Cuba Relations: The Tweet is Mightier Than The Sword.
Rances Vargas still believes in the American dream. When he and his family emigrated from Havana, Cuba in March 2002, he disregarded the oppressive communist regime of his homeland and optimistically embraced the United States’ capitalist economic system. For the Vargas family, the pursuit of the American dream never stopped. Rances graduated from high school and pursued his undergraduate degree while working as a cashier and cook at a local McDonald’s restaurant. He continued his education, eventually obtaining a masters degree in Miami, a city hosting a huge population of Cuban immigrants, exiles, and refugees.
In a poetic act of rebellion to the ruling Castro regime, Rances takes to social media to exercise his freedom of speech on a broad range of social and political issues. Rances posts on everything from the capitalist system and free market to more personal political matters, such as the restoration of U.S.-Cuban relations. Rances hopes to spread awareness on the oft overshadowed dissenting opinion and the economic impacts of the diplomatic situation, an uphill battle.
Rances seeks out comments of optimism, appeasement, and pacifism searching for buzz words such as “patience” and “hope.” He counters these messages with facts and his expert knowledge on international relations, diplomacy, and U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean.
When people share their dismay for boycotts and sanctions, they don’t understand that “suffering its part of the process. Reciprocity is not really a factor in these ‘negotiations’ -not from Cuba at least,” Rances says. Indeed, the economic hardships are by design, an attempt to incite unrest and political instability, prompting a regime change. Such mass civil disturbances have recently proved effective in regime changes during the Arab Spring. With Venezuela’s failed economy unable to support the Cuban economy and Castro government, the communist island was primed for a similar regime change.
As Rances and his family uprooted their life and sought refuge from Cuba, he questions the sudden change of heart and desire to reach out and arguably appease the dictatorship. While commercial flights have been restored between the countries, Rances ponders the desire to return, “As with most Cubans, the bottom-line was to get away from the oppressive government of the Castro regime and the economic uncertainties.”
Rances is not alone. Many Cuban-Americans share the dissenting opinion of the reemergence of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations. In April 2016, people from all over South Florida gathered to protest a proposed Cuban Consulate in Miami Beach. Cuban exiles called the proposition and idea of consulate in Miami Beach “disrespectful to exile community.” More recently, protesters gathered outside the Carnival Cruise Lines headquarters in Miami to express opposition to an archaic Cuban law banning Cuban-born individuals from returning to the Communist island by boat, prohibiting them from any cruises stop in Cuba.
While the archaic cruise ship law has since been changed, the sentiment behind the policy has not. After the first U.S. cruise ship pulled into port, a Cuban “dissident” was arrested for waving an American flag. Inane and oppressive Cuban laws drive the opposition movement. The United States has reached out to the communist government, and the regime was not prompted or urged to make any changes. On the contrary, Cuba President Raul Castro called the United States “the enemy” and warned Cubans to be vigilant and mindful for efforts to undermine the Communist revolution. More recently, Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called U.S. President Obama’s visit to the communist island “an attack on the foundation of our history, our culture and our symbols.”
In 2009, U.S. President Obama issued a statement and warning to dictators: “to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.“ While the U.S. has extended a hand - a hand offering millions of dollars –Cuba’s government officials have not “unclenched” their fist.
Rances is a man who truly understands the propaganda efforts and disinformation tactics of the Castro regime. Dissatisfied with the recent U.S.-Cuban interactions, Rances continues his uphill battle to promote free market principles and voice opposition to the oppressive regime “They truly didn’t give up anything. They don’t have to toe the line, there is no line.”
Rances Vargas is a graduate of Florida International University’s School of International Political Affairs. He has worked with many elected officials and specializes in national security and U.S foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRances.
Matthew Nieminski is an intelligence analyst focusing on conflict and terrorism. He is an experienced security specialist specializing in asset hardening and the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources. Follow him on Twitter: @MattNieminski