Cuba, Burma, and Obama

Antonio Rodiles in Diario de Cuba:

Cuba, Burma and Obama

More than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the US government and the regime in Havana, it remains to be seen what direction our island’s political and economic scenario will take.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has drawn up and is following through on a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime, without asking for or receiving anything in return, for the United States or the Cuban people.

It is important to note that the violation of the Cuban people’s political, civil, economic and social rights is covered by the existing judicial and legal system, which limits, by law, the implementation of any measure that might favor us.

The US government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, even managing for internal and external sectors, ostensibly in the opposition, to accept this premise and generate strategies based on it.

The agenda features a certain logic and points coinciding with that adopted towards Burma, though the Cuban regime is unwilling to take even initial steps. It is important to point out that the influence and scopes of the two dictatorships, especially in the international arena, have been very different, as are the environments in which they developed.

One of the elements that makes the Cuban case peculiar is the existence of a community of exiles just 90 miles away, wielding considerable human, political and financial capital, which the regime observes with great trepidation. It is hardly surprising, then, that in recent times it has focused not only on trying to exploit, as a parasite, but to seek agents and areas of influence to control, or at least handcuff it. No political or social dynamic, in the present or the future of the island, can be effective if it ignores the role of Cuba’s exiles.

In line with the Burmese case, some propose an electoral process in Cuba as a possible road to democracy, even under an iron-fisted totalitarian regime. But pursuing an electoral process in this scenario would end up legitimizing those in power and their successors, at least in the medium term, and would also leave in their hands all the economic power and networks of influence for a new political era. Validating neo-Castroism is utterly at odds with fostering a society based on the rule of law.

The potential visit of President Obama to our island appears to be approached in terms similar to the first one he made to the Asian country. In that case the president met with the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who on many occasions has been criticized for being soft on human rights violations. He also met briefly with other representatives of civil society. The visit drew sharp criticism from dissenters, like former political prisoner Aung Din, who pointed to it as an act legitimizing the regime.

There is serious concern that a trip by the US president to Cuba would only give neo-Castroism a shot in the arm. While the president has publicly stated that he wants to meet with different sectors of Cuban society, we get the impression that the opposition, especially that which does not share the current Administration’s agenda, could be given the cold shoulder, as has happened on other occasions.

The inclusion within civil society of the self-employed, artists, intellectuals and others, who remain under the regime’s total control, is part of an attempt, in many cases successful, to dilute and muffle a clear and direct message denouncing the daily excesses and abuses committed on the island daily.

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