. Then you have the use of a war on drugs as a means of suppressing political opposition.
We are closing our borders to the victims of our national greed and our support of militarized suppression.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Note: Thanks to the reader who brought the Cuba comparison to my attention in the comments' section from yesterday's column.