Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Rafael Herandez: US Impact on the Revolution

Us and the Americans

How does history serve us to understand the origins of our problems and as a tool to interpret the present?

by Rafael Hernandez  January 3, 2024 

Original Spanish text in On Cuba

I saw the men of my generation, the lares, sing in ceremonies, rejoice

when Cuba and Fidel and that year 60 were just an inferior, invertebrate animal.

And I saw them later

when Cuba and Fidel and all those things were weight and color

and the strength and beauty necessary for a young mammal.

I ran with them

and I saw them run.

And the animal was surrounded with oil, with pine stakes so that no one would know

its shiny fur, its drum.

I was with my joyful ignorance, my rage, my colored feathers

at the old bonfire festivals

Cuba yes, Yankees no

There is a noble and beautiful animal surrounded by crossbows.

On the southern border the war has begun.

The plague, the famine, on the northern border.

The speaker is Antonio Cisneros, one of the greatest Peruvian poets. It is the year 1968. Cuba was that wounded, fenced animal. This is how the Latin Americans of that time saw it. In that mirror we also saw ourselves. Latin American solidarity comforted us. But that dangerous living did not diminish, nor did the perception of threat become a habit, daily life, which permeated everything, including politics, the economy, social and family relationships, morality, and faith.

As our main living Marxist philosopher, Jorge Luis Acanda, has pointed out, Cuban socialism “was not achieved by standardizing society, nor by converting it into a monolithic and monotonous block (something impossible), but by laying, in those years, the foundations of a more plural civil society, precisely because it is more inclusive than the previous one.” To do so, it had to defend itself in a real war, and sweep away its enemies, those who had opposed this national project since the time of Martí - saccharocracy, importing bourgeoisie, lumpen, armed institutions -, and confront the hegemonic power with who were allies long before. That war did not end, as some imagine, when the rebels against the Revolution were defeated.

He had to travel that path alone because, while those formidable powers waged incessant war on him from his early childhood and managed to surround him, as Cisneros says, his only allies, the Soviet bloc and China, which did not share that project of Cuban-style socialism , they tried to subordinate him in their own way.

It is not strange, then, that in that stormy environment, isolated and trapped in a geopolitical equation that surpassed it, the political project was necessarily transformed, to the same extent that its survival made national security the main variable.

This logic dictated radical measures, such as the massive transfer of the families of the rebels and collaborators to towns in Pinar del Río and Camagüey, a special military service for those who were not reliable in the handling of "the new technique" of weapons coming from the USSR (disaffected, religious, homosexuals), the massive nationalization of 58 thousand small businesses alleging “illegality, low integration of the owners to the Revolution, antisocial living conditions, dirty businesses, theft and bribery.”

As often happens with political reason, these measures were justified ideologically: “If this Revolution can be reproached for anything, it is not at all about having been extremist but in any case about not having been radical enough. And we must not lose the opportunity or let the time pass to radicalize this Revolution more and more.” (FC, March 13, 1968).

Judging those policies as excessive or erroneous, seen from today, does not prevent us from understanding that none of them were the cause but rather the consequence of a situation created by the conflict. And explaining them without taking into account the circumstance of entrenchment, perception of threat, preeminence of security and instinct of conservation, lacks historical sense.

Why remember all this, so many years later? Well, because when talking about the origins of our current evils, many seem to ignore that past, or have forgotten it. As if the haze of yesterday turned red as what was narrated becomes remote, in the manner of those celestial bodies that move away more and more quickly from our galaxy, and that is why their light reaches us at the red wavelength, that clouds everything.

How does this history serve us, not only to understand the origins of our problems, but as a tool of analysis in the interpretation of the present? How does it relate to our current context, internal/external, especially with our relations with North and South America, with the world? Can you help us foresee what is coming?

Thinking about the present as history requires rewinding the video a little , and contrasting it with our contexts. The first thing that stands out is that Cuba stopped having, for the United States, the importance that it had during the Cold War.

In the 60s we were a threat perceived by the United States, through the lenses of the domino theory, when the ghost of “other Cubas” inspired its Latin American policy. Surrounding it by all means, except direct invasion, was the spell. As is known, that almost perfect siege, which barely left Cuba as interlocutors for the national liberation movements, rather made the prophecy self-fulfilling, being a decisive factor in the proliferation of guerrilla armies inspired by the Cuban Revolution.

Since the early 1970s, the American republics of the South realized the counterproductive effect of this siege on their security interests, and not only reestablished relations with the island, but also asked the United States to do so, starting in 1974. In fact, that Caribbean and Latin American thaw (in that order), which Cuba was quick to reciprocate, had its effect on the Carter Administration's approach to us. Do not forget that this rapprochement took place despite the fact that the Cuban-Soviet alliance was at its highest point, and thousands of Cuban troops were deployed in the southwest and the Horn of Africa.

As is known, according to declassified documents and interviews with the actors, Carter had the intention, if he had been re-elected, to continue seeking dialogue, despite the incidents in Congress about “Soviet brigades” and other nonsense, and even of the Mariel exodus.

In other words, the Latin American context was then the main driver of an understanding between Cuba and the US. And even the alliances with the USSR and with the African liberation movements kept it as a priority. Of course, in geopolitical terms.

Today's Cuba is not on the US radar as in those times, nor as in the 80s, when, under the Reagan Administration, it was identified in terms of a global threat, preceded only by the USSR. Of course not. The great paradox is, however, that the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Africa and military advisors in Nicaragua, the end of the Central American wars, and the collapse of European and Soviet socialism, by erasing Cuba from the radar of the threats from the US, did not give way to normalization, but rather threw it into the basement of its geopolitical priorities.

The paradox would have another realpolitik explanation. Why negotiate with a small country, economically and militarily dependent on allies that have vanished, involved in a multiple crisis, and with a Castro “in his final hour,” as that Miami best-seller announced?

Since the end of the USSR, more than thirty years ago, the Cuban economy has not recovered; With ups and downs, the crisis has continued. But neither the protests of July 2021, nor the massive migratory flow, nor the visibility of dissent that mobile data has fostered - although they represent political symptoms of unrest and the narrowing of consensus - have so far caused signs of ungovernability, lack of control , political destabilization.

What is the US waiting for? Wouldn't it be better for them to continue Obama's policy, the search for a dialogue that expands the surface of contact, instead of closing it? Wouldn't it be smarter to continue weaving a network of agreements that, as happens with all of these, oblige the two parties, technically, to subject their sovereignty to those freely assumed commitments?

