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April Thursday

The dismal trajectory of the Platt Amendment

On the morning of February 25, 1901, Republican Senator Orville Platt, 73, a prominent member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Cuban Affairs, presided over the only legislative initiative with which he would be known beyond his country: the approval of an amendment under his name, to be added to the Army Expenditure Act and annexed to the Constitution of the future Cuban republic, that would give the U.S. the right to intervene and control trade and foreign relations in the Island, among other humiliating prerogatives.

The Platt Amendment was approved by the Senate on February 27, 1901; by the House, on March 2, and by President William McKinley the following day. It was the first step of the plans to establish the rising Yankee imperialism’s first neo-colony, started with the U.S. intervention in 1898 in the Cuban War of Independence and continued with the dissolution of the Republic in Arms, its Liberating Army and the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created by José Martí, all with the wicked connivance of Tomás Estrada Palma and his team.

General Leonard Wood, military governor of Cuba in 1901, wrote about this process: (...) "There is, of course, little or no independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment and the only consistent thing to do now is to seek annexation (...)". And he added: (...) "The island will gradually become Americanized and we shall have in time one of the richest and most desirable possessions in the world (...)".

It fell to Wood to trick the Constituent Assembly into agreeing to the Platt Amendment, so he chose the third anniversary of the blowing up of USS Maine, February 15, 1901, as the date to persuade five important delegates to the Cuban Constituent Convention involved in the making of the future type of relations between both countries to accept those conditions.

Despite widespread popular rejection of a decision of the U.S. government that spoiled Cuba’s independence, the Assembly found it preferable to accept the Platt Amendment so that the U.S. would withdraw from the island. Thus, in 1901, the constitutional appendix was approved by 16 votes to 11.

The Platt Amendment was repealed in 1934 as part of a new imperialist tactic to draw a veil over its goals, marked by the so-called "good neighbor policy" and the revolutionary and anti-imperialist uprising of 1933 to topple dictator Gerardo Machado.

For years to come, the Union had a new ally in Cuban politics, namely General Fulgencio Batista, who played a key role in thwarting the popular process of the 1930's and undermining the so-called Revolution of 1933 until he staged a coup and seized power again on March 10, 1952.

Yankee imperialism’s anti-Cuban purposes have remained unchanged since then, and the unfortunate legacy of the Platt Amendment still thrives in the Torricelli and Helms Burton Acts of 1992 and 1996, respectively, which resorted more than a century later to using this piece of U.S. legislation as a weapon to impose their interests on the Cuban nation.

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