The reencounter between Washington and Havana

In mid-July, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Washington and raised his country's flag at the headquarters of their embassy, unoccupied for over 50 years.

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In mid-July, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Washington and raised his country's flag at the headquarters of their embassy, that had remained unoccupied for over 50 years. The US secretary of state will bring their flag to their long-standing embassy Havana in mid-August.


The diplomatic rapprochement between the two countries, the product of negotiations between Presidents Castro and Obama, comes in the context of a complicated international situation. The struggle for international hegemony is becoming more acute. Europe is in the midst of a serious crisis. In Latin America, the US continues to intervene militarily and to undermine governments that desire more autonomy.


From outside, the meeting between Cuba and the United States looks like a crash between a locomotive and a bicycle. The US has an agenda for regime change in Cuba. Havana, in turn, has as its objective the opening of commercial channels blocked by Washington half a century ago. These objectives are clearly contradictory. The question is, will the US open a space for collaboration?


The hegemonic US capitalist class (the financial oligarchy) convinced the dominant classes in the US that the Cuban Revolution would not collapse with the termination of the Soviet experience at the end of the last century. They also realized that only an invasion of Cuba would accommodate their interests. But not a military intervention. They think in terms of an invasion of capital -- economic saturation -- that if well managed could destabilize the Cuban Revolution.


For Cuba this is the moment of truth. The Revolution can only survive if it can "co-inhabit" with the capitalist world that surrounds it. Diplomatically it managed to insert itself in Latin America. It maintains economic relations with Western Europe and Canada. It has managed to build efficacious bridges with China and Russia. Can it take a step toward the US? The Cubans know that Washington’s overtures are not based on good intentions. But what capitalist country over the past 250 years has shown ‘good intentions’?  The last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the former reformist leader of China, Deng Xiaoping are witnesses to this. Cuba has these lessons from the recent past to develop a strategy that can avoid the errors of Moscow and not succumb to the extreme measures of Pekin. One should not forget that Cuba is an island with 12 million inhabitants. China and Russia are practically continents.

The US is now in a pre-electoral period. The Cuban question will be an important part of the debates within the parties and between them. What is interesting is that the US oligarchy (financial capital) and the armed forces are agreed to open a new chapter (or book) with respect to relations with Cuba.


In Cuba there are no political prisoners as defined in international law. That is to say, those deprived of freedom in Cuba have committed crimes against society, they are not political prisoners. In the US, however, there are thousands of political prisoners, especially among those struggling for civil rights.


The reference framework of the US is on a global scale.  Its central preoccupation now is the emergence of China. Not only as an industrial power. China has also become a competitive factor in the financial world with the creation of the Asian Bank and other initiatives. What mostly worries the US is the future and the military advances that China is undertaking, that could leave the US behind. Meanwhile, they also have an eye on Germany. The distancing of Berlin in the face of the Ukrainian crisis and the unfolding of its imperialist wings over little Greece sends serious signs to Washington.


Iran is a key piece in the US agenda in the Middle East. It is rich in petroleum, that the US no longer needs to satisfy its internal needs, but believes it has a ‘right’ to control. Paradoxically, Iran is the piece that Washington needs to control Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel. Will Teheran and Washington reach an agreement that transcends the nuclear question? It is probable.


If we add Russia to these geopolitical movements, the situation can be better understood. The Euro-Asian axis in the face of the North Atlantic treaty (NATO) appears to be defining itself with more clarity. Cuba can manoeuvre on these narrow and zigzagging paths like an experienced cyclist. Its triumph over the ‘locomotive’ (or imperialism) will depend on how the proven wisdom of its people adapts to this new situation.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)

- Marco A. Gandásegui, Jr., professor of Sociology at the University of Panama and associate researcher of the Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Justo Arosemena (CELA),
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