Do not expect any earth-shaking policy to the Caribbean and specifically towards Cuba, under the Obama administration. Obama has been a major disappointment – he talks the talk but has never walked the walk.
A few years ago he came to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas. He promised a new relationship with the Caribbean and Latin America. His first term ended and he is well into his second term and the Caribbean is still waiting for that new relationship.
The historic nature of US relations to this part of the world is encapsulated in the Munroe Doctrine. Latin America and the Caribbean is seen as part of the backyard of the United States. The Americans feel that they have the transport for this neck of the world and therefore they can come here and plunder the resources of the Region without any regard for the sovereignty of the respective countries.
Their interests in this part of the world are tied to their economic interests. Forget all that jazz about human rights and democracy. The Americans have not condemned the prorogation of Guyana’s National Assembly and this is because they are mindful of the financial interests of American companies that are involved in Guyana’s extractive sector. The Americans have diplomatic relations with a closed society like North Korea. They had in the past propped up military juntas in Latin America and condoned their atrocities.
They took advantage of Cuba. This small Caribbean island posed no significant military threat to them. It posed no economic threat to the United States. But they have inhumanely and criminally led a sustained assault on that country through an economic embargo that represents a crime against humanity.
And the only reason why they did this is because of what Cuba represents. A country determined to choose its own path. The Americans never respected that right. This is why they organized an invasion of that country and this is why they suffocated the economy of that country by cutting Cuban exports off from the US market. They feared what Cuba represented, a country whose leaders were determined to choose their own path.
This is why they also toppled Cheddi Jagan in the 1960s. They had their puppet boy, Forbes Burnham, to back their devious plans because they feared that another Cuba in the Region would have a domino effect. This is why they assassinated Che Guevara, even though they took him wounded but alive. They did not want him to become a living martyr for the cause of the Revolution. And so a CIA agent went and shot him dead.
America is the most selfish nation on earth. Guyana is a living example of that selfishness. Burnham was their ‘boy”. He did their bidding. After he got into power, they gave him money to build some highways, which of course were constructed by American companies – so a big chunk of that money went back. But later on, the Americans made it clear that their objective towards Guyana was to promote diplomatic and economic ties without creating too many expectations. This is another way of saying, we do not have too much to give you.
During the 2005 floods, the Americans gave a miserly cheque to the government of Guyana. Small Trinidad and Tobago gave far more in assistance than the rich and powerful Americans. The policy of not having Guyana expect too much assistance had been extended even to the sphere of humanitarian aid.
Cuba on the other hand has been the generous nation in Latin America. When America was sending troops to build centres in West Africa following the Ebola outbreak, the Cubans sent medical personnel. That is the generosity of that country. Hundreds of Guyanese have been trained as doctors in Cuba and there are a large number of Cuban medical personnel in Guyana. What has Obama ever done for the Caribbean? He should be the last one to be speaking about opening a new chapter in relations with this part of the world.
The re-establishing of diplomatic relations with Cuba does not mark a watershed in the relations between the two countries. It is all part of a prisoner swap. Cuba gets back three of its nationals who were convicted for espionage and the Americans get back a prisoner held in a Cuban jail.
In order to justify this prisoner swap, the Americans have concocted this idea of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The litmus test remains, however, the action that is going to be taken as regards the economic embargo. And on that score, the Americans have typically made no commitment.
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