To use a historical parallel, if instead of falling into the spiral of war, the United States and Cuba had discussed their differences, would the revolutionary process have been so dizzying and so radical? I do not mention it to imagine what could have been, as some hypothetical historians do, but to point out an angle of the problem, understood not in a rationalist way, but in a political way: that radical conflict accelerated and took everything planned further, it forced what was imagined as possible or viable, it closed the differences between the revolutionary forces, and most especially, it encouraged the search for alliances wherever they existed.

Today we repeat that everything Cuba can do to channel the conflict with the United States is insignificant, since the initiative is on Washington's side, and we remain locked in a Cold War bubble. That the future of relations is decided in the electoral campaign and the Cuban-American votes in Florida. That a Republican senator and another Democrat have the bond of those relationships in their hands, and they have tied it into a knot around the president's neck. As long as the application of Title III of the Helms-Burton is not suspended, we are on the black list of terrorist countries, and Americans cannot stay in hotels in Gaviota, there will be no signs of change worth recording. To close this iron mask, the 400 thousand Cubans who have left cultivate the same legitimate fury and resentment against the communist regime as the first exiles, so the Republican Cuban-American vote will inevitably be determined by the harshness of their candidate regarding Cuba.

As for this side, it has been said and repeated that Cuba was not as flexible and pragmatic as it could have been during Obama's short summer; while the White House made unilateral concessions.

However, at later times it could still contribute to recovering relations, especially through two key levers. The first, given the crucial weight of the Washington-Caracas-Havana triangle as an obstacle in relations, Cuba had in its hands to convince Maduro to relax with the opposition, responding to pressure from the EU and other countries in the region, as well as lowering the profile of its relations with Russia and Iran. The second, that to motivate this Administration it was advisable to release all those convicted of the actions of July 11, 2021 once and for all.

The above is premised on the fact that the laser of US policy towards Cuba is focused on one point: regime change. For economic reasons (recover the properties nationalized in 1959-68), political (reestablish the capitalist order and liberal democracy), strategic (restore the order of the inter-American system advocated in the TIAR and the OAS) and ideological (reinforce the Monroe doctrine in its version 4.0).

Our focus, to paraphrase, is to “save everything that can be saved”; that is, “preserve the conquests of the Revolution” (education, health, social security...), guide ourselves by political pragmatism (conceptually different from realism) in order to survive and grow (conceptually different from development), remember that we are an island in the Gulf similar to others, in whose normality lies our prosperity and future (as opposed to believing ourselves “unique” and “exceptional”), and whose comparative advantage lies in the vicinity of a vast natural market, which is also that of a great hegemonic power, a geopolitical condition to which we must adapt our ideas and projects to the maximum.

I do not have space in this first article of the year to discuss, in light of history, the degree of validity of all these theses (which I do not share).

I end by just noting, as in a memorandum, some points to keep in mind when we examine that key dimension that is the hemispheric, regional and global dynamics in which we move, with historical lenses.

Like that fly in Cortázar's story, which flew upside down, US policy has remained the same, while the world has changed. That wouldn't be too serious, for a fly of that size, if it weren't head down only towards Cuba.

On the other hand, we have never had, neither after nor before 1959, such a respectful, diverse and dialogic relationship, politically speaking, with the different regions and countries, taken as a whole.

Despite the kidnapping of Argentina and some other center-right governments, there are still more Latin Americans and Caribbeans close to Cuba, and some among the largest, such as Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia. Beyond that pink wave or whatever it is called, the last Summit of the Americas revealed to what extent the alignment against the US exclusion policy reached a critical point.

Beyond this closeness, the crisis of confidence in Latin American democracies has also reached an unprecedented climax. The demand for States capable of dealing with poverty, inequality, inflation, but also with human insecurity, organized crime, epidemics, inflated migratory flows, low growth rates, is multiplying. The levels of discrepancy and tension with the North have risen and have spread among those Southern American countries, small and large. The problems that afflict this Cuba are not exotic or predetermined by ideology. Curiously, they seem more common than those you may share with China and Vietnam.

Finally, in the 60s-80s, our main partners were at odds with each other; Now they seem allies. This revived alliance, although different from the one of yesteryear, reminds me of a survey from a year or so ago, with which I want to end this New Year's rant. I posted a question on Facebook: “Does getting closer to Russia and China harm a change in relations with the United States?” Or does it favor it?”

Among the 76 people who responded, almost all of them Cuban, distributed inside and outside the island, the thesis that I have noted above are reiterated. In most cases, they go beyond the simple question in my survey. I put some, just to give an idea of ​​their color.

"It does not matter. “The US doesn’t give a damn about that.” “Ukraine and its bad relations with China show that it disadvantages them.” “In any case, there will be no conversations, due to the rudeness and stubbornness of the Cuban Government or the collective blindness of certain circles of power.” “Likewise, there will never be rapprochement due to the essence of gringo politics. So relations with countries outside gringo control are welcome.” “Nothing to see.” “USA is only a blockade. China and Russia the hope.” “Let's wake up from the American dream. Academicism leads us to dreamlike error. “We are like the Deep South for the US. It is irreconcilable with our independence.” “We demand this change, regardless of our relations with friendly countries.” “We are already allies of Russia and China, and the US considers us enemies. “It is a matter of survival.” “We cannot get out of our economic quagmire. Today the relations benefit us, as in the past with the USSR. With Russia and China they should influence the international community according to their positions. But due to geography, security and density of ties, none is more important for Cuba than with the United States.” “The fate of Cuba cannot be decided in the toilets of Congress.” “It's a matter of survival.” “The US has a policy to make the millions of Cubans more obedient. Having relations with China and Russia is better for them [Cubans].” “If they were smart, the Yankees would remove the blockade from us.” “How bad we are when we keep looking for tits to hit. Look within, to produce our milk.” “The only solution is to get up and walk. If the conditions are met, it can be negotiated later. “First you have to breathe.” “As long as we have a blockade, no one can think that Cuba should not look for alternatives.” “The USA doesn't care when it comes to their interests.” “Get closer?!!!” “It may not be possible to answer that question in the current state of the world.” “Change has never depended on Cuba. The best thing is to get closer to friends.” “Foreign policy must be a mixture of principles and interests, that of the US is pure interests; that of Cuba, no.” “When someone so close bites us, we can't turn our backs on whoever is pulling our hand.” “I have difficulties with the question.”

Those that strictly address the question offer interesting arguments. “Cuba is in the Western Hemisphere. Area of ​​influence of Russia and China is in the Far East.” “It depends on the area of ​​influence in which Cuba remains after the recomposition of the current world order is completed. Could Cuba have its polar loyalty on the other side of the world, being 90 miles from the US?” “[Relations with China and Russia] favor the relationship with the US for geopolitical balance.” “It helps us that [the US] sees that we are not alone.” “It favors them, because it strengthens us.” "Yeah. We must make them nervous, perhaps uncomfortable.”

