Friday, May 8, 2009

At Calzada & M

The State Department’s inspector general did a routine report on the operation of the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana in 2007 (pdf, 64 pages). It made news recently because of a sentence (p. 9) about Cuban actions against U.S. diplomats: “Retaliations have ranged from the petty to the poisoning of family pets.”

But it contains a lot more, and it’s interesting to read as an inside-the-bureaucracy snapshot of many aspects of the Cuba policy in the seventh year of the Bush Administration.


  • The mission is staffed by 51 Americans including both diplomats and the U.S. Marine Corps guards, 22 local hires (family members of U.S. diplomats or members of other countries’ diplomatic missions), and 257 Cuban nationals (p. 33).

  • The introduction (pp. 3-4) says that Cuba’s economy “produces little of value for the international marketplace,” the country is a “tropical Soviet Union,” and a “fixture on the pariah nation short list.” With that out of the way, the report counters the longstanding Bush assumption that the Cuban government’s days were numbered, asserting that repression and economic hardship “will not necessarily translate into political unrest.” The absence of Fidel Castro led the authors to say that “change is again in the air,” and “USINT should move quickly out of its hostile, defensive position as we come to terms with what the post-Fidel transition means and how we manage it…”

  • Cuba is a place where the United States is “actively seeking positive change through transformational diplomacy” (a phrase of Secretary Rice) and urges, among other things, “prepositioning nearby of logistical materials” – what would that be? – to support a surge in U.S. presence or programs (pp.13-14).

  • USINT has a two-track approach of inviting dissidents to some functions and cultural elites to others, and the report notes that the State Department’s Western Hemisphere bureau “has stymied most requests for U.S. visa issuance to artists and other cultural elites” (p.16).

  • USINT has 23 Internet terminals available for public use, and 25 “close embassy contacts” have permanent passes to use them (p. 16).

  • U.S. government democracy programs fund private organizations to send publications and other materials to Cuba, and apparently much of this material is sent to USINT by diplomatic pouch for our diplomats to distribute. These materials accounted for up to 75 percent of the bulk of diplomatic pouch shipments in some months. USINT doesn’t know in advance what is being shipped and could not distribute about 10 percent of these materials because, the report says, they were “outdated or of questionable utility,” such as brochures promoting travel to Spain (p. 17, p. 47).

  • USINT has people at 15 sites throughout Cuba to monitor Radio and TV Marti. Their reports’ assessment of TV Marti is “bleak” – it “can rarely if ever be received” (p.18).

  • “On two occasions within the past two years, the Cuban government and the U.S. Department of Justice have compared notes on a case of mutual interest” (p. 23).

  • The report recommends that the State Department negotiate its way out of the restrictions, initiated by Washington in 2003, that limit U.S. diplomats to Havana and Cuban diplomats to inside the Washington Beltway (pp. 24-25).

  • The authors say that USINT’s electronic billboard “lowered post morale” and resulted in “background hum and increased heat” in USINT’s two executive offices. On two evenings, they “witnessed only a handful of passersby in the small areas where the billboard remains visible.” They refrain from saying it should be removed, but say that initiatives of that type “should undergo a careful cost versus benefit analysis” in advance (pp. 25-26).


Anonymous said...

UNINT report is hilarious in its implicit refutation of hard liners' view....

EG> this statement

"USINT has people at 15 sites throughout Cuba to monitor Radio and TV Marti. Their reports’ assessment of TV Marti is “bleak” – it “can rarely if ever be received” (p.18)."

Hilarious b/c babalusians continue to believe in TV marti and say that they "BELIEVE" it can be heard.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I have stated several Times on Babalu that TV Marti remains nearly unseen. Rather, it is Radio Marti which I routinely hear on the island.

One suggestion to go forward would be to shutter TV Marti and funnel more funding, as well as an editorial director, into Radio Marti.


Anatasio Blanco

Anonymous said...

as usual peters you give short shrift to Cuban actions and pour everything into making US policy look foolish.

Poisoning of family pets, leaving human excrement on the floors/carpets of the homes of U.S. diplomats, phone calls at all hours of the night...what kind of government countenances such actions? Let me answer that for you Peters and your fellow bootlickers: a thug regime.

leftside said...

