Here’s an essay contributed by Paul Hare, the British Ambassador in
Thursday, April 30, 2009
- What to do with the
naval base? The Council on Foreign Relations’ Julia Sweig visited and has some ideas. Guantanamo
- A look at how a
congregation of the Church of Christ, and others, relate to Miami , and the possibilities they see with the Administration’s lifting of restrictions on Cuban Americans. Cuba
- Reason On-line on taxis and socialism in
– and Cuba . Connecticut
- AP: Raul Castro reprises Cuba’s position on talks with the
during a speech to the Non-Aligned Movement. United States
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Last week I noted an op-ed by former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend that told how her father, Robert F. Kennedy, favored ending all travel restrictions to
A reader commented, with good reason, that this is the same RFK that led Operation Mongoose, a covert action campaign that used sabotage in
It turns out that RFK’s recommendation on travel, contained in this memo (pdf), came in December 1963 during the Johnson Administration, about a year after the operation had been suspended. Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General, was clearly in a different frame of mind. He believed that ending travel restrictions was “more consistent with our views of a free society” and would head off an “increasingly embarrassing” situation where student groups would travel to
But he also wanted “special regulations” that would require Americans to have the State Department validate their passports for travel to
Monday, April 27, 2009
- El Nuevo Herald reports declining numbers of Cubans entering the
without a visa in the first half of fiscal year 2009. United States
- “It is all about the people, not the regime.” An op-ed by Carlos Saladrigas of the Cuba Study Group supporting the end of travel restrictions on all Americans.
- Where’s Fidel? Out and about in Siboney, according to this article by Marc Frank.
- The Miami Herald reports on a discussion of this book on the use of Che Guevara’s image. A review from former Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega is here.
- Daily News: A documentary on the return to
after 46 years of pitcher Luis Tiant. Cuba
- In El Tono de la Voz, a discussion of the draft Cuba resolution of the Latin America Studies Association. It’s about
diplomatic relations with U.S. , but it “urges the Cuba and United States to permit…travel by Cubans to the Cuba to attend conferences and by United States academics to attend scholarly conferences in U. S. and academics from Cuba to teach and lecture in the Cuba .” United States
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The New York Times: The Obama Administration is talking to Cuban diplomats in an effort to set an agenda for talks on migration, drug interdiction, and other security issues. The Administration is also looking into increased cultural and academic exchanges, the Times reports.
These are good moves that indicate that while the Administration is rightly pressing for
Friday, April 24, 2009
I and others were asked to comment on the Obama Administration’s telecom opening to
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This interesting exchange between Congressman Jeff Flake and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing marks an important policy change.
President Bush threatened to veto virtually any relaxation of
“As you know, the embargo is part of our law. I mean, a President cannot lift the embargo. That has to be done by an act of Congress. If the Congress decides that’s in the
- Reuters reported yesterday on a new Central Bank regulation limiting cash transactions of foreign companies, and reports today on the apparent reason: a liquidity crunch that is getting critical.
- The Kansas City Star talks to a
woman who wants to collect on her father’s property claim in Cuba. Nebraska
- Frank Calzon calls for a dialogue in
among “bishops, young communists, human rights activists, bureaucrats, the army, political prisoners, dissident writers and professionals and independent labour activists.” Cuba
- From CubaNet, a report on an impact of remittances: Cubans who prefer not to work.
- In the Washington Post, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend looks back at the views of her father, former Attorney General Robert Kennedy, on travel to
, and hopes President Obama adopts his position that “travel restrictions are inconsistent with traditional American liberties.” Cuba
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
After a week in which President Obama announced new
In terms of the Obama policy: The President has delivered on his campaign promise regarding Cuban American travel and remittances. He signaled openness to other changes, saying “we are not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born.” And he has reiterated his interest in talks with
Whether there will be talks is another matter.
President Obama says Raul Castro’s statement from
At any rate, after all the signals back and forth (see here and here), which include many references to the ball being now in
I guess we’ll find out in the coming weeks.
In the midst of all this, Fidel Castro issued a commentary (English here), one of a series of post-summit commentaries, accusing President Obama of misinterpreting what Raul Castro said in
Monday, April 20, 2009
That question seems to be more timely now than a week ago, and I’m pleased to say that my colleague Anya Landau French has been working on the answer for the past six months.
The result is “Options for Engagement: A Resource Guide for Reforming U.S. Policy Toward Cuba.” It’s a detailed work that examines 14 areas of
The report is available here (pdf, 50 pages).
