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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 3January 26, 2004


Thursday, January 15, 2004

To our readers:

Effective today our new mailing address is 306 W. 37th Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10018. This is the address for the new premises that we will be moving into at the end of February.

Please send all mail to the new address.

This is also the correct address for the 2004 Headquarters Building Appeal. Please note this is a change. The address in the Headquarters Appeal by Joel Britton also posted on www.themilitant.com has been changed accordingly. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Argiris Malapanis, Editor

Contributions to the $150,000 HQ Building Fund accelerate
Read the appeal for contributions to the fund to help build a new Pathfinder bookstore and distribution center in New York, by Joel Britton, one of the fund directors.

lead article
U.S. steps up offensive
against Cuba, Venezuela
Charges ‘destabilization’ to prepare expanded intervention
Reuters/Jorge Silva
Farmers and other supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez rally January 10 outside the Central Bank in Caracas. Chávez said that Washington's stepped-up propaganda campaign seeks to prepare the ground for an attempt to overthrow his government, whether by a military coup or an assassin's bullet.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. officials have stepped up their campaign of smears and threats against Cuba and Venezuela, accusing both governments of seeking to destabilize other countries in Latin America. Washington, which has never accepted normal ties between revolutionary Cuba and the government of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, is using this offensive to prepare intervention in the region of a different scope and character.

As part of this campaign, Washington also unilaterally suspended twice-yearly talks with Cuba on the implementation of immigration accords between the two countries.

These moves came on the eve of the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico, a gathering of all the governments in the region except Cuba, which is excluded. Leading up to the meeting, which began January 12, tensions also mounted between Washington and the governments of Argentina and Brazil.

Speaking to reporters January 6, Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, accused Cuba of “actions to destabilize Latin America [that] are increasingly provocative to the inter-American community.” He said, “Those that continue in destabilizing democratically elected governments, interfering in the internal affairs of other governments, are playing with fire.”

At a press conference two days later, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell defended Noriega’s comments. “I’ve been in senior national security positions on and off over the last 17 years. And through that whole period of time, Cuba has been trying to do everything it could to destabilize parts of the region,” he stated. Powell said that all 35 Latin American countries are democracies “except one, and that’s Cuba, which continues to oppress its people.”

Replying to the U.S. smears, Dagoberto Rodríguez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, said January 8, “If there’s been a force for destabilization in the continent, and of interference in the continent, I think that almost everyone in Latin America would agree that it is a country situated a little more to the north of Cuba,” referring to Washington.

According to the Associated Press, unnamed U.S. officials told reporters that “Cuba and Venezuela are working together to oppose pro-American, democratic governments in the region with money, political indoctrination and training, such as in Ecuador and Uruguay. Venezuelan resources may have helped in the October ouster of Bolivia’s elected, pro-American president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.”

AP also reported that “U.S. officials said Castro has provided training, advice, and logistical support for leftist groups in the region, a sign of re-engagement after relative inactivity in the 1990s.”

The news agency cited anonymous U.S. officials claiming that “Chávez has supported Colombia’s FARC and ELN rebels and allowed use of western Venezuela as a springboard for attacks inside Colombia,” referring to the two main Colombian antigovernment guerrilla groups there.  
Venezuela rejects charges
Venezuelan officials angrily denied the charges, accusing Washington of using slander to undermine the Chávez government. “What proof do they have of these statements?” asked Venezuelan vice president José Vicente Rangel.

After U.S. national security adviser Condoleeza Rice declared on January 9 that the Venezuelan government should allow an anti-Chávez recall referendum to take place, the Venezuelan president said U.S. officials should not “stick their noses” in his country’s affairs.

On the eve of a regional summit in Monterrey, Mexico, Chávez said statements such as Rice’s were “preparing the ground” for an attempt to overthrow his government, either by a military coup or an assassin’s bullet.

A January 5 AP report quoted U.S. State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli as saying, “Cuba has a long history of attempting to undermine elected governments in the region. For that reason the close ties between the government of Venezuela and the government of Cuba raise concerns among Venezuela’s democratic neighbors.”

The Chávez government has drawn the hostility of Washington for taking measures that cut into the profits of finance capital, including a land reform law and a bill extending new rights to exploited independent fishermen. Washington is also hostile to Venezuela’s diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.

In a January editorial, the Cuban daily Granma replied to Washington’s charges of “destabilization” by Havana. “What is meant by destabilization? Sending thousands of doctors to cooperate with governments in tending to the poorest and neediest people?” it asked. “Is destabilization the sending of 15,000 doctors from Cuba to 64 countries in the world where thousands of people are treated and tens of thousands of lives are saved?”

The editorial pointed to Cuba’s internationalist collaboration with Venezuela in “programs of health care, education, culture, sports, social work, and other activities…that benefit the Venezuelan population, and where our country has some experience that it has placed at the service of Third World countries.”  
Flashpoint: Colombia-Venezuela border
Washington’s propaganda offensive has gone hand in hand with an increased U.S. military presence in the region. It has backed the Colombian regime’s border skirmishes with Venezuela and its allegations that Caracas is letting its territory be used by FARC and ELN guerrillas. Last year the Pentagon dispatched 150 U.S. troops to Colombia, and U.S. Special Forces are training Colombian army battalions. Under Plan Colombia, the U.S. government is sending billions in military aid to regimes in the area.

