As many of our readers know, a couple of weeks the country of Myanmar (Burma) was in the news because of crackdowns by the ruling regime there on protesters that want democracy. I was reading last week’s edition of “The Economist” and found these two paragraphs strikingly similar to the theme we’ve been hammering home about Cuba.
Defying the corrupt, inept, brutal generals who rule them, they took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to demand democracy. They knew they were risking a bloody crackdown, like the one that down a huge popular revolt in 1988, killing 3,000 people or more. In 1988 Burma’s people were betrayed not just by the ruthlessness of their rulers, but also by the squabbling and opportunism of the outside world, which failed to produce a coordinated response and let the murderous regime get away with it.
In New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Western leaders, led by George Bush, harangued the junta, and threatened yet more sanctions. They have probably already shot their bolt. Western sanctions have been tried and have failed, in part because Myanmar’s neighbours have for years followed a different approach. It’s fellow members of the association of South-East Asian Nations [ASEAN] waffled about “constructive engagement” while making economic hay in Myanmar from the West’s withdrawal. India, too, anxious about China’s growing influence, and hungry for oil and gas, has swallowed its democratic traditions and courted the generals.
You could take the whole thing, change a few words, and you’d be describing Cuba just as accurately.
Cuba’s Latin American neighbors have decided to turn a blind eye on Cuba’s monstrous record on human rights, preferring to line their pockets while adhering to a policy of “constructive engagement.” And India’s role as enabler of Burma’s rulers could just as easily be played by Canada or Spain with regards to Cuba. In both cases, it’s the “imperialist” United States that is refraining from doing business with the tyrants, creating a vacuum that these other countries, who pay only lip service to such things as democracy and human rights, eagerly step into.
Let’s be clear I’m not advocating US investment in Cuba so that our businessmen can get their “fair share.” Not by a long shot. I am merely pointing out that if sanctions fail, it’s usually because of unscrupulous countries willing to deal with the thugs that rule over oppressed people. Can you say “food for oil”? Just because the rest world is comprised of vultures willing to feed off the carcasses of oppressed peoples doesn’t mean we should join them.