I hope this paper will be a resource for anyone interested in the
From Fox News last Friday:
“It was said in the 50’s that the way to win the cold war with Russia was to send squadrons of B-52s and drop nylon stockings on the Soviet Union. We actually won the cold war in a different way. But with
“So it’s arguable which is the most effective. We have had 50 years of an embargo on
“If Obama wants to try openness, that’s good. What he has done now is not a total openness, like Helsinki, but what he has done is to make a gesture, which is to allow some increased commerce and travel, and what he's waiting, appropriately, for is a response, which would mean seeing that the Cubans release some political prisoners.
“If he gets a response, I think he ought to make a further gesture, and if, ultimately, it ends up with openness, that's a tack we ought to try. I don’t think any of us should have an ideological commitment to a tactic. Whatever works in liberating
- From an Administration official’s background briefing in
Trinidad(h/t Capitol Hill Cubans blog):
“Look, I think what we are is at a beginning, an initiation of a new process. The President has been clear that our goals are to see a democratic Cuba. He’s also been clear that there are many issues that we have that we could discuss with Cuba – human rights being one of them – but there are other issues that relate to just the nature of a relationship between two countries in the same hemisphere. Migration, for instance, is a big issue that I don’t believe we’ve had recent talks with Cuba about.”
- Secretary Clinton’s comment on
last Friday in a press conference in the Cuba : Dominican Republic
“…earlier this week President Obama announced the most significant policy changes toward Cuba by the United States Government in decades. And we are continuing to look for productive ways forward because we view the present policy as having failed. You are all familiar with the Administration’s general view that engagement is a useful tool to advance our national interests and our goals of promoting human rights, democracy, peace, prosperity, and progress. So we have seen Raul Castro’s comments. We welcome this overture. We are taking a very serious look, and we will consider how we intend to respond.”
- Fidel Castro, referring in a new commentary to President Obama’s comments on Cuban doctors and their overseas missions:
“Obama spoke of the military power of the
“We Cubans don’t do it to win influence; it is a tradition that began in
- A Wall Street Journal editorial chides President Bush for tightening visit and remittances rules, applauds President Obama for repealing them, says Obama should drop the embargo and call on other countries to speak out for freedom in
- A new blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, by Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the organization Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy.
state senator calls on President Obama to condition normalization of relations on the extradition of JoAnne Chesimard, a convicted murderer who escaped prison in New Jersey and lives in New Jersey . His letter is here (pdf). Cuba
- AP looks at telecom possibilities under the new Obama Administration policy.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Excerpts from President Obama’s press conference at the end of the
“Over the past few days, we’ve seen potential positive signs in the nature of the relationship between the
“One thing that I thought was interesting – and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms – hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have – have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region.
“Look, what I said and what I think my entire administration has acknowledged is, is that the policy that we’ve had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free. And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it comes to our policy in
“It is my belief that we’re not going to change that policy overnight, and the steps that we took I think were constructive in sending a signal that we’d like to see a transformation. But I am persuaded that it is important to send a signal that issues of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy – that those continue to be important, that they're not simply something to be brushed aside.
“Now, I think that as a starting point, it’s important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy, and the fact that you had Raul Castro say he’s willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that’s a sign of progress.
“And so we’re going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban American families to send remittances. It turns out that
“So there are going to be some ways that the Cuban government I think can send some signals that they're serious about pursuing change. And I'm hopeful that over time the overwhelming trend in the hemisphere will occur in
Friday, April 17, 2009
The Cuban government surely doesn’t like the idea that President Obama is seeking changes in its internal policies, and the
But yesterday, in advance of a hemispheric summit that will in significant measure be about the one country that is not invited, both sides were talking about dialogue with each other. This AP roundup of the day’s signals senses a potential turning point.
President Obama got the ball rolling in a press conference in
“Having taken the first step, I think it is very much in our interest to see whether
In a press conference in
“We stand ready to discuss with Cuba additional steps that could be taken, but we do expect Cuba to reciprocate…We would like to see Cuba open up its society, release political prisoners, open up to outside opinions and media, have the kind of society that we all know that would improve the opportunities for the Cuban people and for their nation.”
“We have sent word to the U.S. government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything – human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything…We’re willing to sit down to talk as it should be done, whenever…I’m confirming it here today: If they want the freedom of those political prisoners, who include some confessed terrorists, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who were tried and sentenced…free our prisoners and we’ll send them to you with their families and whatever they want – those so-called dissidents and patriots.”
