Obama’s Seven Choices
Posted: 03 January 2009 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]
less than 10 posts
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2006-09-07

The incoming Obama Administration faces seven choices about whether and how it will address decades of mutual hostility and misunderstanding:

1) Will it respect Constitutional and human rights principles of freedom to travel—or continue disingenuous cold war logic that the government has the power to bar the expenditure of funds necessary to exercise a fundamental right?

2) Will it honor Obama’s campaign pledges and the Democratic Party plank calling for immediate “unlimited travel and remittances” for Cuban Americans—or, as reported from a transition team source, backslide to the Clinton Administration policy of annual visits and a fixed albeit higher-than-Bush level of remittances?

3) Will it exercise its authority to grant general licenses to eleven other categories of non-tourist travel including education, humanitarian, religious, cultural, sports and “support for the Cuban people”—or wait for leadership from a divided Congress?

4) Will it listen to editorials from every leading US newspaper and to the 68% of Americans, including Cuban Americans, who want to end all restrictions on travel—or accede to hard line exiles in Miami whose PAC money has been spread widely among Democrats in Congress and whose new champion is Senator Bob Menendez?

5) Will it follow Bill Clinton’s successful path of quickly ending the embargo of Vietnam and moving to normalize relations (without preconditions of human rights or democracy)—or repeat his delayed and ineffective gradualism on Cuba?

6) Will it accept for humanitarian reasons Raul Castro’s proposal of mutual gestures, releasing prisoners each country feels are political victims of the other—or follow the Bush Administration line of preferring Cuban dissidents remain incarcerated if they are not released on US terms?

7) Will it heed the virtually unanimous call from Western Hemisphere nations, European allies and the membership of the United Nations to lift our embargo—or maintain the distrusted unilateralism of its predecessors?

Had Presidents Nixon, Carter and Clinton been bound by the self-interested politics of Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian exile leaders, we would still have embargoes and no diplomatic relations with countries that are now vital US partners.

President Obama has the opportunity in the opening days of his term not only to reverse the harsh and illusionary policies of the Bush Administration, but also to begin to undo decades of failure that have benefited neither the Cuban nor American people and isolated us internationally.

Without action by Congress, Obama cannot restore the Constitutional right to travel to all Americans or lift the embargo, but he should not fail to rapidly open the door to a wide range of significant two way non-tourist exchanges that will create mutual understanding and trust, essential for both countries to repair more than a century of troubled relations.

Link for above is http://obamacuba.blogspot.com/2009/01/seven-choices-for-new-administration.html

Link for on-line letter to the President elect on travel is http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/obamacuba/index.html

See also several takes on related issues by Larry Wilkerson, Pat Doherty and myself at http://www.thehavananote.com

Other potentially useful posts:

A compilation of statements by US business, religious bodies and non-governmental organizations urging an end to travel restrictions and other policy changes
http://obamacuba.blogspot.com/2008/12/us-civil-society-wants-change-in-us.html

Details on the kind of non-tourist travel Obama can allow

http://obamacuba.blogspot.com/2008/12/travel-president-can-allow.html

Other executive options

http://obamacuba.blogspot.com/2008/12/twelve-additional-presidential.html

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
http://www.ffrd.org

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 January 2009 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

John,

Welcome to the Havana Journal.

It would appear that President Obama has some easy choices to make.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 January 2009 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  992
Joined  2005-11-19

I think Obama will go back to Clinton era Embargo right away then gauge the response and interest to pursue further measures from Congress.

We have to see how much Raul wants to prevent the easing of the Embargo too. That’s the wild card here. Raul might make it difficult to lift the Embargo.

 Signature 

Cuba consulting services

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 January 2009 10:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
less than 10 posts
Rank
Total Posts:  2
Joined  2006-09-07

It will be a tremendous lost opportunity if all Obama does is Clinton redux on family travel.  He will compromise without need his and the Democratic Party platform commitment to unlimited travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. 

He will also miss the historic moment to send a signal to 84% of his supporters, two thirds of Americans, and all of the Western Hemisphere that there is a new game in town by using his maximum authority to enable non-discriminatory travel for non-tourists.

A strategy of waiting for reaction to a compromised partial reform is also hardly the kind of leadership those who made a tremendous effort to elect him expect and need.

I am not clear whether the prior post meant going back to Clinton on non-tourist travel as well as family.  Legally because of the Congressional codification of 2000, Obama can’t allow more than the 12 categories of travel permitted by Clinton, but his practice would be considerably more progressive if he authorizes general licenses, does away with Travel Service Provider registration, and cleans up OFAC.

Re Cuba itself, I think the theory that the Cuban Communist party in general and Raul Castro in particular don’t want the lifting of travel restrictions and the embargo is wrong.  This theory is often the last resort argument of Americans who don’t want to change things, although logically that should lead them to call for an end of the embargo.  (Here’s an example http://www.waxmanmedia.com/2009/01/03/castro-warns-cubans-of-us-‘threat’/ )

I believe there is a conflict within Cuba’s political and intellectual leadership about how much they can trust the motives of any US administration.  They will cautiously watch for evidence of good will before they adopt policies that put their country at risk. 

It is too easy to characterize this as an issue of aging communists wanting to protect their power.  Cuba must be looked at not only through a post 1959 lens but also a post 1898 lens to understand why, as Ho Chi Minh said about Vietnam’s struggle, “nothing is more precious than independence and freedom”.

All the weaker power has is its determination to survive.  The stronger power has the option of flexibility if it can get past its pride and historical obliviousness.

Clearly, I could be wrong.  The only proof is in the pudding and the cook is Barack Obama.  I hope and believe he has a new recipe.

[ Edited: 04 January 2009 06:00 PM by John McAuliff ]
Profile