Wouldn’t you like a cigar?

    Although our government never seems to have the money to help Americans obtain health care or earn a living wage, there is always plenty of money to sponsor terror and subversion in foreign countries. This is what the State Department calls the “unwavering” U.S. support for “human rights, democracy, and the open market system.” While the State Department’s unwavering belief in a U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy is questionable, as there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there is indeed a U.S. commitment to open markets, so long as “open” means open primarily to U.S. and Western corporations.

    The motives of the report that recommended the two-year, $80 million Cuban democracy- promotion fund that President Bush approved last week are somewhat dubious, then. The $80 million is in addition to the $35 million already spent per year on U.S. propaganda broadcasts via “Radio and TV Mart퀨͌_” and in addition to the $10 million already spent per year on “democracy-assistance programs.” The Bush administration hopes the fund will help eliminate the “Venezuela-Cuba axis,” surely a threat to the existence of the United States, and bring an end to Castro’s “tyranny.” In addition to disrupting the Cuban government’s “information blockade” and providing Cubans with U.S.-government sponsored independent news, it will do many other things, “from creating a task force to target Cuba’s growing nickel exports to stopping humanitarian aid from reaching organizations with alleged links to the government, like the Cuban Council of Churches,” The Miami Herald reports.

    While we can be sure that the U.S. desire to replace Castro’s communist government with a different one is genuine, the democracy-promotion motive is suspect. For 45 years the U.S. has maintained an illegal embargo against Cuba, in what has become the longest-running embargo in history, despite its effects on the people of Cuba. The embargo acts as a form of economic warfare, imposing restrictions on Cuban exports to the U.S. and imports from the U.S., and penalizing foreign firms for trading with Cuba, in effect forcing them to choose between doing business with the U.S. or Castro, helping to isolate Cuba.

    Before the Kennedy administration imposed the embargo, the U.S. accounted for 67 percent of Cuba’s exports and 70 percent of its imports. Although the U.S. is the major producer in the hemisphere, since the embargo was imposed Cuba has had to look elsewhere for more than two-thirds of its imports and exports, depriving Cubans of low-cost goods and medicines and forcing them to waste money on shipping costs. In 2005 the Cuban government submitted a report to the U.N. that claimed that the embargo has cost Cuba $82 billion, or $1.8 billion per year.

    In November 2005, for the 14th consecutive year, the U.N. General Assembly called on the U.S. to end the trade, financial and travel embargo. In the 2005 resolution, the vote was 182 to four with one abstention. One week later the leaders of the Spanish- and Portuguesespeaking countries, meeting at the annual Ibero American Summit, released a statement that again called on the U.S. to end the embargo, calling it a literal “blockade.” Even Bush’s ally in Mexico, President Vicente Fox, criticized the embargo, saying that he considered the U.S. embargo “an attack on the welfare of the Cuban people.”

    Aside from waging economic warfare, the U.S. has also waged literal war and terror against Cuba. In the decades following the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, which killed approximately 2,000 Cubans, the U.S. relied on more covert means to bring what Robert Kennedy called the “terrors of the earth” to Cuba. The “terrors of the earth” included contaminating Cuban food shipments and bombing factories, more than a dozen assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, and even the bombing of foreign cargo ships.

    The democracy-promotion report includes a secret annex, which it says will remain classified “for reasons of national security and effective implementation,” leaving Cubans to wonder what the U.S. might need to keep secret when one of the most severe embargos in history is maintained for 45 years in defiance of international law and world opinion.

    When democracy threatens the free market it shows that the two are not identical or synonymous, and that a country can have one without the other. Whenever this occurs, as it has recently in Venezuela and in the past in Chile and Iran, the U.S. has always intervened to save the market. When the market threatens or destroys democracy and people’s lives, as it tends to do, the U.S. has, again, supported the market. Throughout half a century of trying to crush the Cuban government, the U.S. has done so despite the effects on the Cuban people, forcing them to suffer, supposedly for their own good. The effect has been to prevent Cuba from becoming a successful alternative to the free-market capitalist democracy of the U.S.

    If U.S. policies hasten the fall of the Cuban government, Caleb McCarry, the United States’ Cuba transition coordinator, says that the U.S. would help, but only if “there was a genuine commitment to implement free elections and a free-market economy within 18 months.” The unwavering U.S. support for the market, whatever the effects on people, and the fact that the U.S. has a “Cuba transition coordinator,” tell us what sort of democracy the U.S. has planned for Cuba.