Monday, September 17, 2007

"It is their country" (Updated)

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez spoke about Cuba today (audio here, text here) and broke no new ground. He criticized Cuba’ human rights and economic policies, defended the embargo because it has denied resources to Cuba over the years, and said Cuba’s “real ideology is a fervent anti-Americanism.”

President Bush is determined to keep the current policy in place, he said: “Unless the regime changes, our policy will not.” By that I don’t think he means “regime change” per se, but rather political reform – “We are prepare to respond to genuine democratic change.” He rejected as “naive” the notion that significant change would come from Fidel Castro (which isn’t exactly going out on a limb) or Raul Castro.

Gutierrez said that the Administration is prepared “to work with Cubans on the island, with Cubans who hold positions on the island, as long as they are willing to change and obviously as long as they don’t have human rights violations,” he said. In response to a question, he recognized that there are Cubans within the system who want change but “can’t be as open as we would like,” and “one of the opportunities is to identify those people because they are there and we would like to help.”

Gutierrez also emphasized that “the future of Cuba is in the hands of Cubans on the island…it is their country.” Speaking about those who left Cuba, he said, “We are now U.S. citizens. We have moved on.” And he reiterated that the Administration has no “desire to run Cuba” and “we don’t have any military intentions” in Cuba either.

Left out of the speech was any definition of “genuine democratic change” that would trigger a U.S. response, any reference to the current talk about economic reform in Cuba, or any hint about the Administration’s thinking about the moment when Fidel Castro passes from the scene.

It seems that whenever Secretary Gutierrez talks about Cuba, he takes pains to reject Cuban government claims that the Bush Administration’s policies threaten Cuban sovereignty or the well-being of Cuban families. Unfortunately, those claims, while delivered with great political gusto to the Cuban domestic audience, are not without foundation. The Administration’s commission reports are so long and detailed that they read like a blueprint for Cuba’s future, no matter how many “If Cubans wish…” appear in the text. Cuban dissidents themselves have said as much. Those reports explicitly discuss the possibility that émigrés would return to repossess homes, and services such as health and education might no longer be free. Secretary Gutierrez’ heart doesn’t seem to be in those policies. How much more effective it would be if he would find a way for the Administration simply to disavow them rather than make the incredible claim that the Cuban government is sowing confusion about the Administration’s intentions.

As for the “opportunities” to identify Cubans who might seek reform, Gutierrez seems to imply that those are opportunities to seize someday in the future, and he showed no interest in changing the U.S. policies that block contacts between Americans and Cubans now.

All in all, Secretary Gutierrez seemed to be in a passive, distant, wait-and-see posture, making no claim that any U.S. action is creating conditions for the change the Administration wants to see in Cuba. Ho-hum.

Update: Here's the story on the Radio/TV website, which has a different emphasis than mine. The story provides no audio link, so it may be that Marti covered the story on the website but not on the air.

5 comments:

afina said...

Allow me to comment on some of Gutierrez's points.

He said that the Administration is prepared “to work with Cubans on the island, with Cubans who hold positions on the island, as long as they are willing to change and obviously as long as they don’t have human rights violations,”

THIS IS NOT THE INDIRECT MANIFESTATION OF SUBTLE us IMPERIALISM.

PETER THEN WRITES,
It seems that whenever Secretary Gutierrez talks about Cuba, he takes pains to reject Cuban government claims that the Bush Administration’s policies threaten Cuban sovereignty or the well-being of Cuban families. Unfortunately, those claims, while delivered with great political gusto to the Cuban domestic audience, are not without foundation. The Administration’s commission reports are so long and detailed that they read like a blueprint for Cuba’s future, no matter how many “If Cubans wish…” appear in the text."

PETER YOU ARE SPOT ON HERE. NICE ANALYSIS.

by the way, i am no castro apologist, (i am very anti-castro) but can't one be very anti-castro and anti-US and exile at same time. Well, I am, and as I think many Cubans actually living on the island are too!

Anonymous said...

Phil mentioned that the Administration’s commission reports are so long and detailed that they read like a blueprint for Cuba’s future, no matter how many “If Cubans wish…”

Thank you Phil. After reading this I went to read the report for myself.
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/32322.pdf

I urge all to read this. If this isn't a blueprint for new forms of American control of the island I don't know what is.

The report reads like a what is what for a paternalistic relationship. It talks of how US can help Cuban deal with "improper sexual activity", how they can "teach them" democratic values, how to "encourage private institutions in education" ... and "health".

Any Cuban, no matter how anti-Castro would puke (vomit) after reading one of those Commission reports. The attitude/tone of the Commission's report illustrates why most cubans living on the isla are scared of exiles and US (and why they perhaps should be).

When I read the Commission's report, I feel ashamed of those otherwise professionals at the state dept. What were they thinking writing this? What business do we have?

Thanks for the head's up.

by the way, I thought conservatives were against nation-building and governmetn in general. Why then are they so fervant in promoting nation building and military adventures?

Anonymous said...

Left out of the speech was any definition of “genuine democratic change” that would trigger a U.S. response, any reference to the current talk about economic reform in Cuba, or any hint about the Administration’s thinking about the moment when Fidel Castro passes from the scene.

I'm not an expert like Mr. Peters but wouldn't that look something like releasing political prisoners, allowing for free speech, opening up the media to allow competing voices, the allowing of opposition political parties and the calling for and running of free multiparty elections?

Yeah, I think that's what democracy looks like.

Phil Peters said...

Anon, of course you're right, I just made that observation about the speech because he sounded to me -- and I don't want to over-analyze -- that steps in that direction would draw a response, as opposed to complete fulfillment of the whole Helms-Burton checklist.

Mambi_Watch said...

In my opinion, IF Cuba released all of its political prisoners, the US would still have the same hard-line position. I don't think the US has any real concern for political prisoners.

To me, it's always been a Cold War with Cuba (examine how the goal post has changed since the early 90's). They must completely abandon communist/socialist foundations and accept free market models that have brought no significant changes in the living standards of the Latin region for decades.