UNITED STATES AND CUBA: TIME TO IMPLEMENT AN EFFECTIVE POLICY
By; Alberto Luzárraga.
Cuba is the sole tyranny in the American continent and Castro is the world's longest reigning tyrant. It should be enough to prove that the US policy is seriously lacking.
Speaking in very practical terms: An intelligent policy is one that satisfies the U.S. national interests and those of the long suffering Cuban people. A policy perceived to be contrary to the US national interests simply has no chance of being considered. The United States like all countries attends first to its national interest. One of the constants of this great nation is its utilitarian vocation. If it works get it done. The Cuban version: (hay que resolver) get the problem solved. This is why on a personal level Cubans and Americans work well together.
The utilitarian idea is the cause of the bad policy towards Cuba and of the confusion on the subject. In order to improve, the American policy must make a 180º degree turn and come to the conclusion that:
Cuba is not a problem to contain but an opportunity to develop.
There is another important consideration. Principles have always been important in this great nation and liberty has been paramount. For the United States the liberty of Cuba is a just cause and in part a pending debt (Cubans have their share of responsibility) because the abandoned and failed Bay of Pigs invasion validated Castro as an 'invincible leader' while the Kennedy -Khrushchev pact made him an 'untouchable.' This is the main reason that Cuba is still a dictatorship.
The containment idea is a cold war hangover that produced two illegitimate children, the migration agreement with its visa lottery and the family remittances. Both are designed to 'keep the Cuban issue quiet' by providing an escape valve and a way to eke out a subsistence. Naturally Castro is happy to have them. From the standpoint of the American bureaucracy the idea is utilitarian: ' We do not wish to see a social explosion and an invasion of boat people. A controlled immigration is the right approach.' There is no question that as a country the United States has the right to control its borders. With the actual concern of controlling terrorism this issue is even more evident.
What is not evident or rational is the expectation that the present policy will produce the desired result which we are told is a 'pacific transition towards liberty'. It will not, because there is a third illegitimate child in gestation whose name is 'neo-Caribbean dictatorship'. That child has several midwives that work diligently to see him born. They are the foreign investors presently in business with Castro who in unison with certain elements of the U.S. business world would love to invest in a submissive Cuba thereby contributing to the growth and nurturing of the third illegitimate child. They would live quite happily with a 'democratized' version of the Castro system wherein they would control certain sectors of the economy in association with the worst and not the best of Cuba.
The Cuban military/entrepreneurial elite aspires to do as in Russia where a good part of the apparatchiks survived and are now rich 'entrepreneurs.' This design would produce the same for Cuba, that is, a 'cosmetic democracy' with low salaries and an ample work force. We understand that Russia is a nuclear power, that it is a great producer of oil and gas and that the U.S. can do little as to the development of Russian democracy. Different countries with different circumstances a continent away. That is precisely the point. What may not be possible in Russia is possible in Cuba.
'Order is maintained in Cuba, living conditions are improved, mass immigration is avoided, and we sell a lot of goods.' This is the sales pitch of this crowd. But is it really possible or is it an illusion?
It is an illusion that a part of the federal bureaucracy clinging to the 'containment' policy apparently fails to grasp. We said before that conditions are different. Cubans have their share of defects but they are neither stupid nor lazy. They have shown that in their emigration saga. There is enough critical mass inside and outside the island to denounce and render useless any such attempt. It would be inoperative 'ab initio' because it would only create instability. Instability will hamper the development of an economy capable of producing the necessary jobs and avoid the dreaded immigration.
If political passions are inflamed in Cuba, investment would not come in, and with the lack of employment the dreaded problem would acquire serious dimensions. Worse even, the lack of jobs would lead to the flowering of lawless elements and the drug traffic into the United States would find another route.
Containment is a cold war idea. Old, bad, worn out and lacking of long term vision.
