Leaving Cuba Alone a Sound Policy

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

  • November 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Rich, you continue to ignore or, at least, abide the failings of the Castro regime to deliver on its promises to the Cuban people. Moreover, you seem to be giving Fidel a free pass for all his attacks on the US through his intelligence services and through his vitriolic speeches. While I may disagree with a few of the tactics the anti-Castro crowd has employed to fight the tyranny of the Castros, I am in full support for open elections, a free press, freedom of speech, no political prisoners and a Castro-free Cuba. You claim to be pro-democracy but how does this belief apply to Cuba if you continue to support an anti-democracy Castro regime? By the way, you side-stepped sharing your opinion regarding the letter Castro wrote to Khrushchev asking permission to kill millions of Americans by launching nuclear strikes. Care to weigh in now?

  • November 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Rich Haney,
    It was nice to see your name pop up – your book about Celia had a powerful effect on me!

  • November 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    In this forum and on his own blog, Fernando Ravsberg consistently offers today’s best, bravest, and most honest analysis of U.S.-Cuban relations. Thus, he is refreshing because, since 1959, Americans — via intimidation, complacency, or ignorance — have been proselytized to accept whatever portrait of Castro or Cuba the most visceral anti-Castro exiles paint. Mr. Ravsberg is abundantly correct when he points out that the flight of the most visceral anti-Castro zealots from Cuba mostly to South Florida is a primary reason that one man on one nearby island has been able to survive and keep his revolution alive for all these decades. When imperialist powers Spain and, after 1898, the United States dominated Cuba, great Cuban patriots like Maceo and Marti died on Cuban battlefields fighting the Spanish and later, much more successfully, Celia Sanchez, the assassinated Frank Pais, and Fidel Castro waged revolutionary war against the Batista dictatorship that was backed by both the American Mafia and the U. S. government. Castro owes his longevity — 88 years for himself and 55 years for his revolution — to the fact that his primary enemies fled the island to wage their efforts to recapture Cuba by hiding behind the skirts of the U. S. treasury, the richest in world history, and the U. S. military, the strongest in world history. Since 1953 there have been enough Cubans on the island willing to fight — like Maceo, Marti, and Pais fought — to gain and/or protect Cuban sovereignty. Sanchez and Castro understood that and an astute observer like Ravsberg seems to understand it too. But, of course, Americans are not supposed to comprehend such things because, for all these decades, they have been misled about such important historical events as…the Batista dictatorship, the assassination attempts against Castro, the Bay of Pigs attack, the embargo, the terrorist bombings of Cuban hotels, the strafing of coastal Cuban homes by speed-boat cannons, the terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455, the Torricelli Bill, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot-downs, the Helms-Burton Act, etc., etc. The Cuban Revolution says a lot more about the U. S. than it says about Cuba. It says, for example, that Americans have been taught to believe that the U. S. was doing a very democratic thing when it teamed with the Mafia to support the Batista dictatorship in Cuba. It says, for example, that blowing up a civilian airplane and killing 73 people was OK as long as it was a Cuban civilian airplane. It says, for example, that the U. S. embargo against Cuba is fine even though de-classified U. S. documents from 1962 reveal that the stated purpose of the embargo was to starve and deprive the Cuban people on the island for the purpose of enticing them to rise up and overthrow or kill Fidel Castro. After the downing of Cubana Flight 455 on Oct. 6-1976 it was heralded in the Miami media that it was “the biggest blow yet against Castro!” Of course, the opposite was true and that is evident to those of us who have been to Cuba and seen the memorials dedicated to the Cubana Flight 455 victims and seen newspaper accounts of the doomed plane still posted on the walls of the homes of everyday Cubans. Of course, the one place on the planet that Americans are not freely allow to visit is Cuba, and that very anti-democratic fact correlates to keeping the American people dumb and intimated about Cuba. During two terms of the viscerally anti-Castro
    George W. Bush administration, Mr. Bush had visceral anti-Castro proxies as the Presidents of Spain, Panama, and Colombia. But Castro and the revolution still, incredibly, survived. Today there are no proxies at the head of foreign governments willing to align with the U. S. to destroy Revolutionary Cuba. The anti-Castro Cubans still have total control of the easily bought-and-paid-for U. S. Congress, but any Democratic presidency, such as Mr. Obama’s, will search for ways to circumvent Congress and bring some sanity to a Cuban policy that, for so long, has hurt the image of the United States of America, something that anti-Castro Cubans don’t seem to care about. The whole world is longing for the day the most influential nation in the world, the U. S., has a sane and decent Cuban policy. That fact is indicated each October by the vote in the UN. Of course, the anti-Castro zealots hiding behind the skirts of the U. S. government instead of confronting Fidel on the island will maintain that the rest of world is stupid when it comes to Cuba and only they are the wise ones. Fidel Castro is still not stupid. Plus, he didn’t run to cash-laden getaway airplanes or ships when things got dangerous in the Sierra Maestra, at the Bay of Pigs, etc. I am not pro-Castro but I am viscerally pro-democracy and I believe, sincerely, that nothing has harmed the U. S. democracy more than the flight to the U. S. of anti-Castro zealots on the island to have {as Mr. Ravsberg points out} the U. S. government and the U. S. citizens assassinate and overthrow Castro for them.

