U.S.-Cuba: Lessons of the past
The Cuban leadership in Havana continues to try to woo the U.S. administration into providing unilateral concessions to Cuba. The embargo and the travel ban will be ended, they believe, as a result of internal pressures in the U.S. and a more accommodating Obama administration.
Yet, after seven years in power, Gen. Raúl Castro is unwilling to chart a radically new course for Cuba or offer meaningful concessions. Expectations remain that he will follow the Chinese or the Vietnamese model and even find an accommodation with the United States.
We seem to cling to an outdated economic determinism in trying to understand events in other societies and the motivations of their leaders. Despite economic difficulties, Raúl Castro does not seem ready to provide irreversible concessions for a U.S.-Cuba normalization. He may release and exile some political prisoners; he may offer more consumer goods and food to tranquilize the Cuban population; but no major structural reforms that would open the Cuban economy and no political openings.
It should have been obvious from the beginning that the Castro brothers were not interested in friendly relations with the United States. In spite of U.S. calls for moderation, the Castro brothers carried out public executions in the island. In public speeches Castro insulted President Eisenhower and followed them with expropriations of American properties. Finally in July 1960, Eisenhower was left with no option but to cut the Cuban sugar quota. By then the Cubans had already arranged for the Soviet Union to buy Cuban sugar.
During the Cuban missile crisis, Castro sent a message to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev calling for a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland. Even the Soviets were shocked by the plea.
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