Category Archives: Counterpunch

5 Ways Paid Hacks of the Cuban-American Exile Lobby Try to Mislead Us About Cuba

In the month that has now passed since protests erupted across Cuba, much media commentary has focused on how President Biden would react. Earlier this year Biden’s press secretary had said that “a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.” However, the Biden administration is now clearly shifting policy, but not in the direction that Cubans in Cuba and US progressives had been hoping. On August 10, The New York Times published an article titled Biden Ramps Up Pressure on Cuba, Abandoning Obama’s Approach. The article states that, far from pivoting back to the Obama-era normalization process, “Mr. Biden is taking an even harder line on Cuba than his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, who tightened restrictions on travel and financial transactions.”

Throughout this time corporate media accounts have been loyally parroting Washington’s line that the protesters were primarily motivated by the “authoritarianism” of the Cuban “regime.” As was the case in the run up the Iraq War, the purpose of these reports is to manufacture consent for Washington’s coercive foreign policy and obscure its self-serving and hypocritical agenda. As would be expected, these reports also ignore growing evidence suggesting that the protests were in part orchestrated by Washington as part of its ongoing plan destabilize the country and, in turn, bring about regime change. In a competitive field, one essay in particular stands out for its shamelessly tendentious propagandizing. Published at the online journal The Conversation, the article is condescendingly titled 5 ways Americans often misunderstand Cuba, from Fidel Castro’s rise to the Cuban American vote.

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The Media’s Lies, and Lies by Omission, About Migration Out of Nicaragua

On July 29, an Associated Press (AP) article appeared online titled With turmoil at home, more Nicaraguans flee to the U.S.  As is so often the case with media reports these days, the article starts off with a melodramatic anecdote that sets the tone and argumentative thrust for the rest of the piece. Emotionally manipulative rhetoric is, after all, more viscerally effective in pulling at the heart strings than facts and figures could ever hope to be. This particular article tells the tale of one Alan Reyes Picado. Picado, the AP tells us, is “one of the thousands of Nicaraguans the U.S. government has encountered at the border in recent months.” Evidently, the report’s author couldn’t even get past the first sentence without laying the blame squarely at the feet of the Sandinista government. The article says that Picado “fled Nicaragua by bus in the middle of the night, haunted by memories of government officials harassing him, throwing him in jail and then leaving him half naked in a dumpster.”

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The US Has No Business Lecturing Cuba About “Free and Fair” Elections

In the weeks following the protests in Cuba on July 11 questions about how US President Joe Biden would react have dominated headlines. On July 22, Biden seemingly put speculation to rest by announcing that his administration will add a further set of sanctions to the already existing economic embargo. The new sanctions will apply to various figures in the Cuban armed forces as well as Cuba’s Special National Brigade, which is alleged to have engaged in heavy-handed tactics against protesters. The move represents a stunning rebuke to his party’s small progressive wing, which had hoped that he would at least return Cuba policy back to the Obama era by reversing the 243 additional Trump-era sanctions, or perhaps even dropping the embargo altogether. Evidently, however, Biden and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party that he represents are now seizing on the protests as an opportunity to court the right-wing Cuban-American vote in Florida. In the wake of the protests, Politico reported that some Democrats are viewing the situation as a “golden opportunity” to try to win back the former swing state, which went for Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

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The Bizarre Phenomenon of Cuba Policy to Suit Cuban-American Exiles rather than Cubans in Cuba

In the week following the outbreak of protests in Cuba on 11 July, a rapid flow of commentary flooded from the pages of corporate-owned media outlets and the screens of the major US “news” television stations. Predictably, this coverage has both promoted a potential US-led regime change effort and applied gross double standards to Cuba when compared to the US’s treatment of other countries in the region. The two things, of course, are intrinsically linked. If these reports applied their standards evenhandedly then they would inevitably end up presenting regime change as a perfectly reasonable response to mass protests in other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, and Chile. And this, of course, wouldn’t do given that all these countries have right-wing US-aligned governments that loyally serve Washington’s geostrategic interests and obediently follow its preferred neoliberal economic model.

Almost instinctively, many of these reports have paid particular attention to the taking to the streets of right-wing Cuban-American exiles in various US cities, and especially the Mecca of the exile diaspora, Miami. Apparently, these people’s views on Cuba count for a great deal. So much so, that some publications have reported on how the Democrats are seizing on the protests as an opportunity to win back Cuban-American voters in Florida. These reports remind us that this formerly neck-and-neck swing state went for Trump in both the 2016 and 2020, in no small part due to his administration’s toughened stance on Cuba and close relationship with Cuban-American hardliners like Marco Rubio. Politico, for example, tells its readers that Biden’s Cuba policy going forward “could have a big political impact in a state where Democrats are reeling” and that “Florida Democrats see what many are calling a “golden opportunity.””