There is a lot of wheat in some more elaborate answers, which I would like to thresh at another time. And many more reflections that derive from how this load of comments are aligned around realpolitik, pragmatism, values, principles and peculiar views on history, ours, that of the world of the Cold War.

I put them among my good resolutions for 2024.

Carlos Alzugaray Wrestles with the Current Crisis

The reappearance of Raúl Castro, an unusual event

written by Carlos Alzugaray Treto January 8, 2024

Original Spanish in La Joven Cuba

For Cubans who, despite everything, are still seriously interested in continuing to analyze national politics, it was surprising to observe what happened in the small square of Parque Céspedes in the city of Santiago de Cuba on the night of the 1st. January 2024, in a solemn evening convened on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution. As is usual in these cases, the first secretary of the PCC and president of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel, spoke with one of his usual speeches for these occasions. Under normal conditions, that would be the central discourse of the activity.

However, what was unusual was that Army General Raúl Castro spoke immediately afterwards, whom the official press regularly refers to as "leader of the Revolution." He was wearing his military uniform.

Raúl had not given a public speech of this magnitude since April 17, 2021, when he inaugurated the VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. As will be remembered, that was the last party conclave that he presided over, since during this Miguel Díaz-Canel was elected as First Secretary of the Party.

Since then, it has been up to the latter to deliver this type of speech, as he did on December 20 and 22 at the closing of the VII Plenary Session of the Central Committee and at the conclusion of the last period of sessions of the National Assembly, respectively.

It was therefore an unusual event that Raúl delivered what was undoubtedly the central speech of the commemoration.

It is legitimate to assume that exceptional circumstances motivated the Cuban leader to break out of his usual official silence: the acute economic, social and political crisis that the country is experiencing and the consequent accelerated loss of credibility and political capital of the Historical Generation, headed by him, and the current one, directed by Díaz Canel.

It is also legal to assume that Raúl's main objective was to support the team of the leader chosen to head the first government of the generational transition of post-revolutionary power. And to encourage him to do everything possible to undertake what he called "the complex and unavoidable economic battle" with "productivity, order and efficiency." [1]

The Revolution and generational change

It has been known for several years that the future of Cuba depends on the success of the programs approved to produce a "prosperous and sustainable socialism." And so far that hasn't happened; On the contrary, many people have seen their living conditions reduced and there is no real possibility that the State can guarantee social well-being.

It can be said that not only its place in Cuban history, but also that of the so-called Historical Generation, depends on the success of the performance of its functions by this administration headed by Miguel Díaz-Canel. As Raúl Castro publicly recognized in 2018, when he proposed him to replace him as head of state, the current Cuban president was being trained and was selected to lead the nation in the future, by those who accompanied Raúl himself in leading the country. starting in July 2006, when Fidel Castro's unexpected resignation occurred.

It is worth remembering that the group of leaders who at one time were considered the natural heirs of the Historical Generation due to their closeness to Fidel Castro, Carlos Lage and Felipe Pérez Roque among others, were marginalized during the formal mandate of Raúl Castro, who extended between that date and 2021.

Raúl's speech was a carefully designed and written text. There is no sign in it that it was some kind of farewell statement, as some have claimed. The analysis of that text, even initial as it is, shows that it was not just any speech either. Its four main parts point to the central concerns of those who have proposed to guarantee the continuity of the political system that was forged from 1953, when the assault on the Moncada Barracks took place - a date that is understood as the beginning of the Revolution - until 1976, when the approval of the Constitution ends the period of provisionality and a new, declaredly socialist State is established.

I clarify, because I consider it necessary, that in this essay I start from the assumption that the hypothesis can be sustained that in Cuba there have been three different revolutionary processes led by three generations that at the time were the patriotic vanguard of the country: the Independence Revolution of 1868 to 1898, frustrated by the North American military intervention of 1898 to 1902; the Revolution of '33, also frustrated by North American interference—this time diplomatic and not military—supported by a pro-imperialist domestic sector; and the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1976 that overthrew the former neocolonial regime imposed by the United States and established a Socialist Republic.

There is a common thread between the three and it is the effort that the progressive patriotic vanguards have displayed in each of those historical moments to create a Republic as Martí dreamed of, with its four components: national independence, social justice, good government and self-sustaining economy.

Regarding the political process that the country has been experiencing since the second half of the 20th century, it can be stated that large majorities of citizens were able to accept without much discussion that Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro governed in the name of "The Revolution" since they were undoubtedly the ones who could assume that mantle of being the "founding fathers" of a process that, starting from the seizure of power by the revolutionary forces of that time, truly transformed the country into the general direction to which the popular masses aspired.

However, for those who succeed him in the government of Cuba, no matter how many appeals they make to "continuity", it will be much more difficult for them to be able to invoke "the Revolution" and "the revolutionaries" to legitimize their mandate. It is more appropriate to call them "the post-revolutionary generation" and describe the period in which they are exercising government as "post-revolutionary."

The different generations that live together today in Cuban society will evaluate this first post-revolutionary period as successful or not depending on whether its leaders not only manage to defend and maintain the main achievements achieved in terms of national independence and social justice between 1953 and 1976 —and that many of them remained for some time in the newly formed State—but rather that they facilitate the establishment and consolidation of an economy that can be self-sustaining and prosper without appealing to benefactor allies. To this must also be added the challenges of building a true republican social democracy based on the real participation and deliberation of citizens.

At least those are my personal aspirations to which I have the right as a citizen but also as someone who did consider himself "revolutionary" when between 1959 and 1961 he joined the process and served it to this day.

Denouncement and condemnation of the permanent hostility of the United States

The first part, in which the United States policy towards Cuba is condemned and denounced, is not much different from what President Díaz Canel has been saying. "The policy of permanent hostility and blockade of the United States Government is the main cause of the difficulties of our economy," said the historical leader.

However, it is worth pointing out two aspects. In his previous speech, in 2021, despite the fact that the Biden administration showed no signs of abandoning the cruel measures imposed by President Trump in his last term, Raúl Castro did not hesitate to offer an olive branch:

«I ratify from this Congress of the Party the will to develop a respectful dialogue and build a new type of relations with the United States, without pretending that to achieve this Cuba renounces the principles of the Revolution and Socialism, makes concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence, give in to the defense of its ideals and the exercise of its foreign policy…” ( Central Report to the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ).

That constructive reference was absent on this occasion. On the contrary, Raúl's words can be described as "hard" and "intransigent." But it is logical that this is the case if one takes into account the unconciliatory attitude of Biden, who has kept Cuba on the list of states that promote terrorism and other extreme sanctions by Trump.

