Should Cubans be Wary of the New Relationship with the USA?

July 25, 2015 |

By Circles Robinson

From-the-Havana-Challenge

Observing from the Havana malecon seawall. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — What are Cubans thinking about the new friendly relations with the United States? Will it bring prosperity? Is it some kind of trick? Will it lead to a takeover by US capital and corporations?

In asking around for opinions we found that in general there appears to be little mistrust of ulterior motives and most people are happy with the change. Likewise Obama seems quite popular.

Many see the rapprochement as a big plus for bringing families closer together and foresee a gradual loosening of the island’s many prohibitions and restrictions on private initiative. They also see greater potential for travel and professional exchanges.

People hope that increased economic activity in tourism will improve depressed wages and some long to get jobs with US companies that could establish on the island if the embargo is greatly weakened or repealed.

Where there is mistrust comes from some Cuban government media commentators and bloggers who see the opening to the US as a sort of Trojan Horse where the enemy seeks to get inside to continue its efforts to topple the Castro government.

A portion of Cuba’s dissident politicians and exile community do not think economic liberalization will bring about greater civil rights such as freedom of the press, speech and association and therefore lobby the US Congress to maintain the embargo as a way to continue applying pressure.

What do you think? We’d like to hear your opinions.

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What's your opinion?

  • Peter Melbourne

    I would be leery of provocateurs that subscribe to creating violent social unrest entering the country. There are many people with “axes to grid”

  • Gordon Robinson

    It must be noted that China holds a lot of debt from both the USA and Cuba. China wants to build manufacturing plants in Cuba and they must be able to sell in the USA.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Gordon, China already sells to the US – indeed I would guess that it is their largest market. Cuba has no specific raw materials or products apart from cigars, that cannot be obtained elsewhere.

  • Ken Benoit

    Hopefully all those positives that people believe might happen, will happen. But people would have to be naive to believe that the US government policy in the governance of Cuba will change. They will try to continue to impose “democracy”(the one that fits their definition) and then all that so called freedom will be gone.

    • John Goodrich

      A good way for the U.S. to get Cuba back to free enterprise capitalism would be to sucker Cubans into adopting a multi-party electoral system instead of the no-party (intention) system of Poder Popular .
      A new party backed by rich capitalists could use the power of their money as they do in the USA to bribe the elected officials into more and more reversion to free-enterprise capitalism .
      Oh sure, multi-party elections sound so democratic but the reality is, what has evolved out of that high-sounding premise is a susceptibility to corruption that is unyielding and irresistible under capitalism .
      IMO

      • Informed Consent

        You confuse capitalism with a multi party system. I’m sorry to break this to you John bit Cubans already now all about the capital markets. It’s part of our DNA, only help at bay by authoritarian governments

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    There has been an understandable optimism but in reality there is little change. The Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba are not suddenly going to become ‘soft’. The Cuban military control 80% of the economy and are not going to relinquish their position. The State Police have a lot of control on the streets and they similarly are not going to relinquish their position. Finally, the Castro family is in a position of total control – and how is that to be toppled and by whom?

    • Carlyle seems to have a firm grasp of the realities of the political and economic situation in Cuba.

      Let us never forget that foreign remittances have a much greater impact on the Cuban economy than foreign visitors / tourists. And foreign remittances from the dominant source, the US, have been essentially unregulated for years.

      Too many Americans (yes, I am a US citizen) tend to believe we have more influence over other countries than we actually do.

      • John Goodrich

        We , as a country , have had well over 70 interventions into democratic processes , killing millions of people since the end of WWII and spending over a trillion dollars a year on “defense” which includes well over 900 military installations in over 100 countries and not including the 16 or so intelligence agencies, to maintain this policy of making the world safe from capitalism .
        I’d say most people in the USA have no bleeping clue as to this factual history or the extent to which the imperial GOUSA has inflicted misery upon the world.
        Mostly what I hear from the hoi polloi goes along the lines of:
        ” Why do we give so much fucking money to people that hate us?? “and frequently followed by “Why do they hate us ?”
        No, really the overwhelming majority of the U.S. electorate
        doesn’t have or want a good grasp on uncomfortable fact and prefers to deal in wishful thinking in which fact must be ignored .
        IMO

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          typical Mr. John Goodrich response, not even a mention of Cuba – and this is the Havana Times – but a rant about his own country. His language is not choice, but then he is an anarchist.
          Some of us write here because we care about the people of Cuba and their future. Mr. Goodrich doesn’t care – he has never been there!

  • informed Consent

    What will happen….only time will tell. Change will most certainty come with the death of the Castros, but what form that change will take is anyone’s guess.

  • Moses Patterson

    There are 3 Time Clocks in Cuba running concurrently. The clock on the economy depends on Venezuelan oil. If Venezuela can’t maintain it’s support of the regime, it’s lights out, literally. The clock on the Obama administration. It seems very clear that rapprochement with Cuba will end if a Republican is elected and is likely to face setbacks even if a Democrat wins. Whatever Cuba hopes to accomplish must take place within the next 18 months. The third clock is the biological clock for the Castros. Once the Castros die, there are guarantees tgat the transition will be peaceful. If any of these 3 clocks runs out before the embargo is lifted and full normal relations restored, the calculus changes. Cuba should be more afraid of these possibilities than fearing a full frontal Starbucks attack.

