The Virtual Overflow of the State Department and its Office in Havana

By José Ramón Cabañas on February 16, 2022

In recent months, both Cuban cybernauts and foreign diplomats residing in Cuba have been surprised by the unabashed way in which both the State Department in Washington and its embassy in Havana have incorporated into their daily routine the issuance of judgments and opinions on the Cuban internal reality, which they publish and reiterate without any modesty. Although the practice has encompassed several platforms, it has become more present on Twitter, which is supposed to be less popular than Facebook, but where government officials, academics and decision-makers of various kinds are theoretically more present.

This digital exercise, which now has more intensity than during the Trump mess, began to become more present to the same extent that the dreamers of the end of the Cuban Revolution felt that the ravages of the COVID19 pandemic, in conjunction with the damage caused by unilateral coercive measures (blockade), would cause a social outburst in Cuba.

The State Department and its diplomatic representation in Havana left their fingerprints all over the events before and after July 11, but they still had a certain restraint in those days, to avoid being seen as the direct handlers of the “protesters”. As the days wore on and the “leaders” of those events bought plane tickets to settle abroad and publicly disqualified each other, the U.S. bureaucrats from the banks of the Potomac felt the need to consummate a greater role, which became traumatic as the date of November 20 (which later became 15) approached.

For the latter show they had sold tickets at high prices and faced the danger that there would be no staging, as indeed there was. The event most feared by the puppeteers occurred: the puppet show’s scenery fell down and the children’s audience finally saw that the puppets did not have a life of their own, but were being operated by others.

To this day, it is not known whether the main bets on the probable Antillean holocaust were made in Havana or in Washington. What is certain is that forecasts were sent from the State Department to the Office of the National Security Advisor and from there to the White House. This intense exchange of memos and proposals resulted in the opening of USAID’s coffers and, especially as of September 2021, more funds began to flow to buy videos, statements, comments in blogs and whatever other gimmickry was necessary to present to the world and to the U.S. public opinion a virtual state of affairs on Cuba.

After all, if a high percentage of the U.S. population still considers that the 2020 presidential elections were “stolen” from under their noses, how could we not think that a similar percentage would take as truth the headlines that the Cuban people had revolted and that those who did not were contained by the repression. If for four years the State Department insisted that non-existent sounds created undiagnosable illnesses in its diplomatic personnel in Havana, and many people believed it, then how could it not be assumed that the Cuban government would attack its own people, with a little bit of reiteration.

And in this circumstance, the U.S. authorities showed, once again, that the multilateral framework that humanity has built in order to survive is useful to them, only if it endorses the existence of a single pole of power. Vienna Convention?, respecting the internal affairs of other countries? observing the limits of the sovereignty of others? Little annoying details.

And so, in empty theater, State Department officials have been left playing on Twitter the score that was written for others. The difference with other crises built in various countries is that in those crises the infantry has been local and the artillery has acted from afar. But in this case, the conspirators were left almost without infantry and have had to take on that role themselves, albeit virtually.

Again, in the absence of evidence, proof, recordings and photos, tweets from the State Department’s Western Hemisphere division have filled that space. By the way, the scarcity of photos to support their theories was solved in a masterful way: using as their own, to support the thesis of rebellion, the photos that massively testified the support of the majority of the Cuban people to their authorities. For them it is not theft, it is called borrowing without the owner’s knowledge.

But when someone decides to forget the rules to which the diplomatic services of all countries are bound, it is also overlooked that reciprocity is practiced every day in this exercise. What would have happened if any official Cuban representative, or simply a citizen of that origin had been involved in the demonstrations following the assassination of George Floyd, what commotion would it have caused if a Cuban, whether a farmer or an artisan, had been present at the police sweep of Lafayette Park right in front of the White House, during 2020? By the way, if there were citizens of Cuban origin present at the events of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol, but they were members of the Proud Boys organization, who before and after those events went to show their masculinity in front of the Cuban embassy with obscenities and abrasive gestures.

