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President Obama’s Visit to “Perfidious Cuba”

By: José Azel - Mar 10, 2016, 3:29 pm
President Obama's visit to Cuba in March will legitimize Castro’s military dictatorship in the eyes of the world. (CiberCuba)
President Obama’s visit to Cuba in March will legitimize Castro’s military dictatorship in the eyes of the world. (CiberCuba)

In the context of international relations and diplomacy, “Perfidious Albion” or “Treacherous England” is a term used to reference the unfaithfulness, deceit, and diplomatic treachery employed by Britain in its duplicitous pursuit of its self-interests.

Perfidious, of course, signifies one who does not keep his word, and Albion derives from an ancient Greek name for the island of Great Britain. The term became a routine expression in France in the 19th century following the French Revolution.

Keeping with the etymological tradition, I am referring to “Perfidious Cuba” to explore the deception employed by the Castros’ Cuba in its international relations. Since his first days in power, Fidel Castro has repeatedly used deceit to soften the international community’s suspicions.

Here is a sample from speeches he delivered in 1959:

We will re-establish all rights and freedom, including freedom of the press.

I know that you are worried whether or not we are communists. I want to make it clear that we are not communist. Neither myself nor the movement is communist.

I am not going to let anyone call me a communist, because I am not a communist; I am telling the truth.

I do not support communism. Cuba will not nationalize or expropriate private property. We will instead seek investments.”

Just a few months later, Castro began the process of taking over all private property. It was not until nearly three years later, in December 1961 that Fidel Castro finally came clean with his political philosophy: “I am a Marxist-Leninist and shall be one until the end of my life.”

The following year, Fidel Castro urged the Soviet Union to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States with missiles from Cuba.

President Obama is being cavalier in dismissing history, noting that “I am not interested in having battles that started before I was born.” But for those who, like President Obama, think that the above examples are irrelevant, ancient history, it is only necessary to highlight that:

• In 2011, Cuban officials negotiated with the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah to set up an operational base in Cuba.

• In 2013, the Cuban government sought to mislead the world by hiding weapons systems under sacks of sugar in a North Korean ship sailing from Cuba to North Korea, a country under a United Nations arms embargo.

• In 2014, an unarmed U.S. Hellfire missile was somehow mistakenly shipped to Cuba from Europe. This happened just as the Obama administration and Cuba were negotiating what ended up being the current rapprochement between the countries. It is quite likely that Cuba’s espionage services were involved in this mysterious “mis-shipment.” It took Cuba over 18 months to return the missile.

• In 2015, Fox News confirmed reports that Cuban military operatives had been spotted in Syria, purportedly joining Russian forces in support of the Assad regime.

•In 2016, Cuba reaffirmed its smearing accusations that the United States deliberately introduced the dengue virus in Cuba to cause an epidemic.

Notwithstanding the evidence of Cuba’s perfidiousness, President Obama has announced, in a display of diplomatic asymmetry, that he will visit Cuba in March, thus further legitimizing Castro’s military dictatorship in the eyes of the world. The president is not only blind to the obvious, but also blind to his own blindness. His thoughts are mere fantasies, what psychologists call cognitive illusions.

Despite his efforts, President Obama’s legacy in international affairs will not resemble that of President Nixon’s historic visit to China. Most likely, his legacy will mirror that of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s failed foreign policy of appeasing the enemies of democratic governance. Chamberlain conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938 only to see Germany occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia six months later, followed by the invasion of Poland in 1939.

In terms of international diplomacy, a presidential visit is the highest recognition one government can bestow on another. What has perfidious Cuba done to deserve such an honor from the United States?

José Azel José Azel

Senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. Azel was a political exile from Cuba at the age of 13 in 1961 and is the author of Mañana in Cuba. Follow @JoseAzel.