Cuba and the Caribbean Cold War
was originally published in the Jamaica Gleaner on December 3, 2006.)
has celebrated his 80th birthday this weekend and the Cuban Revolution has
marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the revolutionary campaign. No
other event has transformed the international politics of the Caribbean as this
revolution has done. It brought the Cold War to the Caribbean.
warriors, the United States and the Soviet Union, then came as close to a
nuclear war as they had ever come during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The
Caribbean remains the one place in the world where the Cold War continues.
States is a friend and ally of the old enemy Russia, and wants Russia to join
the World Trade Organisation but it won't trade with Cuba. Communist China holds
the largest reserves of U.S. currency but the U.S. blocks U.S. currency trade
with Cuba. The U.S. has just signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam, with
which it fought its bloodiest and most traumatic Cold War, but freezes trade
No peace talks
States even buys large amounts of oil from Venezuela while its law prohibits oil
exploration in Cuban waters. The U.S. is willing to invite talks with potential
nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran, but will not entertain any discussions
for peace with Cuba, even though Cuba does not have an offensive nuclear
for this obstinacy? Is it just spite, masochism, a thick-headed refusal to
adjust to a new world, or the baneful politics of vote getting in Florida? No
one can say for sure. The international community, America's best friends in the
European Union and its NAFTA partners, Mexico and Canada, all do business with
Cuba. The U.N. has just voted for the 15th consecutive year for the embargo to
be removed. The embargo has cost the Cuban economy US$86 billion. No one knows
how much it has cost the U.S. economy but it must be billions of dollars as
well. The U.N. resolution had the largest support ever and was only opposed by
the U.S. and its predictable ally, Israel, along with such global powers as the
Marshall Islands and Palau.
Cuba is no
longer isolated in the world beyond the United States. It is a participant in
the major world sports organisations, from the Olympics to baseball. In
September Cuba hosted the summit of Non-Aligned Movement and leaders from all
continents attended. In fact, Cuba became a peacemaker at that summit, forging a
new dialogue between two American nuclear friends, India and Pakistan, something
the U.S. had failed to do. Cuba is a member of all the important Caribbean and
Latin American regional economic, political and technical organisations except
the U.S.-dominated Organisation of American States.
States says it will not remove the embargo against Cuba until the Castro
brothers no longer rule, and until Cuba releases political prisoners and allows
political freedom in Cuba. These conditions have only reinforced the Cold War
mindset. They are not posited on democratic practices on the U.S. side. The
American government has employed its own ways of trying to end Fidel Castro's
rule by trying to assassinate him.
tried to bring 'freedom' to Cuba by invasion, destabilisation, and an embargo
designed to choke and starve Cuba into submission. There is nothing democratic
about any of this. Cubans wonder if the American government really has the
interest of the Cuban people at heart. Cuban-Americans cannot just visit Cuba
even to attend the funeral of family members, or send more than a minimum of
dollars to their family, old or young, in Cuba. Even dissident groups say these
restrictions are inhumane and that the Bush administration has gone too far.
The U.S. says
that Cuba must free political prisoners. So must the U.S. The U.S. holds more
political prisoners at Guantanamo Bay than Cuba is said to hold. Terrorist
suspects are held without charge, legal representation, and only recently with
hearing. The U.N. says these prison camps should be closed. Similar situations
exist at Abu Ghraib and secret prisons in Europe.
Some wonder if
American leaders should not be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
administration applies what amounts to torture to prisoners and reversed
Clinton's decision to subject Americans to the International Criminal Court of
the United Nations. The Americans must put their own house in order. Jimmy
Carter's new book says that Israeli occupied territories in Palestine involve
some of the worse cases of abuse of human rights in the world and the U.S. needs
to do something about what its leading ally is doing.
Cuban laws are
no harsher than those of conservative Muslim oil-rich states that are among
America's best friends.
The U.S. wants
to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba. It has failed to deliver this in Iraq.
American senator, Barack Obama, says that one of the lessons learned in Iraq is
that democracy cannot be imposed on a people, worse, from the barrel of a gun.
The Democrats in Congress now say that the Iraqis must be allowed to take
responsibility for the type of government and society they wish to have. This
must be the rule for Cuba as well.
have failed to impose their brand of democracy in Vietnam and have now come to
respect Vietnam's choices and ways. They have not consolidated democracy in Iraq
and Afghanistan. They installed a bloody regime in Haiti between 2004 and 2006.
Transparency International said that Haiti had become the most corrupt country
There is no
evidence to suggest that the United States can best guide or establish
conditions for Cuba's future. The rest of the world understands that it has to
engage Cuba on Cuban terms. Some 1,800 leaders from 80 countries have descended
on Cuba to wish Fidel Castro well. They appreciate the unprecedented generosity
of Cuba in providing medical professionals and services to half a million people
through Operation Miracle (eye surgery) from Africa to Asia and the Americas.
But there is a special opportunity now for the U.S. and Cuba to break new ground
once and for all, and for Caribbean diplomacy to lead the way.
the best way towards democracy. The Democrats in Congress hope to relax or
remove the U.S. embargo. American businessmen want to explore for oil, sell farm
products, invest in minerals and infrastructure, and profit from Cuba's tourism
boom. Cuban-Americans want to visit their family, send them money, and do
business as well. The Caribbean needs the benefit of trade with and between the
U.S. and Cuba.
to the Caribbean would be enormous. Caribbean investors would no longer have to
be wary of investing in Cuba. American tourists would no longer be hamstrung in
travelling between Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean.People who do business,
holiday, study, or have health treatment in Cuba will no longer be in jeopardy
of U.S. law and freedom to travel to the US because they have passports stamped
breakthroughs in science and technology in health, energy, and agriculture would
be more widely available to the public and private sectors of the Caribbean.
Happily, times are changing. The U.S. and Cuba cannot remain frozen in their
time warp for long.
lectures in the Department of Government at the University of West Indies.