Video of his remarks are at Penultimos Dias.
If a change in Cuban human rights practices is a
In that case, the missing piece would seem to be a
That would be a matter of political will for the Obama Administration, which is committed to pursuing “tough, direct diplomacy without preconditions with all nations, friend and foe.”
I remain convinced that the most practical place to start would be talks on migration, drug interdiction, and environmental protection. Both sides have an interest in these neighborhood issues. There is already cooperation on migration and drugs, and
[Update: “We have seen Raul Castro”s comments and we welcome his overtures,” Secretary Clinton said in
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has long said that he wants to debate the
should be brought back into the OAS, Secretary General Insulza tells the Herald. But does Cuba want in? Seems not – “The OAS has to disappear,” Raul Castro says. Cuba
- Variety: Senator Menendez’ defense of
sanctions draws opposition from Cuba Hollywooddonors to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez heads.
- Columnist Michael Kinsley takes a scientific look at the embargo, and says we should drop it.
telecom companies uncertain about what the Administration’s measures mean for business opportunities. U.S.
- The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson says President Obama has “effectively kicked the ball for ‘change’ back to los hermanos Castro; until now, the onus was on him.”
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, in his press conference with President Obama yesterday:
“I would not pretend to give advice or suggestions to President Obama on this matter or any other. Let me just say what I personally believe – or rather what I believe about the Cuban reality. The question that has to be posed rather is whether the
“I do think – I share fully the idea we do not believe that the embargo or the isolation of
“What are the principles we believe in? Democracy, human rights, but also liberty, property, trade, free trade, free economy. And I think as long as those principles can function and bring benefits to the Cuban economy, then things can begin to change. We cannot change anything that has already taken place in the past, but I am certain that as heads of state, we can do a lot to try to make a different future, both for the world, both for our countries, and also in relation to Cuba.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
- On Bergenline Avenue, the Calle Ocho of the north (
and Union City ), Cuban Americans were receptive to President Obama’s actions. New Jersey Senator Menendez and Rep. Sires were less so. West New York, NJ
- Western Union gears up for increased remittances.
- Reuters on
’s trade balance: It’s in deficit, it’s big, and getting worse. Cuba
- Fidel Castro has written 18 “reflections” so far this month. Have they thought about setting up a blog for him?
President Obama said the following about
“What we’re looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates that assures that political prisoners are released, that people can speak their minds freely, that they can travel, that they can write and attend church and do the things that people throughout the hemisphere can do and take for granted…And if there is some sense of movement on those fronts in Cuba, then I think we can see a further thawing of relations and further changes.”
And Secretary of State Clinton spoke to the Herald about the
“That’s part of our policy review. Our first goal was to reverse the Draconian rules imposed by the Bush administration, which took away privileges that had been available for a long time. And obviously we think Cuban Americans have special roles to play as serving as ambassadors of freedom and helping the Cuban people understand the opportunities that democracy would bring.”
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
From the Timing is Everything Department: A Florida law aimed at reducing travel to
The law was thrown out on the grounds that it usurps the federal government’s role in the conduct of foreign policy and the regulation of interstate and foreign commerce. “The fact that [Rivera’s] criticism of
- Fidel Castro writes that just before the White House press conference, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Tom Shannon, called in the chief of
’s Interests Section in Washington, Ambassador Jorge Bolanos, to talk about the Administration’s new measures. “Nothing that was discussed was different than that which was explained on CNN,” Fidel wrote. Excerpts are translated at Cuban Colada. Cuba
- Also at Cuban Colada, Senator Mel Martinez elaborates on his endorsement of the Administration’s measures.
- Rep. Bill Delahunt applauds the Administration’s measures and says they “reduce the need for wasteful efforts like the plane that circles around
to broadcast TV Marti.” Cuba
- The text of yesterday’s White House briefing.
