The Cuba Deal: Why Now?

At this point it time it’s a complete waste of time to ask “why?” as the floodgates have now been opened. Immigration is not the point behind the concern, although it is a concern. The main concern is that Cuba, with one of the world’s most renowned spy and espionage capabilities (after the USA/Russia/Israel), is a hornets nest of intelligence gathering. Russia has in the past, as now, state-of-the-art intelligence gathering equipment that listens over all aspects of American communication in the region. Cuban spies were also trained by Russians during the Castro revolution and have continued to be ever since. Once that floodgate to opens, you’re opening the door to this, plus inviting the Russians right in — in addition to whatever else Pandora’s Box has to offer.

 

On Wednesday, Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the most profound change in relations between the United States and Cuba in decades.

Why now? What explains the timing of this historic change to a policy in place for over half a century? The short answer is that the decision to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries was driven by a surprising convergence of biology and technology. Biology dictated the aging of the Castro brothers and other leaders of their revolutionary generation in Cuba, as well as the graying of the Cuban exile population in Florida. This dynamic altered old political balances both inside the Cuban regime and in U.S. electoral politics. Technology—especially innovations in the extraction of shale oil and gas—allowed the United States to upend the world’s energy map and push down the price of oil, thus undermining the ability of Venezuela, a major oil-exporter, to continue providing a lifeline to Cuba’s bankrupt economy. Cuba needed an economic alternative, and the U.S. became one.

But domestic politics is only part of the story. The aging of the Castro brothers—Fidel is now 88, Raul 83—and the emergence of succession politics in Cuba contributed to a shift in the regime’s calculations. The graying of the Cuban exile population in the United States (whose median age is 40, compared with 27 for Hispanics overall) also created more favorable conditions for the deal between the U.S. and Cuba. In Florida, an older generation of Cuban exiles that was fiercely opposed to any liberalization in America’s Cuba policy has increasingly been replaced by a younger generation of Cuban-American voters who are more willing to explore alternative relationships between their old and new countries. The shift in attitudes is most apparent among second- and third-generation Cuban Americans, who arrived in the United States after 1980 in search of economic opportunity rather than in fear of political persecution, as was the case with many of the preceding waves of Cuban immigrants. These younger generations know that Cuba’s moribund economy desperately needs an overhaul. Few believe that Cuba will soon become a market economy or, much less, a democracy. But Raúl Castro has been explicit in his criticism of the country’s current economic model and has expressed a preference for a “Chinese approach” in which a more open economy coexists with a closed political system.

The Castro regime, however, has long managed to postpone these reforms, which would strengthen the economy but also constitute an admission that Fidel’s revolution had failed. And postponing this reckoning became possible thanks to the huge subsidies that Cuba received from Venezuela for more than a decade. That lifeline is now at risk.

Again, biology has intervened. President Hugo Chávez death from cancer in 2013 has stoked political instability in Venezuela, as his handpicked successor Nicolás Maduro has proven ineffectual in tackling the nation’s many problems and overcoming power struggles between different factions of Chávez supporters.  Venezuela’s economic collapse and institutional chaos was an important factor in motivating the Cuban regime to look for alternatives to Caracas’s largesse.

In the aftermath of the agreement, the Cuban government will no longer be able to blame the island’s bankruptcy on U.S. policies. Throughout Latin America, the embargo has been perceived as a relic of heavy-handed U.S. intervention in the region. But that symbol is now fading for critics of the United States. If a closer relationship with America is good for its archenemy Cuba, how can it not also be good for other nations like giant Brazil or tiny Bolivia—two nations that have a fraught relationship with the U.S.? The unintended consequences of the deal are likely to be as surprising as they are varied.

Full article: The Cuba Deal: Why Now? (Defense One)

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