South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
ISSUE: The new U.S. diplomat in Havana strikes a different tune.
A “less controversial climate” would be a nice change of pace. It’s in the best interests of U.S. policy for Washington’s latest man in Havana to show tact and diplomacy.
Michael Parmly settled in as chief of the U.S. Interests Section weeks ago. He brings a resume that lists several difficult diplomatic stints, including Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Most refreshing is Parmly’s indication, quoted above in answer to a question, that he seeks to lower the rhetorical volume between the United States and Cuba. By contrast, Parmly’s predecessor, James Cason, seemed to relish being the Cuban government’s Public Enemy No. 1.
During his tumultuous tenure in the Cuban capital, Cason appeared to go out of his way to antagonize the island’s communist government, and to wear his vilification by the regime as a badge of honor. In particular, Cason’s open support of dissidents and government opponents calling for liberalization rankled the Castro regime.
Cason’s brand of in-your-face-diplomacy, however, doesn’t seem to have created a great deal of space for dissent and opposing views in Cuba. In fact, the Castro government used the tight links between some opposition groups and the U.S. mission two years ago to justify the imprisoning of 75 dissidents. And while some dissidents welcomed Cason’s aid, others did not—so Cason left a mixed record even among the people he devoted much of his energy to.
Perhaps less antagonistic diplomacy shouldn’t be Parmly’s only big picture goal. Maybe he should pursue a broader agenda that builds ties to other segments of Cuba’s 11 million or so people? Maybe that might help usher in or smooth the way for the much-desired transition?
For now, though, less controversial is a start.
BOTTOM LINE: Tact might be a more effective diplomatic tool.