Cuba has historically leveraged its healthcare sector to promote the Cuban Communist Party’s image, offer low-income countries an alternative source of assistance, and counteract pressure on foreign actors to condemn Cuba’s autocracy, notes Ariane Gottlieb, a program assistant at the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies.
Havana may well reap such rewards from its coronavirus vaccines: breeding goodwill, offering political clout, and bolstering a carefully crafted perception of the country’s medical sector, she writes for the Forum’s Power 3.0 blog:
Cuba’s vaccine development and responses to COVID-19 have fallen prey to some of the same tactics witnessed in other authoritarian settings, such as rushed testing, opacity surrounding pandemic response measures, and violations of civil liberties. A closer look at Cuba’s track record suggests that its strategy for exporting vaccine doses could potentially become another instance of sharp power—where medical diplomacy is exploited to secure political rewards to the advantage of authoritarian narratives. RTWT