Havana Impedes Progress of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

 US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)
US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 18 July 2106 — Paradoxes of history: The United States and Cuba began a process of normalization of relations on 17 December 2014 and with the visit of President Barack Obama to Havana in March of 2016, aimed at expanding and deepening what has been achieved, came the counteroffensive of Fidel Castro to put on the brakes with his sarcastic Reflection column titled “Brother Obama.”

Since then, not only have they pushed the stop button on the process of rapprochement with the “main enemy,” difficult by nature, but they have increased the government’s repression against the opposition and those who think differently, and begun advancing positions against the reforms initiated and slowly developed since Raul Castro assumed power.

The clear moment of the halting of the process can be found in the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which supported the statist-wage model as the axis of the economic system, and the only party as the base of the political system, while at the same time postponing the expected renewal of the ruling elite.

Documents of the “conceptualization” and the 2030 Plan reference the stagnation and recent speeches by Raul Castro and other deputies, calling for confronting the critical situation looming with more of the same. In the most recent session of the National Assembly, they unambiguously supported the anti-reformist course.

This doubling-down on state-socialism comes accompanied by the decline in the authoritarian wave Latin America, especially the crisis in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, there is the push and pull in the US Congress for and against the policy changes toward Cuba favored by Obama. More recently, in the House of Representatives, support has grown to not loosen the strings of the embargo-blockade thanks to the Cuban government’s open reaction against the new policy out of a fear that the rapprochement will end up giving control of Cuba’s economy and society to the United States, as if the “American Dream” did not already draw a great part of the island’s population.

In this sense, Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the Appropriations Committee of the House, told El Nuevo Herald that “there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen sanctions against the regime and reject the policy of appeasement of the dictatorship.”

However, the counter-reform is in open contradiction with the economic policy of the island Government that is trying to benefit from money coming and expected from the exchange with the US and especially its tourism, particularly now that the Government of Venezuela is less able to continue sending oil to Cuba.

Measures have already been announced that clearly recall the worst moments of the so-called Special Period, which never ended. They want to blame imperialism “for creating the crisis in oil prices and destabilizing the Bolivarian Revolution,” when nobody doubts the Party-Government-State’s opposition to undertaking real economic reforms, to making consequent progress in the relations with the United States and to relieving the pressures of the internal political environment.

With these policies, the Cuban government is contributing to consolidating the support in the United States Congress for not loosening the embargo, which is directly proportional to Havana’s policies in support of Fidel’s faithful, reaffirming a proclamation of isolation and “anti-imperialism,” while running like the devil from the cross in the face of rapprochement, dialog and exchange.

The latest battle between the two forces just took place when the Cuban government refused to allow the United States commission charged with reviewing the conditions of the island’s airports to enter the country, and when of a group of U.S. legislators presented a bill to block travel to Cuba until the necessary security norms are met.

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will not allow flights to Cuba until it is convinced that island airports are as safe as those of the rest of the world.

If anyone had doubts, this event is the latest evidence of how the Cuban government, while showing a negotiating face, in practice hinders any progress in the normalization of relations. But regardless of who is at fault for the new Special Period, for the lack of progress in relations, the failure of the tourism that would save us will surely be the fault of the United States “blockade.”