Cuba and the USA: Pragmatism instead of ideology
Cuba and the USA are preparing to open embassies on July 20. Now, 26
years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, pragmatism
has triumphed and shifted the balance of power on the continent.
Date 02.07.2015 Author Astrid Prange
“It is the ultimate end of the Cold War in Latin America,” says Oliver
Stuenkel, a professor for international relations at “Fundacao Getulio
Vargas” University in Sao Paulo. “The issue at hand is no longer
communism or capitalism, but instead, pragmatism. The role of the latter
is expanding,” he points out.
The rapprochement between the USA and Cuba has eased the tensions in
Brazilian-US relations. In October 2013, Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff cancelled a trip to Washington after it had become known that
the NSA had tapped her phone calls for years.
Now it looks as though the trouble has simply evaporated. When Rousseff
visited the White House on June 30 of this year, she extolled the
restoration of relations between Washington and Havana. “The opening of
the embassies will not only renew the bilateral relationship, but also
Washington’s relationship to all of Latin America,” she told the
international press during her visit.
As a regional power in South America, Brazil figures importantly in the
new balance of political power on the American continent. Venezuela’s
announcement of the upcoming elections on December 6, for instance, can
be attributed to mediation work in Brasilia. Caracas counts among the
few ideologically guided governments remaining in the region.
Left-wing but not anti-American
According to South America expert Oliver Stuenkel, “there are no more
left-wing politicians who seriously believe” that the country must work
against the USA, or should not strive for a strong partnership with
Washington. “The economic and political costs of bad communication with
the USA are very high in the long term,” explains Stuenkel.
While , Cuba and other countries are becoming all the more pragmatic,
like El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who, before even
assuming office, visited US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014.
During the civil war in his country between 1980 and 1992, Ceren was a
guerilla fighting against the military government backed by the USA.
Uruguay’s former president and resistance fighter Jose Mujica has also
come to terms with the dark past, when the USA supported a brutal
military regime as a means of preventing the spread of communism. Mujica
agreed that Uruguay would take in six .
Fighters lay down arms
The fall of the Latin American wall makes it possible: Columbia’s FARC
guerillas are in Cuba with representatives of President Juan Manuel
Santos’ conservative government, negotiating a peaceful end to the civil
war that has been going on for 50 years. And in El Salvador, the
murdered archbishop and leading member of the liberation theology
movement – which was close to left-wing movements – was recently beatified.
But not everyone sees the political benefit of the new pragmatism.
Spanish author and publisher Antonio Navalon, who has lived in Mexico
since 2005, fears the development of a political vacuum. “The American
continent is ideologically orphaned,” he wrote in the newspaper “El
Pais”. The search for a new political orientation and new models is one
of the major challenges in the future.
“Before, the USA had two ideologies: the leftist dream in Cuba and the
right-wing dream, meaning Uncle Sam and the dictators he backed,” writes
Navalon. Now there is no political difference between good and evil.
Cuba is adapting to capitalism and the USA is pursuing geostrategic
Money from Beijing
Oliver Stuenkel expects that this situation will not change very
quickly, even if expands. “China cannot assume the role of the USA,
because the USA exercises important security powers in South America,”
he clarifies. Furthermore, China is also not interested in this
Nonetheless, China has already overtaken the USA’s position as number
one trade partner in many South American countries. The Chinese have
also risen to the role of important investors and moneylenders in
Venezuela and Argentina, where access to international capital markets
is limited. Observers now critically view the massive export of raw
goods to China.
China’s growing influence in the region now comes second to the
political thawing of relations between Havana and Washington. The next
stage – after the reopening of the embassies in July 20 – is ending the
US trade embargo against Cuba. Oliver Stuenkel says with certainty that,
“The bearing is very clear: It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ the embargo
is lifted, but instead, ‘when’ it is lifted.”
Source: Cuba and the USA: Pragmatism instead of ideology | Americas |
DW.COM | 02.07.2015 –