Cuba and the USA after the Celebration

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES — The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States opens up a new chapter in the love-hate relationship the two countries have maintained for two centuries.

It is the type of political move in which everybody wins, or so political analysts tell us. In the short term, the term that calls for the 15 minutes of celebration we’re seeing, Cuba’s post-revolutionary elite has gained more than anyone, making a show of its brawn in a wrestling match in which, it is said, it has given nothing and gotten everything.

When the lights go out and the reveling ends, however, Cuban leaders will still shoulder the burden of their own ineptness and a very asymmetrical geopolitical relationship – and they will have to face up to the challenges stemming from what was, undoubtedly, a victory, as all triumphs bring new challenges with them in politics. On occasion, these challenges outweigh the success that precedes them.

This is not the case with the United States, for whom the issue of the blockade/embargo is absolutely secondary. Obama knows he will run into opposition and obstacles at every step – even to appoint an ambassador acceptable to all – but he also knows that he is the leader of a country that has more clients than it does friends. And Cuba could become a good client in terms of investment and trade if business opportunities on the island were broadened and if, in this new context, its government clearly expressed its willingness to satisfy legitimate demands stemming from the expropriations carried out during the 60s.

All the while, Cuba will continue to work with the United States in sensitive issues such as immigration, the environment and drug trafficking, as it has been doing with notable efficiency to date. At times, it has done so with more efficiency thaN other close-by allies of the United States.

This essential difference may account for the contrast between the two presidential addresses that announced the new agreement. Obama was relaxed, charismatic, argumentative and willing to acknowledge past errors. As they say in Cuba, he was very smooth. Cuba’s president, on the other hand, appeared in military fatigues, reading a document with the same tone with which he addresses his troops at El Cacahual, without showing the slightest indication that he wanted to fix anything. He looked scared, and he probably was, as this is a huge change for Cuba. As they also say in Cuba, he was very hard-line, finishing this off as in a more recent address, in which he unearthed the emblematic slogan of a tired old rhetoric: “homeland or death, we will prevail!”

The story is complicated. The Cuban government laughed at the blockade/embargo while it enjoyed foreign aid that guaranteed its survival. That is why Fidel Castro – who is not mentally equipped to employ any strategy other than conflict – was able to kick Carter in the face and later force Clinton to sign the Helms-Burton act, and, quite simply, to continue governing by making the economy dependent on subsidies (Soviet or Venezuelan) and daily life on the ration booklet.

If the past fifty years have proven anything, however, is that development in Cuba cannot be reached in a context of hostility towards such an overwhelmingly powerful neighbor, and without access to its market. This is something common Cubans everywhere learned “in the flesh.” The Cuban military and their technocrats have also come to understand this, which is why the main economic plans meant to serve as the island’s launching pad make their viability dependent on that relationship. The economic complex surrounding the Mariel port, and all tourist infrastructure built on the Havana-Matanzas coastline (the pillars of Cuba’s economic recovery), have been developed with an eye to the north, where, incidentally, the most economically and demographically active community in Cuba’s transnational society resides: the island’s émigrés. Despite being a declared champion of Third World development, Havana looks insistently north.

To sum up, the end of the embargo and the normalization of relations with the United States will not, in an of themselves, solve any of the many, pressing problems faced by Cuban society today, to the extent that these problems do not stem from the blockade, as one often hears solidarity groups parrot. They stem, rather, from complex situations, in which differences with the United States have some weight but are subordinate to the patent inability of Cuba’s current political elite in terms of creating a dynamic economic environment, ensuring social equity and building a democratic political system. The normalization of relations will, however, create a context more favorable to the search of solutions to these problems.

In the political arena – where Cuban leaders refuse to consider any type of political changes, believing they are the architects of the world’s most democratic system – the normalization of relations with the United States will result in a context different from the “fortress under siege” in which all dissidents were considered traitors (and punished with imprisonment or banishment). The Cuban government will have to moderate the use of its last rhetorical recourse – intransigent nationalism, in defiance of an imagined imperialist threat – and, as the restrictions stemming from the blockade are relaxed, it will also have to look for excuses for the country’s economic disaster elsewhere. Cuban society will also invariably have more access to information and contacts, and the spectrum of the system’s opposition could gain in opportunities to express its opinions and act without being portrayed as an agent of a vanishing enemy.

There are many reasons to welcome the re-establishment of relations between Cuba and the United States. The US government is to be commended for having recognized that the policy of hostility failed in many ways and that a new approach is needed. It is also laudable that General Raul Castro has decided to put aside the disastrous policies of his brother and come to realize that relations with the United States are crucial to the island’s future. We can allow ourselves the luxury of imagining, now that the “imperialist threat” is retreating a fair distance, that Cuba’s post-revolutionary elite will finally become aware that the country belongs to everyone and that it is up to everyone – no matter what their ideological preferences or political affiliations – to decide.

11 thoughts on “Cuba and the USA after the Celebration

  • Sounds about right. A Cuban with a permanent resident visa in England? Not exactly the average Cuban from Ciega de Avila.

