US Cuba relations deteriorating in run up to Americas summit

Commentary in the Cuban media suggests that relations between Havana and Washington may deteriorate in the coming months.

In the space of the last week there has been a surge in criticism of US policy in the Cuban state media in relation to the Washington’s approach to 8th Summit of the Americas, and of the suggestion in February by former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Monroe Doctrine remains relevant in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Although there has been no direct high-level criticism of President Trump by name, the coincidence of a radical change in US policy towards the Americas, just as a younger generation of Cuban leaders take office, may see the attenuation of Cuba’s present policy of trying again to improve its relationship with Washington.

Recent commentary in Granma, the voice of the Cuban Communist Party, has described the US policy of ‘America first’ as ‘a declaration of principles’.

‘If Washington once fantasised about a world in its own image and likeness, in which progress would spread to countries that did not challenge its hegemony, it is now clear that there is only room for one country at the top. And anyone who disputes US dominance must face ‘fire and fury’, said a commentary under the headline ‘Time for Latin America and the Caribbean to Come First’.

The article and other published comments suggest that the measure of US intentions will be the stance it takes at the Summit of the Americas to be held in Lima Peru on 13-14 April, which President Trump is to attend. In February, President Maduro of Venezuela was disinvited from the meeting, dividing hemispheric governments and raising questions about who will attend and at what level.

The commentary in Granma, republished in other languages, warned: the Summit ‘will be the first time Trump comes face to face with his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts, who still hold fresh in their memories the xenophobic rhetoric he used in his 2016 election campaign; his threats to make Mexico pay for a border wall; his description of Haiti and El Salvador as “****hole countries” and immigrants from the region as “murderers and rapists.”

Other Cuban media commentary has noted that to advance its objectives, the US will try to keep Latin American and Caribbean countries divided through fear that US is the only state capable of guaranteeing their security against terrorism, Russian interference, and Chinese economic competition.

In a measured formal foreign policy summary, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry recently observed that the climate between both nations worsened last year as ‘result of hostile positions assumed by the new administration’. It reiterated, however, Havana’s desire to continue a ‘respectful dialogue and a serious and objective cooperation with the United States’. At present this is largely limited to matters of mutual concern such as security, migration and the environment.

The Cuban commentary came before the appointment of Mike Pompeo, the former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, as US Secretary of State, and John Bolton as President Trump’s National Security adviser, both of whom in the past have called for a more robust approach and action against Cuba.

In the past Mike Pompeo has stressed the importance of US leadership in Latin America and the national security challenges Venezuela and Cuba pose. John Bolton has previously urged stronger sanctions be imposed on Cuba, named it as a part of the ‘axis of evil’, and claimed that Cuba wished to create a biological weapons programme.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

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