Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Death of Fidel Castro and the Future Fate of Cuba

'The thaw in relations was crowned when Obama visted the island earlier this year. Castro did not meet Obama and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the US president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many American efforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government'. -Rory Caroll, The Guardian November 26 2016
The death of Fidel Castro has only removed from Cuba and the World a recognisable figurehead who had long been reduced to making rambling speeches or else, as when Obama visited in early 2016, to maintaining this position as Revolutionary Icon and so balancing Raul's embrace of the US with the regime's legitimation myth.

Raul's Cuban regime is more openly just a repressive military junta running the show and Obama's decision to bring the embargo to an end represents a more realistic strategy of engagement.The embargo was,after all,used to justify the political repression because the US Imperialist was intent on throttling the Revolution.

The reality is that ever since Fidel Castro gravitated towards the Soviet Union in the early 1960s after seizing power and needing an ally; Cuba was a theatre for posturing and propaganda struggles during the Cold War and one that has long outlived any purpose it might once have served both for the US and for Cuba.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 pulled the plug on the economic trade and aid lifeline that had kept Cuba afloat in the Caribbean and it only just about managed to survive the economic collapse of the 1990s by reinventing itself as an ally of a new wave of leftist-populist nationalism in the 2000s.

George W Bush's crude attempts to reassert US power in Venezuela through backing opposition candidates and a coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002 gave a new lease of life to 'anti-imperialist' resistance based on cheap oil, the resource Washington wanted control over in the era before domestic shale oil exploitation.

Cuba was buoyed by huge oil subsidies and handouts from Venezuela but the death of Chavez, the collapse of global oil prices caused by a US-Saudi determination to drive down prices and the disintegration of  '21st Century Socialism' in its protector led Raul to move towards the US in order to ensure its survival.

After all, Obama was not only interested in exploiting the historic opportunity to detach Cuba from Venezuela: Cuba itself had made recent discoveries in 2008 of huge oil reserves off the Caribbean coast. As foreign firms muscled in, the US would neither want to miss out on these opportunities or the chance to detach Havana from Caracas.

As the social experiment in Venezuela collapses, Raul would want to gain foreign investment in Cuban oil, though the current glut of global oil and low prices make tapping it unattractive for corporations at present. Even so, profits, control over oil supplies and uncertainty in the Middle East make it attractive still.

The problem for Cuba is whether Trump in the White House is going to ignore any attempts to link further trade ties and future oil infrastructure development to opening not just the economy but also the political system towards democracy and away from dictatorship. Trump made it clear striking deals with regimes is his business.

After all, even under Obama there was not that much interest in the mysterious death of genuine and principled dissidents such as Oscar Paya; he opposed both Raul's regime and the prospect of renewed US dominance over Cuba's economy and increased poverty through the sort of neoliberal shock therapy that follows 'democracy promotion'.

On the contrary, Washington was more favourable to the usual designer dissidents such as Yoani Sánchez who were more useful in playing a role in advancing US interests because blogging and use of the internet. It is unclear as to whether many are indeed funded by Washington ( as Havana suggests ) or genuinely independent.

Either way, with Trump as President, ironically it could well be that 'democracy promotion' is simply not regarded as important any longer. The Castro regime may have a renewed lease of life, not least when neoliberal free market capitalism has created so many dysfunctional political and economic consequences in the Free World.

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