Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
I read many Cuba related news articles and blog posts every day and have done so since I was bit by the Cuba bug in 1998.
I also have friends and sources in Cuba, Canada, Washington DC and Miami that give me information, comments and, of course, predictions about US Cuba policy, the state of US Cuba relations, conversations in Washington, Miami and Havana, Cuba business, politics, culture etc etc.
I gave up a long time ago trying to predict anything US and Cuba related since I am usually disappointed when I even anticipate anything related the US Embargo or Cuba.
However, when I woke up this morning to read a VERY well written summary and analysis of recent US Cuba interactions by David Adams of Reuters titled Analysis: New climate of pragmatism prevails in U.S.-Cuba relations. I couldn’t help but to drink in all of his words and then feel compelled to add my own commentary for anyone who cares to read what I have to say.
So, I don’t know if I would go as far to use the phrase “climate of pragmatism” as he did in the title but it is a good choice of words and the article is extremely well written. So, I pasted in the text of the article below with my comments in CAPS so they will be easy to read as my comments. I continue with further analysis after THE END of the article. I’ve added some links that will open in new browser tab, to articles for those of you wishing to get more detailed insight.
U.S. relations with Cuba have undergone a surprise warming in recent months, raising expectations of possible agreements to bring the two countries closer after more than 50 years of hostility.
U.S. and Cuban officials overcame a series of potentially divisive incidents this summer with mutual displays of pragmatism rarely seen since Cuba’s 1959 socialist revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
President Barack Obama appeared to recognize this publicly on November 8 when he said at a fundraiser in Miami that it may be time for the United States to revise its policies toward Cuba. “We have to be creative and we have to be thoughtful, and we have to continue to update our policies,” he said.
STATEMENTS LIKE THIS BEG FOR CUBA WATCHERS TO DIG FOR RECENT UNDER-THE-RADAR EVENTS WITH AN EFFORT TO PUT TOGETHER PIECES FOR A TIME LINE WITH THE HOPES OF TRYING TO ANTICIPATE FUTURE EVENTS. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA MADE THESE COMMENTS IN MIAMI WITH TWO PRO-EMBARGO CUBAN DISSIDENTS IN THE ROOM. DID OBAMA GO TO THIS FUNDRAISER TO MEET THE DISSIDENTS AND/OR TO RAISE MONEY AND/OR TO MAKE A STATEMENT WITH HIS WORDS AND ACTIONS? FIRST, I DON’T THINK HIS PRIMARY REASON FOR BEING IN MIAMI WAS TO ATTEND THIS FUNDRAISER. I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY WAS RAISED BUT I DO NOT THINK IT WAS A HUGE FUND RAISER FOR THE PRESIDENT. SO DID HE GO TO MEET THE DISSIDENTS?
DID HE KNOW THE DISSIDENTS WOULD BE THERE? DID HE INDIRECTLY ORCHESTRATE THIS FUND RAISER AND THE PRESENCE OF THE DISSIDENTS SO HE CAN MAKE THESE COMMENTS IN THIS SETTING BY DESIGN? IF SO, HE IS OBVIOUSLY PUTTING A LOT OF THOUGHT INTO US CUBA RELATIONS. OF COURSE THERE IS THE CHANCE THAT THE COMMENTS WERE JUST MADE WITHOUT GIVING THEM ANY REAL THOUGHT THEREFORE THEY ARE MEANINGLESS. HOWEVER, WHEN I LOOK AT THE CONTINUUM OF US CUBA RELATED COMMENTS AND EVENTS SINCE JULY, I GET THE FEELING THAT THERE IS THOUGHT BEING PUT IN TO US CUBA POLICY. SORRY, THE ARTICLE CONTINUES…
Hostile rhetoric has long characterized relations between the two countries, separated by only 90 miles of sea. But U.S. and Cuban officials now are privately expressing appreciation of each others’ handling of the incidents.
“OFFICIALS PRIVATELY EXPRESSING APPRECIATION OF EACH OTHER…” HMMM. WHAT DOES DAVID ADAMS KNOW?
