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Is Castroism Laying a "Russian Trap" for Biden?

The Cuban regime gives the impression that it wants to cozy up to Putin and the Russian oligarchs, but its real objective could be something else.

La Habana
Miguel Diaz-Canel and Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Miguel Diaz-Canel and Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Presidency of Cuba

Last weekend many in Cuba read with amazement — and hope?— a message that circulated on WhatsApp detailing alleged agreements under which Castroism would deliver to the Russians much more than it has officially recognized.

The message, which purportedly leaked information from negotiations between Moscow and Havana, began by stating that Cuba was to be, once again, a "subsidiary market of Russia" (economic dependence and the adoption of Russian technology, rather than western), but this time "through public-private relationships" (Russian oligarchs would act in Cuba), before providing a very long description of how the Russians would intervene in everything from telecommunications to land, along with almost any economic sector imaginable.

The veracity, origins and objective of the information has been discussed on social media and has gained the attention of reputable YouTubers and specialists in the subject of Cuba. Some have deemed the content to be authentic, while others consider it to be an elaborate disinformation/manipulation campaign. Where everyone agrees on is that lurking behind this is State Security, which has a long record of manipulating information.

Is the regime evaluating the people's reaction to Cuba's accelerated and brazen loss of sovereignty? Is the plan to prepare them for a positions of extreme surrender like the one described in the WhatsApp message so that they are later more amenable to gigantic concessions, which might be seen as minor in comparison to what they expected? Do they want to "inform," but without involving the official channels in an uncomfortable dialogue?

If the content of the message is true, the possible reasons for its circulation are varied. But, to better understand it, it is necessary to first ascertain what Castroism wants. In this regard the analysis thus far has erred by taking things at face value; everyone assumes that these dealings with the Russians are "what the Cuban Government really wants," without anyone having considered that this is only a ruse concealing Havana's real objective: the Americans.

Does Castroism really want to cozy up to Putin and the Russian oligarchs? That option was always available, but the regime waited until the country was tearing itself apart and ailing like a leper in a coma before sending Diaz-Canel to tell Putin that Cuba was up for it.

Why did they bide their time if no one knows better than the Cuban Government itself how economically inoperative their regime is? No one knows better than them that their system is unproductive because it is designed for control, not efficiency; no one knows better than them that the superficial reform introduced is mere procrastination that does not change the country's impoverishing economic dynamic; no one is more aware that the "private sector" is a disguise; they know, in short, that nothing they have done will rescue the country from the pit of misery into which they have sunk it.

And yet, they stuck it out before playing the Russian card. What were they waiting for? There is only one possible answer: another Obamization.

The previous Obamization was thwarted by a defunct faction loyal to Fidel and his legacy, and because Trump reached the White House. Might all this Russian fuss, unleashed so suddenly, be an attempt to twist Biden's arm before the Republicans regain power?

Castroism does not want the end of the embargo, with all that it implies in terms of mutual negotiation, but they do want the tourism tap opened, to control remittances and monopolize the country's currencies, thus dominating the economy and society.

Obamization would be much more controllable by Castroism than an "invasion" of ruthless Russian mobsters. It is the United States and Putin that Raul Castro has dreamt about ever since he inherited his brother's estate, which is why the regime is, probably, scheming to pressure the Yankees.

If the Slavic option were really desirable and expedient for Castroism, it would have begun years ago; but these Russians are not Soviets, and their arrival on the Cuban scene, even at levels lower than those described in the supposedly-filtered WhatsApp message, could further erode what is left of traditional Castroism. Although this does not mean that the regime will be humanized, it could mean a loss of central power, as this process that is beginning is potentially chaotic and unstable because there are impulses, interests and powerful actors on the Russian side who, without necessarily being committed to Cuba's central government, may be tempted to seek parallel alliances within Cuba, in business, military and financial sectors.

It could even be that the Russians are feigning this detente only as a strategic threat to Washington (Havana must have considered this) before a potential political withdrawal leaving Castroism much worse than they found it, now bogged down with psychotic Russian plutocrats positioned to collect old debts.

"The Russians are coming!" warns the independent and international press, as an alert, encouraging the Americans to realize how geopolitically dangerous Castroism is. This alarm, receiving so much media attention, could be precisely what Havana is looking for to scare Biden, or at least to have a trump card with which to negotiate from a position of "either help me survive, or you'll have Putin and his military 90 miles from your territory."

The weekend's message, then, might be understood as an ultimatum to Washington, an indication of how much the Communist Party is willing to hand over if the Democrats don't act fast and open up some source of funding to ease the internal crisis.

In practical terms, it does not matter whether the thesis of this article is correct or not (it is impossible to know what Castroism is really planning). It being plausible and even probable suffices to, communicatively, take it for granted, and to try to dissuade the Democratic Party from any temptation to let itself be blackmailed.

Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba used to say: "give a fleeing enemy a silver bridge,” and Napoleon added: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

If we believe that Castroism would have better control of the situation with an Obamization than with this relationship with the Russian mafia (and we already know that control is the key to its longevity) after the "The Russians are coming!" those interested in Cubans freedom should add "Let them come!" Give Castroism a silver bridge so that, desperate, it makes its own mistake.

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