The key to the turnaround in Havana against Washington is located in Caracas. Nobody knows better than the Cubans the catastrophic situation in which Venezuela finds itself. Cubans who have the best Latin American intelligence service, are present at all levels of the Venezuelan State, ministries, public companies, the military and the security apparatus. They have also thousands in personnel cooperating in all cities and regions, forming a network of informants much more efficient than any polling institute.
For Cubans, the diagnosis is clear: in addition to a crisis of governance with no visible end, the Venezuelan economy, dependent on oil, is breathless, plagued by recession, hyperinflation, debt, shortages, mismanagement and corruption. Even before the fall of oil prices, Caracas saw its resources and reserves melt and reduced to a minimum.
But Cubans are still traumatized by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of subsidies from Moscow, which precipitated the collapse of the economy of the island. Castro brother’s regime knows that it would not survive a second shock, caused by the decision of the Venezuelan oil infusion without which Cuba would have neither energy nor harvested currencies resale of part of the gross.
Change of strategy
Certainly, Havana tried to diversify its trade, attract investment, to reduce its dependence on Caracas. The expansion of the port of Mariel, funded and implemented by Brazilians, is the best example in this regard. Unfortunately, the hope of finding oil in Cuban waters has not yielded the expected results.
What is the purpose of Mariel? It is designed to promote the flow of Asian trade to the East Coast of the United States. This strategic project therefore presupposed a normalization of relations with Washington. The new military establishment that the heads of the main sectors of the Cuban economy well knew and preached an opening of. However, the security apparatus of Havana, which has nothing to gain and everything to lose with democratization, held back their heels and sometimes invoked the statue of Fidel Castro, still capable of nuisance in the absence of a firm decision.
It is precisely the state security, tropical mixed East German Stasi and Soviet KGB, who stopped American Alan Gross, guilty of supplying communications equipment to a group of Havana’s Jewish community. The hostage was blocking both Washington and the advocates of standardization in Havana. Proponents of the status quo have slowed the development time, but the Venezuelan events imposed a change in strategy.
Havana, Europeans, fickle and inconsistent, have never been an alternative. The last of them to make the trip, the Spanish foreign minister, has not even been received at the highest reaches. Only a restoration of relations with the United States can get out of the rut in which Cuba was down half a century of Castro. The embargo continued for years to import American products to make the United States the first regular provider of the Cubans. Remittances from Cuban-Americans to their relatives are the primary source of foreign exchange for the island. And the tourist flow is increasing.
Need for capital
But Cuba hopes for more, the narrow island economy needs capital, know-how, opportunities nearby, everything is at hand on the other side of the Florida Straits. While the historic exile withers, citizens are replaced by the anti-Castro Cuban-Americans who want to invest in their country of origin. Among them, there are wealthy industrialists that had immigrated half a century ago, now sought out by Havana. In the circles of power in Cuba, experts were considering an appeal to the International Monetary Fund without being harassed by the political police or denounced by the press orders, last bunker of conservatives.
Direct dialogue between Havana and Washington has never stopped and did not need intermediaries, except overcome resistance in his own camp. The huge US Embassy continues to be enthroned on the Malecon Havana, the seaside boulevard, although officially it was an “office of US interests” linked to the Swiss Embassy. Maintained the fiction of a cold war both sides eventually give way to the realities and understood interests of both sides.
The secret of the negotiations has been so well maintained that the Venezuelan ally found itself at odds. The day before, President Nicolas Maduro launched one of his diatribes against Washington, following a decision of the Congress which deprives Venezuelan officials accused of violations of human rights of US visas. Can Chavismo continue to make anti-Americanism rhetorical stand?
Putting his allies with a fait accompli, General Raul Castro finally decided in favor of his military friends to become a pragmatic force to confront the battles of production, more prosaic than the one delivered in Africa. “For Latin America, this is the equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall,” said Uruguayan President José Mujica. The last bastion of Castroism, nationalism, which replaced the guise of communism, had to settle for a reconciliation with the hereditary enemy. Little David will no longer refer to the big neighbor in the guise of Goliath. On the contrary, he must learn to coax and seduce him. Geography, demography, history, even confrontational, eventually prevails over ideology.