U.S./Cuba - Why The Eagle Has Not Shown Its Claws?
By: Luis A. Pérez
The purpose of this article is to identify and attempt to understand some of
the real reasons why the United States allowed Cuba to fall into Castro's
hands and, more importantly, why has it allowed the Castro regime to remain in
power for close to 40 years. In order to attempt to understand the reasons
that have motivated the United States to take a "hands off" approach to Cuba,
it is important that we first identify some of the traits peculiar to the
United States. These traits, as with any other national traits, will dictate
the behavior thereby, the foreign policies of its government.
The most important trait that defines the United States is its capitalist
mentality. There is no question that the strongest motivational influence of
our country is its quest to enrich itself and all units that comprise the
whole. Although capitalism is an economic model not a true political system,
it is plain to see that when enrichment of the self is the primary motivating
concern, this will in turn mandate that certain selfish policies are to be
followed. These will include the foreign policies of a nation such as the
Although the United States has tried to define its foreign policy in more
humanitarian terms such as seeking to uphold civil rights and liberties,
democratic ideals and human rights, the lack of consistency in the application
of these concepts calls to question whether they were the legitimate reasons
why certain actions were undertaken. For example, why does the United States
grant most favored nation status to China while acknowledging the violation of
civil rights in that country? Why does the United States continue to attempt
to improve relationships with China where the leadership of that country
remains relatively unchanged after the events of Tianemen Square? Why did the
United States intervene in Panama, Haiti and Grenada, yet allowed Castro (the
puppet master of all these dictators) to remain in power? Why did the United
States support and harbor dictatorial regimes that trampled civil rights and
human rights in the Philippines, Iran and various African nations? Why did
the United States mobilize its armed forces and those of its allies to protect
Kuwait while sitting idle in other countries (Bosnia, Herzegovina) where the
human massacres have claimed more lives?
The bottom line is that the United States only flexes its muscle if its
economic interests are at stake. In other words, will the United States lose
some of its economic power or be deprived of further enrichment if it acts or
fails to act. The bottom line is that the United States will take keen
interest in any world event that may affect its pocketbook or the standard of
living in the United States. Otherwise, its interest will be non-existent or
will quickly dwindle.
The United States is all about money and economic power. Its domestic and
foreign policies are geared towards preserving and increasing U.S. economic
dominance throughout the world. This is the primary factor that determines
what foreign policies the United States will pursue.
Why did the United States allow Cuba to fall to Castro in 1959? There are
many reasons why the United States sought a change in Cuba in the late 1950Õs.
Some have been publicly pronounced, others are less obvious and deserve closer
scrutiny. To understand these factors we cannot lose sight of world events in
1959, and the relationship between the two world superpowers. The Cold War
was taking its grip throughout the world and the United States and the former
USSR were moving their pawns throughout the world map in order to expand their
spheres of influence and domination. It was nothing short of a chest game
played for the ultimate prize, domination of the world. Cuba, like many other
nations, was but a pawn in this game.
Some of the stated reasons for the U.S. to seek change in Cuba was the fact
that Fulgencio Batista was a dictator that threatened some of the civil
liberties in Cuba. This dictatorial regime which came to power through non-
democratic means and with the blessing and assistance of the U.S., although
allowing certain sectors of the economy to flourish, was a direct threat to
the democratization goals the United States had for all of the Hemisphere and
the rest of the world. Therefore, the Òdictatorial governmentÓ had to be
removed and replaced by a government supported by the people, this alternative
government was personified in Fidel Castro. However, there may have been some
other darker reasons and motivations why the United States wanted Batista out
and replaced by a government that promised a return to the democratic ideals
that had been the founding principles of the young Cuban Republic. One of the
unstated reasons could have been that the American Mafia was garnering too
much power and influence in Cuba.
The removal of Batista also provided the United States with the opportunity
for setting an example to the rest of the world. Dictators that did not march
to the tune set by the U.S. foreign policies would be toppled and would be
replaced by governments which would adhere to U.S. mandates. If we look at
the various changes in government that were taking place throughout Latin
America, it is clear to see that the U.S. was influencing the process of
selecting governments in countries throughout the Hemisphere. The history of
various Central American countries, and some in South America, offer many
examples of this not so quiet intervention by the United States into the
affairs of foreign sovereigns.
While there is little doubt that the United States Intelligence Agencies had
not done their homework properly, were the recipients of bad information, and
exercised bad judgment in selecting Castro as a successor. To the United
States, Batista's was another government that it could easily replace, and
thus, hold out as an example for others.
Despite having made the mistake of selecting Castro as Batista's successor,
the United States compounded its mistake - at least in our eyes - since,
shortly upon coming to power, Castro quickly took drastic steps which should
have clearly demonstrated to the United States that he would not adhere to the
mandates of Uncle Sam. The Castro regime directly attacked the interest of
U.S. companies in Cuba and severed diplomatic relations with the U.S. and
sought the assistance of the U.S.S.R. Starting in 1960 through 1961, it was
evident that Castro was not the replacement to BatistaÕs dictatorship that the
United States had hoped for. Nevertheless, there were some very positive
developments which resulted from Castro's rise to power and the exodus of
Cubans to the United States, and more specifically, the south Florida area.
To some degree, due to the American influence in the Island, Cuba enjoyed one
of the largest and best educated middle and middle-upper classes in the
Hemisphere. American universities and colleges, such as Villanova, had
established centers of higher learning in Cuba and public education through
graduate and post-graduate levels was attainable by the middle class.
