Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fidel's "coup de grace"?

   "Coup de grace" is a term used figuratively to describe the last in a series of events which brings about the end of something.  Is that what Cuba's invitation to U.S. oil companies amounts to?
   The embargo that the U.S. has maintained against Cuba for a half century has become recognized around the world as a policy that is misguided and wrong.  For years the international community has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. policy in the world's forum, the United Nations.  The U.S. has remained publicly defiant in the face of reason.  It has decided that backing down from this position would seem to suggest weakness, and weakness is the last thing a nation wants to project.  At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, an opportunity was squandered and instead of reproachment, the United States decided that by further tightening the embargo that surely tiny Cuba would crumble without its large partner.  Although Cuba went through what was called the "special period" and shortages caused lots of pain and suffering, but the tiny nation edured.  Now, after two more decades have passed, only a tiny few yet powerful people, claim that the embargo is necessary and has a chance to work.  It has gone from a policy intended to squash the revolution in its early years to one of punishment and spite, on the part of those people whose personal privileges were adversely affected by the end of the previous regime.
   Wikileaks exposed the fact that the U.S. government has no illusions, and understands well that much of the opposition inside of Cuba is basically representing different interests within the exile community and are never going to be capable of real support within Cuba and therefore will never be able accomplish Washington's goal of bringing down the Cuban regime.  Time is not waiting for Washington and neither is Cuba.
   Cuba's energy needs have long been a problem for its economy.  Venezuela's position of working with countries in need of development has helped, but hasn't completely fixed the problem.  Then came the discovery of oil in Cuban territorial waters.  Since this is not the type of project that Cuba could take on itself, it made offers to foreign companies to become partners in the endeavor.  This is the point where Fidel Castro extended the offer to American oil companies. Coup de grace?
   There aren't many people who defend oil companies as caring entities whose thirst for oil isn't larger than their desire for profits.  They are so powerful in Washington, that we have been unable to muster up the political will to invest meaningfully in alternative sources of energy.  It is profound the understanding of our political system that this move made by the Cuban government  shows on their part.  They seem much more inclined to recognize how things work in Washington than Washington is towards Havana.
   In reality, the business community in the United States is ready and willing to do business with Cuba.  Florida politics have been the major obstacle in eliminating the embargo.  Politicians in Washington have yet found a way around the overly powerful Florida politicians.  Big Oil is no ordinary interest group.  It happens to have one of the most powerful and pervasive lobbies in Washington.  Couple that with the fears that the American people have of a catastrophic oil spill, especially ofter what happened last year in the Gulf of Mexico with the Deep Water Horizon and there may be an opening for the politicians to change course and save face.  There is tremendous clamor in the media about the coming exploration and drilling off the coast of Cuba.  We hear on an almost daily basis reports from the oil industry and its supporters that it is time to recognize the failure of the embargo to produce the intended results and it is in our interest to be there drilling as a partner with Cuba. There are arguments that try to minimize their obvious greed as they tout how they are the best ones to be there to help avoid an environmental catastrophe.  Whatever their argument may be, it is sure that they are pressuring more than one politician or official in the United States right now, explaining the benefits of eliminating this policy because it adversely affects American competitiveness.  It is unlikely that anything will change before the next presidential election, but equally likely is that whatever is promised on the campain trail by any candidate won't matter because we all are aware that promises can be broken after elections.  This window of opportunity for the U.S. to change course with a good reason is probably one that can't be passed up on.  And that may have been Fidel's "coup de grace".  

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