For those of us who had our doubts about the Obama “opening” to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s son, a photographer, has confirmed the worst in an interview with a Chilean radio station. Alex Castro, the regime’s official photographer, went to Chile to present his photographic books at an international book fair.
Alex, however, accuses his uncle, Raúl, and his buddies, who took over from his father in mid-2006, of bureaucracy, moving too slowly toward change, and extensive corruption. Furthermore, Castro hints that he wants to defect and that he would go to Miami to show his pictures there if an American visa is forthcoming.
Alex follows several other second generation Castro offspring x-wives and lovers who have flown the coop. Alex is the second son of Fidel Castro y Dalia Soto del Valle. He has published a number of photograph books about his father. But he refused to answer a question about the details of the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl, other than to say that it arose from changes the latter have made and had come come about for “various reasons.” Raúl was longtime head of the military under Fidel and there is a growing suspicion the Havana dictatorship is turning into the traditional Latin American military regime.
One of the many ironies in the interview is that Alex says Raúl has failed to follow the example of Communist Vietnam. That is “difficult [because] there are no other [political] parties, “ he said. “It’s likely to be that we don’t follow the Vietnamese path in five years but take 40 to 40 years the way we are doing things.”
“The way we change things in our socialist system”, although he added that he recognizes that “many things have changed”, is being done “without submitting the population to shock treatment.”
Castro was equally pessimistic about the future of foreign investment in 84-year-old Raúl’s Cuba. He said he would like to have seen great progress in the negotiations for such investments with the prospect for important gains for the Cuban people with ”large companies.” But he pointed out that the majority of these negotiations are going with the Cuban state not with any equal partners in the virtually nonexistent private sector.
In his opinion, Castro said, these negotiations won’t produce much. These are big companies “in trade or industry or large chains of hotels” that cannot negotiate except with similar enterprises and those do not exist in Cuba. “They don’t exist now in Cuba and they aren’t going to come about. Some people can get rich but they aren’t going to be millionaires”, he said.
Castro referred to elements in the current regime which are “hard-line and blind”. He said that power is wielded only by a small group, all of whom are “conservatives” who oppose any fundamental changes.
He said relations with the Vatican are better “at this moment”. But he said while relations :”have been lit”, “we nevertheless understand that instead of a war, the Church and the government want to improve relations, the same as with the Americans” and for the moment don’t go further than that.
Laughing, in an aside on his three divorces, he said that each one of his ex-wives “gave him a haircut”. That came through a division of assets, the feeling of responsibility, and they left him with little, he said between guffaws.
Without doubt, Castro’s comments about the slow movement toward change indicate “[there are] forces even more conservative than Raúl, in a highly personalized regime such as Cuba’s,” according to Sebastián Arcos, deputy director of the Institute of Cuban Studies at The International University of Florida in Miami.
American businessmen coming up against these barriers – like their Canadian and European colleagues during the last several decades – are going to find it slow going in Cuba. The promise of new markets and trade, one of the things for which the Obama Administration excused its dealings with a regime still jailing political opponents, isn’t likely to come about. Except – of course – if the American taxpayer picks up the tab with new credits which a bankrupt Cuban economy certainly cannot justify. Obama’s recent request for lifting the Cuban embargo, now only a shadow of its former self, may be the first step in that direction.
In that simplistic jargon characterizing Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s worldwide “transformation” of U.S. foreign policy, the chief argument for his Cuban shift has been “[T]hese 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.”
In the facts of history, in this as in so many other instances, Obama is wrong.
The fact is that U.S. policy toward Cuba, with its ups and downs, has been generally successful.
First, of course, the outcome of the Cuban Missiles Crisis of October 1962 prevented the Soviet Union from obtaining an advanced offensive weapons base just off the U.S. southern coast. The confrontation was a turning point in the Cold War. Moscow’s victorious march through control of Central and Eastern Europe and its threat to Western Europe began to be reversed when JFK backed off Nikita Khrushchev’s gamble.
Secondly, the Soviet Union’s Cold War effort, using the Castros’ regime, to infiltrate and create other Communist states in Latin America was beaten back – in Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Colombia. Indeed almost every Latin American government at one time or another was a target, if unsuccessfully.
That is not to say, of course, that American policy toward Habana was a string of unbroken successes, or that, in fact, it was always clear-headed.
It was, after all, American support for the Castros which brought down the Batista dictatorship in 1959 and installed the Communists. With the help of the American media, Washington was lulled into the trap that Fidel Castro was a reformer and not a Soviet model for his new regime.
Indeed, the settlement with Khrushchev of the Missiles Crisis resulted in a U.S. commitment to end its active efforts to bring regime change in Habana, whether through aid to such abortive military adventures as the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Cuban émigrés invasion or plots directed against eliminating the Castros themselves. But the continued presence of the Castro regime posed a constant threat to American interests – as far away as Africa, where the Soviets employed Cuban forces in Angola to install a Marxist regime [still in power]. That was despite Ronald Reagan’s elimination in 1983 of the Caribbean stepping stone of a Cuban-supported regime on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
First Soviet and later Chinese intelligence and subversion operations as well as listening posts in Cuba, before the digital revolution and new long-range communications, provided a continuing important base of operations by Washington potential enemies.
But by 1970, a combination of U.S. pressure [and, ironically, opposition from the more orthodox Communists not only in Moscow but among the other Latin American parties] forced Castro to withdraw his more active support for the overthrow of other regimes.
Left behind was an impoverished island – Cuba had among the highest standards of living in Latin America when Castro came to power – and a corrupt and oppressive regime, a potential source of instability and intrigue. More recently Habana’s transfer of its allegiance from Moscow to Caracas is the result of the emergence of an anti-American regime in Venezuela. But the growing economic difficulties of the Caracas regime, despite the largest proven oil reserves in the world, have put a kibosh on its aid to the Castros, the lifeblood of the regime.
In effect, the Obama Administration has now thrown a lifeline to the increasingly endangered Habana dictatorship. Not only is Obama at least temporarily saving a collapsing tyranny, he has done so without demanding that in return Raul Castro make concessions to the U.S. and the Cuban people. Instead, it has reinforced its nefarious activities: for example, new political persecutions were initiated at the very moment Obama was making his overtures to the Castros. Cuba still remains a sanctuary for fugitive American criminals. Only this month Castros’ thugs brutally attacked peacefully demonstrating anti-Castro activists at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Obama’s announcement he is considering removing Cuba from the list of sponsors of state terrorism will strengthen Habana’s relations with leftwing totalitarians throughout the Hemisphere.
However limited the real possibilities for economic development given the present state of the Cuban economy and the regime’s continuing restrictions on private initiative, just the hope of investment and trade – including tourism – from the U.S. is seen as rescuing the regime.
That, indeed, will be the end of what has been, whatever its inadequacies, American policy for half a century, a successful strategy to isolate a threatening totalitarian regime in the Hemisphere. And it comes at the very moment when there was every prospect that the regime might implode, a victim of its own contradictions, leading to a new democratic Cuba.
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