Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Maybe, regardless of our views on the issue, we can all thank Senator Obama for two things: in calling for an end to restrictions on Cuban American visits and remittances, he didn’t engage in the typical pandering, and he smoked everybody else out. Here’s a roundup from news stories:
- Senator Clinton, who had called for “some discretion” in family hardship cases last May, today calls for sticking with the status quo: “Until it is clear what type of policies might come with a new government, we cannot talk about changes in the
policies toward U.S. .” (AP) Cuba
- Senator Biden supports the status quo too. Governor Richardson was already on record agreeing with Obama. Senator Edwards wants to end restrictions on visits and maintain restrictions on remittances. Senator Dodd wants to lift the travel ban for all Americans. Congressman Kucinich wants to lift the entire embargo. (AP)
- Governor Romney said that “unilateral concessions to a dictatorial regime are counterproductive,” and it would be wrong to “weaken our policy on
until the Castro regime is dismantled, all political prisoners are freed and Cuba transitions to free and fair elections.” (AP) Cuba
- Senator Martinez said it would be “a big error at a sensitive and critical time for Cuba” to “take away the strength the embargo now has,” and it would “throw away all the great successes of the policy of strength” pursued by President Bush. (EFE)
My favorite reaction came from a non-candidate, Mauricio Claver-Carone of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, who told AP that Obama is “well intentioned,” but his proposal sends the wrong message: “It entrenches the regime at this critical time.”
If a one-party government that has been in power since 1959 is not already entrenched, then what is?
A week or so ago I added the Spanish-language blog Generación Y to the list at the right. Written in
Its perspective is critical and irreverent. And if you get tired of my focus on
In “Vine y me quedé,” she tells what it was like to return to
Well worth checking out.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Senator Barack Obama is making a play for the segment of the Cuban American community that opposes the Administration’s 2004 sanctions directed at Cuban families – a “humanitarian and strategic blunder,” his spokeswoman says, that makes Cubans “more dependent on the Castro regime.”
Tonight the news broke that Obama will have an op-ed in tomorrow’s Miami Herald (the article is here) calling for unrestricted travel by Cuban Americans and easing of limits on remittances.
I’m no expert on
It will be interesting to see how Senator Clinton reacts, if she does at all. In the Senate, she voted in favor of travel for all Americans, but as candidate her posture resembles that of President Clinton: we can’t change
Last week there was an interesting AP report about a petition drive by a Cuban women’s group. The petition calls on
The group told reporters in a
The group’s press conference was announced to reporters in
Regardless, what’s interesting about this effort is that it is focused on a discrete and very salient political issue among Cubans, it is an attempt to work within the current system to achieve change, and it gives average Cubans an opportunity to take action. In that sense, unlike other kinds of dissident activity such as human rights monitoring, news reporting, and ideological criticism of the Cuban government, this effort constitutes a more political opposition, in that it engages citizens concretely in grass roots political action.
Activist Belinda Salas commented on the prospects for change under Raul Castro; “The possibilities with the number two are more probable,” she told AP.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Here are a few comments on a University of Miami essay by Professor Jaime Suchlicki and Jason Poblete, “When Should the U.S. Change Policy Toward Cuba.”
The authors begin by discussing the confusion involved in the terms “transition” and “succession.” I thought the Administration defined the terms pretty well: “transition” meant a change in political system, “succession” a change in leadership with the system unchanged. Then the Administration confused the issue completely, giving us one more reason not to rely on our own government for analysis of what’s going on in
The authors’ real point, however, is to stand up for the all-or-nothing U.S. policy in the Helms-Burton law, which provides that only a complete change in Cuba’s political system, not partial reform, can trigger any easing of U.S. sanctions. They underscore that the law provides that “a transition government cannot include either Fidel Castro or Raul Castro.” Actually, the law goes them one better; it says that a “democratically elected government” cannot include Fidel or Raul, which is worth chewing over for a minute.
