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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: On Why Embassy Openings Do Not Necessarily Herald Different Policies

By Beatrice E. Rangel

Giuseppe Tomaso Di Lampedusa, in his masterpiece “Il Gattopardo”, reached immortality by means of conceptualizing civilization over barbarity. In his mind, civilization became the art of promoting change without raising virulent opposition or resorting to violent means.

This concept is spelled out in a dialogue between the Prince of Salina and his nephew Tancredi. Urging his uncle to drop the alliance with the Bourbons and come to support the House of Savoy, Tancredi cautions “Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they'll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."

By "staying as they are", Tancredi meant to protect the gains of progress.

These words have been misinterpreted by many political and literary commentators who failed to understand their wisdom. Tancredi was Sicilian, a country that had been dominated by major powers throughout its history.

Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Islamic, Normans, Hohenstaufen, Catalans, and Spaniards had ruled Sicily, ascending to power through violent means to build a society that was afterwards destroyed or severely wounded by the next suitor, who also took the land over through violence.

As a result knowledge accumulation was scant and the country failed to capitalize diverse waves of knowledge brought over by conquerors who happened to be leading powers of their times. In the end, Sicily agonized over the collapse of a network of city states like Syracuse, a development pole in ancient times. Other city states followed identical paths thereby hindering the consolidation of a melting-pot culture that could have made Sicily a world power.

Time has done little to change the fundamental development dilemma.

The only difference lies in the fact that today knowledge can be created at a faster pace and with the widest human participation. And this seems to be the road chosen by the U.S. concerning relations with Cuba. Things need to change in order to preserve the wealth of knowledge accumulated over the last half century.

This knowledge points in several directions. First, current Cuban leadership has a totalitarian DNA and thus will try to void change. The U.S. challenge is to provide change with content. But for this content to be beneficial to the Cuban people, it cannot spell hostility or threat.

In order to be perceived as friendly by the potential beneficiaries, change must be enveloped in the local culture which is one of submission. But, at the same time policies need to gradually weaken the crux of totalitarianism. This demands a better understanding of its inner workings and a strategy to promote changes in people's mindsets.

Achieving such goals is a task that demands normality in the U.S. - Cuba exchanges. As these exchanges become routine Cubans will see the true colors of the U.S. regime completely devoid from the totalitarian lenses that have painted it as a fierce enemy pursuing the country’s destruction. Also, from the purely defensive viewpoint, the opening of the embassies in Havana and Washington allow the U.S. to better vaccinate itself from the world renown Cuban espionage.

As the system opens and ideology gives way to progress, even Cuban spies would like to become middle class entrepreneurs. And the number of recruits will come down as it has in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Cuban Americans will also play a fundamental role in reducing security risks and in promoting balanced growth in Cuba. But the policies of containment and the expansion of the values and principles that are the bedrock of US democracy will continue to be the fundamental nutrients of foreign policy to Cuba.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.

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