Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Welcome back

I go away for a few days and come back to find the Orioles in first place, and a document posted by Henry Gomez on Babalu where a Washington lawyer describes me (in what looks like a memo to his client) as a former CIA employee. Not so – my work in the executive branch, long time ago, was in the State Department. For some readers that may have worse connotations, and I understand.

Regarding the other questions Henry raises, I’ll say the following.

Ever since the Cold War ended, and long before I started working at Lexington, I have argued for a change in our policy toward Cuba. At Lexington, my work on Cuba has included publications based on research in Cuba (see here for the work that the lawyer says enables me to present myself as an objective think tank scholar) and participation in the debate on U.S. policy.

My work is supported by private donors; my agenda is my own. (Your donations are tax-deductible, by the way.)

I have sponsored Congressional trips funded by private foundations, and I have assisted with other trips where the legislators’ travel was paid for by the U.S. government. My goal is to help build schedules that give as broad a picture as possible within the confines of a brief visit.

These Congressional trips have indeed included conversations with foreign investors who do business in Cuba, and hence have a close view of economic and business conditions. (That’s why U.S. diplomats seek them out too.)

The Congressional trips have also led to Oswaldo Paya’s living room, where I have translated his views on foreign investment and other topics for U.S. legislators; to conference rooms for talks with Cuban officials (including Fidel Castro on a few occasions); to talks with vendors in farmers markets, entrepreneurs in their places of business, U.S. diplomats, foreign diplomats, reporters, and academics; to the little pharmacy upstairs in the synagogue in Vedado, where the congregation distributes medicines (many donated by Americans) to Cubans who need them; to the provinces to see how the Catholic charity Caritas works; to farms and a sugar mill south of Havana; to meetings with Cardinal Ortega; to a church service in Havana’s outskirts with one Congressman who met Cubans who share his faith and I was the privileged translator; to talks with American students studying at the University of Havana; to a March 2003 meeting in a hotel with dissidents, some of whom were arrested weeks later; to a meeting with the wife of one of the arrested, in her home. And to retail stores, and a Santiago soy processing plant; both destinations for American food exports.

Now back to regular blogging.

20 comments:

theCardinal said...
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theCardinal said...

Phil - I agree with you on many things, including a need for change in our current policy. I also think that you more than anyone understands the problem Henry has with your trips.

Going to Cuba much less arranging trips for others to go essentially means that the Cuban Government is not concerned about you criticizing them. As much I respect you, even I have to wonder why you are so easily accepted. This is not to say that I believe that you are an agent of any kind - it's just that you can be percieved as someone who does not have a problem with current regime.

I still support you, think your site is a great service and appreciate your efforts. It's just that it is hard - it is difficult not to see the friend of my enemy also being the enemy.

Normally I try to speak with my head but this time it came from the heart. I guess deep down too there is a bit of envy on my part. I've only seen Cuba from a distance on a cruise ship. I would like to go but out of deference to my parents I have not. It hurts that the same people who kicked them out on their behinds are willing to open their arms and accept anyone except those native to the island who they don't like.

HavanaJournal.com said...

Phil,

Thanks for explaining your side of the story.

For those that might criticize your trips and research, maybe since the failed Plan A Embargo hasn't worked yet, perhaps your efforts to educate elected officials about the true Cuba will motivate them to draft a Plan B.

God forbid anyone who should try to educate themselves about Cuba.

Anonymous said...

that's not the story...it's Peters being accused of taking Sherritt money to lobby their case without registering as a lobbyist. Sounds like an investigation is needed to sort out the facts.

theCardinal said...

The money is not an issue. Lets face it no matter what side you are on there are going to be backers with their own agendas. Is it a huge surprise that Florida Sugar growers bankrolled groups for ages - of course not. I think we can all agree that if PP had no one backing him he would still feel the same way about the embargo. That private interests tag along is no great surprise. Granted I'd be curious to know who they are but what does it matter he is going to believe the same way anyway.

Anonymous said...

This is all a little ridiculous. We’re talking about a memo. From a lawyer. To his client. About a potential competitor, and the things he “suspects”. Clearly, a smoking gun.

It is worrisome how quick some are to throw stones. Should we accuse the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies of lobbying on behalf of its generous benefactor, Bacardi, which certainly has pressing interest in US Cuba policy? Or what about the groups in Washington and Miami that use government (USAID) funding to promote US embargo policy to the very taxpayers who fund them?

Phil has the right to his opinion and his work without being vilified just because he disagrees with US policy. I, for one, find his research objective and informative. I can’t say the same for some others, though.

Henry Gomez said...

Point blank: Has Sherrit made donations to the Lexington Institute. If so, how much and when?

Of course you don't have to answer. But I'd say that a refusal will look like an admission that Sherritt is a donor. As the Muse memo states, Sherritt has a vested interest in seeing the embargo go away.

