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Posted November 02, 2005 by publisher in US Embargo

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By Guy Dinmore in Washington | Financial Times

US planning for Cuba’s “transition” after the demise of Fidel Castro has entered a new stage, with a special office for reconstruction inside the US State Department preparing for the “day after”, when Washington will try to back a democratic government in Havana.

The inter-agency effort, which also involves the Defense Department, recognises that the Cuba transition may not go peacefully and that the US may have to launch a nation-building exercise.

Caleb McCarry, the Cuba transition co-ordinator, is working on the project within the Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was established by the Bush administration to prevent and prepare for post-conflict situations.

Every six months, the National Intelligence Council revises a secret watchlist of 25 countries in which instability could require US intervention. The reconstruction office, headed by Carlos Pascual - a Cuba-born former ambassador - was focused on Sudan, Haiti, Congo and Nepal. In a controversial move, Cuba was added to the list.

The US Institute of Peace, funded by Congress to work on conflict management, declined to lend its expertise to the Cuba project. “This was an exercise in destabilisation, not stabilisation,” said one person involved.

Mr McCarry acknowledges wearing two hats: to help a post-Castro Cuba establish a democratic government and market economy, and to hasten that transition.

Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, appointed Mr McCarry in July. His post was recommended by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which she noted was created by President George W. Bush “to accelerate the demise of Castro’s tyranny”.

The commission declared in its May 2004 report that it “sought a more proactive, integrated and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime and contribute to conditions that will help the Cuban people hasten the dictatorship’s end”.

Wholesale engagement is envisaged post-Castro, including immediate assistance so that “schools are kept open and provided with new instructional material and staff”, food and medical aid is distributed, and pensions are paid.

Mr McCarry told the FT that last year’s tightening of the US economic embargo - such as restrictions on visits to Cuba by Cuban-Americans, and a curbing of remittances - had cost the Castro regime an estimated $500m (€417m, £283m) in lost income.

Human Rights Watch last month condemned the travel restrictions imposed by both Cuba and the US, saying: “Both countries are sacrificing people’s freedom of movement to promote dead-end policies.” Mr McCarry declined to comment on his work in the Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization, except to say that it would be “thoughtful and respectful of the Cuban people and their wish to be free”.

“The transition genie is out of the bottle,” he said, referring to opposition activities inside Cuba, and a “broad consensus” reached with the exiled community. “They are the ones to define a democratic future for Cuba.”

Officials say the US would not “accept” a handover of power from Mr Castro, who is 79, to his brother Raul, aged 74. While it is not clear what the US position means, Mr McCarry stressed the US would not “impose” its help.

Addressing the Association of the US Army last month, Mr Pascual indicated his co-operation with the military was at an early stage. He said his strategic planning was aimed at understanding “how we would manage that transition process between Fidel’s death and a democratic Cuba, because we know that at some point, that is going to happen”.

Analysts said the military, worried about a mass exodus of Cuban refugees, was keen to understand the administration’s plans for what is called “the day after”.

But they also question whether the White House is really committed to the task, noting the limited budgets of both Mr Pascual and Mr McCarry.

Some suspect Mr Bush drew attention to the issue in 2004 with an eye on securing votes in Florida from Cuban exiles. “The US has a history of not being very successful in achieving desired outcomes in Cuba,” cautioned Daniel Erikson, analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue think-tank.

A US military officer said: “The truth is that nobody, including anyone on the island, knows what will happen during a transition. It’s a little like trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

Additional reporting by Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas

  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 02, 2005 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Another half-ass, bad policy US-Cuba policy plan.

    Does the Bush Administration really think that Cubans will open their arms to the American government at ANY time after Fidel is gone?

    Everyone on the island under the age of 45 has lived with Fidel and communism. Democracy is hard and requires a critical mass of participants on many levels.

    Socialism is the most likely scenario.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 02, 2005 by I-taoist with 213 total posts

    What bald faced and unmitigated gall.  Cuba is a sovereign nation, a member of the United Nations and its own boss.  By what right of international law, or any other law for that matter, would the United States have in interfering with Cubaís internal affairs, whatever happens to Castro.  Are we now assuming the role of Imperial Police to the world?

    This kind of presumption is the very reason why we are hated by so many in the world today. 

    You want to talk about insurgency?  Then just try going into Cuba with a heavy hand to “manage” the transition.  The streets would run blood red from now on.  Only from the mind of mad ideologues can such utter nonsense emanate.  If it were not so potentially serious it would be laughable.

    Once again George W. Bush and his administration show their less than lucid grasp on reality.  Are these people really this nuts?  Do they really think that Cubans will welcome them with roses and open arms?  At least, thank God, those kinds of myths have been dispelled in Iraq. 

    Who of a freedom loving nature would ever think they would be praying for the longevity of Fidel Castro.  But with George Bush at the helm Iím afraid I am now forced into that appeal.  The Europeans got it right with their signs meeting Mr. Bush on his visit there:  “Save us from mad Cowboy disease.”

    Worst of all, such mindless jingoism only strengthens the communist forces on the island of Cuba by giving them the boogey man they must have to hold power. 

    What this office proposes is worst than mindlessit is fascist thought.   

  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 03, 2005 by I-Harrlaw with 4 total posts

    I do not want to jump to unwarranted conclusions but it seems to me that certain elements in this debate assume, as they have in other matters of foreign affairs, that the “40 acres and a mule” program will work just fine and the “natives” will be ever so grateful.  Or in modern terms “we will be welcomed as liberators”.  Surely to God, Fletcher School of Law & Dipomacy is not cranking out these “true believers”.  More seriously, my impression from professionals in Cuba is that when there is a transition, much of the power will transfer to a highly educated, well trained, and experiienced bureaucracy already in place.  The identiy of the individual who replaces Castro at the time of his death may have more symbolic value than anyting else. 

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