Obama and the indefinite postponement of change
MIGUEL SALES | Málaga | 22 Mar 2016 – 10:56 am.
Imagine the scene: 1987. US President Ronald Reagan is about to complete
his second term in office. He arrives at the Airport of Chile to visit
that allied country and to meet with General Augusto Pinochet.
Mr. Reagan knows that the Chilean regime has hundreds of citizens
incarcerated for political reasons (14 years after his rise to power),
censors the press, suppresses the opposition, and does not allow
political parties to publicly act or vote in free elections. He also
knows that thousands of Chileans have abandoned the country in search of
freedom to improve their economic situations.
When he gets off his airplane the US leader approaches the journalists
thronging the terminal and states: “I know that there are many aspects
about which General Pinochet and I will not agree. But I trust that,
through the development of commercial and cultural relationships between
the two countries, the human rights situation in Chile will improve, and
the regime will evolve towards freedom and democracy.”
Now imagine what the international reaction would have been, by the
press and government officials, if that visit had ever taken place.
Well, this is what, mutatis mutandis, President Barack Obama is doing
during his current visit to Havana. The big difference is that his trip,
rather than sparking criticism and condemnation around the world, is
receiving universal praise, as the “progressive” press showers
admiration upon him.
The worst part is not that Mr. Obama’s presence is legitimising a regime
that has killed thousands of people, has hundreds of political prisoners
in its jails (57 years after it’s rise to power!), prohibits political
parties and suppresses the opposition, monopolizes the media, generates
thousands of boat people, and provides for multiple human rights
violations in its Constitution and Penal Code, so that they can be
carried out “legally.”
The worst part is that the US President has publicly rejected the
instruments which would have allowed him to pressure the Cuban regime
towards a liberal, democratic transformation, instead endorsing the
gradual evolution of the island’s economy and culture as the way to
“empower” its civil society. That is, after criticising the half century
of stagnation that, according to him, had prevailed in Washington with
respect to Cuba, Mr. Obama inaugurates a new strategy based on … the
long term. The only problem is that, as John Maynard Keynes used to
point out: “In the long run, we are all dead.”
Economic development and prosperity are, perhaps, necessary conditions
for the development of liberal democracy, but they are not sufficient.
The experiences of some Asian countries demonstrate that a dynamic and
prosperous society can survive under a post-totalitarian government. The
monopoly on political power, absence of human rights and police control
exercised against the Chinese people have not proven incompatible with
the rapid growth of that nation’s economy, and the consequent bolstering
of its quality of life.
Taking into account the frailty of Cuba’s civil society, the woeful
quality of life it provides for, and the reluctance of the Castroist
hierarchy to change a system that, despite its many failures, has been
very effective at retaining power and smothering opposition, the
strategy adopted by Mr. Obama and his advisors offers them 20 more years
of Castroism “light,” putting off the island’s democratization until
only God knows when.
Source: Obama and the indefinite postponement of change | Diario de Cuba