Cuba’s Contradictory Stance on Tamils

imageThis article by Ron Ridenour first appeared in the Havana Times.

“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere” is usually how I begin my talks in this three-week tour through several cities and four states of India. Martin Luther King’s famous quotation is supplemented with the internationalist creed of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. (1)

The reason for my tour is the publication here of two books I wrote:

Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka” and “Sounds of Venezuela”. My main topic here is to discuss why Cuba and ALBA’s Bolivarian alliance of eight governments sided with the brutal, genocidal government of Mahinda Rajapaksa in wantonly murdering tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in the last stages of the war for liberation in Sri Lanka, and how can a mass movement get that righted. (2)

For 30 years the Tamil people struggled peacefully to obtain equal rights with the majority Sinhalese, asking simply that their language and religions be recognized on an equal plane, that they be allowed to obtain education and jobs equally with Sinhalese. They were met with murderous pogroms. Some then took up arms and a civil war ensued for more than two decades until the Tamil forces were defeated in May 2009.

At that time Cuba led the majority members on the Human Rights Council in praising Sri Lanka for its “humanitarian” efforts and for defeating “terrorism and separatism”.

Also See: Tamils Seek Support from Cuba & L.A.

Most Tamils in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu, a southern state in India just a few kilometers from Sri Lanka, were admirers of Fidel and Che and had followed the Cuban revolution with enthusiasm. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Tamil Nadu after the May 2009 events to demand that India and the UN condemn Sri Lanka. India supported Sri Lanka with armaments, and intelligence as had Pakistan, the United States, Israel, China, Iran, and EU governments.

The sadness and frustration of defeat was so compelling that 18 Tamils in Tamil Nadu committed suicide, most by setting themselves on fire.

I spoke with many hundreds in 15 talks at unions, grass roots groups, political parties, schools and three universities. I was an invited speaker at a rally of tens of thousands in which two dozen pro-Tamil Eelam (meaning nationhood for Tamils) groups and political parties unified to demand that Sri Lanka government-military leaders be investigated and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity (See the UN expert panel report on accountability). When I raised my fist while wearing a Che t-shirt, the crowd roared. (3)


Most who spoke with me wanted to know my opinion about why this land of solidarity had sided with the “exploiters”, referring to Fidel’s principle. A few knew that all states sometimes make decisions based on political expediency. But what could be the advantage of siding with Sri Lanka when every other state does so regardless of its political or economic color?

My inadequate answer was: their view of unity among the sovereign states within the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is related to Fidel’s absolutism about unity vs: separatism;  Cuba’s position against the use of terrorist tactics in guerrilla warfare, which Tamil armed groups such as the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam did sometimes succumb to; and the recent role that China plays in economic and military support to Sri Lanka that allows it to obtain a major military and commercial port there coupled with the current economic dependency that Cuba has with China, and its economic role as well in many Latin American and African countries.

But where is the morality in this decision? The answer may entail the need to have clear separation of powers between state and party, to have an educated people about foreign policy as well as national policy.

I suggest to my new friends to communicate with grass roots movements, with the indigenous movements in the Andes, with unions and political parties, and eventually move up to the state level.

The new constitutions in the Andes grant equal rights to the indigenous, recognizing their languages on equal par with Spanish. This is what Tamils want.

US-EU voices about “human rights abuse” are false, as they seek to justify attacks on countries they disapprove of such as Cuba, and they use it as an excuse to invade countries for their natural resources whether the governments abuse human rights or not.

It’s time to join forces to Boycott Israel and Sri Lanka. Let’s tell Cuba and ALBA that their reasons to oppose Israeli genocide against Palestinians are the same, in reality, as to why they should support the Tamil people against the Sinhalese chauvinist, neo-liberal, pro-imperialist, racist government of Sri Lanka.

Remind Cuba of what it just told the UN Security Council, as reported November 15. (4) “Cuba reiterated to the Security Council its commitment to fight against terrorism in all its manifestations and carried out by anyone and anywhere.”

Solidarity persons and organizations supporting Cuba and other ALBA governments should also ask them to fulfill their commitment to fight against terrorism “regardless of motivation, especially state terrorism”—as Cuba contended at the UN.


(1) “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies…all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers” Fidel said to Lee Lockwood, writer/photographer.

“ Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.” From Che’s “Socialism and Man”.




  1. What a load of drivel. The reason that Cuba & Fidel have never supported Eelam is because it a racist struggle, no different from White Nationalists who’d love to have their own homeland free of ‘mud peoples’.

    The Sri Lankan state (for all its many acknowledged brutalities) is multi-ethnic. The diaspora Eelam peoples are just like the Miami Cubans and will remain forever embittered and disappointed.

  2. Mango is sadly mistaken, and the key to this is that even he has to use the word “diaspora” – admitting that Tamil people have bene pushed into exile. There’s been a bitter civil war in Sri Lanka over the last decades, and in the most recent phase is was clearly a genocidal war against the Tamils. You can read more at: Look especially at the articles from November 2009 and June 2010.

  3. Duncan,
    Who’s denying that many Tamil fled Sri Lanka after the foul riots in 1983? Not me.

    Explain please why even more Tamils chose to leave the LTTE-controlled North & Eastern Sri Lanka. They had their ‘Eelam’ yet they chose to live elsewhere. Odd, no?

    And why did so many choose to make a long and difficult journey to the West rather than fleeing to nearby Tamil Nadu State, in India?

    If there was genocide, where’s your proof? The most recent phase was Eelam War 4, which was started by the LTTE in 2006 and ended in their complete and utter destruction in 2009.

    Explain also the difference between a White Nationalist’s homeland and a Tamil homeland. Both wish to have ethnic exclusivity.

  4. “MANGO:

    Here is the difference between a White nationalist (aka as NAZI’s) and the struggle of the Tamil people.
    The White Nazis are trying to protect their racial and social positions of dominance, or at least their perceived position.
    The Tamil’s have been struggling against the Sinhala discrimination at both the cultural and and economic levels since the British colonial office designed a racially segregated society when Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. This is a matter of historical record, you can read all about should you care too. I would suggest you read the story of the Ceylon Mercantile Union and the role played by Bela Tampoe in bringing Sinhalese and Tamil workers together to struggle against the foreign and domestic (Sinhala) capitalists.
    As my Maoists friends once said: “No investigation, no right to speak”. Go investigate. Ignorance is not a privlidge.

  5. Mango, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan government. It was the government’s offensive which pushed the LTTE onto the military path. The mass internment of Tamils and their dispersal across Sri Lanka correspond exactly to the UN’s definition of genocide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.