September 06, 2005

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Part 3: Manifest Destiny

In 1848 President Polk offered Spain $100 million for Cuba, and in 1854 President Pierce upped the ante to $130 million. Spain declined the offer both times. Through diplomatic channels, the U.S. government made it known that “it would forcibly resist the acquisition of the island by any other nation.”

Spain was equally locked into its position; “(We) will neither now nor ever enter into any transaction having as an object the abandonment of her rights in the island of Cuba and Puerto Rico,” said Spanish Minister of State Pedro J. Pidal. “Sooner than see the Island transferred to any power, we would prefer seeing it sunk in the ocean!”

The U.S. civil war temporarily distracted efforts to acquire Cuba. Attempts to purchase the island continued during the 1890s, even as Cubans fought a bloody war for their independence.

After the U.S. entered the war and defeated Spain in what is barely remembered as the Spanish-American War, it was the U.S. flag (not the Cuban flag) that was raised in Havana, and to add insult to injury, the Cuban generals were not allowed to participate in the ceremony.

The U.S. took possession of Guantánamo Bay at that time, and the military occupation lasted until 1901, when a U.S.-style constitution was hatched up that included the Platt Amendment, which made Cuba a pseudo-colony.

For the next six decades the U.S. controlled Cuba through intimidation, puppet governments and friendly dictators. But all that came to an end in 1959 with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

Partial embargoes began in early 1960, and a new era of Cuban politics, under a one-party system, ever so vigilant of pending U.S. aggression, was well under way.



Blogger M.A. Tellechea said...

Jose Marti's greatest nightmare was that the United States would opportunistically intervene at the very close of Cuba's War of Independence, and obtain possession of the island with very little American blood or gold expended in the effort. Just as Spain was determined to fight to the last "soldier and peseta," as Spanish Prime Minister Canovas del Castillo promised; the United States was determined to fight to the "last Cuban" and would probably have been pleased if Spain's reconcentration policy had succeeded as spectacularly as America's own genocidal campaigns on its native population. Marti was prescient in his vision but unable to stop the Juggernaut that he saw advancing on Cuba and the rest of the continent. In the end, he could only offer his life to stop this unstoppable force. His sacrifice, however, has been a beacon of hope and inspiration to all future generations of Cubans who have sought to reclaim the national sovereignty and repel all who would circumscribe it. In the end --or, rather, in one very terrible ending -- the United States offered Cuba as ransom to international Communism in exchange for its own internal security; we are speaking, of course, of the Kennedy-Khruschhev Pact (1962), which was synthesis of all prior betrayals suffered by Cuba at the hands of its self-proclaimed "Good Neighbor."

Maceo, who had many disagreements with Marti on the conduct of the war, nonetheless agreed with him completely when it came to the U.S. and its jingoistic plans. In fact, Maceo went so far as to say that if the U.S. invaded Cuba, he would forge an alliance with Spain to repel the common foe. Maceo feared, rightly, that if the U.S. gained controlled of Cuba it would inflict its racial segregation and "Jim Crow" laws on the island, which were far more onerous than even Spanish slavery itself.

If these two giants had lived they would have formed a united front against U.S. intervention and would have followed the example of Emilio Aguinaldo in the Phillipines.

5:11 PM, September 14, 2005  

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