Dimas Castellano, 20 November 2017 — On November 1, 2017, Cuba presented to the UN General Assembly the project entitled “Need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US against Cuba.”
In his speech, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez criticized the policy contained in the Presidential National Security Memorandum on the strengthening of the US Policy towards Cuba, issued on 16 June 2017.
He criticized the prohibition of economic, commercial and financial transactions with Cuban companies linked to the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior; the elimination of individual travel in the category of people-to-people exchanges; the prohibition of travel to Cuba outside the framework of the 12 authorized categories; the opposition to actions that promote the lifting of the “blockade”; the repeal of the Normalization of Relations Policy issued by President Obama in October 2016, and the conditioning of the suspension of the “blockade” to changes within Cuba.
Likewise, he criticized moving the issuance of visas services from Havana to US consulates in third countries; the warning to American citizens to avoid visiting Cuba; the expulsion of Cuban personnel from the Consulate General in Washington and the reduction of US personnel in the embassy in Havana.
Finally, the Cuban foreign minister said: “The blockade is the biggest obstacle to the economic and social development of Cuba.”
In 1992 only 59 countries voted in favor of the Cuban resolution and in 2016 — with the exception of the US and of Israel which abstained — all voted in favor, without affecting the US embargo in any way, because the resolutions of that body constitute recommendations and, therefore, compliance with them is not mandatory. Therefore, when obtaining the maximum possible result in the UN, action in that forum was exhausted.
From that moment on, the atmosphere of detente generated by the restoration of diplomatic relations recommended directing the solution through bilateral negotiations.
Three points to consider are the following:
The Internal Causes
As the resumption of diplomatic relations did not emerge from victory, but from the failure of both contenders, each party was obliged to change to move towards normalization.
This was what General expressed in a conversation held in 1977 with two American senators: “Our organizations are like a bridge in time of war. It is not a bridge that can be easily built, nor as quickly as it was destroyed, but if we both rebuild parts of the bridge, each one its own part, we will be able to shake hands, without winners or losers.” Inthese words the Cuban leader recognized the bilateral character of the conflict and its solution.
For these words to become relaity, the normalization of relations with the US had and will have to be accompanied by the empowerment of Cubans, with the restoration of rights and freedoms for their effective participation in national problems. And this is not at all to cede sovereignty to an external force, but to give the Cuban people the participation that belongs to them in said sovereignty.
It is a matter of retracing the road traveled since the nationalization of US property in Cuba led to the rupture of diplomatic relations and the enactment of the Embargo Law. In this confrontational context, the Cuban government dismantled the existing institutions, disarmed civil society, laid on inefficiency and avoided any commitment to human rights.
Beginning in 2008, General Raúl Castro implemented a package of measures whose main result was to reveal the exhaustion of the model and the depth of the crisis. Therefore, it is now a matter of abandoning the grasp of state control, centralized planning and the absence of freedoms that, without ignoring the negative effects of the embargo, are the main causes of the crisis in which Cuba finds itself.
Cuba-United States Relations
The policy of the Obama Administration provided an opportunity for change that was wasted by the Cuban side to remove obstacles within the country.
This policy, by not demanding the democratization of Cuba as a premise to reestablish relations, contained a danger for the conservation of power: the external contradiction would gradually shift towards internal contradictions, which explains the insoluble contradiction of the Cuban government: to change and at the same time to preserve power.
President Barack Obama issued six sets of modification: the first extended general travel permits, offered commercial facilities to Cuban private companies and small farmers, increased the amount of remittances and donations, expanded commercial exports of goods and services from the US, increased Cuba’s access to communications, and provided commercial telecommunications and internet services with lower prices.
These sets of measures were reflected in the increase of authorized trips to Cuba, the arrival of the first cruise ship from the US to Cuban ports, the resumption of flights, the start of direct mail and transportation between the two countries, the establishment of agreements with several American telecommunications companies. The measures facilitated negotiations with other countries and revived expectations and hopes for change.
If these measures — including the Presidential Directive of October 2016, aimed at trying to make the progress achieved irreversible — did not produce a greater result, it is because the corresponding measures on the Cuban side were missing, which limited itself to allowing Cubans to stay in Cuban hotels previously reserved for tourists; to buy computers, DVDs and mobile phone lines; to sell their houses or cars; to leave the country without having to ask the State for permission and to stay abroad for up to 24 months without losing their right to return; and established public WiFi access points. Measures that, more than advances, clearly denote the point t which rights in Cuba had regressed.
The Example of Vietnam
As the suspension of the Embargo is the prerogative of the US Congress and not of the UN, the practical thing since the vote in 2016 would have been to introduce in Cuba internal changes in the style of those introduced in Vietnam.
The United States dropped three times as many bombs on Vietnam as those used during the Second World War; 15% of the population was killed or injured; 60% of the villages in the south were destroyed and, after the war ended, the country faced an economic blockade and border attacks. In spite of this, after the victory, the implementation of the system of a planned economy plunged the country into hunger and superinflation until, in 1986, the “Vietnamese Renewal” was launched under the slogan of “Economic reform, political stability.”
Instead of dedicating itself, year after years to presenting UN resolutions or developing ideological campaigns against imperialism, Vietnam undertook a systematic program of reforms, based on the introduction of market mechanisms, autonomy of producers, the right of nationals to be entrepreneurs and delivery of land to the peasants who developed the initiative, interest and responsibility of the Vietnamese.
Because of the results of these measures, the US suspended the embargo on Vietnam. In 2008 the country focused it efforts on leaving the list of underdeveloped countries, in 2010 it set itself the goal of entering the group of middle-income countries, in 2014 it ranked as the twenty-eighth largest exporter in the world, and in 2016 it approved measures to move it toward becoming an industrialized nation.