The US is afraid of Cuba

One of the hopes many people had with the election of Barack Obama was some improvement in the diplomatic relations between the US and Latin America.  The past thirty years have been among the worst of the previous century with regards to this varied issue, though hardly were they unusual in terms of the pattern set by the preceding hundred years. At nearly every turn the US has pursued a base form of self-interest, most often to the direct benefit of large corporations, at the expense of human rights, democracy, and sovereignty. (For a better understanding of the history of these relations, I highly recommend Greg Grandin’s Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism.)

The Cold War might have at times seemed like an exception to this, but it was not. The question of whether or not a communist or socialist government was good for parts of Latin America (which is itself a perversion, since the only question for anyone outside of a nation is whether or not the government came to power legitimately) was never entertained by the US. If it was communist, it was bad. The US never worked to make those government work better; it just naturally saw these interest as counter to their own.

So far–between Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and, to an extent, Brazil–the US in the age of Obama has seen little improvement over the past. A reminder of this is yesterday’s announcement of the list of 14 countries whose travelers will undergo automatic full-body searches when entering the US. Among the list is Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Oh yeah, and Cuba.

Cuba?!?

That’s right, Cuba. Whether or not you like Castro or think the last 50 years of Cuban history have been more of an improvement or more of a tragedy when compared to the past, you can not legitimately think Cuba is a hotbed of Islamic terrorists, or any terrorists for that matter. We have more of a threat–numerically and by percentage–from Canada than we do from Cuba. And yet Cuba finds itself on this list, the governmental equivalent of racial profiling.

Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson has an interesting (though uneven) opinion piece in today’s paper. You can read it here. In part, he says:

Yet Cuba is on the list because the State Department still considers it — along with Iran, Sudan and Syria — to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

Really? Despite the fact that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana was one of the few American diplomatic posts in the world to remain open for normal business, with no apparent increased security, in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?

The Obama administration has made many admirable moves to bring U.S. foreign policy into closer alignment with objective reality. But progress toward a fact-based relationship with Cuba has been tentative and halting, at best. Obvious steps that could only serve U.S. interests — and, in the process, almost surely make Cuba a more open society — remain untaken.

2 thoughts on “The US is afraid of Cuba

  1. Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles to normalizing relations with Cuba has been the Cuban exile community. They are a powerful, unified and vocal group when it comes to this issue. Few politicians want to take them on — and that includes Barrack Obama. You’ll notice that the first thing the president did in regards to Cuba was relax the travel restrictions for the exiles and increase the dollars they could send to families in Cuba. That was the olive branch. However, the Castro brothers have rebuffed Obama’s gestures and fallen back to Cold War rhetoric, calling the president an “imperialist.” The Cuban regime fears normalization. As we saw in Poland and during the collapse of the USSR, normalization with the West was the death knell for the Eastern Bloc.

    Overall, Obama shows a pattern of making offering concessions before making a counter move, the mark of a centrist. He has done the same with immigration, stepping up enforcement to levels higher than the Bush team–but unlike the Bush-led Department of Homeland Security, Obama has focused more on busting employers. I believe this is a bargaining chip for enacting immigration reform.

    I think the left needs to give Obama some room to negotiate — with Cuba and immigration reform.

  2. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, there is a high chance that what you got on your hands is a duck. Obama is an imperialist. Plain and simple. His latest escalation in Afghanistan should be enough to confirm that (ridiculous Nobel Peace Prizes aside). To somehow blame “the Castro brothers” for this latest example of US ignorance and arrogance makes little sense. Raul Castro has opened up Cuba, and made plenty of gestures (olive branches) to “normalization.” In fact, it has cause quite a bit of debate within Cuba, within the Party and within civil society, regarding the impact of normalization vis a vis the economy. Much of this debate revolves around the devastating impacts that rapid “normalization” had on the economies of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR. Those economies have witnessed the emergence of a small group of billionaires, who’ve benefited from neoliberal adjustment, and abject misery for the majority. There is something to the debates, something rooted in a study of history, economics, and politics, that transcends simple lumping of Cuban politics to whatever the “Castro brothers” fear on a particular day. THAT argumentation is a reflection of Cold War rhetoric and logic. Furthermore, as Tomas refers in his blog entry, there is plenty of evidence in Latin America SINCE Obama was elected to realistically conclude that the imperialism of the pre-Obama years is still with us. Even if people continue to feel all warm and fuzzy, and self-congratulatory, over the fact that there is a person of color in the White House. The point is that the Empire that we feel can be talked about freely when Bush or Reagan are injected into the discussion didn’t go anywhere when a new individual is “Commander in Chief.” Obama is the President of the United States…elected on a series of promises. The days of faith are long gone; the Left needs to hold his ass to the fire. Bailouts to Wall Street, betrayal of any meaningful health care reform, turning a blind eye to the coup d’tat in Honduras, escalating the war in Afghanistan (eight schoolchildren dragged out of their school right before the new year and assassinated)…how much room does this guy need? More to the point, when will people stop insisting on giving him “a break,” that his heart is really someplace else. You are what you do. Immigration Reform? Lives are literally at stake. Families are at stake. All I hear from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the same old sounds: quack, quack, quack.

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