Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tom Casey, off the reservation

Why should Americans be permitted to travel freely to Cuba?

It would emulate the policies we pursued toward Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union – including through the Helsinki accords, which we judged to be in our interest even though we knew full well that the communist countries would not comply with all their terms – that democrats in those countries welcomed and believe contributed to their success.

It would foster communication, freeing universities, charities, churches, and citizens – left, right, and center – to exchange information, ideas, and arguments with Cubans in and out of government who constitute the post-Castro Cuba that we want to influence. It would stop our reliance on government programs, government grantees, and government-licensed travelers to communicate with Cuba.

It would bury the Administration’s pretense that sanctions, aid to dis- sidents, and broad- casts are going to change Cuba’s political order, and it would put us more realistically in a play for long-term influence.

It would increase American knowledge of a place we all care so much about. It would take a big chunk out of the Cuban government’s argument that the United States is the enemy.

If your supreme goal is to deliver aid to Cuban dissidents, it would achieve that far better than the current government system, which operates with the efficiency of Amtrak, the speed of the U.S. Congress, the frugality of our Department of Agriculture, the accounting standards of Enron, and the discretion of Britney Spears.

It would increase the income of lots of average Cubans in the tourism industry and in private businesses, both legal and black market, improving their living standards and their independence. It would enable lots more Cubans to enter private business.

It would increase the government’s income, but considering that Cuba’s economy is growing now at a 9.5 percent clip, it would make no decisive difference at the margin.

It would end the bizarre system of travel licensing that requires, for example, that if you want to donate Bibles or baseballs to a Cuban church, you need a license from one federal agency to travel and another license from another agency to “export” your donation. It would end the restrictions on family visits – can anyone think of another case where America has targeted economic sanctions against families to reduce their contacts and acts of charity? – that make even the strongest supporters of the embargo wince.

It would heed the advice of Pope John Paul II – “Open the doors to Cuba” – and that of Cuba’s Catholic bishops and many dissidents. (Have you noticed that neither Havel nor the Eastern European governments and NGO’s that work on Cuba issues – whose experience with communism is manifest – have ever endorsed American travel restrictions or called on other countries to adopt them?)

It would create a situation where all the restrictions on travel are imposed by the communist government, and none by the government that leads the free world, which would kind of make intuitive sense. It would have zero opportunity cost for Washington, and it would not threaten the part of U.S. policy that is strong, which is its human rights advocacy.

One could even argue that it would strengthen that advocacy. To wit: It would allow State Department spokesman Tom Casey to say what he said on Tuesday, invoking a basic freedom that the Cuban government denies, and be taken seriously:

"Well, look, the leading cause of instability and misery in Cuba is the Cuban Government and whether it’s Fidel Castro or Raul Castro, the problems in Cuba will only continue so long as there is a dictatorship in power that doesn’t give people the right to freely choose their government, to decide how they want to live, and to freely travel."


Fantomas said...

I hope you are saying all of this could be possible without the communists in power, right phil?

LA CONTRA REVOLUCION has to be the main focus..

Fidel once said... Entre con las armas y con las armas me tendran que sacar... Something like that...

olive ramo de raul

have we seen any movement in the side of the cuban gov to release, Oscar Elias Biscet? and the 330

has the Un and red cross permitted to visit without prior notice all cuban jails?

Have DRa molina allowed to travel freely with her ailing mother to Argentina?

Have we seen an stop in the insane practice of destroying peoples antennas from their balconies?

have we seen an increase in the amount of chinese buses on the other provinces outside havanna exempt from the embargo?


please do not waste your precious time in child games

Anonymous said...


Interesting blog.

One thing that fails to get mentioned every time the embargo topic pops up is the complete disregard for Cuban exiles in the U.S. whose family visits to Cuba are thwarted by the Cuban govt, not the U.S. travel restrictions.
I have heard testimonials from Cuban-Americans who were turned away at the Cuban airport because of mistakes by the Cuban Interests Section; from two people who were denied permission by the Cuban govt to see a dying loved one; from one person who drove all the way from Miami to D.C. without an appointment (because they don't issue them; neither do they answer the phone) to find out what they have been doing with her passport since she sent it a year ago, etc.

It would be nice to stop hearing the propaganda disseminated by Cuban authorities that it is only the U.S.'s fault that Cuban exiles can't visit their families.

Anonymous said...

Phil, the sky is blue quite often, pigs are animals and humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. That is why I disagree with all your persuasive arguments against the clumsy travel policy of USA towards Cuba.
What? What do you say? That it hasn't worked? Oh, come on Phil, that doesn't matter as long as the sea water keeps being salty and the earth translates around the Sun! When these change we can take a critical look at such a useless and immoral procedure.

