How the EU Promotes Democracy

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The EU's development commissioner, Louis Michel, visited Cuba recently, where he was allowed to meet with anti-regime dissidents and the wives of political prisoners. According to Britain's Telegraph, Michel used the occasion to caution these "pro-democracy activists to avoid 'provoking' Fidel Castro."

Dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque wasn't too happy with Michel's advice, and objected to a recent EU decision to suspend diplomatic sanctions against Cuba and to develop closer ties. "The government is not going to change," she told the Telegraph. "Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser. The EU should not be seeking deeper relations with a totalitarian regime."

The Telegraph reported that Michel also "declined to offer support for a planned dissident 'congress', uniting 300 Cuban rights groups." The EU's decision to drop its diplomatic sanctions against the Castro regime was reportedly the result of "heavy pressure from the socialist government in Spain."

Thanks to: Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata.

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  1. So WHY aren’t we practicing similar economic sanctions against commie co conspirator China?

    Hasn’t the theory been that economic engagement will foster democratic reforms? And doesn’t it seem to be working?

    And while we’re at it, consider how successful sanctions against Cuba have been.

    Castro’s STILL in power after almost 50 years. Even laws passed several years back to punish other countries that did business with Cuba haven’t worked. Just how long does it take to realize your program isn’t having the desired result?

    Now we’re just waiting for him to die so we can rush in and dollar the country to death while proclaiming that we’re seizing assets stolen from America.

    THAT’s gonna go over well…

  2. So was there an argument in all that, except to bitch at all available parties randomly?

  3. Wouldn’t you know it — Just when someone thinks they have a nice little argument going, somebody else has to show up with actual, rational comments. Good thoughts, madpad.

    -Slainte’

  4. We engage countries all over the world with trade that have unsavory human rights records. Why treat Cuba as an exception? Or should embargos be thrown up against all those other countries too? There is an inconsistency either way.

  5. “Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser.”

    And if they don’t in the slightest make him any *less* of a human rights abuser or bring down his regime (I know–they haven’t been tried long enough–just 55 years or so!) exactly what good does this “demonstration” do? Or am I missing something?

  6. “Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser…”

    The sanctions don’t demonstrate that at all. The whole world knows that Castro is a human rights abuser because of the actions of his government, as reported by multiple victims and witnesses. The sanctions are supposed to be the penalty, but they only penalize poor Cubans and have had no effect on Castro’s ability to maintain power.

    In fact, the sanctions have handed him an incredibly easy scapegoat and he never misses a chance to blame the US blockade/embargo for Cuba’s sorry economic state. Castro has been enormously effective at convincing Cubans that if the US weren’t continually trying to undermine their revolution, that communism would be an engine of prosperity.

    In fact, the *only* people benefitting from the embargo are the politicians on both sides.

  7. Thanx, Slainte’…and Gary, too. As for Matt W., I thought I was far from random.

    For the record, I don’t have a problem with sanctions out of hand…unfortunately this isn’t old-fashioned harbor blockading and, for the most part, sanctions just don’t tend to work.

    I DO have a problem with ineffective policies clung to for irrational reasons or political posturing.

  8. Correction–I meant sanctions had been tried *45* years or so. But they will still bring down Castro Any Day Now.

  9. Actually, our embargo and sanctions serves a practical purpose.

    Unlike other despotic regimes, Castro’s revolutions nationalized American (see Mafia-owned) property, as well as the property of many now-successful Miami resident with a LOT of money to give politicians for keeping the pressure on.

    They think that once Castro dies, they’re going to go back down to Cuba and get it all back.

    If the U.S. were to engage Cuba, it would legitimize Cuba’s right to that property and take the air out of the Miami Cuban’s politica support.

    Now that may or may not be the right way to handle this…but the stated goal of toppling Castro has been a bogus fraud and the sanity of letting a bunch of Cuban expats swoop into Havana to reprivatize is severely in doubt.

  10. “Castro’s STILL in power after almost 50 years.”

    You know there are such things as elections. . .

