It Is Too Early To Say That Obama’s Cuba Policy Has Failed / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The American flag was hoisted last July in front of its embassy on the Malecon in Havana. (14ymedio)
The American flag was hoisted last July in front of its embassy on the Malecon in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 10 February 2016 — The Washington Post, international analysts, politicians committed to the discourse of the radical groups in Miami and individuals within the internal opposition in Cuba, all say that United States President Barack Obama’s policy towards Cuba has failed, because a year after the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations, little has changed in our country.

They argue, further, that the policy is not conditioned on advancement in the area of human rights, that the systematic arrests of dissidents continue, that the goal of empowering the private sector has not been met, and that Internet connections have not improved.

All these opinions are grounded in false expectations and a mixing of desires, not policies, with false time frames.

On 17 December 2014 both governments announced their intentions to normalize relations, but only on 20 July 2015 did they reopen their embassies. Therefore, it has only been six months.

Can a partial change – major restrictions of the embargo remain in force – in the policies of a world power lead to important transformations in another state — one with a model of ironclad domination established over many decades — in only six months?

Obama’s policy is not more advanced because of the opposition of Republicans and Cuban-Americans in Congress, who do not want to lift the terms of the embargo-blockade and who block banking, business and financial measures. Keeping these laws codified by Congress allows the Cuban government to argue that “the imperialist blockade remains in effect” and to continue using this as an excuse to try to justify the economic and social problems caused by the absurd and anti-socialist centralized state model of wage exploitation and political authoritarianism.

Is it not inconsistent to block a policy and then declare it has failed?

If the opening was not conditioned on advances in human rights, how can they be demanded now? If rapprochement had been thus conditioned, the Cuban government never would have allowed it. Resolving the internal problems of democratization is a matter for Cubans alone.

Whomever expects the United States to resolve the issue of human rights in Cuba is playing the game of the communist government, divorced from the nationalist sentiment of many Cubans, and supporting the negative image of their political strategies being subordinated to the U.S.

The United States has the right to be concerned about human rights in Cuba, which are systematically violated, just as the Cuban government has the right to criticize U.S. abuses against its own people who are black, immigrants, old or otherwise vulnerable.

But it is something else entirely to condition relationships of every kind on the solution of these problems.

The largest United States interest in Cuba is related to national security and policies must be subordinated to this, ahead of the wishes of interest groups. Stability in Cuba, the peaceful nature of any internal change and regional bilateral security agreements all correspond to this interest.

The democratic changes that Obama is seeking in Cuba are longer term and related to previous transformations relating to nationalizations, the structure of production, property, social classes and the empowerment of entrepreneurs, points that coincide in part with the policies approved at the Cuban Communist Party Sixth Congress and subsequently slowed down by the Cuban government itself.

Changing the failed politics of half a century was also necessary to improve relations between the United States and Latin America as a whole.

Arrests of government opponents related to the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign in Cuba have increased and some of the organizers of this campaign oppose Obama’s policies. Such repression is reprehensible, violates the right to freedom of expression and is not less unjust because it is expected. But long detentions without due process have declined and during the visit of Pope Francis to Cuba several hundred prisoners were released, some of whom were political prisoners.

With the increase in tourisms and remittances – from Cubans abroad to their family members in Cuba – private business including restaurants, and the rental of houses, rooms and cars to tourists have grown.

The Cuban government, after just six months of relations with the United States, has not completely opened the internet. First it needs to forget its fear, but internet service, too, has advanced. There are now Wifi zones open serving 150,000 connections a day, the price of one hour of internet has been reduced from 4.50 dollars to 2.00 dollars, and the state cellphone company, Nauta, has established a system of international email with modest reductions in the cost of some services. All insufficient.

Despite the obstacles from Republicans and the Cuban government, Obama’s policy is already creeping forward and is under development. At the six-month mark of an actual relationship, it is too early to say that it has failed.