    • John Goodrich

      A great many others in the past like Georgie-Ann Geyer, used to predict that once Fidel was out of the picture that the revolution would fall apart. It’s what ? about seven or eight years now since Fidel retired ? and the revolution per se continues and things are looking up.
      Fidel was very accomplished in teaching the people of Cuba about the pros and cons of capitalism and of the future of socialism and more importantly , about capitalist imperialism and how it attacks the poor of the world.
      Unlike the great unwashed; the average Joe in the USA who cannot find Vietnam or EYE-rack on a map, the Cuban people are grounded in the reality that Fidel presented to them and they know why the GOUSA , the American Empire does what it does.
      Were all the elderly leaders to step down, people with much the same mind-set vis a vis imperialism and capitalism would take their places because the Cuban people would not soon elect to install even more totalitarianism upon them .
      IMO

      • Informed Consent

        That prediction still hold true. The Castros are still in power

      • Moses Patterson

        Cuba functions on fear. Most Cubans fear losing the little that they have if they were to speak out against the Castros. By contrast, the US functions on greed. Americans fear losing the opportunity to have more. Once the Castros die, the source of that fear dies with them. By the way, it’s not the Fidelistas who will revolt. It’s the millions of disaffected Cubans silenced by the regime who may take to the streets.

  • Ted Maloney

    I hope it is nothing but positive. The stories my Grandfather use to tell me about Havana, the food, the music, cars and the culture. It has always been a dream of mine to go to Cuba. Saving my money for a trip now.

  • Charles Bailey

    In my opinion Cuba should apply for annexation and statehood in the U.S. This would result in about 25,000 dollars in welfare aid to all people.

  • nidal shehadeh

    This is an extremely good question to ask , when I was living in Canada one of the issue the kept coming up is. ” brain drain” ,highly educated talent that kept migrating to the US .
    With no doubt this would be an issue that Cuba have to deal with ,
    I have what might be a solution , in United States especially in the Miami area there is American doctors who work 6 month in the US and 6 months somewhere else for example Lima Peru ,they charge as much money as you do in us .
    Quite frankly it’s much more beneficial for them to work somewhere else for at least part of the year , the main reason is liability insurance and taxes, after all one of the advice that medical students receive in the US is ( if you see someone injured on the sidewalk keep going otherwise you might get a lawyer after you with lawsuit )
    In the end of the day it’s all about supply and demand , as we speak there is American how fly to India and Thailand who’s the prettiest of getting cheaper surgery , in the US hip replacement surgery cost over $100,000 , in Thailand it will cost under $10,000 in other words flights, hospitalization , and a vacation all in one deal .
    Let’s say for the sake of argument that one day American insurance companies will accept Cuban hospitals as a place to perform surgeries , at that point you would have more business than you can handle, and this would be a way to keep highly educated talent at home .

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Cuba has suffered a major brain drain for 56 years and has proven unable to stop it. Have you checked for example the number of Cuban doctors entering the US every year?

      • nidal shehadeh

        the question should be asked how do we keep them at home , one answer they need to compare the pluses and minuses of the US vs scuba , I think if they really look at it they can possibly make Havana heaven on earth

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Washington is not the USA and Havana is not Cuba. In your Havana heaven, houses are crumbling to the ground.

  • Donald Thureau

    I wouldn’t worry too much about being tricked by the U.S. I would venture to guess that the current Cuban government has a few tricks of their own. They haven’t lasted all these years by being naive and dumb. I believe Raul Castro when he said that we would progress very slowly in very deliberate steps when dealing with the U.S. and instituting reforms.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      A tortoise would find any change in Cuba slow. None is visible in the City where we live in Cuba! Raul has no intention of relinquishing any of the power and control held be the Castro family regime.

  • Lois

    In theory, a prosperous socialism can exist. I would hope that Cuba can manage the dance.

    • Moses Patterson

      Only if Cuba can dance “in theory”. Prosperous socialism is an oxymoron.

      • lpress

        Two weeks ago, I took a taxi from the Copenhagen airport to the city. The driver told me that he and his family were about to leave on a four-week camping trip in Croatia. That would be unthinkable in the US or in Cuba today. Is it unthinkable for Cuba in ten years?

        • Moses Patterson

          2 weeks in the US would be the norm. Americans don’t share Europeans love leisure. On the other hand, our work ethic is largely responsible for our success. Cuba in ten years is post-Castro. At that point anything is possible.

          • lpress

            You both mistook my poiint. My point is that a cab driver in Denmark can afford to take his family on a four week vacation. In the US, a cab driver is lucky if he can support himself and take a vacation. Talk with a US cab driver about his living standard some day.

            I was offering Denmark as an example of a nation that had found a sustainable, prosperous balace between state and private enterprise, which might be a realizable goal for Cuba.

