Cuba Opposition Protest Castro and Obama’s Realpolitik

Vicente Morin Aguado

While some dissidents want the fight to continue others applaud the thawing in relations.
While some dissidents want the fight to continue others applaud the thawing in relations.  Ilustration by Yasser Castellanos.

HAVANA TIMES — We have been hearing rumors in Havana that a majority within the country’s opposition, extremely put off by the decisions arrived at by Obama and Raul Castro after 18 months of secret negotiations (decisions which shocked almost the entire world) are planning protests on the island. Secrecy and resentment define the postures of this opposition, now in the rather contradictory position of opposing the leaders of the two countries.

This opposition shared in the surprise and resentment prompted in Havana and Miami by the decisions announced on December 17, 2014. If they are insisting that much remains to be done (and this will always be the case), their position is understandable. What defies common sense is to oppose what is undoubtedly a step forward in history.

If one were to count the number of US soldiers who died in combat against their Cuban adversaries, one would not need more than the fingers in one’s hand. The opposite is also true. Vietnam stands in stark contrast to our long “confrontation.”

Obama said it clearly: “It is clear that decades of US isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.”

To quote a Republican, in his immense treaty on China, the paradigm of diplomacy Henry Kissinger wrote: “ (…) human rights progress is generally better reached by a policy of engagement. Once enough confidence has been established, changes in civil practice can be advocated in the name of common purposes or at least the preservation of a common interest.”

Kissinger was Nixon’s Secretary of State. Nixon, in turn, was US Vice-President during the Eisenhower administration and, in 1959, wrote the first accurate portrayal of Fidel Castro. Now, it’s a question of arriving at a “realpolitik”, a term which suggests common sense should prevail over emotional considerations.

Addressing the so-called “Cuban émigré community”, the question is: who could Obama have negotiated with? Are there any Cuban leaders in the United States who have any negotiating power? Of course, it would have been impossible to do so with Ros Lethinen, Diaz Balart or Marco Rubio – these are US citizens and congress people.

Before crossing over to the other side, I can confidently say that there has never been a serious effort in Miami to promote an opposition leader in Cuba who could serve as an international public figure, not even the late Paya Sardiñas. In fact, I recall that they did little to support him and that they were quite divided on his intelligent Proyecto Varela proposal.

In Cuba, even though I respect the integrity of the Ladies in White and praise the contribution of independent journalists who have more or less attained recognition outside of Cuba (not to mention the defiance of political prisoners and their hunger strikes), I ask the same question: could Obama have negotiated with any member of Cuba’s opposition in the country? Would that have been a case of realpolitik?

The negotiations were conducted over 18 months. There was no improvisation to it, which is something that is making those who would keep motionless the wheels of history still livid.

Put simply, one negotiates with those who have the capacity to fulfill the agreement. That is what Nixon and Kissinger did with Mao without asking for any apologies – it was a case of realpolitik. Let us not forget Vietnam, where over 57 thousand US soldiers died in combat and 3,200 US planes were downed.

Clinton was honored to visit the cousins of the Uncle Ho, a man who Fidel Castro once called “the most extraordinary Marxist-Leninist in Asia.”

Human memory is frail, which is why it is so important to revisit the past.

I feel no pity for the minority that stands to lose from all the rapprochement, after “living off” the media war for many years while the majority suffered. I do feel ashamed for those who applaud a failed policy and dare not consider something different and better.

I won’t join the ranks of the furious. I will join the daring, thinking how to pursue a realpolitik with them.

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]

27 thoughts on “Cuba Opposition Protest Castro and Obama’s Realpolitik

  • According the current government of Vietnam, with arguably no reason to minimize the numbers, the US is directly responsible for less than 100,000 civilian and military deaths. The use of Agent Orange is blamed for the death or maiming of 500,000 Vietnamese. As usual, your anti-US is wrong and overblown.

  • You suggest there are only too alternatives for Cuba: collapse or oligarchy. You would sell the Cuban people short.

    There is another alternative for Cuba’s future: for the good of the Cuban nation, the Castro government could, if they decide to, move resolutely toward establishing a liberal democracy in Cuba. They could decide to respect the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, to allow free speech and to allow independent political parties. They could set a date for free & democratic multi-party elections. There is nothing stopping them from doing that. Nothing that is, except for the regime’s determination to keep their power and perks.

    PS: I reject the idea of anything like a “utopian democracy”. The dream of utopia always turns into a nightmare.

  • Only “Killing Hope”. I am not a big fan of conspiricist. He organizes a series of seemingly disparate facts and near facts and then, however artfully, draws conclusions regarding motivation and intent. For example, he assumes that the lack of press coverage means cover-up, when it could also possibly mean lack of public interest.

