Monday, 28 November 2016

Post-Fidel Cuba: Oily Tributes and Resource Struggles

Trudeau sparked fury and online mockery after he referred to Castro as a “remarkable leader” and expressed his sorrow at the death of “Cuba’s longest-serving president....On Sunday, Trudeau said his statement was simply meant “to recognize the passing of a former head of state” of a country that Canada had longstanding ties with, and not to gloss over unflattering history.
On the death of Fidel Castro, Trudeau was certainly quick to chip in with the creeping eulogies and airbrush out the human rights record. The oleaginous tributes had less to do with his being a liberal-left apologist for dictatorship in any ideological sense. It had more to do with certain large unmentionable economic interests.
As usual pseudo-political debates have opened up because of the phoney outrage of US Republican politicians who are playing to the gallery of the Miami exiles from Cuba who celebrated the death of what Trump called a brutal tyrant. While accurate enough, Cruz hallucinated that Obama had "celebrated" Castro.
In actual fact, Obama had done no such thing. Obama actually said history would “record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” that there were “countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.” 
There was nothing in Obama's comments that could be construed as "celebrating" Castro's legacy in the way the craven Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain did, rationalising the dictatorship as a 'systemic alternative'-to use the sinister Seumas Milne's phrase-which opposed US power and so advanced "international solidarity".
Corbyn was, of course, prepared to mention the appalling human rights record and repression but to euphemise them in an Orwellian manner as "flaws" and "excesses" and called on his believers and doubters to look, appropriately enough at the totality of Castro's achievements beyond the health care and literacy.
Trudeau mentioned the health care and education too but only to position himself as 'progressive' and standing in continuity with his father from the optimistic liberal 1960s when 'another world looked possible'. As usual, it's political choreography designed to conceal the usual grubbier material interests.
Trudeau has been as keen as hopey-changey Obama in courting Raul Castro's Cuba in order to advance Canada's corporations such as Sherritt International, Cuba's largest foreign investor with extensive mining interests and deeply involved in tapping Cuba's copious and recently discovered Caribbean oil reserves.
Trudeau was heavily criticised by domestic opponents for not doing enough to cheerlead for Canada's oil and gas industry while still wanting to appear 'progressive'. Cuba, then, offers an ideal way forward. Engaging with Cuba is believed on way to help it finally come out from the Cold War while advancing corporate interests.
Naturally, very little mention is ever made in the Western media about taboo oil and gas interests. It's considered bad form to let the public know how the world actually works. Cult followers of Corbyn need to believe Cuba is still a bastion of anti-imperialist resistance when the reality is that its aligning more with the US away from Venezuela.
The reason is that the Chavista experiment is collapsing into economic chaos, sharpened political conflict and potential civil war. Corbyn has conveniently airbrushed this out from political consciousness since becoming Labour leader. It't energy lifeline has gone down. Venezuelan oil shipments to the island have declined by 19.5 percent in 2016.
The embargo is already effectively redundant in blocking access to tapping Cuba's oil. In October 2015 when 120 business leaders flocked to the country to discuss offshore oil development. Trump is unlikely, for all his rhetoric, to stand in the way of this deal cutting but he's just as unlikely to bother with promoting human rights either.
In fact, a sleazy military junta and crony capitalist Havana would make Cuba a perfect outpost for investments in the sort of casino and tourist economy controlled by a shady mafioso elite that Trump would find congenial. The demise of Fidel Castro removes the stigma of 'communism' and herald the return to Cuba as before the 1959 Revolution.

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