By José Ramón Cabañas – Feb 16, 2022
In recent months, both Cuban internet users and foreign diplomats residing in Cuba have been surprised by the unabashed way in which both the State Department in Washington and its embassy in Havana have incorporated into their daily routine the issuance of judgments and opinions on Cuba’s internal reality, which they publish and reiterate without any modesty. Although the practice has encompassed several platforms, it has greater presence in Twitter, which is supposed to be less popular than Facebook, but where government officials, academics and decision-makers of various kinds are theoretically more present.
This digital exercise, which is now more intense than it was during the Trump mess, began to have greater presence in the same way that the dreamers of the end of the Cuban Revolution felt that the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with the damage caused by unilateral coercive measures (blockade), would cause a social outburst in Cuba.
The State Department and its diplomatic representation in Havana left their fingerprints all over the events before and after July 11, but they still had a certain restraint in those days, to avoid being seen as the direct handlers of the “protesters.” As the days passed by and the “leaders” of those events went on buying plane tickets to settle abroad and publicly disqualified each other, the US bureaucrats from the banks of the Potomac River felt the need to consummate a greater role, which became traumatic as November 20 (which later became November 15) approached.
For the latter show they had sold tickets at high prices and faced the danger that there would be no show, as it indeed turned out to be. The situation most feared by the puppeteers occurred: the puppet show’s scenery fell down and the audience finally saw that the puppets did not have a life of their own, but were being operated by others.
To this day, it is not known whether the largest bets on the probable Antillean holocaust were made in Havana or in Washington. What is certain is that forecasts were sent from the State Department to the Office of the National Security Advisor and from there to the White House. This intense exchange of memos and proposals resulted in the opening of USAID’s coffers and, especially as of September 2021, more funds began to flow to buy videos, statements, comments in blogs and whatever other gimmickry was necessary to present to the world and to the US public opinion a virtual state of affairs in Cuba.
After all, if a high percentage of the US population still considers that the 2020 presidential elections were “stolen” from under their noses, how could we not think that a similar percentage would take as truth the headlines that the Cuban people had revolted and that those who did not were contained by the repression. If for four years the State Department insisted that non-existent sounds created undiagnosable illnesses in its diplomatic personnel in Havana, and many people believed, then how could it not be assumed that the Cuban government would attack its own people, with a little bit of reiteration.
And in this circumstance, the US authorities showed, once again, that the multilateral framework that humanity has built in order to survive is useful to them only if it endorses the existence of a single pole of power. Vienna Convention? Respecting the internal affairs of other countries? Observing the limits of the sovereignty of others? Little annoying details.
And so, as in an empty theater, State Department officials are left playing on Twitter the score that was written for others. The difference with other crises built in various countries is that in those crises the infantry has been local and the artillery has acted from afar. But in this case, the conspirators were left almost without infantry and have had to take on that role themselves, albeit virtually.
Again, in the absence of evidence, proof, recordings and photos, tweets from the State Department’s Western Hemisphere division have filled that space. By the way, the scarcity of photos to support their theories was solved in a masterful way: using as their own—to support the thesis of rebellion—the photos that massively testified the support of the majority of the Cuban people for their authorities. For the State Department, it is not theft, it is called borrowing without the owner’s knowledge.
But when someone decides to forget the rules to which the diplomatic services of all countries are bound, that reciprocity is practiced every day in this exercise is also overlooked. What would have happened if any official Cuban representative, or simply a citizen of Cuban origin had been involved in the demonstrations following the assassination of George Floyd? What a commotion would it have caused if a Cuban, whether a farmer or an artisan, had been present at the police sweep of Lafayette Park right in front of the White House, during 2020? By the way, what if there were citizens of Cuban origin present at the events of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol, but they were members of the Proud Boys organization, who before and after those events went to show their masculinity in front of the Cuban embassy with obscenities and abrasive gestures?
In other words, with their irresponsible actions on social media, especially on Twitter, the US Foreign Ministry and its employees have opened wide a door for others to do the same regarding the internal problems of the United States. But Cuba has not made use of that opportunity, nor will it do so, out of respect for the rules of international coexistence and, even more, out of respect for those who have fought for the vindication of their rights in the US for decades, in a genuine manner and without the need for guidance or direction from abroad.
But the precedent will be reflected on by the academy, or by third parties who in future may say to them: what are you complaining about if you did the same to the Cubans? These are the risks that one runs when arrogance overflows.
In addition to the occurrence of the event itself, it is interesting to appreciate its quality. When basically the same texts are mechanically reiterated, when the copy and paste between the State Department and its embassy is so evident, when the contradictions between numbers and supposed sources hardly need to be explained, then it is worth asking whether those who make such mistakes do so simply for lack of creative capacity, or to demonstrate that they are “following a direction.” And certainly that doubt remains.
Another thing to do is to construct a “timeline” for beginners, which in itself would discredit the sources of the aforementioned digital bombardments. The Western Hemisphere affairs division, which theoretically attends to and is moved by what happens in more than 30 nations and territories, has repeatedly fallen silent at times when there have been mass killings in the region, when constitutional order has been attacked in several countries, when drug cartels have shaken entire cities, when mass graves have been discovered, or when barbarities have been committed by human traffickers. Apparently these are inherent realities of the democratic system they promote together with their servants at the Organization of American States secretariat, which need not be attended to because they are not news. But for Cuba rules are different.
However, those who master the techniques to understand what really happens on the social networks notice other interesting details. How many retweets these abrasive and disrespectful messages against Cuba have generated, how many likes, how many impressions (times a content has been seen), how many interactions from internet users. All this data, taken as a whole, would show that the disrespect for the sovereignty of others has been sterile, the attention generated with the Goebblelian repetition of the contents has been minimal, if we take into account the total population in Cuba, in the US and worldwide, even in Hialeah [Florida].
The subconscious cannot help but compare this exercise with what happened months after the US defeat at Playa Girón (the Bay of Pigs for them). The CIA (and we have not spoken of the agency in this text) had installed months before in Swan Island a radio station (illegally at that), which was to guarantee with its propaganda that the attacked people of Cuba would receive with open arms the members of Brigade 2506, popularly known as mercenaries. The fact is that once they were defeated and under the custody of the Cuban authorities, Radio Swan continued broadcasting calls to “burn the sugarcane fields” and to “advance on the capital.” It is difficult not to remember the precedent.
The other thing is that the US bureaucracy on average is not well paid compared to salaries in the unofficial world. There are officials, sometimes at the end of their careers, who are concerned about their retirement and future life, which is why they sometimes put an emphasis on their actions, beyond what common rationality explains. And the fact of being very emphatic in the attacks against Cuba, with a specific enjoyment and beyond instructions, also brings to mind the case of James Cason, a former head of the US Interests Office in Havana, who at the beginning of this century was characterized by his stridency, which marginalized him even with respect to the rest of the diplomats residing in Havana. On repeated occasions, foreign officials and visitors wondered at the reason for his performance, especially when they knew that he did not have the slightest chance of promotion in the US diplomatic ranking. And the explanation came after his departure: Cason ran for and was elected mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, an emporium of the remnants of the rancid Cuban bourgeoisie and others who were not bourgeoisie but aspired to it.
And please, do not consider this case to be unique or sporadic. Several years before Cason, Mr. Dennis Hayes, who had been nothing less than the Coordinator of the Cuba Bureau at the State Department, was hired by the Cuban American National Foundation as head of its Washington office. In other words, when it comes to the “cause” against Cuba, the lines of decency are often crossed, codes of ethics (if they exist) are not enforced, and it is difficult to know who pays whose salary and to distinguish who is the boss.
Featured image: The US Department of State. Photo: Alastair Pike
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