Set aside your supposition about Raul Castro’s chances in a free election in
Regarding those principles, the authors try mightily to cram the current
There’s more. They set up an old straw man, claiming that proponents of engagement with
Beneath it all, my hunch is that the authors are beginning to grapple with a scenario that may soon confront us.
No one knows whether, when, or how much Raul Castro would liberalize
What if Americans would react by saying that a degree of liberalization, even if limited, is a positive development? How would we react to a scenario where Cuban policies are changing and Cubans of all political persuasions are debating what should come next? The next question would be to ask, pragmatically, what to do? Are there any tools in
At that point, we would crash right into the big question posed by Suchlicki and Poblete. And the answer, they remind us, is dictated in our law: We would do absolutely nothing until
We would greet a scenario of new possibilities as spectators with our feet in concrete. We would make the perfect the enemy of the good, which is not a typical American approach.
In that scenario, Americans might then look for different options. The system of laws enacted in response to Fidel Castro might lose their sacrosanct quality. The Calle Ocho argument that anyone who seeks a different approach toward
That’s why an economic opening in
, President Uribe’s peace negotiator expects that Bogota ’s next round of talks with the ELN guerrillas that begin Monday in Colombia will end with the signing of an agreement to “end hostilities.” Havana
- The Internet version of the U.S. Interests Section’s famous electronic signboard is stuck on July 16.
- Senator Dodd on Cuba: the candidate calls for the
to “engage with the Cuban people in support of a peaceful transition to democracy.” H/T: Uncommon Sense. United States
- From the department of dubious distinctions,
’s journalists’ union gives an award to Max Lesnik, and Max is there to accept. Cuba
Thursday, August 16, 2007
A reader in
- In one week, the release of two political prisoners: Lazaro Gonzalez Adan and Francisco Chaviano.
- Repsol’s plans to continue deep offshore oil exploration have slipped from early 2008 to late 2008.
- The current government of
apparently sees something fishy in the pardon extended to Luis Posada Carriles and three associates in 2004, in the final days of the term of President Mireya Moscoso. Three officials will be tried for abuse of authority next January. Panama
- An update: the Canton-to-Cuba road project is complete (sub. req’d).
Friday, August 10, 2007
- Two Hungarians expelled from Cuba, reportedly they were part of an “unofficial delegation of European politicians on a tour of
, organised by US-based Freedom House.” Cuba
- Ten years after the Pope’s visit, the AP looks at the church in
- The Cuban side initiates another round in the fight over the migration accords and the fact that the
will fall short of issuing 20,000 immigrant visas in United States during the fiscal year that ends September 30. Havana
- Cuba Gooding has a new movie and the reviews are not good.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
It would emulate the policies we pursued toward
It would foster communication, freeing universities, charities, churches, and citizens – left, right, and center – to exchange information, ideas, and arguments with Cubans in and out of government who constitute the post-Castro
It would bury the Administration’s pretense that sanctions, aid to dis- sidents, and broad- casts are going to change Cuba’s political order, and it would put us more realistically in a play for long-term influence.
It would increase American knowledge of a place we all care so much about. It would take a big chunk out of the Cuban government’s argument that the
If your supreme goal is to deliver aid to Cuban dissidents, it would achieve that far better than the current government system, which operates with the efficiency of Amtrak, the speed of the U.S. Congress, the frugality of our Department of Agriculture, the accounting standards of Enron, and the discretion of Britney Spears.
It would increase the income of lots of average Cubans in the tourism industry and in private businesses, both legal and black market, improving their living standards and their independence. It would enable lots more Cubans to enter private business.
It would increase the government’s income, but considering that Cuba’s economy is growing now at a 9.5 percent clip, it would make no decisive difference at the margin.
