Obsolete US Policies Hinder Cuba’s Democratization

Pedro Campos

Portales de la calle Reina. Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Historically, the Cuban leadership has fallen back on the nationalist argument that invokes the imperialist blockade, acts of foreign aggression and the support the United States offers many government opponents on the island to portray itself as a kind of David, combatting a gigantic Goliath, and to maintain a “besieged city” policy towards a hyperbolized external enemy.

The Machiavellian aim of this has been to maintain internal cohesion and obedience and to justify the permanent harassment of dissidents and all those who do not agree with official policy, no matter whether such disagreements stem from anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist positions like those of the broad-encompassing socialist and democratic Left.

Thus, the United States’ interventionist policies of aggression, threats, blockade and isolation vis-a-vis the Cuban government, designed to impel “a transition towards democracy”, have in fact always helped Cuba’s leadership strengthen its centralized power and stood in the way of democratization on the island. They have also helped improve the Cuban government’s regional standing and isolate the US government internationally.

The recent Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States attests to this. While the Cuban State offered “signs” of pluralism and regional tolerance, the United States showed itself lacking in both, incurring the isolation that Washington has sought to impose on Havana.

While the leadership’s efforts were being acknowledged by all other governments in the continent (with the exception of the United States and Canada, which were not present at the summit), many members of the opposition and dissidents were being jailed and suffering different forms of repression for attempting to hold a forum to discuss democracy and human rights issues in the country.

Politologist Manuel Cuesta Morua, the social-democratic leader of the Grupo Arco Progresista (“Progressive Arc Group”) and one of the organizers of that forum, was detained in order to keep him from participating in the gathering, and released after being accused of “divulging false news to the detriment of world peace.” The authorities argued that a number of articles and pieces the government opponent and academic had written on Cuba’s racial problematic “distorted Cuban reality and the work of the revolution towards racial equality.”

Havana bus stop. Photo: Juan Suarez

Criminal charges could well be brought against several million Cubans who have a different conception of that reality and that work “for distorting Cuban reality and the work of the revolution,” as the Cuban government understands these. Some are speaking of an imminent “black spring” on the island.

In short, the United States’ policy towards Cuba has proven counterproductive – and this is something many international analysts with different political stances agree on. It is more detrimental to the interests of the US government than those of the Cuban leadership and hurts the people of Cuba most of all, as it has been used, internally, to justify repression and the economic absurdities of the government, a government which has more or less successfully presented the contradiction between the two countries as the chief cause of Cuba’s problems.

In fact, the US blockade (or “embargo”, if you wish) has been the Cuban government’s most important ally in its repression of dissents, divergent forms of thought and in its efforts to prevent the democratization of Cuban society.

I am by no means saying that imperialism is solely responsible for Cuba’s tragedy. Elsewhere, I have written and demonstrated that the one thing to blame for the catastrophe is the neo-Stalinist economic, political and social State monopoly capitalist system that has been imposed on Cuba in the name of “socialism.”

Individually, the “revolutionary” leaders, who live like millionaires, untouched by the poverty in which the vast majority of Cubans subsist, have not in the least been affected by the blockade, whose burden – invariably – is laid entirely on the shoulders of the Cuban people.

Since US policy towards Cuba is aimed at demonstrating the unviability of “socialism” – a “socialism” that has never existed – the United States has cared little about the concrete results this policy has on the Cuban people. This is why I refer to this policy as “criminal.”

Because of its own policies, the United States has forfeited the possibility of directly contributing to eventual democratic changes on the island and limited its ability to participate in Cuba’s potential economic lift-off.

Many Cubans are convinced that, even though the lifting of the blockade restrictions that are still in place could be portrayed as a political victory of the Cuban government and help it economically in the short term, it would also immediately and significantly affect its ability to maintain its current monopoly over the country’s politics and economy and make it more difficult to justify any form of internal repression. In the mid-term, it could also become an important factor in a democratic change that will allow us to overcome current circumstances.

Some reactionaries from the new Cuban Right in power may try to do everything in their power to keep the blockade in place, in order to continue justifying absolute control over the country and acts of internal repression. The United States, however, should pay no attention to such a potential move.

We know the kind of pressures brought to bear on Washington from the traditional Cuban right based in that country, the significance that Florida voters have and how strongly US leaders condemn the model of government and State established in Cuba.

