On Raul Castro’s Trip to France

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Raul Castro and Francois Hollande on Feb. 1, 2016 in Paris, France.

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban President Raul Castro was welcomed at the highest levels of power in the French capital. His official visit involved a complex and majestic itinerary. What interested him most, however, was the financial issue. Speaking of Cuba’s new agreement with the Paris Club and the opportunities opened up by the rapprochement with the United States are now a must in official speeches.

France now presents itself as the door through which Cuba can finally enter trade with the European Union triumphantly. The notorious and previously defended “common position”, which supported the US blockade, has been left behind. Hollande described the new situation in very clear terms: today, what unites us is more important than what separates us.

The blockade is of course unjust and should never have come into being. Not to trade with a certain country is a sovereign decision, but preventing others to do so and punish those who do is an act of war. That is how the word “blockade” is closer to reality than “embargo.” What’s more, the policy has had no positive effects, not for US citizens, not for Cubans. The blockade has weakened Cuba’s economy while strengthening its government.

Hearing the French president share historical anecdotes and allege inter-cultural links between the two countries stirs up some patriotic fibers, but one cannot help but sense a strange atmosphere, as though we were going from the sublime to the ridiculous, or vice-versa. It doesn’t matter what direction we’re moving in, we’re going from one extreme to the other.

Yesterday, all that mattered was democracy in Cuba and fundamental human rights that were being trampled on. Today, none of that matters, only that “which unites us” does (i.e. business opportunities). I am put off by all extremes, I prefer a balanced and just position. But it seems the world moves this way, taking one or the other side, never the middle, which would obviously be better.

I welcome the rapprochement with France and the European Union. I welcome the new relations with the United States and the almost certain end of the blockade. I welcome everything Raul Castro can do to improve our economy within the very system that destroyed it. Evidently, some cosmetic changes to the old model could not of itself get us out of the rut, but they will help lay the foundations of future growth, when we finally get on the right path.

The one thing we can criticize is placing a people’s legitimate rights in the vague category of “that which separates us.” Of course, no power has ever defended the freedom of a small country without an ulterior motive. The most powerful haven’t thought twice about tolerating despotic governments in exchange for economic privileges for its businesses, which are ultimately the ones who call the shots in the democracy of the dollar.

England did not support the founding of independent republics in Latin American out of pure altruism – it also needed those markets for its nascent industry. Gadhafi was tolerated, and so were Saddam Hussein and Pinochet, to name only three examples.

Raul Castro is a president that has been legitimated internationally, but that doesn’t mean he is a legitimate leader. I hope that, one day, he will consult with the people directly, on an equal footing, for his decisions. It would even be positive if he were democratically elected. Perhaps that credential would make him a better leader for the nation, forcing him to substitute his ideological commitment to the revolution with a moral commitment to his electorate.

It’s nice to see the Cuban and French flags brought together, sharing colors. The words of both presidents were moving. The business opportunities opened up are encouraging. Cubans of goodwill are grateful for everything good that happens to Cuba.

The sacred struggle to forge a better Cuba, “with everyone and for everyone,” is still necessary, today more than ever. We need to get to work, to sow just ideas, to forge a path devoid of hatred and extremism. Marti said it well: “a just idea, shining in the depths of a cave, is worth more than an entire battalion of battleships.”

That is what the cause we defend ought to be like: just and balanced, and even more so in this new era that begins.

2 thoughts on “On Raul Castro’s Trip to France

  • February 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    As soon as the Castro clan is gone more pragmatic leadership will, hopefully, bring Cuba into the 21st century to take its place in the economy of nations. The only question is the character that leadership will take. Will it be authoritarian in nature and block the Cuban people from true political participation or will it be a liberal democracy with full participation and a multitude of competing ideas. Unfortunately I see the former possibility shaping up as the future.

  • February 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    “What’s more, the policy has had no positive effects, not for US citizens, not for Cubans. The blockade has weakened Cuba’s economy while strengthening its government.”
    The statement above is all true.
    The intent of the embargo/bloquero was to create a counter-revolution through the creation of deep poverty across the population. This in line with the century-old U.S. foreign policy imperative of crushing alternatives to free-enterprise capitalism .
    This extends to Cuba’s state capitalism which, although just as totalitarian as free enterprise in its organizational aspects, distributes the profits from its operations in a fairly equitable manner in a way that would cut profits drastically in a free-enterprise operation. For THAT reason alone – the cut in profits to the owners – Cuba’s state capitalism has been targeted as just as unpalatable to the very rich who control U.S. foreign policy as would a true (democratic) socialist economy and/or society .
    A great many say that after the octogenarian leadership is gone , things will get better.
    The more likely future is for continued economic problems unless and until the embargo is called off and then things will change with or without the old timers at the helm.
    Over the years, the leadership and most notably Fidel did a good job as Leninists in using cadre to educate the people as to what imperialism is, what capitalism is and in general produced a very well educated population .
    It is this population that is now replacing and will shortly entirely replace the original revolutionaries
    I would be very surprised if this new set were to discard the revolution and revert to free enterprise capitalism ..

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