Statement of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Regarding Recent Events in Cuba
Today, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has called upon President Clinton to exercise restraint in responding to recent events in Cuba and upon Attorney General Janet Reno to de-escalate the Justice Department's response to humanitarian efforts by concerned citizens to alleviate suffering and deprivation in Cuba. We join other peace-loving individuals in mourning the deaths of the four men whose plane was shot down on Saturday.
WILPF calls upon the Attorney General to step back from a Grand Jury fishing expedition to smear and intimidate IFCO/Pastors For Peace and deter their efforts to transport urgently needed computer medical equipment to Cuba.
Further WILPF urges President Clinton to refrain from a rush to bellicose action in response to recent events in Cuba. We believe that a thorough investigation of the Brothers to the Rescue plane and the response from the Cuban military is warranted in light of the past actions of the Brothers to the Rescue and the history of U.S. involvement in private actions against the sovereign government of Cuba.
It is WILPF's position that the U.S. government and the United Nations acted precipitously before all the facts of the situation were known. We do know from CNN tapes that the Brothers To The Rescue plane was warned several times by the Cuban military that it was over Cuban territory before action was taken to bring down the plane. We know that the Brothers To The Rescue has flown over Cuba before and dropped propaganda over Havana. The intentions of the Brothers To The Rescue plane and its intended course in this flight must be uncovered, before passing judgement.
WILPF questions the role of U.S. secret intelligence agencies in this incident. We suspect knowledge and possible involvement by some government operative(s) in planning the action taken by the Brother To The Rescue. In the light of prior embarrassments, like the Bay of Pigs fiasco, this possibility must be given serious consideration.
Furthermore, WILPF condemns the action taken by the United States and the Security Council of the U.N. without even waiting until Foreign Minister Robino to arrive in New York from Cuba to be present for the deliberations.
It seems unduly convenient for this convergence of events ( the provocation of the flyover by the Brothers To The Rescue and the issuing of Grand Jury Subpoenas to IFCO/Pastor for Peace members) to have accidentally occurred on the eve of Congress' consideration of the Helms/Burton bills to increase the U.S.' illegal economic stranglehold of Cuba. Were these events orchestrated to ensure a passage of the Helms/Burton bill and to have a chilling effect on those proposing a more rational relationship between the U.S. and Cuba? These and many other questions need to be addressed by a thorough and impartial investigation.
WILPF has long been a proponent of citizen diplomacy, to build bridges of peace and friendship between the peoples of nations in conflict. As such, WILPF has maintained a longstanding relationship with the Federation Of Cuban Women. The Federation has requested that we help circulate their statement on the recent incident. Since there has so far been no investigation into the events, and since the United Nations issued its statement without allowing for Cuba to present its position. WILPF feels it is in the interest of fairness and for the sake of a long-term resolution of the U.S.- Cuban conflict to air as much information as possible, including positions that are not necessarily the same as those of WILPF. To this end we are including their statement, as well as our letter to President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.
Statement of the Federation of Cuban Women
February 27, 1996
One more time our small country has been a victim of terrorism, the overbearing and interfering actions of counterrevolutionary groups located in the territory of the United States, and with the tolerance and permissive attitude of that government, have violated our national sovereignty.
We Cuban women know very well the grief and pain that these assassin acts have signified. Throughout these many years these criminal actions have been repeated, often against the helpless population of our coasts, against our most important economic objectives.
We are conscious of the efforts that our government has made to avoid conflict that involves the loss of human life and the increase in tension. Sufficient evidence has been demonstrated by the government's capacity to alert and to patiently dissuade. The government of the United States has been repeatedly warned and threatened to stop the practices of the groups that arm and train themselves.
the patience of the citizens of our country has a limit.
This past February 24, a day of special significance, when the 101st anniversary of the beginning of our War for Independence was being commemorated, our air space was grossly and repeatedly violated, even after receiving warnings of the danger involved, that we would not tolerate a new aggression, and that we were prepared to repel them.
After 3:00 on this same day, two CESSNA planes proceeding from the United States repeated the penetration of our air space, being intercepted and shot down within at least eight miles of our coastline.
We very much regret that such an irresponsible and dangerous act has made necessary the immediate action by the faithful guardians of our territorial integrity, of the rights of our people to defend the lives of the hardworking Cuban families who give their lives in their daily toils.
The first declarations that the President of the United States offered in the name of his government were calm and rational, as well as his solicitude of cooperation with the Cuban government in the search for the remains in Cuban waters, and with that action showing evidence of his awareness of the reality of the events that occurred.
Unexpectedly, at a later hour, the insolent words of the Secretary of State of the U.S. Warren Christopher, openly exposed the contrast with the previous language. His words against the Cuban people were threatening and arrogant.
