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Social Darwinism

Washington’s priorities

By letting the poor and mainly black population of New Orleans that was affected by Hurricane Katrina die, the US administration showed the disastrous consequences of its racial and social elitism. To top it off, Washington turned down the precious help of Cuban doctors and took the opportunity to suspend the minimum wage in the region, so that Halliburton and its cronies can get richer thanks to the natural disaster. At the same time, Cuba’s antiterrorist fighters are illegally held in US prisons while notorious CIA-trained criminals, like Luis Posada Carriles, are welcomed with open arms in the United States.

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Corpse of a child abandoned not far from the business centre in New Orleans

The terrible tragedy that hit the people of New Orleans on August 30th, 2005, shocked the international community and left it puzzled. How could the world’s top economic power leave its children at the mercy of Mother Nature? Why didn’t the federal authorities proceed to evacuate the poorest and most vulnerable people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama? Why was there not a response to such a huge human and material catastrophe– probably 10,000 deaths and 80% of New Orleans under water – [1]? Reality is cruel and simple. The poor, most of them black, victims of Hurricane Katrina, are not a priority for the Bush Administration, with other goals in mind.

After the devastation caused by the hurricane, the first measure taken by the US authorities was indescribable: sending troops to kill looters – particularly when the latter were only unfortunate wretches that had lost their relatives and their homes and were suffering due to the lack of food. The population, who hoped to receive medical assistance and supplies, instead received another hard blow when they saw the arrival of armed-to-the-teeth troops. That surrealistic response, more likely to come from a fascist state than from a democracy, did not even provoke criticism in the international media [2].

Some people, like famous singer Kanye West, even declared that “George Bush does not care about blacks”, adding that the United States got ready to “assist the poor, the black and the less fortunate in the slowest possible manner [3]”. The desperation of the dispossessed of Louisiana, which led some police and firemen to commit suicide, had no other answer than the White House’s indifference. [4]. In effect, President George W. Bush, enjoying one of his usual long weekends, waited five days to appear and did not travel to New Orleans until September 12, 2005. [5].

Curiously enough, one of the main targets of Washington’s military fanaticism – Cuba – was the first country to offer its assistance for the victims of the disaster. The Cuban government got in touch with the US State Department by both diplomatic and confidential channels and offered to send 1100 doctors with 26 tons of medical supplies for recovery operations. In the face of US silence, Cuba made its offer public – the most important offer thus far – yet got no answer either [6].

Cuban President Fidel Castro said that in less than 12 hours the first Cuban doctors could have arrived on US territory, specifically in places where medical assistance was urgently needed. “Maybe some people who don’t know the honour and the spirit of solidarity of our people thought it was a bluff or a ridiculous exaggeration. Our country has never played games with such serious affairs and it has never made demagogic or false offers”, he noted. Due to the geographic proximity and the high quality of the Cuban health professionals, had the contingent of Cuban doctors been accepted on August 30th, 2005, thousands of people, including pregnant women, mothers and children victims of epidemics and old people, could have been saved [7].

Several members of Congress urged George W. Bush to accept the Cuban aid. “We hope the administration takes the necessary steps to implement an effective response that includes accepting aid from other countries”, declared the group of the Hispanic Caucus of Congress [8]. But New Orleans is not a priority for the Bush Administration, whose political obscurantism seems to prevail over the lives of citizens in danger. In effect, the White House incumbent prefers to let his own people die before assuming the uncomfortable political and ideological position of accepting the generous hand of the people whom he is trying to destroy by all means [9].

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The lack of help caused the death of thousands of people. In Cuba, the last hurricane of a similar magnitude caused only five deaths.

The US public powers even took advantage of the disaster caused by Katrina to reduce the minimum wage in the region. The Administration decreed that companies in charge of the reconstruction of the city could pay salaries under the minimum wage line. The head of the AFL-CIO trade union described the decision as “disgraceful” and “incredible”. For his part, Representative (Dem.) George Miller accused federal authorities of having “used the devastation caused by Katrina to reduce the salaries of the people who desperately tried to rebuild their lives [10]”.

Washington keeps Cuba in the peephole. For example, on August 9th, 2005, the 11th Circuit of Atlanta’s Court of Appeals gave its verdict on the case of the Cuban Five [11]. Logically, this Court declared null and void all sentences imposed against the antiterrorists who had infiltrated criminal groups in Florida, and ordered to hold a new trial [12]. This decision makes illegal the current incarceration of Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort and René González Sehweret.

