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The Castros Beg to Uncle Sam: Last Ditch Effort by Cuba to Keep Regime from Falling Apart

By: María Gabriela Díaz - May 30, 2014, 10:32 am

EspañolThis week, a delegation from the US Chamber of Commerce, visited Havana to explore the results of the much-heralded economic reforms announced by the Castro brothers’ regime.

An Independent and Democratic Cuba
Source: CID Twitter.

“I am here due to the evidence that we are seeing in Cuba of an extraordinary expansion of private enterprise, a reduction of government jobs, and more private hiring, all of which is moving in the right direction,” said Thomas J. Donahue, president of the USCC.

As I prepared a news story on this matter, for the PanAm Post, I was able to talk with journalist Karel Becerra and Huber Matos Garsault, both leaders of political dissent in Cuba and members of the advocacy organization An Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). They went into greater detail with what this meeting means for relations between the United States and Cuba, and, ultimately, for the survival of the Castro regime.

Karel Becerra

“Promises, they are only mere promises,” Becerra said regarding the economic polices advertised as a radical change by Raúl Castro’s regime. According to him, “the promises are the same as those made in 1959, when they promised that Cuba would have an even higher standard living than the United States. Real changes have not been made, only a few changes at the margin with the purpose of showing something to the rest of the world while gaining time in order to solidify the successor of the regime.”

Then is this visit from the US delegation a pat on the back for the Castros’ regime? Becerra, who is CID’s secretary of international relations, responds:

“The visit is without a doubt a form of support for the regime, outwardly and above all, inwardly. Raúl Castro would like to show results to his discontent followers; the plan ‘to lift the embargo’ has been a promise in inner circles, because it is the only exit available to them. But the visit also shows that the plan of [bringing together relations with the Obama administration] is high risk and has also come to an end. Thus, we see various gestures, such as this visit, a letter that has come out publicly a few days ago, and ‘high-level’ meetings. The desperation of the Cuban regime has two catalysts, the crisis in Venezuela and the Obama’s presidential term coming to an end, with whom they have lived on friendly terms with.”

In relation to the eventual end of the embargo and the beginning of another form of relationship between the United States and Cuba, Becerra responded bluntly “They are not even close at all.”  In Becerra’s view, “the causes that brought about the embargo to begin with remain unchanged.”

The Cuban embargo has been a polemic topic inside of the US government, and its eventual suspension should be approved by the US congress. “It is a blessing for the Cuban opposition to have in Congress true defenders of liberty for Cuba and the Cuban people; they are the Cuban-American legislators who have kept that wall standing, a wall that the regime will never be able to take down, even with Obama’s efforts to do so right now.”.

“Barack Obama’s government undoubtedly has wanted to take trophy, but they have not only chosen the wrong policy, but they have had on the other side a gerontocracy that has believed in having all of the time in the world. Perhaps the Castros have thought, in a state of delusion, that Barack Obama could possibly hold third, forth, or possibly unlimited terms like themselves. This “calculation” is what takes us to the current point of seeing so many signs of “approach”. But it is evident that there have been so many in such a short period of time, that only one idea can be inferred: “The death is near for the regime in Havana”. This could come about by the absolute collapse of its ally and counterpart in Venezuela, or by the interior deterioration of Cuba itself, something we as opponents of the regime know all too well.”

Huber Matos Garsault

Matos, a Cuban freedom activist and the grandson of political dissident Huber Matos, says that “If the purpose of Thomas J. Donohue’s visit was to explore the economic transformations promised by Raúl Castro, he would have had to first interview two or three of the most brilliant Cuban-American economists of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. He didn’t do it. He also should have gone to Cuba for a few days with the objective of interviewing, with absolute liberty, the self-employed workers, the people, and some independent economists. He also didn’t do it.”

Matos believes the objective of the Chamber of Commerce’s visit to the island as a total “publicity stunt” that only looks to “put more pressure on the Obama government to lift more restrictions on commerce between US businessmen and the Castro regime.”

For the Cuban dissident, the embargo can function, and this is reflected in other cases. “We just saw how Vladimir Putin has halted his ambition in Ukraine for the moment, and how Iran became willing to negotiate its atomic project with its economy facing deterioration through sanctions. Also, the example of Burma (Myanmar) is telling, the measures taken against its dictatorship had very long-term results and when the internal and external conditions obliged the military government to concede power.”

In this way, Matos views the so-called reforms conceded by Raúl Castro with skepticism and does not conceive of talking about economic liberty in Cuba when political liberty does not exist.

“The changes in Cuba have a clearly defined purpose defined by Raúl Castro: ‘They are to perfect socialism,’ not to initiate political change. Socialism in Cuba is understood by the Castro regime that does not face any authentic opposition, does not hold elections, and does not respect public liberties.”

So, why is there an emphasis on heightening relations with the United States?

“Without the Venezuelan subsidy to finance the Castro regime, the Cuban economy will crumble and the last form of salvation is the lifting of the US tourist travel prohibition to Cuba. The economic and political situation of Venezuela is unstable and Havana can’t always count on that subsidy forever,” Matos noted.

Translated by José Niño.

María Gabriela Díaz María Gabriela Díaz

María Gabriela Díaz reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and led the PanAm Post internship program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a focus in international affairs.