In addition, Raúl Castro could be personally disappointed because he was the one who undertook the negotiation with Barack Obama to normalize relations in the 2013-2014 period, despite the risks that this entailed for a leader with his career at Fidel's side. It is good to recognize that this bold attitude of Cuban diplomacy during the presidency of Raúl Castro achieved something that seemed unlikely without negotiation: the release of the three anti-terrorist agents of the "Wasp Network" who were still in North American prisons, at the height of 2013.

This negotiation and its results were not without controversy, even criticism from Fidel Castro himself. [2]

Unity is our main strategic weapon

The second part of Raúl's speech had as its common thread a phrase that he used with all purpose: "Unity is our main strategic weapon." Although it is a fairly common call in most of the political pronouncements of Cuban leaders, there were three elements that are not frequent:

He defined unity in more inclusive terms than what President Díaz Canel usually does: «In the Cuban Revolution every sincere patriot has had a place, with the only requirement of being willing to confront injustice and oppression, to work for the good of the people. and to defend their conquests.

He associated it with the acceptance of different ideas and criteria: "In that forge of action and thought our Party was forged, alien to authoritarianism and impositions, listening to and debating the different criteria and giving participation to all who are willing to join the work." .

He made a specific call for the need for the participation of armed institutions in a differentiated manner: "The unity formed by the Party, the Government, the mass organizations and all of our people, and as part of this the combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior..."

From the Historical Generation to the first post-revolutionary generation

The third part was dedicated to a fundamental political issue and that is the relationship between the Historical Generation and the one that currently leads the country, headed by Díaz-Canel: «I know that I express the feelings of the Historical Generation by ratifying trust in those who today occupy leadership responsibilities in our Party and Government, and in the other organizations and institutions of our society, from the highest positions to the tens of thousands of grassroots leaders who are on the front line of combat.

In his support he cited some words from Fidel Castro, spoken at the founding ceremony of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, on December 7, 1993. With them he practically concluded his speech:

«…There are no generational contradictions in the Revolution for a simple reason: because there is no envy or desire for power among its children. None of us old fighters cling to positions or consider ourselves creditors of the country for having rendered it a service, and as long as we have strength left we will be in the position assigned to us, no matter how modest it may be. 

This statement was supported by graphic testimony: on the cover of the digital edition of Granma on January 2 there appears a photo of President Díaz Canel surrounded by Raúl Castro, Ramiro Valdés and José Ramón Machado Ventura.

Another important detail highlighted in this part of the speech was the suggestion that the cadres that made up the current government had to be willing to give up their positions in certain circumstances and thus he said: "Those who, due to insufficient capacity, lack of preparation or simply because they have tired, are not up to the task demanded by the moment, they must give their place to another colleague willing to take on the task.

What is not clear is whether this appeal to the confluence between both lineages is aimed at the members of the Historical Generation who still have government or similar roles, to refrain from interfering or criticizing the current president or if, on the contrary, The call is aimed at Díaz Canel and his current government cabinet accepting a kind of supervisory role for these members of the Historical Generation. Everyone can draw their own conclusions.

The complex and unavoidable economic battle

By supporting Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, Raúl Castro once again put on the table the high priority that solving the country's economic problems must have. "As the Prime Minister, Comrade Manuel Marrero, clearly explained just a few days ago in the National Assembly of People's Power, in the complex and unavoidable economic battle it is imperative to advance in productivity, order and efficiency."

It is illustrative that he added the term "cannot be postponed" to the more common "complex" when referring to the "economic battle" and that he lists "advancing productivity, order and efficiency" as fundamental objectives.

Finally, he urged the cadres "not to be naive or triumphalist, to avoid bureaucratic responses and any manifestation of routine and insensitivity, to find realistic solutions with what we have, without dreaming that something is going to fall from the sky." In the Cuban context, the last part of this phrase is important. This type of concrete and pragmatic manifestations are not abundant among the country's leaders.

The role of armed institutions: "soul of the Revolution alongside the PCC"

The representative of the Historical Generation ended with a new mention of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, demonstrating once again the important role assigned to them:

«In this supreme endeavor, the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, faithful and sure guardians of the Revolution, will participate decisively. If yesterday the new country emerged free, beautiful, vigorous and invincible from the victorious weapons of the Rebel Army, today I can affirm that in the face of any threat or weakness its combatants will not give up continuing to be, together with the Party, the soul of the Revolution.

This reference to the fact that the armed institutes, together with the Party, constitute the "soul of the Revolution" recalls the excellent study carried out on the subject by Mario Valdés Naiva on April 21, 2021 in the pages of this magazine, precisely with the title The Soul of the Revolution , in which he analyzed the Martí origin of the phrase and its evolution since Fidel Castro used it to characterize the Rebel Army and later associated it with the Party. Raúl has preferred to follow another line, associating it with the FAR. This acquires a peculiar importance today if we take into account that, through GAESA, the Armed Forces have acquired an important influence over the economy - not exempt from questioning - which is where the fundamental battle front of the current government is located. . 

Time Is Running Out

Those segments of the VII Plenary Session of the Central Committee and the session of the National Assembly that could be seen on National Television at the end of December underlined the seriousness of the country's situation. Finally, from the highest levels, it was recognized that "things were not going as expected", which is undoubtedly a euphemism, and although without specifying or assigning responsibilities, it was accepted that there were errors, although the details were hidden. behind a detailed description of the evils that the dense web of unilateral coercive measures that constitute the blockade that the United States has imposed on Cuba brings to the country. The latter are real. Denying them is not admissible. But neither can we ignore the weight of the errors and insufficiencies of the current government, which is also heir to other internal deformations that accumulated during its preceding years.

After an enormous political effort to develop a reform program that began in July 2007, Raúl Castro himself appealed to change structures and concepts as necessary and concluded in 2011 with the approval of the Guidelines for Updating the Model. Economic at the VI Congress of the PCC; However, paradoxically this entire program has been delayed and postponed. This even during Raúl Castro's term as president and first secretary of the PCC. I analyzed this issue in greater depth in my essay "Cuba fifty years later: continuity and political change", published by Temas magazine (No. 60, October-December 2009, pages 37-47 ).

It is obvious, although it is not stated publicly so crudely, that the government is bankrupt, and that it lacks the minimum financial resources to face the crisis. There is also a new political framework that makes governance difficult, with a set of economic actors who do seem to have the resources to build large hotels or import sumptuous products. Hence, the measures proposed by the prime minister seem extreme, which is reaffirmed by his definition that we are in a war economy.