They include Cuba’s decision not to offer a safe haven to fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is sought by the United States for alleged espionage, and the diplomatically deft U.S. handling of a North Korean ship carrying Cuban weapons in possible violation of U.N. sanctions.
“I think there is a willingness on both sides to engage more pragmatically, but we are not on the cusp of any great policy changes,” said one U.S. official involved in discussions on Cuba policy. “We are not as optimistic as the Cubans are, but there’s interest in moving things along.”
“MOVING THINGS ALONG”. WHAT THINGS? SOMETHING BIG LIKE THE RELEASE OF ALAN GROSS OR SOMETHING SMALL LIKE DIRECT MAIL SERVICE?
Cuba has made no official response to Obama’s speech but chose not to criticize him for hailing two leading Cuban dissidents who attended the fundraiser as champions of democracy. Nor did they react to the holding of the event at the home of the president of the Cuban American National Foundation, a longtime foe of the Castro government. In the past, the Cuban authorities have often issued stinging rebukes of a U.S. president in similar circumstances.
“For Obama to say what he said, and do that in Miami, is not easy. That didn’t go unnoticed here,” in Havana, said Carlos Alzugaray, a retired Cuban diplomat and former ambassador to the European Union. “There is still a great lack of confidence between the two sides, but I think both sides want to do something.”
“DID NOT GO UNNOTICED HERE IN HAVANA” IS AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT COMMENTS WERE HEARD AND POWER OF THE STATEMENT WAS RECEIVED.
Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, U.S. and Cuban officials do have contact “when it is our interest to do so,” one senior U.S. government official told Reuters.
U.S. officials met with a top Cuban diplomat in Washington to request that Havana refuse entry to Snowden, U.S. officials told Reuters. Cuba made no guarantees, but unlike some of its allies in Latin America it chose not to extend a hand to Snowden.
THIS HAPPENED IN JUNE SO, IF YOU WISH, YOU CAN CHOOSE THIS AS THE START DATE FOR WHAT MIGHT BE A SERIOUS OF “UNRELATED” EVENTS BRINGING US TO THE PRESIDENT’S RECENT REMARKS.
“There’s a lot of sympathy with Snowden’s cause here, but it wasn’t in Cuba’s interest to get involved,” Alzugaray said.
SOUNDS LIKE FIDEL WANTED SNOWDEN BECAUSE FIDEL ROSE FROM THE DEAD… I MEAN PUBLICLY STATED IN AUGUST THAT CUBA DID NOT DENY ENTRY TO SNOWDEN. PERHAPS OBAMA COMMUNICATED TO RAUL THAT CUBA WOULD BE SEVERELY PUNISHED FOR ACCEPTING SNOWDEN. IF FIDEL WAS STILL PRESIDENT, HE WOULD HAVE HAD A 100,000 PERSON GATHERING IN THE PLAZA DE LA REVOLUCION FOR SNOWDEN’S ARRIVAL.
In July, when the Obama administration detected a North Korean vessel carrying a hidden cargo of Cuban weapons, including two MiG-21 fighter planes and 15 MiG jet engines, departing from a port in Cuba, U.S. officials say they decided not to intervene directly so that they could avoid a high-profile bilateral incident.
HMMM. RIGHT. WHY NOT INTERVENE DIRECTLY?
Instead, they tipped off Panamanian officials, who raided the ship and found the weapons, allowing the case to be handled in a more low-key multilateral manner by the U.N. Security Council, which is investigating whether the shipment violated a ban against weapons transfers to North Korea.
IN OTHER WORDS, CUBA WILL NOT BE PUNISHED BY THE US OR UN OR ANY COUNTRY. ONE COULD SAFELY ASSUME THIS WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME CUBA SHIPPED WEAPONS TO NORTH KOREA BECAUSE YOU NEVER GET CAUGHT THE FIRST TIME YOU DO SOMETHING BAD. I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW IF RAUL KNEW ABOUT THIS SHIPMENT.
