Term Project: US/Cuba Relations 4/27/15
The change of relations between the United States of America and Cuba is a momentous event in both nations’ messy and turbulent histories. However, with such a groundbreaking switch in foreign relations, what is left to ask is how this new US/Cuba relationship affects the overall landscape in Latin America. Furthermore, what exactly does this change mean for Cuba? This paper will look to uncover these questions through analyzing the context between this new change through political, social and economic lenses. By observing Cuba through such lenses, I will also look to come up with a decision on how truly helpful this new change of direction is for three distinct yet single entities (the Cuban government, the Cuban people, and Cuba as a whole).
First, let us explore the upside of diplomacy between both nations. One upside is increasedtourism. With President Obama’s propositions, more Americans will have the freedom to travel to Cuba. These trips, while still limited, can bring huge numbers of American visitors and therefore profit to Cuba. Another bright spot in these relations is the hope of the US embargo, which limits any US affiliated country from doing business with Cuba, being lifted. Due to the embargo, Cuba has one of the lowest economies of the world. The talks might lead to greater foreign investments and in turn a more economically stable Cuba. This is not as bad as many think, and to prove it I would like to point to Venezuela (a country who has similar stance on the US) which profits from being able to trade with other countries. The new change in U.S/Cuba relations will also benefit Cuba’s medical field. While one of the most effective and successful medical systems in the world, Cuba is hindered by its lack of accessibility to health technology and other vaccines only available through diplomatic relationships between it and first world countries. Such strides in the medical field will surely improve the state of the people under Cuba’s terrific universal health coverage. Other benefits lie in the help towards the telecommunication sector. I find this to be one of the most important perks of better US/Cuba relations as education, health, and business can all be exponentially increased through the use of telecommunications. This can best be observed in Colombia, where huge strides in improving the telecommunications structure has led to an increasing economy and improved health care to rural populations.
With all of the good there is sure to come a lot of speculation.The Cuban government is still very weary of American involvement in their economic sector, even their telecommunications sector. Such speculations are further validated by the sudden interest of American private companies in Cuba this past year. Governors, politicians, and businessmen have flocked Cuba to try to encourage and set up the seeds for a stronger American presence in the Cuban economy. The Cuban government sees these leaders of companies like MasterCard, JetBlue, etc. as an early warning that they must look after. But, the need for economic growth is still in Cuba’s top priority shelf and maybe after Castro is gone they will reconsider their long held stance on these affairs (at least that is what the US might hope).
It is important to note that the changes on US/Cuba relations are not viewed unanimously positive in America. Many politicians and people alike do not feel the Cuban government will undergo much change and remain the same oppressive and totalitarian state they have been for the last 54 years. Here is some validity to these feelings, as Raul Castro made it clear on last year’s summit that the Cuban government would not change their political or economic system under any conditions. Another point of evidence would be the leftist trend in Latin America which Cuba is of utmost influence to. The growing left trend in Latin America stemmed from the backlash of American economic policy and has asserted itself as the most popular brand in Latin America. Countries like Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela responded heavily by nationalizing many of the industries which were taken by private companies. This nationalization of resources has played an immense role in these countries economic policies during our modern age. Countries like Bolivia and Venezuela have used their large reserves (oil/gas) to begin having a more independent role when it comes to their own affairs. Cuba, if given the opportunity to enter the global economy, will most likely adopt a similar method of doing business as Bolivia and Venezuela. In this way, utmost importance can still be placed on the people and not on succeeding in a capitalist system. While not beneficial to their capitalist method, the United States should tolerate an idea of a more “free” Cuba if it really does want to heal the wounds it has delivered for so many years. Either way, I view the change in relations as serving a post-Castro cause and laying the seed for a more democratic government, one that would and should still have to play the rules of the growing New Leftist trend in Latin America if it wants to maintain being a positive force in Latin America.
The voices and the needs of the Cuban people should still remain top priority, especially in a state that claims social justice as its logo. Improvements in education and healthcare were made after Fidel Castro came into power butthe oppression of the Cuban government on the Cuban people is largely recognized through the exodus of large groups of Cubans from all different economic statuses. What this change has the ability to repairis the domestic views the Cuban people share towards the government. By establishing fair relations with the US, Cuban business people might not have to go elsewhere and instead invest in Cuba. I do, however, see the similarities of this promise and the NAFTA promises to Mexico in 1994. The promises of a domestic retention in my opinion can be attained from an actual growth in economy, not an entire privatization like in Mexico which caused drastic minimum wage cuts. In many ways Cuba has a shot to undergo another revolution. This revolution is a political and economic one and it involves the integration of Cuba into the world chess board called globalization. Now this globalization is viewed more in the terms of cultural exploration and connectivity and not as much in free market economy. Fair restrictions on the economic and political sectors of Cuba are the key in maintaining the set of ideals they hold so strongly to. Agreement on these ideals of strict socialism is not viewed by many as the best way to go yet one must be practical in trying to analyze the future opportunities of Cuba under their current military regime. So, military regime or not, Cuba might have the international influence to make them a huge piece in the global market which will make those who felt economically restricted in Cuba to come back or remain there. To achieve this retention not just an economic change needs to be enacted but other forms of freedom as well, like a relatively free form of press. As I said before, this new change in relations is most likely directed at a future, post-Castro government.
In Conclusion, if relations with the United States further improve there might be a great amount of opportunities that Cuba, as an underdeveloped country, can attain. There is no mistaking the Cuban government’s stance through this whole process however. They will continue to uphold the same values towards imperialism that they have held throughout much of their social revolution period. These relations do not change the overall scheme of Latin America in any way as Latin American countries that are supported by their rural and indigenous populations maintain their firm leftward stance but at the same time, I am sure that the United States has been looked at in a more positive light for finally being civil towards Cuba after destroying their chance of economic prosperity for 54 years. The important question that arises in this whole matter is how much indirect influence will better US/Cuba relations have on the government of Cuba. If the embargo does at any time cease to exist, it will immediately attract a lot of foreigners to Cuba. The whole fury of globalization will engulf Cuba. How will the government respond to the economic opportunities? Will they change their economic policy in order to please their domestic population and have a greater influence abroad as well? I believe so. At an earlier time I would have believed such an economic change would be detrimental to a socialist and developing country’s cause. I now believe the Cuba, much like Venezuela, can maintain their stance on imperialism and the U.S as a whole while benefitting from international interaction. As a future historian the shift in relations is amazing to witness. Politics in the Western Hemisphere evolved from the Cold War affiliations of the 70’s to Globalization in the 90’s to present and throughout it all Cuba has remained unchanged. It is remarkable to finally see progression. While I am cautious on as to how effective this change will be in making Cuba a more democratic country, I am optimistic in the opportunities that the people of Cuba might be able to prosper from. It might be possible that in the next 25 years Cuba might be totally different in nature than the way Che Guevara (my idol) imagined or wished for it to be.
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