Contrary to popular belief, higher education was available to those without
means even in a pre-Castro Cuba (so was health care and other welfare
benefits). Because of a large number of educated people in all fields of
society, Cuba was quickly becoming the jewel of the Americas. According to
data compiled by international organisms in the late 1950's, Cuba did not
qualify as a third world nation, but ranked almost at par with the United
States. Therefore, the migration of a large number of these educated and
highly motivated individuals to the United States could significantly add
positive benefits to the U.S. economy. Let us not forget that in 1960, south
Florida was little more than a retirement community for the wealthy
northeasterners who sought to thaw out during their last years escaping the
harsh winters of the north. The economic growth of areas where the Cuban
immigration took root is unquestionable. Miami and south Florida, Venezuela,
Puerto Rico, and many other countries in Central America greatly benefited by
the impact of this exodus. The Cubans that fled in the early 1960's were the
cream of the crop, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers, highly
skilled and educated men and women who could easily transport their knowledge
and expertise to the geographical areas to which they fled.
Let us keep in perspective that the history of the United States is replete
with examples of how the American economy has grown during periods of
migration. The melting pot theory is alive and well. It is not just a
cultural phenomenon, it is our economic reality. However, this melting pot
needs new spice every so often to continue to percolate. The United States
could not grow and will not continue to grow unless migration, the controlled
assimilation of foreign talent, is allowed to continue. All immigrants have
added necessary resources to the American economy through infusion of muscle
and/or intellect. These immigrants who typically are willing to take on tasks
that others will not and work harder to advance and succeed in our society are
the invigorating bloodline that has allowed the United States to grow and
increase its sphere of worldwide influence. The Italians and Irish in the
northeast and north, the Chinese who built the railroads, the African-
Americans who worked the cotton and sugar fields, all made significant
contributions to the U.S. economy. Even the Germans (some sympathizers of
the Nazi regime) helped land the first man on the moon and developed the U.S.
military arsenal. There is no question that the Cuban exodus of the early
1960's provided the United States economy with an infusion of talent that
allowed an economic dormant such as Florida to boom.
Although the Cuban exodus of the early 1960's may have initially been a
welfare drain on the U.S. economy, the resulting benefits have certainly far
exceeded these costs exponentially. Was this result foreseen by the U.S. and
part of the reasons for allowing Castro to take power in Cuba and remain
thereafter? Who knows, however, I offer that the United States has never been
accused of lacking vision and farsightedness, and even if things initially did
go wrong and not as planned, why not take advantage of these benefits and make
the best out of a bad situation?
Therefore, we come to the question of why the United States has allowed Castro
to continue in power for so many years? There are those who may ascribe to
the naive idea that the United States has not been able to politically or
militarily upset the Castro regime. However, a nation that can land a man on
the Moon and defeat its most formidable rival, the U.S.S.R., is hardly without
the necessary resources to replace Castro in the blink of an eye. Take a look
at our history.
Going back to the principles governing our foreign policy, there is no
question that the current population of Cuba does not offer the economic
advantages to the United State that the exodus of the 1960's once represented.
For one, the people currently starving in Cuba and wanting to leave for
political or economic reason total over 11 million. This is not as easy a
chunk to swallow as the less than 2 million that fled during CastroÕs early
years. Eleven million individuals with questionable credentials and work
ethics would probably have little beneficial impact upon the U.S. economy.
Nevertheless, they will certainly be a drain to our welfare system, and
definitely a bad example to set in light of the United States' efforts to
curtail undocumented immigration from Mexico, Central America and the Pacific
Moreover, the economic devastation of Cuba is a powerful example for the
United States to hold up to the world of failed socialism and communism. Cuba
represents one huge experimental failure, which the United States can utilize
to show that economic models other than capitalism will not succeed. The
United States is not in a hurry to overthrow Castro, it knows that like every
other human being, his existence is not eternal. Moreover, his economic and
political systems have already collapsed on their own. Therefore, what is the
benefit to quickly replacing Castro? Going back to our economic theory, the
reconstruction of Cuba will be a costly endeavor for the United States.
Although it is true that the Cuban community in exile will help Cuba pull
itself up by its own boot straps, there is little doubt that the U.S. economy
will have to pay a price. For one, direct financial aide and assistance will
have to be provided as part of the United States' existing legal obligations.
The Cuban Democratization Act provides that the United States will offer
economic incentives and benefits to Cuba upon its adoption of democratic
reforms. Furthermore, the Cuban community in exile will divert resources from
the U.S. economy in order to help rebuild the country.
The United States does want Cuba to change and become a flourishing economy in
the Caribbean. For one, U.S. companies will have a ready made market of over
11 million individuals eager to purchase all of the U.S. goods of which they
have been deprived for the last 40 years. However, before being able to buy
these U.S. products, the Cuban economy (like Mexico under NAFTA) will have to
be rebuilt and that society will have to be economically empowered. This will
be a costly proposition. The United States is hopeful that the change in Cuba
will be gradual so that its economic investment in the rebuilding of this
nation will not entail a huge capital outlay on an immediate basis. It is
also hopeful that some private sectors of its economy, and other countries
through the world, will help in the eventual bail out. In the end, the United
States will have attained in a progressive, orderly and not too costly manner,
the creation of new markets for its goods and services, and will have helped
restore order to this island nation.
For many years Cubans in exile have been extremely frustrated, critical and
disappointed with U.S. policy towards Cuba, nevertheless, the focus of our
expectations was woefully misplaced. We thought that the United States would
take drastic and affirmative action because Castro is evil and represented a
political and economic challenge to the United States. He had to be removed
because he killed, stole, raped and pillaged our country. Nevertheless, very
few of us have focused on some of the real factors that have shaped U.S.
foreign policy towards Cuba. I offer as an alternative that if the focus of
our attention had been placed upon the capitalistic goals that are pursued by
the United States, perhaps we could have better understood and comprehended
why the United States has acted in this fashion.
Luis A Pérez