Using the shooting down of two airplanes that violated Cuban airspace as a pretext, the U.S. government has sharply intensified its hostility toward the Socialist Republic of Cuba.
On Feb. 26, President Bill Clinton announced that he would sign the Helms-Burton Bill, authored by the neo-fascist Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina. The bill would tighten the 35-year-old U.S. blockade of Cuba.
Clinton also announced a new series of further aggressive measures against the island nation. Along with endorsing the Helms-Burton Bill, he suspended the limited air flights between the United States and Cuba, expanded the operations of the right-wing Radio Marti, and took other punitive measures.
These moves came two days after MiG fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces shot down two planes piloted by Cuban counter-revolutionaries just north of Havana, the country's capital. The planes belonged to a Miami-based group, the so-called Brothers to the Rescue. BR has repeatedly violated Cuban airspace over the past two years, despite many warnings from Cuban authorities.
Now a new anti-Cuba media hysteria has been unleashed--led by top U.S. officials and joined by the whole pack of Republican presidential candidates.
A fascist assaulted a Cuban diplomat who is stationed with the country's mission to the United Nations as the diplomat walked on a New York street Feb. 25. The counter-revolutionary thug shouted, "You killed four Americans" as he beat the diplomat.
At the same time, U.S. representatives launched a campaign at the United Nations--a largely unsuccessful campaign--to condemn Cuba for allegedly breaking international law.
In reality, it is Washington that has engaged in a pattern of massive and systematic violations of international law against Cuba. The latest incident fits this pattern.
Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the CIA and other branches of the U.S. military have launched thousands of operations against the country. These have included a naval blockade, an armed invasion at the Bay of Pigs that the Cubans crushed, and many plots to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro.
It has even included bacteriological warfare--and the firebombing of sugar-cane fields from Cessna planes similar to those shot down Feb. 24.
Over the past two years the U.S. government has allowed, if not encouraged, regular intrusions into Cuban airspace by "Brothers to the Rescue."
Last July, BR planes buzzed Havana, flying in low over the city.
On Aug. 9, the U.S. State Department issued an official "Announcement on Cuba." It warned that "entering Cuban territory, territorial waters or airspace without prior authorization from the Cuban government may cause one to be subject to arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities for violation of Cuban law."
This announcement specifically cited a July 14 Cuban statement warning that without such authorization "any boat from abroad can be sunk and any airplane downed."
Despite these warnings--and despite repeated Cuban protests to the U.S. government for allowing its territory to be used to launch such flights in violation of international law--BR was allowed to continue its provocative incursions.
These included dropping literature over Havana on Jan. 13.
On Feb. 25, when a reporter asked him about the many Cuban government protests, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher replied, "We have told the Cubans over and over that they should act with restraint in these situations-- that they should obey international law."
Christopher was referring to the counter-revolutionary Cubans of BR. His statement is really a confession. It makes clear that Washington was fully aware of the incursions into Cuban airspace originating from Florida--and had no intention of stopping them.
Contrary to reports in the corporate media, "Brothers to the Rescue" is not a humanitarian organizations. The real purpose of its flights is infiltration and provocation.
On virtually every flight, BR pilots deliberately violate the flight plans they have filed with federal aviation authorities. They fly into or very close to Cuban airspace.
When other pilots violate flight plans, the Federal Aviation Administration revokes their licenses. Not BR.
In a shocking development for the United States, BR and the Cuban right wing in general, a former BR pilot--Juan Pablo Roque--surfaced in Havana just before the plane incident. Roque is a former MiG pilot who left Cuba in 1992.
He flew the BR plane that buzzed Havana last July. He was considered a hero by counter-revolutionary Cubans in Miami.
Apparently disgusted with BR and right-wing Cuban politics, he returned to Cuba.
Roque appeared on Cuban national television on Feb. 26. He revealed that BR leaders had discussed plans to assassinate Fidel Castro with him. They had also talked about where small planes could land on roads in Cuba and other matters of espionage.
Roque also named Oscar Mantoto as the FBI agent in Miami to whom the BR regularly reported.
The long-established relationship between U.S. security forces and the Cuban counter-revolutionaries immediately raises the question of whether this whole airplane incident was a U.S.-planned provocation.
But what is not at all in question is the evident fact that a section of the U.S. ruling class is using the incident as an excuse for hardening U.S. policy toward Cuba.
In recent months, the flow of members of Congress, academics, business executives and others to Cuba had been increasing. When President Castro visited New York for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in October, he was the biggest story--overshadowing Clinton and all the other heads of state.
With all this, it appeared to some that the U.S. blockade against Cuba was beginning to crack.
But forces in the ruling class, and particularly in the Pentagon-CIA apparatus, decided to strike back. They have blown up a relatively minor incident--in which a small country acted in justifiable self-defense--to whip up a hysteria and reinforce the blockade.
Teresa Gutierrez of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal denounced Clinton's "craven capitulation to those forces that have deliberately created a provocation in order to derail any relaxation in U.S.-Cuban relations."
Clinton was all too pleased to be the one to announce new sanctions against Cuba. But whether he was the originator of this turn is in question. It is interesting to note that the president was in Seattle when the incident occurred.
The National Security Council, which he nominally heads, met without him Feb. 25 to draw up its plans regarding Cuba.
But regardless of tactics--toughen the blockade, relax the blockade, engage in military action, etc.--what unites the U.S. ruling class is its goal: Destroy the Cuban Revolution.
In the coming days and weeks, supporters of Cuba in this country will have to be vigilant--and mobilize to fight any new aggression by U.S. imperialism.
Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For subscription info send message to: email@example.com. Web: http://www.workers.org