Havana (Prensa Latina) Donald Trump’s sanctions against Cuba seek to break Cuba’s socialist system and secure the election year, but the desire to influence the island’s designs belongs to a strategy designed since the 19th century, when the United States was just emerging as a nation.
In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina, Francisca López, professor emeritus of the University of Havana, explained that since the time of the Thirteen Colonies there was already an interest in appropriating the island, appreciated from the economic dimension and valued as another extension of the American territory by the mouth of the Mississippi.
This geographical position, which opens the possibilities towards the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, influenced the founding fathers to see the acquisition of Cuba as part of their national security,’ the doctor said.
President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) suggested to his successor James Madison (1809-1817) that the situation of Spain and the presence of Napoleon Bonaparte in the peninsula could lead to an easy acquisition of Florida and, with some difficulty, to that of Cuba, a major aspiration for him at that time.
In the 1820s, the U.S. government paid greater attention to Hispanic America as it completed its process of independence from the Iberian metropolis.
In that context, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams enunciated in April 1823 the so-called Ripe Fruit policy, which stated that Cuba would be in the hands of Spain until it could gravitate towards the United States.
Then, in December of that same year, President James Monroe proclaimed the well-known Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans), a principle of US foreign policy of not allowing the intervention of European powers in the internal affairs of the countries of the American hemisphere.
In 1836, one of the first concrete plans for the purchase of Cuba emerged, proposed by Consul Nicholas Philip Trist to President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841).
Several historians agree that the sum of 100 million for the payment of Cuba was a proposal that James K. Polk introduced in 1848, it is an offer that was maintained around that figure during the following years’, explains López.
A NEW FORM OF DOMINATION
In 1898, the conditions were right for the United States to intervene in the Spanish-Cuban War, due to the country’s own development and its possibilities against a weakened power like Spain.
The Treaty of Paris (December 1898) put an end to the war but did not recognize Cuba’s independence, nor was the island transferred to the United States as was the case with Puerto Rico and the Philippines, but it was occupied militarily, supposedly for pacification, and without clear definitions on the matter.
The US intervention, as well as the imposition of a US military government, generated little understanding among Cubans.
As events unfolded, it became clear that the nationals would not put up with the military administration of their northern neighbor for much longer, so other mechanisms of domination were tried.
According to the historian, President William McKinley expressed at that time that the future Cuba, raised from the ashes of the war, had to be linked by bonds of singular intimacy and strength with the United States.
Here there is a very clear definition of what the objectives were; but the form will be determined by the development of events’.
In 1900, a period of national exaltation began with the formation of the Constituent Convention and on February 21, 1901, the nascent Republic had its Magna Carta, but it would begin a moment that generated conflicting opinions: how to define the relations between Cuba and the United States.
Military Governor Leonard Wood transmitted to the constituents the instructions of the American Secretary of War, Elihu Root, which contained part of the later articles of the so-called Platt Amendment.
Despite the island’s rejection of those stipulations, Senator Orville H. Platt presented the Senate with an amendment to the Army Credits Act that included the articles that should be incorporated as an appendix to the Cuban Constitution.
Approved and sanctioned by the US President, the legislation generated a rejection reaction in the Greater Antilles.
The Platt Amendment was a very strong mechanism of political and legal domination because it established the right to intervene to ‘protect’ Cuba’s independence and gave the United States the right to demand which was the right government for the island, the professor explains.
On the other hand, it violated the promises contained in the Joint Resolution approved by the U.S. Congress (1898), where it was assured that Cuba should and had to be free and independent.
In this context, the constituent Salvador Cisneros asked questions whose validity goes beyond any historical context because they are related to a constant axiom of U.S. unilateral policy: the belief that they have a ‘Manifest Destiny:
Are the laws formulated by the United States Congress related to Cubans, are they by chance mandatory for individuals who are not under their jurisdiction, even though they are sanctioned by the President of the United States,” Cisneros questioned in his argument, “Private Vote against the Platt Amendment of 1901.
In that same document, he assured that the United States government would not allow another nation to put conditions on any internal matter of its government.
UNCLE SAM WANTS MORE
In addition to the mechanisms of legal domination, the economic pressure that the United States exerted on Cuba during the Republican era was also added.
