Posts Tagged ‘Cuba


Colonialism in the News: part two

Continuing from the first post on July 23rd of what was intended to be a series, the reader can look forward to more regular roundups of news and media commentary that feature or engage concepts of contemporary colonization and historical colonialism, as well as past and present decolonization efforts. As much as we would all like to be past colonialism, it still weighs very heavily and has left a deep imprint on many social, economic, and political situations around the globe.

Select extracts from each article are provided below.



European leaders say Robert Mugabe must go

TIMES ONLINE, Dec. 8, 2008

…The Zimbabwean government has continued to brush away the voices of criticism from abroad, often accusing Western governments of colonialism and of plotting to bring down the Zimbabwean state.

Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Information Minister, dismissed Mr Sarkozy’s remarks.

“Zimbabwe is a sovereign state with a president elected in accordance with the constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“No foreign leader, regardless of how powerful they are, has the right to call on him to step down on their whim.”

West should atone for colonial sins on Zimbabwe

by Chenjerai Cjitsaru, Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, Dec. 8, 2008

The attitude is that the entire Western bloc ought to atone for its brutal colonization of Africa by helping Zimbabwe to get out of the political, social and economic rut in which a group of selfish politicians has plunged it for the past nine years….

Even the United States has its dark past in Africa. In sending former African slaves back to Liberia from the US, it created a situation which pitted the new Africans against the indigenous people….

One country which today remains in turmoil had the misfortune of being colonized by the stiff upper-lipped, cold-blooded British, and the excitable, pasta-gobbling, trigger-happy Italians. Somalia has known little peace since independence in 1960. The Italians are generally acknowledged as having been the cruelest colonialists.

Africa can only fantasise about Obama’s victory

by Bashir Goth, ONLINE OPINION (Australia’s e-journal of social and political opinion), Nov. 25, 2008

this [the electoral victory of Obama] was something the world had never seen the like of it in living memory.

In Africa this was equal to the 1960s when the wind of change for freedom was blowing over the continent and Africans were breaking the chains of colonialism. Obama’s victory was embraced throughout the world as a victory of character over colour as was dreamt by Martin Luther King, a victory of human equality over bigotry and a success story that could only be written in America….

as an African who as a young student was imbibed with Africa’s post colonial nationalism, the literature of Negritude, the horrors of apartheid in South Africa and the last vestiges of colonialism in former Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola, I can understand why Africa should rejoice in Obama’s victory.

But as the last echoes of the event faded away, I asked myself, why Africa should rejoice? Obama’s victory is an American victory; a victory that was conceived and delivered in America. Africans had celebrated as if an African dream leader had been elected for the continent; as if the African people would wake up to a new dawn where all their suffering and hardships would disappear.

Conflict and Colonialism

by Sokari Ekine, Canadian Content, Dec. 5, 2008

The present conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) highlights the role of multinational and Western mining interests in helping to fuel conflict and inflict human rights violations in other African countries, including Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. But the scramble for Africa’s rich resource base is leading not only to conflict but, as a recent article on Tanzanian mining shows, also to a push towards re-colonization:

‘Multinational mining activities are introducing another era of colonialism in Tanzania as they hold major decisive positions on the use of prime land areas, and profit greatly from the mining of valuable mineral resources. In the recent past, Tanzanians have raised concerns on how the multinational mining companies plunder the natural resources at the expense of the local people. Because of the prevalent high rates of this pillaging of the national stock of natural resources, the citizenry have woken with an uproar to question the government’s stance on ensuring land security for its people, and benefits from their resources.’

Cameroon: Commemorating 50 Years of Continental Pan-Africanism

by Mwalimu George Ngwane,, Dec. 5, 2008

On December 5, 1958, Kwame Nkrumah convened the first-ever pan African Congress in Africa specifically in his home soil of Accra-Ghana. The main objectives of that Congress were to “accelerate the liberation of Africa from imperialism and colonialism and to develop the feeling of one community among the peoples of Africa with the object of enhancing the emergence of a United States of Africa.”