Contrariwise, Cuba as an opportunity to develop is an American idea, optimistic, and successful if well executed, that is, with the view of promoting the reconstruction of a Cuba as a neighboring country, that is politically and economically healthy. It would be a win/win, situation because there are certain evident facts that cannot be ignored.
Florida is a great and prosperous state of the union. Nonetheless Cuba has better beaches and ports, more fertile land, more history, better climate and a great asset in its population both in and out of the island. The possibilities for in bond industries, winter fruits and vegetables, citrus, medical attention, retirement communities and vacation homes, computer services, and tourism just to mention a few are enormous. Florida has an important Cuban American population interested in a prosperous Cuba where they can invest. Not only the State of Florida, but the whole country could and should participate. After all Cuba is only 90 miles away from the greatest demographic concentration the US, the East Coast.
But all of this requires a true rule of law and not a farcical democracy. A rule of law means competent and honest judges, good commercial and property law, an elected congress that legislates, a constitutional court that protects civil liberties, an institution that audits public expenditures, in other words all of the administrative and legal apparatus necessary to run a modern and civilized state.
To think that the same team that created 44 years of barbarism will create civilization is absurd. The successful American idea requires common sense and the utilization of this country's utilitarian vocation. In the United States, when a bad management team leads a good business to bankruptcy the team, is changed, assets are sold, and a searches for new ideas are undertaken.
Cuba can be a great source of wealth for its population and for those that invest in it subject to reasonable and fair laws. To produce such an outcome is the only policy that will yield results and contribute to the security to the United States. It would also eliminate another illegal immigration problem. Prosperous countries that are close are good neighbors. Dirt poor countries run by despots or corrupt and farcical 'democracies' only create problems.
The moment to change policy has arrived. Castro has decided to take on the world and retreat to his illusory world. No longer does he maintain the carefully cultivated image of romantic defender of the people. Today, in Europe (his principal economic partner) Castro is seen more and more as a bloodthirsty anachronism.
How should the policy be changed? First, we know that problems abound. The United States is engaged in a tough fight and others loom. But things happen when they happen and the Cuban crisis has been long in coming.
To foster a useful change that will bring an honest and democratic team to the Cuban government the administration must do what is undoubtedly knows is necessary. Face the present with practical common sense and plan for the future. The following actions make sense and would break the tie to the containment policy. The timing of the more conflictive ones is obviously the administrations' call as there is no question of the many demands on its time and resources:
· Tell the truth in a systematic, persistent and clear way. Castro is an affront to American principles and a perturbing anachronism in this hemisphere. If Saddam had to go, if the Liberian dictator must go, if the Haitian dictatorship and the South African apartheid regime had to disappear, then Castro and his team now busy destabilizing Venezuela must also go. This should be repeated 'ad nauseam'. It should be explained to Latin America that once that the Castro regime disappears the United States will help to stabilize the situation simply because it is in its national interest to do so. It is not an issue of intervention or occupation. It will be simply an effort to rescue Cubans from 44 years of horror. A sensible, generous, and firm policy will only be criticized by the usual enemies. Latin American ambivalence towards Cuba is a stepchild of the containment policy. They say: If the U.S. tolerates Castro we stand neutral.
· To demand that Castro and company leave power is not a military threat. From an American point of view an invasion of Cuba would not be justified unless vital national interests were affected. But it would be a declaration of principle, a rejection of the 'third bastard child', a hope for capable and honest Cubans. And it will put the world on notice that Cuba will follow a good path with the help of the United States.
· Such an action would constitute a high caliber psychological shot across the bow. Applied at the appropriate moment (an issue to be thought through) it would accelerate the internal decomposition process and empower those elements that fed up with Castroism want a thorough and complete change and not a cosmetic transition.
· The migration accord should be suspended. Family trips should be allowed only in cases of hardship i.e. illness etc. It is a right of the nation since it is not obligated to accept anybody and open its borders to hostile nations that spy on it. Castro should be told again that a new Mariel will be considered an act of war. He may want to launch it anyway but the issue is: will he get full compliance from his minions if this provokes a crisis? The United States has at its disposal a gamut of responses that are not necessarily extreme but can be very effective. Probably it would be the end of the regime.