Cuba says the aging, Soviet-era weapons were being sent for repair, to be returned to Cuba. It has remained silent since then, raising no objections to the way the issue is being handled, and has cooperated with U.N. weapons inspectors who visited Cuba last month.
“Both sides, Cuba and the United States, have acted with great care,” Alzugaray said.
“GREAT CARE”... ONE COULD SAY GREAT WEAKNESS ON THE US SIDE. CUBA COULD SAY THANK YOU TO OBAMA BY RELEASING ALAN GROSS BUT THAT HASN’T HAPPENED. SO, WHY DID OBAMA BEND OVER FOR CUBA ON THIS ISSUE?
President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, has earned a reputation as a pragmatist. His attitude toward the United States also may be a hedge against political uncertainty in oil-rich Venezuela, Cuba’s staunchest - and most generous - ally in recent years.
RAUL WANTS POWER AND MONEY. HE HAS ONE AND IS TRYING TO GET THE OTHER WITH FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT, ESPECIALLY BY THE WAY OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT FROM THE PORT OF MARIEL.
U.S. officials are closely watching as Cuba implements a series of free-market reforms to the Soviet-style economy. Cuba shows no signs of changing its one-party, communist-run political system, although is has relaxed travel restrictions, allowing dissidents to travel abroad.
“Because of the economic reforms under way in Cuba the conditions are being put in place for a more normalized engagement with the U.S.,” said Richard Feinberg, a senior fellow of the Washington-based Brookings Institution who briefed senior administration officials last week on a newly published study highlighting the role of a new middle class of emerging entrepreneurs.
“I was given the impression that its basic analysis - that important changes were occurring in Cuba and that the U.S. should be more engaged - was widely shared and that some new initiatives would probably be forthcoming,” he said.
INTERESTING. “NEW INITIATIVES” AS IN EASING FINANCIAL RESTRICTIONS? CUBAN AMERICANS ARE AIRLIFTING MONEY INTO CUBA TO SUPPORT AND BUY INTO SMALL BUSINESS ENTERPRISES RUN BY FAMILY SO MAYBE ALL AMERICANS WILL BE ABLE TO INVEST IN SMALL BUSINESSES IN CUBA? THAT WOULD BE INTERESTING IF RAUL WOULD ALLOW IT.
Potential Congressional Objections
Obama is likely to face opposition in Congress to attempts to thaw the relationship with Cuba at a time when he is already under fire for trying to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions.
Two powerful senators of Cuban descent, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez and Florida Republican Marco Rubio, both hold to a firm line of limited engagement with Cuba.
A FIRM LINE? THEIR CONSTITUENTS TRAVEL REGULARLY AND FREELY AND SEND ABOUT $2,000,000,000 A YEAR TO CUBA BUT THE US NEEDS TO KEEP A “FIRM LINE”? YEAH, AGAINST ALL OTHER AMERICANS.
“The administration is willing to ignore all of the obvious signs of continued and even ramped-up repression because it is overly eager to warm up relations between our countries,” U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami, told Reuters.
YES MS. ROS-LEHTINEN WE GET IT. THE US IS ALWAYS GOOD AND CUBA IS ALWAYS BAD.
The Obama administration’s hands are tied in many ways by the 50-year-old U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, an executive branch decree first issued by President John F. Kennedy and reinforced by Congress in the 1990s.
The fate of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, serving a 15-year jail sentence in Cuba for his role in setting up an illegal underground Internet network, also has made for a diplomatic impasse, as have four convicted Cuban agents jailed in the United States for spying.
U.S. officials say the Gross case remains “a serious impediment” to improved relations, but his detention has not ruled out all engagement with Cuba.
“He’s an American prisoner, and we should do all we can to obtain his release but we shouldn’t let it guide U.S. foreign policy,” said U.S. Representative Joe Garcia, a Cuban-American Democrat from Miami.
THIS PAST WEEK, THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME RENEWED CONVERSATION ABOUT PRESSURING CUBA TO RELEASE ALAN GROSS.
