Media Fantasies about Obama’s Gesture

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For strategic reasons, Venezuela and Cuba are singled out by the USA as “bad apples” and the corporate press instinctively parrots US officialdom.
Obama recently announced that relations with Cuba would be normalized and that the embargo, at least the aspects he can modify without Congressional approval, would be made less draconian. Features of the embargo introduced by the Torricelli Act and the Helms-Burton Act can only be abolished if Congress consents. Nevertheless, the apparent thaw in Cuba-US relations is very significant. It remains to be seen how far Obama will really go in reducing US support for terrorism and economic sabotage against Cuba, but encouraging possibilities exist because of the USA’s isolation and greatly diminished influence in the Americas.

The corporate media rushed to distort this reality completely. A Reuters headline exclaimed that Obama’s announcement had “exposed” Maduro, Venezuela’s president. Bloomberg assured readers that the “Mess in Venezuela Is One Reason Cuba Turned to the U.S”. Girish Gupta, writing for Time Magazine, claimed that “as Havana makes peace with Washington, Venezuelan authorities are left increasingly isolated” – a total reversal of the truth.

As recently as 2004, when US troops kidnapped Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, and set up a dictatorship, the Organization of American States (OAS) was often mocked, without much exaggeration, as the US Department of Colonial Affairs. OAS resolutions helped the USA and Canada justify sanctions on Haiti that preceded the coup. In 2009, the USA and Canada used their influence at the OAS to weaken the regional response to a military coup in Honduras that ousted Manuel Zelaya, another democratically elected president. However, in 2009, the Obama administration also had to content itself with weak conditions placed on Cuba’s reinstatement to the OAS. Cuba had been banned since 1962. In March of 2014, the US (and a few of its lapdogs like Canada) received a remarkable slap in face. The US pushed for an OAS resolution denouncing the Venezuelan government’s response to violent right wing protests. Instead, the OAS issued a resolution that expressed “solidarity” with the Venezuelan government. The Americas director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a voice of Washington’s liberal imperialists, complained that the resolution“seems to describe the situation in Venezuela as a natural disaster, instead of holding the Venezuelan government responsible for human rights violations…”. To avoid irrelevance, the OAS has been forced to reflect Latin America’s shift towards independence from the USA, much to HRW’s dismay. On December 9, Venezuela brought family members of people killed by right wing protesters to testify before the OAS. Using Lexis Nexis, I did not find any news articles about this in the corporate media.

The human rights implications of Latin American independence is dramatically illustrated by this map of countries that collaborated with the USA’s global kidnapping and torture program. Even states that soon became US (and EU) military targets, Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria, participated, but Latin America stayed out. Prosecutions of former US-backed murderers in Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina also show what Latin America’s recent independence means for the advancement of human rights. Julian Assange is shielded from US persecution by Ecuador’s leftist government. Edward Snowden would have been in Latin America had he not been trapped in Russia when the US government cancelled his passport. In 2013, the OAS easily passed a resolution condemning various EU governments for their appalling treatment of Bolivian president Evo Morales when the Europeans suspected that Snowden was hiding on Morales’ plane. As Noam Chomsky observed, “With virtually identical reservations, two states refused to sign the OAS resolution: the United States and Canada.”

For strategic reasons, Venezuela and Cuba are singled out by the USA as “bad apples” and the corporate press instinctively parrots US officialdom. Argentina’s government is not targeted remotely as much even though it played a key role in the region’s new-found independence from Washington. A star IMF pupil throughout the 1990s, Argentina’s economy imploded in 2001. Under immense popular pressure Argentina broke with the IMF, and with economic orthodoxy in general, defaulted on unpayable debt, and recovered. It also received help from Venezuela. This year an extremist judge in the USA, with tacit support from the Obama administration, blocked Argentina from paying bond holders through US banks. The judge was trying to force Argentina to accept the demands of predatory investors known as “vulture funds”. The OAS passed a resolution in support of Argentina against the vultures. It was opposed only by the USA and Canada.

Realists within the Obama administration must realize that salvaging any of the USA’s quickly dwindling influence in Latin America requires some kind of break with the past. The problem is, as Alex Main explained, that the far right has also pressured the Obama into balancing the gesture towards Cuba with increased belligerence towards Venezuela. I would add that even the more realistic among US elites will find it difficult to relinquish delusions of being the rulers of the Western Hemisphere.

The corporate media will also not explain the criminality of US policy towards Cuba. As Bill Blum explained, a lawsuit filed by Cuba in 1999 accused the US of inflicting over $100 billion worth of damage to its economy through deliberate sabotage, and that US sponsored terrorism killed 3,478 Cubans. The US continues to harbor Luis Posada Carriles, who told the New York Times that he organized the bombing of Cuban hotels in the 1990s. For years, the US has blocked his extradition to Venezuela where he is wanted for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 76 people on board. Blum’s piece also provides a list of UN General Assembly votes, dating back to 1992, denouncing the US embargo against Cuba with near unanimity.

In 2004, Noam Chomsky pointed out that OFAC, part of the US Treasury Department, told Congress that from 1990 to 2003 “there were 93 terrorism-related investigations with $9000 in fines; and 11,000 Cuba-related investigations with $8 million in fines”.

If US public opinion were a significant factor in US foreign policy, and if the mass media were remotely honest, then the USA’s brutal assault on Cuba would have ended decades ago. Obama’s gesture would be seen as much too little and about a half century too late.

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