THE U.S., CUBA, AND DEMOCRACY: U.S. Reviles Cuba While Ignoring Other Nations' Human Rights Abuses

By Blum, William | CCPA Monitor, May 2005 | Go to article overview

THE U.S., CUBA, AND DEMOCRACY: U.S. Reviles Cuba While Ignoring Other Nations' Human Rights Abuses


Blum, William, CCPA Monitor


Cuba has been branded by the Bush administration and the American commercial media as "the only remaining nondemocracy in the Western Hemisphere"-a disparagement that has served to justify the continuing U.S. embargo against Cuba and the most recent anti-Cuba vitriol emanating from the White House. In this article, one of the most prominent American critics of current U.S. foreign policy takes a more accurate look at U.S.-Cuba relations. -ED.

During the period of the Cuban revolution, 1959 to the present, Latin America has witnessed a terrible parade of human rights violations-systematic, routine torture; legions of "disappeared" people; government-supported death squads picking off dissidents; massacres of peasants, students, and other groups, shot down in cold blood. The worst perpetrators of these acts during all or part of this period have been the governments and associated paramilitary squads of El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Haiti, and Honduras.

Not even Cuba's worst enemies have charged the Castro government with any of these violations, and if one further considers health care and education-both of which are guaranteed by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights-areas in which Cuba has consistently ranked at or near the top in Latin America, then it would appear that, during the 46 years of its revolution, Cuba has enjoyed one of the very best human rights records in all of Latin America.

If, despite this record, the United States can insist that Cuba is the only "non-democracy" in the Western Hemisphere, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that this thing called "democracy," as seen from the White House, may have little or nothing to do with many of our most cherished human rights. Indeed, numerous pronouncements emanating from Washington officialdom over the years make plain that "democracy," at best, or at most, is equated solely with elections and civil liberties. Not even jobs, food and shelter are part of the equation.

Thus, a nation with hordes of hungry, homeless, untended sick, barely literate, unemployed, and/or tortured people, whose loved ones are being disappeared and/or murdered with state connivance, can be said to be living in a "democracy"-its literal Greek meaning of "rule of the people" implying that this is the kind of life people actually want-provided that every three or four years they have the "right" to go to a designated place and put their X next to the name of one or another candidate who promises to relieve their miserable conditions, but who will, typically, do virtually nothing of the kind; and provided further that in this society there is at least a certain minimum of freedom-how much being in large measure a function of one's wealth-for one to express one's views about the powers-that-be and the workings of the society, without undue fear of punishment, regardless of whether expressing these views has any influence whatsoever over the way things are.

It is not by chance that the United States has defined democracy in this narrow manner. Throughout the Cold War, the absence of "free and fair" multi-party elections and adequate civil liberties were what marked the Soviet foe and its satellites. These nations, however, provided their citizens with a relatively decent standard of living insofar as employment, food, health care, education, etc., without omnipresent Brazilian torture or Guatemalan death squads. At the same time, many of America's Third World allies in the Cold War-members of what Washington still likes to refer to as "the Free World"-were human-rights disaster areas, which could boast of little other than the 30-second democracy of the polling booth and a tolerance for dissenting opinion so long as it didn't cut too close to the bone or threaten to turn into a movement. …

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