2015: A Year of Great Expectations for Cuba

Pilar Montes

President Obama when he announced the change in US policy towards Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

HAVANA TIMES — This year began, not on January 1, but on December 17 of last year, when something that many Cubans did not think they would live to see took place.

The events that day convinced the most optimistic of the lot that we were witnessing the beginning of the changes that would transform the nation with the same, earth-shaking force we saw January 1, 1959, when the armed rebels led by Fidel Castro triumphed.

For the pragmatic, the events mark the beginning of important changes that could modify the country’s politics and economy and the mentality that prevails in many sectors of Cuban society.

For any rigorous analysis of the situation, we can’t leave out the pessimists, who believe these tremors won’t really shake the foundations of the country or change the daily lives of Cubans.

People were overjoyed to see the three heroes that were still serving sentences in the United States return home after 16 years of injustice. The Cuban Five were finally reunited.

The names of Gerardo, Rene, Antonio, Ramon and Fernando were forever inscribed in the pantheon of the homeland and it is a widespread belief that they will be pillars of any future design for the country.

The release of the Cuban Five was demanded by activists, intellectuals, parliaments, governments and people from around the world in campaigns far more encompassing than the epic mobilization that did not manage to save the Rosenbergs from the electric chair in the United States.

A Long-Awaited Victory

On December 17, 2014, following 18 months of arduous and secret negotiations, the presidents of Cuba and the United States, Raul Castro and Barack Obama, told their compatriots that, after 53 years of conflict, the two governments would begin talks aimed at re-establishing diplomatic relations and other issues that have historically rifted the two nations apart.

Powerful economic interests have convinced Washington that it must regain the ground it has lost in terms of trade and investment, now being occupied by European, Chinese, Venezuelan, Brazilian and Russian capital.

Cuba’s leader also announced that USAID contractor Alan Gross, who had been imprisoned on the island since 2009 for distributing prohibited means of satellite communication to groups that oppose the government, was being released and returned to the United States, part of a group of individuals whose release was of interest to Washington.

In the United States, Obama set free the three Cuban anti-terrorist activists whose return Cuba had long waited for.

Talks between Washington and Havana aimed at re-establishing diplomatic ties will begin on January 21 in the Cuban capital.

It is well worth recalling that, in the more than fifty years elapsed since these relations were broken, former president Fidel Castro and Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro, appealed to different US administrations to work out and overcome the differences between the two countries and secure the peaceful co-existence of the two States, which are separated by a mere 90 miles.

Much to be Gained

Many are the advantages to be derived from these talks, and not only for Cuba – if we analyze the situation deeply, in fact, we could say the United States has more to gain from them, and not only in the political sphere, now that its influence over Latin American and Caribbean governments is waning.

Powerful economic interests have convinced Washington that it must regain the ground it has lost in terms of trade and investment, now being occupied by European, Chinese, Venezuelan, Brazilian and Russian capital.

Owing to this failed policy of isolating Cuba, now being applied on Venezuela and Russia, the United States and Western Europe have led to a situation in which Latin American exporters are now settling in the space vacated by the suppliers of countries that imposed sanctions on Russia.

At the same time, there are many Cuban government officials and citizens that recall Che Guevera’s words today, to the effect that one cannot trust imperialism one bit.

On January 8, US corporations (some 30 agricultural and livestock companies), upset by these developments, formed the United States Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC), which is to press Congress to have it lift the financial restrictions on US exports to Cuba, from which they must secure an advance payment for all shipments and transactions through third countries.

Bob Stallman, chair of the American Agricultural Federation, said that relaxing restrictions on the financing of trade with Cuba will make US agricultural and livestock companies more competitive on the island.

Paul Johnson, Vice-Chair of the Coalition and President of Chicago Foods International LLC, a company that handles the logistics of product sales in Cuba, said we must put an end to the embargo.

When USACC was officially founded, Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke of the commercial opportunities that would be afforded by the normalization of trade with a market of 11 million consumers, a mere 90 miles away from US coasts.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon, representing the largest farming and cattle-raising states in the country, criticized the complicated bureaucratic process that currently exists, calling it a self-imposed obstacle.

Democrat Senator for Minnesota Amy Klobuchar told a Bloomberg reporter that the effort to persuade Congress will meet with resistance at first, because some members want to hold back Obama’s initiatives and even revert the establishment of diplomatic ties.

The coalition is led by Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill Inc. Vice-Chair for Corporate Issues. Cargill is a food transnational based in Minneapolis.

The Coming Storm

A sober analysis of the pros and cons that these imminent talks will face reveals that a storm is nearing.

General/President Raul Castro (3rd from left) with other top Cuban leaders at a rally on July 26, 2014.

On the one hand, there is a Republican majority looking to prevent the implementation of any initiative advanced by Omama (Obamacare in the area of health, immigration reform and now the beginning of talks with Cuba for the normalization of relations with the island).

According to Obama, this last initiative stems from the failure of the policy maintained by 11 previous US administrations vis-à-vis the Cuban government, a policy that has isolated the United States at nearly all international forums.

At the same time, there are many Cuban government officials and citizens that recall Che Guevera’s words today, to the effect that one cannot trust imperialism one bit.