Fifty years later, the continent’s search for a united Africa has been bedevilled by two kinds of leaderships; one which appeals to global sympathy and the other which arouses continental empathy.

Bala Usman, the late renowned Nigerian Political Scientist, defined globalisation as ‘an empty political cliché with a neo-colonial outfit’. His compatriot, Tade Akin Aina, defined globalisation as a new phase of capitalist expansion, focussed on exploitation, accumulation, inequality and polarisation.

In its most basic form, Senegalese writer, Demba Moussa Dembele, regards globalisation and structural adjustment programmes as being among the main instruments of the West’s recolonisation strategy of the African continent.

South Africa: A History Beyond European Colonialism

by Mengfei Chen, New University, Volume 42, Issue 9, Nov. 17, 2008

A few weeks back, someone defaced the Cecil Rhodes statue on campus. “Fuck you and your dreams of empire,” read the message scrawled sloppily in black paint on the granite base. Day after day, the words remained. Students barely spared it a glance on the way to class. The administration ignored it. Even the cleaning staff seemed to have better things to do. It was two full weeks before someone found the time to remove, with little ceremony, the graffiti.

At one time, the lack of interest would have surprised me. After all, it’s Africa. People here have more cause to care about empire than just about anyone else. But it didn’t. Among students at the University of Cape Town, a distinct apathy, on the surface at least, exists toward the colonial past. As I discovered at the beginning of the semester, most classes in the history department are filled with exchange students. The locals at Africa’s premier university take classes in accounting, management or biology. In a tight job market, it is wiser to acquire practical money-making skills for the future than to spend time contemplating a past that cannot be changed.


Cuba, Ethiopia highlight their excellent bilateral relations

Nov. 13, 2008 (author unidentified)

After expressing his satisfaction with his visit to Cuba, [Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Foreign Relations, Tekeda] Alemu stressed the important role played by Cuban soldiers in the 1970’s in the preservation of Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and stability.

He pointed out that Ethiopians will never forget Cuban internationalists or their participation in the fight for the national liberation against colonialism and neo-colonialism in the so-called Black Continent.

Cuba, CARICOM to strengthen ties

PRENSA LATINA, Dec. 5, 2008

Havana, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) A summit meeting of the leaders of Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries will be held here next week aiming at building closer ties. The Dec 8 summit of the 15-nation grouping would also focus on “implementation of gradual reforms including encouragement to private-sector business initiatives”, a Caricom secretariat release said Wednesday….

The Caricom summit is expected to invite Cuban leader and former president Fidel Castro as a special guest in recognition of his contribution to the region’s fight against colonialism.

Castro to get CARICOM honor, Dec. 1, 2008

HAVANA, Cuba, December 1, 2008 – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will honour former Cuban President Fidel Castro, at the upcoming third CARICOM-Cuba Summit, for his contributions to the region and Africa.

CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington singled out Mr Castro’s aiding South African nations, like Namibia and Angola, in their fight against apartheid and colonialism, and for providing medical training to Caribbean countries.

Chávez wants respect for Latin American sovereignty

EL UNIVERSAL (Caracas), Nov. 26, 2008

During his key speech at the opening session of the Third Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asked the global super powers to respect the sovereignty of Latin American nations.

“We make an appeal to respect our sovereignty; to be allowed to rebuild ourselves after the disaster left by centuries of colonialism,” he said.

He lamented that the media of most countries accuse his government of meddling. “The biggest interventionist in the world is called the United States. I am accused of meddling when, for instance, everybody knows that the United States has been trying to destabilize the government of (Bolivian president) Evo Morales,” said Chávez, as quoted by state-run news agency ABN.

V. S. Naipaul, a Man Who Has Earned a Knighthood, a Nobel and Enemies Galore

Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 18, 2008

“For a successful immigrant writer to take such a position,” Mr. French continues, “was seen as a special kind of treason.”

