All Bright? I Don’t Think So…

by José Perez

The following is an edited version of a message posted by the author on an e-mail discussion group on August 29.

Yesterday Madeleine Albright, the current chief diplomat of American imperialism and a Czech gusana [her émigré family opposed the overturn of property relations in Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s], let loose with a hypocritical blast at Cuba for supposedly having denied exit visas to 117 Cubans who wanted to leave the island and had U.S. visas.

Albright’s press statement described the alleged Cuban actions as “arbitrary.” On its web site, the State Department posted in support of her statement details of what it claims are the categories of people denied exit visas, including among others, young men who have not completed their military service and people who did not have sufficient money to pay about $500 in filing and other fees charged by the Cuban government. Apparently, no one in the State Department noticed that there was a glaring contradiction between Mrs. Albright’s statement about “arbitrary” Cuban denials and the quite specific list of reasons that accompanied it.

What truth there may be to these allegations it is impossible to say. The State Department, without explanation, refused to provide journalists with the particulars of any of the would-be émigrés, thus making it impossible for news organizations to independently verify the charges.

If almost any other source and target were involved, the “serious” American news outlets would not have touched such unsubstantiated charges with a ten-foot pole. But when it comes to official Cuba bashing, the usual rules do not apply. The major American media were only too happy to spread the charges without even letting their readers or viewers know that the State Department withheld all information that would have made it possible to judge their veracity.

And, clearly, this was not to protect these people from some sort of “reprisal” by Cuba: Albright said she gave the list of names to the Cuban government as part of the official protest.

Albright’s statement is proof positive, if any more were needed, that U.S. policy toward Cuba is annexationist. Washington considers itself entitled to meddle in the most outrageous way in the strictly internal affairs of the Cuban nation.

Cuba has obligatory military service, and the regulations it adopts to make sure those subject to the draft comply with the requirements of Cuban law are, quite simply, none of Washington’s business. Albright even has the temerity to make herself the judge of whether Cuban government fees are too high!

One reason for the State Department communiqué is mentioned in Albright’s official announcement: “Over the past year, the Cuban Government has engaged in ceaseless rhetoric about migration issues, including the importance of family re-unification.” Albright suggests that the real reason why people make the risky, illegal boat crossing is that the Cuban government won’t let them leave by normal means.

This simply won’t stand the giggle test. More than 100,000 people have legally emigrated to the United States from Cuba since the migration accords went into effect, EVERY SINGLE ONE with the requisite Cuban government documents. To come up with this 100-person-plus list as the “explanation” for continuing, and in fact GROWING illegal crossings is ridiculous. The number who attempt the illegal crossing is at least double that just about every month.

What’s really behind the illegal immigration is that the U.S. is STILL, despite the accord with Cuba, where it promised to stop this practice, receiving with open arms those who make it to Florida. Even if you have a criminal record in Cuba, and are thus ineligible for an American visa, the United States will let you stay — provided you made the crossing illegally.

THAT is what Cuba has been denouncing, not just in the past year, but for decades. Moreover, there is a law — the Cuban American Adjustment Act — which further encourages illegal crossing by granting Cubans pretty much automatic permanent residency in the United States and a fast track to U.S. citizenship.

The attempt by the State Department would be merely ridiculous if it were not for the fact that the major U.S. news media are quite happy to act as a megaphone for Secretary of State Albright, suppressing Cuba’s side of the story and hiding from the public highly relevant FACTS about her charges, such as that she failed to provide the name of even a SINGLE ONE of the 117 alleged would-be émigrés so that her story could be checked out.

But there was an additional reason the State Department set off this stink bomb right now. Which is that at the same time that they handed Cuba their official protest, they also notified them that they would not grant Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, a visa to attend a UN-sponsored conference of the Interparliamentary Union in New York.

THIS decision was not announced publicly by the State Department, and after the press got wind of it because Cuba DID announce it publicly, the State Department REFUSED TO CONFIRM OR DENY IT, with absurd mumblings about the “confidentiality” of visa applications, as if Alarcón’s planned trip had been some sort of secret.

This is an outrageous violation of the most basic norms of civilized conduct of the international community, and a specific trampling of solemn and binding U. S. commitments as a United Nations host country to not impede the participation of member nations in UN activities.

And it ALSO gives the lie to another part of Albright’s statement, which is that the U.S. is seriously interested in negotiating with Cuba about immigration issues, but is being prevented from doing so by the Cuban side’s refusal to meet.

If the American authorities indeed had such a burning desire for a bilateral meeting, they would have WELCOMED Alarcón’s trip as an ideal opportunity to have informal contacts about scheduling a session, since Alarcón is Cuba’s lead negotiator in the immigration talks with the United States. And if he rebuffed such approaches, Albright would have had a wonderful story to leak to the press about how reasonable the U.S. had been in various offers it made, only to be frustrated by Cuban intransigence.

But the U.S. claim about wanting to talk is simply a fig leaf to try to hide its continuing refusal to abide by the immigration accords, which require BOTH sides to act to prevent illegal immigration. And the LAST thing Washington wants is someone as prominent and effective as Alarcón who would explain the REAL situation to the people of the United States. Hence the visa denial, and this pitiful attempt at a smokescreen by Mrs. Albright. The United States government is deathly afraid of the truth, of what Ricardo Alarcón would tell the American people. That is the long and the short of it.

The U.S. policy now is a completely irrational one of returning those caught at sea, but permitting those who reach shore to stay. Predictably, this has led to professional smugglers with high-speed boats taking over the route, and to a number of increasingly violent incidents between their racing crafts, overfilled with people, and Coast Guard cutters.

The American failure to stop this trafficking in human beings and punish the smugglers shows just how hypocritical the State Department is in objecting to Cuban government fees of a few hundred dollars for an exit visa. For the going rate charged by the smugglers for the crossing is between $10,000 and $15,000 per person. According to Albright’s twisted logic, Cuban government fees of a few hundred dollars are “forcing” people who can’t afford them to instead pay ten thousand dollars to smugglers.

“All bright” the Secretary of State certainly is not. She is not only a liar, she’s not even intelligent enough to catch the obvious, glaring contradictions in the tales she spins.