Donald Trump, Cuba, and the Example of Vietnam / Dimas Castellano
Dimas Castellano, 5 December 2016 — The majority of analysts looking at
the change of direction which may be experienced in the relations
between Cuba and the United States, following the 8th of November
elections, have concerned themselves solely with the policies on Cuba to
be pursued by the new occupant of the White House, ignoring the fact
that these are bilateral relations.
Their forecasts range from those who consider that Donald Trump will
fulfill his electoral promise of going back on Barack Obama’s policy, up
to the possibility of an improved understanding with the Cuban
authorities. In nearly all cases, the emphasis is on what the new
President will do, as if the Cuban side of things had nothing to do with
what could happen from next 20th of January onwards.
A retrospective analysis of relations between the two administrations
indicates otherwise. Taking into account the fact that the Cuban people
don’t have human or political rights to influence that process, and that
the weakness of the emerging civil society makes it difficult for it to
take the role of an opposition, the analysis has to limit itself to
Appealing to electoral populism is one thing, and leading the greatest
power in the world is another. Setting back the development in
re-establishing relations during Barack Obama’s presidency will be
extremely difficult. The institutionalisation of public powers, the
existence of diverse sectors with interests in our island, and regional
interests in the face of incursions by other powers, will hinder it. In
those conditions the President-elect could limit of eliminate some
things, but he could not nullify everything, because it would affect his
country’s own interests.
The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United
States – the most important political act since the 1959 revolution –
responds to the interests of both nations. The supposition that Trump
constitutes a threat to the relations which the Barack Obama
administration succeeeded in moving forward is one side of the coin. The
brake applied by the Cuban government to the advances is the other side.
The obstinate obsession with dragging everything into public ownership,
centralised production, and the absence of liberties for Cubans, are
among the principal causes of the crisis in which Cuba finds itself. The
Obama administration’s policy offered an opportunity for change, which
was missed by the Cuban side, to remove internal obstacles in the
country. Therefore, along with the potential risk represented by the
Trump administration, there is the real negative in the form of a Cuban
government lacking the necessary political will to face up to the
present situation. An insoluble contradiction consisting of changing and
at the same preserving power.
Fidel Castro’s thesis that “Cuba already changed, in 1959,” produced a
more pragmatic vision than General Raúl Castro’s one of “changing some
things to hold onto power.” The measures implemented to that end over
eight years have not brought about the desired result. Instead, they
have revealed the unviability of the model and the depth of the crisis,
in the face of which the only way forward is implementing major reforms.
If the series of measures enacted by the White House – including the
Presidential Decision Directive of last October aimed at rendering
irreversible the advances achieved – have not produced a better outcome,
it is because they were not accompanied by the necessary measures on the
Cuban side to free up production and restore civil liberties. For that
reason, the solution for Cuba lies in its own authorities, as opposed to
what might happen during the Trump administration. To tackle these
changes now, albeit very late, would neutralise any intention to set
things back on the part of the new occupant of the White House.
Bearing in mind that the suspension of the embargo is the prerogative of
the United States Congress, what is needed now, after the “physical
disappearance” of Fidel Castro, is to get on with a comprehensive
structural reform, which should have been started a long time ago,
commencing with, at least, what Vietnam did, with a crippled economy, in
a country which had had, in ten years of war, three times the number of
bombs dropped on it than were used in the Second World War, where 15% of
the population perished or were injured in the struggle, with 60% of the
villages in the south destroyed and which, after the war ended,
confronted the economic blockade and frontier attacks, and, instead of
ideological campaigns, launched reforms.
The Granma daily of November 4th, in a report entitled The Vietnam of
the Future, says that the province of Binh Duong, previously mostly
agricultural, is now predominantly industrial. This province has more
than 2,700 projects funded by foreign investment; its GDP is, since
2010, increasing at an annual 14%; it boasts 28 industrial parks with
factories constructed by companies from more than 30 countries; in the
last two years it has launched nearly 370 new investment projects, and,
between 1996 and now it has created more than 90,000 jobs.
The same paper, on 11th November, published The Miracle of the Vietnam
Economy, where it reported that the World Bank had placed Vietnam among
the most successful countries, which had, in 30 years, tripled per
capita income, between 2003 and the present had reduced the level of
those in poverty from 59% to 12%, and, in 20 years, had lifted more than
25 million people from destitution. It added that in 1986 the average
Vietnamese income was between $15 and $20 a month and now varies between
$200 and $300, and that in 1986 they eliminated centralised control and
implemented a market economy, with a socialist orientation.
With these results, the United States suspended the embargo which lasted
30 years. In 2008 they directed their efforts to exiting the list of
developing countries, in 2010 established the objective of entering the
group of countries with medium income, in 2014 they found themselves
among the 28 highest exporters in the world, and in 2016, they approved
measures to convert themselves into an industrialised nation.
In that same time period, Cuba anchored itself in the past, with a
policy of “Rectifying errors and negative tendencies,” and managed to
get the United Nations to condemn the embargo for a period of 25
years. Now, we have to lay out millions of dollars on importing food
which we could produce in Cuba, and, after teaching the Vietnamese how
to grow coffee, we have to buy the beans.
Havana, 28th November, 2016.
Source: Donald Trump, Cuba, and the Example of Vietnam / Dimas
Castellano – Translating Cuba –