Thursday, May 26, 2011

Odds and ends

  • From November 2006, a Wikileaked cable that gives a glimpse of the annual campaign to beat the UN General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo. This cable is brief, reporting that Uruguay would be voting “in favor of Cuba.”

  • The talk of additional golf course/real estate development continues, with a Canadian company “hoping to finalize a deal this August,” according to the Globe and Mail. Another story in the New York Times.

  • A photo of the mountains of Pinar del Rio from a cruise ship moving northeast along Cuba’s north coast, from Flickr user roger4336.

  • The Minister of Internal Commerce is out, replaced by his deputy Mary Blanca Ortega, according to a note published in Granma.

  • Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman supports the Obama Administration’s Cuba travel measures in a talk to the Cuban American National Foundation.

  • EFE: The late Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s mother and 12 relatives have visas to go to the United States with refugee status.

  • Wyoming biologists fitted osprey with satellite tracking devices to learn about their migration patterns and found that one lone male left the Rocky Mountain flyway, headed east to Florida, and went on to Cuba.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another idea on Cuba oil

Senator Nelson has one more idea regarding Cuba’s future oil development: He has written Secretary Clinton to ask her to ask the Spanish government to lean on Repsol to try to stop it.

See his letter here, plus coverage from the Florida Keys Reporter.

His request to Secretary Clinton is based on his view that Cuban offshore oil exploration is “contrary to U.S. interests in the hemisphere.” That’s debatable.

It is also based on an expectation that Spain’s center-right Partido Popular will win national elections next March (quite possible) and, once in office, try to stop Repsol’s Cuba venture (forget it). The PP differs with Spain’s socialists on aspects of Cuba policy, but the differences have never extended to trade, investment, or travel policy – where Spain, like all our European allies, has no restrictions at all. The PP is hardly likely to lean on a Spanish company and its employees and shareholders – if indeed it has the legal means to do so – to walk away from a project with hundreds of millions of dollars in sunk costs, least of all at the public behest of the U.S. government. Senator Nelson’s effort, however implausible, will please some of his constituents.

But recognizing the long odds involved, Senator Nelson has a “safety net” that deals with the issues that will actually come into play. It’s a smart bill he introduced to encourage the Administration to talk with Cuba, together with Mexico and the Bahamas, to form real contingency plans.

As things stand now, when drilling begins or when an accident occurs, people will ask whether American resources and technology, the closest to the scene, are available. Most members of the Florida delegation will be able to cite an anti-Castro speech they made, or a threat of sanctions against Repsol.

Only Senator Nelson will be able to say he took practical action to mitigate risk or damage in the interest of protecting the U.S. coastal environment, in Florida and beyond. We’ll see if the executive branch follows suit.

Here’s a video report from Energy Now on these issues centered on last week’s Trinidad conference, beginning at 2:30 with discussion later in the program.


“Now, we’re putting a particular focus on people-to-people connections in Cuba. From the very beginning, the Obama Administration believed that the best way to advance fundamental rights in Cuba – in fact, to advance them anywhere – is to support exchanges and constructive relationships. And there’s no better ambassador for our values than a teacher or an artist or a student or a religious leader, a Cuban American who has made a new life in the United States. That’s why we have eased our restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. We could do more if we saw evidence that there was an opportunity to do so coming from the Cuban side because we want to foster these deeper connections and we want to work for the time when Cuba will enjoy its own transition to democracy, when it can look at its neighbors throughout the hemisphere and the people in Cuba will feel that they, too, are having a chance to choose their leaders, choose their professions, create their businesses, and generally take advantage of what has been a tremendous, great sweep of progress everywhere but Cuba.

– Secretary of State Clinton in remarks to the Council of the Americas, May 11

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Odds and ends

  • AFP: The Havana archdiocese spokesman says the Church’s dialogue with the Cuban government, begun a year ago, has been positive, should take on other issues, and should produce more results.

  • Greenwire: Former EPA chief William Reilly, co-chair of a U.S. panel promoting safer offshore drilling, says he has had his “wrist slapped” by the State Department when pushing his next step, which is to go to Cuba to discuss safety and environmental protection before drilling begins.

  • Bloomberg: Oil guru Jorge Pinon puts very high odds on Cuba’s offshore oil prospects.

  • Cuba and Norway signed agreements on economic cooperation, including in the energy sector. It sounds like training and technical assistance; if there’s money involved there are no figures cited in Prensa Latina’s story or in this one in English from Xinhua.

  • “Manufacturing pretexts,” a Granma editorial on the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto in Santa Clara, notes wryly that President Obama is a busy man but was able “to retain in his memory the case of a person detained in a Cuban park who was able to return a short while later.” The President’s remarks were in an interview with Miami’s Univision affiliate (short excerpt here) for which there seems to be no transcript. Additional quotes in this Reuters story.

  • At Babalu they say it would have been nice to see news coverage of a May 15 ceremony where Luis Posada Carriles received an award presented, as the photo seems to show, by Congressman David Rivera and former U.S. Interests Section chief Jim Cason. I agree.

Obama's missing four-letter word

Regarding the President’s interview last week, his remarks seem designed more to strike a political pose than to encourage change in Cuba.

In the past year Cuba has released more than 100 political prisoners and doubled the number of independent entrepreneurs. One need not praise the Cuban Communist Party or break out singing the Internationale to recognize that.

One can certainly argue about the way the releases occurred. And by calling the prisoners “political” it is obvious that President Obama and nearly all observers of the human rights situation in Cuba believe their imprisonment was wrong from the start. But the United States has long called for their release, period. Many were indeed released, and those who insisted on staying in Cuba are on the street in Cuba.

On the economic front, the United States has long called for greater economic freedom in Cuba. That freedom is expanding. There are limits, and there’s a big gap at this stage between stated intentions and actions taken. (See also Federal budget deficit, United States, 2011.) But significant actions have been taken. As a friend likes to point out, if the number of entrepreneurs had been cut in half, then everyone would be talking about a “crackdown.” What’s the opposite of a “crackdown?”

If the Administration believes that the President’s words matter, that someone is listening in Havana, and that Cuban policies should advance more on both fronts, it would seem to be basic political sense for the President to refer to actions taken so far and maybe even to use the word, however hedged and qualified, “good.”