Mark Falcoff: The Cuban paradox

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes further to this post on Wednesday:

This subject has already been written to death, but may I add a couple more comments?

There are two kinds of people who favor normalization of relations with Cuba. One is the person who believes that by freeing up the possibilities of Americans to travel to Cuba, the Cuban people will get to know us better and share our vision of a freer society. They also imagine that normalization will offer new economic opportunities to the impoverished Cuban people.

The other is the person who secretly harbors the hope that this will provide the Castro brothers with the resources to continue in power indefinitely (and after their passing, to allow their progeny and relatives to continue to rule the island, all under the fiction of “sustainable socialism”.) Both points of view have their merit; that is to say, each point of view has its own internal logic. Rand Paul has just expressed the first. The Nation magazine, the New York Times, Jimmy Carter, and needless to say, President Obama, his National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, and all American leftists and most most American liberals harbor the second.

The problem is, both cannot be right. We will soon find out which is.

The other aspect untouched by the media is the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama next year. For some time now the Latin American chanceries have been making it clear they will not attend this event at all if Cuba is not invited. By doing an end-run with the Vatican, the administration has avoided a major diplomatic embarrassment (although one can’t be certain that the cancellation of the conference would be a great loss to anyone).

I cannot help reflecting, however, that the Latin Americans move back and forth on what used to be called the Estrada Doctrine. This was the diplomatic formula fashioned by a Mexican foreign minister in the 1920s, to the effect that it is countries rather than governments that are recognized. Hence, sanctions and non-recognition amounted to a violation (in Estrada’s opinion) of international law. After much pressure, lobbying and criticism in the late 1920s, the U.S. adopted this doctrine. The chief beneficiaries were patrimonial dictatorships like the Somozas in Nicaragua and the Trujillos in the Dominican Republic, who ruled the roost in their countries undisturbed for decades.

Then, however, after the coup in Chile and the disappearances in Argentina, the Latins suddenly decided that human rights should be at the top of our agenda (not theirs, however—all of them except Mexico maintained perfectly normal relations General Pinochet or the Argentine junta).

Suddenly it wasn’t countries but governments that were recognized after all! The job of sanctions was assigned by them to the United States and the United States alone. Did someone get tortured in a back alley of Santiago? That must have been the result of U. S. “support” for Pinochet!

Now, however, it turns out that human rights and democracy aren’t really all that important after all, and our spinsterish insistence on both in Cuba is an offense to decency. The Pope thinks so too.

If this proves anything, it is the profound lack of seriousness on the part of Latin American political elites, or what a friend of mine calls a lack of their democratic militance. What it reveals about the too clever Jesuit in the Vatican I will leave others to explain.

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