However, from the citizenry, the government appears trapped in the habit of acting voluntarily and improvisation in critical situations that it almost never foresees.

On the other hand, more important decisions fundamentally related to the profound reform that the economic framework needs, and which were already outlined in a global manner when the Guidelines for the Update of the Model were approved in 2011, are unacceptably delayed. The most recent example of this tendency to delay what cannot be postponed is the Business Law project.

In every government there are different tendencies and the Cuban one cannot be an exception. Only, given the opaque nature of the decision-making processes in Cuba and the function of a press more focused on propaganda than on analysis and accountability, it is difficult for citizens to know why decisions are delayed. strategies and who are those who hinder them. In such circumstances it is legitimate to assume that there are conditions for internal contradictions to worsen. Hence, Raúl Castro's clear call for unity is fundamental, as is also the fact that it links it to "the unavoidable economic battle."

But time to "change everything that needs to be changed" is running out, both in real economic and political terms, and due to the simple fact that the Díaz Canel government has only four years left in its second and final term.

According to the Constitution, the president is re-electable only once. Díaz Canel already was the year he just finished. In 2028 his two terms will conclude. It will then be necessary to look for a candidate who, also as stipulated by the Constitution, cannot be older than 60 years.

Raúl Castro's speech could be designed to give President Díaz Canel the oxygen he needs to inject, without interference, a strong push into the reforms that many Cuban economists recommend and the vast majority of the people expect and demand.

Hopefully the current leaders know how to take advantage of it with the realism, will and audacity that they have not shown until now. From now until April 2028 there is not much time left.

[1] All quotes from Raúl Castro's speech are taken from the version published in Granma , in its digital edition of January 2, 2024: " We are going to get out of these difficulties, as we have always done, by fighting!"

[2] Remember the reflection of the maximum leader of the Revolution on March 28, 2016 entitled " My brother Obama ."


Ambassador and retired Full Professor, independent international analyst and essayist




January 8, 2024 - 3:26 PM

Carlos, very good analysis, but I think that patches are still being put in place.

Example: The fair and long-postponed wage increase in health and education. Because they have done it before the increase in fuel prices, a measure that is also necessary but will exacerbate inflation even more. It is very likely that this very fair measure will fall “short” after the rise in inflation.



January 9, 2024 - 3:45 PM

Thank you. Notice, I neither tried to make a value judgment nor suggested solutions. That was not the purpose. The purpose was to answer legitimate questions about why Raúl decided to make a public intervention and what was the vision he presented for the current situation. Someone told me that the article was controversial and I think that's how it should be. I'm not worried about the controversy. What is good is that leaders know that citizens are not passive assistants to the national drama. That we observe them, we listen to them and we draw our conclusions.



January 8, 2024 - 3:45 PM

Either you are Robin Hood, or you are Sheriff of Nottingham, you cannot be both. By raising Robin's flag you pre-establish your humanitarian work, which is what sustains it (on the part of that historic generation), but to get out of the quagmire you have, and already is, the Sheriff. The future line is drawn because this is how we live. You just have to go out into the street to see the caste created by the “royal family” and its “nobility” and the peasant subjects, workers in the constant search for subsistence and survival.



January 9, 2024 - 3:49 PM

Ivan, your metaphor about Robin and the Sheriff is interesting. I will take it into account in the future. Regarding your other comment, I agree that the situation of the popular majorities is terrible and that this issue must be resolved. Now, having said that, what I see on the street is not a society divided in two. I see many estates. There is everything. I think that simile didn't come out well.



January 8, 2024 - 4:28 PM

Raúl lives in another galaxy, or he stayed on January 1, 1959, he does not know that the young people who claim to be Fidel are lining up at the embassies to emigrate.



January 8, 2024 - 6:42 PM

We both have the same name. Could you put your last name



January 8, 2024 - 8:49 PM

I share with you the letter sent to Raúl Castro, on Monday the 1st. January 2024 at 5:35:00 am

MY PERSONAL OPINION; FROM MY POINT OF VIEW – To the attention of Army General, Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz.



January 8, 2024 - 11:25 PM

Greetings, two economies:

one that builds hotels like the pharaohs and receives income from the super Gaviota Tourist Company and other GAESA companies and military trade.

and the other side, that of the National Bank of Cuba with the collections of medical services, tobacco and something else. And also the debts of 60 years of revolution.

To make matters worse, Minfar has its own Investment Bank that controls all that capital and maintains international collection and payment links.

Foreign investment are only creditors of tremendous debts,

never more so than that!



January 9, 2024 - 3:56 PM

Your hypothesis is interesting. Why don't you write an article about it and send it to LJC?



January 9, 2024 - 7:03 AM

PROFESSOR ALZUGARAY, that you affirm in this monotonous, tiresome and long-winded article, probably the worst of the ones I have read by you, “of prosperous and sustainable socialism”, is something illusory that has never happened, and will never happen. Stop teasing us, we are neither stupid nor illiterate. A little more realism; put your feet on the ground. It seems that this article is signed by the ideologue Rogelio Polanco and not by a solvent academic who has touched the sky with a PhD. I am astonished by this Cold War Bolshevik speech.

Fidel's article “MY Brother Obama” was full of hate and racism. Obama did not deserve such an insult. There were several kicks in the face during the thaw that he received from the entire Cuban government, from the executive branch to the legislative branch. But allowing Fidel to offend the first black president of the United States and the only one who has dared to reestablish relations with Cuba, was a huge mistake and clumsiness.



January 9, 2024 - 8:21 AM

Totally agree.



January 9, 2024 - 4:00 PM

José, since he does not share his last name with us, it is difficult to answer him. I'll just tell you. You are entitled to his opinion and I am entitled to mine. You might not like mine. It is your right. But is it essential to almost disrespect me? My article is written for smart people. I do not intend to impose my criteria on anyone. But I don't like the rant. I explain the importance of why Raúl decided to speak (my opinion) and I interpret his words in light of the serious crisis that the country is experiencing. What's the problem with that?



January 9, 2024 - 8:43 AM

This article is more typical of the dogmatic Granma, than of an independent and successful blog like LJC. Columns by Dr. in Economics Mauricio de Miranda, nor by the academics, also with doctorates, Ivette Garcia and Alina Lopez Hernandez, no longer appear here (unfortunately). But having the academic and former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray, an expert on issues related to the United States, weekly, gave the blog a fresh air. You may disagree with Alzugaray, but you know perfectly well the US-Cuba dispute. Another thing is when he has to give his opinion, no longer based on data, but on his sympathy with the government that on more than one occasion appointed him as a diplomat for Argentina and Canada decades ago.

