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Trump vs Cuba and its friends: how will Havana react?

Cuba is a unique state in the Western Hemisphere. One of its unique features is its single-party system. And this fact is the key source of Cuba’s problems with the United States.

Recently Press Secretary of the White House Sean Spicer made public President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke most of the agreements signed by his predecessor Barack Obama with Cuban Leader Raul Castro (when Fidel Castro was alive). Shortly afterwards, Spicer resigned, reportedly because Trump was not satisfied with his work. Independent experts say that Spicer was made a scapegoat in the eyes of the U.S.-based Cuban community.

Cuba has not reacted yet. In fact, there is one person who is expected to react, the ruler of the country, the President of Cuba, the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. According to Russian expert on Cuba Nikolay Chentsov, today the situation in Cuba is the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. And so, he expects Trump to start a new conflict with Cuba as Reagan did after Carter.

And this will not be a surprise for the Cubans as any Republican would do the same. Traditionally, the Republicans are much tougher on Cuba than the Democrats. The new U.S. Ambassador to Cuba is Roberta Jacobson. If she continues Obama’s soft policy on Cuba, Trump will fire her.

The Americans stick to the Monroe Doctrine and are not going to leave their “backyard.” They have behaved like this since the triumph of left-of-center forces in Latin America. But today the Latin American leftist camp has lost its key players, Brazil and Argentina, who have signed a right-wing conservative pact against all the leftist governments of the region. During his visit to Brazil Argentinean President Mauricio Macri said that this is going to be the alliance of the century.

Now the Republicans seem to be willing to get rid of the far-left bloc. And the leaders of that bloc are helping Trump in the matter.

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro is ready to use force in order to stay in power. His successor Tareck El Aissami will not hesitate to plunge Venezuela into a civil war. His father, Zaidan, was one of Saddam Hussein’s advisors.

In the United States, El Aissami is already wanted. And very soon, he may appear on the Interpol’s list. According to CNN, while being Venezuela’s interior minister, he gave passports and visas to people suspected of being terrorists. As a result, today lots of Hezbollah activists have Venezuelan passports. El Aissami’s contacts with Hezbollah have never been a secret. But the Americans are not going to interfere directly but will use only indirect financial-economic methods. They will not dare to challenge Venezuela’s strong army. They will just wait to see how Maduro will ruin his country with his voluntarist economic policy. Even his oil industry is in crisis: Venezuela’s PDVSA has failed to supply oil worth $750mn to Russia and China despite their respective $5bn and $50bn prepayments. On top of this, the Venezuelan National Assembly is going to sabotage the sale of 40% of Petromonagas to Rosneft.

Nor will the Americans interfere in the elections in Ecuador (even though they still have a military base in that country). All they have to do is to foster the inquiry into the Odebrecht scandal and on the 100th year of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Ecuadorans will not have new Lenin (Moreno) as their new president.

And Moreno is not the only suspect here. There are reports saying that Peru’s President Alejandro Toledo, Columbia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and Brazil’s President Michel Temer are also suspected of having taken brines from dishonest constructors.

The Bolivian leaders, Juan Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera, are said to be patronizing drug smugglers but their army is too tough for Trump. So, here he may rely on Bolivia’s enemies, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.

In Nicaragua Eden Pastora is expected to act as a mediator between the Ortega clan and the Trump administration. He will try to assure the Americans that the Nicaraguan canal project will not affect their interests and will try to get guarantees for the Ortega clan-owned Albanisa. This may lead to a situation formulated by Pastora after the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979: we must go on with our revolution but we cannot afford annoying the North Americans.

All this seems to have nothing to do with Cuba but the problem is that a blow on the ALBA bloc will be a blow on the Castro regime. So, the Americans will continue shattering the ALBA but they will pressure Castro as well, especially as they have millions of anti-Castro Cubans living in their country. And most of those people have voted for the Republicans.

According to Chentsov, there are lots of rich pro-Republican and anti-Castro Cubans in Florida. Some of them, jointly with the U.S. Department of State, sponsor dissidents in Cuba.

So, Trump cannot afford spoiling his relations with the leaders of the Cuban community, especially as two of them, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, were his rivals during the presidential race. Rubio was a strong rival but he preferred not to shatter the unity of the Republican Party and even supported Rex Tillerson’s candidature for the Secretary of State. But both Rubio and Cruz are very sensitive to all that is going on in Cuba and will not forgive Trump any concessions to Raul Castro. Without Rubio’s men, Trump will become much more vulnerable to impeachment risks. So, the Cubans should be ready for four tough years.

If they turn out to be unprepared, they will prove their analytical and ideological incompetence and will have to act by feel. In this case, they will face two major questions:

  1. Lots of joint venture have been set up in Cuba during the post-Soviet period. The key investor in that country (mostly in tourism) is Spain. The major trade partners are Canada, China and Venezuela. This is hardly good for the Americans and the U.S.-based Cubans. But what are they going to do to protect their interests and what will the Cubans do in response?
  2. Under Obama, U.S.-Cuban relations improved. The sides opened embassies and restored flights. The Americans softened their blockade. In Mar 2016, President Obama even paid a visit to Havana. Which of these tendencies will be stopped?

Today, the United States is reviewing its policy on Cuba and the Cubans’ reaction to this will be decisive for the future of their regime.

Georgy Kolarov, specially for EADaily

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