Cuba’s Foreign Policy and its Repercussions

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

minrex_cuba_fotoHAVANA TIMES — Havana recently hosted the 7th Summit of the ACS (Association of Caribbean States). The most important issues of regional interest relating to tourism, the environment and how to deal with natural disasters were overshadowed by two significant resolutions made by the conclave: the first, to support a dialogue process in Venezuela as compensation for an “over-active” attitude adopted by international bodies which could be interpreted as “interfering”; and secondly, Raul Castro explaining that “Cuba will never return to the OAS.”

There is no doubt then that the Cuban government exercises great influence in global politics, for many reasons. It doesn’t matter that most everybody thinks that we have serious problems with respecting our most basic and fundamental human rights; it doesn’t matter that they don’t agree with our one-party, state-led and anti-democratic political system; it doesn’t matter that they watch Cubans emigrating in bulk crossing forests, oceans and polar caps.

What matters are their interests. Some by taking advantage of the skilled workforce the Revolution has educated and which is underexploited in Cuba; and others for safekeeping the opportunity to make big bucks when the country finally opens up economically to the international market, which is now fuelled by the hope that the trade embargo will soon finally end.

Cuban foreign policy is very skillful and effective. This is thanks to the well-trained officials who employ a linear discourse and always remain firm in their position; focusing on sensitive issues and showing solidarity for the most noblest of causes; always standing by the weakest. It’s as if we were a miniature Robin Hood here in this Caribbean which has long been the stage battlefield between the world’s greatest powers. Of course, adopting such a strategy has its advantages.

Foto: Caridad

It’s really wonderful to see the different countries that make up Our America come together at these forums which announce more concrete ties between them in the future. It’s a great dream and a great necessity. It makes us happy to see our country play an important role at these meetings, just like when Sotomayor jumped his still unbeatable world record.  But we have to ask ourselves if it’s right that, as the years pass by and these meetings are held, we see new faces and new leaders representing other countries which attend and Cuba still only presents the same ones, just a little bit older.

The Cuban government remains in power more because of the international support it receives thanks to its effective foreign policy, than from the real support it receives from its people, massacred by its unstable domestic policy. If Raul were to undergo elections today, he’d lose by a wide margin, whoever his opponent would be. The comedian Panfilo could win if he promised better bread and reducing the price of sugar to 4 pesos. The Cubans’ struggle to survive is so great that we aren’t even capable of thinking about our political rights or democracy. It’s only when we’ve had enough of what the system makes us suffer that we react somehow.

But where the regime’s strength lies also rests its vulnerability. Whoever decimates this hypocritical international support they enjoy; whoever leaves them without a discourse; whoever finally reveals that they have no concrete grounds to rule: will disarm them. It’s pure fantasy to think that we Cubans can overthrow them with such control over society, with such a large army and the Ministry of Interior under their control, and without the need to be directly elected. They need the people just as much as they need Parliament: as an audience. Their strength and legitimacy lies within their foreign policy and the international recognition they receive. It doesn’t matter if it’s said between clenched teeth, it doesn’t matter if they chew it and don’t swallow it. It works and it keeps them in power.

The Revolution’s strength is no longer its people. That line of thought belongs to a Utopian past, full of hope, when we thought we were building a better future. People didn’t tire of working voluntarily during the sugar harvest and digging trenches. Today, you can’t get anyone to lift a finger without promising them some kind of economic benefit. “Voluntary work” died a long time ago. Nobody believes in promises anymore, nor accepts imitation diplomas. Since they’ve built shopping centers and the price of sugar went up to 8 pesos, their true colors have been revealed.

The revolution “has evolved” onto a supranational level. In today’s globalized world, you can’t survive without connections, without support and without international recognition. North Korea isn’t even the exception to the rule because Russia and China make up half the world and without their support, this perverted country with its “divinely inherited” communist fiefdom would no longer exist. But the Cuban Revolution is something else altogether: it interwove its strengths (human capital + social control) with the needs of the third world, making it not only a prosperous industry, but also a way of winning over important friends. Cuba’s contribution to the fight against ebola was the climax in this strategy and it brought in a lot of dough. I’m certain it had some weight in Obama’s decision to change course with Havana and in the Vatican’s mediation.