          • Moses Patterson

            Times are tough, even for cab drivers, but I disagree with you that a guy who drives a taxi in the US can’t afford a vacation with his family. I do agree that the Denmark model would be a good next step for Cuba. Almost any other system is an improvement though.

          • Griffin

            Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary representative democracy. They hold regular, free multi-party elections. Denmark has a multi-party system, with two strong parties, and four or five other significant parties. No single party has held an absolute majority in since the beginning of the 20th century.

            I don’t know if Mariel Castro would like the title of Queen of Cuba, but I don’t see how Cuba will arrive at a free & democratic multiparty system so long as the Castro regime maintains their monopoly on power.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Ipress, your explained point may have some validity, but remember that it isn’t a long way in Europe from Denmark to Croatia by car. Living in the south of England, my late wife and I used to take our four children by car to Austria one year, France the next and Scotland the third. But to verify one of your points, we only did it for two weeks, not four!
            Wonder what your cab driver is going to do when Uber arrives?

          • barfred

            If Danes go for vacation in Croatia, they will go by plane, thats cheaper than by car!

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Five or six return fares costs less than one car journey? Check again barfred. For the duration of the four week holiday the family has a car rather than renting and the children have the benefit of seeing other countries en route rather than the back of an aircraft seat.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          In June 1987, 40% of the private vehicles going through the US/Canadian border at Portal/NorthPortal were motorhomes – and they virtually all had the same destination – Alaska! They had originated in the North-Eastern States and of necessity their route took them through Portal. Stated average length of trip was seven weeks. There is no obvious reason to think that the number has diminished. So, if motorhomes staying on campgrounds qualify as “camping”? Over 2 million Americans per year visit Canada and many camp.
          Yes, the idea of Cubans being able to go camping in another country for four weeks in ten years time is unthinkable!

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      We who contribute to these columns have had countless contributions from Mr. John Goodrich about socialism and communism. In his view they don’t yet exist in the real world and that those claiming to be either – this includes the Castro family regime “socialismo” are so much rubbish. So let’s put “prosperous socialism” in the garbage can with all those which Mr. Goodrich
      deplores.

  • Ron Ridenour

    Circles, I’m afraid this opening coincides with the death of the
    revolution. Instead of catering to US capitalist interests, Cubans would fare
    much better and morally so if they actually sought to rule their own land,
    something no people has ever accomplished but that is what communism has
    promised and what it must be based upon else socialist endeavors revert
    backwards as we have seen in all other Communist party-led countries.

    It is absurd and sad to hear Raul Castro call Obama an honest
    man. Obama is like all US presidents: a chronic liar and murderer. How can a
    “revolutionary” “communist” leader possible associate with
    the world’s main terrorist and ignore his war crimes?

    • Moses Patterson

      How do you expect Cubans “to rule their own land” when under Castro rule, they can’t even do a decent job to farm their own land and feed themselves. Under the Castros, they can’t move around in their own land. And when Cubans decide they have had enough, it is illegal for them to leave their own land. So I’m guessing that it may be while before they can rule anything.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      Is execution without trial a war crime?
      I believe that it is!
      If it is, then Raul Castro Ruz stands indicted!
      78 executed at Santiago de Cuba in one day at his personal instruction!
      To such a tyrant, any body is an honest man!

  • old_CT

    I pity any Cuban who believes that they will pin their star to the stars and stripes, and all will be well. Cuba is not ready to swim in the big pond…..the big shark to the north will eat you up and spit you out leaving you in a worst state than you were in.

    Obama promised much, but delivered little. Ask yourselves this, “Why is he so keen to get things moving so quickly now?” The prison is still open, and defections are still encouraged.

    • QA

      Obama would love to close the prison but Congress will not let him. Break the analysis down to who votes thumbs up or down. There is the wall. A complication is some of the few really bad guys they have in prison. they feel they can’t afford to let them go. The perception may be a reality that cannot be ignored. so they play it safe with these guys. Funny because they can’t do that on american soil.

  • lpress

    I wrote a blog post the other day asking a companion question — does the Cuban Government trust the US (and Google)?

    http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2015/07/does-cuba-trust-us-and-google.html

    The Cuban party line seems to be one of distrust, but is that just rhetoric?

  • QA

    Perhaps the course is one where economic development fosters benefits the government quietly embraces. This is the example of the US and China. the US govt. exerts more control over us (US citizens all the time) and in China the private citizen is able to do, achieve, own and build more and this seems to be increasing as growth fosters prosperity. (Yes prosperity has it’s own problems but most want it and the benefits are there to see.) So development in Cuba will bring change. Some developments are those the government could not do on it’s own but it can manage through regulation and oversight. this is an ugly process by any measure as different interests are essentially pitted against each other. In the US most agree that money wins out. How this would work in Cuba is anyone’s guess. When I visited my friends had discussions as to whether or not turning loose Americans on the Cuban people was to their benefit or it would be a travesty. I don’t know the answer. But I think that testing the waters could be a way to move forward. By the way, why hasn’t there been more investment from other parts of the world? Why is the focus on the US? The embargo is a problem, but the US is not the only country you can do business with is it? The last post says Starbucks my arrive all over but that could have been done already from another quarter. I don’t understand that part.