The Castros do not want normalization, just the embargo lifted
The Castro brothers have always understood U.S. presidents and the intricacies of political power better than the Americans have comprehended the Cubans. In Washington they still can’t fathom why the two brothers and their military junta don’t want friendly and harmonious relations with the U.S., but rather for the embargo to be lifted, and to receive loans and tourists from the north with bulging wallets. Simple as that.
With the Venezuelan crisis deteriorating by the minute, an end to the embargo has become urgent for the Castro regime. But having politically cordial and normal relations with Washington is not in their best interest. Hence, they will do everything possible to prevent them, or to sabotage them, even if the “blockade” (a military term that has nothing to do with a unilateral trade embargo placed by one country on another) is lifted.
The dictatorial elite’s view is that “too much” rapprochement with the US would generate great internal and external trouble, as it would mean “betraying” its history as an anti-American leftist leader in Latin America. But, above all, it could undermine the regime’s Orwellian control over all of Cuban society. People on the island feel would be less fearful of demanding more freedoms if the “Empire” were a strong ally.
The gerontocracy of “historical” commanders is not prepared – nor do they want to be – to grapple in a civilized way with the political, ideological, economic, cultural and psychological “contamination” that could spring from a close relationship with the U.S. The training of the Castro regime’s nomenklatura has always been based on the opposite: visceral confrontation with the “imperialist enemy.”
Castro’s Manifest Destiny
In reaction to U.S.-made rockets fired at a farmer’s house in the Sierra Maestra by Batista dictatorship aircraft on June 5, 1958, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Celia Sánchez setting forth the Manifest Destiny of his revolution: “When this war is over, for me a much longer and greater war shall begin: that which I will wage against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny. ”
That war did not end with the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington. And it will not end as long as the island is ruled by Castro and the commanders who joined the anti-U.S. crusade conceived by their leader. There will be no close relationship between Cuba and the United States until there is a new “de-ideologized” political leadership on the island.
But they don´t understand this in Washington. Even if the embargo were lifted, the Castroist leadership would throw up roadblocks to stymie the normalization process. On October 3 Commander José Ramón Machado Ventura, second-in-command in the regime, made this clear: “the Communist Party of Cuba will always be the backbone of the Cuban nation’s resistance.” In the language of Castroism, that means that the political and media struggle against the U.S. shall continue.
Strong alliances with Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, Syria, direct intervention in Venezuela to support the Chávez regime, and encouraging anti-US positions in Latin American governments, all form part of the Castros’ geopolitical arsenal to maintain serious differences with their neighbor and forestall the full normalization of relations.
They will continue to blame the U.S.
It’s a mistake to believe that with the end of the embargo Castroism will be left politically speechless, unable to continue blaming the U.S. for Cuba’s dire economic woes. No. The Castros will never recognize that they themselves, and socialism, are responsible for the widespread misery in Cuba.
The day after the repeal of the Helms-Burton Act, the regime would launch its Plan B: an aggressive worldwide diplomatic, legal, political and media campaign to demand the 100 billion dollars that it says the U.S. should pay Cuba in damages for the embargo. They will argue that it was the embargo that impoverished Cuba, which was left without financial resources, machinery or raw materials, enough food, and sidelined it from the technological revolution.
They will insist that if Washington does not disburse this money it will be impossible to improve the Cuban people’s standard of living, or to reconstruct the country, or to create the infrastructure required for US investments, or to develop the economy and integrate into the global economic system.
A silent transfer of power
Havana needs an end to the embargo, and fast, for two reasons: 1) with the collapse of oil prices, the political and financial outlook of its Venezuelan benefactor is getting worse and worse and 2) the end of the “blockade” would economically facilitate a silent transfer of political-military power from the Castros and their “historic” cronies to their younger family members and fledgling generals.
Whether or not Castro is their surname, they will be responsible for installing the neo-Castroist model. They will be the ones who are “empowered” by an end to the embargo. By law, the self-employed cannot even negotiate directly with foreign entities. By the way, if Cuba’s current Stalinists laws are not overturned, it will be hard to attract any significant American investment in Cuba.
The foundations of that succession model will be presented at the next Communist Party Congress in April 2016, a formula representing a melding of State-driven capitalism and post-Soviet and Chinese elements, with entirely fascist features, due to its decidedly military character. And watch out: the most important “change” in the economic sphere introduced by “Raulism” thus far has been the militarization of the economy.
More militarized than ever
The great paradox of the Cuba-US “thaw” is that it is occurring when the country is more controlled than ever by the armed forces, while its political system is shedding the formal appearance of an orthodox “socialist democracy” and starting to look more like a fascist military regime.
It doesn’t matter what Marxism-Leninism says, or the Cuban Socialist Constitution, on the leading role of the Communist Party. That militarization was not envisioned by the Leninist and Stalinist leaders of the Communist old guard, like Blas Roca, Juan Marinello, Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, César Escalante or Lázaro Pena. None of them today would have the political strength, influence and power they did in their time.
The GAESA (Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA) is a gigantic, truly capitalist corporation attached to the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which receives all the currency entering the country and almost 80% of revenues generated on the island. It is not institutionally accountable to the Government of the Republic. Thus, the Castros laugh at the basic principles of socialism as envisaged by Marx, according to which the “State of the people, workers and peasants” is charged with socially distributing and redistributing the “surplus” created by the workers. And hence, Antonio Castro is able to cruise the Mediterranean in a luxury yacht.
What the military cadre that reigns in Cuba wants is to shake off the embargo in order to access loans and get rich off the tourism and business they could do with the Americans, and to financially facilitate a succession that is inevitable, for biological reasons, towards a military dictatorship whose members will benefit from capitalism – but without allowing everyday Cubans to do the same.
Until then, the full normalization of relations with Washington does not form part of the regime’s plans, as it is not compatible with their Manifest Destiny.
Apparently neither is it in the plans of the neo-Castroists, but unpredictable events could upset everything and throw a wrench in the dictatorial succession scheme.