By Andrew KORYBKO
Millions of people across the globe popped the champagne and celebrated the US-Cuba deal to restore bilateral relations, while failing to accurately see the situation for what it was – a Cuban surrender. The emotional and symbolic attachment associated with the freeing of Cuba’s three remaining heroes imprisoned in the US has blinded observers to the fact that Raul betrayed the multipolar world. It’s about time someone ‘spoils the party’ and throws a glass of realism in everyone’s ideologically drunken faces to sober them up to the ruse that’s been pulled.
Absent from the headlines of global jubilation are the finer details of the Obama-Raul ‘deal’, the aspects of which are now beginning to seep out via different media outlets. Having been in the planning stages for almost two years, all of the details for Cuba’s surrender and the subsequent steps it will take to implicitly support American policy in the hemisphere have been hashed out. There were a lot of backdoor dealings and hidden motivations that explain why everything happened as it did, but what’s for sure is that this isn’t the dramatic climax of America’s Latin American offensive, but rather the opening salvo of a pan-continental thrust to rival what it is simultaneously engaged in across Eurasia.
It is beginning to emerge that the US and Raul may be on course to receive a lot more from one another than was publicly stipulated in their historic agreement. Let’s take a look at some of the more shadowy dealings that are now coming out:
What’s In It For Raul
Whereas Russia wrote off $32 billion of Cuba’s debt (90% of the total) and China has provided development loans (e.g. $400 million in 2004) for specialized projects, the US offers cold-hard cash with no preconditions for its use, raising the risk that such resources could be squandered amidst corruption. The Washington Times reports that:
“If you look around the world, [Cuba is] in urgent need of economic resources, hard currency. Russia’s under sanctions, of course, Iran’s under sanctions, the Chinese are pretty hard-headed businesspeople,” said Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Havana. “So if they want to quickly turn on the tap of new hard currency, America is top of the list.”
It’s not like Russia and China weren’t providing it, but Raul wanted as much as he could as quickly as possible, and once a leader turns greedy, Washington’s always there to reach some kind of ‘deal’.
Bloomberg reports that Raul was apparently upset that Venezuela cut its oil subsidy program to Cuba by perhaps as much as 30%, likely in the face of lower global prices and the destabilizing Color Revolution attempts ongoing in the country. The door is now open for the US to position itself as the replacement, provided that it follows the Council on Foreign Relations’ policy ‘memorandum’ (read: dictate) that it lift its crude oil export restrictions. This raises the distinct possibility that fracked oil could find its way to Cuba’s shores in the near future.
What’s In It For The US
Cuba’s National Treasures:
The New York Times reports that the US now has the potential to penetrate the country’s prized pharmaceutical industry and gain access to exclusive vaccines for its biotechnology sector. Remember, medical diplomacy is one of Cuba’s most internationally revered and symbolic characteristics, and it may now be in danger of disappearing or being diluted once the US gets its hands on it. Another ‘opportunity’ that the NYT talks about for American business is Cuba’s enormous nickel deposits, among the largest in the world. The same can be said for its cobalt ones, too, neither of which the US has enough of. Considering US-based companies’ abysmal human rights records in ‘communist’ China, for example, it’s not a far reach to say that communist Cuba’s miners may soon turn into serfs once American capital reaches their mines.
Tobacco, Tourism, and the MLB Big Leagues:
More expectedly than the abovementioned, the US will likely make big inroads in Cuba’s tobacco and tourism industries. Although no official move has been made on lifting the restrictions for American travel to Cuba, this is thought to be in the cards and will happen sooner than later, and when it does, it’s already expected to destroy the country’s culture and heritage. Another development is that American baseball teams may now hit a bonanza with the possible unrestricted recruitment of Cuban players, further entrenching their history of exploitation and deceit in preying upon young Caribbean prospects.
Raul and the US government each have their own reasons for entering into the ‘deal’, with the former’s being more narrow and domestic while the latter’s is more broad and geopolitical.
It’s not quite clear why Raul chose to reverse the ideals of the Cuban Revolution, but the following three scenarios (or a combination thereof) may help explain why:
(1) Yanukovich Syndrome:
Raul may have naively thought that pre-emptively working with the same Color Revolutionary forces dedicated to his overthrow could offset their success in the future. It didn’t work for Yanukvovich and it won’t work for Raul or any other leader.
(2) Black-Ops Blackmail:
The US could have been on the cusp of a major destabilization attempt timed to coincide with Fidel’s death and used this as leverage against Raul, guaranteeing him power and delaying the overthrow attempt if he complies with all of their demands. The US-dictated release of the 53 ‘political prisoners’ was designed to be the ‘teeth’ behind this agreement in case it falls flat.