  11. Thank you madpad for showing that 45 years of economic engagement by the *rest of the world* has accomplished absolutely nothing (except of course, given the regime enough capital to keep doing what it was already doing). For example, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the yearly subsidies fell, economic reforms were beginning to take place. However, as soon as tourist dollars/yens/pesos/euros/etc were enough to somewhat make up for the lost SU inflows, those reforms vanished and were subsequently rolled back.

    Oh, but nevermind, I see you actually wrote a very jingoist statement instead:
    “And while we’re at it, consider how successful sanctions against Cuba have been” — how silly of me, to think that any of the other countries on this Earth mattered.

  12. No, thank YOU J(other J) for making my point.

    What’s the point in the U.S. having sanctions against a country when the REST of the world is going to take up the slack?

    Oh, I forgot…it’s so the Cubans in Miami have an excuse for political patronage.

    Or, we can piss money away on ridiculous programs like Radio Marti and TV Marti. Or it’s so politicians have something to bitch about between intelligence failures and Schiavo-like brewha’s…and then not DO anything about.

  13. http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blc3cubag.htm

    Like Saddam, Castro always wins with 100% of the vote. There are such things as “elections”.

  14. I’ve never seen the point in sanctions. Drown ’em with dollars, I sez.

  15. Judging by the example of S Africa, sanctions CAN work. There are obvious reasons why they would work better re Cuba, than China. It DOES matter, if other countries “take up the slack”…that was the point of the post – get it?
    Europe – I believe – is undergoing a rapid (and, so far, little-noted) change of heart: GG is “yesterday’s man” as a kind of spokesperson for the Continent.
    The main thing impeding Europe from co-ordinating with American world leadership, is the extent to which contemporary leaders there have embarassingly over-committed themselves to failed policies…and the sheer beuracratic inertia of the EU machine – but that’s not forever.

  16. Just speculating, but I’ve always suspected that if we hadn’t been so hell-bent on making an example of Cuba, and instead kept normal trade relations, they might have abandoned communism much sooner than, say, the Eastern Bloc. I think they’ve remained communist just to spite us.

  17. J (other J),

    At the Jose Marti airport in Havana, you can buy a cannister of Pringles that seems to be directly from P&G in Cincinati (i.e., no foreign markings). All over Cuba you can get a Coca-Cola (usually marked “Hecho In Mexico”), though you pay a premium. So the sanctions have created an environment where some large US companies have figured out a backdoor, and others haven’t.

  18. Andrew, you make a good point about S. Africa. But I would suggest the reason it worked was because S.A. was a capitalist country that needed the continual exchange of goods and services. Would that work against a Communist country? Probably not in the same way, and would make an excellent source of anti-American propaganda for its leaders: “See how they want us to suffer, comrades?”

    My argument against sanctions is that infusing capitalism into a totalitarian system can better bring about a peaceful transition towards overall freedom rather than starving them for a few years and then bombing them silly. We could have the Marshall Plan without the necessity of the preceding world war.

    Sanctions are arbitrary and childish. What good would it do to withhold business from a country where we are attempting to change the economic as well as the political system? Sanctions could have the adverse effect of causing the people to band together in defiance of the gringos attempting to starve them into submission.

  19. Unfortunately, the folks that want to change U.S. Cuba policy aren’t organized around it and paying politicians to change it. In the scope of things, it falls behind a lot of other issues.

    The folks that DON’T want change, like the VERY powerful anti-Castro group Cuban American National Foundation, ARE organized and pay politicians to keep things the way they are.

  20. Regarding sanctions and South Africa, keep in mind that they were largely symbolic (kicked out of the Olymipics, cultural exhibitions boycotted) and that the US never had any (in fact they supported the South African regime as a bulwark against African communist movements). I think the fact that they were increasingly being pressured from within by their own citizens, both black and white, coupled by the end of the Cold War forced their hands.
    Considering how much of a “success” the sactions against Iraq were, I’m not holding out for a miracle conversion to democracy by Castro.

  21. Wouldn’t it be something if Cuba was kicked out of the Olympics? How long would Castro last?

    As for Castro’s longevity now…how long did Batista last? And others like him? Maybe Castro, plus lots of Mafia and corporate money would be sitting pretty like the Chinese, with a generation of successors – admittedly, this would be good for American security (presumably he would soften his south of the border trouble-making).