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Perhaps up the ante and remove all restrictions for Cuban Americans then do a wait and see. Either this has no effect on removing the Castro boys or makes them more powerful - or it cause their downfall. But sending other Americans into that swamp right now would be dumber that telling kids to smoke. It's not healthy.

From the Banks of the Potomac ... said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions amigos. HMJ, Western Hemisphere Policy Watch

leftside said...

So with all this logic on the anti-embargo side of the equation, why does it persist?

Because the simple reason that Cuba would thrive without the embargo. It would be the fastest growing economy in the hemisphere for the next decade at least. It would immediately lead to improvements among the Cuban population and validate Cuba's argument that the embargo was holding them back. Cuba can not be allowed to be an example for the rest of the world. Plus the US has invested so much in this failed policy that to give up now would be too large a defeat to stomach - and too much a victory for defiance. The US was wrong about Iraq and WMDs, and when that was beginning to become clear is the moment we had to start the war. We'd rather blow something up than admit we were wrong.

Fantomas said...

It would be the fastest growing economy in the hemisphere for the next decade at least. It would immediately lead to improvements among the Cuban population

leftfield..that'S exactly wHAT we want ...when not a single communist is in power... cuba will be called again THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES

leftside said...

For all the reasons Phil listed, plus my own, if you really wanted improvements for the Cuban people you would call for the the lifting of the embargo. The CP has survived the worst, they are not going anywhere under the status quo. If you really think the CP has no legitimacy, you should test it by opening the floodgates to US citizens and ideas.

Anonymous said...

if you really belive that the Cuban economy with fuel shortages, factories infrastructures in total need of repair, transportation in shambles, agriculture in total caos (even Raul knows that and admits it), unable to prodcue 1 million tons of sugar per year, turism down almost 50 percent, and this economy can grow at the rate of 9.5 percent a year, then you can believe there is a Sta Claus and the Easter bunny. Not even China´s economy without any of the above impediments can grow that much in a year and Cuba´s can grow 9.5 percent? Please, who can really believe such fantasies?

Phil Peters said...

Anon from 6:39, I'm with you -- I never would have guessed that figure. I don't buy all your assumptions about the Cuban econ, for example I think sugar long ago ceased to be a barometer. But the figure is the CIA's, not mine. I assume it reflects Cuban and Chinese aid, very high nickel prices, and who knows what else – all we get is the figure, no components. Click the link, baby, read it for yourself!

HMJ, I can't tell if you refer to my good intentions or the Administration's.

Tomas, I agree it would be a very good thing to allow Cuban Americans to travel without restriction. I don't buy excluding the rest of us, but we can leave that for another day.

Omar, you lost me. Completely. Sorry.

Anon from 12:33, you'll notice that I noted that the Cuban govt does not allow freedom to travel as a legal matter. You are referring to bureaucratic problems in the consulate in DC, and I don't dount you. Again, I would rather there be no impediments on our side. As long as the Cuban practices continue, let's criticize.

Fantomas, you're not going to like this, but no, I think we should end travel restrictions now.

Mambi_Watch said...

Great post.

Fantomas said...

Fantomas, you're not going to like this, but no, I think we should end travel restrictions now.

Phil you wont like this either Iam 100% cuban ...YOU ARE NOT

Anonymous said...

Phil, I'm 200% Cuban and the number just goes up. So, if according to Fantoma's view of the world, Cubanness were a requirement then I can give you half of my 200% for free.
Note: I have even more at home.
Now, concerning my miserably obscure intervention above, what I tried to say is that there are a bunch of truths around many issues that do not contradict yours and are not valid as counterarguments. They can be pointed out for the sake of free-speech but they just blur. In general, what has to do the hard core inefficiencies of the Cuban system with the clumsiness of the US travel policy towards Cuba? Everything boils down to the clash between Leftside progressive and HMJ conservative view. What is the best for US right now? Is there some "honorable solution"? Any will demand a lot of courage.

Anonymous said...

fantasmas says:

"I'm 100 percent cuban"

Ha, I bet its been years since you've been back. I've been there many times over the past 5 years (my wife is 100 percent cuban AND i am candian).

My wife detests Fidel, but she detests you cuban americans (hard-liners) even more. This is the common sentiment on the isla right now. Of course, fantamas (who is supposedly 100 percent cuban) wouldn't know b/c he doesn't understand the wishes of the real cubans.

