Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has had to answer questions regarding the United States’ alleged defense of Cuba’s working class, a posture that contrasts dramatically with the traditionally sectarian policies of US imperialism.
To speak of Cuba’s “working class” is rather shameful when everyone knows that the contracts signed by foreign investors and Cuban State companies exclude all unions and that Cuban employees get next to no perks. The controversy that still surrounds the wages of medical doctors illustrates this clearly.
Since the pivotal announcement of December 17, the US administration has not concealed its intentions of empowering Cuba’s emerging sectors of self-employed persons, farmers, individual entrepreneurs and cooperatives. True, these are hardly a majority and this thanks to the limited scope of the reforms currently underway. All the while, State companies continue to idle in the eternal lethargy of inefficiency.
The contradictory aims are clear: Cuba’s octogenarian leadership insists on government-to-government negotiations, while Washington, without turning its back on such dealings (essential to any Realpolitik), prioritizes people-to-people contacts.
The contradiction stems from notions that have long been a daily reality for both countries: the immense majority of Cubans are at the mercy of an authoritarian State led by the Communist Party. As for the United States, the people include wage-earners, owners of companies of different sizes and other social actors, under a government that changes with legally established regularity, in a country where political parties do not decide the fate of the population.
The United States’ position may be summarized through John Kerry’s statements at Havana’s Hotel Nacional on September 16 this year: “We believe normalization will contribute to the empowerment of our peoples, helping Cuba’s population become a part of the global economy, have broader trade, move about and, as such, see an improvement in their life in general terms.”
At the time, his Cuban counterpart, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, said: “I feel very comfortable with Cuban democracy, which is not to say that it cannot be improved on, as we actively seek to do through the processes related to the updating of our socialist economic and social model.”
The proposals advanced by the two governments are based on political tactics.
Government-to-government negotiations will take years and involve skirting countless obstacles and grabbing concessions from the US whenever possible, scratching in a struggle for survival – not of most Cubans but rather the governing elite, its successors and the surrounding nomenklatura. Suffice is to look at the statements made by Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s chief negotiator, to grasp this: “Internal policy decisions are not negotiable and will never be on the agenda of our talks with the United States.”
Vidal alludes to the tired old issue of respect towards national sovereignty and non-interference in Cuba’s internal affairs. In this connection, let us imagine a nasty character beating up his wife and mistreating his children. The neighbors demand that he abide by the law…would this be interfering in the internal affairs of that home? I leave the answer to readers and plunge right into a fresh bit of news:
According to a note published by the online journal Diario de Cuba on October 8, in September this year, “the [Cuban] government carried out at least 882 politically-motivated arbitrary detentions, the highest number over the past 15 months, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) announced in its yearly report on repression.”
This constitutes the only demand repeated by the White House. Cuba’s demands were very clearly summarized in a piece for Diario de Cuba by analyst Roberto Alvarez Quiñones: “What the Cuban regime wants is the lifting of the blockade, having access to international credits and taking in a lot of money from US tourists and capitalists.”
With respect to the Obama administration, Alvarez emphasizes that “Obama’s Realpolitik vis-a-vis Cuba is economic, commercial and technological. It is in no way altruistic, but it does bet that the collateral effects of this will push the regime towards radical changes.”
Empowering the private sector and cooperatives – today a growing minority – means to slowly pull the rug from under the parasitical governing elite of the “communist” archipelago. Having achieved diplomatic peace, what the Castro government now fears is a peaceful US invasion. The two governments will continue to pursue their policies, while the Cuban people watch from the sidelines.
Vicente Morín Aguado: email@example.com