Fernando Ravsberg*

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo

HAVANA TIMES — Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo’s visit to Cuba has given the Popular Party’s policy of isolating Havana, impelled by former President Jose Maria Aznar (who also promoted Europe’s Common Position on Cuba in 2003), a 180-degree turn.

At the time, the Cuban government had responded to the pressure with an intransigent posture – something which European strategists ought to have predicted. A quick glance at the history of the conflict that has existed between Washington and Cuba for more than fifty years would have sufficed.

Later – and little by little – Brussels began to loosen the screws. First, they stopped inviting dissidents to diplomatic receptions, putting an end to the “hors d’oeuvre war” through which European embassies isolated themselves from the Cuban government and civil society overnight.

Then, they lifted the blockade on cooperation for development with Cuba, a measure that yielded few practical results. Most Cubans hadn’t even noticed that blockade was in place, not when European tourists and businesspeople were seen everywhere on the island.

Now, Europe has to hasten negotiations, because, as of two years ago, Washington and Havana have been discussing different aspects of their bilateral relations, from air safety and catastrophe response measures to the coordination of efforts in the struggle against Ebola in Africa.

Garcia-Margallo asked Cuba to allow the opposition members that emigrated to Spain in 2010 to travel to Cuba. Some of these have spent a year camped out in front of the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid asking for help.

The six editorials published by The New York Times, asking Obama to sit down and negotiate with Cuba, could be the preamble to a change in Washington’s policy, something which would leave Europe’s Common Position in a rather uncomfortable position.

Cuban dissidents do not understand the policies of the European Right. Berta Soler, leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White movement, is complaining that, during his visit to Cuba, the Spanish Foreign Minister did not meet with dissidents and the women of the association she presides.

In Spain, Cuban anti-Castroists say they feel “betrayed.” The chair of Cuba: Democracia Ya (“Cuba: Democracy Now”) Rigoberto Carceller claims that Spain’s Popular Party manipulated them “so that we would be at odds with the previous government”, but “everything they promised us was a lie.”

The irritation is also being felt in the United States, where leaders of the émigré community are pressuring Obama so that he will not negotiate with Havana. Cuban-American Senator Bob Menendez recommends that the administration should confront all of the countries in the region to keep Cuba from attending next year’s Summit of the Americas.

Anti-Castroists outside and inside Cuba want foreign governments, particularly the United States, to do their job for them. It is a policy they have maintained since 1959, when opponents of the government left for Miami, to wait “for the Americans to overthrow Castro.”

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas visiting with President Obama during one of his trips to the United States, which each year funnels $20 million to the Cuban opposition.
Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas visiting with President Obama during one of his trips to the United States, which each year funnels $20 million to the Cuban opposition.

There would surely be many more dissidents in Cuba if so many of them hadn’t left the country. The same is true today. In 2010, all political prisoners were released but only a handful of them decided to remain in the country. More than 200 immigrated to Spain with all of their relatives.

For the Bay of Pigs invasion, they received training, weapons, ships and planes from the United States. Despite this, they blamed their defeat on President Kennedy, despite the fact it was the anti-Castro Cubans who surrendered en masse in less than 72 hours.

Half a century later, very few things have changed: they still demand that Washington and Brussels play the role that Cubans ought to play. The history of Cuba affords us good lessons as to what happens when Big Brother steps in to solve the nation’s problems.

The aid that the United States offered Cuban troops to achieve independence from Spain later forced Cubans to accept a constitutional clause (the Platt Amendment) that gave Washington the authority to invade the island three times in less than 30 years.

During a recent meeting at OnCuba magazine in Havana, Ernesto Londoño, member of The New York Times editorial staff, asked young Cuban journalists what the United States could do to hasten changes on the island. They answered that the best help consisted precisely in doing nothing.