In other words, with their irresponsible actions on social networks, especially on Twitter, the U.S. Foreign Ministry and its employees have opened wide a door for others to do the same with respect to their internal problems. But Cuba has not made use of that opportunity, nor will it do so, out of respect for the rules of international coexistence and, even more, out of respect for those who have fought for the vindication of their rights in that country for decades, in a genuine manner and without the need for guidance or direction from abroad.

But the precedent will be reflected for the academy, or for third parties who in the future may say to them: what are you complaining about if you did the same to the Cubans. These are the risks that are run when arrogance is debased.

In addition to the occurrence of the event itself, it is interesting to appreciate its quality. When basically the same texts are mechanically reiterated, when the copy and paste between the State Department and its embassy is so evident, when the contradictions between figures and supposed sources hardly need to be explained, then it is worth asking whether those who make such mistakes do so simply for lack of creative capacity, or to demonstrate that they are “following a direction”. And certainly that doubt remains.

The other thing is to construct a so-called “timeline” for beginners, which in itself would discredit the sources of the aforementioned digital bombardments. The aforementioned Western Hemisphere affairs division, which theoretically attends to and is moved by what happens in more than 30 nations and territories, has repeatedly fallen silent at times when there have been mass killings in the region, when constitutional order has been attacked in several countries, when drug cartels have shaken entire cities, when mass graves have been discovered, or when barbarities have been committed by human traffickers. Apparently these are inherent realities of the democratic system they promote together with their servants at the Organization of American States secretariat, which need not be repaired because they are not news. But for Cuba there are other rules.

However, those who master the techniques to understand what really happens in the networks notice other interesting details. How many retweets these abrasive and disrespectful messages against Cuba have generated, how many likes, how many impressions (times a content has been seen), how many interactions from Internet users. All this data, taken as a whole, would show that the disrespect for the sovereignty of others has been sterile, the attention generated with the Goebblelian repetition of the contents has been minimal, if we take into account the total population in Cuba, in the U.S. and worldwide, even in Hialeah.

The subconscious cannot help but compare this exercise with what happened months after the American defeat at Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs for them). The CIA (and we have not spoken of the agency in this text) had installed months before in Swan Island a radio station (not to add that illegally), which was to guarantee with its propaganda that the attacked people of Cuba would receive with open arms the members of Brigade 2506, popularly known as mercenaries. The fact is that once they were defeated and under the custody of the Cuban authorities, Radio Swan continued broadcasting calls to “burn the sugar cane fields” and to “advance on the capital”.  It is difficult not to remember the precedent.

The other thing is that the U.S. bureaucracy on average is not well paid compared to salaries in the unofficial world. There are officials, sometimes at the end of their careers, who are concerned about their retirement and future life, which is why they sometimes put an emphasis on their actions, beyond what common rationality explains. And the fact of being very emphatic in the attacks against Cuba, with a specific enjoyment and beyond instructions, also comes to mind the case of James Cason, a former head of the interests office in Havana, who at the beginning of this century was characterized by his stridency, which marginalized him even with respect to the rest of the diplomats residing in Havana. On repeated occasions, foreign officials and visitors wondered the reason for his performance, especially when they knew that he did not have the slightest chance of promotion in the U.S. diplomatic ranking. And the explanation came after his departure: Cason aspired and was elected mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, an emporium of the remnants of the rancid Cuban bourgeoisie and others who were not but aspired.

And please, do not consider this case to be unique or sporadic. Several years before Cason, Mr. Dennis Hayes, who had been nothing less than the Coordinator of the Cuba Bureau at the State Department, was hired by the Cuban American National Foundation as head of its Washington office. In other words, when it comes to the “cause” against Cuba, the lines of decency are often crossed, codes of ethics (if they exist) are not enforced, and it is difficult to know who pays whose salary and to distinguish who is the boss.

Source: La Pupila Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano-English