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The Cuban State and the Latin Americanist Academia: a look at sharp power

Armando Chaguaceda


American political scientist Joseph Nye, who created the concept of soft power in post-Cold War scenarios, explained: "A country’s soft power can come from three resources: its culture… its political values… and its foreign policies…Like any form of power, it can be wielded for good or ill… soft power in the wrong hands can have horrible consequences…”More recently, however, in the wake of the global wave of anti-democratization, Jessica Ludwig and Christopher Walker have coined the term sharp power to refer to the ways in which global autocracies —especially China and Russia— are taking advantage of the institutions, communications, and linkages of all kinds opened up by globalization to try to influence public opinion in democratic nations and societies from within — through tactics of seduction, distraction, and manipulation. The concept is valid in the study of the performance of other authoritarian regimes beyond Moscow and Beijing. Cuba among them.

For almost sixty years, the Cuban state has been an exemplary promoter of sharp power. Within a strategy of foreign projection —which goes beyond the traditional interstate diplomatic agenda— Havana has devoted massive resources and worked with determination, sophistication and coherence to distort perceptions and limit public criticism of its authoritarian system. Given the small size of its military, economic, financial and human resources, the island state's capacity for sharp power is often underestimated outside the field of Cuban studies. The lack of knowledge of the functioning of states and societies shaped by the Leninist paradigm by an academia and a regional public opinion accustomed to the rules and conditions of democracies also contributes to this. An additional factor is an affinity that a good part of the international left —including its academic segments— still show towards what they call, despite temporalities and theories, "the Cuban Revolution". Addressing this problem, this text aims to explore, without wishing to exhaust a subject that has been little addressed and is complex, the presence of the sharp power of the Cuban state in the regional Latin Americanist academia.












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