USA and Cuba, the Same Old Questions?

By Fernando Ravsberg

Should Cuba accept the manifest destiny of living 90 miles from the US or to demand from the world’s greatest power equal treatment and respect?  Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – The dilemma between Cuba and the US has all the signs of prolonging itself in time. Miguel Diaz Canel, the candidate of the Communist Party for the Presidency, has just said that the future of relations depends on the attitude assumed by Washington.

After voting in last Sunday’s local elections, he explained that it will not be possible to normalize bilateral relations while the US maintains the economic blockade against Cuba, its subversive plans and the territory illegally occupied by the military base in Guantánamo.

His statements have aroused controversy among Cubans. There are those who believe that this policy has had too high an economic and social cost, while others maintain that no price is excessive when it comes to national sovereignty.

The debate comes from before being an independent country. Cuban politics has always been marked by two great visions, that of independence at the cost of any sacrifice, and the other accepting the “manifest destiny” of being a small country.

The “reconcentration” ordered by General Weyler, [Spain’s top officer in Cuba during part of the pro-independence uprisings  led by Jose Marti and Maximo Gomez, who ordered the detaining of the rural population of western Cuba in reconcentration camps], at very high social cost, causing the death of 300,000 civilians and sank the island in misery. He did not manage to get the Mambis to stop the war but he caused other Cubans to give in to the power of Madrid.

The “reconcentration” of Weyler had a very high social cost and evidenced two opposing Cuban political positions.

A notorious example was that of Carlos Saladrigas, who headed a delegation of the Liberal Party that went to the Palace of the General Captains to offer their collaboration in “the prompt pacification of the island and the majestic rule of law”.

Today there are also those who believe that by yielding to the demands of the United States, “much more than honor and dignity can be achieved, let’s not deceive ourselves or conform. Or is it that you can breakfast with honor and lunch with dignity? “, wrote a commentator on my blog.

Another reader justified Washington’s animosity: “How do you expect the US to lower its flags if we receive their arch enemy from North Korea, which has little to contribute to the country (a little? I would say nothing), what do the gestures of neighborhood hustlers serve? ”

On the other hand, some wrote the opposite: “Trying to make peace with the bullies of the north did not work. Actually, I think that everyone who has their senses knew that with the brawlers it was difficult to reach a fair agreement. ”

They maintain a visceral distrust of Washington and Miami: “The Rubio and Diaz-Balart only want the millions that fall for making campaigns. It is better to be a friend of North Korea, than the double standard of the United States, or don’t we remember what he did to Gadaffi in Libya.”

The Cuban nation is immersed in a process of general and generational changes that affect the economy, society, technology, migration, communications, press and even penetrate traditions, which are beginning to feel the influence of a globalized world.

For the current Cuban government, and apparently for the next one as well, the normalization of relations with the United States must pass through the end of the Embargo. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

There are those who repeat that the problems between the US and Cuba began in 1959 but in reality they are older, they come from the time of the Spanish colony and lasted during the Republican era (1902-1959), with a control of the island that reached the military invasions.

From independence until 1959, Cuba was ruled by leaders who believed that the only way to survive was subordinated to US power. After the Revolution, the command passed into the hands of those who demand Washington a peer-to-peer relationship.

Should Cuba return to the kind of relations it had with the US before the Revolution? Is that what most Cubans really want? Are there possibilities to establish a relationship of equality between a small island and the greatest power in the world?

Would it be best to be “pragmatic” and accept Washington as the “big brother” who decides what is best for Cubans? Or is it preferable to be “idealists” and continue striving for national independence, even at the cost of postponing the long-awaited material prosperity?

The questions before the Cuban nation remain the same as those it has had for the past 150 years.


4 thoughts on “USA and Cuba, the Same Old Questions?

  • Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment above, Carlyle, but I stand corrected that Weyler (his name doesn’t even sound Spanish) did implement the harshest policy of concentration camps in Cuba. The boers (meaning “farmers” in Dutch and Afrikaans) first settled in South Africa back in 1650 as a mid-station to and from the Dutch East Indies (where I was born); therefore, the Dutch were not interesting of settling them but only to grow crops and nothing else, only to abandon them when the territory was handed over to the British after the Napoleonic wars. The Afrikaners live in a time warp holding on to 17th century Calvinist belief of “predestination.” I hope this will change and join other modern Calvinists after majority rule was implemented in 1993. The African Union recognized the Afrikaners as the white tribe in Africa as they were there for more than 350 years, and there is still a close bond between the Zulus and the Afrikaners who respected each other’s powers in numerous battles. There are white Afrikaners and black Afrikaners (so called “coloureds”) that speak Afrikaans as their first language which I can understand as a Dutch speaker. But I am glad that apartheid was done away with in a peaceful transition to black majority rule. It is interesting to note that 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language followed by English for 11%. I hope that Cubans can be just as successful in their transition to majority rule and eventual parliamentary democracy.

  • Just a small correction Hans. It was Weyler who invented the concentration camp, the British copied his concept later in South Africa. But whereas some 30% of those incarcerated by Weyler died and the survivors were skeletal, perhaps you could provide the percentage of deaths in the British concentration camps? I do not seek to excuse the British, but we should all recall the treatment of blacks in South Africa by the Boers and their practices based upon the promoted belief of the Dutch Orthodox Church that: “The whites are the sons of Abel, the blacks are the sons of Cain.” That hideous belief was only rescinded within the last 20 years.
    I have as you may recall have like yourself, pointed out that Cuba given freedom, does not need to copy the US political model (muddle?). I agree there are better alternatives.
    As an amusing footnote, I can relate that one of my childhood memories is of knowing a Mr. Duncan, when I was a child in Aberdeen. He was born in 1842, and told me about the Boer War and the siege of Mafeking. He was almost 60 at the time, and when I knew him, he was 97. But an interesting example of verbal history.

  • During Cuba’s war for independence from Spain in the late 19th century, the British occupiers were doing the same during the second Boer War in South Africa (1898-1903) incarcerating thousands of Boer families (Afrikaners) in concentration camps where thousands of them (mainly women and children) starved to death. I believe the British invented concentration camps as an instrument of war to keep families of freedom fighters hostage through most of the 19th century that was later copied by the Spanish and then the Germans and Turks in the following century. The Americans did the same in the Vietnam war. Cubans need all the help they can get to transition their political infrastructure into a parliamentary democracy with three to five parties as practiced in Canada and Western Europe while still maintaining
    their sovereignty respected by the international community, especially their neighbor up north. This will be a hard and challenging task but it can be done as most of them are well educated with common sense. But they need to take their time to avoid floating into the next dictatorship!

  • I disagree with Fernando Ravsberg’s view that the only alternative for Cuba if released from the communist yoke would be to return to being a satellite of the US.Given choice, there are other alternatives and better models of government.
    Fernando poses a question of whether a smaller nation can have equality with the greatest power in the world. If as he infers, that is not possible, it would also apply to Germany, France, the UK and innumerable others. Cuba is a larger nation than many others being on par for example with Austria.
    I am however pleased to see his comments about Spain and in particular about General Weyler, because in their enthusiasm to castigate the US, the Castro regime and its supporters prefer to forget the appalling history of Spanish rule from Christopher Columbus writing in his diary that with 50 armed men it would be possible to control the Taino as they only had wooden spears, through the four centuries until 1898. It is of note that Spain rewarded Weyler for his invention of concentration camps by appointing him Minister of War and then making him Duke of Rubi and a Grandee of Spain. He died in 1930.
    The history books now used in Cuban schools, virtually ignore the legacy of Spanish control and actions, but detail the sins, errors and omissions of the US. Does that reflect a wish to denigrate the US, or the fact that the father of the Castros was an immigrant from Galicia in Spain at a time when Cuba out of fear that a black majority was in the offing decided to advertise for white Spanish Catholic immigrants and provided financial incentives.
    It was Spanish rule which led to Cespedes, Agramonte, Marti, Gomez and Maceo into revolution, not the US.
    i however share Fernando Ravsberg’s evident concern for the people of Cuba and their yearning for freedom and a future where they can raise their heads and voices openly.

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