Obama and Cuba
By: Guest Authors
By William L. Marcy IV, Ph.D.
There has been little challenge to the Cuban policy of the Obama administration. The news media fawns over him, and several writers simply ignore some of the realities of Latin America. In a Miami Herald opinion poll more than 56% of the Cuban-American population was against loosening restrictions against Cuba. Significantly, there are several questions that should be raised.
1) Remittances are a major source of foreign exchange for a government that receives money mostly from tourism and sugar. However, the regime had been on the verge of economic collapse since the collapse of the USSR. Easing the pressure at this point, allows the regime to survive another day and shows Americaâ€™s lack of commitment to those who have struggled for democracy in Cuba. Europeans and Canadians have conveniently overlooked Cubaâ€™s oppression of the democratic opposition. However, in Obamaâ€™s new era of cooperation, pressure from the Europeans and Canadians as well as Latin American states could have brought about real change in Cuba by forcing Cuba to accept the democratic process. Instead, remittances give the regime the life-blood to strengthen their hand.
2) As a consequence of this decision, a stronger regime will stifle the democratic opposition. In 2003, the Cuban government locked up many members of the democratic opposition. Because Obama’s policy will put them in a better position, why would they let up on dissent? Moreover, even when Fidel and Raul die, the bureaucratic arm of the party in Cuba will not want to relinquish state control over the economy or the democratic process. Successors such as Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage Davila are unlikely to give up their power.
3) Cuba is allied with Hugo Chavez, the caudillo of Venezuela and another anti-democrat. Chavez has taken up the banner of Cuban socialism and is ardently trying to transform Latin America. His regime and his foreign policy is sustained by oil-money. Venezuela now suffers under his heterodox economic policies as the price of oil falls. Many middle-class Venezuelans have fled their patria to the United States as food shortages become more common and the economy worsens. Furthermore, Chavez represses the democratic opposition of Venezuela. Through his intimidation of the opposition, Chavez has pushed through a constitutional referendum to consolidate his control over Venezuela and implement the Bolivarian Road to Socialism despite the fact that he lost a previous referendum. Moreover, incontrovertible evidence shows that Chavez supports the guerrillas in Colombia and is developing military alliances with Iran and Russia. In addition, Cuba has offered to allow Russian military access to its territorial waters and airspace. According to Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for International Affairs, â€œCuba’s location has geopolitical importance” and that a â€œpresence in both economic and military affairs must be built in America.â€
4) Cuba has been and remains a place where Colombian guerrillas such as FARC comandante Rodrigo Granda, refit and retrain. Colombian military officers do not deny the role Cuba has had in assisting the Colombian guerrillas. According some reports, Cuban military advisers operate a secret training camp for Colombian guerrillas inside Venezuela. Moreover, more than once, Cuba has attempted to interject itself as a neutral mediator in Colombiaâ€™s 40 year-old civil war although it has provided material assistance to the guerrillas in the past. By helping the Cuban regime, Obama undermines stability in Colombia, and indirectly adds to Mexican instability as Mexican cartels fight over the flow of processed cocaine from Colombia. Moreover, Cuba is a place where a high percentage of cocaine transits from Colombia into Europe. From Cuba’s past involvement in drug trafficking, it is naive to believe that the DGI (Cuban intelligence) is not benefiting from this business. For those who argue for the legalization of cocaine, they need to consider the health and safety issues that revolve around legalization.
5) Pro-market forces believe that new markets for American business will emerge in Cuba. However, nobody seems to remember the Cuban Revolution. Why do these proponents of trade believe the communist regime in Cuba (which opposed Gorbachev’s perestroika because it deviated too far from Marxist-Leninist theory) is now going to allow American business to penetrate its markets? In the minds of Cubans, isn’t this a return to what they perceive as American neo-colonialism, a perception that rallied the Cuban masses to the nationalist nature of the Cuban Revolution prior to the Communist takeover and the suspension of elections? What is going to prevent an anti-American backlash especially if we think we can flood the country with U.S. imports? Breaking dependence on the U.S. was what the revolution was all about. How will the regime legitimize itself without decrying U.S. dependency?
6) The U.S. claims it supports democracy, but Obama is essentially giving life-support to the most un-democratic country in hemisphere. What makes Raul or Fidel or their bureaucratic cohort any different from 1970s dictators such as Augusto Pinochet? Take a look at Cuba’s prisons and Cubaâ€™s continued use of torture. Will pressure now be put on Cuba to permit the right of assembly for dissidents? Will freedom of the press be allowed? Will acts of repudiation and local watch committees (spy networks) be eliminated? Will Cuba end its position as one of the worst human rights trafficking nations in the world where 50,000 women and children are trafficked for exploitation annually? Will foreigners remain segregated from the Cuban population? Instead of asking whether we should allow Americans to travel to Cuba, we should be asking whether or not Cubans will be allowed to travel freely to visit their families in Miami?
Clearly, more thought needs to be given in regard to Cuba. There are many questions not being asked by the news media or the Obama administration. These issues must be brought before the American public for a real debate on U.S. policy towards Cuba.