Since the death of Castro world leaders, state officials and media outlets poured scorn over the thought of attending his funeral. Simultaneously, many Western countries have suddenly decided to champion the cause of upholding human rights. Albeit, this topic article is centred on Fidel, the recent torrent of critique levelled at the former Cuban dictator reveals yet again the artful pantomime of supporting democracy.
By ‘pantomime’ I am referring to the simulated and hypocritical act of claiming to dislike dictators, repression and gross human rights abuses whilst marauding state figures sign arms deals, provide aid relief and diplomatic support to regimes that have left their people in an environment of terror. A brief dip into America’s diplomatic saturation in Latin American tyranny serves as a relevant opening scene to this latest pantomime.
In an unclassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay, Ambassador Ernest Siracusa was aware of the need to not condemn operation Condor or Latin American states that were part of the coordinated assassination and abduction program against political figures and key activists.
According to Ernest, “the most rational approach to deal with a coordinated regional enemy is to organize along similar lines. The U.S. has long urged these countries to doing, so our reaction should not be one of opprobrium. We must condemn abhorrent methods, but we cannot condemn their coordinated approach to common perceived threats or we could well be effectively alienated from this part of the world”.
Moreover additional evidence cited by Peter Kornbluh Author of the eminent book The Pinochet File & John Dinges have revealed prior knowledge of the 1976 assassination plots that were successfully carried out on former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt on Massachusetts Avenue by DINA (Chilean intelligence and security agency). Put simply by Hewson Ryan, a deputy of Assistant Secretary Harry Shlaudeman, “We knew fairly early on that the governments of the Southern Cone countries were planning, or at least talking about, some assassinations abroad in the summer of 1976”.
Although Henry Kissinger had signed a lightly worded cable to highlight that America was aware of ‘assassination rumours’, fear of Pinochet taking ‘insult’ to the rumours stifled assertive action. In other words, the need to keep client states out of soviet infiltration trumped the need to put Chile, Argentina, Peru, and other Condor states in check for the sake of proselytizing and upholding the egalitarian banner of human rights.
With this in mind I feel it is necessary to conceptually pinch ourselves to see if the democratic pantomime is still alive and awake. During the Obama presidency, the U.S. has approved military aid & bases in Colombia and Panama, two countries that have struggled with human rights; Colombia has obstinately refused to end the aerial dropping of glyphosate on impoverished farmers. More brazenly, the Obama administration was directly involved in the military coup in Honduras against the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya.
As corrupt as the removal of Dilma Rousseff from office was, at least she was not removed at gun point from her own presidential house by the military, as was the case with Zelaya. Furthermore hundreds of civilians have died as a result of Obama’s aggressive extra judicial assassination drone program, which violates state sovereignty. In addition, the world is yet to see the closure of US-run Guantanamo bay prison in Cuba itself, a place so antithetical to human rights that president Obama ran an election campaign promising to close it.
However, if Obama was to die tomorrow he would be remembered as the first African American to take office in the US, not for a man that played a lead role in the democratic pantomime to preserve U.S. interests abroad. This was remarkably the case after the Second World War, as Winston Churchill was in favour of maintaining the British empire, an empire bathed in blood, extermination, and of course double standards. To quote this British democratic hero from a memo in 1919 “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”.
In spite of this grotesque aspect of British history, Churchill is now the face of the five pound currency note.
If we are going to place skewed judgment on Fidel as well, maybe we should embellish in Winston’s deeply floored judgement of supporting eugenics, human rights abuses in Kenya, disregard for the 1943 famine in Bengal that left nearly 3 million people dead and the ordering the destruction of the French fleet off the coast of Algeria that killed between 700 – 1000 troops.
What is more ironic Is that U.S. and British governments in the time of apartheid supported south Africa, whereas Fidel Castro risked annihilation of Cuba during the time when America repeatedly tried to kill him, by sending thousands of Cuban troops to directly confront the Apartheid regime that invaded Angola. By entering the war, Fidel fought for that butchered word called human rights. He helped to force South Africa’s hand in the decolonisation of Namibia and bring freedom to a nation that was ravaged by German eugenicists and military style concentration camps at the start of the 20th century.
Cuba was far from a perfect state. Yet no state exists within a vacuum. Cuba is geographically contiguous with a superpower that spent half a decade trying to destroy it. Human rights abuses that have and are currently taking place in Cuba are morally disappointing. However it is important to remember that Obama along with several other world leaders attended the Funeral of Shimon Peres, a man that served and presided over an expansionist state that held little regard for the rights of Palestinians driven off their land in the 20th century and Lebanese civilians that were murdered in an attack Mr Peres had sanctioned in the 90’s. Fidel Castro is dead, but the democratic pantomime still lives.