  • Mr Moses….have you read any of William Blums books?…..might….just might give you a somewhat different perspective

  • The collapse of the Castro regime under pressure so that a new utopian democracy will raise has no basis in reality. Cuba has no historical institutions to fall back on. No magic time prevailed in pre-totalitarian governance. The oligarchs would at least provide an independent voice seeking to further the economy even if just for their own good. Marginally the population would be better off with a chance for future evolution of governance based on consent of the governed.

    Putinism is better than totalitarian communitarian equality soviet regime. Either the China state capitalist model or the Russian oligarch capatilst model are an improvement over the failed soviet era model being phased out.

  • The Venezuela press, from el Universal onward, is now owned exclusively by the Maduro “Bolivarcs” …who are you trying to kid?

  • So let me get this straight. Only those who fall in line with Castros (your) political beliefs get a say in Cubas future? …Sorta like today’s rubber stamp Congress?

  • Are you daft? You just agreed with me and don’t realize it. Even by your numbers, the amount of reserves that Venezuela claims to have is bare bottom. Venezuela has an annual budget of $115 billion or as you choose to write 115000 USD million. (poor cut & paste). Do the math. On an even monthly draw, that’s less than $10B outlay. That’s about two months of reserves! Modern economies keep YEARS of reserves. That’s why Moody’s and S&P downgraded Venezuela’s credit rating. The two issues are intimately connecting. I am a former Managing Director with one of the largest Investment Banking firms in the world in International Finance. I know what I am talking about. Just admit it, you write your comments without knowing what you are talking about.

  • I read several Venezuelan bloggers for information on what’s happening in that country.

  • Taking your numbers, with foreign exchange reserves of $22 billion, and monthly government expenses of $9.5 billion, that does not leave them with much time to sort out the mess. Oil exports account for 45% of government revenues. With the drop in oil prices, revenues have plummeted. Mauro announced last night a further devaluation of the Venezuelan currency, which will make it even more difficult to cover the already soaring foreign debt.

    For a few years, Chavez benefited from high oil prices, but instead of investing it in a modern diversified economy, he threw it away on hand outs for the poor (laudible, if economically short-sighted) and lucrative graft for his supporters in the military & business elites. Now the bill has come due, and Maduro has no ideas. The Chinese announced another loan to keep the scam going a few months more, at sky high interest rates and who knows what as collateral?

  • You should read the Venezuelan press (overwhelmingly owned by the opposition) and not the Miami Mafia yellow journalism.

  • One thing is not necessarily connected to the other, but you already have show you know nichs about economics not even eco 101…Foreign
    Exchange Reserves in Venezuela decreased to 22058 USD Million in
    December of 2014 from 22235 USD Million in November of 2014. Foreign
    Exchange Reserves in Venezuela averaged 12076.86 USD Million from 1962
    until 2014, reaching an all time high of 42299 USD Million in December
    of 2008 and a record low of 514.50 USD Million in September of 1962.

  • All Cubans have a right to decide on the future of their country, not just the Castro regime and US business interests.

  • The “elites” who are smuggling goods across the border for resale are the politically connected businessmen and senior military officers who surround the Maduro government. In the name of “socialism” these cynical crooks have been looting Venezuela. Hedging their bets, they have been buying luxury condos in Cuba & Miami, getting ready for the day they have to flee the sinking ship.

  • You have it completely backwards. The rise of an oligarchic class from the officers that run state firms will eliminate any possibility of checks and balances. Cuba is transitioning from a Marxist/socialist system to a corporate-fascist system. US businesses are clamouring to profit from the new relationship. There will be no democracy in Cuba, no freedom and no respect for human rights.

  • Convenient for whom? Which part of my comment is untrue or as you suggest “hold|s| no water”? If I agreed with your unsubstantiated rhetoric would my comments be less “repetitive and boring”? If so, I will strive for the most boring and most repetitive comments possible. I am hardly paranoid about the Castros. I live in the US. They are just a couple of old farts to me.

  • Do you just make this crap up? Moody’s just downgraded Venezuelan bonds from Caa1 to Caa3. If you don’t understand what that rating means, it’s called “junk” bonds. In large measure, the downgrade was due to the LACK of reserves. The last public disclosure on August 14, 2014 (Maduro ordered the Central Bank to stop reporting these figures) total reserves stood at $20.29 billion. An estimated 71% of these reserves are in gold bars. In theory, the Central Bank could use gold bars as collateral to get IMF loans at low interest rates and increase the cash portion of the reserves. However, in 2011 the government withdrew most of the ingots that were deposited in the Bank of England and brought them to Caracas. It is hard for a foreign financial institution to accept as collateral gold bars deposited in Caracas assuming they are still there, thus complicating an operation of this type. Known cash reserves that are immediately available for paying for imports and foreign debt currently stands at $1.75 billion, according to the financial statements of the Central Bank of Venezuela. This represents a 44% decline compared to 2013. Monthly government outlays in Venezuela average roughly $9.5 billion. Do the math. Venezuelan reserves barely exceed 2 months worth of expenditures. Moody’s says that isn’t enough. But I suppose you know better?

