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Obama, Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez: Who are the Truly ‘Big Men?’

What does putting "everything on the table" mean, in discussions among nations? Cuba's Raul Castro says he means literally everything, including exchange of political prisoners, as long as talks are held on the basis of equality. Barack Obama claims the next move is up to Cuba, but it appears Raul has already made an authentic offer. Besides, there is something fundamentally wrong when the nation that continues to commit crimes against its neighbor - the U.S. - asks for concessions before it will cease and desist

Obama, Raul and Hugo: Who are the Truly ‘Big Men?’

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The U.S. holds pose no threat to the U.S., while the prisoners Havana holds may well pose a threat to Cuba.”

U.S. President Barack Obama says the next move is up to Cuba, to improve relations between the two countries. This statement is both typically Obama, and vintage American imperialist. Obama, just like his American presidential predecessors stretching back more than two centuries, thinks the United States has the right to decide when it’s time for other countries to forgive America’s own crimes – even when the Americans continue to commit those crimes. Obama tried to run that game at the Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad, this weekend, when he spoke of setting aside "stale debates and old ideologies." That’s the same language he uses, here in the U.S., when people want to talk seriously about curbing the power of money or creating a single-payer health care system. Obama pretends that everything he says is fresh, rather than stale, even when its old as dirt, or stolen from somebody else. He claims to have no ideology, while practicing imperialism, backed up by the biggest military budget in history, 24 hours a day. Since Obama smiles when he utters this kind of nonsense, he is called a statesman and a cool dude.

But let’s return to Cuba and the “next move.” President Obama has made concessions mostly to Cuban exile families who would like to visit their relatives and send more money, more often. Obama has not undone the historic U.S. economic, political, diplomatic and cultural blockade of Cuba, but only some of George Bush’s more egregious barriers, and mostly for the benefit of Cuban Americans. Cuban leader Raul Castro has offered to put “everything” on the table for discussion, including exchanges of political prisoners. That’s a much bigger concession for Cuba than for the United States. Cuba holds scores of prisoners that Havana says have sought to undermine the state and serve the interests of foreigners, meaning, the Americans. The United States holds only the Cuban Five, Cubans sent to infiltrate exile groups in Florida that were breaking the laws of the United States by carrying out operations against Cuba. Although convicted of espionage, the Cuban Five were not spying on the United States, but instead, spying on rightwing Cubans in the United States. In other words, the Cuban prisoners the U.S. holds pose no threat to the U.S., while the prisoners Havana holds may well pose a threat to Cuba. It is Cuba that would give up the most in an exchange. Yet Obama plays it coy, and noncommittal, while claiming that ideology and the preservation of the imperial big stick have nothing to do with it.

Fidel and Chavez ask only for relations on the basis of equality.”

Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez are the bigger men in this story. Raul would be perfectly justified in demanding that the United States first clear out of Guantanamo Bay, sovereign Cuban territory, before any further talks could be held on contact between relatives in Cuba and Miami, or on political prisoners. Raul could ask, on behalf of his brother, for an apology for the innumerable U.S. attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Venezuelan President Chavez could demand the same on behalf of himself, for George Bush’s 2002 attempted coup against his government, in which Chavez came very close to being killed. But Fidel and Chavez ask only for relations on the basis of equality. Unfortunately, equality among nations is a pill no imperialist will swallow, including Barack Obama.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20090422_gf_ObamaSummit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:45am EDT