If Bob Marley were alive today what would he say about Chinese Communist involvement in Jamaica?

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John Suarez is the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

By John Suarez

Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae icon, passed away on May 11, 1981, after four years battling a melanoma skin cancer that started on his toe. Marley’s legacy of deep spirituality and defense of personal freedoms has been an enduring cultural influence of the Caribbean on world civilization. Marley’s rejection of imperialism or oppression of any kind would probably also apply today, as the foreign policies of the People’s Republic of China have taken up the Communist expansion once fostered by the extinct Soviet Union.

Today, in Jamaica the Chinese Communists are exploiting Jamaicans in a communist neo-colonial project that subjugates the people of that long-suffering nation.  Chinese economic inroads into the country have plunged Jamaica into an escapable debt with the Chinese totalitarian regime, with infrastructure projects out of reach to the Jamaican people, but a functional part of China’s overall expansionist vision in the Caribbean and the world.

Just as in the 1970s, when Ethiopia became a pawn of Soviet designs in Africa at the expense of the suffering of its people, Jamaica today is another step in the PRC’s climb towards world hegemony.  Were Bob Marley still with us today he would be denouncing the outsiders oppressing his people and calling on his countrymen to stand up for their rights.

Marley had supported Socialist candidate Michael Manley, in Jamaica’s 1972 elections.  Manley had a change of heart following the 1974 coup against the Ethiopian monarch Haile Selassie, his subsequent assassination in 1975, and the backing of the Soviets and the Castro regime for the Mengistu Communist Regime which perpetrated these acts.  Emperor Haile Selassie had always resisted European imperialism.

Prime Minister Michael Manley would be re-elected in 1976. He developed close ties to the Castro regime, and it earned him the enmity of Bob Marley.

Jeff Cathrow interviewed Bob Marley on July 19, 1978, and the reggae icon expressed his outrage at the Soviet involvement in the overthrow of Ethiopia’s monarchy.  During the interview, he said: “… white men overthrew him and called it a revolution:

… Bob began to play with a rubber ball, twirling and bouncing it off the top of his head, as the conversation turned to the coup against Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie in 1973. But his playfulness was only temporary, as he retorted: “So hear me now! Who overthrow ‘im? Who support the group that overthrow His Majesty? The communists—Russia, right? Yeah, mon. Russia overthrow His Majesty—a white mon overthrow him, and he’s a black man. And propaganda it out amongst the black people, and it look like is a revolution inside. Just a big foolishness, y’know? Heh, mon, them sabotage … Why them overthrow His Majesty’s state?”

In the same interview Marley expressed his disdain for Michael Manley, his socialist regime, and that his overthrow would be an improvement:

“What kind of government does Jamaica have?”
“Like the one they have in Ethiopia–Socialist. Jamaica govamint a no… the govamint in Jamaica, uh, we conn-trol Jamaica, mon. We conn-trol it–Rasta conn-trol Jamaica. True we no want it! We don’t really want it b’cause them ones like the money. So we don’t really want to take it from dem, ya know? Them can’t stand it, ’cause is a problem. But Rasta conn-trol Jamaica.”
“Do the Rastas in Jamaica and the prime minister (Michael Manley) get along well together? Do they have the same ideologies?”
“No mon! Michael Manley is a Marxist-Leninist-Socialist, Rasta is a monarchy. Dig It!”

Towards the end of the interview Cathrow asked Bob Marley if he’d ever played Russia and the Jamaican artist responded:

“Me don’t want to play Russia. The only time me play Russia is when Ethiopia run smooth again…”

Three years later on September 18, 1980, in what appears to have been his last interview before his untimely death, the reggae star was still focused on denouncing that, because the Jamaican government was trying to follow communist or socialist ideology, they banned his record “Rastaman Vibration” since it carried a speech by Haile Selassie.

W: did you get any resistance from the music industry or government in Jamaica when making your music? Like banning your songs?
M: Of course! Our songs got banned all the while. “Rastaman Vibration” was one of the first record ever banned for me. Yeah, because it carry the speech of Haile Selassie, and because the country trying to go communist or socialist, they never want to hear what Selassie have to say. So them just ban it. When Rastaman song get banned in Jamaica man it was war at the radio stations that play our music. War! A literal going to fight to get your music played. Cause you know them figure say Rasta is changing society. But that is what we come to do. And people get quarrelsome and weak. We come to change things and when them see changes them quarrel and say it’s changing. And that’s what we come fido, and them know it.
At the end of the interview Anita Waters asks Bob Marley, “anything else you want to tell your public?” Marley remembered that it was the fiftieth anniversary of the coronation of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie the First, and he condemned the Mengistu regime, the Russians and the Cubans who had intervened in Ethiopia.

Fidel and Raul Castro were both deeply involved in sending 17,000 Cuban troops to Eastern Africa in order to assist Mengistu in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the engineered famine that took place there.  September 21, 1978, Rolling Stone article “Ethiopia After the Revolution: Vultures Return to the Land of Sheba” authored by Donald R. Katz described what the communists were up to in the African nation.

Toward the middle of last year [1977], Mengistu pulled out all the stops. “It is an historical obligation,” he said then, “to clean up vigilantly using the revolutionary sword.” He announced that the shooting was about to start and that anyone in the middle would be caught in the crossfire. In what came to be known as the “Red Terror,” he proceeded to round up all those who opposed the military regime.

According to Amnesty International, the Dergue killed over 10,000 people by the end of the year. One anti-government party, mostly made up of students and teachers, was singled out as “the opposition.” The Red Terror operated quietly and efficiently under the media cover provided by a vicious desert war that started when Somalia invaded eastern Ethiopia ten months ago. Around this time, president Carter abandoned a long-term military agreement with Ethiopia on the stated grounds of “gross and systematic human rights violations,” and Cuban soldiers and Russian arms poured in to protect and “consolidate the gains” of the revolution.

Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled “Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region” outlined some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below:

In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.” Militarily, the counter-insurgency operations succeeded in greatly weakening the insurgents or driving them across the border into Somalia.

Charles Lane of The Washington Post on December 1, 2016, article “Castro was no liberator”  wrote of the Castro regime’s legacy in Ethiopia:

With the Cuban forces watching his back, Mengistu wrapped up his bloody campaign of domestic repression, known as “the Red Terror,” and sent his own Soviet-equipped, Cuban-trained troops to crush a rebellion in Eritrea.

Marley imbued the Caribbean and expressed to the world a rich spiritual content of both musical beauty, mystical hierarchy, universal love for humanity, and personal independence. He was a man who thought and felt on his terms, putting the sovereignty of his soul above all. These were the powerful reasons on which anti Communism was based. Let his dream not falter us in this new age.

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