Instead of complying with the verdict of the US justice, the Bush administration asked for a month to try to get out of the legal mire it is in. Unfortunately, the media continues to be silent in the face of one of the biggest legal scandals of our time, in spite of appeals in favour of the liberation of the Five made by many personalities around the world, including several Nobel Prize winners [13].

Shortly after that, on September 1st, 2005, in El Paso (Texas), Judge William Abbott decided, with no logic, not to proceed with the immediate extradition of Luis Posada Carriles - a well-known criminal - to Venezuela alleging that he might be submitted to torture. Pressure overwhelmed this justice official who, in an attempt to justify himself in which he made reference, however, to the atrocities committed in the past by the defendant, had to resort to a very illustrative analogy: “Even if Hitler himself asked for protection on behalf of the Convention against Torture, this court would have suspended his deportation. [A] horrible criminal past or a terrorist record does not invalidate anyone from receiving protection if he were to be sent to a country where he would be tortured [14]”.

The argument of torture used by the defense and accepted by Judge Abbott shows the willingness of the US government to protect Posada Carriles. In order to pressure the authorities, Posada Carriles even publicly threatened to reveal “sensible and compromising information” about his own past at the service of the CIA and the involvement of world leaders in terrorist activities against Cuba and Central America [15].

In any normal democracy, any person who publicly encourages killing another, particularly if the event involves encouraging the assassination of a head of state, can be prosecuted and imprisoned. However, it is not the case of the United States.

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Reverend Pat Robertson

In fact, during a broacast program enjoying a large audience, Reverend Pat Robertson, a very influential and ultraconservative friend of George W. Bush, made a call to assassinate the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. However, he has not been bothered at all by the US justice. The assassination of Hugo Chávez “would be less expensive than waging a war”, said Pat Robertson [16]. Member of the extreme fundamentalist and religious right, Robertson openly expressed the Bush Administration’s intentions towards Venezuela [17].

In response, Hugo Chávez noted that “The United States is the only country where someone can afford the luxury to ask for the assassination of a head of state as recently happened with a reverend called Pat Robertson, a close friend of the White House: he openly asked for my assassination and he is free. That is an international crime! International terrorism! [18]!”.

Hugo Chávez also accused the Bush administration of planning a military invasion against Venezuela. In an interview with the US television network ABC, the Venezuelan president said that there are military manoeuvres taking place near Venezuela and that he has documents to prove his words. “I say that I have evidence of plans of invasion against Venezuela […]. It is called the Balboa plan and Venezuela is one of its targets”, said Chávez highlighting the presence of US aircraft carriers in the region. He also mentioned other pieces of evidence: “The 2002 coup d’état against Venezuela was organized in Washington. They ordered my assassination”, and insisted in the fact that the US government “shamelessly violates all current and future norms [19]”.

Washington cannot continue tolerating the existence of a Latin American leader whose main goal is not to serve the interests of transnational companies, but getting his people out of poverty. After the failed coup of April 2002 and the subsequent oil sabotage that ended in a resounding failure, the hawks of the White House are planning to resort to the extreme solution in order to get rid of a president whose popularity and vision go beyond the continent’s borders and who does not restricts democracy to its doctrinal definition.

Meanwhile, around the world, the supporters of Washington’s aggressive policy against Cuba continue their work. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders urged the current president of the European Union (EU), Anthony Blair, to re-establish sanctions against Cuba to further strangle its people [20]. Robert Ménard, general secretary of the Washington-financed organization [21], said that “the suspension of sanctions against Cuba violates the Common Position adopted by the European Union in 1996”, thus showing his loyalty to the US State Department that demands international sanctions [22].

In his speech before the summit of the United Nations, on September 14th, 2005, President George W. Bush reiterated his opposition to terrorism: “We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists [23]”. Actually, he only meant the “bad terrorists”, that is, those who are not serving the interests of Washington. Clearly, Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch do not fall into that category in spite of their impressive record as terrorists and the large number of victims on their conscience. Both, besides enjoying complete impunity, are still under the protection of the government of the United States.

