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The geopolitical importance of Cuba is not due to the strategic cunning of Fidel Castro, who was certainly a great connoisseur of the international relations during the 20th century, but to the geographical location of the island. With or without the Castro, Cuba is the fundamental piece which gives entry to the Greater Caribbean, as it is usually called the union of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, since Cuba as Mexico, are part of North America.
This central location explains why Cuba was the logistic centre of the Spanish Empire from the Sixteenth century to the beginning of the Nineteenth century. Columbus first arrived in The Bahamas and made a first fort in La Hispaniola, (today Dominican Republic and Haiti). But the Spanish Crown decided to set its operations’ centre in Cuba. From there, the conquerors took their expeditions to the north, to Florida; to the west, to New Spain, today Mexico; to the south, to New Granada, today Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and, through Panama, to Peru. All the galleons passed by Havana before making their return jump to the Peninsula. It remained like this until 1898, when the last Spanish overseas’ possessions, Cuba, together with Puerto Rico, Philippines and Guam, partly because its insular character isolated it from the independence movements, but mainly by the particular, affective and strategic consideration which always attributed to Cuba from the Metropolis, became independent after Spain losing the war vs. the United States. Only the great importance of the South American colonial territory articulated from the Rio de la Plata, was at the same level of the Cuban centre of gravity.
Cuba was also an essential element for the consolidation of the United States as a power in its hemisphere, between the end of the Nineteenth century and the beginning of the Twentieth century. To be a great power before World War I, the United States needed to control Cuba. To take Spain out of there was mandatory. That is the reason why the USA invented a pretext to declare the war to Spain: taking advantage of an internal explosion in the battleship Maine, anchored at that moment in the port of Havana, accused to Spain of having bombarded it, which was proved false once revealed the classified US documents about it, and which confirmed what the Spanish government had always maintained. Cuba has the geopolitical capacity of influencing in a large number of neighbouring countries, since all of Central America is its natural environment. When the US became the world superpower, it was to endure a communist Cuba in the Soviet orbit, because the US had control of the rest of the region.
Cuba has been for its geopolitical situation, the anti-American rebellion’ centre from 1960 until today. When analysing the geographical distribution of the communist guerrillas in Latin America, a circumference which has Cuba as the equidistant centre is observed, from the subversive attempts of the early 1960s in Venezuela to the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico in the 1990s; Guerrillas in Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Nicaraguan Sandinista regime of the 1980s. It is also necessary to include the support to the Colombian FARC and the control of the Chavismo. The Chavismo has already been something bigger apart, engineered and controlled from Cuban’ intelligentsia almost absolutely. Outside of that geographical area, Cuba has hardly had any influence: the disastrous adventure in Bolivia was a Che Guevara’ stubbornness, and the terrorist Peruvian’ Sendero Luminoso was of Maoist inspiration.
Castro was the creator of his own marketing: he led the far-left US and European intellectuals to believe that his revolution placed the culture, education and health above material values, which was what these intellectuals wanted to hear. He was a master of his own propaganda. Until recently, the visitors to Havana were shown a hospital, a school and a bookstore. I had myself the privilege of visiting these places. The hospital, reserved for the country’ leaders, was the jewel of the Exhibition. The bookstore was dedicated to the written works of Castro. And that’s it. The school improved the educational levels of Cubans, although before the revolution were already the highest in Latin America, but it is right to say that with the Revolution, the education was spread and mandatory to the entire Cuban population.
As for the immediate future, once the new diplomatic relations with Cuba have been re-established by the former Administration, the new US Trump’ Administration policy for Cuba, will not mean condescending treatment of the island. Although these are my own speculations, it seems that Trump will probably accept the decision already taken by Obama, but it is predictable that, to facilitate economic interaction, the US will demand some actions from the Castristas. Thus, the US embargo would remain in place if there are no signs of a certain economic opening, and if the Cuban state carry on with keeping in the pocket those business dollars, and not the private initiative of the citizens, which, right now except for a very few exceptions, it remains like that.
The day when Cuba gets rid of Castrism and the Castrism disappears, Cuba will keep up having the continental leadership, because it is where it is located. Cuba will be able to take advantage of the enormous possibilities which offers the fact of being at the centre of the immense Atlantic gulf of the American continent, formed by the coast line that goes from New York to Caracas. A democratic and economic liberalism could contribute to a communion of interests with the United States. Only a friendly and convinced relationship with the great northern neighbour could accelerate the development of the entire southern region of North America, including Colombia and Venezuela. Geopolitics proves that Washington will never cease to consider this area as its own security space; While not seeing certain risks, the US should contribute to a sincere promotion of its neighbours. By its privileged location, Cuba is called to be the great ally of the US in the Caribbean, in a mutual respect basis, and thus, becoming a hub for air and maritime communications of this ‘super gulf’ of the beautiful Caribbean Sea.