Trump, Cuba, imperialism revisited

US President Donald Trump announced restrictions on trade and travel thus ending people to people scheme with Cuba to overhaul his predecessor Barack Obama’s Cuba policy and fight the ‘Communist oppression’. The attempt was to stop flow of US money to the country’s military and security services and thereby build pressure on Cuba’s government. Restrictions and isolation seems to be the new flavour of any US policy declaration nowadays. Retreat causes derailment which may not only have immediate regional impact but larger repercussions. The unwavering jargon may be less than short of a full rev­ersal of the Cuba rapprochement, but its vision and tone was plain imperialism under new subtle garb.

Cuba is in a phase of seismic change. It has been a victim of blockade by US even in the past, responsible for poverty and other crimes on its land. Now, with this declaration of ‘America rejecting Cuban people’s oppressors’, is nothing less than enforcing new form of economic terrorism. Agreed that updated Cuban economy need not be boxed with authoritarian regi­me, but curtailing dollars can’t lead to democratic reforms.

Cuba is only 145 km away from the US but generates new strains on maritime security. Closing the avenues will impact the struggling farm sector in America. The republican farm states see this as misguided and isolationist as America could have gained from Cuban import markets.

Tourism is a source of revenue for Cuba, and person to person education where US people who travelled will be affected. To condemn tragedies caused by the Fidel Castro regime and derail their economic interest on the island, one cannot hold to ransom the nations nascent private sector and enterprise. Further, it will equally impact Texas aviation and business interests. With the void created by the US, it will still be attractive leisure destination for people from its other allies.

Right since his campaign, Trump has been anti-Castro. Ironically, to win the trust and votes of his people, he adopted the same line or argument what Castro upheld all his life in relation to the US: inequality, unfair racism, systemic corruption, poverty etc. The idea to free Cuba this way was a return to the cold war era mindset with hostile rhetoric that ushers open confrontation.

Castro attempted to rebuild Cuba using socialism whereas Trump pledges to solve all American social problems using capitalism and protectionism. He also reneged on regional and global commitments, Trans-Pacific ties, Paris Agreement amongst others. One seriously hopes that he does what he has been saying all along to make ‘America great again’, but this also has an adjacent question to be pondered over that when and in which phase of history was America not great?

Atomic bomb

Right from the use of atomic bomb in Japan, taking the cold war from Nato alliance formation to space, war on terrorism, ruthless pursuit of profits which caused great harm to ecology, in sum, it has always been blind action by US without any evidence, which has always made global governance victim devoid of any norms.

The silver lining for US and Cuba has always been that they avoided war. However, the bad news for them which always had a telling impact on international arena was that they missed out on peace. The onus for taking risks for shared future has been dampened by such political rapprochements. Disagreements require opening consular paths and not short-term measures of cutting fights.

The erstwhile Cuban embargo achieved nothing for decades. The Vatican — Pope Francis played an important role in reconciliation of ties in the past — all shall take a backseat in this scenario and the rest of Latin America shall be antagonised. To tackle oppression, one needs more communication and dialogue.
The reversal of policy then may sound good for electoral gimmicks. Further, if human rights have been a concern, then US has a lot to explain for its billion arms engagements with Saudi Arabia, collusion with Russia, Philippines etc. Cuba does not have perfect human rights record, but does US have?

Cuba has signified a microcosm for American imperial history, a lab of experiment for exploitation and Yankee imperialism. Justifying troubling a neighbouring economy devoid of resources owing, fear and doom are emerging as new pretexts of domination. The issue then zeroes down to lack of willingness on the part of political forces and using security threat as an excuse to tumble down the narrative of global world.

(The writer is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Delhi)

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