Washington’s Cuba and Venezuela Policies: An Attempt to Divide the Americas?

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Author and political scientist Arnold August will present “Washington’s Cuba and Venezuela Policies: An Attempt to Divide the Americas?” on May 18, 2018, at the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Annual Congress, Université du Québec, Montréal, Canada.

The presentation is based on his recently published book Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond (Fernwood Publishing, Halifax, 2017). The publication deals with U.S. policy toward Cuba as developed by both Obama and Trump as well as toward Venezuela as part of this policy toward the island.

The paper deals with the following question raised in the Call for Papers: “A single Pan-American system or a set of regional blocs?” Whether or not one agrees, Cuba and Venezuela have both been working – and continue to work – in favour of two regional blocs: ALBA and CELACS. The latter was established on the very basis of excluding both the U.S. and Canada, thus precluding a single Pan-America, as it is felt that these countries in the north have historical/cultural/economic/social values and interests that are incompatible with the south.

Is this prejudice toward exclusion justified? What do the facts show us? During the Obama mandate, the U.S. finally recognized Cuba, and the two countries established mutual diplomatic relations. At the same time, however, Washington initiated and continuously developed a hard-line stance on Caracas by de facto not recognizing President Maduro and the election results while calling for regime change. Was this an attempt to create divisiveness between Cuba and Venezuela? In any case, Cuba responded by indicating on several occasions that it would not be beguiled by the U.S. carrot-and-stick policy. As late as December 2017, Cuba took the unusual step of calling out Canada for its Venezuela policy. Venezuela, for its part, refuses to allow Washington to interfere (as it sees it) in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

Canada, on the other hand, while continuing to follow the long tradition of mutual trade, tourism and diplomatic ties with Cuba, is playing a key role, especially in implementing the U.S. policy of regime change in Caracas. This came to the fore once again on December 25, 2017. In the latest tit-for-tat conflict with Caracas, Ottawa expelled the chargé d’affaires and announced that the Venezuelan Ambassador who was recalled will not be allowed to return Canada, leaving the embassy virtually rudderless.

Thus, a four-way division: Cuba, Venezuela, U.S. and Canada. Who is to blame?

Arnold August holds an MA in political science from McGill University. He is an author, journalist and lecturer living in Montreal. He is the author of Cuba-U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond (2017), Cuba and its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion (2013), and Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections (1999).

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