Castros rely on anti-U.S. stance
By JAIME SUCHLICKI
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently stated that the Castro
brothers are against normalizing relations with the United States
because the U.S. embargo serves as an excuse for the failures of the
So far so good. Yet the question that follows this statement is how many
Cubans really believe that the shortages of bananas, potatoes and beans
in Cuba are the result of U.S. policy. Very few. The Cubans understand
well that the reason for economic distress in the island is the same as
in Eastern Europe during the Communist era: a failed centrally planned
economic system that doesn't produce and stifles individual initiative.
Furthermore, food is not part of the U.S. embargo. For the past several
years Cuba has been purchasing food and agricultural products from U.S.
producers. The United States has become the largest exporter of food and
agricultural products to Cuba.
Yet there are other reasons why General Raúl Castro doesn't want to
normalize relations. It would mean a rejection of one of Fidel Castro's
main legacies: anti-Americanism. For the past half century opposition to
U.S. objectives and support of anti-American revolutionary and terrorist
groups has been the main foreign policy cornerstone of the Cuban
revolution. Moving toward the United States would require the weakening
of Cuba's anti-American alliance with radical regimes and groups in
Latin America, as well as Iran and Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
From the Castro brothers' point of view, the United States has little
to offer: American tourists which Raúl doesn't need ( 2 million tourists
visit Cuba yearly); American investments, which he fears may subvert his
highly centralized and controlled economy; and products such as
medicines and heavy equipment that he can buy cheaper from other
countries. The United States does not have, furthermore, the ability to
provide Cuba with the petroleum Venezuela is sending with little or no
Emboldened by Venezuela's continuous largesse and recent large credits
from China, Iran, Russia and Brazil, General Castro feels confident that
Cubans can be pacified with growing imports of foods and consumer goods,
more economic concessions and continuous control and repression.
Foreign aid from these countries, furthermore, comes without conditions.
None of these countries are concerned with Cuba's political system,
human rights or a return to democracy.
Why would Raúl Castro offer concessions to Washington while he enjoys
the fruits of a close relationship with the above countries? Even at the
height of uncertainty, following the collapse of Communism, the Castro
brothers insisted they would offer no concessions or change Cuba's
system. Raúl repeated this recently. They prefer to sacrifice the
economic well-being of the Cubans rather than cave in to demands for a
free Cuba politically and economically. Neither economic incentives nor
punishment have worked with the Castros in the past. They are not likely
to work in the future.
Which brings us to the obvious conclusion that not all differences and
problems in international affairs can be solved through negotiations, or
can be solved at all. This reality vitiates an assumption that has
permeated U.S. foreign policy for decades. There are international
disputes that are not negotiable and can be resolved only through the
use of force or prolonged patience until the leadership disappears or
situations change. While some differences can be solved through
negotiations, others are irreconcilable.
Cuba seems to fall in this last category.
Jaime Suchlicki is director of the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.