A Comic Strip Analogy of US-Cuba Relations

By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — In 1959, just months after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo created Asterix, a comic-book saga telling the story of a small, Gaul village that Rome was never able to conquer, not even at a time when it had subjugated all of Europe and the Mediterranean.

The similarities of this story with the confrontation between Havana and Washington became evident in the 90s, when the Eastern Bloc collapsed and Cuba was left entirely to its own resources. At the time, no one believed that a small island would be able to withstand the pressure applied by the world’s most powerful nation.

Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal recalls that, at the time, many believed that, as in the times of the Roman Empire, the defeated king would be taken to Rome in an iron cage. That, however, did not happen. On the contrary, today it is the leader of the most powerful nation in history who visits his adversary at home.

It is still too soon to decide what name to inscribe on the tombstone. Some believe the embargo will disappear while others are confident Obama’s measures are sowing the seeds of political change on the island.

Obama’s critics reproach him for making concessions to Cuba without asking for anything in return. The fact of the matter is that his own experiences, and those of his predecessors, have confirmed that he won’t get anything out of Cuba through pressure or by imposing conditions.

For fifty years, they hatched subversive plans backed by the CIA, they attempted to assassinate Cuban leaders, organized an invasion involving thousands of exiles, reached the brink of nuclear war, financed armed groups and imposed an economic embargo on Cuba.

The one thing that was left untried was a direct military invasion. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy made a commitment to the Russians that he would set aside that option. It was one of the pillars of an agreement that saved the world from World War III.

Other critics say Cuba isn’t important to the United States and that, therefore, the same policy that has been applied for 50 years could well be preserved without any repercussions. The truth is that Washington paid a political price for its strong headedness, as Obama himself explained in a recent interview.

“When I took office, American prestige in Latin America had sunk very low,” he said, adding that “the only piece that didn’t fit and was a remnant of the Cold War was Cuba.” He acknowledged that they had applied “a policy that hadn’t worked for 50 years.”

That said, Obama’s efforts to establish good, neighborly relations with Cuba also aim at bringing political changes on the island. It is a different and perhaps more effective strategy to generate process that could bring about the end of socialism in the country.

In the interview, he claims changes are being hastened thanks to the growing number of US citizens who travel to the island, commercial exchanges, family remittances, broader communication systems, access to the Internet and opportunities for private initiative.

The most powerful leader in the world will enter Cuba without any troops to talk with this small, militarily and economically-weak island on an equal footing.

I recall the Asterix episode Obelix and Co., where the Gaullish village is almost defeated by Rome. Caius Preposterus, a young Roman economist, convinces Julius Caesar that money can triumph where force failed, if the drive for profits is encouraged among the rebellious.

In 1990, an engineer told me that “if the United States had bombarded Cuba with blue jeans and sneakers, they would already have defeated us.” After more than half a century of rationed products, Cubans’ thirst for consumer products is understandable, but it could also be the nation’s biggest weakness.

At any rate, Obama’s visit is a symbol of change and an acknowledgement that the village could not be defeated through force. The most powerful leader in the world will enter Cuba without any troops to talk with this small, militarily and economically-weak island on an equal footing.

A new and far more complex era begins, and the “magic potion” won’t be as important as it was during open confrontation. But we best not predict the future, as the story of Cuba, like that of Asterix, is full of surprises.

4 thoughts on “A Comic Strip Analogy of US-Cuba Relations

  • Frank yoiur wrong do your homework Fidel nor any of his fam are related to Ros or Jose Belart pICK UP A BOOK

  • Absolutely right, Obama has shown the countries of Latin America that the current US government is not the same as the government of the US was when the embargo was enacted or the same as previous US governments have been for years (although many US administrations would have made these changes before now if other circumstances had been favorable), Change comes slowly and at the right time in history and this is the best way. Perhaps voters in the US who have family and roots in Latin American countries will remember how important it is to vote next November.

  • The embargo was supported by the old Cuban elite including Ros_Leithienen, Dias Balarts and the rest of corrupt Cuban politicians ( most of them are Castros Cousins, no kidding) who profited with the $ 10 a pound shipping of family goods to Cuba and hi cost of telephone tariffs. ($ 1 a minute) They full the naive “gringos” into believing it was against the Castros… It is all about money my friend… Cubans are not Latinos, they are a bunch of their own. With free entry into this country with no waiting line. Because they are going to vote Republican. That is why you don’t want a Cuban as president of this country ( Cruz, a Cuban Canadian, and Rubio out of the spectrum, for now. It is all a political theater.

    There are many more countries with a lot more people being repressed by communism; so why give privilege to Cubans and not Chinese, let’s say?

  • Some people have asked what did Obama get for easing the embargo on Cuba. I think he got something of what he wanted. He wanted to restore US prestige in Latin America and I think he achieved that.
    All countries, even the most powerful countries, are weakened when large numbers ofd people regard them with hostility and contempt. The embargo on Cuba was costing the US a loss of prestige and political influence. Obama is trying to repair that damage.

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