There is an old Russian evaluation of a foolish participant in a dispute: he is the kind of man if you spit in his face, he will say it is raining. That could well describe the recent visit of Pres. Barack Obama to Cuba. Raul Castro, the current Communist dictator, did just about everything but that to make Obama’s U.S. look like a groveling supplicant for the regime’s affections.
The irony, of course, is that the Castro regime is on the ropes. Bankruptcy is too kind a word for the economy. Its traditional sugar industry is all but destroyed, from cropland to refinery to marketing. The last straw for Havana has been the near collapse of Hugo Chavez’ heirs in Venezuela. With some of the largest oil reserves in the world, and even though Caracas was unable to meet its own domestic energy needs, it was handing out largesse to its leftwing Latin American friends. But that has come to an abrupt end.. Helping the Cubans stay afloat which it did out of ideological solidarity has gone by the boards.
When he visited a month ago, despite a series of petty insults from Raul, Obama pretended he had made one of his “transformations” of misbegotten American policy.Raul did not meet him on the American president’s arrival at the airport, a normal protocol courtesy for a chief of government or state. At one point, Raul rather crudely grabbed Obama’s arm and showed him how to wave to the cheering crowd assembled by Castro’s henchmen. And so it went. Setting up formal diplomatic relations with Havana – on Cuban terms in numbers and personnel – was still being presented as a great victory of the Obama strategy which would prove a bounty American business.
And like a pied piper of old, Obama was able to drag along in his great new adventure not only the usual suspects on the left but some self-interested businessmen. Cuba, it was said, was ready to receive American capitalism with open arms. The regime was going to open up, take at least a few people off the government all-inclusive payroll. And there would be blossoming of the well known Cuban entrepreneurial spirit in small businesses allied to the enthusiastic foreigner investors and traders.
Of course, a part of the Cuban enthusiasts were American business interests who always live on our food subsidies and other government assisted programs. They are clambering that the Congressional embargo on business activities with Cuba be lifted. What they can’t explain is why the Canadians and the Europeans who have tried assiduously to do business in the Castros’ Cuba for 50 years have simply ended up with big fat loans going into default.
A great and glorious Cuban-American trade bonanza just isn’t going to materialize. At the end of a four-day session of the Cuban Communist Party just ended, even the possibility new, younger faces might appear was squashed. Ramond Marcha Ventura, another octogenarian, a notorious hard-liner, was reelected to the second top Party post after Raul. There had been speculation that he would be replaced as one minor concession to a new era. Castro did say he wants term limits, an age ceiling of 70 years for senior party leaders. He also criticized the slow pace of economic reform, such as allowing small private businesses, which he hadannounced five years ago. To top it all off, Fidel turned up/ “I will be 90 years old soon,” he said. “But the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain.”
Whether Cuba will now drift into a more traditional Latin American “caudillo” regime is still a possibilkity but a big question. Obama’s attempt to intervene – and Castro has spent the last month denouncing it as such – is unlikely to have had any effect. That could well mean that a violent ending may await the Castros and present Washington with a crisis on its very doorstep.
Tag Archives: Castros
The Obama Administration’s Cuban romance is rapidly turning into a nightmare – at least for those of us who believe in the old fashioned concept of the sanctity of embassies and their functioning.
Requesting another $6 million plus to expand the current “American interests section”, in all but diplomatic protocol an already existing U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, John D. Feeley, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in support of the request. Hopefully, in the closed session, the Senators got more information. The public testimony was, to say the least, a little wanting. Freeley repeatedly said he had not been a party to the negotiations himself and could not, at least in open session, reveal more than the opinions of the American negotiators but not the progress of his boss as chief negotiator.
But Feeley did say some startling things: American negotiators are still arguing about the expansion of local personnel, that is, whether those employees will be only those openly proffered by Raul Castro’s secret police. It is still not clear whether the U.S. would be able to bring in its own equipment [obviously including security protective devices] for any expansion of the mission’s facilities. The question of returning American criminal fugitives who have taken refugee in Habana has not been settled. Opened? Cuba, which has been caught red-handed [pun intended] twice in the last 18 months smuggling heavy weapons to North Korea around the UN embargo, has nevertheless professed to end any state terrorist activities. [Ostensibly this mea culpa has been accepted by Colombia and Spain, although, here again, Freeley wasn’t too sure.]
