There is a lot to be defined in the Obama Cuba policy, but if the new Administration decides to move toward engagement, there’s lots of off-the-shelf advice to draw upon.
Take the issue of diplomacy. In his inaugural address, President Obama promised the world that “America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.” That was a message for foreign publics; when it came to governments, he spoke clearly to Cuba and other countries:
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Does that mean no diplomacy at all – or just no Presidential or other high-level contact – with a country such as
If it means the latter, there is plenty that could be done to initiate and expand cooperation on the issues that affect Cuba and the United States as neighbors. For example, it seems reckless to me that we are not talking to
The Center for Democracy in the Americas recruited nine specialists to discuss this and other issues where diplomacy and cooperation could potentially bear fruit for both countries. The result is a new publication, 9 Ways for US to Talk to
When it comes to discussing engagement between U.S. and Cuban societies, the most powerful recent statement comes from the Cuba Study Group. This Miami-based group has been making quality contributions to the Cuba debate for years through its analyses of U.S. policy, polling, and suggestions for future programs such as microcredits to entrepreneurs. In a new report, it has called for an end to all
[The Cuban American National Foundation reacted by saying that the Cuba Study Group had “decided to join efforts with those who blame the United States first by calling for the unilateral lifting of all travel restrictions.” If you wonder why an end to Cuban American family travel sanctions, which the Foundation supports, would not also be “blaming
Then there is a very thoughtful paper, The Case for a New Cuba Policy (pdf), by Jake Colvin of the National Foreign Trade Council and a fellow with the New Ideas Fund. The paper focuses on the executive branch, with a set of immediate and medium-term recommendations. It argues persuasively that despite the “codification” of the embargo in the 1996 Helms-Burton law, the executive “retains wide discretion to make significant changes to U.S. Cuba policy” including in the areas of trade, travel, and remittances.
Arturo Lopez Levy, a Cuban American at the
Then there were two surprises.
The human rights organization Freedom House issued a statement January 7 calling for a “strengthened policy” to “advance human rights and democracy in Cuba.” A “key element” of such a policy, the statement reads, “would be the lifting of U.S. legal restrictions on American citizen travel to the island.” Freedom House received the first grant from USAID’s Cuba program in 1996.
And the Council of the Americas issued a report (pdf) that calls for the United States to take steps to “build a positive atmosphere” in advance of the April hemispheric summit in Trinidad, including “a softening of the most punitive measures targeting Cuba, including visits, exchanges, and remittances.”
Finally, a set of recommendations from a Brookings Institute group that I noted here last November.
Your move, Mr. President.
[Update: Senator Lugar's February 2009 call for change in U.S. policy is here.]