HAVANA TIMES — As of 1960, Cuba was taken under the wing of the former Soviet Union and became one of its key bastions in the Cold War waged by the world’s two superpowers and their political and economic blocs. The overseas Communist satellite was fashioned in the image of its mentors: atheistic, totalitarian and other demons.
Hoping to export Marxist ideology to other parts of the hemisphere, the island sent doctors and teachers to countries around the continent in order to secure their sympathy and gratitude, while at the same time sending troops and military advisors to different guerrilla movements.
The death of Che Guevara and the defeat of many of these guerrilla movements, the coup d’états and military dictatorships installed across Latin America, the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (Feb. 1990) and the peace accords of 1989, served to undermine Cuba’s efforts to propagate its political model.
Also in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. With the fall of State socialism and the rise of neoliberalism, the moderation of the capitalist economy seemed the only viable option.
That, however, presupposed hasty changes to the country’s political system and, as such, constituted a threat to the island’s totalitarian regime. Despite this, the Cuban government, faced with an economic crisis, had no choice but to trace new strategies and introduced a number of market-oriented reforms, such as the development of the tourism industry, the legalization of the dollar, the authorization of self-employment and foreign investment.
These measures were implemented on a small scale and resulted in a degree of economic growth that was not enough to lift the ruined national economy off the ground. They did, however, serve to keep the system, which has always favored a centralized State economy, from collapsing.
At the close of the last century, Left and Center-Left parties suddenly became popular and came to power in some countries. Hugo Chavez, a disciple of the Castro, became the president of Venezuela and a new patron of the island’s government (which it supplied with 100 thousand barrels of oil a day).
The region, however, was still haunted by prejudices against the communist specter, and people harbored many reservations vis-à-vis any version of Cuba’s absolutist political system.
The new Latin American Left claims to lay its bets on changes that involve a reduction of poverty and the gradual elimination of social inequality. There are even those who speak of a new, Christian socialism that respects democracy, can co-exist with the opposition and supports private enterprise.
Cuba had to get in step with the times and grow closer to its new friends. Medical and other types of internationalist missions served to strengthen diplomatic ties and consolidate financial and commercial collaboration and exchange treaties between the island and nearly all countries in the continent within the context of so-called “Latin American integration.”
To win over allies in the region and reduce existing ill-will, Cuba had to change in the eyes of world public opinion – it had to show itself more tolerant and inclusive. The Mariel Special Development Zone is an example of how the island has managed to take in more dividends.
These are the reasons behind the wave of disconcerting “changes” in Cuba, which are aimed at disguising the parasitic nature of the country’s economy as it adjusts itself to the new times, when, if you’re not open minded, you are simply left behind.
We are seeing a Cuba that has spread its legs to foreign investment, a Cuba now announcing it will make Internet available to everyone, which allows people to buy and sell houses and cars, go to hotels, travel without a permit and own a cell phone, all the while capitalizing on the enthusiasm over Latin American integration.