By Sayoni Biswas
From being a hedonistic playground for the political elite, to trying to turn into a democratic nation and finding eventual peace with the USA - Cuba has come a long way. This paper tries to showcase the political journey, the change in heart of the political leaders, the incentives meant for both sides with the embargo and the status of being a terrorist nation being uplifted and the road that lies ahead from the stand point of the Cuban mafia.
The Cuban mafia has played a significant role in shaping the future of the country. We try to see how much they have been successful. In a way has the American mafia replaced the Cuban mafia? A welcome change has been seen with Raul Castro recently coming into power but it has to be reminded that he has been an army chief for about 50 years, sharing almost the same ideology as his brother. Cuban armed forces control 70% of the economy. Without political reforms, is an economic reform therefore viable? After the end of the Castro regime will Cuba again go into a regime of military dictatorship – similar to the reign of Batista, or dwell into oligarchies and monopolies? The change of power from one hand to the other might therefore look like the ushering in of wealth and prosperity but until there is political reform there cannot be economic reform. Therefore the question remains, will the Mafia regime again come into play?
Batista survived since he established good networks with the American mafia Lansky and Luciano and converted Havana into a Latin Las Vegas. Corruption, prostitution, and casinos were rampant. Acting like a complete despot there was repression of the people’s voices. However, the USA was quite content with it since it had huge investments in the companies in Cuba, with over 80% of the sugar trade controlled by the Americans. Therefore Batista kept a more appeasing attitude toward the Americans; however the socio-economic condition of Cuba was greatly deteriorating. As quoted from the Daily Herald “Havana was a beautiful but poor country”. Drug lords and mafia rule reigned across the island. Because of Batista’s pro-USA policy and anti-Communist Policy – Cuba was left at its plight. At this point Castro was coming to power, and Batista was helped by the USA to suppress the rebellion, as said by historian Olsen.
With the coming of the Castro and Eisenhower regimes, the trade relations between both the countries deterioted on a faster scale. Fidel Castro stopped American revenues and therefore there was the imposition of trade embargo, which lasted for about 47 years until the Obama administration. brought the issue into limelight.
Cuba’s economic showdown began with its relationship going sour with USSR - though with Putin it has improved in the recent times. Cuba has even looked to China for help.
The incentives for both the sides-
The change of heart theory works as much as there are no economic and political gains related in the scenario. Americans always had an economic interest in Cuba. But what Cuba has gone through in the recent past is anarchy, military rule, economic showdown, and unemployment. How far the economic reforms will help in the political unrest is yet to be seen. Moreover, the Cubans feel that apart from the economic initiatives, it will be the Castro formed government who will be in theory and practice. Raul might have taken the olive twig from Obama but is he willing to give in to American demands? As of now Cuban Americans can come and see their relatives and the trade embargo to an extent has been lifted.
Another important step that America has taken is removing Cuba from the terror-state list scenario. This might seem to be like a symbolic gesture to bury the hatchet since the times of Cold War- yet how is it helpful?
As per recent reports the play of cartels, syndicates, and drug lords are quite obvious and prevalent. Though the queen of drug trade Robina Blanco is in the hands of the USA, her sons are still part of the “Cubanos”, a notorious and ruthless drug gang, which has grown and strengthened its vise-like grip over the years. From the traditional drug marijuana, this group has moved towards cocaine. Relaxation of the restrictions might increase the supply of drugs along the borders.
In a way the move by Obama can be seen to be having its cons.
Without political reform, the economic reforms are not of much help, because it will ensure the power will pass into the hands of oligarchies, mobarchies, or drug mafias and syndicates.
For the economy to be developed there has to be sufficient amount of investment in the country- which can also be seen as another way to channel through black money and drug money.
The Senate too has to agree on the options given by President Obama, and they seem to be highly critical of his moves.
It’s true that democracy is trying to establish itself in all the parts of the world, but the Cuban population still has a suspicion about the USA’s motives because of the bitter-sweet history that both countries share.
A 2.8 million dollar gold heist in Miami in 2013 shows that the mafia circuit is still very agile. The report even says that law enforcement groups do not even review or hold Cuban organized crime agencies like they do to Mexican cartels. In cases that happened during 2011-12, the FBI did catch hold of Cubans involved in drug trafficking, drug production, illegal migration, fraud, and embezzlement in Miami.
One important characteristic of the Cuban groups is that they are not organized which makes them swift, smooth and unnoticed. More so, Cuban groups have a low rate of street crime like rape, assault, battery, and robberies, which is why even the public tends to ignore them in general.
There is also lack of competition amongst these existing groups.
In the last 15 years, the viability of illicit drugs in the US, speak about the increase in the amount of drug trade in this region. So even though individuals such as Manuel Marquez and Battle Jr., who belonged to the top tier of Cuban drug Trade Corporation, are dead and their assets frozen, their predecessors live on.
Road that lies ahead-
It can be established as a matter of fact that drug lords, cartels and syndicates still operate in Cuba. With the easing of the relations in between the US and Cuba, perhaps their work has been made easier.
Though the lifting of the embargo has eased out a bit of tension between the two nations - still it will not be easy for Obama to infuse the spirit of democracy within Cuba.
But starting with the political reforms and the progression of economic reforms seems to be a good idea. Otherwise who knows if history will again repeat itself.
While on a large scale the economic crisis is somewhat over and the economy is on the way to recovering based on tourism yet the embargo imposed by the USA has left Cuba unexposed to one of the largest markets. Self employment has eased a lot of hardship and the acute shortage of food has been dealt with to an extent.
Though the ideological point of view of the Castro regime has remained the same, the main challenge therefore is to commit to social and economic equality on a global scale. The fact remains the same, as the US is more important to Cuba than the other way round. So there is bound to be a slight drift in ideology between the two countries while the world waits with baited breath for the relations between the USA and Cuba to prosper.