09/06/13 - People's World - U.S. prepares for change on Cuba
Congress is beginning to act on Cuba. Justifications for lifting the U.S.
blockade of Cuba have gained currency. The policy has had bipartisan
support for almost half a century.
In February a "Freedom to Travel Act" was introduced in the House as H.R.
874 and the Senate as S.428. The proposed legislation would end all
restrictions on Cuba travel by rescinding present regulations and
prohibiting presidents from blocking travel. Its provisions are more
far-reaching than changes proposed by President Obama, who promised during
his campaign to reverse Bush restrictions on visits to Cuba by
Cuban-Americans and on money sent to relatives there.
The House last week passed an appropriations bill with provisions that
would end funds for enforcing those measures, for one year only. The bill
authorizes travel to Cuba for the purpose of selling food and medicines.
Cuba would no longer have to pay for food imports prior to shipment.
Senate opponents of the legislation, led by Senators Mel Martinez (R-Fla.)
and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are primed for battle, resolved, according to
Alborada News, to restrict any changes to those promised by President
Last week Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), top Republican on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, attached comments to a minority committee report. He
noted that "restrictive U.S. policies toward Cuba are ineffective, have
failed to achieve their stated purpose of promoting democracy and should be
reevaluated to take advantage of recent political changes on the island."
The report, written by a member of Lugar's staff, calls for easing trade
and travel restrictions as well as agreements on drug interdiction and
migration. Lugar would allow Cuba to borrow from world financial
The Brookings Institute, Inter-American Dialogue and the Council on Foreign
Relations issued reports calling for a U.S. opening to Cuba. As explained
by Julia Sweig of the latter group, "U.S. policy toward Cuba may be the
biggest failure in the history of American foreign policy."
These analyses focus mostly on presumed immediate benefits of change.
Sweig worries that "a chance to play a constructive role in Cuba" may soon
be lost. She cites trade benefits and the usefulness of dialogue on issues
like security, terrorism, migration, and port security. Potential
environmental hazards related to Cuban oil drilling in the Florida
Straights are ripe for negotiation. She and others agree that improved
relations with Cuba would help refurbish the U.S. image in Latin America.
And U.S. travel to the island, she claims, would relieve "the kind of siege
mentality that has entrapped the Cuban body politic."
Another survey of Washington's Cuba problem published last month is
remarkable for its strategic depth. U.S. Army War College faculty member
Col. Alex Crowther argues now is the time to "kiss the embargo good-bye."
He considers history, U.S. interests and resource availability. (See
www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil.) Crowther's stretching of the truth
and oversimplifications suggest bias toward former usefulness of the
blockade as a cold-war tool.
Arguments favoring continued blockade would be: "We need to continue
pressuring the regime to motivate it to reform, and the Cuban community in
Miami wants us to continue." He points out - probably in sadness - that one
didn't work and the other is no longer true.
Blockade, he suggests, no longer serves U.S. interests. Its departure would
signify to world opinion that "the United States is magnanimous and
inclusive," not "petty and vindictive" as is the appearance now. For
Crowther, the blockade provides Cuba with a propaganda tool; its removal
would take away Cuba's last pretext for repression. (Millions flowing from
Washington for internal subversion are overlooked.) Cuba, he adds, would
develop into a lucrative export market. And ending the blockade would ease
human suffering in Cuba, presumably less acceptable now than during the
cold war, when destabilization took top billing.
President Obama may announce easing of Bush restrictions on Cuban American
travel and remittances sometime prior to his attending the next Summit of
the Americas, set for Trinidad and Tobago in mid-April. Surely he is aiming
for a smoother experience there than that of President Bush at the last
summit, in Argentina in 2005. The former president retreated in
embarrassment after his Free Trade Area of the Americas flopped.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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