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.
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.”
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.