2015: A Decisive Year for Cuba

Jimmy Roque Martínez

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – It’s been over two weeks since the governments of the United States and Cuba announced they were re-establishing diplomatic relations. People have written about it from many different points of view: there are agreements, disagreements and no few suspicions.

As for me, I am happy that relations between the two States are being normalized, as this should lead to an improvement in the quality of life and wellbeing of Cubans. It should also put an end to the suffering and separation of families that the conflict between these States has caused.

We must celebrate this development. That said, we should also be on the alert.

Since being appointed leader, Raul Castro has expressed his willingness to hold talks with the US government. He has been taking steps that point towards a capitalist transition on the island, towards privatization, a reduction of social benefits, an increase in retirement age and the loss of worker rights.

He has brought about changes that are preparing the country for foreign investment and trade: a new Foreign Investment Law, the Mariel mega-port and other projects.

Aware that US travelers will soon arrive in the country, he has gradually prepared the country for tourism, creating new hotel complexes and golf courses and redesigning the Havana Bay as a cruise port.

He has taken steps such as the release of some political prisoners, the reduction of massive mobilizations as protests against US imperialism and the modification of the country’s migratory laws.

The European Union, China and Brazil have taken note of the new course set by Cuba and are stepping up their investments on the island, despite the blockade/embargo.

The United States has been left without a slice of the pie and cannot let this opportunity pass. To stay out of the game longer could be detrimental to its business interests. The fruit is almost ripe.

For the Obama administration, this change in policy is a mere modification of tactics. His strategy, however, remains the same: an interventionist policy aimed at taking over Cuba, setting up US business and imposing on the country its politics and democratic model.

Throughout its history, the United States has not exactly shown itself to be a kind older brother that helps others selflessly. I am worried some people may be using these new means to pursue an interest.

To replace an authoritarian regime with another kind of repression, imposed by a foreign power, does not strike me as our best option.

So, let us take advantage of these new relations, but always on guard. We are dealing with two dangerous States and a depoliticized, self-censored and censored people that are anxious for any kind of change, unwilling to think all of the consequences through.

No one knows what the future will bring. We hope for the best, but, for this to happen, we must be on the alert. We must strengthen civil society, without interventions or impositions.

This year appears decisive for the country’s future, a future we must not entrust to any State, no matter how powerful. We must be on the alert to be able to respond appropriately. Wellbeing and freedom are not guarantees. As the declaration of the Alfredo Lopez Libertarian Workshop says: “US imperialism still stands. Cuban authoritarianism still stands.”

7 thoughts on “2015: A Decisive Year for Cuba

  • If the embargo was lifted as you say “millions of dollars” will be directed into the country (so let’s knock on its head the argument that the embargo has little or no effect). With the increased prosperity the government may increase its popularity and prestige. Though they would likely lose the handy excuse for failings and some of the cohesion that exists now when facing an outside enemy. So it is a double edged sword. But this argument is in effect circular as the embargo is creating the conditions that increase the unpopularity of the government. The bottom line is – if the government is as unpopular as you claim and that the vast majority of Cubans are anxious for regime change then lifting the embargo wouldn’t make that much difference. They could rise up on mass and demand regime change whether the embargo was in place or not.
    On your second point – you would say that wouldn’t you. However you are ignoring the fact that the embargo (especially if the economy collapsed) would bias any multiparty election especially if the media was controlled by US corporate interests. Look at what happened in Nicaragua. People will often take the easy way out if they have been worn down by war or siege.

  • The Castro regime is working very hard to get the the US to lift the embargo. Do you seriously think they would do that if it would undermine their hold on power???

    I have repeatedly stated my desire is for a free, independent and democratic system in Cuba. I don’t care if they elect a liberal, socialist, conservative, green party, or anarchist government. So long as the people of Cuba are free and the government respects their human rights. Viva Cuba Libre!