  • November 27, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Interesting coincidence to see a photograph of President Obama shaking hands with the Cuban dissident, Guillermo Fariñas .

    Last night, agents of the Castro regime entered the home of Guillermo Fariñas and assaulted several people, including two members of the Ladies in White.

    So if the best advice to encourage change in Cuba is for the US to do nothing, then what will become of dissidents like Guillermo Fariñas and the Ladies in White? Will the regime stop assaulting them and jailing them? Will the regime decide to listen to the people and allow free and fair democratic elections?

    I do not see the connection. Perhaps the “journalists” were feeding Ernesto Londoño with the answers they want him to hear.

    At the start of Londono’s trip to Cuba he tweeted out a request to readers to let him know what he should report on.

    Ernesto Londoño ? @londonoe
    Happy to be in Havana on a reporting trip. What issues are folks curious about? pic.twitter.com/tVxY8nuXwU

    Here’s a sample of the answers he got:

    Orlando Luis Pardo @OLPLFollow
    No pregunten al régimen. El régimen es carencia de respuesta y abusos como este: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYOJCA84NwI

    Ninoska Perez C @NinoskaPerezCFollow
    @londonoe repression, lack of freedom, that lifting travel sanctions x americans benefits Cuba’s Armed Forces, owners of tourism industry .

    Jose Cardenas @JoseCardenasUSA
    [email protected] And, lastly, please don’t accept any awards from the Castro regime for your series of editorials. #Cuba

  • November 27, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Thank who? The Cuban, Chinese & Russian Revolutions were all militantly atheistic. They persecuted clergy, shut down places of worship and banned religions.

  • November 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Historically, Russia has led Cuban development .China is in too. Thank god for the REVOLUTION .

  • November 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Don’t blame the soldiers of Brigade 2056 for surrendering at the Bay of Pigs. Many of them blamed Kennedy for holding back on US air and sea support which they were promised. (What limited air support was provided came from the CIA & ex-Cuban airforce pilots, not the USAF). Without adequate air cover, the invaders were sent to certain defeat.

    They also blamed Kennedy for changing the invasion site from Trinidad, Cuba, where there was already an active rebellion growing in the Escambray mountains nearby, to the Bay of Pigs which was a far more difficult target to seize and hold. As it happened, the Bay of Pigs invasion was doomed to fail and hundreds of Cubans (on both sides) were killed or wounded in a pointless, stupid campaign.

  • November 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Fernando Ravsberg, like many Cuba-centric writers, seems to believe that what happens in Cuba really matters to Americans. By association, if you asked 99.9% of Americans what the European Common Position was and what it means to them, you would get a blank stare…at best. Take your pick, Immigration Reform, ISIS, the Ukraine, Israel-Palestine, NFL playoffs, and a bunch of other stuff are line ahead of US-Cuban relations as issues to be addressed by US policy makers. Cuba’s best hope for change in Cuba is the early demise of the Castro oligarchy, both politically and/or biologically. Absent that, little else will prompt changes in US policy.

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