But Mr. French quickly and adroitly steps back to give us a wide-angled and morally complicated view of how Mr. Naipaul, knighted in 1990 and named a Nobel laureate in 2001, made his way in the world, how his greatest books were conceived and composed, how he became what he became: genius, loner, sexual obsessive, ogre, snob, provocateur and profoundly influential and controversial thinker on subjects like colonialism and belief and unbelief.

Born into an Indian family in Trinidad in 1932, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was raised in relative poverty. His hapless father, a sign painter and occasional journalist, was the inspiration for what may be Mr. Naipaul’s signal work of fiction, “A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961). Mr. Naipaul’s more animated mother, Mr. French suggests, inspired his literary voice: “bright, certain, robust, slightly mocking.”

A scholarship took Mr. Naipaul, at 18, to University College, Oxford, and he has lived in England ever since.


No, neo-colonialism is not the answer

by Farish A. Noor, THE NEW NATION (Bangladesh), Nov. 14, 2008

I recently had a conversation with an Indonesian political analyst in Singapore, where I am currently based.

In the course of our discussion about the state of Indonesian politics, he let slip a statement that I felt terribly uncomfortable with. While lamenting the state of Indonesia’s convoluted politics, he opined thus: “I wonder if Indonesia’s problems could be solved if we allowed a foreign government to run our country?”

Now, talk like this usually sends shivers up my spine. We will recall that up to the late 1990s, it even became fashionable to talk about the necessity for the re-colonisation of Africa. This sort of nonsense was all the rage in some American political magazines and journals, and of course this neo-colonial bile was dressed up in the discourse of altruism and universal humanism, as if the colonisation of any country was an altruistic act between fellow human concerned about the fate of others. Never mind the fact that the ones doing the colonising would be the same Western powers and the ones being colonised would be the same hapless denizens of the Third World.

Thoughts on nationalism

MALAYSIA TODAY, Dec. 8, 2008

…the British proletariat became much better off than their compatriots in France or Germany.

This is where nationalism starts to come in. First, colonialism gave benefits to the English working class and improved their conditions. At about the time that Capital came out, British working class men received the vote (women did not get the vote until some decades later).

The vote gave the British working class an even greater share in the spoils of colonialism and imperialism…

Rafsanjani: Enemies trying to undermine religions, Dec. 1, 2008

Colonialism sought to eliminate clerics from the country’s political scene with an aim of attaining its sinister goals but to no avail, he said.

The Victory of the Islamic Revolution is now regarded as the zenith of the enemies’ defeat in their campaign against religion and clerics, he said.


Fidel: Obama, the “Empire’s Hypocrite”

Not all is cheerful on the Caribbean front for Senator Barack Obama, someone who has gained the public support, memorialized in reggae and calypso tunes (as featured on this blog), by some prominent artists in the region. Writing in Granma‘s edition for Monday, 26 May, 2008, in a column titled, “The empire’s hypocritical politics” — a surprisingly short column considering the title which suggests a piece of encyclopedic proportions — Fidel Castro begins by saying: “it would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation created by Ronald Reagan.” Fidel quotes Obama as saying the following:

“Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. (…) This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair (…) I won’t stand for this injustice, you won’t stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba,” he told annexationists, adding: “It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. (…) I will maintain the embargo.”

(The Cuban American National Foundation does not carry the text of Obama’s speech on its website.)

Fidel reports on an irony, in light of Hillary Clinton’s odd obsession with referencing Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassination in totally unrelated contexts, that Obama himself praised a man, Jose Hernandez, whose plans to assassinate Fidel himself in Venezuela were unmasked by authorities there. Given the furious outrage over any shadow of a comment that “something might happen” to Obama, it is interesting, but not by any means surprising, to see how utterly silent American public commentary is on the issue of murdering foreign heads of state, even when the prospective murderers are applauded by the likes of an Obama. When there is not silence, there is cheering, when even “The Daily Show” can make grotesque humour of the hanging of Saddam Hussein (one wonders how many lower halves of exploded US troops they featured in comical spoofs for Memorial Day).

