Jorge I. Domínguez was a professor of Government at Harvard University, with a specialty in the study of Latin American politics.
He was one of the founding teachers of the Harvard College Core Curriculum, in which he taught until his 2018 retirement. The Core Curriculum sought to introduce undergraduates to various approaches to knowledge, in the expectation that learning how to learn would serve students well during their lives.
Domínguez’s best known Core Curriculum course was, “The Cuban Revolution, 1956-1971: A Self-Debate.” He taught it twelve times between 1989 and 2016, with high enrollments (one year nearly reaching two hundred). The course featured lectures and discussion; students could choose discussions in English or Spanish. Domínguez also taught discussions in the lecture hall.
Each lecture was a self-contained argument, with evidence, about a key question. It was delivered with vigor and conviction. The next presented a different self-contained argument, also with evidence, delivered with vigor and conviction, but it contradicted the previous lecture in part or in full. Each unit featured two-to-six lectures on that same topic.
Students had to learn to think for themselves. Exams and papers required them to provide two answers to the same question. It was impossible to agree with the professor because the professor systematically impersonated different points of view. Students became equipped to address complex questions, with uncertain answers, puzzling evidence, during a transformative event.
Students held Professor Domínguez in the highest regard. At the end of each course, students filled out a questionnaire that the Committee on Undergraduate Education administered. One question asked students for their assessment of the professor overall. When graduate student instructors are evaluated in the same way, at the highest range they receive a teaching award. If the same had applied to this course, Domínguez would have earned a teaching award each of the twelve times he taught the course.
Dr. Jorge I. Domínguez served as a professor of comparative and international political science, with a specialty on Latin America, at Harvard University from 1972 until he chose to retire in 2018.
In 2022, Research.com, a prominent academic platform for scientists, ranked him among the top 1000 scientists in the United States in the area of Law and Political Science. He ranked #876 in the United States as well as #1588 in the world ranking. This was noteworthy because specialists on the politics of a region rarely rank as high as Domínguez has done.
Domínguez’s most often cited works were Cuba: Order and Revolution, Democratizing Mexico: Public Opinion and Electoral Choices, and “Mexicans React to Electoral Fraud and Political Corruption: an Assessment of Public Opinion and Voting Behavior”. Domínguez has also published many other scholarly books and articles in English and in Spanish.
The Research.com ranking is constructed using the H-index data that Microsoft Academic gathers. The ranking includes only prominent scientists with an H-index of at least 20 for scientific papers published in the field of Law and Political Sciences.
The full rankings may be found at https://research.com/scientists-rankings/law-and-political-science and https://research.com/scientists-rankings/law-and-political-science/us
Jorge I. Domínguez was a professor at Harvard University from 1972 until his retirement in 2018. He was also affiliated with Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS).
He researched and taught about Cuba and its relations with the United States. He believed that the study of Cuba and its U.S. relations should be a joint effort between scholars in Cuba, the United States, and elsewhere. Through DRCLAS, he and Dr. Lorena Barberia co-edited six collective projects during this century.
Four projects, jointly with Cuba’s Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva as co-editor, focused on Cuba’s economy. Three of these were books produced under DRCLAS auspices and published by Harvard University Press; the fourth was a special issue of the Cuban Studies journal, also hosted at DRCLAS. Another book, produced by DRCLAS and published by Harvard University Pres, focused on social policies and decentralization in Cuba, co-edited with María del Carmen Zabala, Mayra Espina. The sixth book, on U.S.-Cuban relations, co-edited with Rafael M. Hernández and published by Routledge. Routledge also published a revised second edition.
Altogether these six projects published 50 Cuban scholar chapter authors and co-authors, 20 others were U.S. scholars, and another 9 were based in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Spain. The mutual respect, the shared accomplishments, and the many talents set a good example and produced splendid books.
On 13 January 2022 Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested that the
Russian Federation may deploy military units to Cuba and Venezuela in response to U.S.
military support for Ukraine. What agreements may provide for shared security reassurances for
Russia, Cuba, and the United States?
Military deployments to Cuba are not new. The Soviet Union began to deliver military
supplies to Cuba in 1960 and, in 1962, deployed nuclear warheads, ballistic missiles, and tens of
thousands of troops to Cuba. The Soviet Union continued to deploy military forces to Cuba until
the end of the Cold War.
Russian military deployments to Cuba are not new. The U.S. Southern Command has
monitored Russian Navy deployments to the Caribbean. The last visit to Havana took place in
June 2019 — the frigate Admiral Gorshkov and supporting ships. The equipment of Cuba’s
armed forces is of Soviet vintage; Russian-Cuban military agreements since 2016 focus on spare
parts re-supply. In 2022, a Russian telescope went live in Cuba, interoperative with Russian
space satellites, enabling intelligence cooperation.
A “security regime” may govern these trilateral relations. A security regime implies a
pattern of explicit and implicit understandings among international adversaries that aims to
enhance the security of each party. It embodies practical rules to limit the scope of conflicts that
still persist. It relies on direct consultation.
The Soviet-U.S. security regime on nuclear and conventional forces. Following the
1962 crisis, the U.S. and the USSR agreed on these understandings:
- The USSR withdrew its missiles and nuclear warheads from Cuba and the U.S. withdrew
its Jupiter missiles from Turkey.
