Carter, an Invitation to Start Back at Square One / Dimas Castellanos
Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated
In a context of allegations in the media about an alleged war in
cyberspace against Cuba, the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has just
arrived on the island invited by the Cuban Government. The significance
of the visit is that Carter, during his presidency between 1977 and
1981, obtained significant results in foreign policy. Among them were
treaties, including the Panama Canal treaty, the peace accords at Camp
David between Egypt and Israel, and the SALT II treaty with the USSR,
and the establishment of diplomatic relations with China and opening of
the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba.
After leaving the White House, Carter stood out as a mediator in several
international conflicts, promoting democracy, defending human rights and
promoting economic and political development of peoples, for which he
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also been the only U.S.
President, in or out of office, who has visited the island since 1959.
To this must be added that during his visit to Havana in May 2002, he
held talks with the Cuban government and with political dissidents, and
in his speech at the Great Hall of the University of Havana, he issued a
mediation proposal: ending the embargo and holding free elections in the
country. Then, in June 2005, he urged the closure of the prison at
Guantanamo Bay. If to the above is added that the United States, less
than 100 miles from Cuba, is the third largest country in the world by
land area and population, and its economy ranks first, it is not hard to
see what the normalization of relations between both nations could
represent for all Cubans.
In a small reflection entitled, "Confrontation: A Strategy?" published
in June 2010, I stated in one paragraph "Despite government resistance,
the relevance of civil liberties obliges, sooner or later, a domestic
policy change and from that projects foreign relations based on dialog
as a principal and permanent strategy. Then, we must begin to release
all political prisoners, ratify human rights covenants, develop the
legislation to implement such covenants, and open a national debate on
issues that affect us, so that Cubans can participate as subjects in the
destiny their nation. It is simply an issue of timing."
The Cuban model has failed in its principle purposes, with the exception
of the "merit of resisting the enemy" and the country is immersed in the
deepest crisis of its history. Once the process of releasing the
prisoners has advanced, the possible exit from such a critical situation
must, sooner or later, involve normalization of relations with the
powerful neighbor to the north. It is, therefore, imperative, and
without further delay, to retrace the paths forged from the political
realism for the welfare of the Cuban people.
The foreign policy of States, which derive from their internal policies,
in Cuba have been reversed since 1959. At that time, during the Cold
War, the Cuban government was defined as follows: Between the two
ideologies and political and economic positions that are being discussed
in the world, we have our own position. However, the nationalization
process undertaken with the Agrarian Reform Law in May 1959, affecting
the U.S. geopolitical interests, led to the deterioration of relations
until the conflict took center stage in politics. Thus began a career of
measures and countermeasures that subordinated domestic problems.
In 1960, the U.S. President ordered the preparation of an armed force of
exiles to invade Cuba, and Cuba's government responded with the
restoration of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and intervened
with the oil refineries. The U.S. Congress authorized the President to
cut the sugar quota and the Council of Ministers of Cuba granted special
powers to the President and the Prime Minister to nationalize American
companies. The United States dropped the Cuba sugar quota by 700
thousand tons and the Soviet Union announced the purchase of that sugar.
Fidel Castro nationalized the majority of American companies based in
the country and the Organization of American States condemned Cuba,
while the U.S. government decreed a trade embargo.
In 1961 the United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in April
and sponsored the Bay of Pigs landing, while Fidel Castro, who had
already proclaimed the fulfillment of the Moncada program, declared the
socialist character of the revolution. In 1962, President Kennedy
ordered a naval blockade in response to the installation of Soviet
missiles in Cuba, giving rise to the October Crisis that put the world
on the brink of nuclear war. The presence of Cuban guerrillas in several
countries of the region; the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts in the
nineties; the creation of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba
and the Liberty Fund in this decade, are some of those moments derived
from the original democratic project to another eternal resistance.
For Cubans, the main damage of the dispute consists in the
contradictions between state and society, which facilitated the removal
of civil society and determined the current impasse. After half a
century of confrontation, beyond the material losses and limitations on
civil and political liberties, the worst outcome is reflected in the
thousands of Cubans who have given their lives in wars, trying to cross
the Straits of Florida or to overseas military missions, which, together
with the victims of family separations, the enmity generated by
ideological reasons and traumas, have resulted in a totally negative
balance from the anthropological point of view, which makes it
imperative to turn the page from confrontation to enter the pages of
understanding, dialogue, collaboration and reconciliation.
With the chapter of winners and losers exhausted, the new U.S. policy
toward Cuba could be a great opportunity. For the Cuban government,
rather than a response to the measures that have been dictated by the
Obama administration to loosen restrictions previously imposed, the
government should use the visit by Carter to take final steps in favor
Cubans themselves, victims of conflict between the two countries that
have regressed to rights from the colonial era. The thesis put forward
so far to not change anything until the other changes, is out of time
and place. A responsibility resides solely with the people in power
right now, to try to start again from square one.
Published in Diario de Cuba 28 March 2011
April 4 2011