And the travel embargo. the only ONES WHO advocate FOR THE TRAVEL EMBARGO ARE THE CUBANS WHO HAVE LOST ALLLLLL cONTACT/FAMILY/FRIENDS WITH the island. My wife, who is big anti-castro wants (and does) visit her family when and how she pleases. Lucky we live in Canada - where the civilized anglos are.

Fantomas said...

on the contrary , fools canadiens like yourself have brought more despair to the real cuban people than any other country except Spain..

luckily all of you are already marked...In a democratic Cuba you have no chance whatsoever...

I swear

Anonymous said...


You are a 2nd or 3rd generation best. Your misguided 2nd generation rage and vitrol is typical of those ultra-right wing Cuban "Americans" and the reason so many Cubans, Europenas and Americans dislike you: You basically are the descendants of the other side of the coin...

Spain did damage to Cuba?...really? For one thing Cuba WAS Spain. Last time I checked most of "you" Cubans are descendants of Spaniards, Canarios and African Slaves..Please, spare me the nationalist bull, specially from a US citizen.

And wouldn't the nation that "stole" Cuba from another country with a made up war (sounds familiar?) , that turned the place into a den of hookers, casinos and mafioso and corrupted officials, that took all the land and handed off to rich land owners that were among the most brutal and uncompassionate in South America's history be the one who really brought dispair to Cuba?

I think so. Good old USA.

And China is a communist country. And they put to death people all the time. And they censor, and they persecute disidents. Yet, nobody in the good old US seems to have an issue with that..Wal-Mart, Target, Home depot, Disney, Matell, Microsoft....etc..etc All these flagships of American capitalism don't seem to care one bit about doing business in China. Or Vietnam, which costed the US 58.000 lives during the war. Now, anyone can visit them, and they are still teh sam communists as 50 years ago. Explain that logic.

So yo keep at it, keep acting out and telling all of us we are crazy, or communists, or whatever other thing makes you feel happy in the tummy; The fact is less and less Americans seem to care about your so called "plight"... To me, and to many like me, you are basically another radical of the same ilk and intellect as our current president and his ever-shrinking band of neocon bafoons.

I swear too.

Anonymous said...

Can't be easy running the bully of the world ... sorry, that should read "the world's largest democracy" and find that your importance is slipping, economically and otherwise.

P.S. Cuba - A beautiful country with beautiful people.

Fantomas said...

Cuba will arise from its ashes and ALL THE ENEMIES OF CUBA WILL NEVER RETURN



Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

How do some experts know how Cuban feel from Canada while the Cubans are banned from self expression. Don't be silly.

Phil Peters said...

Fantomas, you're right, I'm 0% Cuban.

I would have guessed that you're 110% Cuban, so I guess I was wrong.

Is your idea that when it comes to this American policy, you have to be Cuban to debate it, and the rest of us, nos mandas a freir tusas? Esa es la idea?

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Forget about all the philosophical, legal reasons not to go to Cuba. This is a country being run by a criminal gang. Besides the risks of pissing them off inadvertently and landing in jail for a long term, Cuba has NO reliable decent accommodations. Instead they offer homey excusing for the lack of common things that we here in the US have become fond of like toilet paper, air conditioning and decent edible food free from vermin. We enjoy beds that are bed bug free. So those thinking of going to Cuba please have a mental evaluation first.

leftside said...

Besides the risks of pissing them off inadvertently and landing in jail for a long term, Cuba has NO reliable decent accommodations.

Come on now, you are just showing your paranoia and ignorance of the Cuban reality. A few bad reviews on travelocity does not a nation make. I was able to stay in the most beautiful hotel I've ever SEEN in Havana (the Sevilla for 90!) Meanwhile, New York and LA are in the midst of serious bed bug infestations...

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Again you look silly defending your no toilet paper paradise.

Fantomas said...

phil Iam not saying you are a tusa, What Iam saying is that people like you should keep your hands off cuba...We dont need you at all

the cuban problem is a cuban problem ..ask Mr Bush?

y fidel said once...Yo entre con las armas y con las armas nos tendran que sacar..

he said it himself, phil , clear and simple

Vamos muchachos dejense de comer no tusa pero cativias

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that you mention bed bug infestations because this is a major complaint of tourists to Cuba and they even bring the infestations back home with them. So you all are leading the world in something at least - bed bug infestations!

Phil Peters said...

There's all kinds of ways to argue this issue, but "no reliable decent accomodations" is just not true. There are plenty of decent hotels and there's lodging in thousands of private homes, some of which are very nice, and all are well priced.

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Right..I've got a bit of prime swamp land for you to invest in too.