Change In Cuba — But Not For The Better
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The Obama Administration hasn’t had a good Cuba week. Private companies
showed that embracing dictatorships torpedoes mission statements, while
the White House embarrassingly had to backtrack and re-invite a jazz
legend who supports democracy in Cuba. Meanwhile, in Havana, the
Communist Party shut the door on any reform.
All these developments are important, as they revealed the hollow middle
of the President’s decision to engage the Castros. They’re not changing
for the better—we are, for the worse.
The communist party meeting, which happens twice a decade, was the most
important, but perhaps least understood, of these three stories. Most
accounts focused on the fact that Fidel Castro, already looking like a
cadaver, showed up, spoke some Marxist psychobabble and reminded his
audience he may soon die. Well, he’s 89.
Other things were more important. Fidel’s 84-year-old little brother,
party honcho Raul Castro, had himself re-elected (unanimously, too, lest
there be any doubt) for another five years. That is 2121, when he will
be 90 unless he’s already departed for warmer climes.
Until now, all the talk had been of Raul stepping down in 2018. He
might, as president of the government, which may be left in the troubled
hands of a faceless functionary, but not in the more important role as
head of Cuba’s only party.
On Cuba’s lack of political pluralism, Raul was firm. In an exhaustive
and exhausting two-hour, 10,000-word speech (it’s not just dissidents
who are tortured), he reminded the party cadre and the world that
Article 5 of Cuba’s constitution “consecrates” the communist party as
“the superior leading force of society and the state,” as it organizes
all efforts for the construction of socialism.
Raul castigated the world for having the temerity to suggest that Cuba
permit other parties “in the name of the sacrosanct bourgeois
democracy.” With admittedly impeccable logic, he added, “if they
succeeded in fragmenting us one day, it would be the beginning of the
end. Don’t ever forget this!”
So now we have it directly from the Horse’s Mouth: the Communist Party
would cease to exist if Cubans were actually given any other option.
There was more. The PCC actually reversed some of what little progress
there had been.
Previously, the private sector had been barred from the “concentration
of property.” As of the new congress, the private sector will also be
barred from the “concentration of wealth.”
Commenting on his blog, CapitolHillCubans, the analyst Mauricio
Claver-Carone made the point that this—not the political immobility—was
the news coming out of the Congress that deserves world attention. I
concur. Claver-Carone writes:
“In other words, the Castro regime can crack down on any person for
accumulating any amount of money, without any recourse, based on its own
Castro also reminded everyone that ’cuentapropistas’ (“self-employment”)
are not juridical persons.
In other words, they are legal ghosts.” [Bold in the original]
Google “cuentrapropista” and you will get all sorts of wild-eyed
expectations of growth by these small entrepreneurs and hopes that they
will be the agents of change. Guess who else has done that? Raul. So
just as with multi-partism, he closed the door on that.
“We are not naïve nor do we ignore the aspirations of powerful external
forces betting on what they call the ‘empowerment’ of the non-state
sector, with the goal of generating agents of change in the hope of
ending the Revolution and socialism in Cuba,” he lectured those who were
And that is the problem that awaits the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and all
the companies that want to make a deal with the Castros. Their main and
only concern is survivability. Nothing else matters. That’s how you stay
in power for 56 years.
Carnival Cruise found the hard way with its maiden cruise to Cuba, which
was scheduled to launch on May 1 (International Workers’ Day, or
communism’s high holiday). To comply with a rule by the Castros,
Carnival told Americans born in Cuba they need not apply for a cabin.
A public relations fiasco ensued, of course, and Carnival retreated. The
Miami-based company had to go back to the Cuban government and say, you
let in the Cuban-Americans or we can’t come here.
What the experience showed was that companies will be only too happy to
coddle the Castros until public pressure here gets too intense. In fact,
even the White House behaves this way.
This week it emerged that the White House had disinvited 14-time Grammy
winner Paquito d’Rivera—a strong proponent of human rights in Cuba—from
playing there on April 30, International Jazz Day. D’Rivera wrote a
letter to Obama reminding him of America’s values, but it wasn’t till
the letter became public a week later, and again public pressure
mounted, that the White House decided to re-invite him.
All in all it was a week that showed, once again, that dealing with the
Castros will diminish us, not them.
Source: Change In Cuba — But Not For The Better – Forbes –