· The remittance issue should be put under study in order to create a license system that will ensure that it is used exclusively for humanitarian purposes, and thus control a huge subsidy to the dictatorship. Castro, the Kim IL Sung of the Caribbean extorts the good sentiments of the Cuban American populations in many ways, and it is time to stop the payments.
· Concurrently it is necessary to attend to the future. As the recent war in Iraq has shown, success cannot be improvised. Things were thought through and the only part that faced initial problems was the civilian aspect and the removal of Baath party activists from the government due to the lack of involvement of knowledgeable Iraqis. According to an article by Melanie Kirkpatrick in the Wall Street Journal's August 5 edition, this matter was in the Pentagon's planning but it became a victim of bureaucratic wrangling and had to be revived once its need became urgent.
· The administration should start a systematic study of the Cuban future. It should be undertaken by a core team wherein Cuban Americans are in the majority. Professionals with proven experience that know how to obtain results, and solve problems should be recruited. The issue is to go to practical things to determine what is feasible. When necessary, experts from other nationalities should be consulted and remunerated at market rates.
· For the core team this should be a full time job and not an occasional endeavor. This team should study the problems that Cuba will face and present alternatives for their solution by a future Cuban government. Ad hoc essays of pure theoretical content are not useful
· There are many successful Cubans in all types of endeavors that would be wiling to join a serious effort and would do so with generosity. They should do it when possible without remuneration and simply with reimbursement of expenses. Another possibility would be to solicit contributions of hours of work from the Cubans that would form the core team or would collaborate as required. Without generosity and some sacrifice there is no patriotism. There must be and each should contribute according to what is personally possible. Some may obtain sabbaticals from their employers. It would be ideal to have a few one dollar a year men as the U.S. had during World War II
· Another good measure would be to solicit contributions from the Cuban community with matching federal funds thus giving the effort a popular flavor.
· Disseminate information. The funds provided for Radio and TV Martí should be used more efficiently. They could be increased to finance the study endeavor and provide information. The Cuban people must be informed of what is happening and the work of the study group should be discussed openly in order to avoid conspiracy theories. It should be explained clearly that this is not a 'secret group' engaged in planning for a pre-selected group that will govern. The objective is the creation of a group of people of good faith that will be thinking about the future and preparing ideas that may be useful to a future Cuban government selected by the Cubans.
· Obviously the ideas thus generated will create debate and all sorts of accusations by the castroites and their cohorts in the US, but that is the point, to do things democratically and transparently and to help the thinking process. If the Cuban case is debated in depth so much for the better. The debate with the American apologists of the regime should be welcome. They defend fallacies. It is easy to prove that they are indeed fallacies or that their motives are transparently self serving.
The United States reached the correct conclusion that Iraq could not be fixed without doing away with Saddam ands his Baath party. To do so, new ideas were put into practice.
We want no less in the American continent. It is time to stop the dry feet, wet feet policies and legalistic and bureaucratic distinctions that only produce tension and absurd incidents such as the recent negotiation of prison sentences with a nefarious tyranny.
The solution is to understand that everything has its time and the Cuban moment has arrived. It has been postponed many times because there were other pending matters. It is the usual mantra of those that postpone as a method, and end up with the problems on their laps.
Besides, the problem is simpler than it seems. The Castro edifice is a crumbling building that only needs a push to be brought down. It makes more sense to plan and give that push, than to suffer the debris of a collapse. That would be an intelligent and constructive policy.
We have suffered too many maneuvers by congressmen and unscrupulous businessmen that pay no heed to the abuses of a tyranny and makes us (and the administration for that matter) waste our time answering useless rhetoric that is so transparently self serving that it borders on the absurd. It is a path that offers no solutions, does not create loyalties and does not augment the US prestige. It is time to take another path and change policy using new and bolder ideas.