What will happen to Cuba after normalization with the United States?
May 11, 2015 2 Comments
The question of the hour is, “What will happen to Cuba after normalization with the United States?”
For me, the real answer is, “who knows?” From what I understand of the “experts” on Cuba, they have the same answer. Cuba is not like other countries, I do, however, want to list some strengths that I became more aware of since I went to Cuba in April.
But first, it’s ironic, isn’t it, that so many Americans want to “visit Cuba now before a whole bunch of Americans go there and spoil it.” What’s really funny to me is that while I poke fun at that idea, here I am myself, just returned from my first visit to Cuba! (Many of my colleagues couldn’t believe I’d never been to Cuba since they know I’ve been on several political delegations to Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Honduras. The first three countries recently created new constitutions that empower people and even nature. In the fourth country, Honduras, the president was removed after he started taking preliminary steps toward creating a new constitution.)
I used the term “American” above, but I want to switch to a term for people from the USA that differentiates us from the rest of the people living in this hemisphere: estadounidense. That’s the Spanish word, based on Estados Unidos. I’ve often wondered if we should adopt the English-language word, “USers” for US people, since we have about 5% of the world’s people and use about 20% of the world’s resources. (Yes, if you’re wondering, I do love my country — the land and the people. I really do. As a matter of fact, many if not most of the people of other countries such as Cuba and Venezuela like estadounidenses; it’s the U.S. government they have problems with.)
It’s sort of amusing that among the people who are the most afraid that “Americans will spoil Cuba” are … Canadians. They’ve been enjoying Cuba for years and many Canadians are not too keen on the prospect of loads of estadounidenses descending on the island.
That leads me to the first item on my list of some strengths that are likely to help Cuba remain “Cuba,” and not be overrun by the United States of America.
1. TOURISM IS NOT NEW. Cuba has had tourism for a long time, including Canadians, Europeans, Latin Americans. They’ve got resorts, great beaches, and even golf courses, not to mention those cars from the 1950s. Cuba has learned from successes and mistakes in its tourism development.
2. NEW FOREIGN INVESTMENT LAWS. In 2014 Cuba passed a new foreign investment law that gives tax breaks and more investment security to foreign-owned companies engaged in joint ventures with the Cuban state and between foreign and Cuban companies. The fact that the law does not permit investment in health care and education sounds like a valuable protection for Cubans.
3. THEY’VE SURVIVED. Cuba and Cubans have a long history of successfully surviving economic and military hostility aimed toward them by the greatest economic and military power the world has ever known — the U.S.A. — 90 miles away from their shores.
4. LATIN AMERICA IS STRONGER NOW — certainly stronger than in 1959, and even stronger than it was 20 years ago before Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela. The region is now so strong that both Bush and Obama went down to obtain the FTAA, a free trade agreement for all countries in the Americas, and both Bush and Obama came back empty handed. (Meanwhile, we’re trying to “Flush the TPP” — a truly bad free trade agreement.) Cuba is well integrated into the rest of the Americas, and it is not isolated in the world.
5. JOSÉ MARTÍ. I can’t wait to read his book The Golden Age, by which he means childhood. It seems that all Cuban children are familiar with this Cuban hero’s life, poetry, and writings, and I want to understand better how it has helped with the formation of character. What writings do all children in the United States have in common? The Gettysburg address? The Bible? There’s more about Martí in my blog post entitled “Cuba — The Most Surprising Thing.”
6. STRONG FAMILY AND COMMUNITY ORIENTATION. It’s tangible, and it is what helped them survive during the “special period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and during all the obstacles they’ve encountered in the 50+ years of the U.S. embargo.
7. CUBAN PRIDE. Our tour guide pointed out that Cubans are very proud of being Cuban, and they aren’t eager to be changed into something else.
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These are my quick reactions to the question of “What will happen next?” After my 9-day visit to Cuba, I am no expert, but I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. I actually think it’s hard for anyone to be an expert on Cuba. More than usual, my questions led to more mysteries and complications and contradictions. That’s one reason that it’s easy to want to go back.
In that way, I can understand the Miami-Cubans more than I could before.