The moment has now passed: Fidel Castro has resigned his premiership of Cuba. But it is a moment which has been talked about by both opponents and supporters for many years. The future of Cuba has been analysed by strategists arguing for a system which best suits either the needs of Cuba itself, or market Capitalism. Of course its important here to distinguish the two. Concerning the latter, it is important to divide the analysis into three more categories; a system which suits the European Union; Washington (particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement); and more Libertarian Institutions such as the Lexington Institute – the American free trade think-tank.
Professor Margaret Blunden of the University of Westminster reminds us in her paper ‘The European Union and Cuba: Not so Constructive Engagement’ that Cuba is the only Latin American country without a bilateral agreement with the EU, whilst highlighting a contradiction by comparing this to Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia who do enjoy EU partnership agreements but are ranked lower on Human Rights according to (a hardly sympathetic) American based Organisation, Freedom House. Its this academic’s pursuit that Cuba be more integrated with the EU – the Globalized Big Business charter.
For Washington, “regime change” is a taboo topic, even Condoleezza Rice conceals the true intention by saying further enforcement of the embargo is preferable to overthrowing the Cuban Government. It is this very enforcement which Washington had hoped would spur on “regime change”. It seems here that, according to Rice, Washington cannot rid a foreign power simply because they don’t like it (as the Constitution decrees), but they can try to cripple the economy for the people of Cuba. Herein lies the ultimate contradiction of the US and its policy on Cuba: Bush, like so many other Presidents before him, will urge the people of Cuba to overthrow Castro so as to appear within the law, organise CIA operations and restrict trade. The implicit hand of trying to overthrow leaders not palatable with American hegemony.
One organ of the market-centric divide who do at least see the contradictions inherent in the sanctions imposed by America is the Lexington Institute, particularly Philip Peters. A former State Department appointee of Reagan and Bush, he opposes the State sanctions on Cuba on the grounds that a free trade pact with North America can be beneficial for both, calling this Post-Castro change an “American Perspective”. Further, Peters has also said that ‘Centralisation, collectivism, state control, bureaucracy, and restrictions on private initiative are fundamentally to blame for the hardships that many Cubans face in their daily lives’. It seems that the very thing Peter argues against - the embargo - is the one thing he fails to see as the bigger problem. Centralised Government is not inherently problematic, but it can become considerably weaker if a super power next door persists in knocking at its infrastructure.
The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 prevents the President from reducing sanctions until sufficient (for Washington) reform has taken place in Cuba. This, consequently, precludes a reduction in the event of a Raul Castro replacement, Carlos Lage or any other of the leading candidates. Even a return to something like the Torcelli Law (1992) – a reduction or increase on the embargo according to the President’s own terms – seems unlikely to change anything due to the lack of appropriate pressure by any Presidential candidate in the forthcoming American elections.
Having said this, Dr. Stephen Wilkinson, Assistant Director of International Institute for the study of Cuba at London Metropolitan University, has noted in his paper ‘US Cuba policy after Bush: Succession or Transition’ that there are eight bills in Congress regarding aspects of embargo lifting which include repealing restrictions on American travel, Agriculture and Medicine.
It is imperative not to ignore the true motives of Washington with regards to Free Trade with Cuba. The record of the US is tarnished enough concerning the fairness of trade, and Cuba will be no exception to such exploitation. The lifting of the embargo could potentially be the first stage into America using Cuba as a charter for hegemonic Capitalism.
This outcome of embargo lifting can be avoided, so how best to? On the advent of the revolution in1959, Cuba was able to be a dependent of the former Soviet Union, however after the Cold War Cuba was virtually isolated. What Cuba needed was allies, not just on an economic level, but for legitimacy against an emerging re-think on US-Cuba policy. Venezuela, Bolivia and other Popular Leftwing shifts certified the possibility of Cuba’s regional integration. A positive change would be an emphasis on the trade and economic co-operation agreement with Caricom and Mercosur.
Effectively, an opening of Inter-Cuban trade the way Washington, the EU, or the Lexington Institute would like to see would immediately play into the hands of Washington Imperialism and Capitalism. Cuba should immerse itself entirely within the new Socialist alternatives spreading in Latin America and embrace the characteristics of this revolution. Reformist agenda should only be insofar as Cuba is compatible with the emergence of opposition towards North American Imperialism.
On this very subject, I criticised an article on The Guardian's Comment is Free section here (Carl4Sparta)