President Obama recently declared there was a need to “update” the United States’ policy towards Cuba. The conclusion of the 2nd CELAC Summit and the events that took place around it constitute a good moment for US Democrats to undertake such a policy re-evaluation, considering that, in the time left until the next US presidential elections, an effective change of policy towards Cuba could help the island’s process of democratization (not so any kind of continuation of current restrictions).

That would imply defeating the policies defended by Cuban-born Republican congress people and securing more votes for the Democrats in Florida.

That the complete lifting of the blockade will not result in a real or virtual annexation of the country that could be in the interests of the traditional or new Cuban Right, where there is no shortage of people willing to sell the country piecemeal in exchange for being allowed to remain in power, will depend on all Cubans who defend freedom, independence and sovereignty.


27 thoughts on “Obsolete US Policies Hinder Cuba’s Democratization

  • February 17, 2014 at 7:38 am
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    In short….you are promoting a Cuba controlled by a military elite that uses it’d population as cheap labor to bring in hard cash. How despicable. I too wish to end the now obsolete policy of the embargo. But I see a different result. Cuba is not China and the Castro regime never truly trusted anyone outside it’s now small octogenarian circle of revolutionaries. True some neo Cuban Castro fascists have risen from the lower ranks, but they lack the charisma needed to lord it over thepopulation. Instead I see a temporary leadership void filled by the military aand then an implosion from within. …….My humble opinion on course

  • February 17, 2014 at 7:16 am
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    That is total rubbish. Over seventy dissidents signed a petition against the embargo, including Paya and Yoani Sanchez. It is only a few cold war dinosaurs that support it.

  • February 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm
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    Oh, I see. You advocate lifting the embargo so that US corporations can invest in factories set up to exploit cheap Cuban labour, the Cuban regime elite will continue in power and become even wealthier. US consumers will benefit from cheap Cuban products.

    And what do the Cuban people get? According to you, they don’t deserve democracy or human rights. They get to be slaves forever.

  • February 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm
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    You contradict yourself. In an earlier post, you admit that lifting the embargo will not bring any pressure on Cuba to democratize. Now you claim it will “leave no room for the Cuban government to hide”. Hide what?

    Given that the Cuban rulers have a monopoly control of the Cuban economy, lifting the embargo will only serve to bring the elite even more wealth and power. Raul Castro stated the economic reforms he is introducing will not include any political change: the Cuban Communist Party will maintain an absolute monopoly on political power in Cuba.

    If, as you insist, the embargo has helped to keep the regime in power and that lifting it will bring about profound political change, then why does the regime campaign so hard for the embargo to be lifted?

  • February 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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    Where Pedro wrote: “That would imply defeating the policies defended by Cuban-born Republican congress people and securing more votes for the Democrats in Florida.”, it reveals a lack of knowledge of the US political system.

    There are currently 7 Cuban-American members of congress, including 3 Senators and 4 Representatives. Four are Republicans (Ros-Lehtinen, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, & Mario Diaz-Balart), and 3 are Democrats (Robert Menendez, Joe Garcia & Albio Sires). Of these seven, only Albio Sires and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are Cuban born. Four are from Florida, two from New Jersey and one from Texas.

    In other words, there is only one Cuban-born Republican in congress. The Democrats Senator Menendez and Albio Sires remain strong supporters of the embargo. Only Joe Garcia, a representative from Florida’s 26th congressional district supports lifting the embargo. It’s important to note, his district is not a majority Cuban-American area.

    Clearly, the Castro regime and their apologists have identified the Democratic party as the most likely to support lifting the embargo. However, the Cuban-American Democracy Caucus is bipartisan and continues to support the embargo and works to promote democratic change in Cuba.

  • February 16, 2014 at 8:46 pm
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    You are scary funny. Believing that the Cuban economy would be a “great success” is hilarious. No one who knows anything about Cuba, even Fidel, believes that. He said himself that Cuban-style socialism does not work. If I am scared of anything is that there are people like you walking free on the streets with driver’s licenses and kitchen knives.

  • February 16, 2014 at 6:50 pm
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    As usual JG, claiming something will be a success when all the evidence and past history point quite the other way. Cuba is incapable of even producing milk in quantity, putting the lie to Castro promise of putting a glass of milk on every table. And failing on the little things, what leads you to believe they would succeed at the big things.

    The failure, incompetence, and repression inherent in the communist system is why I, my family and millions of more Cubans have fled since 1959

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