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Cuba’s Dictatorial Triumph: On the Backs of Submissive Neighbors

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Feb 14, 2014, 11:49 am

EspañolWhen assessing the current state of radical collectivist and authoritarian governments in the continent, there is no doubt that the Cuban regime is enjoying one of the most favorable periods of its long history. The governments of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua have also achieved high growth rates, and long periods in political power, but the regime headed by Raúl Castro today has achieved more than any of them.

In addition to maintaining Castro’s dictatorship in times of transition and improving the always-critical condition of its economy, it has enjoyed an unprecedented level of power and political influence in the region.

This is largely thanks to the politically submissive, cash-rich administrations of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. They were the ones who implemented the “revolutionary integration” project, devised by Fidel Castro in the 1960s and materialized in organizations such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

Due to the enormous amounts of aid granted to Cuba and other international partners, in addition to wasteful and corrupt business initiatives conducted with public and private sectors of these “strategic friends,” Venezuela is going through the worst economic and debt crisis of its modern history.

Without sufficient reserves or the financing options it had in the past, it has become the country with the riskiest investment climate in the world — surpassing Argentina and Belarus on this score.

The Second Presidential Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) held in Havana proved beyond any doubt the strength of the Castro regime’s political influence, and the solid support it enjoys from virtually all Latin-American governments, as well as the heads of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN).

This international support and current political influence are also evidenced by the European Union’s recently adopted policy of openness towards Cuba.

Despite the intense political persecution against Cuban dissidents, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers just agreed to launch negotiations for political dialogue and cooperation with Cuba, in which the regime’s political opponents will not participate. The objective is to support Raúl Castro’s reforms — which have been few and slow — and a supposedly greater respect for human rights that in practice is nonexistent.

As recent as January of this year, more than 1,000 political opponents were arrested in Cuba.

To make matters worse, most people in the Americas and Europe seem to support political moderation and coexistence with the dictatorial regime.

Even in the United States, a historic anti-Castro bastion, most US Americans — whether or not of Cuban descent — support the normalization of trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba, rejecting the embargo on the island.

According to a recent survey from the Center of the Atlantic Council for Latin America, 56 percent of US Americans polled support normalization of relations and economic opening towards Cuba. That included 63 percent of support in Florida. But as Marc Caputo pointed out in the Miami Herald, perhaps the biggest surprise is that respondents of Cuban descent are adamantly in favor of normalizing relations: 79 percent in Florida and 73 percent in the rest of the country.

The political position of former Republican leader and former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist is gaining adherents, and putting the State Department and more conservative members of the Republican Party on the ropes.

In his opinion, “if our [anti-Cuban] policy hasn’t changed in 50 years, we don’t have to think too much about it. We will change the policy. We don’t want to let China influence Cuba when Cuba is next door.”

This unusual permissiveness with the Castro dictatorship — which only serves to strengthen it — reveals the helplessness of current Western governments and societies. Overwhelmed by internal economic, security, and governance problems, their ability to believe in democratic systems, and thus to maintain a strong fight against dictatorships, is weakened.

The multiple needs, problems, and interests of democracies in the 21st century has made them increasingly pragmatic, selfish, and “forgetful” of the mandates, values, ​​and democratic principles in their national constitutions and international charters they subscribe.

Unfortunately, we are living the end of the historic democratic struggle that the United States and Europe led with such pride and determination, especially during the Cold War of the last century. If they continue on this path, in the end the dictatorships will reign triumphant — like today in Castro’s Cuba.

Translated by Alan Furth.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.