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    President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle exit Air Force One as they arrive at Havana's international airport for a three-day trip, in Havana March 20, 2016

    Obama’s ‘Historic’ PR Sham in Cuba

    © REUTERS / Carlos Barria
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    When US President Obama touched down in Cuba at the weekend the visit was hailed as a “historic” occasion. Only in a crassly superficial sense can the official state visit be viewed as historic.

    Yes, Obama is the first American leader to visit the island in nearly 90 years since President Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

    But otherwise, fundamentally, the relationship between the US and Cuba has not changed and is unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. It is still a relationship of unmitigated and criminal domination by Washington towards its southern Caribbean neighbor.

    Washington continues to impose a crushing trade embargo on the island state and it continues to occupy Cuban territory at Guantanamo Bay — all in defiance of international norms and Cuban sovereignty. This is tantamount to an imperialist bully having its boot planted firmly on the neck of this impoverished nation of 11 million people. The boot grip may be easing just a little. But what is "historic" about that?

    Obama and his family will spend three days in Cuba where he will dine with socialist President Raul Castro. The White House has ruled out meeting the elder Cuban statesman, Fidel, brother of Raul. It was Fidel who led the revolution to victory in January 1959 against the US-backed despot Fulgencio Batista.

    Posters of Obama sniffing a Cuban cigar are among the many fun images adorning the capital Havana. No doubt the American president will be given a rapturous reception by the long-suffering, but famously gracious, people of Cuba.

    Obama first announced a thawing of relations with the Communist-run island more than a year ago. Since then there appears to be a quickening of Cuba's access to the outside world. US Secretary of State John Kerry made a landmark visit last year when he oversaw the re-opening of the American embassy in Havana.

    Earlier this month, the European Union signed an accord with Cuba heralding "normalized relations". (Why the Europeans hadn't the independence and courage to maintain normal relations with Cuba decades ago is a shameful admission of the EU's subservience to the US, just as we see in the ongoing EU sanctions against Russia, evidently in compliance with Washington's diktat.)

    Last September, the Roman Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis, coupled a trip to Cuba with a visit to the United States in a symbolic gesture of urging reconciliation between the two Cold War foes.

    This week, coinciding with Obama's itinerary, the Rolling Stones are to give a free open-air concert in Havana. Is this Cuba beginning to rock and roll in a new era of freedom? Sadly, no. It is just more of the same media hype to feign that something "historic" is underway.

    The White House has also over the past year eased restrictions on travel, cash transactions and postal mail. US media have made much hoopla about a personal letter Obama sent to a Cuban woman who had invited him to her house for a cup of coffee.

    American Airlines is resuming a direct flight service to Cuba and a major US-owned chain just this week signed a multi-million-dollar deal to develop luxury hotels to tap the anticipated deluge of tourists to the island.

    However, US media coverage of Obama's visit is the usual weird triumph of hype over reality. All the supposed changes in bilateral relations do not alter the fact that the United States remains a reprehensible aggressor towards the nation of Cuba.

    Obama has been talking about lifting the trade embargo against Cuba for the past eight since he was first elected in 2008. He also made closing of the US torture centre at its giant military base in Guantanamo Bay a preliminary promise. But neither of these developments are anywhere close to happening. The Republican-controlled Congress makes sure of that.

    Despite all the hullabaloo, what needs to be kept in focus here is the US policy of imposing vicious sanctions on Cuba. The embargo has been in place for 54 years, from around the time that Obama was born. The official US rationale for this blockade was never acceptable. So what if Cuba was socialist, revolutionary and an ally of the Soviet Union?

    A quarter of a century after the Soviet Union dissolved and since the supposed end of the Cold War, Washington's policy of embargoing Cuba can be seen for what it always was from the outset: blatant unilateral aggression, which under international law is a violation of the UN Charter and a war crime.

    That any power appoints itself the right to use economic warfare against other countries is the real issue here.

    Right now, the US not only slaps punitive economic measures on Cuba, it also entitles itself to do the same on several other countries, including Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. The political claims that Washington invokes in each case to justify its sanctions are dubious if not outrightly fraudulent. In any case, it is completely unacceptable that Washington is able to arrogate to itself the self-declared right to embargo other nations.

    Cuba is a particularly lamentable example of Washington's bully-boy behavior in the world. It is this imperialist behavior that needs to be exposed, questioned, prosecuted and overturned. Washington's rogue conduct is the primary source of world conflict and the relentless threat of war.

    President Obama, his White House entourage and the fawning US mainstream media will of course hype up the "historic" visit this week. Obama has got his eye vainly on his "presidential legacy" when he quits the Oval Office at the end of this year after serving two terms.

    But the only thing historic about Obama's visit to Cuba is that it is a grotesque manipulation of public relations and reality. If the US was to remove its boot off the Cuban nation's neck, then perhaps we could indulge in plaudits.

    As things stand, Washington's relations with Cuba — as with any other country that dares to defy its hegemony — is testimony to more despotic American business-as-usual. 

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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