It would end the bizarre system of travel licensing that requires, for example, that if you want to donate Bibles or baseballs to a Cuban church, you need a license from one federal agency to travel and another license from another agency to “export” your donation. It would end the restrictions on family visits – can anyone think of another case where
It would heed the advice of Pope John Paul II – “Open the doors to
It would create a situation where all the restrictions on travel are imposed by the communist government, and none by the government that leads the free world, which would kind of make intuitive sense. It would have zero opportunity cost for
One could even argue that it would strengthen that advocacy. To wit: It would allow State Department spokesman Tom Casey to say what he said on Tuesday, invoking a basic freedom that the Cuban government denies, and be taken seriously:
"Well, look, the leading cause of instability and misery in Cuba is the Cuban Government and whether it’s Fidel Castro or Raul Castro, the problems in Cuba will only continue so long as there is a dictatorship in power that doesn’t give people the right to freely choose their government, to decide how they want to live, and to freely travel."
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
- Vigilia Mambisa writes the President, says it’s time to get busy. See Rui’s post.
- They left out the word anexionista, but otherwise it’s all here: the Posada Carriles case, the accusations against the Cuban American National Foundation, etc. A special section of Granma on-line in the face of “lies and infamy from the
- In Diario las Americas, Uva de Aragon on the value of academic exchange.
Mostly, when we hear of the wet foot/dry foot policy, it’s when migrants are intercepted at sea and returned to
The problem for those in
Representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an organization that helps to resettle refugees around the world, assist
One of the hunger strikers and his pregnant wife were offered resettlement in
The article does not tell if any other protesters have rejected similar offers of resettlement.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to come to
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Many of the reactions to Raul Castro’s July 26 speech were based on well founded caution about leaping to conclusions about mere signals that seem to point to policy changes. Oswaldo Paya’s reaction is here, Martha Beatriz Roque’s is here (pdf) to and a wire story rounding up opinions of several dissidents is here.
I’ll highlight two that appeared in Spanish only.
Rafael del Pino, a general in the Cuban air force who defected in 1986, wrote an article in El Nuevo Herald in which he called Raul “general” and “compañero ministro,” and urged him to undertake reforms that would improve Cuba’s economy without abandoning socialist principles or threatening Cuban sovereignty. He tells his former superior that those around him will not deliver frank advice. “All the economic problems” that Raul cited in his speech, he says, “can be resolved by lifting the blockade on Cubans on the island, giving them the right of property over the means of production.” “Be a revolutionary again,” he says; “Apply the pragmatism that has always characterized you.”
Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said that the past year has produced no reforms, but has brought the “minimal steps” of “relatively less political mobilization” and “greater respect for television schedules,” by which he must mean a reduction in political oratory. But he called it a “concrete speech” that could create expectations for economic reform, and that offered a “series of criticisms that for a long time have been put forward by the peaceful Cuban opposition and received a response of repression and jail from the regime.” Many of Raul’s concepts are “realistic,” Chepe says, but he takes a wait-and-see attitude: “In the next months one will see if [the speech] truly constitutes the beginning of economic changes that lead to a process of reconciliation…[and] could permit a soft landing for Cuban society toward democracy, after so much time of confrontations and hate.”
[News agency photos]
Some years ago, the combined efforts of
A similar effect seems to have taken place for similar reasons when it comes to Cuban migrants who try to reach the
The Miami Herald wrote about this phenomenon last week, and there were other reports about murders of people allegedly involved in the smuggling of Cubans. AP reported on the ins and outs of smuggling via
The official figures discussed in these articles are as follows for 2005-2007, reported by fiscal year (October 1 to September 30).
Coast Guard interdictions of Cuban migrants were 2,712 in 2005, 2,810 in 2006, and 2,049 to date in 2007, with two months left in the fiscal year.
Cubans arriving at ports of entry – this excludes legal immigrants and those who arrive on Florida beaches – numbered 8,994 in 2005, of which 7,267 came across the Mexican border; 10,329 in 2006, of which 8,639 came via Mexico; and 10,433 to date (July 22) in 2007, of which 9,296 came via Mexico.
- In an interview, Miami-Dade Democratic party chairman Joe Garcia gives his views on the Cuban-American community and some of the possibilities in
and in Cuba policy. U.S.