I agree with Jose that in this article, Carlos Alzugaray brought out the worst of his excellent academic training. It seems that Dr. del Granma or a PCC ideologue wrote it.

A wise piece of advice to LJC, if they wish to maintain a more or less fixed audience, because what is known is that after Lissette Garcia, Alina B Lopez and Mauricio de Miranda no longer write here, a mass of readers were “shocked”: Move to the center of the political spectrum. Articles like this one, well pointed out by the extreme left, do not contribute to moderation, to a point of reference, which is the center.

I will continue reading LJC every morning, but if articles of this type continue to appear in the future, I will have no choice but to close LJC. I don't want to read anything that resembles the dogmatic and fundamentalist Granma.



January 9, 2024 - 4:07 PM

María, do you really believe that Granma would publish an article like this? How long has it been since you read it? Thank you for saying that my articles on Cuba-United States relations give fresh air to the blog. But that does not prevent me from applying the little I know about politics to an analysis of an aspect of Cuban politics. The colleagues you mention are very valuable and have published articles in La Joven Cuba to the extent that they have adjusted to the original editorial line. La Joven Cuba is a blog for independent Cuban political analysis and this is an independent Cuban political analysis, not an exercise in opposition political activism. Thanks for reading us. I don't write to please anyone except my conscience. But, in the spirit that unites us, accept that some may have one opinion and others another. Thank you.



January 9, 2024 - 11:42 PM

It seems to me that it has some interesting approaches to take into account. I don't know what Granma's criteria for what appears to be editorial or dogmatic are based on. What catches my attention, unlike the opinions I mention, is the introduction of a category that seems to me to be more European social democratic than fundamentalist in nature. I am referring to the expression that is so far from the reality when he subscribes to “the post-revolutionary generation” and describes the period in which they are exercising the government as “post-revolutionary.” Maybe this goes against editorial interests but I hope you don't censor me. Thank you



January 10, 2024 - 5:30 AM

I really like what Professor Alzugaray writes, because thanks to the different positions he has held in countries around the world, and by virtue of what he has been able to observe and learn, he is able to analyze without staying with both feet in the wrong. darker ideology.

One thing is certain: the US must abandon its nostalgia for what Cuba was for it before the 1959 revolution and its dream of once again dominating the country through capitalism.

In short, we must let the Cubans themselves choose the direction the country should take, without external ties and using the same rules that govern international relations.

The other side of the coin would be for Cuba to abandon its nostalgia for the revolution and move forward with the development of the country.

The big question is: who should take this step first?


January 10, 2024 - 2:28 PM

It is a shame that Raul Castro has retired from power, because the greatest reforms that have been made since 1959 were made by him. And he has left power to a group of beginners, inept and incompetent who are throwing the country down a hole. Now Cuba has entered the club of the “NEOLIBERAL PACKAGE” that they have attacked and criticized so much in the past. Karma always returns.

In 2019, there were street disorders with deaths, injuries and thousands of arrests in Chile and Colombia, governed at that time by Sebastian Piñera and Ivan Duque, respectively. It was the ultra-left that fueled these protests, which were social in nature and price increases. In Cuba, journalists Iroel Sanchez, now deceased, and Manuel Henriquez Lagarde, supported and encouraged these protests. Now the situation in Cuba is worse than that of Colombia and Chile in 2019, because they have already emerged from the hole, and Cuba sinks into the mud with each passing day. And where is now the Journalist Lagarde who does not protest the increase in public services in Cuba, nor the “neoliberal package” that Diaz Canel and Marrero are cooking? He encourages violent protests only

when they are outside Cuba. The incoherence and indecency of these characters from the extreme and rancid left is unparalleled.


January 11, 2024 - 1:35 AM

Dr. Alzugaray has written a seminal article at a time of national crisis. Is the bottom line that Raúl Castro is intervening to support necessary radical reforms that are opposed by others of his generation and his allies in the Party and the bureaucracy?

Or is this a final effort at Jesuit-style partisan moralism seeking to stave off imminent collapse?

Raúl Castro modernized, liberated and transformed the lives of Cubans by allowing the private ownership of phones and computers and the public sale of cars and houses. The guidelines seemed to offer an authentically Cuban version of Vietnam's Doi Moi (renewal).

Was the subsequent stalemate a consequence of an ideology-bound system, failed leadership, hostility between Trump and Biden, or a paralyzing fear of the United States?


January 11, 2024 - 11:57 PM

Greetings: It is called an internal block. A setback that cannot be seen, cannot be touched, but is felt. Not even during Raúl's presidency did that power diminish. Only a libertarian like the Argentine can confront the retranca. There everything is against you but in Cuba those mechanisms do not exist. I think we have to give weight to the voice of economists. A serious factor to resolve is that Minfar controls GAESA's finances and is uncontrollable. The generals have been preparing for years!


January 13, 2024 - 10:42 PM


For the attention of Professor, Carlos Alzugaray Treto.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Father Felix Varela's US-Cuba Bond

Father Felix Varela


The Once and Future Irish Link Between Cuba and the US


by John McAuliff      [for presentation at the CIPI Conference, Havana, 12/8/23]


(I have visited Cuba 64 times,  1st in 1971 but all the rest from 1997 after we achieved the goal of normalization with Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos.)


Thanks to CIPI and ISRI, in particular to Ambassador Cabanas who played an important role in the opening of bilateral relations


The question might fairly be asked why in a conference about Cuba in the Foreign Policy of the US is there a presentation on the Intersection of Cuban and Irish Nationalism in 19th Century New York.

The question might also be asked why in a jammed schedule of diplomatic and political events at the UN General Assembly, President Diaz-Canel took time to visit the Church of the Transfiguration in Chinatown and to meet Bishop Cisneros who is responsible for Church consideration of the beatification of Father Varela.


The answer lies in the founder of the church, Father Felix Varela, and the role his exceptional history in both countries might play in healing the wounds between them 170 years after his death.

In the first part of the 19th century Father Felix Varela was an intellectual and spiritual author of Cuban identity.  Jose Marti called him, “the man who taught us to think.”  After being forced into exile by Spain, he became the advocate for the identity of Irish immigrants in a hostile New York.  Two generations later the city’s dominant Irish political machine, Tammany Hall, and an Irish American sea captain, Dynamite Johnny O’Brien, made significant contributions to Cuba’s final war of independence from Spain.

Varela’s role in Cuba is not well known in the US.  His role in New York is not recognized by many Cubans.   Once popularly celebrated in both countries, Dynamite Johnny is largely forgotten.  Both provide a positive connection that can be a foundation for greater mutual appreciation during the long overdue process of renormalization.


