Sunday, July 7, 2019

Response to a critique of my piece in the Gainesville Sun over Twitter

A block and a hit. Luckily for me others let me know of this critique and I was able to respond. 

On July 2, 2019 The Gainesville Sun published my OpEd critcizing their editorial on U.S. Cuba policy. Today, the same OpEd was reproduced in The Star-Banner, the daily newspaper in Ocala, Florida, and it got the attention of a Mr. Andrés S. Pertierra.  Never engaged with him before over social media.

He has accused me of writing an OpEd "riddled with lies" and over the course of a series of tweets appears to make his case. However, reviewing these tweets I find that the facts, as I understand them do not correspond to his version of events.

Below is my rebuttal. 

First, his two assertions do not contradict the statements I made. However his claim that the Somoza dictatorship overthrown in Nicaragua in 1979, by the Sandinista's and their Cuban allies was US backed is wrong, the dictator was no longer being supported by the United States. President Jimmy Carter had cut off assistance to the Somoza regime. The Carter Administration imposed sanctions on the Nicaraguan regime when it refused to pursue democratic reforms. According to Robert Pastor:  "Somoza pretended the sanctions had no effect on him," but they did.

The assassination of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez on March 24, 1980 took place on President Carter's watch.  It was the failure of Carter's Cuba policy and expanding Cuban and Soviet influence in the hemisphere that led to his devil's bargain with the El Salvadorean military to combat the Cuban/Russian backed FMLN.

Since Mr. Pertierra raises the issue of genocide in Central America and American culpability in Guatemala I wonder if he has commented on the Cuban role in genocide in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s?

Castro with Nicanor Costa Mendez, and Reynaldo Bignone of Argentina's military junta 
Carter's abandonment of Somoza was part of a wider human rights centered policy by the Carter Administration which included placing sanctions on the military junta in Argentina.  President Carter took steps to normalize relations with the dictatorship in Cuba while at the same time isolating the military junta in Argentina, it was Fidel Castro who responded by embracing the Argentine regime.  This was while the Argentine junta had "disappeared" 30,000 leftists.

Mr. Pertierra in the above tweet is engaging in a white wash of a terrible crime, and ignoring other episodes were swimmers were shot at or had grenades lobbed to prevent them escaping to the Guantanamo Naval base in 1993. The actions of the Castro regime were reminiscent of the behavior of East German border guards at the Berlin Wall (who Castro praised during his 1973 visit there).  

In the case of the July 13, 1994 "13 de marzo"tugboat sinking reports from the IACHR, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch indicate that a terrible crime was committed. However your claim that regime authorities were just trying to "stop the ship" ignores a number of inconvenient facts. Here are two important ones to consider.

1. The "13 de marzo" tugboat stopped and surrendered, but that did not stop the attack. Testimony from the IACHR report of one of the survivors, María Victoria García Suarez:
 Did they order you to halt?  What were they trying to do when they sprayed water?  No, they never told us to stop.  Then what they did was to shoot water at us.  Then the time came when we saw that we could not go on because it was going to be fatal and we stopped because the water was getting in.  Then we stopped and we told them:  "Look, we're turning back, we have already stopped, and they saw that we had stopped, and it was then that they split the side and turned the boat  around."
2. According to Jorge Garcia, who lost 14 family members that day, and has closely investigated what took place, "the authorities of the Cuban regime were present at the wharf from very early on, that is, the intelligence sources knew of this exit, of the tugboat, however; instead of aborting it, instead of stopping those involved, they prefer to let them leave to sink the boat with jets of salt water launched from three tugs to give a warning, a message to the Cuban population."

Both Kornbluh and LeoGrande are not the most objective individuals to assess what took place in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. I would recommend reading the reports of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the  International Civil Aviation Organization, and the United Nations that demonstrate that both planes had not entered Cuban airspace on February 24, 1996 and were shot down in international airspace in a premeditated and criminal act. The claim by the Castro regime that they had overflown Cuba on February 24, 1996 is false.

The above statement by Mr. Pertierra is factually untrue on a number of grounds. First ten members of the WASP network had been spying on U.S. military bases. Secondly, they had received instructions to plan acts of terror and sabotage on U.S. soil.

The Cuban "WASP" spies arrested in 1998 used coded material on computer disks to communicate with other members of the spy network. From the 1,300 pages taken from those diskettes translated and used during the spy trial the criminal and terrorist nature of the Cuban regime's operation in South Florida emerges. The networks primary objective was "penetrating and obtaining information on the naval station located in that city." Intelligence operatives communicated about "burning down the warehouse" that housed the nonviolent organization Brothers to the Rescue and sabotaging their equipment. The spies also helped to identify who would be flying at certain times.

In addition the spies received orders from Havana to prepare a "book bomb" so that it evade post office security while at the same time phoning death threats to a man they described as a CIA agent and then having him killed via the mail bomb at his Florida home.

Mr. Pertierra is repeating Cuban government talking points.  It is unfair to conflate those who commit terrorism with those who are non-violent.  To label the "Cuban American right" as terrorist is as unfair as labeling the "Cuban American left" terrorist.  

Coretta Scott King and Jose Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue
In the 1990s groups such as Brothers to the Rescue and Movimiento Democracia were conducting nonviolence trainings with The King Center, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Furthermore anti-Castro does not equate with right wing.

Mr. Petierra accuses me of lying when I say that the Cuban military's roles in the tourist economy expanded and further centralized economic control during the Obama Administration's detente with Cuba.  The Associated Press, Reuters and The Miami Herald described how the military expanded its control, taking over properties that had been controlled by the historian's office in Havana, during the Obama opening to Cuba.

Mr. Pertierra's straw man argument does not reflect my position on the embargo.  Economic sanctions will not cause Cubans to "rise up."  It will however raise the cost for the Castro regime's adventurism in Venezuela, Nicaragua and elsewhere that could be used to leverage and contain the dictatorship's bad actions in the hemisphere.

Finally, the need to engage in ad hominem attacks indicates that he is not sure of his argument. Furthermore blocking me so that I am unable to see his attacks only underscores this observation.

Nevertheless I bear no ill will towards Mr. Pertierra, and ask others who choose to engage him in debate or conversation to be civil and focus on issues and not personal attacks. We need to do better.

1 comment:

  1. I've known that Oscar Elias Biscet is a staunch follower and admirer of Gandhi and MLK, but I didn't know that Coretta Scott King was a friend of Jose Basulto. It's no surprise to you that MLK rejected Fidel and Che's advocacy of violence and bloodshed when promoting a better for disaffected people like Africans, Asians, et cetera.