Monday, July 4, 2016

Cuba, A Supreme Peace-Maker?

 Yes! NoMaybe?
    In this first week of July in the turbulent year of 2016 this photo is providing exorbitant fodder for fueling the well-funded anti-Cuban narrative in the U. S. It shows a powerful Cuban, Salvador Valdes Mesa, shaking hands with North Korean dictator Kim Jon-un in Pyongyang. Valdes is one of six Cuban Vice-Presidents. He equates his mission to North Korea with Cuba's diligent 4-year successful effort to end the bloody half-century of warfare between FARC and the U.S.-backed Colombian government. Valdes explained his Pyongyang trip this way: "Cuba supports the peaceful and independent reunification of North and South Korea and it reflects the principled position taken by Cuba in the process of normalizing relations with the United States and Cuba's leading role in trying to end a half-century of warfare between FARC and Colombia that had killed and displaced millions. International powers continually providing modern weapons to one side or the other only prolongs wars for decades. Peace, Cuba believes, is much better than war." 
        Indeed, the powerful and well-funded anti-Cuba narrative and the mainstream media in the U. S. hope Americans didn't notice the above EPA photo taken by Alejandro Ernesto last month -- June, 2016. It shows Cuban President Raul Castro orchestrating an historic handshake between Juan Manuel Santos, the President of Colombia, and Rodrigo Londono, the rebel leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its acronym FARC. Cuba doggedly hosted four years of negotiations in Havana to bring about this handshake, which was deemed impossible by the U. S. government that has spent billions of dollars supporting the Colombian government's bloody but unsuccessful war against FARC. U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry was among those who thanked and congratulated Cuba, but the U. S. Cuban narrative and the U. S. media mostly ignored it. Yet, the international media -- BBC, The Guardian, El Pais, EPA, etc. -- heralded Cuba's peace-making efforts for "at last mercifully ending the world's longest running war." 
         The FARC rebels began fighting the Colombian government in 1948 but in 1964 it evolved into a full-scale war. Finally, in 2016 Cuba brokered an end to the fighting by hosting four years of peace talks in Havana. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, loudly applauded Cuba's efforts.
        Some historians claim that the Korean War is the "longest war in history, from 1953 till today." It started in June of 1953 when the North invaded the South. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, but there has never been a peace treaty. Thus, technically North and South Korea are still at war in July of 2016.
      Most of the casualties in the Korean War, like in most wars, were innocent civilians like this Korean girl and child. The number of civilian casualties on both sides ran into the millions. From 1910 till the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was ruled by the strong-arm of imperialist Japan. Almost immediately after World War II, Korea became a prized target in the Cold War, creating the significant Korean War that is often, and unfairly, called the "Forgotten War." Many generations, including the two represented in the above photo, never forgot it. Indeed, in all wars civilians who suffer the most are the very last to forget.
        In the Korean War the U. S. and the UN supported the South while China and the Soviet Union supported the North. Thus, the world's most awesome firepower was in play on both sides of another bloody war that began within five years of the end of World War II. Bombs like these killed a lot of people, only to end in a stalemate between the world's military powers. But South Korea, backed by the West, has emerged as a capitalist economic power while the communist North is an economic basket case, evoking an image of starving people while its government spends huge sums on a nuclear-powered military.
      After the armistice in 1953, North and South Korea have been separated at the 38th Parallel by a generally effective truce but, as noted, technically the Korean War has never ended. To this day the U. S. has thousands of soldiers stationed between North and South Korea. Considering the billions of dollars the U. S. devoted to the half-century FARC-Colombia War, it could be said that Cuba did U. S. tax-payers a huge favor by finally brokering peace between those warring factions. If Cuba could possibly do the same by helping to peacefully unite North and South Korea, U. S. tax-payers would again be well rewarded.
      That returns us to Salvador Valdes Mesa, the powerful Cuban who this week visited North Korean dictator Kim Jon-un, a visit Valdes equates with Cuba brokering the peace agreement between Colombia and FARC. He says, "Others who didn't try doing that just sat back and did nothing but promote the war for over half a century. The same with North and South Korea, again for over half-a-century. It was worth trying to end the war in Colombia and it's worth trying to end the Korean War. FARC rebels are blending back into Colombia's productive, more peaceful society. Uniting North and South Korea is a worthwhile project that would save millions of lives and free up tons of wealth that could be used for peaceful people-loving projects." 
         Salvador Valdes Mesa is shown here being hosted and courted by Zi Jinping, the ultra-powerful Chinese leader. China is both a huge military competitor and a huge economic partner of the United States, and it is far too big and powerful to dismiss or dis-engage. Little Cuba, of course, is not a world economic or military power, yet it is a player on the world stage far out of proportion to its size or population. Geographically and culturally, Cuba is far closer to the United States than to faraway China...or Korea...or Russia. But Valdes says, "We desire to be sovereign, independent. For centuries, Spain first and then the United States desired owning us. In 1959 Cuba finally won its independence and we desire to keep it. If China agrees and America disagrees, China scores points with us. We want peace...in the Caribbean but also in Colombia, Korea, and the world. Only in peace can we help our country and be helped by other countries." 
             If the words of Mr. Valdes are sincere, and there appears to be no valid reasons to doubt them, his visits this week with the leaders of North Korea and China can be afforded positive perspectives.
       However, it should be remembered that the anti-Cuba narrative in the U. S. relishes using this Manuel Guillen image of North Korea's dictator to mock Salvador Valdes Mesa's visit to Pyongyang, a visit Valdes said parallels Cuba's desire to peacefully unite North and South Korea with Cuba's desire to peacefully unite FARC and Colombia. Indeed, Cuba's determined FARC-Colombia efforts proved to be worthwhile although they too were originally mocked. Thus, those who are busy mocking Salvador Valdes Mesa's trip to North Korea this week should, perhaps, be devoting their time to peaceful, not warlike, gestures. 
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