With reports of protests in the streets of Cuba, the friend of those people, the US, has made its support clear. The people of Cuba join the people of Haiti and Venezuela in being able to count on friendly support from the US.
Except for three things. The US has caused the problems they are protesting, has invaded their countries and has interfered in their elections.
Caused Their Problems
The people of Cuba, or at least the people of Cuba who are in the streets, are protesting against food shortages and high prices. Biden assured them that "We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.… The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves."
The US stands with the people of Cuba against the economic hardship caused by the Cuban regime. For those Cubans who don’t know their history, State Department spokesperson Ned Price patronizingly reassured them that "We are always considering options available to us that would allow us to support the Cuban people, to support their humanitarian needs, which are indeed profound. And they are profound because of not anything the United States has done, but from the actions and inactions, mismanagement, corruption of the Cuban regime."
Not because of anything the United States has done? The dominant cause of the Cuban people’s economic hardship is the antique embargo that went into full lockdown by order of Kennedy in February 1962. But the bolts began closing even before that when Eisenhower banned all exports to Cuba except food and medicine in September 1960. By 2018, before Trump added to the sanctions, the embargo had cost Cuba $130 billion, according to the UN. The Biden administration has done nothing to ease Trump’s added pressure or to settle back into the level of pressure that had been somewhat deflated by the Obama administration after months of secret negotiations in 2014. In June, the US was one of only two countries to vote against a near unanimous resolution to end the blockade on Cuba. On July 15, days after Biden said he stood with the Cuban people, he refused to lift the restrictions on remittances to Cuba that make it impossible for Cuban Americans to send money home to their families.
Venezuela, another people the US supports, has also been starved by US sanctions that are illegal under international law. The sanctions on Venezuela, according to Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, have not hurt the government that the US opposes, but the people it supports. The sanctions have made people hungry and made people sick. They utterly deflated the economy and, in the year between 2017 and 2018, killed an estimated 40,000 people. These sanctions, the two economists argue, fit the definition of collective punishment. In June 2021, Biden continued that collective punishment of the people the US supports by, once again, refusing to end the sanctions on Venezuela.
In Haiti, the US took a novel route instead of defaulting to sanctions. They forced Haiti to reduce tariffs on imported crops, then took advantage of the lowered tariffs to dump surplus American crops into Haiti in the Trojan horse of food aid. Haitian farmers couldn’t compete with the cynically cheap American crops and lost their livelihood. Clinton made it worse by giving massive subsidies to US rice farmers. "Miami Rice," as the Haitians called it, was cheaper than Haitian rice: Haitian farmers lost their farms. Poverty and hunger followed. In 2010, Clinton confessed: “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did.”
Invaded Their Countries
The Bay of Pigs is well known. The other invasions are less well known.
In 1908, when the US helped Venezuelan strongman Juan Vicente Gómez to oust Cipriano Castro in a coup, they sent the navy to demonstrate support on many occasions. They also blocked the elected president’s efforts to return.
The US also blocked the efforts of the elected president of Haiti to return. When the people of Haiti called for the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide – twice elected and twice removed in US backed coups – though he expressed his "readiness to leave today" and return to Haiti, the US, as recorded in WikiLeaks documents, "insist[ed] that all efforts must be made to keep Aristide from returning to Haiti."
Though less discussed, the US has also invaded Haiti. The catalyst then was the assassination of the Haitian president, Jean Vilbrun Guillame Sam, in 1915. Under the cover of preventing anarchy, Woodrow Wilson ordered the marines to invade Haiti. The occupation would last until 1934. Amid the racial segregation and forced labor of the US occupation, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would rewrite the Haitian constitution to allow US corporations to take over Haiti’s land and resources.
Interfered in Their Elections
The impossible number of assassination attempts against Castro are well known. They include, according to a senate investigation, "poison pills, poison pens, deadly bacterial powders and other devices which strain the imagination." The other devices that would strain the imagination included poison cigars and toxic diving suits.
But interference in Cuban government did not begin with Castro. After the US stole Cuba in a betrayal of the Cuban people’s war of independence, they ensured legislation that favored them in the Cuban market. By the 1930’s, Americans owned most of Cuba’s sugar and tobacco industries as well banks and utilities. In 1933, the Cubans overthrew the dictator, Gerardo Machado, and began a government of social reform. That threatened the US. It took only three months for the US to plot the coup that brought the brutal Fulgencio Batista dictatorship to power.
Venezuela would experience American meddling in both Nicolás Maduro elections: the second time leading to America’s replacing him with Juan Guaidó. A further US coup attempt against Maduro would unravel on April 30, 2019. Before Maduro, the US would take the popularly elected Hugo Chávez out of office in a 2002 coup that the State Department has confessed to.
Every American president since Wilson – with the possible exceptions of Kennedy and Clinton – has supported US allied dictators or leaders in Haiti. For most of the period from 1957-1986, American presidents supported the "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier dictatorships. In 1959, when a small group of Haitians tried to overthrow the savage “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the US military, which was in Haiti to train Duvalier’s brutal forces, not only helped locate the rebels but took part in the fighting that squashed them.
A quarter of a century later, when the people of Haiti longed to elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, the CIA, with the authorization of President Reagan, funded candidates to oppose him, according to William Blum in Killing Hope. When the people of Haiti surmounted American obstructions and elected Aristide, the US took him out: twice!
In 1989, the US undermined the Aristide government, according to Noam Chomsky in Hegemony or Survival, and immediately following the coup, supported the junta and increased trade to Haiti in violation of international sanctions. CIA expert John Prados says that the “chief thug” amongst the groups of thugs and militia behind the coup was a CIA asset. Tim Weiner, the author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, agrees. Weiner says that several of the leaders of the junta that took out Aristide “had been on the CIA’s payroll for years.”
When Aristide was re-elected in 2004, the US, with the help of Canada and France, kidnapped Aristide and sent him to exile in Africa. He and his party – who have won every election they were allowed to compete in – were then barred from the 2010-2011 election.
Americans suffer from a historical amnesia, that is not shared by the people of Latin America, that allows the country that has caused, and is still causing, the problems being experienced in Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela to assure them that they support them.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.