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It came as no surprise when Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, formally announced on January 28th that the Biden Administration would revisit American policy towards Communist Cuba. During the presidential campaign, after all, this had been referenced. Psaki asserted in her statement that, like what Barack Obama’s spokesperson claimed in December 2014, Biden’s Cuba policy would be wielded by “two principles”.
One being “support for democracy and human rights” and the other, that “Americans, especially Cuban Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba”. The track record for policies of détente (coexistence), or in 21st century semantics, “engagement”, contradicts the stated objectives of the new administration when it relates to Communist totalitarian regimes.
The deceitful choreography of employing seductive public relations language like “human rights” and “freedom” to frame foreign policy objectives is disingenuous. Biden’s presidency will restore and reinvigorate the Obama-Castro pact. This would be essentially the practical intent of forging a tropical China model. In other words, a regime where the Castrocommunist Leninist state cohabits with a hybrid economy and coexists with America. This would be consequential with Obama’s comparison of U. S. relations with China, as well as Vietnam.
Carlos Fernández de Cossio, an intelligence officer and the Castro regime’s top diplomat in Washington, insisted emphatically in a Reuters interview recently that the Cuban dictatorship would not make any political concessions in exchange for the diminishing of the sanctions. What the high-ranking Cuban Communist official is saying is that, as far as they are concerned, they have no human rights problem, and they are a true “democracy”.
Therefore, any understanding of relations as having a precondition of human rights improvements or an amplification of basic spaces of civil liberties, is out of the question. Morality, in other words, would have no place in a current U. S.-Cuba rapprochement.
Trump’s policies toward Cuba
What exactly did Donald Trump do that Biden seeks to, in effect, reverse? Trump did several things. Firstly, Obama’s flawed and ethically vacuumed Cuba policy was transposed. The focus was hard currency deprivation for the Castro government.
The Cuban economy is structurally 70% directly owned and operated by a conglomerate of regime, military-run companies. In the tourist sector, the percent is close to 95%. Given the fact that tourism as an industry, represents the world’s second largest profitably licit business, Havana began early in the 1990s to concentrate its search for revenues in this sector. Trump functionally shut down tourism from the U. S. to Cuba, including that of Cuban Americans. Remittances were also limited.
Understanding the perverse nature of Cuba’s state capitalism operations, Trump signed measures that prohibited U. S. currency being spent in property owned and/or operated by the regime’s front business military corporations. This proved brutal for the currency needs of Cuban Communism, given the high cost of maintaining Cuba’s elite police state.
Another insignia measure of the Trump Administration was implementing Title’s III and IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton). This allowed Americans and Cuban Americans to sue in American courts companies that have been trafficking in property stolen by Cuban Communism. This was epic given the fact that the appropriation of American property in Cuba represented the biggest single heist to U. S. investors in history.
In addition to targeting all entries of capital to the Cuban dictatorship, Trump’s Administration had the far vision to understand how Socialism operated in the Western Hemisphere. Rather than naively seeing Marxist strongholds across Latin America as independent entities, the U. S. under the stewardship of the 45th President understood that Communist regimes and movements functioned there as a multinational political organization strategically headed by Cuba and financed by Venezuelan oil, front business organizations and drug trafficking.
This approach was accurate and depicts a proper reading of the Marxist menace in this continent. The currency deprivation principle targeting Cuba, its satellites, Venezuela and Nicaragua, as well as prioritizing drug interdictions, were all aimed at this fundamental purpose.
Congressman Jim McGovern, a prominent Castro regime apologist, issued a letter on January 15th outlining Cuba policy change recommendations to Biden. Given the high-profile role that the Massachusetts Democrat had in the previous Obama-Castro engagement scheme, this is likely to serve as a prelude of the course that will follow.
Among the predictable and more outrageous suggestions are decoupling the Cuban Communist regime from the Venezuelan dictatorship in U. S. foreign policy considerations, the immediate opening of travel, commerce, and official interchange and removing Cuba from State Sponsors of Terrorism List. Perhaps, the most shameless proposal is to recommit to working jointly on “human rights” groups with regime-affiliated organizations. This way the Cuban counterparts can advise on how the U. S. can improve its human rights record.
The grave flaw with the détente or “engagement” approach in dealing with totalitarian regimes is that the proximity to capitalist democracies only solidifies dictatorial power. It does nothing to promote democracy or extend civil and political rights to the oppressed citizens. China and Vietnam are two perfect examples of this erroneous policy. The reason is simple. While closer relations, both commercial and diplomatic, do have a favorable impact with authoritarian regimes, it does the opposite with totalitarian ones. The key is civil society.
When Communist and Fascist dictatorships implement the totalitarian mode of governance, they destroy civil society. Once that happens, a parallel society emerges that is intrinsically connected to the regime. It is no coincidence that the largest segment of the Chinese Communist Party is comprised of businessmen. Authoritarian dictatorships never dismantle civil society, hence, as the country advances economically, the commercial classes eventually bear weight on the political class and a democratic transition is more feasible.
Soon we will begin to hear the stupidity of “people to people” slogans and of “empowering” a non-existent civil society in communist Cuba. Never mind that under Obama’s opening-with-no-demands policy, Cuban communism’s state business emporiums grew exponentially, and the non-state sector shrunk. The only “entrepreneurs” that thrive are the official, regime-connected ones. Dark days await Cubans and all freedom-loving Latin Americans with the upcoming Biden appeasement détente.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.