The conventions and the future of U.S. policy toward Cuba

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera

HAVANA – Almost like a religious ritual, every four years, the topic of Cuba comes up during the conventions of both U.S. political parties.

It was no different this year, although the Democrats only mentioned it, while the Republicans – evidently pressured by the Cuban-American far right – stressed it more. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney even included it among his priorities.

Although on many issues the conventions reflected the polarization of U.S. society, nothing new was said in the case of Cuba, and the positions of both parties showed no substantial differences.

As expected, the Democratic platform ratified Obama’s policy, arguing that it is more effective to promote the end of “the Cuban regime.” The Republicans assumed the same stance taken by the Bush administration, one that Obama has never totally rejected.

Either way, we’re in the area of rhetoric, and it is well known that, in U.S. politics, it is almost a flaw for candidates to keep their campaign promises. Let us then analyze the new variables that impinge on U.S. policy toward Cuba, elements that must be dealt with by whoever wins the election.

It is hard to imagine that U.S. policy toward Cuba could have lasted more than 50 years of hostility without the apparent ethnic legitimacy and political activism contributed by the Cuban-American far right.

Although it would be a mistake to assume that this group decides on U.S. policy toward Cuba, as some say, it undoubtedly is a factor in its execution, so it is not idle to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of that trend in the light of the present reality.

The appreciable deterioration of U.S. hegemony, more than a shrinkage, has conditioned a renewed strengthening of the nation’s ultraconservative sectors and the implementation of very aggressive policies toward the rest of the world, boosting an ideological intransigence that considers the destruction of the Cuban model one of its paradigms.

In this sense, the influence attained by the conservative fundamentalists, whether or not they win the elections, could favor the Cuban-American far right, which will do everything possible to block any initiative that tends to improve bilateral relations and will also try to revert the few advances made in that area.

Nevertheless, the cultural transformation of Cuban-Americans, caused by generational changes and the impact of the new immigrants, as well as the growing interest among those groups to maintain relations with Cuba, have inevitable consequences for the social base that sustains that trend.
In fact, it has been the Cuban-American far right, fearful of the impact of these immigrants on its electoral base, that has proposed a revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act, an essential aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba and the cause of many controversies between the two nations.

This reality could lead to the development of trends, both conservative and liberal, that advocate a review of the migratory accords between the two countries, inasmuch as those accords represent a social cost for the U.S. that no longer corresponds to the political interests that originated them, especially if changes in the migratory policy attenuate any conflicts with the émigrés.

But no one can predict if that would be good for the relations between the two countries, since everything depends on how the review is done. In any case, a review would imply a new dynamics that would prompt an examination of the existing policy.

Add to this the fact that, as the “historic exiles” die out, the interest in recovering properties left in Cuba (a determining factor in the far right’s program) declines. Simultaneously, there’s an increase in the number of Cuban-Americans interested in trading with the island or taking economic advantage of any possible contacts with the island.

Such contacts could dovetail with U.S. interests, particularly those of Republican conservatives who for years have been questioning the convenience of maintaining the economic blockade. All of which tends to weaken the specific weight of the far right in the design of U.S. policy toward Cuba, as well as the more aggressive tendencies of that policy.

Another weighty factor is Cuba’s incidence in U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean. Although there are sectors in U.S. politics that refuse to accept the changes in the region and advocate a policy aimed at reverting them, there is a conflict between wanting to do it and being able to do it that is reflected in a reduction of the possible alternatives.

This prevents the U.S. (at least for the moment) from thwarting the rise of nationalist processes and the emergence of an integrationalist movement in Latin America that has deep historical and cultural roots. Add to this some wide-encompassing economic interests that include important sectors of Latin America’s business community.

Clearly, at this point, the U.S. cannot articulate a policy toward Latin America that proposes the isolation of Cuba. In fact, the demand of Latin American countries for Cuba’s full participation in the regional political concert has become a standard that defines Latin America’s desire to establish a new order in continental relations.

For this reason, the United States has endured pressure both in its bilateral relations and in the regional events held in recent years, which has caused Washington’s total alienation from the Latin American consensus, even in the Organization of American States.

U.S. policy toward Cuba can (or not) hold on to these reasons, whoever the next president may be. In truth, rather than solve problems, this policy is intended to create them, because the destabilization of the world order provides an excuse for military preponderance, to which very powerful interests in the U.S. are associated. This limits U.S. foreign policy’s rationality and makes it very dangerous.

In whatever shape, the facts are there and, as the saying goes, there’s nothing as stubborn as reality.

from Progreso Semanal/ Weekly 

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