Anon 3:55, there is absolutely no proof the Cuban Government is responsible for any alleged act against diplomats you describe.

And what kind of Government allows its diplomats to go to Miami, pick up funds provided by a terrorist in jail on weapons charges (Santiago Alvarez), to bring back to a few dozen chosen "contacts" in Cuba?

Hmmm... US diplomats doing work for terrorists. I wonder why some Cuban citizens might be a little incensed at their presence on the island?

Anonymous said...

leftside said...

" Anon 3:55, there is absolutely no proof the Cuban Government is responsible for any alleged act against diplomats you describe."

Exactly right, Leftside! The very IDEA that the Revolutionary Authorities would try to make life miserable for fascist infiltrators, operating under the guise of "diplomats," just boggles the mind!

The next thing you know, the miserable gusanos who defame you on this board will claim that Cuban State Security is just following the lessons given to them by their KGB trainers during the good old days.

Anonymous said...

y'know Peters, they laughed at Reagan when he made his speeches at Westminster and the Brandenburg Gate and look how things turned out. But the cynics/apologists of that time never were held to account for their egregiously wrong views about the Cold War. I have a feeling though Cuba will be different. People will remember where everyone stood: either as apologists for the regime or supporters of freedom for the Cuban people.


Anonymous said...

Cuba Not Improving, Says Local Traveler
Photographer Believes Cubans Losing Hope For Change

POSTED: 2:54 pm CDT May 8, 2009

A Kansas man has just returned from a trip to Cuba, weeks after the Obama Administration approved unlimited travel and money transfers for Americans with relatives there.

Richard Gwin, senior staff photographer for the Lawrence Journal-World, spoke with KMBC's Maria Antonia about what he found in Cuba.

Gwin took many pictures and videos in Havana's Revolution Square, but he said that these don't reveal the whole story.

"One day a year, it's like a party," Gwin said. "Everyone comes out and parties, and they march, and it's over with. The next day it's the same rhetoric."

Over 17 years of travel, Gwin has taken many images of Cuba's people. But now he said that something is missing from the faces he photographs. "Now you find people who think there's no hope even with the talk of change. Even if you ask about Obama, and they've all heard what Obama has offered to the Cuban government."

Gwin's pictures show empty dollar stores where Cubans who have European, Canadian or American currency can shop. He reported that Raul Castro's government is exerting more control in the streets than his brother, with no end in sight.

Congressional Black Caucus members, including Rep. Emanuel Clever II, traveled to Cuba last month and had a much rosier view of the state of affairs in Cuba. Gwin knows that his view is the opposite of these reports, but he replied, "Did they go to the inner city? You don't get a taste of their lives, the flair of these people."
Copyright 2009 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Anonymous said...

they sure don't make it easy for you guys, do they Peters?

Cuban parliament president dismisses Obama
AP - Sat May 9, 8:10 PM ET

KINGSTON, Ontario - Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon dismissed President Barack Obama's recent overtures to Cuba and says the new U.S. administration's stance is a continuation of an illegal, unjustifiable and failed policy.

Anonymous said...

i was in kingston and as usual the media is not objective. alarcon said many times Cuba would talk to US about anything, anytime, anywhere. he supported raul's statement and reaffirmed fidel's saying that the only thing cuba wouldn't negotiate was sovereignty and self determination.
the embargo, propaganda, threats, commission for assistance to free cuba, etc, ARE illegal, unjustified and failed. that's obvious. he did not dismiss obama, he just said so far he's only tinkered with American national policy, and hopes he will talk to cuba seriously.
it's not making it easier or harder, it's simply continuing to position what the Cuban govt has consistently said.

Anonymous said...

radio marti and tv marti; just part of the big business that keeps money in the pockets of the gusanos. that's why they desperately try and thwart any attempts to normalize -- once that happens they are out of business.
millions of our taxpayer dollars going down the drain for this crap. nice.

leftside said...

"Obama tweaks Broadcasts to Cuba. Bottom line - a small reduction in budget and shorter, more frequent TV news segments and an all-news radio format. Trying to be more effective with the illegal and US media subversion campaign.