Monday, April 13, 2009
In my view, the actions announced by the White House today are humanitarian, unsustainable, small-bore, a kind of inoculation, and a question mark. Let me explain:
- Humanitarian. The end of travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban Americans deserves applause. It’s the treatment that Cuban families deserve from the
government, allowing those who with to visit and send help to do so, and respecting the right of the rest not to do so. At a humanitarian level, it will bring great benefits to many Cuban families that receive visits and support from relatives in the U.S. . If, as seems likely, it results in significantly increased travel to United States , it will bring an injection of purchasing power that will raise the incomes of Cubans who rent rooms in their homes or drive private taxis, and it will bring others into those businesses. Considering that Cubans are now allowed to visit and stay in hotels, it will probably bring more income to Cuba ’s state tourism businesses too. Cuba
- Unsustainable. President Obama’s action probably makes the rest of our
travel policy unsustainable. Most Americans will remain under the Cold War regulations administered by the Treasury Department. Meanwhile, Cuban Americans will be a separate class, able to travel to Cuba and send money at will, which in practice will mean that some will go for a weekend, at times for vacation. President Obama is also changing the character of remittances. Today, $100 per month is enough to buy some household basics. Now, for some, unlimited remittances will mean small-scale investment – money for a brother to buy a car that will serve as a taxi, for a family to buy a new house, for a cousin to get all the equipment he needs to make his little farm work, for an aunt to renovate an apartment and create a separate room that she can rent out. I’m all for honoring the rights of Cuban Americans to do these things. Leaving aside the White House’s “best ambassadors for democracy” rhetoric, I would just say that the rest of the country has rights too, and the rest of Americans aren’t chopped liver. Cuba
- Small-bore. Today’s action – affecting travel and remittances, telecommunications equipment and services, and gift parcels – was dramatic because it changes eight years of movement in the opposite direction. But it still leaves President Obama with a 90 percent-Bush
policy. (Candidate Obama said that policy amounted to “tough talk that never yields results.”) Beyond Cuban Americans, it does not address the issue of broader contact with American society, whether from tourists, universities, professional associations, churches, synagogues, or other parts of our civil society. Nor does it address diplomacy, and the President’s spokesmen repeatedly dodged questions about what kind of dialogue the Administration might seek with Cuba . Presumably, these and other issues – TV Marti, the USAID program, etc. – remain part of the policy review that the Administration is conducting. In today’s press conference, the President’s spokesmen seemed to avoid foreclosing future options. Cuba
- Inoculation. The President’s press secretary said that today’s announcement was “in no way…done to quell so-called pressure” from leaders who have called for a new
policy toward U.S. , and who will meet President Obama at a summit this week. Ok. We’ll see how it plays at the Cuba Trinidadsummit.
- Divisive. The Obama Administration’s action divided Cuban American Republicans, drawing opposition from Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, and praise from Sen. Mel Martinez. And Radio Marti’s website has two stories illustrating the political gulf between Cuba and hard-line Miami: one notes the Diaz-Balart’s statement – and from Cuba, another tells of the support that President Obama’s action received from dissidents Elizardo Sanchez, Hector Palacios, and Vladimiro Roca.
- A question mark. The telecommunications provisions will have to play out. The full package of measures was framed in language that is not likely to play well among the Cuban political leadership, which would have to approve commercial agreements for new fiber optic links to the Internet or roaming agreements for
cell phone carriers. U.S.
He is also repealing President Bush’s absurd restrictions on the contents of gift parcels, and opening up regulations to allow greater access to telecommunications. Lots of details remain to be filled in.
Herald story here.
- From the Wall Street Journal: The Administration “won’t duck” the Cuba issue, an official said, and may have three items to show a change in direction: liberalized Cuban American travel and remittaces, a return to licensing cultural and educational programs, and resumption of migration talks with Cuba. At the same time, the Administration “wants
to take steps toward democracy before it is reintegrated into the Cuba Western hemisphere's economic and political institutions,” the Journal says.
- From a roundup at Encuentro:
’s President Lula will discuss Brazil at the summit, but gently, and Cuba expects Brazil to be a topic of strong discussion at the OAS General Assembly in June. Cuba
- The OAS Secretary General says no one should push President Obama on
policy, and the place for a Cuba discussion will be the OAS meeting in June. Cuba
As has been reported, the April 8 indictment includes new charges that Posada committed perjury about past terrorist activites. That earned him a charge (Count 3) of impeding a federal investigation involving international terrorism. Two other counts tell you that the government is prepared to show that Posada “had been involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out” the 1997 bombings in Cuba (Count 1), and that he “had arranged to send and sent an individual named Raul Cruz Leon to Cuba to transport and carry explosives into Cuba to carry out said bombings in 1997” (Count 2).
Meanwhile, Mambi Watch reports on a
Friday, April 10, 2009
- Rep. Barbara Lee talks to the Newshour’s Ray Suarez about the delegation she led to
. Meanwhile, some dissidents told AFP the delegation’s visit was “positive,” and Reps. Chris Smith and Frank Wolf disagree strongly. Cuba
- A sign of the times: “This is a time of opportunity. We’re not talking about sitting down for negotiations, but reducing a tone of confrontation and making this about the Cuban people.” – Francisco Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, quoted in today’s Herald.
reports that its state-run nickel plants are close to operating at a loss, with prices down 80 percent since 2007. Cuba
President Obama’s summit coordinator doesn’t want next week’s
Here’s a suggestion: by listening, and also responding.