  • I do not share your ideology, nor do I agree with your premises or reasoning. But sadly, I do concurr with your conclusions. This new agreement between Raul Castro & Obama will not lead to democracy (of any sort) for the Cuban people. Instead, ultimately this new arrangement will see the Cuban workers sold to U.S. corporations. Tragic.

  • I wondered why the USA wanted to get together with Cuba again and where I am always suspicious of our political master’s actions, but now I know I believe. American corporations and the super rich are wanting back the assets that were confiscated by Castro when he took over Cuba and put them into public ownership (now we can’t possibly have that now can we with the capitalist system?) . Therefore as usual Obama and the US government are doing he dirty works as usual for their powerful masters behind closed doors (the real world order) – ‘The Destroyer of Worlds…the present Globalization ‘model’ –

    ‘The TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will be an Absolute Disaster for the People of the EU (European Union) and the People of America (USA) in the long-term – We simply have to Vote AGAINST this behind closed doors Transatlantic Trade deal before it is signed up and too late for the People to do anything about it’ –

    ‘The KINGS of KINGS and Masters of Humankind’s Ultimate Kismet – the ‘New’ WORLD ORDER that will eventually dispatch Humankind to Oblivion and its Ultimate Extinction – The Greed of the Few Combined with Our Planet’s Natural Resources Running Out will make this Inevitable…We have to Change Our Development Mechanism from Corporate Globalization to Sustainability before we have Used Up ‘All’ the Non-Replenishable Natural Resources of the World…the planet belongs to all of us NOT the Few ! ‘ –

    Read how Obama sold the American people out and his soul behind closed doors in the White House as he made secret deals with the US bankers and told them that he would not be coming for them (letting them off the hook’ so that the American taxpayer would pick up the tab that they may never pay off – statistically and historically vast unpayable debt) – ‘Democracy died a death when ‘Partyocracy’ (a party-ruled ‘democracy) and ‘Corporatocracy’ Corrupted the System and became the New way to Control People and run a Nation’ –

  • My Cuban friend that now works on a cruise ship will be ported in London England.

  • “Imagined imperialist threat “. That’s a good one. I wonder Haroldo, when did it morph from real to imagined? Or was it always imaginary in your opinion ?

  • It was probably not a US cruise ship. Or his Cuban friend has a permanent address outside of Cuba. You are correct that US companies can not hire Cubans who live in Cuba directly.

  • Actually that can’t happen yet. But if it did the cruise industry would have to hire through the Cuban government. The Cuban government would take 92% of that workers salary (and the people working on cruise ships work hard indeed! ) Do you support that type of exploitation?

  • It remains to be seen whether democratic change comes to Cuba as a result of this PARTIAL lifting of some of the embargo’s conditions.
    For instance, a move to develop a great many cooperatives with democratic-bottom-up worker’s control is a move in the right ( democratic economic) direction.
    A move to privatize and give control of a now state-run enterprise to an owner or board of directors is a lateral move from one totalitarian form to another which would precipitate a slide back to the massive inequalities of pre-revolutionary days and is not a democratic move at all.
    The government needs to take Poder Popular seriously, stop dictating to the deputies from on high in the Council or from the PCC.
    Rule must be based on a democratic asking of the population as to how their elected officials will act and not the other way around.
    Unfortunately, neither of these may work out if the basic anarchist truth holds out that all governments, long enough in power become self-preserving, corrupt and ultimately totalitarian .
    If Raul intends to become another Stalin , he has reason to fear an end to the embargo . If he is a true socialist, a true communist he should embrace the event as an opportunity to create the first democratic/socialist society on the planet.
    Again , unfortunately, the GOUSA has absolutely no intentions -or EVER had -to install or aid democratic movements anywhere in the world.
    A democratic Cuba would be the good example the wealthy owners of the USA have feared would develop since they invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 and began the now 100 year-old foreign policy imperative that has resulted in easily 75 interventions/invasions to prevent or overthrow democratic or humanitarian movements in that time.
    So the common belief that the USA will now help Cuba develop a democratic society would be laughable were that prevalent thinking not so sadly based on ignorance of history.
    We’ll soon see , won’t we ?

  • Many of my Cuban friends who work in tourism are going to apply for work on U.S. cruise ships. 0ne has already been hired as an entertainment manager at U.S. $ 4000.00 a month.

    Gordon Robinson Port Alberni B.C. Canada
    email :::
    [email protected]

  • I am largely in agreement with Haroldo’s post. He correctly points out that “the end of the embargo and the normalization of relations with the United States will not, in an of themselves, solve any of the many, pressing problems faced by Cuban society today”. In fact, the only valid criticism of the embargo is that it has provided political cover for the Castros and should it be lifted will serve to reveal the systemic flaws in the socialist-style economy in Cuba. With or without the embargo in place, Cubans themselves must increase Cuban agricultural productivity. Rampant government corruption is an internal problem and not one impacted by the US embargo. There are many ‘Cuban’ problems that Cubans must address before society as a whole can move forward.

  • Before we insist that cuba turn over american fugitives we should be aware of the fugitives we protect especially jose posada carriles, who was responsible for the downing of the cubana airlines jet off barbados with 70 cuban athletes aboard. He still walks freely in little havana.

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