Photo: Caridad

There should be no doubt, Cuba stands firmly in the political arena and the government is internationally renowned and recognized. But, can you be fair on the international playing field and be unfair in your domestic affairs with your own people? Is this leadership role really legitimate if it doesn’t come from the political backing from elections via a direct vote between opposing parties? Of course it isn’t.

But that’s the way the world works and politics always run rife with hypocrisy. Cubans who want a better Cuba, a fairer and more democratic Cuba, do not disagree with the country playing an active role in international politics in favor of truly just causes. We do not disagree with uniting with our brothers and sisters across the Caribbean and all of Latin America. We are not against humanitarian aid or providing specialized services at a lower price for those countries who need it the most. Our fight would be illegitimate if it didn’t include these political aspects. We only disagree with the fact that we are unable to choose, that we’re not taken into account, that we’re treated like “infants”, whose adoptive parents, with old and fake documents, make all the decisions for us and in our name.

That’s why, whilst on the one hand we feel patriotic pride seeing our country at the forefront of the international stage, the other part of us suffers because that same success aggravates our own pain and prevents us from building a better Cuba.

26 thoughts on “Cuba’s Foreign Policy and its Repercussions

  • On that point I disagree with the author of the post. I do not believe that the “Cuban government exercises great influence in global politics…”.

  • Whatever may happen in the future, Cuba has influence today, at least in the eyes of some people, including the author of this article.
    He said, “There is no doubt then that the Cuban government exercises great influence in global politics…”
    Whatever turns out to be true about the behaviour of the Cuban government, we can agree that the Catholic Church has a history of torture and murder (The Inquisition). In spite of that, the Pope remains influential.
    I do not mean to single out the Catholic Church. Other churches would not do well under a close scrutiny.

  • Poor comparison. Fidel has neither the moral nor historical gravitas that the papacy has. On the contrary, history will not be kind to the Castros. As the revolution crumbles, more and more truths will be revealed. Family members of the people that the Castros tortured and murdered will be increasingly more comfortable to come forward to tell their stories. Castro sycophants will be hard-pressed to support the Castro reputation. As a result, whatever influence the dictatorship may have had or continues to have will continue to decline. The ‘best days’ of the Castro dictatorship have long since passed.

  • Cuba’s greatest achievement in foreign policy was to con Hugo Chavez into subsidizing the export of Cuba’s revolution, to allow Cuba to gain control of the Venezuelan intelligence agency, to install the puppet Maduro in Caracas and destroy the Venezuelan economy, while fleecing the country of billions of dollars worth of cheap oil.

  • Only to this extent. Someone with little military or economic power can still have influence.

  • Are you comparing Fidel Castro to the Pope? 😕

  • I agree. But outside of Latin America, Fidel Castro is an aged folk hero, nothing more.

  • So Gordon, you are saying that the people of Cuba were sold a bill of goods by the Castro regime and that crediting ‘Lulu’ as then President of Brazil with providing the $5 billion funding was a falsehood?
    Similarly when ‘Dilma’ as then President of Brazil jointly opened Mariel along with President Raul Castro, they were compounding a lie?
    Note, that I don’t disbelieve you as I know that you will have obtained the information personally from Machado Ventura and the Castro regime has a prolonged history of lying.

  • It is the Latin American left that has most been influenced by Cuba. With disasterous results as in the case of Venezuela.

  • That money for Mariel came from China by the way of Brazil – Si !!!

  • I am reminded of something attributed to Stalin. When the Pope came up in discussion he sarcastically asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?”
    The Pope had very little in the way of military or economic power. Even so, he was influential

  • You are biased because of your personal interest. I’m sure that there are fans of Greece who would differ. Nonetheless, having more influence than Uzbekistan does not mean that you are influential. I think that you are confusing polemical with influential.

