Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?
January 31, 2015 8:00 AM
The recent U.S. decision to restore diplomatic ties between the United
States and Cuba after more than 50 years has interested parties debating
whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the
Communist island nation.
A mix of politicians and analysts in the U.S., some South Florida exiles
and key members of Cuba’s dissident community have all pointed to China
and Southeast Asia as an area where democracy has retracted in the face
of détente with America.
“We’ve seen what happens in these transitions, [looking at] China,
Vietnam and Burma, these are corrupt Communist dictatorships that are
highly repressive. In fact they’ve gone backwards,” Mike Gonzalez of the
Heritage Foundation told VOA’s Encounter.
“China initiated a reform process 30 years ago,” he said. “It has
perfected the model for economic opening while keeping the Communist
party in power.”
That skepticism is shared by Republican Party leaders and a number of
lawmakers of Cuban descent, including Senator Marco Rubio, who earlier
this month downplayed the idea that increased trade would lead to
political openness in Cuba.
But those who support the diplomatic embrace reject this argument.
“Cuba rests in a very different part of the world than China or Vietnam.
We’re in a democratic hemisphere, and Cuba is next door to one of the
largest, most successful, powerful democracies in the world – the United
States,” said the Brookings Institution’s Ted Piccone.
“This policy change will allow other regional neighbors to join us in
supporting democratic change in Cuba,” he said. “That’s the hemispheric
A national Pew Research poll, conducted January 7-11, showed that while
63 percent of Americans approved of U.S. President Barack Obama’s
decision last month to re-establish ties, only about one-third thought a
thaw in relations would lead to greater democracy in Cuba.
In fact, detractors worry that while the U.S. is prepared to compromise
in the name of diplomacy, the Cuban government is cynically seeking a
new benefactor it will not hesitate to eventually discard.
“The Castros want U.S. money to maintain power. I believe the minute
[traditional allies] Russia and Venezuela can help Cuba again, they will
turn their backs on the United States,” said Jorge Lima of the Libre
Initiative, a conservative group based in Washington.
“President Obama has said many things regarding new relations with Cuba,
and many changes have been made, [but] the Castros have made no changes,
the people still have no liberty,” Lima told VOA’s Foro Interamericano.
Still, given the reality of U.S. politics, some developments will come
faster than others, experts say.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill Thursday to
permanently lift all restrictions on American travel to Cuba. But ending
Washington’s 54-year-old trade embargo against Cuba is not likely to
happen in a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.
“It will be a gradual process,” said Carl Meacham of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies. “Isolation is exactly what
dictators want. In the long run, this change will create a desire among
the Cuban people for commerce, technology and liberty.”
In fact, the embargo not only isolated the U.S. from the Cuban people,
but from other Latin American neighbors as well, according to Piccone.
“What we’ve tried over the last 50 years is very punitive [and] the
Castro regime has it used against us. The whole world has condemned this
embargo,” he said.
But the few dissidents in Cuba brave enough to speak out are unified in
saying they feel betrayed by Obama, according to Gonzalez.
“It’s not just Cuban-Americans and members of Congress who are against
this quite shameful decision,” he said.
Source: Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model? –