Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Twofer- Answering Jaime Suchlicki and the Miami Herald

President Obama made waves in the press recently by speaking in Miami about the need to adjust US policy towards Cuba.  Without even proposing anything, just suggesting such a thing is considered to be a major announcement.  The fact that it was done in front of an anti-Castro crowd in Miami should give people pause and make you wonder what he meant.

There is no doubt that the President's speech has caused some anti-Castro hardliners, who have supported punishing the Cuban people on the island and abroad, to be concerned.  Those hateful people who have made a living as "experts" explaining why causing hardships for Cubans everywhere makes sense and is actually the humane thing to do.  Separating families, depriving people of medical advancements developed in both countries, and countless other cruel consequences of US policy towards the island are all of the "achievements" that the hateful people can claim as the fruits of their labor.  They have grown quite uncomfortable in recent years as their once decrepit yet prevalent ideology has been diminished in its importance as a feeling of reconciliation has grown and ,according to some surveys, become more popular.  What are they to do but dig in their heals and repeat themselves as if what they've said already is something new and not the very nonsense that has become unpopular?

Jaime Suchlicki wrote an article about why the United States needs to maintain the sanctions on Cuba.  In it he goes on about how increasing American tourism isn't going to to lead to economic and political changes on the island.  I'll actually agree with him on that.  Cuba has embarked upon a transformation of its economic system already.  It was a very bureaucratized system and it still is, yet it has taken upon itself to begin to lessen the bureaucracy and open a lot of space for individuals to begin their own personal economic activity in the forms of self-proprietors and cooperatives.  This has nothing to do with capitalists determining government policies as what happens in many other countries.  It has a lot to do with lessening the burden of the state of creating a job for every single person even if jobs become redundant as the Cuban government has explained.  The state is freed up form some of its activity such as running barber shops and restaurants, as some commonly used examples, and direct more of its attention to larger endeavors which in turn can improve their efficiency and put the country in a better position to strengthen its achievements like housing, health, and education.  None of these achievements are of any concern to Mr. Suchlicki or else he wouldn't be in favor of strangling the Cuban economy from outside as much as possible.  Why is it that he wants to deprive Cuba of tourist dollars?  Would he perhaps like to make it more difficult to purchase goods from abroad, goods that will be consumed by the Cuban people?  Or maybe he doesn't want Cuba to pay its debts more easily so that he can write an article about how Cuba isn't a reliable nation when it comes to paying debt?  Pick one.  He seems happy to pretend that the influence of our policies don't really have much to do with the troubles that Cuba has faced.  Just imagine how many Cuban cigars and how much Cuban rum would be sold in Miami alone if our laws didn't prevent their access to the US market.  If he would discount that from happening he should take a look at the table at US Customs after a flight arrives from Havana.  It looks like a liquor store or tobacco shop.  Surely Mr. Suchlicki wouldn't want to deny supply and demand?!

Furthermore, he claims that ending sanctions would send the wrong message to Latin America.  Is he completely mad??  He has mistaken a coffee shop in Little Havana during a Batista happy hour for Latin America!  Latin American countries have all stated their opposition to the embargo on the record.  If he considers Cuba a dictatorship, that's his prerogative (although I would contend that it's actually his job).  But doesn't he realize that every country in the world knows that the United States has no qualms about having great relations with countries which are dictatorships and even kingdoms?  Don't Latin American countries know that most of the dictatorships that have existed in their countries were actually supported by the "democracy loving" US administrations?  Come on Jaime Suchlicki, do you even understand how foolish of a suggestion you've made by saying that relations with Cuba would send the wrong message to Latin America?

Finally, Mr. Suchlicki pretends that the sanctions is a powerful negotiating tool for the United States.  To this all I have to say is that their are no negotiations.  Part of the problem is that the US has ignored repeated calls by Cuba to engage in negotiations.  If the sanctions are supposedly a tool, I would ask Mr. Suchlicki what and where is the negotiation that it is helpful for?  If it is any type of tool at all it would be a wrecking ball constantly swinging back and forth making negotiations nearly impossible for a US administration to seriously negotiate with Cuba.

The Miami Herald has taken a different approach.  I can only imagine that since it is the news paper that speaks directly to the Cuban community in Miami, that it has to deal with the fact that the opinion of its audience has changed quite a bit so it must be more clever when thinking of ways to oppose relations with Cuba.  It goes as far as calling the President's remarks "encouraging".  They instead choose to create a parallel reality, a world which doesn't exist.  They claim that Raul Castro has shown that he is determined to hold on to power.  In the real world where most of us live, Raul Castro has already given a date when he will no longer be President and has actually supported term limits for the future.  Quite different I'd say.  Then they urge people to keep in mind the dissidents and the difficulties they face.  What they don't want in your mind at all is the fact that the "dissidents" that they highlight on a regular basis are basically creations of the US government itself.  Documents accidentally exposed just days ago and others in the past have shown just how involved the US government is involved in the existence and promotion of these chosen ones.  Coincidentally, the these "dissidents" have been travelling all over the globe and the US government provides funds for travel to some unknown people.  If funds are making their way to the pockets of these famous "dissidents", it would be a stretch to assume that they have a pretty sizable interest in maintaining the current policies!

The Miami Herald makes its common complaints about short term detentions and stifled protesters and delayed trials for a few individuals.  But I find it hard to comprehend why we wouldn't sanction ourselves for the treatment of some of our protesters.  Plus, we could probably bring something up in the United Nations about our own torture programs, drone assassinations, and probable war criminals that we are responsible for.  I'm just saying that we don't exactly have the high ground on these types of issues, but in the parallel universe of the Miami Herald, none of those are serious issues.

Look, since the early days of the Cuban revolution Washington has had one goal, eliminate the Cuban revolution and replace it with a government  that bends to the will of Washington.  It's a simple idea and one that has no regard for what would happen to the Cuban people and at  this point what would happen to the achievements that they have made despite the policy by Washington.  But accomplishing this idea has been a headache for policy makers in the United States and after 50 years it is nice at the very least to hear a US president acknowledge publicly that it is an outdated policy that really isn't so useful for anybody.  I have no illusions and I understand that as Obama is the figurehead for US interests he simply gets to set the tactics used to achieve US goals.  Being that in this matter US goals haven't changed, to me his announcements amount to a tactical change and not so much a realization that Cuba's right to self determination is as real as ours.  Perhaps he believes that the US can kill them with kindness or something like that, but regardless of what he thinks any openings in relations or dialogue or friendly contact is a step in the right direction.  So many opportunities have been missed so maybe he can make something of the moment and change the policy of isolation which has backfired and isolated the United States and people like Jaime Suchlicki and the editorial board of the Miami Herald.