  • Cuba is evolving it’s economic model to include a private sector, but the state will control health care and other major industry directly. One party rule is in no danger of changing. The rise of an oligarch class from current officers that run state firms would inject needed check and balances. Not ideal, but it would be progress.

    No danger of US invasion. Only Russia would invade lands so poor it needed to take under it’s welfare state aporatest, a drain on resources.

  • Instead of a protest they may want to consider a celebratory march. Engagement is on balance more likely to advance personal freedoms than continued break in relations. Cuba has entered an evolutionary period towards a more practical economy, that should be supported.

  • Well said? Really? “Analyser” offered nothing substantial. His entire comment was an ad hominem attack on Moses.

    Rhetorical failure. And you cheered him.

  • Venezuela has enough reserves to weather this decline in the prices of oil….especially if the elites stop hoarding products and stop selling them across the border where there are no price controls and they make more money than selling to their compatriots.

  • A handful of malcontents do not have the political or moral right to be in the way of this historic process. They can’t even agree with each other and are constantly fighting for the money sent from Washington, that is why hey are upset, the trough is empty now…

  • Hahaha! Well said analyser!

  • A very interesting piece, Vicente!

    You raise the issue of the outrage of many Cuban dissidents who feel betrayed by Obama. When he met with Berta Soler & Guillermo Farinas in Miami a year ago, Obama promised to consult with them before making any concessions to the Castro regime. The announcement on December 17th surprised everybody, including the Cuban dissidents. Obama had not consulted with them.

    But as an act of real-politics, it would have been impossible to reveal to the Cuban dissidents or the Cuban exile community the content of the ongoing negotiations between Washington & Havana. There would have been leaks to the media, public denunciations, recriminations and infighting. Negotiations would almost certainly have broken off. So fine, Obama could not confide with them then.

    How about now? The new Cuba policy is out in the open. People on all sides can read about it, talk about it, write about it. Now would be the time for the US to meet with the Cuban dissidents, hear their concerns and include them in the discussions with the Castro regime.

    If this new relationship is going to be successful, then all Cubans need to be part of the agreement, which means all Cubans must be part of the discussions. Not just Washington & the Castros.

  • How convenient that you are NOT Cuban Patterson. Your hypotheses hold no water though your continued paranoia regarding the Castros is as repetitive and boring as ever.

  • Your two or so references to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam noted that some 58,000 U.S. military died in that attempt to prevent a non-free enterprise system from arising through free elections while totally ignoring that some 2-3 million southeast Asians were slaughtered by those invading Americans. .

    The U.S. would have done the same to Cuba had it not been for getting bitch-slapped at Playa Giron and the deal made over the Missile Crisis.

    And…if Cuba decides to go the democratic route either in the economy which is now a totalitarian STATE CAPITALIST /Leninist one or in the government which , in an accurate anarchist analysis has near totally corrupted the eminently democratic Poder Popular electoral system, the U.S. may well decide to invade or take some other drastic step to avoid the rise of democracy.

    The current rapprochement between the Cuban and US government will soon show which direction Cuba will take.

    My hopes are for moves toward democratic systems by the Cuban side .

    My expectations, however, are tempered by the consistent 100 year-long U.S. foreign policy of preventing democratic and human rights movements around the world.

    The tiger cannot change its stripes. The oligarchy is even firmer control of the U.S. government and the minds of the public than ever before in history .
    (note: all articles at ZNet can be copied and republished freely as is their policy)

  • If I were Cuban, I would be thrilled with recent events. No matter what the outcome of talks with the US, Cuba is already way ahead. There will undoubtedly be more US tourists visiting the island. I don’t believe that the floodgates are open just yet, but there will be an increase no doubt. With an US embassy in place, Cuban dissidents have greater assurances that the international press will pay greater attention to the possibility of human rights abuses of Cubans. With regards to trade, change is less likely to occur immediately. Venezuela has unhindered trade with the US and yet there are record shortages. Trade requires hard currency and Cuba, like Venezuela, is woefully short of resources, cash and credit, to buy US products. The hope is that US negotiators will take a hard line with the Castros in pressing for real democratic reforms. The Cubans are voracious consumers, more so than the Chinese and the Vietnamese. Once they have been effectively seduced by the possibility of a McDonald’s or a WalMart or a Starbuck’s, it is far more likely they will trade their siege mentality for political freedom. It would help if the Castros had moved on to that special “hell” set aside for dictators and tyrants but one can only hope.

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