- Preparations are proceeding for elections to local assemblies in
, to be held October 21. I have seen no word on the next step, which is to set the date for the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly. To remain in office, Fidel Castro must be re-elected to the National Assembly; Article 74 of Cuba’s constitution provides that the National Assembly “elects, from among its deputies, the Council of State,” [emphasis mine] which includes the President of the Council of State who is, “at the same time, the head of state and head of government.” In other words, if he doesn’t run, he effectively resigns. Cuba
- For an example of the public diplomacy impact of
’s medical programs, see this Nicaraguan newspaper report on the arrival of 59 Nicaraguans graduated from Cuba ’s Latin American Medical school, the fourth group of Nicaraguans to graduate in eight years. The new graduates will spend their “servicio social,” the sixth year of their medical education, in communities in Cuba ’s sparsely populated Atlantic coast, working alongside 40 Cuban doctors who are already working there. Nicaragua
Monday, August 6, 2007
The U.S. Interests Section in
“Another point that was debated was the broadcasts of Television Marti to the island. On this point a consensus was reached regarding the value of these broadcasts. It was specified that work should be done so that the signal may fulfill its purpose. The engineer [Felix] Bonne called for a search for viable technological solutions that would bring this effort to a good end.”
H/T: Penultimos Dias.
- Speaking of straws in the wind, at Penultimos Dias there’s an item on the Battle of Ideas, Valenciaga, the Mesa Redonda crew, and what keeps them busy. And Rui Ferreira cites a report in a Chilean newspaper that suggests that Raul Castro’s speech last week was written by Carlos Aldana, the sidelined former ideology chief of the Communist Party.
- The Sun-Sentinel’s Ray Sanchez reports on youth, music, and disaffection.
- Shoot Down, a new documentary on the 1996 downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes and the events leading up to it, is to be released in October; here’s Pablo Bachelet’s preview in the Herald.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Last week I posted an item about the titles that the Cuban media attach to Carlos Valenciaga, Fidel Castro’s chief of staff. Today I’m noting statements by two Cuban women on the issues confronting
The first item is one that Cubans in and out of
“Who tells the truth, better serves la patria,” she begins. She recalls Fidel Castro’s November 2005 speech and his warning that the revolution could be “reversible” due to “internal problems.”
And she goes on to cite quite a few problems: low salaries that drive people to black market activity to meet their basic needs; centralized economic policies that prevent Cubans from using individual initiative to improve their incomes; travel restrictions; property restrictions (“nothing is truly yours”); restrictions on contact with foreigners; and more.
“…if we want there to be 21st century socialism, we have to avoid the same errors that demonstrated its failure in the 20th century…Cuba must do away with all the formulas and methods borrowed from those who supposedly had greater experience, but who disappeared due to their own rigidity. [
And then there was an EFE interview with Mariela Castro, Raul’s daughter, who says that
“We are learning to live with our leader getting old, and when people grow old they have to let themselves be cared for, something Fidel never permitted. Fidel always dedicated himself to caring for us. For the first time, the people are assimilating the process of his growing old, the process by which the revolution has to continue without him, be it with my father or with other leaders who may come…”
I will say this much: every week now, someone who counts is finding a way to indicate indirectly that Fidel Castro is not returning to office. This is not surprising in light of everyone’s collective intuition about Fidel’s medical condition. But somebody has to be president. And my hunch is that Raul Castro is more president today than he was one month ago. Only actions matter in the end, and since Raul has marked the economy as a priority, that’s what I’m watching.
It has to do with a 1957 film starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, 3:10 to Yuma. It’s a Western tale of morality and courage based on an Elmore Leonard short story.
It’s said that it was screened in
I say “it’s said” because that widely told account of the origin of the term comes with many variations. Maybe some readers will add some of their own.
Now why is it possible that the nickname will stick for a few generations more?
Because a remake is in the works and set for release next month.