While you maintain that your views are your views alone, I'd argue that Sherritt donations put your independence in question.

I'm for the embargo and nobody pays me to be for the embargo. My opinions are mine alone. You claim yours are but there's at least one person out there that thinks you are essentially lobbying for a fee.

What say you?

theCardinal said...

This is absurd and going nowhere fast. Everyone gets money from interested parties - if they make a living out of writing, opining, consulting or whatever. It is the way the system works. Henry - you don't make a living off of Babalu so you can say that you are independent - Great for you. I obviously don't make money trolling the net and posting comments so I suppose I'm independent too.

If Mr. Peters was an elected official who suddenly changed his position on the issue then I would be right with you on this - but we are belaboring a moot point. I hate Sherritt as much as the next guy but they are not the problem with Cuba. For ages Peters has been hawking the end of the embargo I think he is set in his ways - If he won the lotto tomorrow and wouldn't need money from anyone he would still believe the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Phil: You may not be aware that some of the folks at Babalu, Val Prieto and Henry Gomez foremost, are lowlife 'chivato' types. Their behavior detracts from the goal many of us share, which is to see a free Cuba. Chivatos, whether inside Cuba or out are intensely disliked (or hated) by the rest of us Cubans everywhere.

Berrinche

Billy Bryans said...

There's no one quite like the guys from Babalu Blog to sink the level of discourse one level lower.

Phil, you do great work. Don't let them get you down.

jose said...

Phil keep it up. It is true that babalu types are very low life.

They nothing little of the real cuba, b/c they have never been there.

Henry can barely speak any Spanish and is more white gringo than Cuba - besides the cuban recipes he spouts.

Henry is also not just pro-embargo he is extremely right-wing in his whole orienation. He ,as the other non-cuban, cubans , have assimilated the whole right wing facist view of the world.. their fight is much larger than cuba...

afina said...

Henry makes no sense. Phil is much smarter, more experienced in cuban issues, and write better.

what say you Henry (by the way, henry is using a Bill O'rielly slogan there).

so typical

angela said...

Henry is not a real Cuban. I just say him the other day in one of those shows he does..- he doesn't even look cuban

Phil is real American and fights for freedom of real cubans.

theCardinal said...

First let me say straight out that this is coming from a guy who finds himself purged from Babalu's comment section like every other month for disagreeing with them so much. As a matter of fact I just checked and a rather innocuous comment I made that they would certainly approve of disappeared - I must have ticked them off good.

That being said the type of character assassination that the posts above reflect are no different if not worse than those on Babalu. What the hell does "look Cuban" mean? In my family we literally span from black to blond hair and blue eyed - that is what real Cuban is like. What is that nonsense about Phil being a "real American" fighting for "freedom of real Cubans?" What year is this? 1898? Thank goodness for "real Americans" otherwise Cubans would be so lost and hopeless. That paternalistic B.S. helped lead us to where we are today.

I can't believe I am the position of defending Babalu but other than being obsessed with the embargo they do a great job of ripping Cuba on Human Rights violations. I am glad they do and I respect them for it. None of you seem to give three flying hoots about that because according to you all the Babalu guys don't know the real Cuba. Newsflash - the real Cuba does not just include the parts Phil gets to see and visit. There are prisons after all that I am certain that he does not get a chance to tour. There are dissidents that he has not had the opportunity to see and judging by the last couple of trips I've seen publicized - no one cares to even acknowledge. This is part of the real Cuba. We owe Phil and others like him a great deal for the information they bring back from the man on the street but lets face it he is not going to jeopardize his relationship with his contacts to help out someone opposed to the Cuban system of governing.

I am so sorry that the Babalu guys appear to be uncouth but they aren't morons either. They do shoot from the hip and go for the jugular, but that is what good bloggers do. They blog because they care about their topic. I'm not saying that Phil doesn't but it's also his job so we should expect more polish in his posts.

theCardinal said...
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theCardinal said...

my last comment may appear to say that Phil's comments aren't necessarily polished - that is not the case. What I meant to say is that if his posts are better than Babalu's it is because he is a professional in the policy field.

Ernesto said...

Professional or academic experts vs. bloggers is a very common matter ultimately. But that's not the point in this case, I think. There's a memo and there is a pending question about Sherritt and there is an ethical perspective about cubanology and lobbysts... That's the point.
I really admire Phil Peter's work --even if I'm not agree with some of his points of view. But I defend the people's right to know if an institution involving in Cuban studies and Cuban economic policy were supported by one of the most important foreign investors in Cuba. No hard feelings. And nothing personal.

Anonymous said...

So what is it, do you receive funding from Sherritt, Shill? Oops, I mean Phil...

Anonymous said...

by Henry's same logic -

bush is not authentic in Cuban views b/c he only does it for votes (in FL. and now pay back). no difference. .

theCardinal said...

Fair enough Ernesto, can't argue there.