Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cuba and Brazil Part III: Cuba and Brazil in Parallel Strokes

We have been considering the multi part efforts by Castro to woo the Brazilian President Lula. That effort now stretches to four parts. The first of the essays provided the set up for the discussion, establishing to deep-rooted commonalities binding Brazil and Cuba, Castro and Lula. For my discussion, see Larry Catá Backer, Cuba and Brazil, Part I: Castro Lectures Lula da Silva, Law at the End of the Day, Jan. 26, 2008. The second pointed to the bases on which a mutually beneficial and strategic alignment made tremendous sense for both states. For my discussion, see Larry Catá Backer, Cuba and Brazil, Part II: Castro Continues his Wooing of Lula, Law at the End of the Day, Feb. 10, 2008. We have also seen the critical importance of this series, at least as to its timing, in the context of Castro’s apotheosis from physical leader of his country to a more spiritual essence. He has assumed a higher office with his resignation as head of state—he has moved from leader to Logos. That progression is apparent with the third in the series, Fidel Castro Ruz, Reflections By The Commander In Chief, Lula (Part Three), Jan. 26, 2008 (for the original Spanish).

Castro starts this third part with context—the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its effect on Cuba. Rather than e discouraged, Castro proudly explains, the Cuban state carried on. “And we decided to press ahead with unchangeable steadiness. That was what we had promised to do under such hypothetical and unbelievable circumstances.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Y decidimos seguir adelante con inconmovible firmeza. Así lo habíamos prometido en tan hipotéticas e increíbles circunstancias”). In that spirit, the Cubans have always sought to follow their own star, and have avoided the cult of personality. That last comment reminds Castro of Che Guevara, ironically enough. “I spoke to Lula about Che, briefly outlining his story for him.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Le hablé a Lula del Che, haciéndole una breve síntesis de su historia.”). The discussion, a panegyric on the romantic revolutionary, is rosier now that so mush time has passed. There is a bit of the internal musing in the summary, “You didn’t know him, I told him. He was disciplined in voluntary work, in his studies and behavior. He was modest and selfless, and he set an example both in production centers and in combat.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Tú no lo conociste, le dije. Era sistemático en el trabajo voluntario, el estudio y la conducta: modesto, desinteresado, daba el ejemplo en los centros de producción y en el combate.”). For a discussion of a fuller version of this sort of reflective panegyric, see Larry Catá Backer, Castro on Che, Law at the End of the Day, October 16, 2007. Yet, the detour has a purpose, it is meant to show , through the example of Che, that Cuban quality of steadfast willingness to follow its own path.

But this sets up the real discussion—the needs of Cuba, the ability of Brazil to meet them, and the similarities in position between the two. Castro devotes a long segment of his discussion to the difficulties of single crop agricultural dependence on sugar and the United States in 1959. He recalled, in his own way, the start of the embargo as a means to pressure him, the accusations of American efforts to use biological and other means to destroy the agricultural productivity of Cuba and the self sacrifice of the Soviet Union in agreeing to pay more than market for the paltry amount of sugar Cuba could squeeze out. And then he analogizes these efforts to the current effects of American pressure on Brazil: “The United States subsidizes its agriculture with tens of billions each year. Why does the U.S. not allow the ethanol you produce freely into the country? They subsidize it brutally, thus denying Brazil income for billions of dollars every year. The wealthy countries do the same, with their production of sugar, oleaginous products and cereals for the production of ethanol.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Estados Unidos subsidia su agricultura con decenas de miles de millones cada año. ¿Por qué no dejan entrar libremente en Estados Unidos el etanol que ustedes producen? Lo subsidian de forma brutal, con lo cual a Brasil le arrebatan ingresos por miles de millones de dólares cada año. Lo mismo hacen los países ricos, con su producción de azúcar, oleaginosas y granos para producir etanol.”).

And now to the punch—Brazil has land, power and a free hand to act in the world. Cuba needs all of that. Lula boasts—“ He told me that Brazil is in a privileged position. They have 850 million hectares of land; of these 360 million are part of Amazons State; 400 million of good soil for agriculture, and sugarcane takes up only one percent.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Brasil, me dijo, tiene una situación privilegiada. Contamos con 850 millones de hectáreas de tierra; de estas, 360 millones es la parte del Amazonas; 400 millones de buenas tierras para la agricultura, y la caña de azúcar ocupa solamente el uno por ciento.”). Castro responds with a reminder that by his calculations the prices of agricultural products has not risen much in half a century, though the retail price of the end products are now much higher. To Lula’s suggestion that the Brazilian success could be duplicated in Africa, Castro suggests many reasons for doubt.

But Castro must ensure Lula is committed strongly enough to the battle of ideas that has become central to Castro’s measure of allies and enemies. “I spoke to Lula about the Battle of Ideas that we are waging. Fresh news arrives constantly that demonstrates the need for that constant battle. The worst media of our ideological enemies are bent on spreading throughout the world the opinions of some nasty ‘worms’ who cannot even stand to hear the term “socialism” in our heroic and generous country.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Le hablé a Lula de la Batalla de Ideas que estábamos librando. Nuevas noticias llegan constantemente, que evidencian la necesidad de esa lucha constante. Los peores órganos de prensa de los enemigos ideológicos se dedican a divulgar por el mundo las opiniones de algunos gusanillos que en nuestro heroico y generoso país ni siquiera desean escuchar la palabra socialismo”). Gusanillos, the home grown variety of gusanos, who tend to reside in Miami and, from Castro’s perspective, control American conceptions of Castro’s ideological program, are the greatest threat.

Consequently, it is in the weakening of revolutionary fervor in Cuba itself poses the greatest danger for Castro. China provides a dangerous example in this regard. It is not clear that the Chinese Communist Party can keep itself firmly in the saddle as the “party in power” while assuming more and more the forms of global engagement using non-Marxist institutions and forms. See, Larry Catá Backer, Cuban Corporate Governance at the Crossroads: Cuban Marxism, Private Economic Collectives and Free Market Globalism, 14(2) Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems 337 (2004) (available 14TransLawContempProbs337(2004).pdf). Some isolation may be necessary (though Castro will have to convince Raul Castro of this, and it may be well too late for that). And here Brazil, and its ability to keep the Cuban population contented, comes into play, at least in Castro’s mind. A Lula and a Brazil publicly committed to something like Castro’s ideals, and serving as Cuba’s friend, could go a long way to aiding the (reluctant for Castro) transformation to a globally engaged authoritarian state on the model of China. “We are dealing with imperial capitalism’s vulgar appeal to individual egoism, as it was preached almost 240 years ago by Adam Smith to be the cause of the nation’s wealth, meaning everything should be handled by the market. That would create limitless wealth in an idyllic world.” Reflections Lula Part III, supra. (in the Spanish, “Se trata de la apelación vulgar del capitalismo imperial al egoísmo individual, predicado hace casi 240 años por Adam Smith como la causa de las riquezas de las naciones; es decir, ponerlo todo en manos del mercado. Eso crearía riquezas sin límites en un mundo idílico.”) . The shape of that relationship will take Castro to the last part of his series. Stay tuned.

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