June 3, 2002

CUBA,
rights & wrongs

By Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row

Once again the Bush administration, speaking through a complacent media, is launching verbal bombs at a foreign country. This time it's Cuba.

In this age of media megamergers and sole superpower status, the media sometimes is a safe signal of underlying public policy. In other words, word wars sometimes become shooting wars. The media attack on Cuba is just the latest of the corporate media's disservice to its consumers. Therefore, while the media is most often used as a megaphone to amplify and project the voices of the wealthy and politically powerful, rarely does this same media honestly inform Americans of contemporary history.

Because of this, millions of Americans lack the context through which to analyze and understand the basis for confrontations between states. They're conditioned by the press to look at complex political and social issues through the lens of simplistic personalities. Therefore we speak of "Castro's Cuba" in the same breath as "Saddam's Iraq."

This is silliness. Conflicts between states are not personal, they're economic. The U.S. supported a brutal Batista dictatorship there for almost a decade before Cuban rebels drove the regime out. The U.S., which loves to boast about its "human rights campaign," has supported the most brutal butchers and dictators in the world.

Why? Because dictators use their police and armed forces to oppress their own people, to insure that the U.S. had free reign of the nation's natural resources. Is there any other reason why the U.S. would support butchers like Batista? Did they give a damn about human rights then?

In Africa, the first Bush administration didn't support Nelson Mandela. It was General Mobutu, who named himself Zairian president for life, whom papa Bush called, "Our best friend in Africa." Human rights?

What is a human right? The right to an education? In the United States over 20 million people are functionally illiterate. Higher education is available for those who can afford it, but for millions of people college is far too expensive. In Cuba, the right to an education is free, from kindergarten to a doctoral degree.

Education for millions of children in American inner cities is a scandal, as reported by Jonathan Kozel in his book, "Amazing Grace." Buildings are literally falling down. Windows are broken. Teachers are ill paid and badly prepared. For millions of children in the wealthiest nation on earth, education is an unobtainable illusion.

What about the human right to health care? In the U.S., you can obtain excellent health care if you can afford it. Cuba, meanwhile, boasts the largest number of doctors per capita on earth. They provide medical care to people all around the world. Indeed, there are more Cuban doctors working in other countries than the UN's World Health Organization. Millions of men, women and children in this country have no medical insurance and no real prospect for decent medical care.

And what about the human right of freedom? When the racist regime in South Africa was waging terrorist attacks on the so-called front-line states in the region, Namibia suffered numerous incursions and cross-border attacks. Cuba sent her soldiers thousands of miles to fight the South Africans and stop them at Cuito Cuanavale. That battle proved a turning point, and paved the way for the demise of the apartheid government, the unbanning of the African National Congress, and the freedom of Dr. Nelson Mandela.

Whom did the U.S. support during this conflict? The racist government in South Africa. Where was American concern for the human rights of millions of Africans, both inside and outside of South Africa?

That said, this commentator opposes the use of the death penalty. It is barbaric and oppressive. But there is a world of difference between how the Americans have used it, as a legalized form of lynching, and how Cuba has had to resist U.S. economic, political and media terrorism. The U.S. uses it to repress, Cuba uses it in self defense. The U.S. uses it to preserve white privilege, Cuba to survive as a state against U.S. aggression.

Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of three books: 'Live
from Death Row', 'Death Blossoms', and 'All Things
Censored'.

Write to Mumia directly at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335
SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370