Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Day the Cold War Ended

Headlines in today's El Tiempo announce the U.S.-Cuba detente and the FARC ceasefire announcement.

The quiet little island of Cuba rocked the region today with two announcements which may mean the end of the Cold War.

Cuba and the United States will normalize relations, meaning that Washington has accepted that hemisphere's only communist nation, and one of very few in the world, is no threat to democracy and capitalism.

And the FARC, the hemisphere's oldest and largest Marxist guerrilla group, announced in Cuba a unilateral, indefinite ceasefire in its war against the Colombian state.

Coincidence? Partly, perhaps. After all, not even Cuba's closest ally Venezuela seems to have known in advance about the Cuba-U.S. agreement. But both moves reflect a transformed world in which capitalism - if not liberal democracy - has triumphed and the communist vestiges are either futile or irrelevant.

The FARC have announced previous ceasefires, but never before an indefinite one. This one may not even last - the FARC leaders promised to call it off if the military attacks their forces. But it's yet another sign that the guerrillas are tired and weakened and really want to reach a peace deal in Havana.

The Economist points out that the guerrillas' move hands the Colombian government a difficult choice: if it ceases attacks on the guerrilla it will implicitly accept a bilateral ceasefire - an idea which Pres. Santos has repeatedly rejected. But, whatever happens, the guerrillas have clearly signaled that they want 'no mas.'

The ceasefire will be great news for Colombia if it means an end to kidnappings, attacks on infrastructure, car bombings, land mines and all the other horrors the guerrillas have inflicted on Colombia.

As for the Washington-Havana detente, it removes a source of tension between Colombia and its biggest trading partner, Washington, since Colombia has maintains normal relations with Cuba. And it further weakens Venezuela, already in an economic tailspin, which has long counted on Cuba as its closest ally and unwavering partner in denouncing Washington policies. Now, Venezuela becomes the hemisphere's prime target of U.S. criticism.

'Times in the Americas are changing,' says The Economist.

That's true. But if capitalism seems to be triumphing everywhere - including 'communist' China and inevitably in Cuba, one can't say the same about liberal democracy. Looking across the hemisphere, it's unclear whether liberal democracies, on the model of the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and others will prevail, or whether the region will become dominated by authoritarians disguised as democracies, on the model of Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Santiago Rivera said...

I don' think that Ecuador is an "authoritarian regime disguised as democracy", I mean yeah freedom of press there has been worsening, but they still have the best transport infrastructure and education system of any country in the region. There is a pretty big gap between Ecuador and Venezuela and Cuba

Miguel said...

Hi Santiago,

Thanks for your comment. I suppose that the definition of 'authoritarian' is subjective. But Ecuadorean Pres. Correa has repressed hostile media and is perpetuating himself in power. But, as you suggest, he seems to be good at getting things done, and he's strengthened the economy and apparently reduced corruption. But I could list a lot of authoritarians who were good at getting things done. That doesn't justify their destroying democracy. Mike