Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Cuba Taking It Slowly

Despite pilfering all his best lines from Bob the Builder, Obama is continuing his unlikely success of making an American President popular outside of America with his decision to lift a wide range of sanctions against Cuba.
Always looking like a seemingly spiteful act to me, the embargo has lasted almost 50 years and the restrictions have been tightened and relaxed by individual Presidents as Fidel Castro sat around dodging assassination attempts and not shaving as White House residents came and went.
With the thawing of relations between the small Caribbean island and its powerful neighbour 90 miles away, there are going to be some winners and losers.
Cuba under Castro has been useful to the right-wing and American Presidents for decades, with the poverty in which many of its citizens live being the example used for the failure of Castro's socialist experiment.
When Fidel stepped down through ill-health last year, they lost their all purpose bogeyman to who they could always turn until another one handily cropped up somewhere else. Hugo Chavez is presently being lined up for the role but as he always gives better than he gets, he can't be relied upon to just suffer it as Fidel did.
During the last US election there was always mention of the large Cuban voting block in Florida which the political hopefuls had to appease. With a thawing in Cuban-American relations and Fidel no longer in power they stand to lose the status of being a consideration to those on the election trail.
Probably the biggest losers will be the Cubans themselves. Admittedly it is a poor country seemingly stuck in the 1950s but the opening of itself to the outside World will bring with it a new host of problems.
The Cubans will not be able to pick and choose parts of Fidel's Communism that it benefits from and introduce the parts of Western Capitalism that it wants, it will be consumed by privatisation, globalisation and western materialism.
The things that make Cuba a success, the low crime rates, superbly trained medical staff, literacy rates that stand amongst the best in the World and a 6th place for human well-being in the Happy Planet Index, will all suffer a drop in standards.
What Cuba will become if it fully opens itself up to us is just another country with a battalion of Starbucks, McDonald's, fast food outlets and the ebb and flow of the financial markets with its offer of loans and financial opportunities.
Fidel may have won his personal war with America, but Cuba should look at how the former Soviet Union countries imploded after Communism and how the financial system employed by the rest of the World is unravelling before our very eyes as an example of the double edged sword that throwing your lot in with the modern World entails.

6 comments:

effay said...

The embargo on Cuba has been one of the most absurd actions of the US over the past 50 years. The standard explanation is that Cuba doesn't allow elections, so we can't trade with them. Yet somehow we are able to trade with China and Vietnam and many other countries with no political freedom. I am convinced that isolating despotic regimes almost always leads to less political freedom and even worse economic conditions, and vice versa. I think Cuba is in position to be a prime example of the slippery slope towards freedom if we give them a chance. Plus, another trading/competition partner is also good for us.

I will also not that I have always thought it odd that the Cuban-American lobby opposes open relations. Apparently they don't recognize the substantial benefits their relatives back in Cuba would see from enhanced opportunity.

Cheezy said...

That's the part that's always confused me, effay... Just guessing here, but is it because the Cuban-American lobby is a highly political group, more interested in effecting political change (i.e. getting themselves and their mates into power on the island) than they are in actually helping their fellow countrymen now? If so, they sound like the Cuban equivalent of that bullshitting shyster, Ahmed Chalabi.

Noah "Nog" said...

Yeah, there's never been a good reason for the embargo (or at least in the past few decades).

Anonymous said...

Embargo makes no sense to me. It clearly failed to unseat Castro.

The people of Cuba are either totally subjugated to government power (which is what we are told all the time) or the don't mind living in abject poverty.

Q

Don said...

The embargo makes no sense to me either and I will be glad to see it go.

However, Cuban-Americans cannot be characterized as waiting for their chance to get back in. Those I've known have been very patriotic Americans with no desire to move back to the island. They have differing views on the embargo but I gather those in support of it are mostly influenced by hatred of Castro and what he continues to do to their relatives. I don't really know.

That Happy Planet Index is absurd. The obvious reason Cuba ranks so high is because it is "green" for the people having little opportunity to use fossil fuels. The index indeed takes a measure of misery and turns it on its head. Satisfaction is also highly subjective and there's no telling how the data was gathered. Maybe people were overjoyed because no one in their family was thrown in prison that week.

Cuba will never be just another country. Is Costa Rica? Mexico? They will go their own way and I hope they take their time and change peacefully.

Lucy said...

Peaceful, gradual change and not taking the former Soviet countries route of wanting everything in one fell swoop.