Monday, July 20, 2009

The Obama policy -- straws in the wind

Is President Obama really changing Cuba policy? You figure it out; here are some recent straws in the wind.

  • The Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reports that U.S. and Cuban troops have conducted small joint exercises at and around the Guantanamo base. The latest took place last week, on both sides of the fenceline, involving firefighting and medical assistance. The exercises have been taking place for “more than a decade,” Rosenberg reports. What is new is that the Obama Administration, unlike its predecessors, released information about them.

  • Last week’s migration talks represented the resumption of twice-yearly conversations on that topic that the Bush Administration had suspended. A Voice of America editorial (“Engaging with Cuba”) seems to indicate that talks on other subjects would be possible. It cites “the U.S. interest in pursuing constructive discussions with Havana to advance U.S. interests on issues of mutual concern.”

  • This one, like the Microsoft Instant Messenger case discussed here, could be a case of a new Administration carrying out actions initiated by its predecessor. Treasury issued an announcement (pdf) last week that it had fined Philips Electronics of North America $128,750 for “an employee’s travel to Cuba in connection with the sale of medical equipment by a foreign affiliate.” President Obama has made it clear that he wants to maintain the embargo, but cracking down on the sale of medical equipment seems pretty extreme. This report says the equipment was made by a Brazil subsidiary, but I have seen no report that indicates exactly what was sold to Cuba. In his Spanish-language blog, Fernando Ravsberg of the BBC argues that the action sends a peculiar political message, and notes that “not even two countries at war sabotage the functioning of public medical services.”


Anonymous said...

The combination of joint cooperation between the armed forces but breakdown in diplomatic talks during the Bush administration indicates that Cuba is more interested in talking to military personnel than with politicians. Could it also be that Raul Castro and his generals were trusted by Fidel Castro to deal with the USA but all others (Robaina, Perez Roque, Alarcón, etc) were not?

The news of joint military exercises is the equivalent of an ideological neutron bomb inside of Cuba: it leaves the people standing, but it will blow their minds away! It can be argued that the FAR are closer to the US armed forces than the Cuban-American community in Miami.

Vecino de NF

Anonymous said...

yes, at this rate we'll get to the embargo sometime around 2025...

John McAuliff said...

I must admit as an active supporter of Obama to growing frustration with the pace of change. There is an unresolved contradiction between the theme of mutual respect voiced by the President and conditionality articulated by the Secretary of State.

I explore that at

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Anonymous said...

there is a unresolved contradiction between the way Cubans as human beings should be allowed to live and the way they are treated in Cuba. Why don't you "explore" that?