Thursday, January 29, 2015

What to make of Raúl's recent declarations? Or, how are "normal" relations different from "diplomatic" ones?

A friend and colleague just gave the following quick summary (in Spanish) of a recent declaration from Raúl Castro:

El mandatario cubano puso cuatro condiciones como premisas para el restablecimiento de las relaciones bilaterales:

1. La eliminación del embargo.
2. La devolución del territorio ilegalmente ocupado por la Base Naval de Guantánamo
3. El cese de las trasmisiones radiales y televisivas (Radio TV Martí) hacia el territorio cubano.
4. La compensación al pueblo cubano los daños humanos y económicos sufridos como resultado de la política estadounidense.

 * * *

I responded with three questions of my own:

1) Is Raul serious or just saber rattling to strengthen his negotiating position (ahead of future talks that will surely include some or all of the issues above),
2) Would he be willing to indemnify/settle outstanding property claims against the Cuban government (given that he is raising the "reparations" issue himself)? and
3) Is he simply looking for a new series of excuses to prevent real detente and maintain his tried and true enemy as an enemy?

 * * *

Two other colleagues chimed in to the effect that:

*The nitty-gritty of full diplomatic relations -- raising the flags over embassies, naming ambassadors, etc. -- is being negotiated.
*But beyond that, both governments are noting other issues (financial claims, the Guantanamo base, TV & Radio Martí, the embargo itself, etc.) that need to be resolved if they are to consider that relations have been "normalized".
*In other words: "normalized" relations are not equivalent to "diplomatic" relations and neither side is saying that the second is contingent on the first.

In sum, establishing diplomatic relations will be relatively quick and painless, while full "normailization" will take time (years, most likely) and involve painful and controversial decisions on both sides.

Readers: Your thoughts please...


  1. It is so obvious, they need the enemy to blame.

  2. Regarding renewal of diplomatic relations, is it any surprise that Raul "refuses to take 'yes' for an answer?" Hatred of the Empire is the regime's fuel, its oxygen, its stock in trade, internally and internationally. It cannot give it up. And abolition of the embargo would be seen by Granma as the Empire's most insidious form of attack against the "first Free Territory of the Americas." As the poet Cavafy noted, enemies can be very useful people:

    "What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
    The barbarians are due here today....
    What’s the point of senators making laws now?
    Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
    to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
    Because the barbarians are coming today
    and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
    Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
    (How serious people’s faces have become.)
    Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
    everyone going home lost in thought?
    Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
    And some of our men just in from the border say
    there are no barbarians any longer.
    Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
    Those people were a kind of solution."

    Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians"