Obama’s New Policy Toward Cuba: The Threat Behind the Opening Door

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President Obama announced on Wednesday the most sweeping changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba since institution of the embargo over 50 years ago. He characterized the harsh economic sanctions and attempts to isolate the nation diplomatically as a failure of U.S. policy.

This policy-shift caps months of secret negotiations with the government of Raúl Castro. The brokered deal, midwifed by the Pope, includes some immediate gains. Most notably, the three still-imprisoned members of the Cuban Five, wrongfully convicted of spying and held in U.S. federal prisons for 16 years, have been returned to Cuba. Their freedom is a long delayed reversal of a horrific injustice, exposed by an internationally coordinated campaign.

However, behind Obama’s stated humanitarian and pro-democracy rationale for opening doors to Cuba is an upgraded assault on the Cuban Revolution. The president’s goal of “normalizing diplomatic relations” begins the dismantling of the current blockade and its exercise of raw economic and political power, backed by military intimidation. In its place comes a more devious strategy with the same goal: to reverse the gains of the Cuban Revolution, the first successful challenge of capitalism’s hegemony in our hemisphere.

The recent pro-market economic “reforms” instituted by the Raúl Castro-led administration, coupled with the persistent denial of democratic decision-making by the Cuban workers, have led to growing inequities and created an opening for capitalism to regain domination economically and politically. Obama intends to take advantage of these reforms to demolish what remains of Cuba’s besieged and ailing socialist project.

The real impetus for changing U.S. strategy is pointedly expressed in the White House press release accompanying Obama’s speech. What is sought by U.S. corporate interests is baldly stated: “The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector and make it easier for Cuban citizens to . . . gain greater economic independence from the state.” Bluntly put, the new policies intend to wreck what remains of the social gains of the revolution and open the island to profiteering by U.S. business, full-scale privatization of public resources, and re-creation of an exploiting class within Cuba.

President Obama asserted the intent to promote “our values” of democracy and human rights, a claim that strikes a particularly ironic note with the recent exposure of the CIA’s use of torture and abject violation of humanitarian principles. The history of U.S. intervention to “promote democracy” is one of cynicism and hypocrisy in which financial gain always trumps human freedom. The U.S. has engineered the rise of dozens of oppressive regimes throughout the world in the name of “democracy.” Witness the consequences of U.S. intervention today in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba must end. This is a matter of justice. But there should be no illusion that these current changes signal a willingness to allow Cuba to exercise self-determination. The dominant point of view of ruling forces in the U.S. is that Cuba can best be brought to heel by inserting a huge wedge of dollars and consumer goods into the opening created by Raúl Castro’s economic policies.

The social gains of the Cuban Revolution, its commitment to equality, full employment, housing, free schooling and health care is in greater jeopardy today that at any point in its 55 years of existence.

While commending the loosening of the U.S. behemoth’s openly vicious bullying tactics, Cuba’s friends in this country must speak out against the surreptitious and sinister strategies of economic exploitation and manipulation that come on the heels of the December 17 pronouncement.

Genuine self-determination for the island nation can only be won if the pro-capitalist reforms initiated by the Castro leadership are reversed. This is the only way to heighten Cuba’s ability to resist the incursion of foreign capitalist interests. The people themselves must fight for and win the ability to democratically determine their fate.

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