Cynically, the Security Council of the United Nations has been convened to make a pronouncement against the rights of the people: to defend its territorial integrity and to safeguard the lives of the Cuban people.
What country of the world permits illegal violations of its national spaces: air, sea or land? Neither would the United States permit this. What are, then, the reasons for this dirty farce?
We Cuban women want peace, the relaxation of tensions, peaceful solutions to the conflicts, but more than anything, we want our national sovereignty and we reaffirm the right of our government to exercise it.
The Cuban Women's Federation calls on our friends in the world to rapidly take actions of solidarity and support to our country, our people, our women and our children, as an endorsement of the elementary right that we have to guarantee our integrity and national security.
Cuban Women's Federation
Thanks to Marliese Diaz for rapid translation from Spanish to English
President Clinton Fax
Dear President Clinton,
The U.S. section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is gravely concerned about the shooting down of the two planes off the coast of Havana on February 24, and the potential for further escalation of tension and violent conflict. We urge you to resist calls for a bellicose response and instead to pursue diplomatic means to address the situation as you have done so admirably in other situations such as Northe Korea and Northern Ireland.
This incident clearly illustrates the need to stop allowing Cuban exiles to determine U.S. policy toward Cuba and for direct negotiations to take place between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Lifting the embargo against Cuba and normalizing relations are necessary steps to resolving differences in accord with democratic process and international law. Therefore, we urge you to oppose the Helms/Burton bills tightening the embargo, and veto it should it reach your desk.
We feel it was precipitous of the U.S. and the United Nations to issues its statement without investigation and without allowing time for the Cuban Foreign Minister to arrive at the U.N. to represent his government's actions before the Security Council.
Finally, we ask that your administration conduct a thorough investigation of Brothers To The Rescue and any other Cuban exiles who use the United States as a base for advocating violence towards another sovereign nation and launching repeated acts of provocation. As this war-weary century draws to a close, you have the opportunity to set another course, toward a foreign policy based on reason and enlightened self-interest rather than habits of force and intimidation.
Marilyn Clement, Executive Director
Jean Gore, President
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section
The Honorable Janet Reno
U.S. Attorney General of the U.S.
Department of Justice
Tenth and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Ms. Reno,
Over the eight decades that the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has worked for justice, we have witnessed and protested specific instances of severe government retribution against those who exercise their rights to free speech and non-violent political action. We have taken up the cause of those who challenge injustice as embodied in particular statutes or legislation. When citizens of El Salvador were robbed of the right to assembly, we rallied in solidarity. When the Blacks of South Africa were denied the right to vote, we supported their efforts to build a democratic nation. When Black children in America were denied the right to an equal education, we supported the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Our nation recently took action which, although justified by statute, cannot logically or morally be consistent with the legal tenets of our nation. Certainly you are familiar with the Grand Jury subpoena issued to the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing to appear before a federal Grand Jury on March 22, 1996. This subpoena is the first step in a federal investigation and prosecution of American religious leaders who are challenging the U.S. embargo of the tiny nation of Cuba. A cross-section of clergy members arranged for a shipment of used computers to be sent for use in hospitals throughout the island.
Does this arguably illegal act warrant such a harsh federal response? Under international law, the U.S. stance is illegal as such law stipulates the legality of humanitarian shipments and the unjustifiable breadth of the U.S. embargo. How would you justify the expense of such action to U.S. taxpayers? There is undoubtedly more fear in our communities of widespread violence than there is concern about Cuba. How would you explain to those who worked for twenty years with one company who at the age of 65 find themselves without pensions due to the rampant use of Chapter 11 and Chapter 7? Could it be more important to investigate this shipment of antiquated computers for health care than it is to stop the corporate windfall process of pension looting? How would you support your own argument that challenges to this embargo present a threat to national security? We think too highly of you to believe that you subscribe to such a pitiful and paranoid notion.
We understand that when the law is broken a response is required. However, the empanelment of a grand jury grossly exaggerates the nature of the civil disobedience. It shows that you have stooped to accept the Hooveresque perspective of those who think that Cuba could possibly present a threat to our nation. Moreover, the prosecution of individuals who are renowned for being humanitarian in both their efforts to support the poor of Cuba, and their work for the impoverished in their own communities, seems like using a sledge hammer to flatten a pea.
Our members across the nation will be vocal opponents to this action. We will, without question, ensure that thousands know of this wasteful and repugnant action. We will mobilize our communities to protest. We urge you to consider a more rational response: stop the Grand Jury, cease all investigations of those who practice their first amendment rights in solidarity with Cuba, end the interrogation of those who travel to and from Cuba, and permit the computers to be sent to hospitals that care for the sick children, new mothers and aged of Cuba. We look forward to your response.
President, U.S. Section WILPF