Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
With the global financial crisis, ongoing Arab Spring and now the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s in Libya, there must be a collective worry for the world’s last remaining dictators and authoritarian governments.
Since free or cheap goods and money from other countries to dictatorships are in short supply and with the Internet being a collective unifying force that appears to be more powerful than many military governments, no leader in any repressive country can wake up in the morning without wondering if their country will be next to see an uprising.
The world’s people are demanding their freedom. People are tired of living under repression and now they can easily organize online.
With the spreading of the Arab Spring, I feel compelled to write this article posing the question… Is Cuba next? First, let me explain my reasons for posing this question.
The Arab Spring Contagion
Samia Nakhoul of Reuters from Beirut writes “The implosion of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-old rule will put a new spring in the step of the Arab revolutions and demonstrate once again that these entrenched autocratic governments are not invincible.”
Rami Khouri, a Middle East analyst said this Arab Spring is an important development because “it shows there are different ways in which Arab regimes will collapse. It just shows once you get a momentum developing and the right combination—a popular will for change and regional and international support—no regime can withstand that.”
Today President Obama said “The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.”
David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy writes about the Conclusions and implications of the fall of Gaddafi.
Many people, including myself, have given up trying to predict the end of the Castro regime but I think we can all agree that it is not a matter of IF the Castro’s Communist regime will end, it is a matter of WHEN it will end. Fidel and Raul must be feeling international political and economic pressures to give the Cuban people more freedoms and human rights respect. Yes, Raul has proposed many economic reforms but VERY FEW political reforms. That might work for China but Cuba is NOT China.
Will the Arab Spring affect US Cuba policy?
Also, worth mentioning here, will President Obama change his Cuba policy from the current approach of allowing more Americans to travel to Cuba to a more, hard-line approach as President Bush tried… and failed. With justice served to Osama bin Laden, Hosni Mubarek of Egypt and now with Gadaffi on the run, will President Obama take credit for the downfall of these men and set his sights on the Castro brothers regime? I doubt it but since President Obama wants to win in November 2012, his vision and motivation may be corrupted by hard line, selfish advisers from Miami. Hopefully he will not start taking advice from the selfish politicians like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Senator Menendez… all who have been wrong about Cuba for their entire political careers. Sanctions do not work against Cuba and they will never work but I’ll save that argument for another article.
I hope President Obama elects to engage the Castro’s rather than to try to alienate them. Regarding Chavez in Venezuela, President Obama should play hard ball with him since he is trying to destroy Venezuela as Fidel Castro did to Cuba.
Cuba - A State Sponsor of Terrorism
Agree or not, Cuba is on the US state sponsor of terrorism list. I think that Cuba’s place on the US state sponsor of terrorism list is more political than based on any facts that Cuba actually sponsors terrorists. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are all on the list but North Korea is not? How about Pakistan since that’s where Osama bin Laden was living for years and that government didn’t know about it? What a joke. How about the fact that anti-Castro terrorist and murderer Luis Posada lives as a free man in the US and is seen as a hero to old exiles in Miami.
Gaddafi coming to Cuba?
On August 4, I wrote an article about the Finance Secretary from Libya making a visit to Cuba. I found it odd at the time and now have to wonder if the Finance Secretary may have been asking Raul Castro if he would accept Gaddafi should he have to flee Libya. Interesting right? I would hope that Raul would have the sense to not allow Gaddafi to seek exile in Cuba.
If Gaddafi did land in Cuba, I see that as being more of a Fidel Castro move than a Raul Castro move. Gaddafi in exile in Cuba would certainly be a financial and cultural disaster for Cuba so I don’t think that Fidel is in charge that much where Raul would let him ruin everything that Raul has started. A younger Fidel would probably welcome Gaddafi and that brings me to Hugo Chavez. I can definitely see Chavez taking Gaddafi as an a “victim of US imperialism”.
Gaddafi coming to Venezuela?
According to The Telegraph, Gaddafi could flee to a country not signed up to the International Criminal Court such as Venezuela or Cuba.
A source told The Telegraph that Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela was looking the most likely destination if Gaddafi were able to, and chose to, flee Libya. Hugo Chavez has condemned NATO operations in Libya as an attempt to seize control of the country’s vast oilfields. “Chavez would take him as a victim of Western Imperialism,” the source said.
As recently as this morning, Chavez is supporting Gaddafi. If Chavez welcomes Gaddafi, you can expect democratic governments to condemn Chavez and bring all kinds of political pressure on him. Chavez will probably love the attention but this ultimately would be terrible for Cuba.
I am no great political thinker, writer or analyst but I can’t help but to speculate on how people want their freedoms today in a collective way. The internet enables people to be free in many ways. Facebook and Twitter allow people to unite or at least find like minded people and that freedom of assembly can give way to hope for a change in one’s government and ultimately the hope for a better future.
Even in the US, we have the Tea Party (a movement I support) where millions of people have “assembled” online and at the voting booth to demand more freedom and less intrusion from our own government. In the US, we don’t need to take up arms and fight the government with bullets, we fight within the political process of freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of the press and free elections.
Now I know this is a reach but hear me out… Hewlett Packard has decided to get out of the computer manufacturing business. How the hell is this relevant you ask? Apple, Google, smartphones… these are the rebels fighting against the desktop computer and software that is only available on one computer. Today we want to be free from the computer for information and free from software that lives on one device. Microsoft. Are you listening?
Gene Marks of Forbes writes about Google buying Motorola Mobility where he compares Microsoft to the Roman Empire, a truly repressive government. He speculates that Microsoft (sort of a repressive regime since they USED TO own all computer operating systems and force us to do things there way).
He goes on to talk about how Google/Motorola/Android and Apple are freeing people from the desktop computer and Microsoft’s empire so oddly enough, I think his story is relevant to the Arab Spring uprisings. We all want to be free from any authoritarian regime. We are smart enough to make good decisions for ourselves.
So, is Cuba next?
1. The Castros, by design, control all communication in Cuba. All the press is controlled by the government. All the radio and TV is controlled by the government. The Internet is by design slow and restricted. (Don’t let anybody tell you the US Embargo is to blame for any of this). The Castros do not want people to communicate because they know what can happen. When people communicate they can share ideas and find like-minded people and then assemble and then demand freedoms… way too risky for a failed political experiment called, oddly enough “La Revolucion”. Fidel and Raul do not want to have another Revolution in Cuba.
2. The Committee for the Defense of the Revolution is a Cuban government operation which is like having a Resident Assistant in every college dormitory. Every neighborhood has an active CDR staffed with people loyal to the Cuban government. It is their job to spy on their neighbors and to report any suspicious activity to the Cuban government. They get rewarded for reporting all of their neighbors’ “suspect” activities… and you would be surprised what is considered a “suspect” activity.
3. Since most all activities are illegal in Cuba, MOST Cubans have to break some law every single day of their life just to survive. The Castros have locked down the entire country in what many call and “island prison”.
In summary, I wish Democracy minded rebels well in their quest for freedom and democracy and I sincerely hope this ultimately leads to a new Cuban government where the Cuban people can enjoy a political process of freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of the press and free elections.