  • In trying to assess Cuba’s influence, we can compare it to countries of the same size. In population Cuba ranks in between Zimbabwe, Chad, Belgium and Greece.
    In Gross Domestic Product Cuba is between Sudan, Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic and Uzbekistan (according to the CIA).
    I don’t think I am alone in believing that Cuba is quite influential compared to these countries.

  • Out of genuine curiosity, I would like you to tell me where Cuba has influence? What international policies have been impacted by the Castros? I concede that a handful of the remaining left-leaning Latin American countries still bend towards the musings of Papa Fidel but less and less. Where else do you see Cuba having influence?

  • I don’t disagree with your comments. I disagree that this admiration, largely based on pity, generates political influence. I greatly admire Meryl Streep as an actress. She has no political influence over me. Get it?

  • What is Cuba going to trade? Can you name one product which is not declining in production?
    OK, so Brazil under ‘Lulu’ invested $5 billion into Mariel with its new railway and dual carriageway connecting to the autopista, but I have yet to see one train on the track and trucks carrying containers are few and far between. The heaviest product is nickel and Cuba produced (under Sherritt management) some 63,000 tons last year.
    The Castro’s first need is to halt the decline in production of almost everything and only having done so, can they address producing exports on any real scale.
    The legal structure is in good order, although not one which I admire. I say that having a family member who is a lawyer there.

  • Here we go again with the DEAD CAT!

  • CErmle in describing ‘throughout the world” is referring to:

    North Korea, Venezuela, Equador, Bolivia, Syria, Iran, Vietnam – and I almost forgot, Nicaragua!

    These are countries that like CErmle admire dictatorship and oppression. Cuba at best can only be described as “a bit player” on the international stage and has since 1959 always required a paternalistic provider and care-giver.

  • The ususl excuse of th Castro sycophants ….”it could always be worse”.

  • Pretty simplistic reply Humberto. I never used the word paradise. Where on earth is a paradise ? More Mexicans and central Americans risk their lives to come to the US than Cubans , and they come from countries w/ elections. The faces of our leaders change, but policies do not. No one even gets close to the presidency w/o hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars behind them. Where do you think that money comes from, Ma and Pa Kettle ?

  • The vast majority stand with and support Cuba on the international stage. The revolution itself is widely admired and the Cuban nation deeply respected throughout the world.. You are wrong.

  • HMM!! So how many Americans are risking their life on rafts to live in the Cuban Paradise dear? Funny how people complain about 12 years of the Bush Family but are OK with 57+ years of the Castro oligarchy in Cuba!

  • I believe that the author OVER-estimates Cuban influence on the international stage. The world feels sorry for Cuba as much as it feels admiration.

  • Could be worse Osmel. You could live in a country that is both undemocratic and destructive in the international arena. In the US a year or two ago a study from Princeton or somewhere revealed that policy and legislative decisions by our elected officials corresponded 100% – yes 100%, with the interests of ….. business ! The fact that there is a Juan Carlos Tercera in Havana does not mean that your country’s government does not attempt to make policy to help the majority w/in the constrains it is subjected to.

  • Ramirez Alvarez says,
    “What matters are their interests. … the opportunity to make big bucks…
    “It’s as if we were a miniature Robin Hood here in this Caribbean which has long been the stage battlefield between the world’s greatest powers.”

    I will grant that some if those dealing with Cuba are looking for business opportunities. But others are motivated by genuine admiration for Cuba. As I stop to think about Cuban foreign policy, perhaps the most positive chapter is Cuba’s role in fighting apartheid in South Africa.
    But there are negative examples as well. Fulsome praise for dictators such as Gaddafi and Assad certainly reduces Cuba’s standing among many of the oppressed.
    Fortunately, I haven’t seen much about Syria recently in the Cuban press. This is a big improvement over what they were saying.

  • Cuba has positioned itself well in international circles given it’s weak economic position. It projects an outsized influence. It has an educated population that is a unique resource in it’s sphere of influence. It is well positioned to integrate into world trade. The legal structure and tax systems are lacking, it is what will hold development back if not evolved.

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