Saturday, August 31, 2013

Castro’s Strategy, in Short - A Perfect Manual for Disaster

Castro's Strategy, in Short: A Perfect Manual for Disaster / Manuel
Cuesta Morua
Posted on August 30, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, August, — Does Raul Castro have a vision
for the state? After seven years in office the question bears asking.
Perhaps few people thought about it during the previous forty-six years
because most observers just assumed that Fidel Castro had a grand plan
for the state. But in perspective I do not think so. One can be a
political animal yet lack a strategic vision for the country. What is
clear, however, is that Fidel Castro did have the political fiber
required to constantly to remain in power.

He demonstrated the abilities necessary to fuse a founding myth with a
sense of opportunity and social control. And everything seemed perfect
politically as long as he was able to hide the brutality of his regime,
his absolute lack of principles and his incompetence at financial
management behind this fusion. But where his lack of vision for the
state can be seen is in not having left behind anything serious, such as
a legacy, in the three areas where he uprooted the myth: in the social,
in values and in the reconquest of the nation. In the end he did not
know how to do what politicians with a head for strategy do. He did not
know how to reinvent himself.

The followers of Castro, the tall one, can say what they want in his
defense. However, this only demonstrates that the confusion between
expectations and results continues to be fascinating material for two
types of study: mythology and clinical psychology. It has nothing to do
with reality.

Milk and marabou

It was hoped that whoever came to power in 2006 would take a healthy dip
in reality. Cuba had strayed so far from its revolutionary dreams that
this cleansing would be a preliminary step in confronting the task
refreshed and with mental clarity. Asians know a thing or two about the
relationship between the sauna and the mind. And this appears to be what
happened when Raul Castro, in a speech on July 26 of that year in
Camaguey, said two trivial words: milk and marabou. They indicated a
fresh return to the abandoned land, and an idealized return to the land
as metaphor; this after a lofty, fattened regime anchored to the rest of
the world only through rhetoric and foreign subsidies.

But strategically the shorter Castro could write a how-to book on
disaster. I will not dwell on the long list of his economic adjustments
and their social consequences. Much has been well and wisely said about
the failure of his so-called economic reforms, notwithstanding the
analytical obstinacy of an unwavering group of academics, prominent in
the news media, who did (and do) not realize that in terms of economic
reform Cuba had (and has) to learn to run, not just move. So I am not
interested in judging Raul Castro by his own words. We must measure the
man by his results, not by his efforts.

There are two areas I would like to visit in order to analyze what I
consider to be a worrying lack of national vision or strategic
proposals. One is the port of Mariel and the other is the set of factors
facilitating the exodus to what Cubans refer to as la Yuma, meaning
everything outside the island, whether it be Brazil, Haiti or the
United States itself.

The island as banana republic

Many see in the construction of the port of Mariel a brilliant strategic
move. I see the new port as a step towards turning the island into a
banana republic, as we used to be portrayed in the schools of most
Central American countries. A social poet, who visited several places in
our archipelago to feel its vibration before reflecting them in his
poetry, described us at the time as a synthesis that was simultaneously
powerful and depressing: Cuba, the ruin and the port.

I find no strategic value in a project that ratifies Cuba as a landlord
state, living off of a couple of assembly plants and on being the
connecting port-of-call between a super-power (the United States), an
emerging power (China) and a jolly secondary power (Brazil). Foregoing
the economic possibilities offered by the knowledge economy in favor of
one for which we are better prepared — one which depends on the crude
economics of the exploited and poorly paid port worker — does not get us
much closer to a strategic vision for the state. Nor does a property
owner prepared to collect tolls and warehouse fees from all who pass
through his ports. But that is indeed what is happening.

Mariel: a circle of illusion

This is because — and here the circle of illusion becomes complete —
such a step presupposes two additional elements. One is a deep knowledge
of the internal reality of the countries in question. The other is
effective control over the temptation of the governmental elite to
decide things lest they forget that there is a new port in Cuba called

Keep in mind what happened in the Soviet Union in 1989 and in Venezuela
in 2013. Having information about what really takes place in countries
that affect us economically, and being able to process it, is not the
strong point of revolutionary leaders. The former socialist superpower
collapsed and Maduro won in spite of losing. China is only interested in
money and we have none. And Planalto Palace — the headquarters Dilma
Rouseff took over from Lula da Silva — has been trembling lately.

Let us remember that investments in Mariel were being managed by a
risk-taking partner, President Lula, who held out the promise to a
Brazilian business conglomerate, Odebrecht, of a hypothetical opening by
the United States to Cuba. It is as though a fiancée were to put on a
wedding dress without knowing for sure that her intended would show up
to satisfy her nuptial ambitions. A fiancée who, on top of everything
else, behaved as though she did not have to do anything to attract the
very specific type of suitor she was after by showing him anything he
might possibly find attractive in her.