Instead of neutralizing terrorist groups that operate in Florida, Washington prefers to ban a US theatre band from participating in the 12th International Theatre Festival of Havana in order to protect the US’s “national interests” [24]”. Likewise, the president of the Cuban Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, was denied his visa to participate in the meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Union in the UN headquarters in New York, what is a flagrant violation of the international law [25].
However, international law has never mattered much to the hawks of the Bush Administration.

The current US president could not care less about the American black people. Even though they live in the richest country of the planet, from some point of view, their fate is not any better than that of those living in Haiti or Bangladesh. George W. Bush prefers to reserve his protection for the “good terrorists” and to imprison those who, risking their lives, dare to expose the crimes of the White House.

[1] Le Monde, “Cadavres flottants, eau polluée : la mort chasse les vivants”, September 8, 2005; El Nuevo Herald, “US Government Admits that Katrina left thousands dead”, September 4, 2005; El Nuevo Herald, “Death toll in New Orleans could rise to 10 000”, September 5, 2005.

[2] El Nuevo Herald, “Horror comes afloat when water retreats”, September 6, 2005.

[3] Frazier Moore, “West criticizes Bush in telethon for Katrina victims”, El Nuevo Herald, September 3, 2005.

[4] El Nuevo Herald, “Frustration caused suicide among police and firemen in New Orleans”, September 5, 2005.

[5] El Nuevo Herald, “Bush returns to devastated regions”, September 6, 2005.

[6] Rui Ferreira, “Cuba offers doctors to the United States”, El Nuevo Herald, September 3, 2005.

[7] El Nuevo Herald, “United States Unlikely to Accept Humanitarian Assistance from Cuba”, September 6, 2005; Granma, “Threat of Epidemics Increases in New Orleáns”, September 10, 2005 (Website, September 12, 2005).

[8] Nestor Ikeda, “Democrat Hispanics urge Bush to accept Cuban assistance”, El Nuevo Herald, September 8, 2005.

[9] Fidel Castro, “You honour the noble profession of doctors”, Granma, September 5, 2005 (Website, September 6, 2005).

[10] Granma, [“Threat of Epidemics Increases in New Orleans”, op.cit.

[11] Salim Lamrani (with the address), Washington contre Cuba: un demi-siècle de terrorisme/L’affaire des Cinq (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005).

[12] Andrea Rodríguez, “Cuban Parliament criticizes US handling of two legal cases”, El Nuevo Herald, September 1, 2005.

[13] El Nuevo Herald, “Celebrities join call to free Cuban Five”, September 9, 2005.

[14] Wilfredo Cancio Isla, “Posada Carriles should not be extradited, says the judge”, El Nuevo Herald, September 2, 2005.

[15] Ibid.

[16] USA Today, “Pat Robertson Calls for Assassination of Hugo Chávez”, August 23, 2005.

[17] Patricia Rondon Espin, “Chavez Supporters March Against Robertson”, The Washington Post, September 3, 2005.

[18] Hugo Chávez Frías, “Speech by President Chávez before the 60th General Assembly of the United Nations”, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Ministry of Communication and Information, September 15, 2005 (Website, September 16, 2005).

[19] A. Rodriguez & A. Luna, “Chávez affirms that Washington has planned invasion of his country”, El Nuevo Herald, September 17, 2005.

[20] Reporters sans frontières, “Nouvelle vague de répression à Cuba: Reporters sans frontières demande l’intervention de la présidence britannique de l’Union européenne”, August 29, 2005 (Website, September 12, 2005).

[21] Robert Ménard, “Forum de discussion avec Robert Ménard”, Le Nouvel Observateur, April 18, 2005. (Website, April 22, 2005).

[22] Reporters sans frontières, “Nouvelle vague de répression à Cuba: Reporters sans frontières demande l’intervention de la présidence britannique de l’Union européenne”, op. cit.

[23] Glenn Kessler, “This Year, Bush Takes a Different Tone with the UN”, The Washington Post, September 15, 2005, p. A08.

[24] Antonio Paneque Brizuela, “US Government denies authorization for theatre group to travel to Cuba “, Granma, September 15, 2005 (Website, September 16, 2005).

[25] El Nuevo Herald, “Washington will not grant visa to Ricardo Alarcón”, September 5, 2005.

Salim Lamrani

Salim Lamrani Lecturer at the Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV and Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée Universities and specialist in Cuba-US relations. His latest published work in French: Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité Estrella, 2013; in English: Superpower Principles: U.S. Terrorism Against Cuba (Common Courage Press, 2006).

 
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