A little sickening all around
In 2004 when George W Bush, a Republican, was re-elected to office, his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Cuba as one of the few ‘outposts of tyranny’ remaining in the world. How well the term evokes old Western movies where the good guys (now a Trumpism) fight the bad guys (ditto) somewhere in some cavalry outpost…in fact wasn’t there a film, ‘The Last Outpost’, starring, why what a coincidence, Ronald Reagan, another star on the Conservative horizon?
So, Cuba is one of the few remaining outposts of tyranny in the world?
Cuba remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish American War in 1898, when, as a result of the Treaty of Paris it became an American Protectorate which gave the US economic and political dominance over Cuba. But then along came the Cuban Revolution in 1953, led by Che Guvevara and Fidel Castro, and in 1959 Batista, Cuba’s authoritarian President, was ousted and replaced with a socialist state, organised along communist lines.
The Revolution had important repercussions on the country, and also on its powerful neighbour to the north because it meant an end to the economic and political benefits enjoyed by the US in Cuba.
However, Batista returned to power once again by means of a military coup in 1952. Once again American organisations were given preferential treatment. This time around Batista was far less responsive to public welfare. He even established organised links to criminal groups that were unabashedly in his personal interests and to his benefit. Yet it seemed that the outpost of tyranny had become suddenly less tyrannical.
Batista’s government fell again in 1958, and this is when, following a revolution, Fidel Castro became Premier.
Castro’s government introduced antiracist laws. It made strides in crucial fields, health, communications, employment and education – for all citizens regardless of race. All races in the country became functionally literate. Corruption dropped, and the country enjoyed better sanitation. The government also supported arts and entertainment.
Castro considered biases such as gender and racial bias hypocritical. Woman participated strongly in the revolution. Contemporary Cuba provides equal constitutional rights to women. Women hold 48.9% seats in the National Assembly, they represent almost half the scientific and technical sector, and more than half of bank employees are women. ‘The National Association of Innovators and Rationalizes sees the contribution and participation of women on the rise.’
According to geographer and Cuban Commandant Antonio Jimenez, at the time of the revolution the bulk of Cuba’s arable agricultural land was foreign owned, mostly by American companies. The government implemented land reforms and nationalized all U.S. property in Cuba in August 1960 leading to greater social equality.
In response, the Eishenhower administration froze all Cuban assets on American soil, severed diplomatic ties and slammed a trade and economic embargo on Cuba, including a travel embargo. In case anyone is interested, Eisenhower was Republican.
It was Obama who tried to roll back this embargo but it appears since to be rescinded by his successor, whose favourite solution to world problems takes the shape of travel bans – generally bans, reminiscent of the most bearded of extremists in Pakistan.
So, if the prime villain Cuba is tyrannical, let’s take a look at Saudi Arabia, the prime favourite.
According to Reuters, only 30-40 % of working Saudi’s hold jobs, and as few even wish to seek jobs. Most of those working are employed by the government. The IMF has warned that the wage bill is not viable in the long run. The workforce in the private sector consists of 90 % non-Saudis.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights expects every person to possess the right to leave any country including his own. Anyone working in Saudi Arabia however must possess a sponsor. This sponsor is empowered to permit the worker to enter or to leave the country, to the extent that the worker’s passport is retained by the sponsor. At times the sponsor also holds the passports belonging to the worker’s entire family if they reside within the country.
The first time women voted in elections in the Kingdom was in 2015.
Women’s employment options are severely restricted in Saudi Arabia. It was only in 2003 that a woman did not require her male supporter’s testimony to obtain an identity card. Now, although women do not require that testimony to obtain an identity, they still require it to travel abroad. Domestic violence was legally criminalized for the first time in the country in 2013. And Saudi women are not allowed to drive. Manal-al Sharif, a woman’s rights activist started a right to drive campaign in 2011. She was jailed for nine days for driving a car. Also in 2011 a court sentenced a woman to ten lashes for driving. The ruling was overturned by the King. The Kingdom considers women drivers to be a threat to security, employment and morality, not to mention a well-publicized fatwa that said women who drove were no longer virgins.
Despite all these factors, Saudi Arabia and the United States remain close allies, and enjoy a ‘special relationship.’ They have, according to Wiki, been allies in opposition to communism, in support of stable oil prices, stability in the oil fields and shipping, and in the economies of Western Countries where Saudis have invested – which is of course the crux of the matter.
There is no mention of the two supporting democracy around the world (Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy) or any talk of human rights (think sponsor keeping the passport), or human rights (remember the lashings for a female driver). So whither outpost of tyranny, in this case?
Certainly it is about all about money, which is not to make a new or shrewd observation by any means.
An interesting point is whether by supporting tyranny a country becomes tyrannical itself, or itself an outpost of tyranny?
Political doublespeak is sickening. And Republican doublespeak doubly so, not that Democrats are much better. But in this truly nauseating respect they stink a little less.
Pakistan’s friendships in the region, for all our moralizing in the public arena are as two faced as any Republican government’s. Meantime it serves the Saudis to have a huge Pakistani workforce working for them.
But even petro dollars have their limits. Has anyone prepared for a time when they are not as readily available? Also, it will be interesting to see Pakistan’s stance with regards to the sudden fiasco surrounding Qatar. Will Pakistan choose its position based on its Saudi and American advantages, or will it base its stance on what is right?