The Platt Amendment proposed an ambiguous status of the former Isle of Pines and imposed the leasing of part of the Cuban territory for the establishment of naval and coal bases.
United States investments in the island had begun in the colonial era; it is estimated that 50 million pesos were invested before 1895.
However, after the occupation, American interests fell on Cuba because it was known that four fifths of the fertile land was uncultivated, most of the plantations were destroyed and their owners ruined so it would be easy to acquire land at very low prices.
Leland H. Jenks (1892-1976), professor of economics and sociology at American universities, said that by 1905 Americans owned seven to 10 percent of Cuba’s total land area.
Cuban Manuel Sanguily had introduced a bill before the Senate in 1903 prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners; both this bill and the one introduced by Emilio Arteaga Quesada were rejected after intense debate.
This manifests the commitment of the Cuban upper class with American investments, let’s remember that in 1902 a Reciprocity Treaty was established that made possible a concentration of Cuba’s foreign trade with the United States’, refers López.
At the beginning of 1914, Cuba’s economic situation was weak with a certain industrial and mercantile depression due, above all, to the low price of sugar. Washington enters the First World War in 1917 and Havana immediately follows.
Cuba’s collaboration resulted in selling sugar at a very low price imposed by the United States: in 1917 the figure had been set at 4.60 cents per pound.
In 1934, a new Trade Reciprocity Treaty was agreed upon that opened the Cuban market even more to American products, widening the margin of tariff preference in favor of the United States.
American capital investments on the island multiplied and Cuba became an economic colony of that nation.
In 1959, these investments exceeded one billion pesos, making Cuba one of the top places in U.S. investment in Latin America, according to the CubavsBloqueo website. Between 1902 and 1959, people and companies, mainly from American interests, took over the economic sectors of the country, with greater weight in the sugar industry, transport, mineral resources and most of the land.
AMBASSADORS WHO MAKE LAWS
Cuban historian Francisca Lopez emphasizes that these actions of economic appropriation occur at the same time as other mechanisms of political domination such as the constant presence of diplomatic representatives and a permanent interference on what was happening in Cuba, sometimes with threats of marine landings like those occurred in 1912 and 1917.
The first American ambassador to Cuba was Enoch H. Crowder; one of his visits to the island occurred in 1919 when he arrived as the personal envoy of the American president with the objective of elaborating a new electoral code that would regulate the elections.
The importance of Crowder’s presence in Cuba can be seen in the memos he sent to President Alfredo Zayas starting in March 1922, indicating the decisions to be taken,’ the specialist assures.
These dealt with various topics: financial matters, constitutional amendments, registration of voters, state debts, approval of budgets, corruption in state structures, banking projects and even the appointment of Cabinet members, for which that Council of Secretaries was known as ‘Crowder Cabinet’.
The main purpose of sending US ambassadors is to mediate in Cuba’s internal affairs to avoid a revolutionary solution, as it happened with Summer Wells in 1933 or in 1959 with Philip Bonsal’, the professor explains to Prensa Latina.
After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 under the command of the historical leader Fidel Castro, the American interference in the political and economic designs of the longed-for island came to an end.
In the years that followed, the U.S. government made more explicit its desire to prevent Cuba’s development, whether through the mercenary invasion of 1961, sabotage on the island, international campaigns, assassination plots or the imposition of a 60-year-old economic, commercial and financial blockade, which still remains in place.
The persecution of the White House with unilateral sanctions against this small territory is increasing as the island legitimates itself as a reference of national sovereignty.
During all this time, the intentions of the United States to appropriate Cuba have not changed, but have adapted their form according to the context and in the end they have remained there: in intentions.
With the new dispositions of Donald Trump’s government to tighten the blockade against the island, the same thing is happening, they obey the desire of appropriation and the coercion of that government.
The US market is closed for all Cuban products, including those of world renown such as rum, cigars, and even others that are necessary for human life, such as medicines and innovative biotechnological products in which Cuba is in the vanguard.
In addition, the Republican president had already prohibited tourist trips to Cuba, charter flights, cruises, private planes and boats, and even closed the so-called “people-to-people” contacts, a complete affront to the citizen’s right recognized in the Constitution of the American Union.
Meanwhile, Cuba is achieving greater international prestige and defending its model of social development against the blindness of the United States, which, with more than two centuries of history, still does not understand anything.
*Journalist of the National Prensa Latina