From subsidies to an economic enclave

There is nothing strategic about turning a subsidized economy into an
economic enclave within the confines of old-fashioned capitalism,
especially for a country that loudly demands — or rather politely
requests — a comprehensive modernization built on the foundations of a
knowledge-based economy.

If you are wondering why the government of Raul Castro is involved in
this issue, which we know as state strategy, then imagine all that can
be done by using Cuba's potential to assure the structural integrity of
the country, guaranteeing a relaxed transition and re-legitimized
mandate for successors who lack the pedigree of the mountains we know as
the Sierra Maestra.

A new port development provides no insurance in either of these areas.
It puts Diaz-Canal in quite a precarious position relative to two
interest groups. One is made up of real estate interests tied to
unproductive corporations, and the other is made up of citizens excluded
from sharing in the pie, which can only grow arithmetically rather than

And the exodus to la Yuma? Well, this is where the disconnect between
the sense of the treasury and the sense of State is perhaps best
revealed. Now that the treasury no longer puts food on the table, we
have weakened the possibilities of redefining the State by making an
overseas sojourn possible for what the utilitarian language of economics
calls human capital. It really surprises me that the emigration reform
law has been so widely applauded. After granting fifteen minutes of fame
to the restitution of a right that did not have to be taken away, there
should have come a serious and sober analysis of its medium and
long-term impact on the nation and the country, which are really the
same thing.

Living off remittances

Two facts continue to be confused: as an economic reform measure, the
migratory reform converts Cuba into the El Salvador of the Caribbean:
living off remittances. And as the restitution of a right, it destroys
the options to rethink an economic model to export the best young minds
of the country, as a country like India has avoided.

The media analysis has blurred the problem, focusing the discussion on
superficial political terms. They say that the Cuban government has
thrown the ball in the court of the rest of the world, as if it were a
tournament which, in reality, doesn't exist between states — all
countries let their own citizens leave and abrogate the right to allow
the citizens of other countries to enter — and obscure the principal
debate: the fate of a country, aging, losing in a trickle or a torrent
its potentially most productive and creative people and, on the other
hand, not rebuilding its image as a possible nation.

This the principal problem of our national security. And it only has one
origin: The concentration of the political in a single lineage. The
philosophers of this matter are right: politics begins beyond the family

The problem takes on a new light, more dangerous in terms of national
security, with an immigration reform targeted to Cubans by the United
States, much deeper than that of Raul Castro. The granting of a
five-year multiple-entry visas to those who live on the island grants a
right foreigners greater than that granted by the Cuban State to its own
nationals living inside and outside the country. This is somewhat
embarrassing. Cubans from here can freely enter and leave the United
States for much longer than Cubans can enter and leave their country of
birth without renewing their permit.

Citizens of both countries

One of the results we have, one which I want to focus on, is this: we
Cubans have become, in theory, resident citizens of two countries. Cuba
is one, you choose the other. This is an issue that goes beyond the
transnational nature of our condition — very well analyzed by Haroldo
Dilla, a Cuban historian based in the Dominican Republic — because over
the long term it weakens the center that serves as the axis to the
global nature of citizenship. We Cubans will stay in the same place in
an ambivalence that weaken loyalties to a nationality that one now feels
and lives anemically. A strange and dangerous situation for a country
lacking a sense of solidity.

If the story says that the new U.S. policy serves to promote relations
between Cubans and Americans and between Cubans and Cuban Americans, in
reality we are moving to a scenario in which relations between
Cuban-Americans, in fact, resident on the island, and Cuban-Americans by
law, resident in the United States arise and are strengthened; and on
the other hand between Americans and Cubans residing on both shores.

All that will be left is an irreducible minority, regardless of their
ideological leanings, who will resist nationality in both, taking
American or Spanish nationality as strong reference points.

So, we return to the economic and cultural circuit of the United States
— in some way we have already entered that of Spain — which we
supposedly left more than half a century ago. Not to mention other
smaller circuits such as those of Jamaica and Italy.

Surrendering to this reality, hiding behind the anti-imperialist
rhetoric of "no one surrenders here," that keeps obsolete arms oiled and
"repaired," is evidence that the strategy of the State has never
accompanied the Castros. Will our paradigm as a nation ever be viable?
The question is not rhetorical.

From Cubanet

18 August 2013

Source: "Castro's Strategy, in Short: A Perfect Manual for Disaster /
Manuel Cuesta Morua | Translating Cuba" -

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