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The USA’s absurd policy toward Cuba


The policy of excluding Cuba from meetings of countries of the Americas came to a boiling point last weekend at the Summit of the Americas held in Colombia.

The US and Canada found themselves isolated with their determination to maintain the status quo. Even the President of Colombia, one of Americas foremost allies in the hemisphere, expressed disgust with the omission of Cuba and anticipated that future meetings will not be held if Cuba continues to be excluded.{{more}} This archaic policy dates back to 1962, when America expressed the view that Cuba’s alignment with the Soviet Block was incomparable with the inter-American system and used its influence to force the exclusion of that country from the Organisation of American States. This went along with the American boycott of Cuba which most countries in the world today find reprehensible and outdated.

America continues to insist that its approach to Cuba will not change until there is significant reform in Cuba. It argues that Cuba lacks democratic credentials and does not respect the human rights of its people. It was, therefore, quite funny when the manager of the Miami Marlins Baseball team was given a five game suspension for indicating in a Time magazine interview his love and respect for Castro for having been able to stay in power for so long. So the Americans remain critical of Cuba for not allowing freedom of speech but suspends an individual, Venezuelan born, for expressing his admiration for Castro. Does freedom of speech mean one thing in America and something else in Cuba and in the rest of Latin America?

Guillen was forced to apologise, indicating that what he really wanted to say was lost in the translation. There were a few persons who returned their season tickets and others who called for his total dismissal. It is of note, however, that on his return from suspension on Tuesday night the protests were hardly in evidence. This in itself tells a story about changes within the Florida area where Latinos are concerned, the younger Cubans not as fixated with Castro as their parents and grandparents and the possible political impact from the influx of persons from areas outside of Cuba.

But to go back to the Summit of the Americas, it was America that faced more embarrassment than Cuba. Not only did over 30 countries of the Americas signal their growing independence of America but that country became involved in a nasty scandal over prostitutes by US Security personnel. The policy over Cuba says a lot about America’s touted democratic credentials and the functioning of the American system of government. The President is to some extent a prisoner because the framework for making the decisions lies elsewhere. In fact, the Mexican President Felipo Calderon noted that as far as he is aware it was “…the first time that I’ve seen a president of the US spend almost the entire summit sitting, listening to the concerns of all countries”.

The Cuban exile community in Florida calls the shots because Florida is an important state during the upcoming elections. Their absolute hatred (that is the older folks) of Castro sends many politicians hustling to carry out their will. One wonders what would happen if any of the gun-hungry Republicans get into power, persons who want to take American-Cuban policy backwards and who are of the view that Iran should be attacked. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania had once suggested, partly in jest, that persons all over the world should be able to vote in American elections because whatever the Americans do affects the rest of the world. I am convinced that the War on Iraq has to a large extent contributed to the global financial crisis. One can imagine what a war on Iran will do at this point when even the so-called developed countries are experiencing difficulty getting out of the economic morass.

Despite his inability to do much, Obama has brought back some respectability to America around the world. The Republicans want to go back to the old days when everything America said carried sway. But that country is not in any position to achieve the commanding position it had then. Even China is eating into its traditional sphere of influence in the Caribbean and broader Americas. In an election year, even if Obama wants to, one cannot expect any changes in its policy toward Cuba. But its policy is totally ridiculous, especially since it has dear friends all over the world that do not know the meaning of democracy and to whom talk about human rights is a fairy tale. It’s up to America now to determine if there will be future summits of the Americas and also if the OAS will continue as the kind of body it is today. To continue with their old ways will see a decline in their standing in the world.

There was once a Roman Empire and a British Empire. Take Warning!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.