While I was absolutely in favor of improving relations between the U.S. and Cuba, I was fully aware that there would be some major bumps in the road. Raul Castro and his brother Fidel, are dictators. They are not Communists they are despots, autocrats. Negotiating with them is far different than negotiating with the Chinese even though they still consider themselves Communists. The Chinese however, are also realists, with an understanding that the Communist Economic System is the least likely to yield economic results. So while the government still holds onto absolute power, it has had to make some concessions in order to realize economic prosperity.
Unfortunately for the Cuban people, the Castro’s have no such foresight. Like the North Koreans, they are living in a time warp from which they refuse to emerge. The Great Communist experiment is dead and the only ones who benefit are the dictators and their inner circles. The people suffer and the only way they can justify this is by absolutely control of information which limits people’s ability to question what they’re being told. Blaming the outside world, the evil Capitalist empires for their problems at home.
Even as President Obama was questioning a 50-year-old embargo and cold war relationship that continues today, stating that the embargo hasn’t worked, Raul Castro was planning his strategy for normalizing relations with the U.S. Castro stated that in order to normalize relations with the United States, several conditions must first be met. 1) lift the trade embargo, 2) pay damages to the Cuban people and 3) return Guantanamo Bay. The Cuban-American Treaty, which consists of 2 documents spells out the land lease agreement between the two countries. Specifically it states, that the United States, “shall exercise complete jurisdiction and control”, while recognizing “the continuance of the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba”. This agreement will not expire until both sides agree on a date for the U.S. to evacuate.
None of these demands are likely to be met in the short-term, especially with a Republican Congress but more importantly, Castro has shown his true colors. He is a dictator not looking for improved relations but rather looking for justification for his antiquated policies. He’s looking for a scapegoat blaming the U.S. for the fact that his people have suffered under his brother’s and now his dictatorial regime.
Raul Castro, speaking at a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, noted that “this diplomatic rapprochement doesn’t make any sense” and laid down his conditions for moving forward with regard to improving relations with the U.S. Mr. Castro needs to have some foresight and more importantly compassion for his people. Improved relations would greatly improve the lives of most Cubans. It would reverse the decades of decline. Simply gaining U.S. tourism would bring greater economic prosperity. The U.S. fought a brutal and bloody war with Viet Nam and today, relations between the two former enemies continue to improve. But in order to move forward, you have to let go of the past and clearly Castro isn’t willing to do that. He may be unable as he is an old man without the ability or vision to see a better way.
One thing is very clear however, Castro would like to win everything he wants without having to give up anything and that is the very thing that dictators do. They are unable to negotiate because they are the ultimate authority and are therefore unfamiliar with negotiations. They have absolute control and power and the United States must not back down or concede anything further, until there is some degree of conciliatory language from the old dictator.