eyes on the U.S.

The Path To Post-Communist Cuba Starts With Cash

The imminent injection of wealth into Cuba as the U.S. embargo ends, and the measure of prosperity that should follow, may be the first steps toward its eventual democratization.

In Havana
In Havana

-Editorial-

SANTIAGO — The United States and Cuba can be compared to a divorced couple — condemned to remain close throughout their lives, if only for their children's sake. In this case, the children are more than two million Cuban-Americans that the U.S. counted as residents in 2013.

But the two nations have other ties as well. There is, for example, that outpost of the "good old days" before Castro, when U.S. influence was preponderant in Cuba, namely the Guantánamo army base. It's a city for its 5,500 military residents, complete with a McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway, but also a detention and torture center for suspected terrorists. Therein lies the paradox of Washington's relations with Cuba since 1959: It considers it fit to hold on Cuban soil detainees who enjoy neither the rights afforded them on U.S. territory nor those of enemy combatants — while criticizing, with good reason, the Cubans for doing similar things to their opponents and undercover U.S. agents.

Then there is business. Cuba's more than 11.1 million people need and demand goods and services, and their big neighbor can supply much of them, regardless of Cuba's level of development. That's why the recent announcement about ending hostilities is news.

Yet some respected analysts have warned this is actually a step back. The availability of certain pharmaceutical products, farming equipment, travel, etc. are all just oxygen for a failing economy. But the Cuban economy is not failing. It has already failed.

It exists in a parallel world where all excess revenues are spent on renewing energy infrastructure and maintaining the armed forces. Like "politics" in Cuba, the economy is currently at a standstill. Literally nobody in Cuba has enough energy or capital to create a process of change. Politically, that's good, because there's nothing to ensure that the regime's fall would be a Caribbean version of Czechoslovakia's non-violent Velvet Revolution. And there is certainly no assurance a liberal democracy would emerge from change.

Indeed it would be more likely that a soldier or minor official of this regime wound up imposing his own authoritarian rule. But Cuba has one giant asset: its extraordinary human capital, more healthy and infinitely more educated than all its Caribbean neighbors and much of South America.

So far, the island has not been a place where creativity and human fulfillment have excelled, even if it has eradicated or mitigated many of the health care and educational miseries affecting this part of the region.

President Barack Obama's measures point toward improving certain specific rights and liberties for ordinary Cubans. And it is those people who must then transform their country's institutions. Because at the end of the day, the regime of the Castro brothers is not being maintained by Cuban faith in socialist or communist ideals.

That part has failed. What is holding the entire, shoddy structure together these days is a dramatic dearth of resources, and nationalism. As with Vietnam and China, Cuba is a nationalist autocracy (with a depoliticized yet nationalist citizenry) and already past communism.

Because people with empty plates and pockets rarely inspire constructive and enduring changes that create complex societies, we must welcome the arrival of any prosperity to Cuba and its subsequent benefits for the Cubans.

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Geopolitics

Putin Psychology 101: The World Tries To Get Inside Russian Leader’s Head

Experts in geopolitics and the workings of world leaders have accelerated a two-decade long quest to understand the motivations of the enigmatic man in the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin during the president's annual press conference in Russia

Kremlin.ru
Anna Akage

PARISVladimir Putin’s origin story, fed by Russian propaganda into the Western media, centers around his rise to lead Russia after a strategic KGB posting in the closing years of the Cold War. Understanding his current geopolitical ambitions would thus require that we imagine the mindset of a Soviet spymaster ready to manipulate world politics for the past two decades as he attempts to build a new Russian empire.

But what if Putin was nothing more than a desk clerk in his late 1980s posting in the eastern German city of Dresden? If the young functionary was simply a convenient tool plucked by the circle of oligarchs formed around then Russian president Boris Yeltsin to secure their own status? That indeed is the reading from influential Russian blogger and political analyst Maxim Katz, who last year exposed recently declassified documents that Putin was a minor player who went by the codename of “Moth” — not a bear or tiger, or even a hamster!

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