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The Power Of 'soft Power' In Cuban Foreign Policy

2476 words - 10 pages

Many people think of and remember Cuba as an island filled with picturesque tourist beaches, Che Guevara memorabilia, and quaint fifties cars; but it is much more than that. Ask any one of the countries that engage in foreign relations with Cuba and one would hear positive remarks regarding the systems of Cuban Medical Diplomacy, Yo Si Puedo literacy training, and other aspects of what Joseph Nye calls ‘Soft Power’ (Dominguez 2008). Nye defines ‘Soft Power’ as the promotion of the attractive qualities of a country; their way of life, their social supports and cultural institutions, his definition uses the example of the United States however one could argue that Cuba is perhaps one of the ...view middle of the document...

” (Erisman 2012)
The achievements of Cuban soft power are even more impressive when one considers that after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, Cuba had essentially lost the only country to which they held any diplomatic or trading relations (Lecture January 23, Cuban Crises). In addition to that loss they also faced difficult conditions with regards to the American embargo and the hegemonic power that held over allies of the United States (Lecture, January 23, Cuban Crises). At this point, Cuba had to re-evaluate their foreign policy and carve out a place in a world driven by market forces without economics or Western Allies on their side (Alzugaray Lecture 2014). Despite the odds being stacked against them, Cuba has forged an identity past that of tourist beaches and T-shirts through their innovative use of soft power notably in the realms of medicine, education, athletics and culture.
Perhaps the most well regarded case of Cuban ‘Soft Power’ is that of Cuban Medical Diplomacy. Developing a health care system with universal access and the ability to decrease statistics such as infant mortality and increase life expectancy was of the most notable triumphs of the revolution; Cuban Medical Diplomacy represents an extension of this triumph (Feinsilver 2003 pg. 590). Nye defined ‘Soft Power’ as promoting the attractive qualities of a country, so Cuba promotes this revolutionary triumph by sending tens of thousands of medical professionals abroad to countries with need varying from natural disaster relief to long-term health care system reforms (Jack 2010). Through this program Cuba has made allies of countries such as Algeria, Guatemala, Peru, Indonesia, Bolivia, Honduras and Mexico among others (Kirk 2009). The Case of Honduras works well to demonstrate how Medical Diplomacy has won over allies for Cuba. When Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998 both Guatemala and Honduras were particularly badly damaged (Kirk 2009). Within a week of the hurricane devastating the area, Cuba sent medical professionals to care for storm victims despite the strained diplomatic relations between the countries due to Honduras and Guatemala’s American alliances (Kirk 2009). Following seven years of Cuban effort in Honduras, 7 million consultations and over 31,600 major surgeries and 28, 300 minor procedures have been performed, to the effect of a decreased infant mortality rate among other health statistic improvements (Kirk 2009). However, Honduran health statistics were not the only improvement to arise out of these efforts; formal Cuban-Honduran diplomatic relations which had been suspended since 1961 were returned in 2002 thanks to the effort of Cuban medical staff (Kirk 2009). The formation of diplomatic allies is not the only benefit to this system; there are in fact cases where Cuba benefits economically from their medical efforts. An agreement between Cuba and Venezuela trades Cuban healthcare workers and expertise for highly subsidized Venezuelan oil and...

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