I must confess that when I read the news about the normalization of relations between United States and Cuba it reminded me of an episode from the Simpsons. The one in which Mr. Burns and Homer escape to Cuba with a trillion dollar note just about the same time Fidel Castro finds out that his regime is on the verge of bankruptcy and he has to resign. When Mr. Burns and Homer are brought to Castro’s presence the Comandante asks them to let him see the note. Although Mr. Burns has doubts, Homer encourages him saying “Mr. Burns, I think we can trust the president of Cuba”. Of course, Castro doesn’t give back the bill, and in the next scene Mr. Burns and Homer are crossing the Florida Strait in a raft. It seemed to me that on December 17th, the president of the United States was playing Homer Simpson’s part.This is not because I’m a supporter of the embargo because I am not. I just think that in taking this bold step, Mr. Obama has been as naïve as Homer Simpson. When he outlined his position, Obama seemed confident that the normalization of relations with Cuba and the free circulation of American tourists would do what half a century of a more aggressive approach failed to produce. Many people think that Obama gave too much for almost nothing: a diplomatic victory and three healthy spies for to a poor guy with some teeth missing. He has shown too much confidence in the good will of Cuba’s leadership and in America’s influence on Cuba’s society. Obama seems to ignore that Cuba is neither as isolated nor under so much ideological control as 30 years ago. He might not be aware either that Raul Castro’s pragmatism points to the switch from a socialist to a capitalist dictatorship. While Obama sees the normalization of Cuba-US relations as a radically new event, for the Cuban government it is only the next lifesaver that will allow them to survive for five or ten more years, just as the European investments of the 90s did, or the Venezuelan oil of the last 15 years.One of the reasons Castro’s regime is the longest dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere is that it has adapted to every single challenge of the last 56 years, changing many things except its stance against anything that endangers its almost absolute control over Cubans.Let’s take into account that human rights violations in Cuba are not just a problematic issue, but part of a system of oppression that prevents its people from supporting themselves economically or conducting normal relationships with the rest of the world. So, in Cuba’s case, the human rights issues transcend the ethical dimension; they are part and parcel of everyday reality. If we play the cynical card, we would say, “If we have relations with Saudi Arabia why not with Cuba?” But let’s be really cynical, and remember that Saudi Arabia has oil and Cuba doesn’t. What’s more, Cuba is a country that rarely pays for anything. Ask Russia, ask Venezuela, ask Mexico, ask Spain. Unconditional relations with Cuba could be bad for the American conscience but worst for its pocket. We must also remember that this normalization occurs in a context of dangerous tendencies toward autocracy in Latin America, and right now the Cuban regime represents the worst of Latin American traditions in terms of violence and autocracy. The Cuban example is perverse and contagious, and if the US government thinks that good relations with Raul Castro could improve its relationship with the rest of the continent, it should think twice before changing its position regarding Cuba’s membership in the Organization of American States.To conclude: I don’t believe in the magical powers of the free market or of American tourism. I think that this normalization process should be accompanied by conditions. Other way, the American karma would be at risk one more, and unforgettable, time. The condition I’m thinking of is as simple as the legalization of the Cuban opposition. The Cuban government’s will to deal with its citizens in a civilized way, or its refusal to do so, should give us a good idea of how they are going to treat American interests in the future.Bueno, eso fue todo lo que dije en toda la noche hasta que la moderadora amablemente me preguntó qué pensaba del asunto y tuve que disculparme por haber sido la única persona que esa tarde se había referido al tema de los derechos humanos que evidentemente no le interesaba a nadie más que a mí. Luego expliqué por qué todavía me interesaba el tema pero supongo que a los lectores de este blog no necesite repetírselo.
Ya me iba del salón donde se celebró el evento cuando una señora me abordó:
-¿Tú eres Enrique?
-¿Quiénes son “ustedes”? –le pregunto a mi vez.