That said, economic interests and the possibility of broadening contacts with Americans and the flow of information to Cuba should temper the habitually arrogant and hegemonic attitude of Washington negotiators and make Cubans open to proposals that are constructive and do not undermine the country’s sovereignty.

Should the longed-for normalization of relations be achieved and the obstacles that restrict trade be removed, granting US citizens the right to travel to Cuba freely, the talks will have been a success.

Addressing the issue of nationalized US properties and the demands surrounding the Guantanamo Naval Base, located on Cuban soil, will most likely be the object of later negotiations.

5 thoughts on “2015: A Year of Great Expectations for Cuba

  • Today the majority of people globally, live beneath the standard of living of
    Cubans , stability and control in Cuba must be maintained ,it is the key ingredient The people are pleasantly finding themselves in a transition , a result of sacrifices made by all Cubans and the grace of God. Barrack Obama has put his best foot forward and provided Cuba with the recognition it has fought for.
    Cubans everywhere can be most proud of this victorious outcome.
    It is a fact that the U.S. constitution does not specify demonocracy, a detail that the revolutionists of 1776 did not include.

    China has proven that people working together can solve problems.People need structure , stability , and the firmness to keep them on the path of great success. Russia , can provide details of fact to Cuba”s leadership on their transition , having returned to Cuba’s side .

    Consider, other countries that have been blessed , that may have differences
    Saudi Arabia , North Korea , Canada all contribute in their own way to the
    world of many colors.Cuba has the most successful natural occuring coastal
    waters and reefs . Cuba can learn from the mistakes of other nations and find ways to build without compromising the great success of the past as it moves into the future.Greed kills and nothing can replace your sanctuary for all living things.A piece of paper with numbers on it has limits, don”t be fooled by the false reality greed brings.

    Leading the world in providing for all God’s creatures has been proven by independent study to be a reality and for that Cuba must be followed after all
    we are all in this world together and today is a present from the God I love.
    Thank you

  • I agree. Aside from opening new embassies in Havana and Washington, Obama won’t be able to do much more than that. The Castro regime won’t make any concessions on human rights and congress won’t lift the embargo without real progress toward democracy in Cuba.

    The economic effect of the drop the price of oil will hit Cuba in two ways. Firstly, the Venezuelan economy has been hit hard by the loss of revenues, making it harder to maintain their cheap oil subsidies to Cuba. Also, Venezuela will be less able to pay for the thousands of Cuban healthcare workers rented out to bring in cash for the Castro regime.

    Secondly, for a while, Cuba had been making a bit of extra cash by taking the subsidized oil provided by Venezuela and reselling it to other Caribbean customers, bringing in much needed hard currencies. The drop in oil prices make that trade much less profitable.

    So far the dramatic announcement by Obama has raised expectations in Cuba, but it remains to be seen whether those expectations will be fulfilled.

  • I believe everything here will be overwhelmed by the recent drop in crude oil prices which is now appearing to not be short term. This will be the final nail in Venezuela’s economic coffin which will impact Cuba dramatically, thus overshadowing anything the US does.

  • This post reads like a bad high-school term paper. I am surprised that Circles published it. First of all, it is factually inaccurate. A simple few Google searches bears the true story. If you add up ALL the trade that China and Russia currently have in Latin America, it pales in comparison to the US trade figures. While it is true that China and Russia have increased market share recently, the US remains the big dog on the block. Second, Pilar implies that the Republicans only have three items on the agenda: Obamacare, Immigration Reform, and Cuba. There is the Debt ceiling, tax reform, Keystone pipeline, as well as ISIS, nuclear talks in Iran and a bunch of other crap ahead of the line in front of Cuba. Finally, 11 million poor Cubans doesn’t get anyone too excited. There are 435 members in the house and 100 Senators. Cuba may have the support of a handful of them at best right now. The votes aren’t there and they are not likely to be there for awhile.

  • When and IF the embargo is lifted by that recalcitrant Republican Congress, then the big issue will be decided .
    That issue is whether the Cuban government at the time of the lifting decides , indeed is able , to make some first moves toward economic democracy i.e. the Communism that is the name of the party in power OR whether they will go the same totalitarian route as all the other so-called Communist Parties who have led various countries .
    As said repeatedly -anarchist belief is that all governments LONG ENOUGH in power become self-preserving , corrupted and then totalitarian.
    We can easily see this now and Raul et al can legitimately claim -and have- that the Leninist ( cadre-led , from the top , non-democratic) way of Cuba was and is until U.S. hostilities cease, necessary to be able to withstand the might of the imperial U.S. .
    I would argue that it is in the best interests of the Empire to maintain the embargo , keep crippling the Cuban so that they can’t move toward a socialist -ultimately communist- society which is always the aim of U.S. foreign policy i.e. making the world safe for capitalists and a totalitarian society in the guise of a republic : an unelected dictatorship of money that crushes all opposition to maintain its rule.
    AS MLKJR said , the USA is the biggest purveyor of violence in the world. and the reason for the necessary violence is to enforce an extremely brutal neo-liberal capitalism upon an unwilling world.
    The USA has over 1000 military bases in over 100 countries.
    That is what is required by an empire which cares only for money to subdue the world. .

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