Monday, June 20, 2011
The End of an Era
It’s no secret that Cuba is going through very significant changes at this moment. Cuba, a country riding on the waves of more than 50 years of revolution, is facing the inevitable loss of two of the revolutions most important figures and keeper’s of revolutionary ideals, Fidel Castro and younger brother Raul Castro. The aging Castros' will soon be transitioning power to new hands for the first time in over 50 years and in that looms a degree of uncertainty among the Cuban people. Who will take their place?
Since the triumph of the revolution, Cuba's neighbor to the north, United States has been banging on Cuba’s door screaming for democratic change in the socialist country. After years of failed policies toward the country a mere 90 miles from Florida, it seems more important now than ever to change the approach to Cuba. On a recent visit to Cuba, we talked with Leonel Gonzalez, coordinator of international relations in the National Assembly (Cuba’s Congress) to spark dialogue about the importance of Cuba’s past and the role it will play in its future. Also, what does he see happening in the future with US-Cuba relations.
Leonel states that there are many false assumptions about Cuba. Cuba is not communist but a socialist country and does have democratic elections. The National Assembly is nominated and elected by the people. The National Assembly then chooses the country's president. A system that seems far away from a dictatorship, like the US backed Batista regime.
Cuba's history plays a huge part in its present says Gonzalez. You are unable to speak of revolution without mentioning Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, and the first independence from Spain. Nor can you speak of the volatile relationship between Cuba and the US without first referring to this history. After freeing themselves from Spain, Cuba became a protectorate of the United States. After the triumph of the revolution, the US refusal to recognize Cuba's true independence and the right to govern itself led to the embargo and the relationship it has with Cuba today. Cuba retaliated to the US by nationalizing their businesses and property in Cuba. A Gonzalez also says you are unable to mention the embargo without mentioning the social and economic warfare waged on the Cuban people. The US has intentionally made the Cuban people suffer to make them undermine the Castro government. Furthermore, it has isolated Cuba by cutting ties and pressuring other trading partners to follow suit.
Cuba has entered a crucial period in the revolution, They are currently a country in transition. For the last 50 years, their principal enemy has been one of the most powerful countries in the world with its several presidents plotting its down fall. With the election of Obama, who promised a new approach to the policies toward Cuba, the Cuban people believed the time was closer for the embargo to be lifted. While Obama has changed some things like reauthorizing family travel to Cuba and remittances, congress is responsible for getting rid of the embargo and in this moment it seems that the desire to lift it is not there.
Cuba has a long history fighting for its independence. The ideals of national hero, Jose Marti still ring in the ears of the Cuban people. What Castro did in the 1950’s was nothing new. Cuba does not object to sitting down with the U.S. The only objection it has is not being treated as an equal in the talks. Gonzalez says that the Cuba people could benefit tremendously from lifting the embargo and there are also benefits for the U.S but it is still unclear how that situation will be approached. Cuba does not object to foreign investment and would welcome U.S businesses. He admits, that the end of the embargo means U.S. tourism and businesses like McDonalds but with that he says, the Cuban people refuse to give up their dignity and once again subject themselves to being a U.S. colony. It is unsure what will happen after the end of the Castros’ reign. As far as the people know, there is no successor chosen to take their place. Cuba’s future as it always has been, will be fueled by its rich history. Fidel Castro stated his refusal to pay the price of the U.S. with the revolution, for that price would be too high. His own life would be a lesser fee to pay.