Before a New Thaw, the Strategy is Already a Matter of Debate

Although it is difficult to acknowledge it, the link with the United States has a determining weight in the future of the Island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 January 2021 — Once Joe Biden assumed the presidency of the United States for the next four years, a space opened to serenely analyze the meaning that it may have for Cuba’s relations with the world’s leading power, since, although it is difficult to recognize it, this link has a determining weight in the future of the Island.

Thus, arises the temptation to steer the issue, risking speculations or issuing recommendations. Both approaches can be directed both to the concerns of United States Government and to the steps that Havana can take and, of course, to the roles, in both scenarios and in different directions, of all those who can exert some influence from exile, in the internal opposition, from the environments of civil society or independent journalism.

Fellow journalist Wilfredo Cancio, of CiberCuba, has advanced what, in his opinion, would be the 22 tasks that the new White House team should take into account to relaunch its relations with Cuba. A useful and detailed list of pending subjects.

Far from claiming sterile impartiality, as an observer I limit myself to voicing my speculations about the actions available to the Cuban Government and the way in which it could use them at a possible negotiating table.

The first notable thing is the enormous disproportion between the degree of concern that exists on the island about what the United States might do and the concern that may be felt in that nation in relation to the decisions of Havana. Cuba’s concern goes beyond government halls and spreads to every corner of the country until it reaches the most humble kitchens in the most remote places.

The United States can indefinitely postpone actions that lead to a new thaw, while for Cuban rulers the arrival of the Democrats to the White House represents a relief compared to what was expected after Trump’s re-election. In sporting terms they do not take it as a victory but as a standing eight count: a period of time that they are obliged to take advantage of so as not to repeat the mistake made with Obama.

Although they are aware of this disadvantage, it can be presumed that the Cuban rulers will send their delegates to the negotiating table wrapped in the mystique of defenders of national sovereignty and with the arrogance of someone who says to their counterpart: “We have resisted. We are and we will remain the same; you will be here as long as your electorate allows it.”

The introduction of democratic habits that put at risk the permanence in power of those who rule in Cuba will be the most inflexible point; what they will caution is that they are not willing to cede one iota, while the so-called “compensation for the consequences of the blockade” will constitute the demand that will force other side to assume an equally intransigent refusal.

Dictators around the world have the perception that this matter of “the human rights of citizens” is nothing more than a grandstanding speech for democratic countries and as long as those from here continue to think that way, they will not move an inch; at most they will carry out the occasional symbolic gesture such as releasing a couple of prisoners, whom they will re-imprison whenever they feel like it, unless they go into exile.

The Cuban leaders are interested in having flights resume to all the island’s airports, normalizing the sending of remittances, have work resume at the Embassy in Havana and opening the flow of tourists with the “people-to-people meetings,” but as these points are already on the new president’s agenda, and Cuba’s leaders sense that they will not have to offer anything in return to achieve it.

Nor will they have to make an effort to restart the sports, academic and cultural exchanges, or for the island’s players to play with the Major League teams, because for that there are already enough pressures coming from the American interests themselves and because those actions are part of the so-called Lane II through which the same subversive purposes are supposed to pass subtly with different methods.

The instructions received by Cuban negotiators will include showing the greatest interest in the immigration issue, because it is known that it is a useful point for the other party.

One of the weapons that the Government of Cuba has used the most has been the veiled threat to activate an immigration bomb and, from that position of blackmail, they will try to persuade their counterpart of the advisability of holding the biannual migration talks, favoring family reunification and restoring the 20,000 annual visas for immigrants, along with five-year visas for visits to the United States.

These hypothetical instructions are also certain to include the demand that Cuba ceases to be on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism; that the US end the “black lists” that limit commercial transactions in the United States and prevent citizens of that country from staying in hotels run by the Cuban military; and they will certainly demand that Titles III and IV of the Helms Burton Act be deactivated.

They will seek those conquests, but they will be reluctant to return the fugitives from US justice and terrorists from the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) who are in Cuba; nor will they stop supporting the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

If the pandemic allows it, this year the IX Summit of the Americas will be held in Miami. The event, should Cuba be invited and Díaz-Canel not decline the invitation, it will give the opportunity for a meeting, in person or virtual, at the highest level between the two countries.

This is how the first thaw attempts were forged, when at the VII Summit held in 2015 in Panama, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama had the opportunity to talk.

Today the panorama is very different and if the meeting in Miami occurs in May, when the previous ones have traditionally been held, the Cuban delegation could boast of having completed the generational transfer announced for April at the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party, and sell it as if it were a transition to a new stage post the “Ordering Task” (some name they will invent).

Never better can it be said that they will put on an “I didn’t go” face and be open to listening on any subject, even if their ears are plugged.

The pending reflection is what part will be played by the non-conformists who yearn for a real change in Cuba. A foreseeable proposal will be to resist another approach or, on the contrary, to demand participation in the dialogue.


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