- The UUSR allowed U.S. verification of its weapons withdrawal. Soviet troops could
remain; the Soviet navy, absent nuclear weapons, could visit Cuba.
- The U.S. promised not to invade contingent on Cuba’s permitting on-site inspection.
Cuba did not; the no-invasion pledge did not become effective.
- Only the U.S. and the USSR negotiated. The U.S. refused to engage Cuba directly. There
was no formal treaty.
National Security Council Adviser Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir that, in 1970,
following a Soviet request, he affirmed that the understanding “prohibit[ed] the emplacement of
any offensive weapons of any kind or any offensive delivery system on Cuban territory. We
reaffirmed that in return we would not use military force to bring about a change in the
governmental structure of Cuba.” Kissinger had known about the now-dropped on-site inspection
requirement. The security regime at last became effective.
Later that year, the U.S. objected to new Soviet naval facilities in the port of Cienfuegos.
The USSR affirmed “that ballistic missile submarines would never call [on Cuban ports] in an
operational capacity,” and that it did not have and would not build a naval base in Cuba.
Both amendments to the understandings embodied the security regime’s practical rules:
- Each side stopped doing what the other one found objectionable.
- Each side made unilateral nonreciprocal concessions.
- Cuba remained excluded.
Two amendments came later. In 1975, Cuba accepted the 1962 crisis settlement,
dropping its previous demands that the U.S. had rejected. The U.S. subsequently discovered a
residual Soviet brigade in Cuba; Cuba and the USSR reaffirmed the understandings, agreeing not
to introduce Soviet combat troops in the future nor to turn the existing brigade into a selfsufficient combat force.
The three governments came to welcome the security regime. Each took care not to
humiliate another, made unilateral nonreciprocal concessions, and stopped doing what the other
found most objectionable. Precedents were binding and the basis of refinements. Only the U.S.
and the USSR negotiated, however.
The Post-1990 Security Regime: Russia/USSR leads. The USSR, then Russia led to
create a post-Cold War security regime. In 1991, the USSR withdrew its remaining troops from
Cuba. In January 2002, President Putin closed the decades-old Lourdes intelligence facility. In
2000 Russia and Cuba closed Cuba’s only still-unfinished Juraguá nuclear power plant.
Cuba chooses restraint. During the Cold War, Cuba refused to join multilateral nuclear
weapons treaties. Yet in 2002 Cuba ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Treaty
for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba and the
International Atomic Energy Agency approved a comprehensive safeguards agreement; on-site
inspections occurred in each of the past five years. In 2018, Cuba ratified the Treaty on the
Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and, in 2021, it ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
U.S.-Cuba security regime. A U.S.-Cuba security regime began with the 1965 migration
and the 1973 air piracy agreements. In the late 1980s, U.S.-Cuban negotiations helped to end
wars in Africa’s southern cone.
In the 1990s, cooperative and professional military-to-military relations developed
around the U.S. Guantanamo naval base and between their coast guards. Illegal migration
interdiction and counter drug trafficking cooperation unfolded.
In 2016, the U.S. and Cuba signed agreements to cooperate regarding travel and civil
aviation security, countering illegal drug traffic, Coast Guard operations, maritime delimitation,
and migration, among others. The U.S. returns, and Cuba accepts, interdicted unauthorized
The U.S. 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report indicates, “Cuba’s
intensive security presence and interdiction efforts have kept supplies of illicit drugs down and
prevented traffickers from establishing a foothold… regional traffickers typically avoid Cuba.”
Does this security regime exist in 2022? President Vladimir Putin has acted as if Russia
is the USSR’s heir, especially regarding Russia’s neighbors. Putin has threatened to deploy
Russian submarines, bearing nuclear weapons, adjacent to the U.S. east coast. Such submarines
might rest and repair at Cuban ports; the old security regime bans such services. This century no
Russian submarine has visited Cuba.
The pre-1990 and post-1990 security regimes relied on unilateral nonreciprocal
concessions to stop doing what the adversary found objectionable. Cuba so acted first in 1975
and has continued. Russia did so until 2002. The U.S. did so last in 1970. The trilateral security
regime has not been reaffirmed since the USSR’s collapse.
The reaffirmation of the security regime would seek the same objective as in the past:
international stability. In practice, it would simply affirm the status quo: Russia and Cuba are not
doing what the regime would prohibit; both would promise not to undertake actions to which the
U.S. would object. The U.S. would do no more than acknowledge circumstances as they are.
For Russia, an incentive would be recognition as a rightful player in the Caribbean –
rightful to agree not to act as the U.S. might object, constraining its future military deployments.
For Cuba, an incentive would be to become a shaper of a regime over which it had had no
authority, though at the cost of hypothetically constraining its international relationships. For the
United States, the incentive would be to stop Russia and Cuba from undertaking what Russia has
intimated, though at the cost of accepting a Russian role in the Caribbean and Cuba as an
interlocutor – recognizing Russia’s and Cuba’s rights to abstain from unapproved military
deployments and unacceptable relationships.
The security regime could still serve shared purposes or wither away. Its revival implies
costs to the three governments, but it also promises a stability that each may value.
Dr. Jorge I. Dominguez, retired, formerly professor of government at Harvard,