    Although quite a few exiles WANT trade with Cuba – in contrast to what the Chomskyite dittohead in the comments above thinks – I don’t know of ANY democracy advocate in Cuba who doesn’t abhor the idea…odd, if it’s the magic formula for liberalizing Cuba, that know one there would know this.

    Castro has a very coherent society, based on his privileged “new class” – but next to nothing of the kind of popular support he commanded in the 60’s: he isn’t going to go, but if we don’t trade with HIM, it will be clear to the “new class” we won’t trade with them, either, absent real change after Castro dies. That’s important.

  22. There are many Americans who buy Cuban cigars when traveling internationally. It is estimated that 8 million to 10 million Cuban cigars a year are smoked by Americans (quoted from Cigar Aficionado magazine).

    I’m sure at least one of these individuals must realize they are undermining American efforts to democratize Cuba? Or perhaps they realize how silly such an embargo is?

  23. “Chomskyite dittohead”….that’s funny.

    Wildly innacurate, though, since I NEVER indicated than any exiles DIDN’T want trade with Cuba.

    I only made note of the very vocal expats who want Castro gone and pay U.S. politicians to use ludicrously ineffective methods that waste American taxpayer’s money.

  24. During the collapse of the Soviet Union – which, btw, wasn’t obviously or inevitably the collapse of the Soviet Union at the time – one of the rallying cries of the militarist communists was that the Yankees supported the seccession of the Baltic republics. Did we support the independence of the Baltin Republics? You bet we did!

    But when George HW Bush was asked if he supported their succession, he said no, they are an integral part of the Soviet Union – leaving the militarist communists to leave their jaws hanging open like a bunch of idiots. A couple years later, no more Soviet Union.

    Giving Castro an excuse to blame internal dissent on outside agitators isn’t a very good idea. We’re the cops, he’s the bank robber holding the hostages, and he can only stay awake for so long. Let’s just keep our heads and not start a bloodbath.

    So really, I can’t get too upset when the EU rep. actually acts sensibly, rather than posing as Mr. Tough Guy Liberator of the newspapers.

  25. I’m not sure how the fact that post-Soviet-subsidies market reforms were undone when capital began flowing in (ex: tourim, “joint” ventures, etc) support your point (see for example the following site; http://www.nationbynation.com/Cuba/Economy.html). Are you saying sanctions would work if the rest of the countries supported them?

    Of course, the rest of your posts are the same misinformed BS I have heard over and over. The mafia ran Cuba, American companies were the main ones to lose there, only the expats/exiles want castor gone, blah blah, blah blah. I do admit that ” it would legitimize Cuba’s right to that property ” was a new one though. So if I go to your home, imprison your parents, shoot your bound and gagged children in the back of the head (a la Che-style) and kick you out, that it is now MY house? Tell me, where do you live?? It’s ok, I’ll let your neighborgs and others come and use your pool (you yourself can’t though, since it’ll only be reserved for “tourists”).

    Can’t the pro-Fucked-Cuba crowd get any new lines? I know, it’s easy to talk about how we should do this and that different when none of your family is there. But what do I know, I’m probably just a Batista stooge.

  26. well since they don’t have their nuke throwing daddy, a decent action would be to blockade the island. really have not understood why a few divisions don’t get lost on guantanamo and show up at fidel’s place asking for directions!

  27. Of course, the rest of your posts are the same misinformed BS I have heard over and over. The mafia ran Cuba, American companies were the main ones to lose there, only the expats/exiles want castor gone, blah blah, blah blah.

    J (other J),

    Calm down and don’t get yer knickers in a twist – and quit imagining I said things I didn’t say.

    I never said the mafia ran Cuba OR that American companies were the main ones to lose there. BUT I DID say that the mafia-owned and American-owned assets were something we’d like to reclaim…now, preferably AFTER Castro’s dead and gone.

    And even if I were wrong about that, I’m NOT wrong that a bunch of expat Cubans (not ALL expat Cubans mind you) that happen to be very vocal and very rich spend a lot of money on political campaigns to keep up irrational rhetoric about Cuba.

