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Hillary’s "Feelings" About Cuba and the Castros


“A few weeks back, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that they are opened to a dialogue with Cuba but that they clearly want to see fundamental changes in the Cuban regime. It is my obligation to respond to Mrs. Clinton, with all due respect, and also to those in the European Union who are asking for unilateral gestures in the sense of dismantling our social and political regime. I was not elected President to return capitalism to Cuba or to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, preserve and continue to perfect socialism, not to destroy it…with all due respect, we tell Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of that country, that if she wants to discuss everything we are willing to discuss everything about here, but about there, too…”

— Raul Castro, August 1, 2009

“It is my PERSONAL BELIEF that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years…I find that very sad, because there should be an opportunity for a transition to a full democracy in Cuba and it’s going to happen at some point, but it may not happen any time soon.” [1]

So said Hillary Clinton on April 9th.

Personal belief seemingly guides the foreign policy of the Secretary of State. This could save the American public some money. Obviously, there is no need for all the data collection and all the analytical units of the US government.

Let us assume Hillary was correct about her personal assumptions as to what motivates the rulers of Cuba. Should such a conclusion lead her to the use of reverse psychology? Wikipedia tells us:  “Reverse psychology is a persuasion technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what is desired: the opposite of what is suggested.” Hence, the Castros use reverse psychology successfully on the US government, but the State Department does not use the same method.

Hillary is implicitly saying that the Castros are masochists and devious opportunists while she and others are just enablers! Yes, foreign policy is now led by the theoretical assumptions of publicly shared codependency “theory.”  Since  Latin American scholars elucidated dependency theory, why not use co-dependency to guide the great USA?

Let’s face it; Hillary operates from a subjective personal universe where wishful thinking reigns. This is not new. On May 1, 2000 the wire services reported  that in a radio interview in Buffalo, New York,  she “expressed her HOPE that the father of the little Cuban boy Elián González, Juan Miguel, will eventually decide to seek exile and live in the United States. “During the 2007 democratic primaries she repeated the demand for the democratization of Cuba. On February 22, 2008 she asserted that Cuba had to change before Washington could consider having a different policy toward the island. Now, we learn from her that the Castros want the embargo/blockade to continue.  One assumes this is a recent discovery on herpart.

This premise has been repeated by the most conservative sectors of the exile community in the 1990s. By 2002 the “Fidel Castro likes the blockade thesis” penetrated the world of the Washington, DC “think tanks”. A report by the Cato Institute claimed, “”Supporters of the embargo casually assume that Castro wants an end to the embargo because he believes that step would solve his economic problems. Despite his rhetoric, Castro more likely fears the lifting of the U.S. sanctions. But as long as Castro can point to the United States as an external enemy, he will be successful in barring dissent, justifying control over the economy, and stirring up nationalist and anti-U.S. sentiments in Cuba. It is time for Washington to stop playing into Castro’s hands and instead pull the rug out from under him by ENDING THE EMBARGO.” [2]

Some members of Congress also “invented” the same assertion. Sen. Max Baucus added “feeling” and “extra political sensory perception.” He said at a hearing:  “In my view… Castro wants the embargo to continue. Observers have noted an emerging pattern. Every time we get close to more open relations, Castro shuts down the process with some repressive act designed to have a chilling effect on US-Cuban relations. Castro fears an end to the embargo. Believe me, I have a sense – I have been there. I have spoken to Castro, been to Cuba. You can FEEL it. It’s palpable. He knows the day the embargo falls is the day he runs out of excuses. Without the embargo, Castro would have no one to blame for the failing Cuban economy. Nor would his way of governing be able to survive the influx of American and democratic ideas that would flood his island if the embargo were lifted.” [3]

Cuban authorities have responded to such ridiculous assertions. In an interview with the Austrian paper Der Standard, Ricardo Alarcon on April 1, 1993, challenged the Clinton Administration to lift the embargo/blockade forone year and see if political cohesion collapses in Havana, as Cuban exiles were positing. Alarcón noted that if the US policy was changed, and the Cuban government was accepted by the US; then, Cuba would have no reason to see domestic opponents as agents of the Americans. [4] Ten years later, Alarcón again repeated the challenge, “the US government should dare to lift the blockade for a limited period of time and take the so-called excuse away.” [5]

* * *

Is foreign policy a matter of national interest or an extension of psychology? Hillary Clinton has revealed that on matters related to Cuba, the government in Havana cannot be guided by such national interest as sovereignty; instead personality and the subconscious drives Cuban rulers. Thus, we are enter the realm of pop psychology and not reasons of state.  But what becomes clear is that American foreign policy on Cuba is illogical, does not work, and does not have the support of the world community.

It is obvious that the United States government refuses to acknowledge the right of a small county to be independent. Or to frame the issue so that the Secretary of State might understand:  US policy is shaped by a sense of national frustration – a great power that cannot dictate to a country that is just a few miles away. That certainly has to be upsetting to those who see themselves as the leaders and masters of the universe, the inhabitants of the house on the hill, selected by God herself.

Yes, the search for national sovereignty and independence cannot be construed or interpreted as something that is just, well, short of insane and psychologically unstable. Imagine, the humbling impact of a little country that American power can indeed check mate in its economic and social growth but cannot end its defiance and social experiment.

In 2002, in a tongue -in-cheek, open letter to George Bush, I wrote: “At times all over the island people wonder if you are really trying to help Fidel. It looks that way. Again, let me remind you. Your policy has not achieved your objectives, but it has been rather helpful in keeping the Cuban revolutionary government in power. Thus, if it does not work, do not fix it! And thank you for assisting the revolutionary cause.” [6]

But it is not appropriate to end this opinion piece that way.  On November 15, 2007 Hillary Clinton was asked by Wolf Blitzer on national television the following question: ” You say national security is more important than human rights. Senator Clinton, what do you say?”  And she replied, ” I agree with that completely. The first obligation of the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United States of America.” [7] Fair enough.

Alexander Hamilton addressed the same issue in Federalist Paper No. 8. He wrote on November 20, 1787, “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” [8]

The question then is, does the same principle of national security apply to Cuba?  Madame Secretary, apply logic to your own view on Cuba and follow what the Founding Fathers understood then.  Put an end to the policies that have contributed to the external threat under which the Cuban government has lived since 1960. Then let us see what happens there.

Nelson P Valdés is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and director of the Cuba-L Direct Project at the University of New Mexico.

This article was written for CounterPunch and Cuba-L Direct.


 [1] “Castro’s sabotage ending U.S. Cuba embargo: Clinton,” Reuters, April 9,

2010; 8:13 PM]

[2] Ian Vasquez and L Jacobo Rodríguez, Trade Embargo in and Castro Out, Journal of Commerce, May 27, 2002.


[4] 04/01/19930 – EFE (Madrid) – Alarcón Invita a EEUU a Levantar el Bloqueo Por Un Año.

[5] 12/13/03 – (Madrid)- Entrevista a Ricardo Alarcón, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular de Cuba

[6]  An Open Letter to George Bush: On US Policy Toward Cuba,” CounterPunch, August 9, 2002.

[7]”Democratic Debate in Las Vegas,” Aired November 15, 2007. CNN.

[8] The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States, From the New York Packet. Tuesday, November 20, 1787




Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

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