U.S. officials also are upbeat about Cuba’s role in hosting continuing peace talks between the Colombian FARC rebels and the government of Colombia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also thanked Cuba for its help late last month in securing the release of a U.S. army veteran held by the FARC in Colombia.
SURE HAVANA HOSTED TALKS BETWEEN FARC AND COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT THAT LED TO SOME PEACE AND THE RELEASE OF ONE AMERICAN BUT THIS IS NO REASON TO GIVE CUBA ANY GIFTS.
One of the signs of a thaw could be Cuba’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, which could ease strict curbs on financial transactions involving U.S. citizens.
THIS IS SOMETHING OBAMA COULD DO THAT WOULD BE WELCOMED BY BUSINESSES FROM COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD BECAUSE THEY CAN AND DO GET FINED FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH CUBA. I AM NOT PREDICTING OBAMA WILL REMOVE CUBA FROM THE STATE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM LIST BUT IF IT HAPPENS SOON, THEN WE COULD CONFIRM THERE IS MOMENTUM AND WE COULD SAFELY EXPECT SOMETHING IN RETURN FROM CUBA LIKE THE RELEASE OF ALAN GROSS.
Talks between the United States and Cuba to renew direct postal service, which was suspended 50 years ago, also have progressed better than expected.
THIS HAPPENED OVER THE SUMMER, SHORTLY AFTER SNOWDEN WAS NOT ALLOWED INTO CUBA.
“The Cubans usually spend the first day lecturing the U.S. on the embargo and the next day stalling,” Garcia said. “This time after 15 minutes of required rhetoric they decided to move forward.”
(Additional reporting by Marc Frank in Havana and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Editing by Martin Howell, Prudence Crowther and Bill Trott)
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARC FRANK AND ANDREW CAWTHORNE ADDS EVEN MORE WEIGHT TO THIS ARTICLE BECAUSE THESE TWO GUYS REALLY UNDERSTAND CUBA AND US CUBA POLICY AND THEY CERTAINLY KNOW PEOPLE IN THE KNOW SO THAT’S WHY I AM TAKING THE TIME TO REALLY READ THIS ARTICLE CAREFULLY.
END OF ARTICLE
Putting 2+2 together…?
So, President Obama was in Miami on Friday November 8 for this Cuban-American fundraiser and two Cuban diplomats from the Cuban Interests Section were in Miami on Monday November 11 to meet with companies that handle travel between the Cuba and the United States. Also “Such visits are uncommon because Cuban diplomats must obtain permission from the U.S. State Department before they can travel outside Washington, and they usually try to avoid South Florida due to security concerns.” They were also there in July which is the month after the Snowden incident and the time of direct US Cuba mail talks. Interesting? Interesting.
See any pattern here? Coincidence? Perhaps but if you sum up these events from post-Snowden July to President’s remarks last week, you have to think that there is something brewing and that perhaps we can expect US-Cuba related news? Time for Fidel to step in and throw cold water on this warming?
The Havana Journal maintains a “day count” article of Fidel Castro’s last public appearance, visit by world leader and last article he published. Since it has now been 161 days since Fidel has been seen in public, it may be safe to assume that he is getting less active physically and perhaps less active politically. Perhaps Obama and Raul are both anticipating, perhaps even looking forward to, the death of Fidel Castro so they can both move to enable better US Cuba relations. I am no Iran expert but Ahmadinejad is no longer President of Iran and all of the sudden we have better US Iran relations?
I have said before that the arrest of Alan Gross is Fidel’s last stand so he can be used as a pawn to see how much Fidel can get for him. The Alan Gross case has Fidel written all over it. Even though Alan Gross was guilty, stupid and greedy, there is no reason to keep holding him in Cuba. Releasing him for humanitarian reasons will be a HUGE signal to Obama that Cuba is ready to welcome better US Cuba relations.
I think the release of Alan Gross and the death of Fidel Castro will be announced in the same month. What month I have no idea but I think Raul would love to get rid of Alan Gross and close the books on Fidel’s cold war politics.
There I go again predicting and anticipating.