Jimmy Carter went to visit Raúl Castro. The initiative was Raúlâs. He wanted to let President Obama know that everything is negotiable, including the release of Alan Gross, an American sentenced on the island to 15 yearsâ imprisonment for handing out computers and communications equipment so that uninformed Cubans might have access to the Internet. For the moment, he has not freed Gross, but that will happen. Itâs a matter of time.
It is not at all clear why Raúl Castro does not turn to the American diplomats who are accredited in Cuba to send his messages, but he probably doesnât trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department. Accustomed as he is to making the important decisions as his brother did, he doesnât understand the institutional functioning of the United States, nor does he realize that Cuban affairs are barely important to the White House tenant.
What does Raúl Castro want in exchange for his hostage? Basically, his objectives are two: that the White House eliminate travel restrictions on Americans so the annual number of tourists who visit the island â about two million â doubles or triples swiftly; and that Washington permanently interrupt the economic aid and distribution of electronic equipment to the Cuban opposition. In any case, that aid remains detained today by legal obstacles raised by Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Does Raúl have anything else to offer, other than Grossâ freedom? He has little, and itâs hardly elegant: basically, itâs a change in the repressive strategy. In short, he mistreats his compatriots with less cruelty. By stages, he has freed the 75 democrats imprisoned during the so-called âblack springâ of 2003, deporting most of them to Spain, and it is possible that he will continue to gradually liberate the hundred or so political prisoners who remain in prison.
He no longer sentences the dissidents to long terms. He infiltrates their ranks to learn their movements, beats them, intimidates them and detains them for brief periods. When they gather or go out on the street, he launches against them mobs directed by the political police, in what are called âacts of repudiation.â Raúl has learned that to keep society scared and in his grasp, to prevent power from slipping through his hands, those coercive measures are enough. It is not necessary to jail his adversaries. Terrifying them is enough. Fidel was exaggeratedly punitive.
But thatâs not all. It is also possible that Raúl will open his economic hand a little more at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party that will be held in April. He knows that the huge majority of Cubans wish to be able to buy and sell their homes and that thereâs no reason to keep the absurd rules that prevent that.
Nor is he unaware that the wish of Cubans to freely leave or enter Cuba transcends the ideological issue: communists, anticommunists and those who are indifferent agree that the government has no right to prohibit the free movement of people. To eliminate that exit and entry permit would be extraordinarily welcome by the entire population, and he would be acclaimed without the need to make any transcendental change.” Sotto voce, Cubans usually point out that Raúl Castro has no moral standing to complain that the U.S. president doesnât allow Americans to travel to the neighboring island when he himself keeps his own people hostage.
Will there be a substantial change in U.S. policy toward Cuba after Carterâs visit? I donât believe so. The general perception in Washington, judging from the WikiLeaks, is that the Cuban regime is in a final phase of demoralization and erosion, and it makes no sense to do anything that halts or reverses that trend. Corruption is rampant, the children of many leaders are leaving the country discreetly and the state of mind that prevails among the mid-level cadres is that of an end-of-regime. Raúl is not unaware of this but has no way to prevent it, as long as he insists in maintaining a one-party collectivist regime that demands total obedience.
On to defeat always, general.
“© FIRMAS PRESS
THE MIAMI HERALD
Posted on Sun, Apr. 03, 2011