The tradeoff largely boils down to this: the US has released the three remaining members of the Cuban Five in exchange for jailed contractor Alan Gross, 53 US-selected “political prisoners,” and an unnamed intelligence source who was imprisoned over 20 years ago. As a result, both countries will now establish diplomatic relations and the decades-long US embargo will be largely eased.
Many people are rightfully cheering what seems to be an imminent end to U.S. hostility towards Cuba, but all of this may just be a deception. The U.S. needs Cuba more than the other way around, since it wants to use the island as a pivot to reverse the Caribbean Basin’s move to multipolarity and prolong Washington’s full control over its historic “lake.”
Regime Change Done Differently
Cuba no longer needs the U.S. as much as it did at the end of the Cold War, when its economy was in despair and the market hardly functioned. It’s come a long way since then, and although it still has its fair share of problems, it’s proved that it can survive on its own while being officially isolated from its massive northern neighbor. While the U.S. had plenty of opportunity to exploit Cuba when it was at its weakest in the 1990s, it missed the chance to do so, driven by the precondition that regime change must happen first.
Now, however, the tables have turned, and the U.S. is pursuing a policy of engagement first in order to facilitate the same regime change goal it’s been trying to pull off for over the past half century.
“I do not expect the changes I'm announcing today to bring about a change in Cuban society overnight,” Obama said, implying that he still wants the U.S. vision of change to occur. The removal of the embargo would only be a victory for the Cuban people if they are able to retain their independence, sovereignty, and preferred form of government afterwards.
Overt hostility hasn’t worked in the past against Cuba, and it likely won’t work in the future. Plus, there’s been a general trend in recent years for the US to pursue its objectives through covert and indirect means. This is where Cuba is most vulnerable in the recent ‘thaw’ in relations. The American economy doesn’t need Cuba at all, really, and Washington’s opening to Havana is a convenient cover to catch Cuba in its social and economic snare to more directly control the inevitable leadership transition process that will occur with Fidel’s passing. It already tried and failed to use USAID to create a ‘revolutionary Twitter’ on the island, as well as its embarrassing follies with anti-government Cuban rappers, to name but the few most recent regime change scandals there. And it must be kept in mind that Mr. Gross was working for the Agency when he was arrested in 2011 for trying to, as Cuban authorities described it, to “promote destabilizing activities and subvert constitutional order” to foster a “Cuban Spring.”
Cuba is also vulnerable to reverse migration, in that dissident and possibly extremist Cuban-Americans may return to the island in order to build a future Color Revolution’s social infrastructure to deploy when the time is right (likely in the aftermath of Fidel’s death). American businesses can fill a valuable development and investment gap on the island, in exchange for making Cuba ever more dependent on the U.S. This would give the U.S. another lever of influence over the island’s affairs, which could be activated in unison with a Color Revolution to create maximum disorder.
Bucking The Trend
The timing of Washington’s “outreach” to Havana isn’t coincidental, as it coincides with major processes going on in the region that the U.S. hopes to reverse. Most recently, the pro-U.S. Prime Minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, was forced to resign last week amid protests and popular outrage over his corruption and ineffectiveness. Backtracking America’s hold on the region even further, the Chinese are slated to begin construction on the Nicaraguan Canal, which when completed, would create a major breach in America’s control of the Caribbean Sea. Finally, Venezuela has been a center of resistance to American hegemony over the hemisphere ever since the leadership of the late President Hugo Chavez.
Cuba is the symbolic leader of the Latin American resistance movement, and its “Cuban Spring” surrender would be disheartening for the other allied states that defy the U.S. via the ALBA grouping. Congress recently passed sanctions against Venezuela (largely overshadowed by the anti-Russian ones), which is the financial engine of the hemispheric resistance, to facilitate a Color Revolution there as well, as President Maduro himself has previously alleged Washington wants to do.
Venezuela’s economy is also hurting because of the recent oil price slump, which may inhibit its ability to subsidize the allied Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian, and Bolivian ones in the future. With Cuba out of the game, and perhaps even Venezuela, there’d be little ideological or economic support keeping Nicaragua, the future key to the Caribbean, from being next (to say nothing of Ecuador and Bolivia) and the Chinese-sponsored canal from becoming a failed infrastructure project. If this happens, then the U.S. would have reasserted its complete control over the Caribbean and begun to penetrate the Andes, thus tightening the containment noose around Brazil and strangling the future of multipolarity in the region.