14 thoughts on “Leaving Cuba Alone a Sound Policy

  • In a society like Castros’ Cuba where thought control is commonplace and freedom of speech is prohibited, it is difficult to determine the true record of events and relationships between Fidel and any of his so-called intimates. No one wants to end up “lost” like Camilo Cienfuegos. It is simply easier to toe the ‘party line’. Stories of Castros nuclear blast-proof bunker(s) are widespread. Like most urban myths in Cuba, there is no doubt that most of these myths have grown over the years but, likewise, most of these myths are based in fact. I count among my close friends a large group of political-savvy first and second-generation Cubans and NOT ONE wants to “recapture” Cuba with the hope of returning to a pre-revolution Bastista dictatorship. Not one. Presenting that argument is a red herring and not productive to any reasonable debate about Cuba’s future. ALL of these friends do wish to rid Cuba of the Castro dictatorship and see Cuba hold open multiparty elections. I heartily agree with your last sentence. Where it seems we disagree is that while you may hope for a free Cuba, you have chosen to do nothing to help bring it about. I think external pressure has been and will be necessary to limit the expansion of the Castros disastrous tyranny and hasten their departure.

  • Rich,

    Could you please cite some verifiable source to support your assertion that Castro came to the US in April 1958 to tell Eisenhower he was going to hold elections? Because nothing I have read anywhere supports that interpretation. Everything I have read, including Fidel’s own speeches, supports the conclusion that Fidel had cancelled the promised elections.

    Likewise, a citation supporting the claim that Celia sent a telegram to Khrushchev requesting he station nuclear missiles in Cuba would be useful.

    Don’t tell us to “go talk to so-and so” if we don’t believe you. The quotations you did provide fall far short of supporting the claims you made. If you have another book or source, provide quotation & page number. If the information comes from you own interviews, please provide the date & place of the interview, and if possible a direct quotation from your transcripts.

    Anything less is not history and not journalism. It’s wild-eyed conjecture and obsession.

  • “Like many Castro supporters, you continue to see US/Cuban relations as pro-Castro or pro-Batista.” I realize, Moses, that the main theme of Cuban-exiles is to perpetuate the myth that the mean guy, Castro, chased all the good Cubans, the Batistianos and the Mafiosi, to Miami and Union City. “You have a specific bias that canonizes Celia Sanchez.” I guess Celia-Fidel intimates such as Tabio, Salas, and Rojas have similar biases, Moses. I guess Castro’s best American biographer, Geyer, was biased in what I consider her anti-Castro masterpiece. Ignoring Celia Sanchez and vilifying Castro while, in essence, championing the saintly Batista is a theme that certainly could take hold in a Banana Republic but should not be forever perpetrated in a democracy, which the U. S. still is despite the cancerous remnants of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. I am a big booster of Cubans, but not Batistianos and Mafiosi. “Fidel had (has) his family bunker.” I’m sure, Moses, you can pinpoint precisely where that bunker was/is that he and maybe Celia could have saved themselves in while everyone else on the island was being annihilated in a nuclear holocaust. In trying to defend democracy, I am amazed that Cuban-exiles believe everyone else is so ignorant or so intimidated that they are supposed to believe whatever they are told about Cuba, Castro, Batista, the Mafia, etc. For whatever else he has been, Castro was not a coward although it seems everyone he chased off the island loves to make that insinuation while they run to cover and hide safely behind the skirts of the nearby world superpower, a point that I believe Mr. Ravsberg makes in this article. Six decades of besmirching the U. S. democracy and asking the American people to re-capture Cuba for them is six decades too long, Moses. And a prime reason I am not in favor of recapturing Cuba is a memory of the Batista-Mafia rule that does not deserve a recurrence. Like Mr. Ravsberg, I believe Cubans on the island should decide the political fate of their country, not some imperialist power and not Cuban exiles hiding behind the skirts of an imperialist power.

  • Like many Castro supporters, you continue to see US/Cuban relations as pro-Castro or pro-Batista. My Cuban family and all of my Cuban friends see a third option. We envision a Cuba free of domination by the Castros and any other group for that matter. You have a specific bias that canonizes Celia Sanchez. This view is not widely shared, even by many noted historians. You also seem to believe that Fidel would have led Cuba along a democratic path but for Nixon’s social slight. That is simply not true. Castro was a documented communist before his visit to Washington. Finally, acknowledging the Khrushchev letter is a start. You seem to fail to connect the fact that he wrote that letter to the reality that Castro did not care about the Cuban people. Had he cared he would not have wanted to initiate a nuclear strike on the US which would have resulted in the annihilation of the Cuban people. Of course, Fidel had (has) his family bunker but what about the rest of the island? The regime has survived for one reason: tyranny.

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