Everybody But Cuba

By Alfredo Prieto*

The acceptance of the socialist island is supported by the wave of elected left leaning governments in the region. photo: Caridad
The acceptance of the socialist island is supported by the wave of elected left leaning governments in the region. photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 15 – The first Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December 1994, excluded Cuba for being the ugly duckling of the family at the time of the emerging democracies and the new world order.

More than fourteen years later, the map has changed: Even if the subject of Cuba is not reflected in the Final Declaration -because of that being considered OAS territory-, the issue will fall like a Juggernaut onto the warm beaches of the Trinidad and Tobago conference site.

The acceptance of the socialist island is supported by the wave of elected left leaning governments in the region further backed by unprecedented developments, such as the recent pro-Cuba activist stance taken by Brazil.

On the US side, this tendency consists of questioning (from disparate quarters) the operability of a political stance that has proven itself ineffective, and to adopt or approve measures removing certain restrictions placed on Cuban-Americans by allowing them to travel to the island more frequently and to send larger sums of money to their relatives there.

Just this week, OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza noted, “It (Cuba) is an issue in the United States like it hasn’t been for quite some time.”

Likewise, the appearance in Havana of several members of the US Congressional Black Caucus, with the ability to report back directly to President Obama, cannot be seen as a move separate from the Summit, but as being congruent with it. This, keeping in mind the message from the legislators on the political cost that a distinct and radical shift on the “Cuba issue” could have for the reelection of Obama.

The liberals see the “embargo” (blockade) as a puppet hanging from its strings; bringing it down does not require throwing a single blow, only picking it apart until it falls by the force of gravity. Contrary to the old Spanish saying, that the best thing is not to leave it alone.

But obviously the Cuban question cannot be viewed as stemming from smugness in itself, but as a part of the US’s political problem toward Latin America, one in need of structural change. It is not a matter then of a temporary situation, much less a recent one, but of an old corsi e ricorsi, which has been historically reactive and has not achieved consistent pro-activeness, to use that newly coined word.

The Cold War Ended but…

The closest to this administration was Clintonism, which in the 1994 Miami Summit verbalized the need for a “bilateral relation with a mature Latin America,” the one which, at the end of the day, would end up repeating many of the tracks of Republican policies.

Cubans will be waiting to see what comes out of the America’s Summit. photo: Caridad

With the Cold War having ended, the relations with Latin America have neither entered a “new era,” nor are they reciprocal or multilateral, especially after 9/11, in that the US’s broad focus on security and terrorism occupied the center stage of its visual horizon and too often implied new forms of military intervention.

Likewise, they have pursued the construction of walls that neither solve the problem of illegal migration nor impede narco-arms traffickers from crossing one of the most porous borders in the world. It is one of the bones stuck in the throat of the Mexicans because of its high social cost and the disruption of governability.

In The Audacity of Hope, today one of the bestselling books in the United States, Barack Obama calls for a different policy, one that reflects the optimism that helped take him to the presidency.

I swear it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve read in the last few years due to its somewhat “heretical” criticism of the past. Yet I am convinced that if this is a question of forms of domination, the distinction between hard and soft blurs with subtle differences.

The chapter in which he summarizes his analysis and vision of US foreign policy (“The World beyond Our Borders”) reminded me of an old Christopher Cross song: “It’s the Nature of the Game.” We are waiting, with a good bit of impatience, for what will come out in the group photo of this Summit of All (Minus One).

*Alfredo Prieto, Cuban essayist and editor. He lives in Havana