Now that the dust has settled somewhat from the storm produced by the Barack Obama administration’s new policy toward Cuba, it is possible to analyze some of its consequences.
The most obvious ones are permitting more US tourists to visit Cuba; allowing Cuban-Americans to increase remittances; increasing the revenue of the Cuban government; and removing Cuba from the list of countries supporting terrorism. Expectations in the island have grown that these policies will bring more changes and increase prosperity.
Yet, there are other more significant, long-term consequences. First, concerned about the possibility of unrest and US subversion in the island, General Raúl Castro’s administration has increased substantially repression against dissidents and the population in general. The aim is to maintain complete control and to prevent civil disobedience. Repression is likely to intensify and to continue.
Second, there is a growing fear in Cuba that the new US policy will lead to the end, or at least the modification, of the Cuban Adjustment Act. This is producing an urgency to leave the island. Outmigration by sea and through third countries is increasing, and this is likely to accelerate.
Third, the divide between Cuban whites and blacks in the island is increasing. Remittances from Cuban-Americans, mostly white, go to their friends and relatives in Cuba. Cuban blacks receive little from abroad. Tourism has little impact on predominantly black areas in eastern Cuba.
The perception among blacks that the Castro government cares little about them, and the reality that the government hierarchy, both military and Communist Party, is primarily white, is increasing a sense of alienation and frustration. This unintended consequence of US policy does not bode well for Cuba’s future.
Finally, the Castro regime is reasserting its close relationship and allegiance to Cuba’s old allies, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. Agreements between Castro and Vladimir Putin call for more visits by Russian navy and air force to Cuba. Raúl Castro continues to support Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as well as to maintain his commitment to the survival of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Obviously, US policies are not moving the Castro regime in a desirable direction. As a matter of fact, the regime is becoming more entrenched and inflexible in the face of US overtures and policies. This is likely to continue as the regime prepares for succession to a new, younger military cadre led by close members of the Castro clan.
Raul Castro has been promoting his son, Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, and his son in law, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López Callejas, as key players in his succession plans. What are clearly not in his plans are closer relations with the United States, a political transition, or respect for human rights.