(3) Just Another Corrupt Latin American Leader:
Raul may have simply sold out because he wanted the cash money that the US was providing as opposed to the Chinese and Russian investment and debt forgiveness. This would make him no different than the scores of corrupt Latin American leaders who came before him.
While Raul’s motives are less clear, the US’ are as plain as day, and they’re all intended to reverse Latin America’s recent leap to multipolarity:
(1) Remove Non-Regional Actors:
China wanted to breach the US’ personal ‘lake’ via the Nicaraguan Canal and Russia had hopes of using the island as a signals intelligence base and long-range bomber hanger for regular flights over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The US is adamantly against either of these two countries re-establishing a foothold in the region, and it sped up ‘negotiations’ with Cuba precisely to block Russia.
(2) Pick Apart ALBA:
With a foothold in Cuba, the US hopes to sow discord between it and Venezuela, eventually leading to the dismemberment of ALBA, the multipolar resistance organization that both states co-founded in 2004. With Cuba co-opted by the US and pressure on Venezuela increasing (perhaps in conjunction with a Cuban-Venezuelan falling out akin to the Sino-Soviet split), the rest of its smaller and weaker members will fall like dominoes on command.
(3) Promote The Pacific Alliance Against Mercosur:
This grouping is a pro-American neo-liberal trading organization that has divided Latin America and rapidly emerged as one of the world’s most dynamic trading blocs. The US intends to use this multilateral lever of asymmetrical influence to split Mercosur by poaching members Paraguay and Uruguay (both of whom have said they want to join the Alliance), which would then contain Brazil, and indirectly spread Washington’s control over the supercontinent. Having Cuba destabilize member-state Venezuela opens up another front on the war against Mercosur that can facilitate its fragmentation.
Where To Go From Here
With the dust finally settling, it’s appropriate to forecast the direction of the newfound US-Cuban alliance:
Bilateral visits of both leaders to each other’s country are now being actively discussed. The White House is open to Raul visiting the US, and although Obama claims he’s “not at a stage” to reciprocate right now, he earlier said he’d “see how things evolve”, and there was speculation that he might visit the island as part of a larger Latin American tour next year. This would also take him to Panama for the forthcoming Summit of the Americas in April, where Raul and Obama are expected to meet. A photo-op between the two, regardless of where it takes place, will symbolically showcase America’s latest victory in Latin America and remind everyone that the US has re-energized its focus on the region.
The Latin American Sadat:
The next step in US-Cuban relations is to coordinate political activity between the two, just as Egypt’s Sadat did with the US and Israel after his own similar pivot. Both leaders betrayed their Revolutions, people, and regional and non-regional allies and had profound effects on the balance of power. Raul is even more significant than Sadat in this case, since not only was he an influential part of the very Revolution that he just reversed, but his country represents a major hemispheric pivot for the expression of American policy in Latin America.
Cooperation is definitely forthcoming, and Raul strongly hinted at this when he announced that “We reiterate our willingness for respectful and reciprocal dialogue concerning disagreements…(we) accepted dialogue… on any topic about all things here but also in the United States.” Don’t think that this means the two will butt heads non-stop (as they already have for half a century), but rather that Cuba will now ‘soften’ its opposition and ‘listen more’ to what the US wants it to do. Nothing is off the table, leaving near endless possibilities for Cuba to recalibrate its policies towards Russia, China, and Venezuela, for example, under America’s ‘guiding influence’.
Countering The Counter-Revolution?:
A faint flicker of hope remains that Fidel’s ‘Old Guard’ represented by Vice-President Ramiro Valdés may find a way to counter Raul’s surrender to the US. The US media has been complicit in trying to propagate the idea that Cubans no longer care about Fidel, but this is an inaccurate depiction of reality that’s only being disseminated out of fear that Fidel’s anti-American resistance is actually alive and well among the populace and won’t die when he does.
Such is the level of domestic discontent over the ‘deal’ within Cuban society that Raul had to make an uncharacteristic televised one-hour speech to the people to try to reassure them that it wasn’t a sell-out and that communism will continue. If there wasn’t serious domestic resistance to what he did, he wouldn’t have had to create such an unconvincing spectacle. This means that there’s a small window of opportunity for the counter-revolution to be reversed at the highest levels, or that Cubans may take to the streets to protest that Fidel’s legacy is being dismantled before their eyes.
Special thanks are extended to Tony Foley and Efrain Rios Suárez for their constructive input that influenced this article.
Andrew Korybko is the political analyst and journalist for Sputnik who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.
It is recommended that Mr. Korybko’s earlier pieces about from 17 December and 18 December be read prior to this article in order to establish the proper frame of reference for everything that transpired between the US and Cuba.