Facts in Cuba Contradicts U.S. Goals
- Submitted by: admin
- Politics and Government
- 08 / 08 / 2009
But let's move beyond this rather simplistic argument to analyze the actual accomplishments (or lack thereof) of Washington's policy toward Havana in the post-Cold War era. This is all the more important now that Castro has temporarily relinquished power to his brother Raul due to illness and Cuba's future is clouded with great uncertainty.
Since the early 1990s, Washington's stated goal with respect to Cuba has been to hasten a democratic transition on the island, which eventually would lead to the abandonment of the current state-controlled communist system in favor of a multiparty democracy with free and fair elections, freedom of speech, press and association, and a market-based economy.
To achieve this goal, U.S. policy-makers have devised a series of restrictive measures aimed to deny hard-currency revenues to the Castro government that would be used by the latter to resist domestic and international pressure for change.
However, in recent years Cuba has been moving in the direction exactly opposite to the one envisioned by the United States. Havana's authorities have reverted some of the capitalist-style economic reforms they had implemented between 1993 and 1994 to ensure the survival of a system on the verge of collapse. They have also stepped up government control on the overall economy and exhibited greater intolerance of political dissent.
Thus, from a U.S. standpoint, Cuba is farther from democracy today than it was a decade ago.
This is not surprising.
When the Torricelli law of 1992 restricted trade with Cuba through U.S. subsidiaries located overseas, Castro opened the island to foreign investment in search of badly needed external financing. When the Helms-Burton law of 1996 added secondary sanctions against third-country investors "trafficking" in U.S. expropriated properties in Cuba, the Castro government had already developed a scheme to attract and capture remittances from abroad by legalizing the use of U.S. dollars and opening state-run hard-currency stores. Money from abroad, mainly sent from or personally delivered by Cuban-Americans to their relatives in Cuba, was a crucial factor in reactivating the Cuban economy in the second half of the 1990s.
And when the Bush administration, in June 2004, finally decided to implement more stringent restrictions on Cuban-American travel and money transfers to Cuba, the island's economy was no longer as dependent on remittances as it was a few years earlier. Venezuela was becoming the main economic lifeline for the cash-strapped Castro government.
Since October 2000, Cuba has been paying for vital imports of cut-rate Venezuelan oil with medical and educational services. Moreover, the Cuban economy has greatly benefited from the launch in late 2004 of the program Operation Miracle, financed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, under which Cuban doctors are providing free eye surgery to patients from several Latin American countries. Exports of professional services, mostly medical ones, generated almost 40 percent of Cuba's total hard-currency revenues in 2005, replacing international tourism as the island's most important source of foreign exchange.
In short, the Castro government has been able not only to minimize the economic pressure of U.S. sanctions, but also to skillfully introduce liberalizing measures and regain almost complete control at a later time. Such an outcome has important implications for both U.S. policy and Cuba's future, especially in light of the most recent events.
Imagine if Castro had fallen ill 10 to 12 years ago, in the middle of a profound crisis and substantial economic changes. It would have been extremely difficult for the Cuban authorities to prevent further liberalization. Now, with the economy in better shape and a process of re-centralization well on its way, it will be easier for them to stay the course.
While an ailing Castro turned 80 on Sunday, Washington's long-standing goal of hastening a democratic transition on the island remains a chimera. Rethinking the overall policy approach toward its communist neighbor could be a good idea for the United States, as a post-Fidel Cuba might not look too different from the current one.
Source: Orlando Sentinel