Spain’s conservative government, at least conservative from the European point of view, is wasting no time making the most of President Obama’s rapprochement with the Cuban regime.
The state-subsidized COFIDES – kind of like an Ex-Im Bank for Spanish companies – announced yesterday it plans offer a $45 million line of credit to for new projects in Cuba that could result in a $450 million lifeline to the Cuban regime. And why not? Cuba, with the assistance of the Obama Administration and K Street lobbyists – is hosting a fire sale.
I had expected a whole lot more from Spain’s Partido Popular. However, when it comes to Cuba, they are no better than the socialist governments that have ingratiated themselves for decades with the Cuban Communist Party. Rather than counter President Obama’s reckless Cuba policy, they are taking advantage of it and, doing so, at the expense of American taxpayers and the people of Cuba.
Spanish companies, indeed all foreign investors preying on the Cuba market, should approach Cuba investments a little differently than they have in the past. But they likely will not. You should keep in mind that Cuba is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a police state. A chronic human rights abuser as well as corrupt government, Cuba investments should be screened with heightened due diligence. Keep in mind that property confiscations continue to this very day.
Just because the Partido Popular is making a tactical and, indeed, strategic mistake, does not mean that Spanish companies should follow suit and do in lock step what they have done for decades: traffic in stolen properties and, sometimes, engage in apartheid business practices. If your company plans to invest in Cuba, do so with a corporate code of conduct for the island that respects labor rights and other basic human rights as well as avoids all transactions that involve properties stolen from Americans and Cubans.
Send the right message to the future leaders of Cuba that you plan to do business differently. Respect worker rights. Respect property rights. Do not become yet one more weapon for the regime to use against its people. And, from a legal point of view, as the Cuban regime tries to engage in more and more commercial activity, keep in mind that under U.S. law, the regime and foreign investors may be exposing themselves to lawsuits in the United States.
Frankly, Spain should mind its economic house, still suffering from record high unemployment and debt, rather than dabble in Cuba. This investment decision is just about as dumb a move as when, another PP leader Jose Maria Aznar, invited Fidel Castro to the Moncloa. Not even PSOE Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero did that. However, if companies plan to do business with the regime, do so in a way that will help push Cuba to freedom.
Want to fix the world? Press for capitalism. Socialism does not work. Never has. Never will. And foreign policy based on socialism — such as what the PP is doing through COFIDES — is bad for business, bad for Spain, and bad for the world. By the way, this mindset or approach to Cuba is not unique; it’s been done elsewhere in the developing world and it has been an abysmal failure.