Are Cuba’s Communist leaders eager to see the U.S. embargo end (as Marc Thiessen suggests) or terrified at the prospect (because it would unleash forces they can’t control)? In 2003, Ann Louise Bardach noted that every time relations with Cuba seemed to be easing, Fidel Castro did something calculated to ratchet the tension back up:
Consider what happened in 1996, after the Clinton administration and Cuba had settled on migration and drug interdiction accords.
Castro (after months of warnings) shot down two planes operated by the exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four people.
The upshot was the signing of the Helms-Burton Act, which significantly tightened the embargo and codified it into U.S. law.
Did Castro know this would be the result? Of course he did.
In 1980, president Jimmy Carter re-opened the U.S. Interests Sections in Havana as a de facto embassy. Castro responded by sending 125,000 refugees to Florida in the Mariel boatlift.
In the mid-1970s, in a remarkable and audacious act of diplomacy, then-state secretary Henry Kissinger and his assistant, William Rogers, conducted secret negotiations with the Cuban government on ending the embargo. Just as they believed they were closing in on a deal, Castro sent troops into Angola - scuttling the talks.
And gee, now that President Obama is preparing to lift family travel and remittance restrictions—and there’s talk of lifting the entire travel ban—we hear about plans for Cuba to host Russian bombers, while Raul Castro conducts a dramatic, power-centralizing purge. But those surprises don’t seem to have derailed the anti-embargo plans. If Bardach’s theory holds, then, we should expect something even worse from Raul, and soon, no?