President Obama has expressed willingness to enter some kind of diplomacy with
On that score, there’s some new fodder – and plenty for President Obama to listen to – from a group of Cuban dissidents who just sent President Obama a letter. It was released to the press by Hector Palacios, one of the 75 arrested in 2003 and later released for medical treatment. It was signed by the groups Todos Unidos, Unidad Liberal de la República de
- Supports “maintaining or broadening diplomatic contacts with the totalitarian dictatorship,” with the warning that the Cuban government’s aim is to keep itself in power and “to flout the good faith of democratic nations.”
- Says TV Marti’s signal “simply does not reach Cuban homes.”
- Says, regarding the USAID Cuba program, that “if the government of the
cannot guarantee in advance that the aid to promote democracy in United States really arrives…in our country, then it will be better to withdraw those funds and use them for other purposes.” Cuba
Palacios also said the signers favor ending the
Generacion Y blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote a commentary on the expectation that “an avalanche” of Americans will be traveling to
The Seven Passing by
The visit of seven members of the United States Congress to our country has intensified expectations about an avalanche of American tourists. The owners of rooms for rent calculate the potential earnings and the taxi drivers dream of those chewing gum who leave generous tips. At Terminal Two in
The expected "normalization of relations between
I have difficulty calling to mind a single day in these last fifty years without the warning that the powerful neighbor was thinking of invading us. What will happen with the slogan, "Cuba Si! Yankees No!", with the imported shout of "Gringos" when we are all greeting them here cordially, the "
Curiously, I don't see anyone on the streets upset in anticipation of these changes. The nervousness is only among those who have used the confrontation to stay in power. Rather, I observe the joy, the hope, the slight impression that the distance between
After reading the wires for the past few days, it sort of jumps out at you that her commentary doesn’t condemn the Congressional delegation for visiting
Maybe we should file this one under “the distance between
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Luis Posada Carriles is back in hot water. He was set to be tried on immigration fraud charges in 2007, but the indictment was dismissed when the judge found fault with the prosecution’s work. Another court ordered a new trial, and Posada’s lawyers tried to block it – but last month the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the new trial should proceed.
Now the charges will be different. An indictment handed up yesterday charges Posada again with lying in connection with his citizenship application, but it also charges him with obstructing a
I’ll leave it to legal minds to figure out how, and in which country’s courts, Posada might be held to account for those actions.
But it was an odd situation for this man, whom the Bush Administration’s Justice Department called an “admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks,” to have been charged only with immigration violations – by a government that was conducting a “global war on terror,” at that. Yesterday’s indictment is a step forward.
Background materials on the case (not updated to include the text of new indictment, unfortunately) are on the El Paso U.S. District Court’s website. Some of my earlier comments on the case are here and here. Coverage from AP here and from the Herald here.
Today the Foundation, now chaired by Mas Canosa’s son, Jorge Mas Santos, is releasing a paper calling for the Obama Administration to repeal President Bush’s regulations that tightened regulation of travel and remittances to
The import, as Professor Robert Pastor comments in the New York Times, is that the Foundation is saying that the embargo, souped up through the years, hasn’t worked. Indeed, Foundation President Francisco Hernandez told the Times that the embargo is now a “symbol,” and “not something that is important.” Which begs the question, why not just get rid of it?
The report isn’t devoid of old-think, however – it calls for a “technological overhaul” of TV Marti, so its signal can reach
[Photo from TV Marti program, “La Oficina del Jefe”]
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The seven-member delegation from the House of Representatives returned from
The group got high-level attention – the Fidel Castro meeting, four hours with Raul Castro, and coverage in Cuban media.
The meeting with Raul Castro had an “emphasis on the possible future evolution of bilateral relations and economic ties, following the taking office of a new U.S. Administration,” according to the Foreign Ministry’s communiqué.
If there were specific messages delivered in one direction or another, they haven’t been divulged, except that the delegation supports normalization of relations and the Cuban side reiterated its willingness to enter dialogue with the
“We came back carrying an expectation that we would talk to the people who can in fact make change,” Rep. Marcia Fudge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They want very much for us to extend a hand of friendship.”
