What Can Cuba Expect from a Return of the Right in Latin America?

Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno

Henrique Capriles, former candidate of the Venezuelan opposition coalition.
Henrique Capriles, former presidential candidate of the Venezuelan opposition coalition.

HAVANA TIMES — Several analysts suggest that Latin American governments are nearing the “end of the progressive cycle.” Over the past 10 to 15 years, countries like Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and others saw the electoral success of political forces with social programs of anti-neoliberal slant. Today, however, a number of these societies are amid corruption scandals, street protests and other forms of public unrest.

If we’re strict about it, these governments never moved far beyond a kind of Keynesian reformism. They did not question the foundations of the capitalist and exploitative systems in these nations. During a period of economic growth, they reaped success through investment in social programs. Today, in a time of recession, the unresolved contradictions of their capitalist systems are creating serious difficulties for these countries.

Cuba’s official newspapers trivialized these problems and, for the most part, attributed them to maneuvers by the traditional Right. They are not wrong on this last point – it’s only natural for the Right to want to screw over its political adversaries to the left. The official media have a harder time explaining phenomena such as Ecuador’s “confused” Left, which does not support President Correa, or concealing that Dilma Roussef’s approval ratings are currently around 10%.

Journalist Angel Guerra Cabrera, writing in the government’s leading website Cubadebate, insists that what we’re seeing is not the end of the progressive cycle by a counteroffensive and coup attempts by the Right.

Brazilian investors are among the most active in Cuba. This situation has been made possible by the favorable relations between the two countries and the fact that the Brazilian government has offered the huge Odebrecht corporation and other companies operating in Cuba extraordinary support. If such support were to be withdrawn, negotiations surrounding present and future undertakings would become far more complicated.

These statements remind me of those who, irate, refused to acknowledge that the Soviet Union of 1989 had more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Then and today, those who criticize aspects of these countries have been dismissed as ideologically confused individuals or people who play into the hands of the enemy, among other things.

This leads us to other reflections. To refuse to acknowledge the regression of the Left and to call it the advance of the Right strikes of the Byzantine and the blind. If one is a rabbit and a pack of dogs can be heard in the distance, it would be wise to know what one should do next, no matter what kinds of dogs are chasing us.

One isn’t exactly wise, having more concerns that answers. Brazil and Venezuela are Cuba’s most important commercial partners. Considerable – if not major – sources of income for the country depend on commercial relations with these two nations (particularly those having to do with medical programs). Some members of the opposition in Brazil and Venezuela are explicitly opposed to these relations; others appear to be more conciliatory. At any rate, the sword of Damocles hands over them today.

Brazilian investors are among the most active in Cuba. This situation has been made possible by the favorable relations between the two countries and the fact that the Brazilian government has offered the huge Odebrecht corporation and other companies operating in Cuba extraordinary support. If such support were to be withdrawn, negotiations surrounding present and future undertakings would become far more complicated.

Good relations with Uruguay and Argentina are also maintained. Uruguay, for instance, pardoned Cuba a debt of several tens of millions of dollars. Cuba exports pharmaceutical products to the entirety of this region; it imports food products and receives tourists, etc. If Cuban importers (all State-run) were to face a less favorable climate, the population could run into shortages of products, even of those sold by the government in Cuban Convertible Pesos (hard currency).

Now, we are seeing a phenomenon which brings both new opportunities and new risks. I am referring to normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.

Now, Cuba can only make purchases from the United States in cash. Everyone speaks of the advantages that being allowed to purchase on credit would bring. This will certainly be positive, but we shouldn’t forget the other side of the coin.

Capital from the United States – particularly from Cuban-Americans – is again, gradually taking root in our soil. It is likely to expand quickly, as the US embargo-blockade continues to be eroded. The yanks are not going to come and invest here because they’re “good people.” If they’re granted more space to maneuver, they’re going to do so, but they’re also going to want to decorate the room to their liking. It will be convenient for them to dismantle all principles of social justice that stand in the way of the exploitation of local wealth, and of the work force in particular.

Dealing with this won’t be impossible, but to reap something positive from the contradictions between the different societies will be difficult. On this end, it would require the existence of a socialist, popular, democratic, courageous and efficacious system that would allow the working class to organize in a manner that would permit this. Thanks to the authoritarianism of our current Party-State-Government and its effort to reduce the people to a docile workforce, we have still to create the antibodies needed to constructively interact with the capitalist forces up north.

If importing farm products from the south becomes more difficult, there will likely be no shortage of offers coming from the north. That will depend heavily, of course, on how the political landscape evolves up there. In such a scenario, we can expect to see plenty of Monsanto corn, a lot of transgenic chicken and similar things. Perhaps it won’t be that different from what used to be sold to us in the past.

