The Rest of the World Isn't Waiting
America’s closest allies are moving on, current policy is becoming increasingly problematic in the context of our relationship with Latin America, and countries like Brazil and China are racing to fill the economic leadership void left by the absence of the United States. The EU has predicated its engagement with Cuba on progress over human rights, and allies in the hemisphere like Colombia no longer consider Cuba a threat. In fact, Colombian President Santos is holding peace talks with his country’s most prominent guerrilla in Havana. With a Russian spy ship docking in Havana recently as the crisis in the Ukraine unfolded, how long can the United States look the other way?
Et tu, EU?
President Obama spent the last week of March in Europe making the case that the U.S. and the countries of the European Union are each other’s closest allies. When it comes to Cuba, however, America’s best friends are moving on. As part of the negotiations, the French Prime Minister visited Cuba for the first time in 30 years. Here’s how the Economist covered the outreach recently: “On February 10th the European Union, whose members maintain economic ties with Cuba, announced that it wants to start talks on a ‘political dialogue and co-operation agreement.’ In practice many of its members have already sloughed off a ‘common position’ adopted in 1996, a kind of embargo-lite that predicated closer links on promoting a transition to democracy.” [The Economist, “Time to hug a Cuban: A rush to embrace a fading outpost of communism” 2/15/14]
The BBC and Reuters noted the link between the engagement and human rights: “The talks, which could begin as soon as next month, will try to increase trade and investment, and include a dialogue on human rights, officials said…We hope to promote a future model of Cuban society which is closer to European values." [BBC,“EU agrees to launch negotiations with Cuba,” 2/10/14]
“Cuba this month accepted a proposal by the EU to open negotiations on a new political accord, saying it was willing to talk about human rights as part of discussions that would end what it considers a one-sided relationship with Europe…After more than a year of discussions, EU foreign ministers decided in February to seek better ties with Havana to support the Caribbean island nation's market-oriented reforms and to position European companies for any transition to a more open economy.” [Reuters, “French FM to visit Cuba in sign of warming EU ties.” 3/19/14]
SOS from SOA, por favor.
The last Summit of the Americas in 2012 was marred by growing pressure from just about every other country in the Americas to include Cuba. A lack of agreement on that issue prevented a broader joint declaration from being issued by the leaders in attendance. The expectation is that the upcoming Summit in 2015 in Panama will be even less fruitful as the entire region looks to change the dynamics of Cuba’s role.
“America’s Meeting Ends With Discord Over Cuba,” was the headline in The New York Times on April 15, 2012, emphasizing that no final statement of consensus was possible given divisions over Cuba’s exclusion.
“The issue of Cuba’s exclusion from events like the Summit of the Americas gathering has been a perennially divisive one, and increasingly so lately, more than 50 years after the United States imposed its embargo of the island nation after the military takeover by Fidel Castro in 1959. While the push to include Cuba was led by leftist governments in the region, including Venezuela and Bolivia, Mr. Santos also joined in the effort, calling the American position a cold war anachronism.” [New York Times, “America’s Meeting Ends With Discord Over Cuba,” 4/15/12]
Cuba hosts Colombia peace talks with the FARC. Mr. McGuinness, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister advises President Santos, and “believes the fact that negotiations are taking place in Havana suggest that Farc and the government recognize that there is a very real prospect for an enduring agreement that will benefit all of the people of Colombia," he said. [BBC, “Colombia peace talks: Martin McGuinness meets President Santos.” 4/1/14]
Filling the void, muito obrigado.
As the United States continues to pursue vintage policies against Cuba, it’s allies are re-assessing what really matters in strengthening Cuba’s civil society and weakening the regime. America’s allies realize that Cuba’s political system is buttressed, not undermined, by the embargo. Now, they are providing alternatives that work.
America’s allies think the embargo is counter-productive at best, vindictive at worst: “The process of economic liberalisation under Raúl took another step forward this week with the approval of a new law on foreign direct investment (see article). Like other moves towards capitalism, this one is halting: the state will still be an intrusive presence and firms will have little say over hiring and firing. But the law will slash tax rates for new investments and allow foreigners into new sectors of the economy. It confirms Cuba’s overall trajectory towards freer enterprise…America’s allies think the embargo is counter-productive at best, vindictive at worst.” [The Economist, "The Cuban embargo: If not now, when?," 4/5/14]
The Japanese business community has high expectations for incentives and opportunities of proposed investment law. “The prospects of a new Cuban Foreign Investment Act raises expectations among Japanese business people who participated in the Annual Meeting of the Japan Economic Conference – Cuba held Tuesday in China. The meeting was attended by more than 45 member companies of the organization, as well as major institutions such as the Japanese Agency for International Cooperation and the Japan External Trade Organization.” [Havana Times, “Japanese Businesses Await New Cuban Foreign Investment Law,” 3/9/14]
Brazil financed $957m overhaul of the port of Mariel. "Brazil is proud to partner with Cuba in this, which is the first container-terminal port in the Caribbean with the capacity to integrate into the inter-oceanic logistical chain,'' Brazil's Dilma Rousseff said in Mariel." [BBC,“Brazil-funded port inaugurated in Cuba,” 1/27/14]
With $682 million loan, Brazil then reaped $800 million in goods and services for Brazilian suppliers. “The $957-million project was financed by a $682 million loan from Brazil’s National Bank of Economic and Social Development with the rest of the financing coming from Cuba. Rousseff noted that Cuba purchased more than $800 million in goods and services from Brazilian suppliers during construction.” [Miami Herald, “First phase of Cuba’s Mariel port update opens,” 1/27/14]