    And they DO have designs on reclaiming those assets after Castro’s gone.

  28. mccleary, yes, the problem is that few of those products make it to the average Cuban. I’m sure that those Pringles were not marked for sale in Cuban Pesos were they? For a long time, it was illegal for Cubans to hold American dollars. (IIRC, they became ‘legit’ when the shit was hitting the fan in the 90’s) so those Pringles, sold at the airport and at other so-called “dollar stores” were beyond the reach of your average Jose. So yes, some companies have profited from the embargo, but it has not really helped your typical Cuban much.

    p.s. I do disagree with your statement that “…enormously effective at convincing Cubans that if the US weren’t continually trying to undermine their revolution, that communism would be an engine of prosperity.
    ” Cubans aren’t convinced of that. They are well aware that those that have left, have generally been very successful (as even madpad admitted above), despite the fact that they all left with *nothing* (not sure madpad is aware of that part though — which of course, brings up a very interesting point. If so many came with so little, so late in their lives, yet prospered as much, why can’t other groups do so? Mafia connections as mp said? I seriously doubt it)

  29. …Chomskyite dittohead… – Andrew

    Yes, my friends, while colorless green ideas sleep furiously, they are much less furious when ensconsed in the comfortable folds of a Sleepnumber ? bed…. – Noam Rushbo.

    Kevin

  30. J (other J) says that sanctions would work *if* all the other nations in the world joined in them.

    And this is supposed to be an argument *for* US sanctions? That they will work–if only an impossibly unrealistic condition is met? If he really thinks every country in the world is going to boycott Cuba, I’ve got a bridge to sell him…

  31. Well, lets have the UN run the sanctions. I’m sure that they’ll handle everything transparently with little impact to the average Cuban. I’m sure after several years of Security Council enforced sanctions, Castro will be on his knees. ; )

  32. J (Other J),

    Given your obvious passion for justice, I trust you spend your free time tracking down the heirs of the Tory landowners who had their property confiscated during our Revolution.

  33. joe

    When I lived in Miami, most of the ex-pats I met were American citizens and didn’t expect to even return to a post-Castro Cuba. Feelings about trade were mixed…but ALL of them wanted to see their former homeland free.
    Except for reading it in the Nation (or the Militant) what reason do YOU have for supposing that re-gaining confiscated property is the principal motive behind ex-pat politics – still less why democracy advocates IN Cuba support sanctions?

  34. Andrew, you make a good point about S. Africa. But I would suggest the reason it worked was because S.A. was a capitalist country that needed the continual exchange of goods and services. Would that work against a Communist country? Probably not in the same way, and would make an excellent source of anti-American propaganda for its leaders: “See how they want us to suffer, comrades?”

    I don’t know enough to know whether or to what extent the sanctions were responsible for change in South Africa. But even without that data, there’s another factor that would make comparisons with South Africa difficult:

    Sanctions usually hurt average citizens much more than the leaders. In a dictatorship, that means that sanctions won’t really work. Indeed, the dictator might even find ways to profit from the black market created by sanctions.

    South Africa, OTOH, wasn’t exactly a dictatorship. Oh, it was by no means a free society for the vast majority of its citizens, but a minority was empowered to vote, and many people in that minority also felt the pain of sanctions. Since the sanctions could hurt a significant number of people who had (at least indirect) political power, South Africa was very different from, say Cuba.

    Which is not to say that I’m convinced one way or the other on how sanctions worked in South Africa. I simply don’t know enough about the economic impacts or the internal dynamics of Apartheid’s collapse. But I do know that South Africa would hardly be a good model to compare with other countries facing sanctions.

    Finally, the one indisputable fact about US sanctions against Cuba is that the sanctions have no worked. It may be tempting to assert that the reason for failure is that the rest of the world has undermined the sanctions, but that’s sort of the point: The US lacks the clout to change Cuba via sanctions. So let’s acknowledge abject failure and move on.

    Then again, if we acknowledged abject failure in our policies toward Latin America, drugs would be legal.

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