As with US intervention, this is presented in corporate media accounts as a perfectly natural and reasonable thing to do. But upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that something is very seriously amiss. Because, in reality, predicating policy toward a foreign country based on the interests and political orientation of that country’s immigrant community within the US, rather than those who actually live in that country, is a totally bizarre, not to mention destructive, modus operandi.

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Washington’s Weaponization of Protests in Cuba Takes Its Regime Change Efforts to New Heights of Hypocrisy

On 11 July, Cuba saw thousands of demonstrators take to the streets in cities across the island. The protests are believed to have started in the Artemisa Province before spreading to neighboring Havana and further afield, including Cuba’s second-largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Press reports largely claim that protesters are motivated by shortages and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Even The New York Times Now Admits That It’s US Sanctions, Not Socialism, That’s Destroying Venezuela

The facile right-wing talking point that the economic crisis facing Venezuela “proves” that “socialism always ends in failure” has become so hackneyed by overuse that it has attained its own tongue-in-cheek name. The ad Venezuelum, as it has come to be known, has slowly developed into such a tedious and predictable right-wing tactic that it seems to now serve as an all-purpose retort to try to discredit even the most modest of left-of-center proposals. In October 2018, for instance, then-President Trump responded to a plan by progressive Democrats in congress to introduce a bill to establish a system of universal public healthcare – something which every industrialized country other than the US already has – by stating: “It’s going to be a disaster for our country. It will turn our country into a Venezuela.”

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Post-Covid, We Should Take a Leaf Out of Cuba’s Book and Abolish Professional Sports

2020 saw multiple professional sports leagues struggle as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, the NHL paused its 2019-2020 regular season while Major League Baseball cancelled spring training games. In June, the NBA then temporarily suspended its 2019-2020 season in order to “safeguard the health and well-being of NBA fans, players, team and arena personnel, media members and the general public.” The following month the NFL cancelled all 2020 preseason games. In November, Bloomberg reported that the NFL, NBA, and MLB were facing a combined $13 billion Ioss in revenue.

In the corporate media, this huge monetary loss will, of course, be mourned as part of the devastating economic fallout of the Covid pandemic. But the fact that something as trivial as spectator sports can become such a huge part of the economy and have so many lives and jobs tied to its fate is something that will be inevitably glossed over. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Covid outbreak, we should reflect on this reality and on whether the whole concept of professional sports is something worth keeping in the post-Covid era at all. Perhaps Cuba’s decision to abolish professional sports provides an example that other countries should follow.

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Kamala Harris Represents Everything Wrong with Empty Identity Politics

Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his running mate will surely satisfy Democratic Party insiders who were hoping for him to balance the ticket. As a woman of color, Harris kills two birds with one stone by ticking both the gender and race boxes. But the prospect of her becoming vice president is nothing to look forward to. She’s overwhelmingly spent her career, both before and after entering politics, fighting for reactionary policies that completely obliterate the credibility of her claim to be any kind of progressive.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Because Harris represents not just the center-right policy positions of the Democratic establishment. She is also an illustrative example of the kind of empty, tokenistic brand of identity politics that this establishment uses to give its major figures political cover.

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The Problem With Warren

A new poll shows that support for former vice president Joe Biden is falling. The survey, produced by Monmouth University, shows Biden dropping from 32 percent amongst Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in June – when Monmouth produced its last poll – to below 19 percent now. The stats, meanwhile, place Biden’s two progressive competitors, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, ahead at 20 percent each.

It seems almost certain, therefore, that if one of them were to drop out and endorse the other, it would propel the remaining candidate well above Biden and into clear front-runner status. Given what it is at stake, it is imperative that one of them do so. The prospect of four more years of the reality TV conman buffoon in the White House risks not only a completely breakdown in functioning government, it would also embolden him to turn his second administration into an authoritarian one. He has already said that he might “stay longer” if his base “demand” that he do so. In July, an administration aide saidduring an interview with Fox News that Trump told White House staff that he is “not going to be beholden to courts anymore.” These are clear signs of an authoritarian fascist in the making.

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The Week Trump Hit Peak Megalomania

The fact that Trump is an egomaniac hardly constitutes news. Before becoming president his professional life was characterized by a succession of attention-seeking vanity projects. Through his career as a property developer, he oversaw the construction of a series of gaudy buildings, which stand as monuments to kitsch in locations as diverse as PanamaUruguaythe PhilippinesTurkey, and India. Via his appearance on the reality TV show The Apprentice, meanwhile, he established himself as a vulgar showman and self-important bully.

During the campaign trail, his self-absorption had the chance to further flourish as he basked in the adulation of cheering fans. With friendly audiences lapping up practically anything he said, he took to making ever more outlandish statements, such as his claim that he could shoot someone and still win the election. On the primary debate stage, he showed off the skill in belittling and humiliatingothers that he had honed on The Apprentice, as he reveled in issuing cruel and juvenile insults at his opponents. When Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party candidate for the general election, the insults morphed into promises to, if elected, use his position of power to imprison her (and, presumably, other political opponents).

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