Over the past 30 to 40 years, Latin America has experienced a series of political transitions to governments chosen by the people, open to information, and to democracy. This has since been the policy of the United States toward Latin America, says Jaime Suchlicki, Director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
The United States’ strategy toward Cuba is the same it employed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Cuba is an enemy state; it supports terrorism, traffics in humans disguised as humanitarian programs that send reluctant doctors, nurses and workers overseas. Cuba is a friend of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, and, of course, Venezuela.
To assume that the United States will change its policies without first obtaining concessions from Cuba shows a lack of understanding of international relations. For the U.S. to change its Cuba policy, Cuba has to change too…..The issue at hand is that the Cuban regime refuses to provide concrete and real concessions. But then again, no totalitarian government is willing to offer concessions that lead to their demise such as uncensored Internet access, open political processes, or free elections.
For example, in Chile General Pinochet was willing to carry out a popular referendum which he lost and as a consequence opened the democratic process. General Raul Castro’s government is not willing to do so……
What does the Cuban government want? Raul Castro’s government wants:
- The unilateral ending of all travel restrictions.
- Access to more credits to purchase products in the U.S. and in other countries.
Yet Cuba has not repaid credits provided by Venezuela, France, Spain, and even the former Soviet Union, among other countries. Cuba is not willing to open the political process, allow uncensored Internet access, or change the political system in exchange for these concessions.
Cuba is not isolated; instead it has partnered all over the world with its allies Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran. The Castro brothers do not want the U.S. involved in Cuba’s internal affairs.
Let’s take a look at the efforts from outside of Cuba to promote real change. We have to begin by remembering during the Cold War, the U.S. promoted several activities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union:
- Radio Free Europe
- Smuggling information inside Russia, and Eastern Europe
- Support for Poland’s Solidarity movement
- Support for Poland’s Catholic Church.
In fact, I do not recall any Eastern European exile saying, “I want all restrictions lifted so I can invest in Poland,” or “I want to send more packages there,” or “I want more tourists to travel to Poland because they are going to change the system.”
To those who think American tourism is going to change Cuba, I propose to open a travel agency to send tourists to North Korea. No one thinks that tourists will make a difference there so why would they make a difference in Cuba?……
Another important topic that should be discussed and publicized is the exploitation of the Cuban worker by the State and by foreign companies. Cubans are modern day slaves of foreign investors and the Castro government. Foreign companies pay the Cuban government in hard currency and the government pays the workers in convertible pesos, keeping 90% of the foreign payments.
Why doesn’t the United Nations or the American government condemn this practice? Why don’t they point out that only fair skinned Cubans are hired by foreign companies? Or that white, not black, Cubans receive most of the Cuban-American remittances? Or where are the programs that are supposed to help black Cubans?
We should use our resources to help Cubans inside the island, to help the civil society, penetrate the political systems and provide information. …I find it ironic that some Cuban-American entrepreneurs that have made money in the U.S., and benefited from a free society, rule of law and democracy, are embracing insignificant economic changes in Cuba, in the hope that it will lead to a political change; even when it means engaging with the current system.
Cubans have to have control over their businesses and freely choose their government. It is the people that should choose their own representatives, in free elections, Cuba’s future political system. We must have a vision of a democratic Cuba. It does not matter if it takes 10 or 20 more years. I may not see it but my children will.
This excerpt is taken from Professor Jaime Suchlicki’s presentation during the “Acciones y Opciones para el Empoderamiento de la Sociedad Civil en Cuba” Forum. This event was hosted by the Foro de Promoción Democrática Continental (FPDC) on June 28, 2014 at Florida International University’s College of Law.
Note: to watch videos of the forum in Spanish visit the Cuba Transition Project (CTP) website at http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/main.htm, and click on “New/Relevant.”
*Jaime Suchlicki is Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro, now in its fifth edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of PAN, now in its second edition and the recently published Breve Historia de Cuba.