So Many Lists Having Nothing to Do With Obama / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.
Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 April 2015 — A few days back, a commentator on Cuban state television found it “interesting” that Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinan, speaking on behalf of her party, said there would be no opposition in the U.S. Congress to removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror.

This time, the Cuban-American Congresswoman was not disparaged as a “wild wolf,” as the official media christened her back in the days of the campaign for the return of the little boy rafter Elián González to Cuba. If everything goes according to plan, on May 30th, after the 45 days required for the U.S. Congress to ratify the President’s recommendation, Cuba’s name will be erased from the list.

According to an explanation given by Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s vice-president, in an interview on April 19th, the significance of Cuba no longer appearing on the list is that from then on the country will be able to qualify for bank loans, as well as undertake other financial activities hitherto denied to it.

Still, will this signal an end to the commercial problems that cripple our imports and trade with the rest of the world?

The removal of Cuba from this list does not automatically mean that it definitely will be included among the countries taken seriously into account when it comes to negotiations, investments, partnerships, and qualifying for loans. Additionally, it does not mean that Cuba would immediately join the ranks of nations attractive to investors and international financial entities. Cuba’s name appears on other negative assessments from which it would be very difficult to erase its name in the short or medium-term.

In the repertoire of nations representing a high risk for investors, Cuba sadly occupies a distinguished spot. It is listed together with countries where it is least recommended to do business. Whether or not Cuba remains on these lists does not depend on Obama’s goodwill. It depends on Cuba complying with specific requirements established by financial entities whose assessments are universally accepted.

Additionally, among countries that tend not to pay their bills, Cuba has earned a notorious standing after decades of not meeting its financial obligations and owing large sums of money to member states of The Paris Club as well as to several others. At the end of the 1980’s, Cuba led the Latin American movement in support of not repaying foreign debts, thus endearing it to the worldwide left, but also earning the country a very negative reputation among those who invest or lend their money.

Cuba’s bad reputation regarding private property has also landed it on several other lists that frighten businesspeople and discourage foreign firms. This is due especially to the official Cuban discourse, which for over half a century has shown contempt towards private ownership of the means of production.

The memories of the massive confiscation of companies, newspapers, sugar mills, and small businesses are still very fresh in the sharp minds of businessmen who do not want to risk their investments, as happened during the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968.*

Additionally, how can Cuba be removed from the list of countries that do not allow independent trade unions, nor freedom of association and expression? Would it be possible, as if by magic, for Cuba to be removed from the list of countries that do not duly protect property owners nor shield them ideological whims without a real reform of its penal code?

Seeing we are no longer on the list of sponsors of terrorism, the Cuban government now seems to be hoping that investments and loans offers will be forthcoming overnight. No matter how paradoxical it may sound, these illusions rest on the government’s presumption that those who may be interested in doing business with the Island are cynics lacking any corporate ethics.

The Cuban authorities will then welcome unscrupulous sweatshops owners, the most heartless of loan sharks, and others who exploit workers who do not have the right to protest and cannot find a decent place to call home.

On what list will Cuba end up then?

*Translators note: In a speech delivered on March 13, 1968, Fidel Castro launched a “revolutionary offensive that would do away with the urban petite bourgeoisie.” By the end of the year the government had confiscated 55,636 small businesses (mostly family-owned and with no more than two employees, ranging from grocery stores to shoe shining stalls) that had survived the first waves of confiscations of the early years of the régime. This move marked the end of private enterprise in Cuba.

Translated by José Badué