The recent news about the US administration, via president Obama, negotiating the end of the Cuban economic embargo is the culmination of several decades of defeat of the US foreign policy towards Cuba.
The economic embargo and sanctions on the Cuban economy was first set by the United States as a block and opposition to the encroaching Soviet Union central capitalism planned economy. It was not the choice of the Cuban leaders or their people to have the sanctions decades ago. However, the impact of the sanctions had a devastating effect on the Cuban economy, which were for some time during the Cold War offset by the USSR’s markets (85% trading partner), but eventually after the collapse of the Berlin Wall Cuba was left to fend for itself primarily through an extensive expansion on tourism.
Since the fall of the USSR Cuba has made many important economic alliances, especially with countries in South America, such as Venezuela. These economic ties, which was the export of services such as doctors and health workers in exchange for desperately necessary commodities such as Oil, has kept Cuba afloat for a number of years now. During this time Cuba has saw itself rise, not economically, but politically: influencing political change in countries such as Ecuador (Rafael Correa), Venezuela (Hugo Chavez), Bolivia (Evo Morales), Brazil (Lula), Argentina (Nestor Kirchner), Uruguay (Tabare Vazquez). Effectively, through Cuba’s perseverance against the US and defeating the US foreign policy for regime change, it has been the political weight that has influenced the political shift of South America towards the left.
The place of Cuba in the political map of South America is a very significant consideration because currently the United States is seeing an important but small opportunity to make its long sought after political change in the South. By admitting that the long drawn economic embargo on Cuba has been ineffective in creating regime change, the US economy is hoping to bring change by releasing its economic hounds: finance capital. One of the first bargaining chips is the US oil, which is now selling at half its original price a year ago, to compete with Venezuela: the supply of US shale oil and gas is trying to undermine Venezuela’s economy, which has been the recent lifeline for Cuba.
The US militarism, one of its largest pillars of power, has not been effective in the middle-east in implementing foreign policy and has ground to a halt. In South America as well as Cuba, the US army cannot create regime change as it once did in Chile: this is the major change of tactic taking place. However an important weapon in the arsenal still remains: the economic pressure through market penetration.
Cuba is not a socialist country, however it does deliver on some of socialism’s important socio-economic foundations such as Cuba’s healthcare system that the World Health Organization calls “a model for the world”, or Cuba’s education system that has one of the highest post-secondary education graduates in the world and has been highly ranked consistently for many years. With the flood of US finance capital entering the Cuban market, the Cuban people must fight and defend their hard fought for rights and freedoms and their standard of living.
One of the pioneering ideas that the Cuban revolution’s (despite its large shortcomings as a socialist country) has taught the world is that even with very short and limited resources, a communal share of the country’s wealth, can result in a higher and more humane standard of living.