By Alan Heil
In rapid succession, new developments to the south are potentially threatening U.S. security. Among them, crises in Haiti and Cuba.
According to Politico, the Pentagon has made it clear it has no appetite for new U.S. military engagements nearby, yet experts and former officials are calling on President to devote more resources to a region some contend has been too long neglected by policymakers in Washington.
In Haiti, President Jovenel Moise was assassinated at his home at 1 a.m. on the morning of July 7 in an attack that also seriously wounded First Lady Martine Moise. She is recovering quickly in a Florida hospital.
Wall Street Journal correspondents Santiago Perez and Anthony Harrop reported July 16 that the assailants tied up the late President’s guards and housekeeping staff and shot him a dozen times with high-caliber bullets. The source, a Haitian government investigator, said the president’s eyes had been gouged out.
Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has taken charge of the Haitian government and declared a two-week state of siege. The Haitian army is in charge, for now, of security there, and current government regulations limits information freedom and citizens’ right to gather.
In Cuba, meanwhile, a recent striking rise of unrest has been another stark reminder of how quickly tumult can erupt just south of the U.S. The Caribbean island nation has been under a succession of communist regimes since 1962.
Most of its still limited food supply has been imported from abroad since the early 1960s, essential even today for a country about the same size as Haiti, just over 11 million people.
Rations in place, the government has promised, are supposed to provide a household with enough food. But the Havana government has consistently fallen short.
According to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FLA) in a speech July 11 in the U. S. House of Representatives, “socialism and Marxism have done to Cuba what it has done everywhere in the world that it has been tried. It has failed.”
The current protests appear to be significant because they follow so closely the terrible tragedy in Haiti and they are the first unprecedented mass protests in Cuba since 1962. As correspondent Kathy Fernandez of Scripps media put it: “Cubans have a long history of fleeing the island. Expressing any dissatisfaction with the regime can turn a person into a political prisoner.”
Today’s protests on the island are unprecedented. As veteran observer of Caribbean affairs Fernandez sums it all up: “Cubans are fed up, and they’re calling for the resignation of current Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.”
Historians are sure to be asking: why the sudden upheavals in Haiti and Cuba erupted now? And will they be followed elsewhere in the Western hemisphere in these uncertain times?
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More