Raul Castro, Cuba and the European Union. October 18, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communism, Cuba, European Union, Social Democracy, United States.
Reading the Irish Times some time ago on the continent (a print edition which had everything one needed bar the entirely superfluous and candyfloss magazine section – ah the joys of European wide print distribution) I was struck by the an article carried from the LA Times-Washington Post by Manuel Roig-Franza which noted that Raul Castro had hinted at some measure of economic reform in a speech during a commemoration of the 54th anniversary of the Revolution.
R. Castro is no fool, and as has been noted here previously he and the army have to some extent tied up the commanding heights of the economy. Some of you will have noticed that while sympathetic to the aims I am not entirely thrilled by a Revolution which 54 years later has the same guys at the top, or indeed many many others aspects of the Revolution.
So it is probably inevitable that R. Castro is treading very carefully. Rumour has it that he was one of the prime movers of the nascent economic liberalisation after the Soviet Union imploded and that Fidel was an obstacle. Who knows?
But his most recent pronouncements are revealing.
He has noted that wage rates are not high enough and has spoken now of the need to open to further foreign investment in order to gain ‘capital, technology or markets’. Meanwhile he also noted the necessity to ‘preserve the role of the state and the predominance of socialist property’.
But to be honest ‘socialist property’ is the least of the issues when one gets down to it. The routes to the future appear fairly predictable. Ten, fifteen years from now Cuba will have some form of democratic representation, the communist system will be replaced and more than likely it will swing straight into the arms of neo- (or will it be neo-neo) liberal economic ‘experts’ as we saw in Russia and other former Soviet Republics and some of the Eastern European countries. It will be cemented firmly with the US sphere of influence and that will be that. Perhaps some aspects of the Revolution will remain. Probably. But, again, who knows?
Okay, it’s fairly loathsome to quote oneself, but in the previous post on this issue I said:
There’s still time for change. There is a chance for Fidel or Raul to maintain the genuine (but hardly unheard of elsewhere) achivements of the past 57 years. A closer engagement with Europe on a political level (that would mirror the joint economic enterprise with Europe), with a clear identification with strong social democratic reforms by firstly dismantling the predominant place of the party, introducing political pluralism and so on would at least offer the chance that the previous years haven’t been wasted.
I think I was being too conservative in that suggestion. ‘A closer engagement with Europe on a political level’. Hmmm. What exactly does that mean? Well here’s a suggestion. Why not enter into some form of association with the European Union proper? Consider that in the last month or so some informal contacts with Cuba have been reestablished by the European Union under the auspices of the United Nations.
Now before going any further it’s worth noting that Mercusor and the Andean Community are merging to generate the Union of South American Nations, which is modeled directly on the EU. It is expected to be a complete union analogous to the EU by … gulp … 2019. UNASUR is a step forward and something that will have a real potential in the future. But Cuba doesn’t appear to be in the running to join UNASUR, since it is, as a minute with an atlas will demonstrate, positioned in the Caribbean and the Caribbean is a patchwork quilt of different supranational entities, most of which such as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States are to some degree shaped by the legacy of colonialism in the area. There are others such as the Caribbean Community with which Cuba has a free trade agreement but nothing more. CARICOM is intended to achieve some measure of political unity at some unspecified point in the future and interestingly CARICOM is also involved in trying to thrash out an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU.
There is in fact some precedent here. It’s not a great one since it too is a legacy of colonialism. French Guiana happens to be a départment d’outre-mer of France and as such is part of the European Union. Another second or two with an atlas will demonstrate that French Guiana sits on the north eastern coast of South America, or why bother with the atlas when those of us with Euro notes will also find it at the foot of a note just right of the EURO/EYPO in a little box. Closer to Cuba is another part of European history, Aruba and beside there the Netherlands Antilles, both parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
So while the region itself remains devoid of clear political structures that will embrace Cuba, why not see the EU step in. And by association I’m not suggesting membership, but something that was a close relationship between the sovereign state of Cuba and the EU as an entity – perhaps analogous to the initial relationship between Turkey and the EU. In effect a step by step process of deeper engagement between the two which would have clear cut goals and outcomes which would include tackling openly a range of contentious issues from the nature of democratic representation, human rights and so on but would also acknowledge the value and validity of many of the most positive aspects of the Cuban Revolution.
I entirely understand, and share many of, franklittles criticisms of the EU. But… this is a multipolar world, and the EU for all its faults is one entity which still retains elements antagonistic to neo-liberalism within itself. Naturally there are aspects of history, the colonial period and suchlike to be overcome in any relationship between Cuba and the EU. But such an association could provide a new path for states evolving from the command control political/economic path, as it has with the Czech Republic, Poland, etc, etc. Although it is also clear that it some of those post-communist states which are most adamantly opposed to any such moves. And then other issues would arise. At what point could such an association be formed? It would have to be well along the path to political liberalisation. Where could it potentially go. Would Cuba even want such a thing?
Yet within such an association – however loosely – I think the best elements of the Revolution, of which there are some worth retaining, could be protected.
Is it going to happen?
Not a chance.