Venerable Felix Varela, A Hero of Two Nations

The strongest Cuban Irish American link begins in St. Augustine, in the East Florida colony of Spain, in 1790 when the orphaned Felix Varela’s maternal grandfather was named General of its military garrison.  The Irish priest and vicar of East Florida, Miguel O’ Reilly, was Varela’s inspiration and teacher, including of the Irish language.   Varela studied at San Carlos Seminary and the University of Havana, was ordained and taught philosophy.  Known for his advocacy of self-government, abolition of slavery and equal education of women, he was elected to the democratic Spanish Cortes in 1821.  Absolutist royal rule regained power in Spain in 1823.

“In his position as representative of Cuba in Spanish Court, he signed an invalidation of the Spanish king and was sentenced to death as a result.” [i] 

Varela found asylum in the United States, arriving in New York Harbor on December 15, 1823.  In New York, as a Parish priest he became a compassionate advocate for the poor, especially for Irish immigrants in whose language he became fluent.  He wrote, “I work hard to help Irish families build schools for their children, and I tend cholera patients, and I defend Irish American boys and girls against insults from mobs who hate them just because their parents are immigrants.” [ii]


For a time Varela remained active in the intellectual and political life of his homeland, publishing a magazine, El Habanero, from 1824 to 1826 in which he explicitly advocated independence.  He rejected the arguments of Cubans who believed the country would fare best if annexed by a larger country like Mexico, Colombia or the US.  "I am the first to oppose the union of the island to any government. I should wish to see her as much of a political island as she is such in geographical terms."[iii]

Spain sent an assassin to eliminate him in 1825.  His Irish parishioners protected his location.

Varela was an extraordinary public intellectual, challenging the most vicious anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant propaganda of his era, but also building ecumenical relationships with Protestant church leaders.  Having great administrative talents, he was named Vicar General of the New York diocese that covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey.    He was also a prodigious fund-raiser, creating two churches and their accompanying schools between 1827 and 1836.  While designed to meet the needs of the burgeoning Irish population, they were not ethnically exclusive.  The second, the Church of the Transfiguration, is still for immigrants but now mostly Chinese and at a new location on Mott Street, with Varela’s statue by the entrance. 


The only reference I could find to his engagement with the issue of Ireland itself was his participation in New York City in a May 1, 1843 “Approbation meeting” of the Friends of Ireland and Universal Liberty in support of publication of Thomas Mooney's lectures on Irish history.[iv]   Their statement can be found in the preface of “A History of Ireland: From Its First Settlement to the Present Time”.  That they felt it necessary to collectively advocate publication of the book and the tone and content of their words are similar to voices in our time pressing for publications that reflect African American history and perspectives.   

Much to the dismay of friends and political supporters in Cuba, Varela’s intellectual focus shifted almost entirely to his responsibilities in New York and issues related to his Irish immigrant flock.  Because of illness, Varela retired to his boyhood home in St. Augustine in 1848, the height of famine caused Irish immigration to New York.  He tried to return to New York three times but his health did not permit and he died in 1853


Irish and Irish American Support for Cuban Independence

Irish emigrants and their descendents in Spain and in North America found their way to Cuba throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  Many are named in the pioneering research of my Cuban friend Rafael Fernandez Moya, former diplomat, retired administrator of the office of the Historian of Havana and teacher of Irish President Higgins and myself.   His essay “The Irish Presence in the History and Place Names of Cuba”, published by the Society for Irish Latin American Studies (SILAS).[v]  is contained in this book for the CIPI library.

Because of time constraints I am passing over the substantial history of Irish American support for Cuba’s independence struggle from the Fenians in 1873, to Tammany Hall’s political, meeting place and financial contribution to Jose Marti and his successors. Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien whose parents migrated from Ireland made a dozen voyages to illegally transport weapons and military personnel for the successful independence struggle.  Tammany Hall funded one shipload, giving the current equivalent of $873,000   Johnny’s story is portrayed by the Irish filmmaker Charlie O’Brien, available on youtube as linked in my original paper for LASA.



[Omitted from verbal presentation.]

The Irish nationalist Fenians/Clan Na Gael sent James J O'Kelly to Cuba in 1873 to report on the Ten Years’ War for the New York Herald.  His mission included potential alliance with the Cuban revolutionaries.  From research funded by the Society for Irish Latin American Studies and published in its 2019 collection “Ireland & Cuba, Entangled Histories”[vi] José Antonio Quintana writes

During the days he spent alongside Céspedes, they reached an agreement that would have had great mutual benefits for the causes of both colonies, and which illustrates the journalist’s sympathy and commitment to the island’s revolution. The Fenian’s idea was to make Ireland aware of the militancy of the Cubans, with the help of the Irish emigrants residing in the United States. The agreement stipulated that if he managed it successfully, then the Cuban revolutionary government, once in power, would give O’Kelly twenty thousand rifles and a ship to be used to carry out the subversion in Ireland (Céspedes, 1982: 185). This project never came to fruition.

O’Kelley’s articles and his book, “The Mambi Land[vii], were influential with Irish-Americans and a wider audience.  After returning to Ireland he became a Parnellite MP for Roscommon North and wrote on foreign affairs for The Independent.  The paper supported Cuba’s final independence struggle, characterizing it as “the Ireland of the West,” and applauded the US war with Spain as a “just and holy crusade”.  “It openly wished that America would intervene in Ireland as in Cuba”.   When William Astor Chanler, the millionaire US brother of a board member “fitted out a warship at his own expense; the Independent published glowing reports of his Cuban exploits.”[viii]


O’Reilly Street (Havana)
“Two island peoples in the same sea of struggle and hope.  Cuba and Ireland”

Tammany Hall and Dynamite Johnny O’Brien

The institution through which immigrant Irish gained political power in New York was Tammany Hall, or more precisely the General Committee of the Democratic-Republican Party.  The Irish role in Tammany Hall emerged in 1817 and grew during Father Varela’s time.   “In New York, the famine emigration of 1846-1850 established the basis of Irish domination. There were 133,730 Irish-born citizens by the mid-century, 26 percent of the total population.”[ix]   Most arrived with little or no resources and began their new lives in poverty. Tammany Hall provided employment, shelter, and even sometimes citizenship[x] 

On April 4, 1855, the New York Times reported that Chairman H.P. Carr submitted “spicey resolutions” on Cuba to the Young Men’s Democratic-Republican General Committee, meeting at Tammany Hall.  They incorporated concern about “interference of ‘a new Holy Alliance by the Monarchical Powers of Western Europe’] between a struggling and oppressed people and their oppressors to crush the one and lend new means of cruelty and oppression to the other.”  The Times reported, “The resolutions were adopted unanimously.” [xi]

[Deeper digging could determine whether Mr. Carr or any others on the General Committee were interested in Cuba because they were involved with or benefited from the work of Father Varela.]