Russell Crowe gets the Glenn Ford role of Ben Wade, the outlaw who must be nabbed, put on the train, and made to stand trial.
If you want to know the ending, see the movie for yourself.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Things went a little crazy in the House of Representatives last night when Republicans walked out in protest, charging that the majority Democrats manipulated a vote to change its result.
At issue was a Republican motion to ensure that no funds in an agriculture spending bill would go to illegal immigrants. As time ran out, the Republicans were losing – barely – when “GOP leaders persuaded three Latino Republicans who had voted with the Democrats to change their votes,” the Washington Post reported, resulting in an apparent GOP victory that the Democrats did not recognize, then reversed with some arm-twisting of their own.
Those three, The Hill newspaper reports, were Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
It is hard to imagine the United States deciding that it would no longer grant 20,000 immigrant visas per year (which I would not advocate) or deciding to return “dry foot” Cubans who reach U.S. soil illegally and with no claim to refugee or asylee status (which would be a bitter pill, but one I would advocate with reluctance).
But the article quoted below puts its finger on what I have long found, when talking to people in Cuba, to be the number one political fact on the island – that the widespread desire to emigrate and the possibility, however small, of doing so successfully, blocks the vast majority of Cubans from ever thinking of political opposition. (For many, to be sure, there are other reasons too.) And I would add that the immigration policies mentioned above make it hard to argue that the so-called hard-line
“The masses are not going to confront the dictatorship of the Castros as long as el exilio guarantees them a privileged means of emigrating. A political struggle against a dictatorship involves sacrifice, pain, and blood. Few seek it out deliberately. For that, they are heroes. What the immense majority wants is to leave the country. But political opposition is an obstacle to achieving this objective. And not only that. The hope of emigrating makes any mistreatment, any humiliation, any misery tolerable. And that sentiment spreads throughout the island, acting truly like a national anesthesia. In reality, the elimination of this strange privilege would be much more dangerous for the dictatorship than maintaining the embargo.”
It seems like something that they say to tourists, that’s not really true, but it is true. The so-called “hot corner” really does exist. It’s a seemingly permanent argument, often about baseball, under the trees beside the statue of Marti in the Parque Central, the beautiful republican square at the top of the Paseo del Prado.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
The thesis is this: that geography is destiny; that
And that Raul will not fill Fidel’s shoes, so
I’m not so sure. In my estimation, there’s a lot in the Cuban case that doesn’t fit the geography-is-destiny thesis.
I don’t think Raul’s discussion of
As for threats, the military threat is gone already, and the ideological threat, such as it is, extends beyond
Sharp and unsentimental, Mark Falcoff covers the waterfront in a wide-ranging on-line discussion on the Washington Post website. A sample:
Mark Falcoff: I do not think they have been particularly successful or are likely to be. The only thing they have done is to discredit those who take
Presumably, that means that meetings, not actual drilling, start tomorrow. A friend in the industry points out that high oil prices are a two-edged sword for Cuba – they make deep-water exploration attractive, but they also ensure that the rigs capable of exploring in Cuba’s deep Gulf waters are tied up in other areas that, like Cuba’s, used to be economically marginal but are now worth exploring. As a result, if a company decides today to drill off
I don’t doubt that
Meanwhile, today’s Miami Herald reports on the increasing importance of
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
He calls it a “proclamation” and refers to “questions as to when I will take up again what some call power.” He goes on to make no clear proclamation, and he leaves those questions hanging right there.
It sounds as if he is passing the torch to Raul, but Fidel reiterates that he is being consulted on all major decisions. He seems to be saying that he will remain content in his current role, commenting in the newspaper, not returning formally to office, “struggling” in the realm of ideas.
The question that matters is not whether he returns formally to office, but rather how Fidel Castro influences policies from his current position. And we are not likely, to say the least, to learn about the conversations between Raul and his brother about “every important decision.”
Our only real guide will be the course the government takes in the economic policies that Raul has marked as a priority.