If we wanted to be pessimistic, there are plenty of places where things could go wrong.

Now, Cuba can only make purchases from the United States in cash. Everyone speaks of the advantages that being allowed to purchase on credit would bring. This will certainly be positive, but we shouldn’t forget the other side of the coin.

How much can Cuba come to owe the United States in a mere 10 years, if the blockade were lifted? And every penny owed to the United States, to its banks and capitalists will make this country sweat blood. Given the natural aversion that the north has for the label of socialism – no matter how inaccurate they are – there will be no pardons or any possibility of settling the debt with the sale of bio-pharmaceuticals, and we won’t likely see friendly governments willing to become co-guarantors, as we’ve seen in dealings with the south.

Of course, a competent and responsible government devoid of corruption could avoid such complications. It would be able to secure the good while avoiding the bad. But we know we have no such government. They are going to place our throats in their hands, and we all know how dangerous that can be.


7 thoughts on “What Can Cuba Expect from a Return of the Right in Latin America?

  • Totally agree!

  • It is ironic that the price of socialismo is state control over all aspects of life. It is the most unnatural thing a human being could do. To give up full control of his life to the state. Socialism is an economic failure but that is not the only reason humanity is rejecting the system. And that is not to say that social programs and public goods are likewise to be ended. It is free market systems that can best support safety net programs and societal goods in measured quantity.

  • Dictatorships of both right and left are evil. That obviously includes both Batista and the Castros in Cuba. Cubans require freedom from either!
    Changes in the last fifty six years in Cuba have been imposed. Two – medical and educational although the latter is used shamelessly for indoctrination – have been beneficial, but what of others?
    Where is the freedom of expression and individuality, so necessary to develop a vigorous economy. Agricultural production – an essential first step – has declined year by year and the economy of a country is its production.
    My reason for being opposed to the US embargo is that it has served as an excuse utilised by the Castro family regime through their control of the media for all their failures.
    I want to see the Castro family regime exposed for what it is, not protected by any third party erroneous policy. Knowing Cuba through living there, I know how effective the actions of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba are and the eyes and ears of the regime on every block of every city, town and village of the CDR.
    Innocents in other countries have swallowed the Castro regime lie that the embargo is responsible for their financial and economic incompetence. That is reflected in these columns of the Havana Times. Folks like Mr. John Goodrich who has never even visited Cuba and so bases his views upon second hand information, have been suckered by that propaganda having no knowledge of the reality. Many tourists who have spent a couple of weeks in Varadero with a few hours on a walking tour of Old Havana are similarly mislead. A walking tour of Marianoa and La Lisa in Havana would make them much wiser – there they would see the living conditions of the average Cuban.

  • I would agree that there have been right-wing government failures. Howevrr, they usually fail for different reasons. The left-wing extremists destroy capital. Right-wing extremists steal it.

  • For every example of a leftist government screwing things up, there is also an example of a right wing government that has done the same. Though I think it is possible if not likely that a number of countries of the pink tide will elect right wing governments I don’t think that will be completely widespread. I’m will also stick my neck out and say that none will revert to the right wing dictatorships nor the neo-liberal disasters of the past. Nor will they roll back many of the changes that have happened.

  • Moses, thanks for reminding us of Margaret Thatcher’s pearl of wisdom. A couple more to add:
    “Socialists don’t like ordinary people choosing, for they might not choose Socialism.” and:
    “It is no accident that Socialism has failed. Nor that the democracies and free enterprise economies of the West have prospered. These results are the inevitable consequences of two quite different approaches. It’s not a question of a little less planning here or a little less regulation there, or a fraction more private capital in this sector or a touch more competition in that.
    Socialism is not just about economics. Its central dogma is to make the State the ultimate authority for the whole of life. It’s based on coercion. It denies the dignity of people. It is a secular creed which has utterly failed. The ruins that remain of Socialism in Europe today are physical shortages, a corrupt bureaucracy, growing unrest, and the urgent cry of those refugees: “We want to get out”.”

  • The fundamental failure of the left in the Latin American countries named has been their inability to maintain, let alone generate higher productivity levels to sustain the social programs and populist agenda that they promote. Even China, with a unique set of circumstances ideal for growth is struggling to sustain productivity levels of the past few years. Worse yet, the international media is reporting now that the once vaunted productivity reports of as high as 7% were false. Chinese journalist have reported growth of less than 4% in China. In Latin America, Venezuela is estimated to contract by 7% this year. Cuba, while estimating 4% growth for 2015, will likely see barely 1%, the majority of that due to increase tourism. Lacking the growth to fund it’s populist agenda, these leftist governments beg, borrow and steal the money for as long as possible. What the left is experiencing is exactly what former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, …”they eventually run out of other peoples money”.

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