Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20, 1902: Cuban Independence Day

Today marks the 105th [now 109th] anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. It was not born under happy auspices though amid much happiness. The imposition of the Platt Amendment and the lease "in perpetuity" of Guantánamo Naval Base were unavoidable limitations on our sovereignty which the dignity and resolve of the Cuban people eventually overcame in the case of the first and would surely already have overcome in the case of the second except for Fidel Castro.

What the Cuban people won in 1898 and finally received in 1902 was not "nominal independence" nor was Cuba a "pseudo-republic" or a "neocolonial" republic. The independence achieved on May 20, 1902 was real and irrevocable, not a "legal fiction" but an incontrovertible fact. That Fidel Castro remains in power to this day perversely proves the very fact that Communists deny. If Cuba had not been granted independence on May 20, 1902, there would have been no Fidel Castro, just as there has never been a Puerto Rican Fidel Castro. Yes, the U.S. could and did intervene practically at will in Cuba before the abrogation of the Platt Amendment in 1934, but it couldn't and didn't stay precisely because Cuba was an independent state, which meant that it could be raped and ravaged but never wedded to the United States.

Even the greatest U.S. intervention of all, which did not involve a single U.S. Marine or larcenous provisional governor, but the imposition of Fidel Castro on the Cuban people through U.S. meddling and his perpetuation through U.S. treachery, did not rob our country of its independence, which is an inherent condition under international law which it would be impossible to usurp or renounce and which will insure that whatever Cuba is in the future, it will not be a colony or province of any other country. No less than Switzerland, no less than Spain, no less than the U.S., or any other sovereign nation, Cuba is and will always be an independent state. That was the legacy to us of the men of 1868 and 1895 and the reason that Máximo Gómez, the only one of the triad of epic liberators who lived to see that day, proclaimed with no hint of doubt or irony: "I think we have arrived" as the U.S. flag was lowered and the Cuban flag raised over the Palacio del Cabo.

The Cuban Republic lives though not in the farce of the Castro regime. It lives in our flag, our coat-of-arms, our national anthem and the Constitution of 1940; it lives in our heroes and martyrs past and present, and it lives in our people, who are the heirs of that legacy and who shall some day re-claim it when Cubans shall not only be independent but free as well.

May we all live to see the day when we can repeat the Generalissimo's words: "Creo que hemos llegado."

¡Viva Cuba libre!

¡Patria y Libertad!

May 20, 2007

Veinte de Mayo

When the U.S. decided 30 years ago that having three-day weekends was preferable to honoring the actual anniversaries of their historic holidays, it made an exception of the Fourth of July. It would not be celebrated on any other day but July 4th.

It is good to see that one politician at least honors our country on the actual anniversary of her independence. It is May 20th, not the 21st or 23rd that marks the birth of the Cuban Republic in 1902. I am always suspicious of anyone that seems to want to avoid that day. This year [2008] everybody except Senator McCain has moved the date to accommodate his schedule or his prejudices, including President Bush, the organizers of the May 21st "Cuban Solidarity Day," and Senator Barack Obama, who specifically requested that the Cuban-American National Foundation change the day of his speech to that organization to May 23rd. In his case, we are sure, it was no scheduling conflict.

Castro replaced May 20th with July 26th as the Cuban National Holiday. Instead of celebrating the culmination of nearly a century of struggles to obtain Cuba's independence, the Cuban people are obliged to mark the start of Castro anti-Cuban Revolution, which allowed every foreign country so disposed to recolonize our country, selling our hard-won independence to the highest bidder. Its 30-year vassalage to the Soviet Union, which ended only when the Soviet Union did, involved Cuba in dozens of mercenary wars throughout the world and cost the lives of more than 100,000 of our countrymen.

Still, the architects of our country's ruin purport that the Republic that was inaugurated on May 20th was imperfect -- a "pseudo-republic" or "neo-colonialist republic" -- because its sovereignty was compromised by the Platt Amendment which gave the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuba whenever it believed that Cubans were compromising their independence. This was indeed a monstrous imposition: no occupying power under international law has the right to limit much less conspire against the sovereignty of an occupied nation. But the Republic established on May 20th was not static as is Castro's anti-Cuban Revolution; it evolved politically over three decades and by 1934 had shaken off the Platt Amendmnent and achieved absolute sovereignty.

Why not, then, commemorate the abrogation of the Platt Amendment as the real anniversary of Cuban independence? Because that day would never have come unless May 20th had come first. The declaration of Cuban Independence in 1902 made it impossible for the U.S. or any other country to annex Cuba except through a war of conquest. The U.S. could meddle in Cuban affairs and did; it could even intervene militarily, as it also did. But it could not recolonize Cuba, that is, it could not abolish its independence and declare it a U.S. territory or state. After 1902 annexation became impossible, and annexation, of course, had been the goal of American foreign policy towards Cuba since the time of Jefferson. The U.S. waited for 75 years for the "ripe apple" to fall into its lap, but the prevision of Martí and the weight of his legacy, prevented it. The sacrifice of May 19th insured the victory of May 20th.

So, yes, May 20th deserves to be commemorated by all Cubans as the birth of our nation. Any Cuban who repudiates it is in fact repudiating our independence.

May 20, 2008

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