Given that within 48 hours of the announcement by the Obama Administration that it was proceeding toward opening full-fledged relations with Havana, there were new arrests without trial of Cuban democratic activists who are likely to remain incarcerated for unknown periods, one has to ask exactly what Washington is getting out of this deal. Beyond, of course, a new center for Cuban infiltration, subversion and espionage in Washington for, if you will pardon the smirk, “reciprocity”.
The amateur ideologues of the Obama Administration have fallen into another snakepit with their tacit endorsement of the notorious Cuban dictatorship. That’s despite all the nonsense about a blossoming Cuban economy if Washington just relents.
In reality, Washington is buckling in its opposition to one of the world’s most hideous regimes. Now its death throes will be perpetuated for Cuba’s 12 million people with the help of such deep thinkers as Sen. Rand Paul who dreams despite all the evidence in China and Vietnam to the contrary that contagious capitalism will bring down a police state.
Even more shameful is the helping hand – which Pres. Barack Hussein Obama acknowledged – of Canada and the Vatican in this new Obama enterprise. For half a century Canadian nickel interests and the always anti-American wheat lobby have blackened Ottawa’s reputation with its support of the Castros. At the Vatican, whose help Obama also acknowledged, there are echoes of the Church’s tacit support of Franco and other cruel dictatorships, as well as Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s ambiguous relationship with Argentine totalitarians as Jesuit Father Provincial in his native country before mounting the papacy. [Nor is this gesture likely to help stave off the growing influence of Evangelical Christians on the old Roman Catholic monopoly of Christian believers throughout Latin America.]
Despite all the talk of the regime moderating , Raúl Castro holds more than 57,000 political prisoners. And his dungeons have sucked in more new victims in the past year than the five previous years. Conditions are as bad as in the worst days of the Soviet Union and the East Eruopean Communist Bloc, producing hunger strikes in a noble if feeble effort against solitary confinement, beatings, restricted family visits and denial of medical care. There is no redress except for American citizens like the naïve and very lucky Alan Philip Gross who had maximum U.S. support for his release on trumped up charges, but only after five years..
The fiction that Cuba has anything to sell or that investments there could pay off has been refuted by decades of failed efforts by the Europeans – especially Spain – to circumvent the now tattered American embargo. Little Cuba has no hope of repaying some $25 billion it already owes these ambitious “investors”. Prepare yourself for the coming suggestion that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank [with the U.S. carrying its quarter or more of support] to “amortize” these bills.
The destruction of a thriving if troubled Latin American society in the 1950s came with the help of the same cheering section of the current White House strategy [notably The New York Times]. When Cuba left the real world a half century ago, it ranked fifth in the Hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in ownership of cars and telephones with a 76% literary rate. [The fact that it was 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita gives the lie to the Castros’ claims of creating a new medical miracle.] Cuba’s prosperity then was largely paid for by a guaranteed sugar import quota in the U.S., its principal industry and income producer, and tourism for a glamorous if corrupt nearby tourist capital in Habana..
Now Cuba comes back into the world not only with its sugar industry in ruins, but in a world with a half dozen “new” sweetener competitors [including highly subsidized U.S. domestic beets], no possibility of a guaranteed American market, and a world drowning in subsidized sugar programs. [This week the U.S. has hauled Mexico up on a charge of dumping its subsidized sugar in American markets in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.]
After decades of Communist repression and mismanagement, Cuba has reached a desperate crisis. Its Venezuelan ally which had provided subsidized energy in exchange for Castro assistance in setting up its own police state can nolonger foot the bill for Cuban energy.
That was the situation when Obama and his speechwriters rushed to fill the gap.
Now greedy American exporters – supercharged with their own program of an annual $14 billion in corruption-ridden agricultural and export subsidies – will be bidding with their Canadian taxpaying counterparts for supplying the starving country. Any extension of aid – private or government – will end up in the hands of the regime in its effort to survive by continuing to exploit an impoverished population.
Not only did Raúl Castro not make even the nominal concessions he has made in the past toward a liberalization of the regime, but so-called “reforms” permitting small scale private enterprise are a sham.
To the extent Obama can carry out his tactics despite formidable opposition in the Congress, his strategy will only intensify the implosion when it comes in Cuba. Rather, the American government should be preparing for that day, not the least for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees who will flow toward Miami. Fifty years of dealing with the problems of another small Caribbean tropical island, Puerto Rica, a third Cuba’s size, have taught us just how difficult those problems will be.