The Castros are making demands in negotiations with Washington that will likely stall any further U.S.-Cuban rapprochement. Is that intentional? As CBS News reports:
Cuban President Raul Castro demanded on Wednesday that the United States return the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, lift the half-century trade embargo on Cuba and compensate his country for damages before the two nations re-establish normal relations.Castro told a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that Cuba and the U.S. are working toward full diplomatic relations but “if these problems aren’t resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement wouldn’t make any sense.”
In the long run, the U.S. will probably relinquish Guantanamo Bay to a Cuban government—we don’t need a coaling station to protect the Panama Canal (which we no longer own) any more, and we regard the treaty that ceded it to us as, at the very least, morally suspect. But as long as we can’t decide what to do with the prisoners there, and still mistrust the Castro government to the level we do, that is just not going to happen.The Cubans know this. If they really wanted Gitmo back, they’d be better off normalizing relations and then asking; on the other hand, if they were using it as a bargaining chip, they wouldn’t have thrown in so many other impossible demands, such as reparations. So what is going on here?As Walter Russell Mead wrote after the initial announcement of normalization of relations in December, it’s not actually in Havana’s interest for the negotiations to move too quickly:
The Castro government isn’t dying to have hundreds of thousands of well-heeled Cuban-Americans descending on Havana and buying the island back as foreign investors. Fidel and Raul have never wanted a total end to the embargo; they have understood for decades that the embargo acts to protect their socialist experiment. If the U.S. repealed the embargo, the Cuban government would have to choose between two unattractive courses. It could move toward normal and open economic relations with the United States, swamping its underdeveloped and scrawny local economy with gringo dollars and influence (with Miami Cubans leading the charge), or it would have to enact a tight set of regulations aimed at keeping American and Cuban American money and investors from overwhelming the island. That would make it crystal clear to every Cuban citizen that the Cuban government needs to keep the island isolated and poor in order to protect its grip on power.
One of Havana’s aces in the hole in this regard was a Republican Congress—it could have had better relations with President Obama from day one, but waited until there was a resistor on the process. Now, they appear to slowing things down further.