By Atilio A. Borón / Source http://www.atilioboron.com.a / The Dawn News /March 28, 2016. The starting point of any analysis on Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba and Argentina is the recount of the defeats suffered by the occupant of the White House, both domestically and internationally. In the domestic arena, Obama failed in his three most ambitious attempts at reforms in the financial, immigration and health areas. To make matters worse, the economy has not fully recovered from the crisis that broke out in 2008 and the sum of the public debt, in addition to the individual’s debts, exceeded the amount of GDP of the United States under President Obama. That is, the country owes more than what it produces in a year.
At the international level, luck was also elusive: the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was mainly a demagogic gesture for his voters, which ended plunging the country into a chaos of gigantic proportions that soon went beyond Iraq’s borders and spread as wildfire to the rest of the Middle East; as diplomatic, financial and military support was given to alleged “freedom fighters” in the region, fueled by the fire of jihadist fundamentalism, that eventually fathered a monster as the Islamic State, which is metastasizing in Africa and Europe, apart from the Middle East.
Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged this reality by declaring recently that “we chose our friends wrongly”. Meanwhile, the situation has broken down into Eastern Europe with the crisis in Ukraine, and enhanced by the intervention of the United States where Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs, attended the bands of neo-Nazis who camped in the Square Maidan and offered them bottles of water and cookies, stirring them up to take the power by assault, which they did shortly after, in bloody clashes. Russia’s response to the blatant NATO offensive was to support Russophile sectors of eastern Ukraine and launching a withering military operation to recover nothing less than the peninsula of Crimea, to which the United States and its European sidekicks were left with no choice but to express their impotence and frustration. And Obama is not doing much better in the Far East, where the South Sea of China, whose seabed contains large reserves of oil and gas disputed by the Asian giant and Japan, has put these two countries on the brink of war.
Consequently, both internally and in the international arena, Obama is a president urged to receive good news that allow him to leave office with some good results that could install him in a relatively honorable place in history. It’s unlikely that he may be able to achieve this on one of the two fronts; but internationally there is one more card through which he could record some significant victories. The exasperatingly slow and laborious dismantling of the criminal blockade to Cuba, still in force, would be one of his accomplishments. In fact, with the release of three antiterrorist Cuban fighters who were imprisoned in US jails he has sent an important signal, yet still insufficient. The way to go in order to really “normalize” the relationship between Cuba and the United States is still very long and steep, but with his visit to the island —the first by a US President since the triumph of the revolution— his credentials are strengthened.
Much depends on what he will offer to Cubans, in concrete terms, to begin dismantling the blockade, which has been unanimously condemned by the international community. At times like these, speeches and rhetoric without concrete initiatives are too much like a joke or like a demagogic maneuver. Despite the blockade laws passed by the Congress, presidential powers could be used to moderate its scope significantly. But so far, Obama has not exercised them beyond small proportions. It’s not possible to speak of “normalization” of bilateral relations when a country persecutes, harasses and blockades another, or when it declares that the overriding aim of US policy toward Cuba is to promote a “change of regime”, but through other kind of means. The illegality and immorality of this policy is obvious. So far, these “other means” that are supposedly different from the blockade are yet to be seen. In Cuba, Obama will also have a second chance: to vigorously promote the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, subduing the last resistances that oppose the agreement. Only time will tell if he has enough guts to face both challenges successfully.
The complement of his Cuban tour is the visit he unexpectedly decided to do to Argentina, a gesture destinated to calm down the troglodytes in the United States who have derided Obama for his decision to visit Cuba and also to retribute President Mauricio Macri for the services rendered in assuming, with much more legitimacy than Alvaro Uribe (immersed in his ties to drug trafficking and paramilitarism), the role of being the spearhead in the escalation that seeks to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution. As it’s known, Washington’s immediate strategic objective is twofold: to end with Chavismo and regain control of Brazil. Macri can be a valuable piece to materialize these plans to attack the Venezuelan government and try to isolate it via its eventual exclusion from the Mercosur; and supporting the Brazilian coupist right in their goal of redefining the Mercosur as an ultra-neoliberal organism and end with the “Worker’s Party populism”, at the same time as, in the South American level, they suffocate the UNASUR and the CELAC both economically and politically. But Obama is not completely satisfied with that and still expects more of the Argentine Pink House: a strong and unconditional support to the Pacific Alliance (three of its founding governments are characterized by international analysts as “narco-states”: Mexico, Colombia and Peru) and the Trans Pacific Treaty, a monstrosity created by Washington to install a giant FTAA in the Pacific Rim. Both initiatives have an ominous common denominator: the exclusion of China, the second largest economy in the world or, depending on how you measure it, the first.
Precisely with this country Argentina has had a very serious clash: the sinking of a Chinese fishing boat that had entered illegally in Argentina’s territorial waters. China is the second largest trading partner after Brazil, the largest buyer of agricultural products from Argentina and one of its major financial partners and investors. So far, Beijing has said close to nothing about this event but there is no doubt that relations between the two countries will suffer unprecedented tensions. Coincidentally, the sinking of the fishing boat takes place on the eve of the arrival of Barack Obama to Argentina, and there are some reasons to speculate that this sudden strictness of the Argentine Naval Prefecture, which is exceptional given that many fish boats wander territorial waters without any disturbance, could be another gesture of “goodwill” from the Pink House to its visitor. A sure sign that, despite the strength of economic ties with China, Buenos Aires is unconditionally aligned with the United States in its silent struggle with China and Russia. However, it’s unclear yet what type of friendly and cooperative gestures Obama will have towards Macri, who has become the US spokesman and main operator in South American politics and has gone so far as to show their friendship by strafing and sinking a Chinese fishing boat. As the great historian Eric Hobsbawm said, we are living in interesting times, changing times, with a positive political sign of progress towards a better world. But in the Chinese tradition, Hobsbawm said, if someone wanted to curse someone else, they would wish them to live in “interesting times”, that is, marked by instability and violence. Time will tell which of the two versions is the one that awaits us.