In the 1880s, Tammany Hall provided meeting spaces for Jose Marti and others to debate, organize and celebrate their struggle for Cuba’s independence.  Tammany also made the largest financial contribution from any American source in the fall of 1897, $30,000 according to Horatio S. Rubens. the revolutionaries’ legal counsel and $20,000 according to Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien.

In his memoir, "A Captain Unafraid"[xii], O’Brien wrote

In their three and a half active years the Cuban delegations in the United States expended approximately $1,500,000, practically all of which passed through the hands of Mr. Palma. Of this amount Americans gave less than $75,000.  The largest American offering was $20,000 from Tammany Hall in the fall of 1897, at which time we were badly in need of funds with which to purchase arms and ammunition.

Whether Horatio Rubens or O’Brien had the correct figure, $30,000 or $20,000 was substantial, in current value the equivalent of $873,000 or $582,000.

Potentially is this also a legacy of Father Varela’s? Tamany’s leader Richard Croker was born in County Cork in 1843 and was brought to the US two years later.  Could his parents have known or heard of Varela?  Did he go to one of Varela’s schools?

Dynamite Johnny O’Brien was born in New York in 1837.  His parents immigrated from County Longford in 1831 and lived on the lower east side [posing again the question of possible relationship to Father Varela].  He was a pilot in New York harbor before becoming a "filibuster", a smuggler of arms.  During the successful independence war, he made over a dozen deliveries of weapons and personnel in every quadrant of Cuba's coast.  O'Brien evaded efforts by Spain, the US and Pinkerton detectives to arrest, capture or kill him.  He successfully commanded what Granma[xiii] has described as the sole engagement of the Mambisi navy near Cienfuegos.  O'Brien's integrity and heroism were so appreciated that he became Havana's first port captain through a special act of the legislature after Cuba achieved its independence.  He was also forgiven his transgressions by the US government enough to symbolically command the resinking of the Maine outside of Cuban waters.  However, while his role was reported in the New York Times it is not acknowledged in US government documents.     Johnny’s story was portrayed by the Irish filmmaker Charlie O’Brien, as linked in my original paper for LASA.  It can be seen here  and is accounted in Charlie’s essay “The Lure of Troubled Waters”.[xiv]


A plaque commemorating Johnny on the wall of the original                                                                                                    Customs House at the entrance of the Plaza de Armas.


Honoring the anniversary of Johnny with several of his descendants,                                                                                         staff and students from the Provincial Library, historian Rafael Fernandez                                                                                   Moya and a song written and performed by Enrique Nunez.



There is a twentieth and twenty-first century chapter to the story.  As the price of achieving peace and independence Ireland had to accept the loss of the northeast portion of the nation, most of the traditional province of Ulster.  The price for Cuba’s independence was acceptance of the Platt Amendment.

Achieving mutual respect between England and a sovereign Ireland took decades.  The Irish Republic was only proclaimed in 1949, twenty-seven years after independence.   Irish friends identify as the symbolic moment of mutual respect the separate and equal entry into the European Union of both Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973, 51 years after independence.  The problem of reintegration of the island remains an obstacle to the fulfillment of Ireland’s national potential and identity although thanks to the Good Friday Agreement and the unintended consequences of Brexit, the border is a diminishing obstacle in practice if not in theory.   Nevertheless Ireland today is one of the most economically successful and politically stable members of the European Union.

Cuba developed as a client state of the US for the first half of the twentieth century, compromised by direct US military intervention during the first years of independence from Spain, exploited economically and separated from an important part of its national territory by US occupation of the base and now prison of Guantanamo.   Politically, culturally and economically the two countries became deeply integrated with the US as the dominant partner.   

The Cuban revolution of 1959 achieved political independence but it has not been able to establish a mutually respectful autonomy from the US as Ireland eventually did from England.  Confronted by virtually unabating hostility and regime change objectives from Washington and Miami, with the partial exception of President Obama’s second term, Cuba has been constricted economically, politically, and psychologically. 

Because of my own experience with Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, it is hard to escape the underlying reality that the missing ingredient is the sovereign respect that the US extended to its former enemies in Indochina and that it has never given to Cuba, recognition of their right to full self-determination, with differences in governance and ideology, including interpretations of human rights.


Eusebeo Leal, then the Historian of Habana Vieja, at the original                                                                                                               burial site of Father Varela in St. Augustine, FL 


I will conclude with speculation that Father Varela could reopen the door opened by Obama and Raul Castro, closed by Trump, partially and inadequately reopened by Biden.  It is rumored that Pope Francis will come to Cuba in the New Year in connection with the beatification of Father Varala.  As with previous Papel visits, a release of prisoners who opposed the government is desired.  The US ought to see significant release of people imprisoned from the July 11 protests as a reason to return to status quo ante Trump, to restore the Obama engagement policy including hotel use, more general licenses for travel, permission for cruises and removal from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

If the Pope returns to Cuba in connection with Varela’s beatification, Cuba should invite prominent Irish Americans to come to Havana to lift up Varela’s historic role in New York as well as in Havana.  They could include former Senator John Kerry who normalized relations as Secretary of State and former Senator Chris Dodd, Biden’s Special Advisor on Latin America, and current Senator Chris Murphy.   USAID Administrator Samantha Powers should also be welcomed.  Powers was born in Ireland and as Obama’s ambassador to the UN eloquently announced the historic US abstention on the resolution against the embargo.  Although USAID is responsible for interventionist democracy programs in Cuba, it also provided $2,000,000 in post hurricane assistance and fire fighter protection and has substantial non-subversive programs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

(This list did not include recognized leaders who already advocate re-engagement and also have a strong Irish identity:  former Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Jim McGovern.)


[This is excerpted from a longer paper presented in May 2023 for the Latin American Studies Association conference in Vancouver Vancouver and shared at the conference of the Society for Irish Latin American Studies (SILAS) at the University of Galway in June .  The full paper is available on line. ]






[vi] Ireland & Cuba, Entangled Histories, edited by Margaret Brehony and Nuala Finnegan, Ediciones Bolona pp 222



[ix]  Christiane Köppe (Author), 2005, Irish Immigrants in New York City 1850, Munich, GRIN Verlag,







LASA paper

Moya article

Dynamite Johnny video A Captain Unafraid

Charlie O’Brien  “The Lure of Troubled Waters”.

Miramar Theater concert by Mick Moloney and Green Fields of America

Green Fields of Cuba video of performance tour in Santiago and Holguin

Irish Links to Cuba   

Longer summary of Irish history in Cuba 

Walking tour