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The stagnation in Cuba – US relations may be coming to an end

The stagnation in Cuba – US relations may be coming to an end
FRANCISCO ALMAGRO DOMÍNGUEZ | Miami | 6 Abr 2016 – 9:18 am.

Stagnation, that yearning to move forward while one remains stuck in the
same place, is the result of ambiguity. Those observing the phenomenon
from the outside feel that their hands are tied because imprecision
entails a yes but no, or a no but yes … and nobody knows how to
respond to that.

Those who described the effects of ambiguity on mental health in the
last century studied two sets of disorders: dementias and addictions.
With both conditions the individual externally looks the same, but his
mind, his ability to relate to others, has deteriorated so much that he
is like someone else. It is what they called “presence-absence” or
“absence-presence.” Given this phenomenon, paradoxical, if you will,
family and friends do not know whether to interact with the person they
see or the person they cannot see but suppose is really there. In the
end, nothing, or very little, is done to help because, with a
personality that has been separated from a body, one never knows how the
patient will react.

Cuba-United States relations might be understood, acknowledging the
obvious differences, in this way. Ever since the birth of the Republic
in 1902, thanks to the Platt Amendment the “Americans” have been an
absence-presence in the island’s politics. Beyond all Manichaeism,
according to which those from the North were always the bad guys, and
the islanders the good ones, the Amendment’s ambiguous tie mitigated, to
a degree, the caudillo rule of the “generals and doctors” who grappled
for power, and (this being an often overlooked fact) made the island the
country with the best hygiene in the Americas until the first quarter of
the century, because an outbreak of cholera, yellow fever or another
serious communicable disease authorised a US military intervention.

Similarly, our republican politicians harboured a singular ambivalence
towards the northern neighbour. While they admired the Americans in
secret, in public they still engaged in nationalistic, anti-American
electioneering. Many of them had lived in the United States, like Tomás
Estrada Palma, Mario García Menocal, and Fulgencio Batista, or
represented important northern companies, like General Gerardo Machado.
Incidentally, when these last two tropical dictators forgot about these
underlying democratic ambiguities, and showed their claws, their
northern neighbours responded in kind, pulling the rug out from under
them, and in just a question of months the tyrants had tumbled from
their own roofs.

The Cuban Revolution was not immune, in the broadest sense, from this
relational ambiguity with the United States. And, in this circular
relationship, the small Caribbean island has been connected, also in a
confusing way, to US domestic politics. In the Cuban press not a day
goes by without the publications of some bad news about the neighbour
and there is not a speech or document in which the Maximum Leader
(incidentally, an expert on the country that he claims to detest) does
not compare health and education figures with those from the northern
power. And two of the most critical moments in American politics in the
last half century involved Cubans: the Cuban Missile Crisis, and
Watergate, with Cubans forming part of the team of burglars at the root
of the scandal.

But arousing even greater suspicion is the indefinite interplay between
two neighbours that publicly claim to hate each other – but that in 57
years have not landed a single blow, despite being just a few miles
away. The embargo/blockade is another enigma of surprising complicity,
enabling both to subscribe to a victim/victimiser vision, in an exercise
of syntactic ambiguity. The love/hate, engagement/rejection relationship
between the United States and Cuba is worthy of a thorough study, as at
times when there was no room for half measures, the two agreed as if
they were old friends. And, just when the ambiguity seems to be on the
verge of clarification, the distortion and rhetorical confrontation

La “ambiguities store” is open again. This is a curious historical
moment that Americans and Cubans are witnessing. On this side, a
president who has been able to do little in domestic politics, as almost
all his ideas and projects have been rejected by Congress, both its
chambers being controlled by the other party. To squeeze concrete
results from this vague policy, in typically bold fashion an
international offensive has been launched just as his term draws to an
end; and Cuba, the archenemy they “hate” and “love” at the same time,
could be the best buyer. President Obama might not have realised that
there is also ambivalence on the other side – or at least the desire for
it to seem that way.

Raúl Castro and a young political elite are convinced that without
structural changes Cuba’s revolution will die out when its ageing
leaders do. Then there is Fidel Castro, who, marching in the opposite
direction, with just a hostile photo or newspaper article is able to sow
confusion about who is really in power in Cuba. Amidst ambiguity about
who the “good” Castro is, and the “bad” one, and who is in command, Cuba
languishes under a kind of economic and social paralysis as the Party
Congress approaches – an event about which not much is known either,
save for that it may be the last for those who have ruled the island as
if it were a medieval kingdom during a post-modern age.

What is not ambiguous, however, is time. Dementias and addictions end up
killing people because the trend is, inevitably, degenerative. Obama
will leave the White House in a few months, after having opened up a
path towards Cuba that is anything but ambiguous. The US invasion, with
its ham and Coca-Cola, is already underway. Raúl Castro has stated that
he will step down in just over two years, when he is 85. His brother, if
still alive, will be over 90. They will not be able to continue to
vacillate, in the broad sense of the word, because it will be very
difficult to shut Cubans’ mouths, in the literal sense of the word, when
they have physically disappeared.

In this way the age of the “antique dealers” may be winding to an end –
those offering ambiguities and social paralysis at auction. In short,
there may be no buyers because paralysing collaboration is coming to an
end. The Greek philosopher Epicetus of Phrygia, who had lived as a slave
in Rome, said it: “Truth triumphs by itself, but lying always requires

Source: The stagnation in Cuba – US relations may be coming to an end |
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