In a January 6 press briefing, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported the presence of 1,500 U.S. troops in Central and South America that he said were “conducting counterdrug operations and other training.” Asked about the involvement of “terrorist” groups in drug and weapons trafficking and U.S. government efforts to crack down on them, Myers responded, “It’s true in South America. It’s true in the Middle East…. It’s part of a larger effort we’ve had ongoing for some time—what we call maritime intercept operations, where we look for things like drugs moving…weapons moving, or any terrorist personnel themselves moving.”

In his January 6 news conference, Noriega also criticized the Argentine government of President Néstor Kirchner for not having met with U.S.-backed opponents of the Cuban Revolution during Kirchner’s recent trip to the island. Last year the new Peronist government in Argentina restored full diplomatic ties with Cuba. Argentine officials reacted angrily to Noriega’s comments.

Another source of tension between Washington and Latin American governments is a recent U.S. move to begin fingerprinting and photographing visitors who arrive in the United States. The Brazilian government retaliated by subjecting Americans arriving in Brazil to the same treatment. Among working people in Brazil the move has boosted the popularity of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, leader of the Workers Party.  
U.S. suspension of migration accords
Meanwhile, Washington unilaterally suspended talks on immigration accords between the two countries. In a January 5 statement, the Cuban foreign ministry said the U.S. move was aimed at “torpedoing the progress of the migration accords… and achievement of normal migration relations.”

The talks are held every six months to discuss implementation of 1994 and 1995 immigration agreements between Havana and Washington. The accords obligate Washington to provide as many as 20,000 visas to Cubans seeking to immigrate to the United States. U.S. officials said they would continue to abide by the provisions of the agreement.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters January 7 that U.S. representatives decided not to attend the next scheduled round of talks because the Cubans were unwilling to “seriously address” key issues on the U.S.-proposed agenda. Among the questions Washington claims Havana has not been willing to discuss are alleged delays in issuing exit permits to Cubans approved for visas by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana; cooperation in organizing a new lottery system for Cuban applicants for U.S. visas; and access to a deeper Cuban port so that large U.S. Coast Guard cutters can return those attempting to immigrate to the United States outside established channels.

The foreign ministry denounced the Cuban Adjustment Act and Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy as the “greatest violation” of the migration accords and as “the real encouragement” to those who migrate from Cuba to the United States on flimsy rafts or by hijacking planes or vessels.

The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act provides virtually automatic asylum and expedited residency to any Cuban who lands on Florida’s shores, regardless of crimes they may have committed to get there. Under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, any Cuban who reaches U.S. territory is admitted and those picked up at sea are to be returned to Cuba.

The Cuban statement said the issues raised by Washington “have been extensively debated on many occasions in the last few years.” Cuba, the statement affirms, “has been and is willing to seriously debate…all the issues mentioned by the U.S. authorities.”

“Obviously, in the imperial language of the U.S. officials ‘seriously addressing’ means that Cuba should be willing to make all necessary unilateral concessions and accept all demands and whims from the U.S. authorities.”

Washington says it also wants to discuss travel restrictions placed on U.S. diplomats inside Cuba and alleged obstacles that prevent them from monitoring the situation of those returned to Cuba and of those arrested on the island last year for collaborating with Washington’s efforts to overthrow the Cuban government.

Last March Havana imposed travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats on the island in response to actions by Washington that restricted the movement of Cuban diplomats to the geographic limits of Washington, D.C., and New York, where Cuba has diplomatic missions.

In April Cuban courts convicted 75 individuals charged with receiving funds and collaborating with U.S. diplomatic personnel in Washington’s longstanding efforts to undermine the Cuban Revolution.

The Cuban foreign ministry added that Washington’s complaints were an attempt to divert attention from its own violations of the migration accords, including “the dramatic reduction of visas for Cuban citizens wishing to visit relatives in the United States; the failure to return to Cuba some of the illegal immigrants interdicted at sea [by the U.S. Coast Guard]; the encouragement to illegal migration and to the commission of violent acts to migrate, from radio stations based in the United States; as well as the lack of decisive action against alien smugglers.”

In another attack, the U.S. government expelled Roberto Socorro, a diplomat at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, from the United States. According to the January 4 Washington Post, an unnamed U.S. official claimed Socorro had been expelled for “drug trafficking” and “association with criminal elements.” The Cuban government demanded the U.S. State Department retract this false allegation.

The article states incorrectly that Argentine president Néstor Kirchner had been criticized by U.S. assistant secretary of state Roger Noriega for not meeting with "dissidents" during a recent trip to Cuba. It was Argentina's foreign minister Rafael Bielsa who traveled to Cuba and was criticized by Noriega, not Kirchner.

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