Thursday, August 03, 2006

What next for Cuba?

Cancel the street party in Miami. Intestinal surgery on Fidel Castro was successful, and while he is still described as 'very sick,' it is clear that he will in time return to his job as the dictator of Cuba (barring any further setbacks). What this has done is turn the spotlight directly on Cuba. And for the first time, it is not shining so much on Cuba's past, but on Cuba's future. And that future is full of hope for Cuba. But not for the U.S. That is because we have dealt ourselves out of the game of what happens next in Cuba, by taking a hard line earlier and never allowing any American investment in Cuba. And that is a mistake. The embargo was created in the early 1960's, with the goal of forcing Fidel Castro from power. You can all see how successful that goal was. In fact, it has strengthened his hold on power. Constructive engagement, in which American trade led to the importation of American ideas, led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the rest of the eastern bloc. It has caused governments to make reforms in Vietnam and even in China. But Cuba is still the same old hard line communist state that it always has been.

For one thing, consider where Cuba's economy has been: Cuba found a willing market to replace the trade that they lost with the United States. Cuba joined COMECON, a Cold war era Soviet dominated trading bloc. Then, after the fall of the Soviet Union, every time there were shortages or other problems in Cuba, Fidel Castro only had to say, "It's the Americans fault," or "Saboteurs from the outside are sabotaging our economy." It also gave him a convenient excuse to send his political opponents to prison.

Now's, it's a big world, full of a lot of countries that do business with Cuba. Foreign companies have been setting up vacation packages to various Latin American countries. That includes Cuba. They have developed business acumen on the island, and they have the contacts there that Americans don't.

Second, oil has now been discovered off the coast of Cuba. Already the choice parcels have been sold-- to European and Canadian companies. And as long as that embargo remains, Americans will be out in the cold on that one too.

Most importantly, we have no influence at all with anyone in Cuba-- and like any other country, there are a lot of people there with divergent views about the future. When Castro dies, the Cuban people will decide what to do next. But whatever it is, it is unlikely that the U.S. will have any influence at all on the future of Cuba. That's because we've dealt ourselves out of the game.

1 comment:

Indy Voter said...

I suspect that Hugo Chavez will also be a factor in Cuba's future, as Venezuelan money is propping up the Cuban economy. I could see a new socialist dictator or junta supported by Chavez replace Castro should Castro die while Chavez is in power.

Other than seeing that as a possible alternative scenario to true self-determination I agree with your assessment.