The Cuban government is desperately looking north for an economic lifeline, but efforts to ease U.S. sanctions and gain access to the U.S. markets have failed. Why? Because the Communist Party of Cuba remains fixated on a quixotic socialist crusade, and not serious political and economic reforms.
Facing yet another year of anemic economic growth, the ruling Communist Party has turned to China and Russia for a much-needed economic boost. With no manufactured goods or commodities of any economic significance to sell fellow ideological travelers, the Cubans sold them access to the Americas. In particular, it played an old Cold War card by giving Russia and the Chinese intelligence on the United States as well as the means to acquire it. In exchange, Cuba receives cash and support for infrastructure projects such as the Port of Mariel and the Port of Santiago, among others.
Opponents of U.S. policy toward Cuba in this town, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a smattering of well-funded think tanks, a growing number of Members of Congress, and others in the executive branch, become very frustrated when Cuba’s international adventurism makes it in the news. When Cuba makes these deals with Russia, China, and other foreign powers, it hurts efforts in DC to ease sanctions.
How can these well paid lobbyists seriously posit that Cuba is “changing” or “reforming” when the Cuban Politburo’s primary driver for economic development is spying on the United States and selling it to the highest bidder? Of course, they cannot.
Cuban adventurism enjoy wide support in the Party, but there is a new generation, and a few old hands, who want to see less ideology and more economics. In fact there are members of the Cuban military who, unofficially of course, have argued against the old ways. And there have even been a few brave souls that have tried to focus solely on economic development, and in their own way, attempted to isolate the ideological troglodytes that control the Party. It will take time, but they will eventually win the argument because the regime will have no choice but to change its ways.
For now, Cuban diplomacy has upset the DC establishment’s narrative that Raul Castro should be given a chance. They are argue that sanctions have failed and use many other false jeremiads to try to normalize relations with the regime. This May 19 open letter to President Obama is a good example of the policy distortion. It has been tried before and it will never work.
The Communist Party is only interested in one thing, political survival by whatever means necessary. And that, my friends, is not in the U.S. national interest.
The United States does not need normalized trade relations Cuba. This cold hard fact is lost on most people in this city; even to supporters of current policy. Cuba’s reintegration would bring a lot more headaches than we can handle right now. Why? Because the ruling elites have no idea what they are doing and are paranoid that the United States plans some Iraq-like takeover of the island. If only …
About two weeks ago one of Cuba’s leading intelligence officers, Josefina Vidal, said the following:
“The U.S. government should end once and for all its subversive, illegal and undercover actions against Cuba, which violate our sovereignty and the will expressed by the Cuban people to perfect our economic and social model and to consolidate our democracy.”
These are not the words of a rational person. This level of paranoia is pervasive among the ruling clan. They fear change. And they should. Here’s one reason why, the Cuba Archives. There’s more and I’ll write about it in future posts.
Cuba’s recent, and I’d say desperate overture to China and Russia is yet one more visible example that the Communist Party is in a political struggle unlike any in recent years (this happened, in part, because of recent events in Venezuela). It is entering a murky political period that will be tested by the death of Fidel Castro, maybe by the end of this year, and by unknown unknowns such as the reaction of the Cuban people to increasingly deteriorating conditions of daily life for non-elite Cubans.
Now, more than ever, we owe it to the people of Cuba to ratchet up the pressure on the Communist Party leadership. The U.S. should also redouble efforts to find potential future leaders, including inside the Cuban government and especially the military, who are able and willing to make the tough decisions needed to move Cuba out of its Lost World status.
“Jason”, you may be asking, “until when”? I have no clue. But one thing is certain, nothing good will come from rewarding the Communist Party by easing sanctions. Nada. Zilch. Most U.S. politicians need to start thinking beyond their noses and take regional issues, including Cuba, a little more seriously. The same goes for the Cuban Diaspora — all of it; their division has been one of its biggest handicaps that the pro-regime lobby in this town has exploited for decades. The reasons are outside the scope of this post. One man was able to bridge the issues, Jorge Mas-Canosa. But he’s been long dead.
As for the Cubans in Cuba, that’s for the Cuban people to decide, with a little support from the United States …