Cuba stays at home watching the Vampire Diaries… while the other countries party

So I can’t help but think of high school politics when looking at the recent Summit of the Americas. Seems like all the kids had a party but deliberately snubbed one kid (Cuba) because the big bullying jock (the USA) and his sidekick (Canada) have a problem with him, while the other kids aren’t happy about it they aren’t really in a position to do anything, except maybe skip the next party themselves. Obviously the complexities of the Cuba-US relationship are deeper than those of a bunch of hormonal teenagers, but the whole situation got me thinking that perhaps the US needs to rethink its approach to the Cuban regime. While the days of planting exploding cigars to blow up Fidel Castro might be gone, the US still maintains its embargo on Cuba. Obama might claim this is because Cuba has a poor human rights record and has not made steps towards democracy, but that position is laughably hypocritical when you consider how close the US is with Saudi Arabia, a country whose human rights record is surely among the worst in the world  – especially if the definition of human rights is one taken from a liberal Western standpoint (which I will assume Obama’s definition is).

Anyhow, I was wondering if the embargo and isolation approach is even a good idea if the US and its allies want Cuba to democratise. Obviously this approach hasn’t worked for over half a century so maybe a change of tact is needed. If Cuba was opened up to US trade, the resulting wealth and increase in American soft power due to an increase in American firms and products in the country might force the country’s leaders to embrace free market reforms themselves as the pressure grows from a swelling middle class. After all, this basic model of democratisation following economic growth is widely accepted, and an increase in trade with the US could only bolster Cuba’s economy.

Food for thought… and even some mainstream pundits in the US are thinking the same way. After all, I think the US can safely claim it won the Cold War: no need to be scared of commies anymore! These days it’s the Chinese and/or the Muslims everyone’s afraid of (except Mitt Romney).

Being worried about communism is so last century.

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9 responses to “Cuba stays at home watching the Vampire Diaries… while the other countries party

  • Theo

    The rest of the countries in the hemisphere have formed an international organization known as CELAC – the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States – which includes all countries except the US and Canada. It is a direct challenge to the OAS which has long been dominated by the US. For more on this recent development: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CELAC

    As far as US – Cuba relations are concerned, the goal of the US has nothing to do with democracy in Cuba. As you rightfully point out, the US is very hypocritical on this matter, supporting regimes like Saudi Arabia, and Colombia ( which has the worst human rights record in the hemisphere by the way) when it aligns with the perceived interests of the US political class.

    The real intention of the embargo is what Noam Chomsky has called “the godfather principle” of international relations. Cuba is defiant and independent of the US, this sets a bad example for other peoples that the US seeks to control. Therefore the Cubans must be punished and not allowed to be successful in their defiance of US dictates and economic control.

    The business community in the US has long pushed for ending the embargo in order to gain access to the Cuban market, but in this instance the imperial and business interests do not align as they so often do in other cases.

    The US is completely isolated in the world in its support of the embargo. With the on-going process of Latin American and South-South integration, the US will eventually be forced to comes to grips with the changing reality or risk becoming obsolete in regards to Cuba.

    • fromthefourthcorner

      The US’s policy towards Latin America in general still seems to be paternalistic and not very pragmatic – the legacy of Manifest Destiny perhaps? However there is no denying that the US is the regional power (not to mention global power, of course) and therefore the relationship it has with Cuba will always be significant even if Cuba’s relationships with other states evolve and develop. The continued punishment of the Castro regime for defeating the US puppet government of Batista is a complete disconnect from the rest of the world’s approach to Cuba, as you point out. An opening up of trade with Cuba might even allow the CIA to influence Cuban politics more easily than they currently can!
      It will be interesting to see what happens when (if) the Castro brothers die and younger men who were not involved in the revolution take power. That might be the point where the US finally changes its approach.
      Also its worth noting that Cuba’s integration into global politics extends well beyond the Americas – here in the South Pacific Cuba has started to provide significant medical aid to the small island states. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban-Pacific_relations
      The more allies Cuba has, the more untenable the US position will be.

      • Theo

        You are right of course about the US always having a significant impact on Cuba, whether through an embargo or through reestablished relations. I went to far in making my point. The substance of my point, that the US is losing influence and power in the region at the expense of growing cooperation amongst the nations of Latin America is still valid though.

      • fromthefourthcorner

        I totally agree. Furthermore, the US’s paternalistic attitude towards Latin America combined with the rise of Brazil as a significant global power may well mean a stark decline in American influence over the region. The changing dynamics of Cuba’s foreign relations would just be one aspect of this broader trend.

  • greenfishbluefish

    Were you writing about thee American Summit, Cuba, the US, and its side kick Canada. Sorry dude – I thought you were writing about recent Pacific Forum summits Fiji, Australia and its side kick New Zealand.

  • dagormo

    I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot recently as well. Ultimately, I think that Obama (and his predecessors) are being very practical. Of course Cuba is no threat, but the Cuban community in the U.S. is a threat to the electability of U.S. presidents.

    Otherwise, I can’t make head nor tail of it. As you point out, the U.S. greatly support other non-democratic human-rights abusers, and ones which threaten national security much more greatly. I don’t agree with the Chomsky “godfather” analysis above, since there are much more outspoken leaders against the U.S. than Raul, and who are not punished anywhere nearly as harshly as Cuba.

    The U.S. political attitude towards Cuba won’t change until the (outspoken part of the) Cuban-American community’s attitude changes.

  • Theo

    You may want to check out this post, http://theotheramericas.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/us-isolated-at-summit-of-americas/, for further analysis of the summit, especially the hypocrisy surrounding the Canada-Cuba relationship.

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