Of course the other irony is that everything Obama stated could just as easily, or more easily, apply to China…which does not seem to be suffering from anything remotely resembling an embargo. Why does Obama fall into line so easily, and what sort of different candidate is he, to be exact?

Fidel sums up his reaction to the speech’s contents as follows:

“Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.”

In addition, Fidel poses a reasonable question to Obama, which is to explain how he thinks such terrible injustices could be perpetrated in Cuba for so long:

“No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.”

The rest of Fidel Castro’s commentary elaborates on the injustices perpetrated by the United States worldwide, without showering Obama with enmity. It is useful to have this sort of balance, when it is doubtful that, in terms of its global positioning, the United States will differ in any substantial manner under a President Obama. While promising a “phased” withdrawal from Iraq, Obama has promised renewed military action in Afghanistan. Why? Did Afghanistan attack the United States in 2001? Is Al Qaida based in Afghanistan? The same questions apply to a host of European nations, as well as Canada, which also have troops there.

Where are Obama’s stirring speeches against the use of torture, against the abusive detentions of hundreds of innocents in Guantanamo, of the countless violations of international treaties? When has Obama sought to educate his fellow citizens against maintaining imperial ambitions? When has Obama questioned why the U.S. is engaged in the world in the way it has been, why there is the automatic assumption that the U.S. must be ubiquitous like some god? Why has Obama not led his fellow citizens in questioning their right to tell anyone what to do and how to live? When has Obama questioned the U.S. approach in denying Iran’s international rights to nuclear energy? How has Obama proposed to pay compensation to millions of Iraqis, and to thousands of illegally detained persons? How does Obama propose to bring an end to NAFTA, which he seemed to criticize a few months ago?

If, however, Obama is “secretly” planning a serious transformation in the ways the U.S. engages in geopolitical dominance, then the problem that raises is that of votes acquired under false pretenses. That problem would be magnified given Obama’s insistence on courting votes from almost every sector imaginable, including the upper crust of Miami’s Cuban elites in this case. One does not, and ought not, play to every gallery in town when proposing radical changes. The resilient lack of fundamental questioning of U.S. imperial engagement, and the multiple masks and shields that have been politically instituted and culturally elaborated so as to make imperialism immune to the threat of such questioning, effectively render the U.S. a one-party state governed by decreasingly covert, and increasingly orthodox and defensive forms of totalitarianism. I still find it jarring to hear every leading candidate in the U.S. speak in terms of enemies, force, striking, leadership, and war — ultimately, this is the most consistent and distinctive feature of American domestic politics that contrasts violently with the political discourse to be found in most if not all other self-declared democracies. The U.S. has been in a permanent state of war since World War II*, and I have heard nothing from Obama that suggests an end is in sight.

(*This is a conservative statement: depending on some chronologies, such as this one, the U.S. has been engaged in warfare for over 200 years, almost constantly and with only very brief pauses.)

In terms of some stock American pathologies, shared by a number of American anthropologists who have no qualms about marching into Iraq and Afghanistan, armed and uniformed, “to do research to help people,” Obama is nothing new and offers no correctives and no example of inspiring difference. For someone who can so easily speak of the “marvelous” and “heroic” job done by U.S. troops in Iraq, this should serve as a chilling reminder that “change” in U.S. politics is often very superficial and sometimes the prelude to a new phase of imperial expansionism. Among those routinely singled out for representing a break with the pattern of America-the-brute, one can count John Kennedy (Vietnam, Bay of Pigs, Alliance for Progress), Jimmy Carter (El Salvador), and Bill Clinton (Desert Fox, Kosovo). Indeed, since World War II, and arguably for over 100 years, with the possible exception of Gerald Ford there has not been one single U.S. President who has not committed U.S. forces abroad or ordered military attacks against another nation. That is quite a track record, even for a rogue state, and nothing Obama has said promises any difference on this score. Hypocrisy is not so interesting by itself, were it not for the fact that one can use it to point to the presence of orthodoxy, since hypocrisy is an almost universal feature of all orthodoxies.



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