United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Saturday, May 1, 2010

US-Cuba Relations Doomed To Future Exploitation

[ Editor’s Note: We are reposting here an excellent and thoughtful article from newsjunkie.com by Stephen Dufrechou. One point of clarification we would observe – the purpose of Congressman Brady’s position exactly was to doom U.S. Cuban relations at the outset. That is the strategy of the pro-embargo crowd – always find a reason to say no to improving relations. Congressman Brady is no dummy. But neither are the people. In life and in relationships we are always at a choice of evaluating why or why not we should take a certain action or position – the battle of the reasons why we should do this or all the reasons why we should not do this. The fear based political strategy of the embargo crowd has always been to find a reason why the embargo should remain in place and reward those politicians who follow it. Pro-normalization and travel forces need to do exactly the same to turn this around and end our failed policies with Cuba. One critical observation on Dufrechou's piece, he fails to discuss the overwhelming power and influence of Cuban nationalism. Cuban nationalism is the ultimate trump card in this dynamic and we believe the Cuba of the future will cut its own unique pathway forging itself into some kind of pluralistic social democracy that will neither be Castroite nor the colonial republic it was prior to 1959. If you were to ask a Cuban living on the island do you want change - they will tell you absolutely yes. But they also do not want to go back to what Cuba was prior to 1959.]
US-Cuba Relations Doomed To Future Exploitation
If recent statements from Washington are indicative of the current US position on Cuba, then relations between the two countries are doomed to further failures—and perhaps to a renewal of the West’s exploitation of the island. On April 29, the AP reported that Representative Kevin Brady (Rep.) of Texas took a hard-line, though not surprising, position on the US embargo against Cuba.
In order for the US to lift the embargo, Brady demanded that any post-Castro government would be required to pay the US six-billion dollars in compensation—since six billion is the estimated loss of foreign investments that the US incurred, as a result of foreign property and businesses having been expropriated by Fidel Castro, after the success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
Brady staked this claim while speaking at a recent congressional hearing on US trade with Cuba. He argued that “We must resolve the over six billion dollars in expropriation claims… before developing a more robust economic relationship with a post-Castro democratic government in Cuba”.
These demands followed a recent challenge by Cuba’s National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon, who pressed Washington to “lift [the embargo], even for a year, to see whether it is in our interest or theirs.” On the face of it, any position such as Brady’s will doom US-Cuban relations from the outset. It makes little diplomatic or even common sense to punish any new and promising government for the sins of the corrupt regime that it replaces
Indeed, given Cuba’s already faltering economy—that any (hypothetical) new government on the island will have to inherit—such a debt as Brady wishes impose will only further cripple an already handicapped Cuba unfairly. A “blank slate”, instead, should be extended to a new and democratic Cuba.

But perhaps being fair and diplomatic is not the course Washington wishes to take with a future Cuba. After all, since the end of WWII, the US-led “First World” nations have benefited immensely by keeping the so-called “Third World” economically and politically dependant on the developed West. This tactic has been a general rule of thumb, as historian T. E. Vadney has observed:
[T]he West wanted to protect its economic stake in the Third World after 1945. That it intended to do so was abundantly clear from its foreign-aid strategies. These were designed mainly to develop infrastructures such as transportation and communication links, vocational and technical schools, hospitals and clinics, or hydroelectric and irrigation projects. Such public investments were needed to create an economic environment in which private enterprise might thrive.
Indeed, “private enterprise” in the Third World has always meant “foreign” enterprises in the form of Western businesses, which parasitically exploit the labor and resources of the already-vulnerable, post-colonial “Third World”, leaving the “host” country powerless to counter the continued Western dominance.
Third World debt has always played a large role in these scenarios, since the West’s answer to Third World development has always been the transparently-exploitative push to simply privatize more of the “host” country’s economy, via structural adjustment loans from the US-dominated World Bank.
And this seems to be what Washington has in mind by placing a six-billion dollar debt on any future, post-Castro government in Cuba. If Washington can impose this massive debt on a future Cuban government, the World Bank can then step in and lay yet another structural adjustment loan onto the Third World, which will—again—benifit only Western business. Only in this case, the exploited country will be Cuba.
Thus Obama’s call for a “new beginning” with Cuba becomes clear; it is a new beginning to impose “foreign aid” into the island. And as Vadney notes, Western aid is always “tied”:
In other words, [aid is] granted on the condition that it be spent on (or tied to) goods and services purchased in the donor country. Foreign aid thus amounted to an indirect subsidy to Western businesses and labour.
Indeed, if this reading of Washington’s consensus on Cuba is correct—and if the US has its way—the Cuban people will only (and tragically) go from living under a non-democratic communist regime to a non-democratic neo-colonial republic, just like they had lived under before the events of 1959.


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