The delegation leader, Rep. Barbara Lee, told reporters in
Rep. Laura Richardson said that Fidel Castro asked, “How can we help President Obama?” But in a commentary following the meeting with the legislators, Fidel Castro referred to a statement by Rep. Bobby Rush – whom Fidel called “an inexhaustible spring of knowledge and maturity” – to the effect that President Obama can improve relations with
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
- The Wall Street Journal reports that the special benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act are now being extended to people who were born and lived in third countries – but whose parents are Cuban. 3,400 immigrants were in this category last year.
- A Fidel Castro commentary reports in detail on the visit of a seven-member Congressional delegation led by Rep. Barbara Lee of
. One of the members said, according to Fidel, that “Obama will change policy toward California , but Cuba should help him too.” The delegation had talks with Raul Castro yesterday; AP coverage here. Cuba
- Former Jesse Helms staffer Marc Thiessen recounts a 1998 conversation in
with Ricardo Alarcon in a Washington Post op-ed. Until now, I had thought the most interesting thing about that staff trip was that a Cuban intelligence agent, Ana Montes, had gone along for the ride. Havana
Monday, April 6, 2009
President Obama is preparing to end restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban Americans, according to various news reports over the weekend. If he ends them completely, he will be fulfilling his campaign promise. Reportedly, the plan to announce the move before the
Details are scant, and explanation will apparently wait until the official announcement. But AP’s story cites an Administration official: “The intent is to try to test the waters and see if we can get
- Mary McCarthy, a Canadian citizen who lived in
since 1924, has died in Cuba at age 108. She had a fortune in a Boston bank, and only got access to it in 2007 when the U.S. government allowed her to withdraw $96 per month, after suggesting that she move back to Canada – yes, at age 107. Another great moment in Havana foreign policy. Reuters coverage of her passing here, and of her remarkable life and tribulations in 2007 here. R.I.P. U.S.
- The New York Times reports on the fall of Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque, liking it to the case of Conrado Hernandez, the representative of
’s Basque regional government, who was detained in Spain about a month ago. The article is sourced to “Cuban officials.” Cuba
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Herald runs a letter from 17 dissidents (pdf) to President Obama, asking that as he reviews policy toward
Also yesterday, exiled dissident Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos called for the
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The state-of-the-art argument in favor of the travel ban is stated by the Heritage Foundation’s Ray Walser, who sort of loosely characterizes the views of those of us who favor unrestricted travel. If there’s anyone who believes that the “absence of change” in
An end to travel restrictions will not change
Ray’s more interesting point is that “the voiceless Cuban people” deserve to be heard. True that, as they say.
We don’t have polls on this. So one could begin by asking if the Cuban people are introverts by nature and want to be isolated from foreign visitors. Or if any people living under communism has ever wanted that. I don’t think so, on either score.
But we can cite some “voiceless” Cubans, too.
There’s dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, one of the 75 imprisoned in 2003:
“Democratic countries that wish to help the Cuban people should recognize the existence of a new situation that calls for new thinking. The policy of isolating
There’s blogger Yoani Sanchez:
“Change will come not through government agencies but through the citizens and the spread of information and exchange with the outside world.”
Hector Palacios, another of the 75, was quoted as follows by AFP last May:
“Without dialogue, there is no peaceful change,” he opined, before pointing out “a series of points that have to disappear from the embargo,” in his opinion. “First, that Cubans [Cuban Americans] may travel to their country any time they wish, that they may send their family what they want to send, and also that
Or there’s human rights activists Elizardo Sanchez and Vladimiro Roca, in a May 2003 statement to the Center for International Policy:
“Just as we insist on the right of Cubans to travel, to leave and return to our country freely, a right now denied us, so too do we support the right of Americans to travel freely, including travel to
Or Cardinal Jaime Ortega, in a March 2005 meeting with Congressional visitors:
“Tourism is one of the only things that has brought change to
Or Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Varela Project, interviewed by
“We call on all foreigners who visit our country to show solidarity, hold demonstrations, speak out for an opening in
While we’re at it, it’s worth looking at the views of Freedom House, which notes, “The United States does not impose similarly restrictive travel sanctions on Americans to other regimes that receive Freedom House’s lowest freedom ratings, including Burma, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.”
And there’s this from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
My own views are here, prompted by Secretary of State Rice’s spokesman, who in 2007 criticized Cuba’s travel restrictions on its own citizens without a trace of irony. (The only update is to the CIA’s economic growth estimate for