Nation-building is hard since the government of the nation to be "rebuilt" rarely sees itself in need of a make-over and is never appreciative of the effort. Take Cuba, for example. The United States has been trying to rebuild Cuba since 1959, shortly after U.S.-unfriendly dictator Fidel Castro overthrew U.S.-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista. So far, it hasn't worked, as evidenced by unpleasant events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs and Elian Gonzales. But, just wait until the day Castro dies.
The day Fidel Castro dies, will be observed as the day "the inevitable opportunity for genuine change arises" by members of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC).
The change CAFC sees arising on the day of Castro's death may best be described as a peaceful uprising by the Cuban people leading to the establishment of a democratic government.
While such a sweeping social change on the part of a people ruled by a communist dictator for over 46 years may seem a stretch, CAFC coordinator Caleb McCarry believes the change has already started. "What I'm saying is there is a desire for change in Cuba and that our view is that most Cubans want democratic change in their country," McCarry told a Foreign Press Center Roundtable in Washington on January 25, 2007.
"There are things that are happening that suggest that Cuban civil society is reawakening," said McCarry. " Particularly while there was a sharp decrease in independent activity in Cuba after the 2003 crackdown, there's actually been an increase across the island and particularly in the provinces, of independent activity. I'm talking about things like prayer vigils that people hold."
How the CAFC Works for a Free Cuba
The mission of McCarry's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba -- a mission also supported by the State Department -- is to assist the Cuban people in "hastening" their transition to democracy and the establishment of a freely elected government. Things the CAFC feels will not happen in earnest until Fidel Castro is truly out of the picture.
The most visible and best known ways in which the CAFC and State Department facilitates the Cuban transition to democracy, Radio Marti and Television Marti, deliver uncensored news and messages of encouragement and support to the Cuban public, despite the Castro government's "extraordinary efforts" to block the broadcasts.
"I had a conversation with a very noted Cuban poet who had been jailed in 2003 and left the country," noted McCarry. "He pulled me aside and said 'you need to understand how important American broadcasting is to people inside Cuba who are suffering under this regime. It is a source of hope to us.'"
In addition to spreading the word of democracy, CAFC and the State Department are prepared to offer humanitarian aid to the Cuban people during their political transition period. "The purpose of the humanitarian assistance, and this is actually central to our thinking, is at a time when Cuba is going through a transition process that we want to be prepared to offer every possible assistance to help Cubans through that, to help them meet these unmet needs, pent-up needs, and to assist in getting the support that a transition government that is actually dedicated to the democratic process would need to get to free," said McCarry.
Is the U.S. Practicing Nation-Building?
The argument could be made that the efforts on the part of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and the U.S. government to encourage a democratic government in Cuba represent a form of "nation building." However, Cuba, as member of the Organization of American States (OAS), signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Under Article I of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signatory nations, including Cuba, are obligated to provide their people with a democratic form of government. "The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it."
While the Cuban government has been excluded from participation in the OAS since 1962, chiefly as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it could still be expected to honor its obligations under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
No matter who finally replaces Fidel Castro, Cuba will remain a sovereign nation.
"It is our view that Cuba's future has to be determined by the Cuban people. That ultimately no political solution can be imposed from the outside, neither from the United States nor any other country. But that it's imperative that the Cuban people be able to choose their future." -- Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Will Democracy Come to Cuba?
On Aug. 29, 2007, the Cuban News Agency published Submission to Imperial Politics, a fascinating editorial supposedly written by Fidel Castro on August 26, in which Castro relates his opinion of several past U.S. presidents. In the article, Castro also mentions the "sacred duty" of today's politicians to seek a democratic Cuban government.
"Today, talk is about the seemingly invincible ticket that might be created with Hillary for President and Obama for Vice President. Both of them feel the sacred duty of demanding 'a democratic government in Cuba'. They are not making politics: they are playing a game of cards on a Sunday afternoon."