  • Very lame. The minority of pro-embargo dissidents don’t speak for the majority of Cubans. Obama can safely ignore them like he did with the recent agreement.

    According to your logic the embargo has little or no affect on the Cuban economy yet it manages to hamper internal security by making it underfunded. This is nonsense. So far the dissidents are pretty split and infiltrated and don’t resonate with the ordinary Cubans. Why would security need any further funding.

    What is really bothering you is that your hope that the country and economy will collapse and a right-wing quisling government will come to power on the rebound may not actually happen. And that scares you.

  • That’s a fair question. Perhaps the maintenance of the embargo could be sued as leverage against both the Castro regime and those Americans who want the embargo lifted.

    It seems clear the deal between Obama & Raul, if implemented, will drop the embargo without any corresponding improvement in human rights in Cuba. Obama appears to be putting business (and his desire for a political legacy) above the desire for democracy and human rights in Cuba.

    Many Cuban dissidents have criticized the Obama-Raul deal as a give-away to the regime and a betrayal of the Cuban people. They are speaking out and providing their voice as leverage against those who would sell out their rights for easier business deals.

    If US Congress can stand firm and tell Mr. Obama, “Not so fast!”, then they can force his administration to demand human rights and free elections in Cuba as the price for lifting the embargo.

    The very language of the Helms-Burton Act stipulates that the embargo cannot be lifted until several conditions are fulfilled, including the improvement of human rights in Cuban, the establishment of independent political parties and free and democratic elections.

    You ask what is to stop the Cuban people from demanding change after the embargo is lifted? The events of the past two weeks, in which the Cuban State Security police arrested, beat and jailed hundreds of dissidents clearly demonstrate that the Castro regime is not willing to listen to any dissent. Lifting the embargo will direct millions of more dollars into the coffers of the Castro regime, providing them with even greater power to repress the Cuban people. In the opinion of many dissidents, that will make it even harder for the Cuban people to demand their rights and freedoms.

  • This point makes no sense at all. Why should maintaining the embargo “provide leverage, for the Cuban people to demand real democracy”. If they aren’t demanding it now how is maintaining the embargo going to do anything. If the embargo goes, what is stopping the Cuban people demanding change if that is what they want.

    I have asked this question several times to you and your pals on this site and have never had an answer. As far as I can see there is no link between the two issues.

  • Jimmy wrote,

    “The European Union, China and Brazil have taken note of the new course set by Cuba and are stepping up their investments on the island, despite the blockade/embargo.

    The United States has been left without a slice of the pie and cannot let this opportunity pass. To stay out of the game longer could be detrimental to its business interests. The fruit is almost ripe.”

    The Cuban market, which is small and poor, does not represent a significant opportunity for US businesses to sell to. What might interest them is a source of raw materials and a cheap labour supply nearby. If US business interests, call it “imperialism” if you will, come to accommodate Cuban authoritarianism, (which is what the Obama-Raul deal is looking like) then the future of Cuban democracy will be very bleak indeed.

    Perhaps the best thing that could happen for the Cuban people right now is for the US congress to block Obama’s call to lift the embargo. So long as the embargo remains in place, the final accommodation of US businesses and the Castro regime cannot proceed. That will buy time, and provide leverage, for the Cuban people to demand real democracy and respect for human rights.

  • The nature of US business today in Latin America has evolved from the days of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala. Jimmy’s fear of US business expansion in Cuba is largely unwarranted. He should be more afraid that the Castros will continue to extract their 95% tax rate on Cubans who work for foreign firms. Admonishing his fellow Cubans to be on the alert is meaningless. Cubans have shown themselves to be weak in the face of Castro tyranny. If Coca-Cola cuts a deal with the Castros, Cubans will continue to act as sheep to the labor policies imposed upon them by their communists masters. Besides, what choice do Cubans have? Accept business opportunities from abroad or develop industry from within? So far, the second option has not worked out too well.

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