Cuba and the Latin American scenario
President Barack Obama’s year-end announcement in December about the paradigm shift in policy in Cuba for ending half a century American embargo on it led to considerable speculation of all kinds among many diplomatic, academic and intellectual circles.
President Barack Obama’s year-end announcement in December about the paradigm shift in policy in Cuba for ending half a century American embargo on it led to considerable speculation of all kinds among many diplomatic, academic and intellectual circles. He also hinted at the possible resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries very soon. But such a crucial measure needs the Congressional approval. Moreover, the proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from the strong lobby of Cuban-Americans in USA under the leadership of Senator Marco Rubio and several other US lawmakers, Particularly the Republicans.
A brief account of the history of Spanish colonialism in the Western hemisphere may not be out of place here. 15th century European navigators paved the way for occupation of new regions and enslavement of the indigenous people in the 16thcentury. The arrival of Christopher Columbus on the shores of Bahamas in 1492 led to the inauguration of Spanish colonialism of most parts of the new world known as Latin America. Spanish colonialism of three centuries almost wiped out the indigenous people.
19th century Latin America had been a battleground for a series of liberation struggles. An important aspect of liberation struggles in Latin America is about the non-natives’ (immigrant European settlers) movements for liberation against Spanish colonialism. American War of Independence in 1776 and the French Revolution 13 years later in 1789 provided fuel and succour to the Spanish intellectuals in Latin America and also the Portuguese Brazilians. Between the first and 3rd decades of the 19th century, most of these countries declared independence for themselves. Gradually, both Spain and Portugal came to terms with the ground realities by the middle of the 19th century, and started recognizing independence of their erstwhile colonies largely due to the impact of Spanish-American wars.
Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and many more Latin American countries have chequered histories of myriad rebellions against the three centuries old Spanish empire. Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) was a Venezuelan military and political leader. He is also often referred to as George Washington of Latin America. He is also the father of the concept of ‘gran Columbia’ as he liberated half a dozen Spanish colonies cited above. Jose Julian Marti, (1853-1895) writer-activist of Cuba, is yet another iconic figure produced by Spanish colonialism. He was killed in the battle for Cuban independence. His revolutionary poems not only inspired the Cubans, but also the people of the entire Latin America. The Havana International Airport has been named after him in honour of his memory. Both Bolivar and Marti have been the source of inspiration for liberation struggles in Latin America against Spanish colonialism and also American imperialistic interventions in the region since the 19thcentury.
Both Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti have been revolutionary icons and precursors to the 20th and 21st century rulers like Fidel Castro of Cuba; Che Guevara and Christina Fernandez of Argentina; Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and several Leftist leaders like Luiz Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Jose Mujica and his successor Tabard Vazquez of Uruguay, Eva Morales of Bolivia and several others.
A few western academic scholars have been talking about the ebbing ‘Pink Tide’ in Latin America despite the fact that there are not less than eleven Left-wing governments in the region by the end of the first decade of the new millennium.
In fact, the spirit of ‘Peronismo’ in Argentina, embracing social justice, economic independence and political sovereignty and ‘Chavismo’ in Venezuela, symbolizing the ideology of socialism, Left-wing patriotism and Bolivaranism, is still alive in a number of Latin American nations. Moreover, the ideology of Liberation Theology is also a major factor in influencing the Latin American intellectuals. Unlike the Marxian ideologues the world over, Latin American Liberation Theology adherents are regular church goers, and at the same time they also follow the tenets of Marxist philosophy.
U.S major shift in its policy towards Cuba as announced by President Obama is the result of nearly two years of solid, but silent home work and negotiations between the Argentine Pope and President Raul Castro of Cuba. Time alone will tell whether the paradigm shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba bears fruit finally.
The world of today continues to be plagued by new versions of racism as discernible in the recent shooting of the blacks in America, and the killing of police officers by an African American as retaliation; the brutalities being indulged in by the followers of IS; senseless killing of innocent school children and teachers in a Pakistan school, and massacre of innocent people in Boroland in Assam and elsewhere in India. In such a violent scenario confronted by people all over the world, the American initiative in normalising tension ridden conflict in Cuba, and perhaps the entire continent of the Western hemisphere ultimately, looks like a silver lining over the cloud covered firmament.
By: Indrasena Kancharla