Earlier this week, Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami published an excellent analysis of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent comments on Cuba and the Castro dictatorship.
Here it is in its entirety:
Secretary of State on Cuba
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently stated that the Castro brothers are against normalizing relations with the U.S. because the U.S. embargo serves as an excuse for the failures of the Cuban government.
So far so good. Yet the question that follows this statement is how many Cubans really believe that the shortages of bananas, potatoes and beans in Cuba are the result of U.S. policy? Very few. The Cubans understand well that the reason for economic distress in the island is the same as in Eastern Europe during the Communist era: a failed centrally planned economic system that doesn’t produce and stifles individual initiative.
Furthermore, food is not part of the U.S. embargo. For the past several years Cuba has been purchasing food and agricultural products from the U.S. The U.S. has become the largest exporter of food and agricultural products to Cuba.
Yet, there are other reasons why General Raul Castro doesn’t want to normalize relations with the U.S. It would mean a rejection of one of Fidel Castro’s main legacies: anti-Americanism. For the past half century, opposition to the U.S. and support of anti-American revolutionary and terrorist groups has been the main foreign policy cornerstone of the Cuban revolution. Moving toward the United States would require the weakening of Cuba’s anti-American alliance with radical regimes and groups in Latin America, as well as Iran and Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
From the Castro brothers’ point of view, the U.S. has little to offer: American tourists which Raul doesn’t need (2 million tourists visit Cuba yearly); American investments which he fears may subvert his highly centralized and controlled economy; and products such as medicines and heavy equipment that he can buy cheaper from other countries. The U.S. does not have, furthermore, the ability to provide Cuba with the petroleum Venezuela is sending with little or no payment.
Emboldened by Venezuela’s continuous largesse and recent large credits from China, Iran, Russia and Brazil, General Castro feels confident that Cubans can be pacified with growing imports of foods and consumer goods, more economic concessions and continuous control and repression.
Foreign aid from these countries, furthermore, comes without conditions. None of these countries are concerned with Cuba’s political system, human rights or a return to democracy.
Why would Raul Castro offer concessions to the U.S. while he enjoys the fruits of a close relationship with the above countries? Even at the height of uncertainty, following the collapse of Communism, the Castro brothers insisted they would offer no concessions or change Cuba’s system. Raul repeated this recently. They prefer to sacrifice the economic well-being of the Cubans rather than cave in to demands for a free Cuba politically and economically. Neither economic incentives nor punishment have worked with the Castros in the past. They are not likely to work in the future.
Which brings us to the obvious conclusion that not all differences and problems in international affairs can be solved through negotiations, or can be solved at all. This reality vitiates an assumption that has permeated American foreign policy for decades. There are international disputes that are not negotiable and can be resolved only through the use of force or through prolonged patience until the leadership disappears or situations change. While some differences naturally can be solved through negotiations, others are irreconcilable. Cuba seems to fall in this last category.
* Jaime Suchlicki is Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro, now in its fifth edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to NAFTA, now in its second edition and the recently published Breve Historia de Cuba.
In my opinion, Dr. Suchlicki’s final assessment boils down the entire Cuba situation to this indisputable reality:
“There are international disputes that are not negotiable and can be resolved only through the use of force or through prolonged patience until the leadership disappears or situations change. While some differences naturally can be solved through negotiations, others are irreconcilable. Cuba seems to fall in this last category.”
To assume we can negotiate with despotic dictators whose only concern is self-preservation, and somehow convince them that committing personal and political suicide is their best option, is to ignore the reality that has been documented for the past half-century.