From armed aggression to an economic offensive
Yes, almost 60 years of secret wars, multiple attempts to kill Fidel Castro and a vicious trade embargo that characterized Washington’s approach to Cuba, have metamorphosed into a veritable gold rush of U.S. businesses of all kinds — Airbnb and Marriott, Verizon and AT&T, not to mention the bidding war entered by U.S. air carriers to secure routes to the island, and many more — eager to mine whatever riches the Caribbean nation has to offer.
That’s the import of the changes in U.S. policy towards Cuba since Dec. 17, 2014, when the presidents of both countries surprised the world by jointly announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
If that is not radical transformation, I would like someone to tell me what is.
To top it all, President Obama landed in Havana on Sunday, and among other things his trip should put to rest any lingering doubts about the depth and durability of such changes.
“For five decades, everything about our policy toward Cuba was about getting the Castro family to cry uncle,” said Sarah Stephens, director of the Washington based Center for Democracy in the Americas, summarizing 55 years of U.S.-Cuba policy. “We tried to kill them and, when that failed, we sought to incite an insurrection among Cubans who we tried to make hungry and more desperate hurting them with our sanctions.”
Nothing worked. The Cuban people suffered but resisted, and much to the chagrin of Washington hardliners, the country never cried uncle.
And now, as a result of that resistance, a U.S. President arrived in Havana, not with the imperial attitude of days past but with the respectful demeanor the people of Cuba deserve, aware that the proud Caribbean nation would never accept impositions or disrespect.
"We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly. America will always stand for human rights around the world," Obama wrote in a tweeted message.
Without a doubt after half a century of mistrust, many contradictions remain. Yet Obama’s trip should speed up, reaffirm and make irreversible the changes announced a few months back.
In Cuba, Josefina Vidal, the general director for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, expressed her government’s satisfaction with Obama’s trip.
"His visit will represent a step forward in relations between Cuba and the US," Vidal said while reiterating calls for lifting the embargo and the return of Guantanamo to Cuba.
Going back to the gold rush, most people would agree that business offensives are preferable to armed aggression. Yet, the jury is still out on what impact such massive economic influx by U.S. companies--and the capitalist culture of inequality and exploitation it inevitably brings with it-- will have on the socialist country.
Yet if Cuba has resisted the dangerous enmity of its powerful neighbor to the North for 60 years, one would think it should be able to withstand its new friendly overtures.
Let’s hope that, in this case, dollars don’t turn out to be deadlier than bullets.