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Posted January 09, 2009 by publisher in US Embargo

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WAYNE S. SMITH | CounterPunch.org

Cuba will not be a priority issue for the new U.S. administration, either in terms of economic interests or security concerns. It will face far more urgent problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in tensions between Pakistan and India, and between Israel and Hamas – not to mention the challenge of how to turn around the U.S. economy. But as pointed out in the Brookings report and by a number of other analyses, moving toward a more sensible approach toward Cuba will be one of the quickest and easiest ways of signaling change and encouraging support for our broader foreign policy agenda – especially in Latin America. The fact is that we have no support whatever for our present Cuba policy. Dozens of other governments, including key Latin American governments, have called on us to change that policy. And most certainly it should be changed – as befits a policy that hasn’t worked in fifty years, a policy that has become more than anything else an embarrassment.

Most governments call on us to lift the embargo. But that cannot be the first step. Congress must first annul the Helms-Burton Act and encourage the Congress in the right direction. At best, however, it will take time and there will be opposition.

But President Obama can immediately signal change by dropping the Bush administration’s rhetoric, which has held that its objective was to bring down the Castro government; rather, Obama should indicate instead that the U.S. wants to encourage change through reduced tensions and dialogue. And in the latter context, it should immediately resume the periodic conversations that used to be held between U.S. and Cuban officials about issues such as migration and drug interdiction and indicate its willingness to discuss other pressing bilateral issues.

And there are a number of things Obama can do quickly and easily, indeed, with the stroke of a pen, that will make a real difference.

1. Cuban-American Travel
2. End Restrictions on Academic and Educational Travel
3. Encourage the Lifting of all Travel Controls
4. Begin Issuing Visas to Cubans Again
5. Remove the Restrictions on Cuban Payment for Agricultural Goods
6. Pardon the Cuban Five in Return for the Release of Cuban Political Prisoners
7. Close TV Marti

1. Cuban-American Travel

Obama has said that he will immediately remove the restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to their families on the island. A good first step. These were imposed by executive order in 2004. Prior to that, Cuban-Americans could visit their families on the island once a year, but no one really checked, so in fact they could visit more frequently than that if there was some need. Since 2004, however, they have only been able to visit once every three years, and, incredibly, there has been no provision for emergency travel. Hence, if, say, Maria, visited her mother in September of 2005, but then, upon return to the U.S., was informed in December that her mother had taken suddenly ill and was dying, there was no way Maria could return to be at her mother’s bedside. Rather, she would be told that in three years, she could visit the grave. That is inhumane. Fortunately, Obama has promised to allow Cuban-Americans unlimited travel.

2. End Restrictions on Academic and Educational Travel

At the same time in 2004 that the Bush administration imposed restrictions on Cuban-American travel, it also imposed severe restrictions on academic travel, and did so arbitrarily. It said it was imposing the new restrictions because of “abuses” of the old system, but it could never point to a single abuse; rather, its purpose clearly was to drastically reduce academic exchanges. And it succeeded. Prior to 2004, there had been hundreds of American students involved in study programs in Cuba. After 2004, only a handful. The principal problem had to do with the length of the new programs. Prior to 2004, most programs had been of three-to-four weeks duration to focus on some aspect of, say, Cuba’s culture, politics, history or economy. These programs had neatly fit between semesters and had not interfered with graduation schedules. But after 2004, all programs had to be at least ten-weeks long, i.e., semester-length programs. These did interfere with graduation schedules; hence, few students signed up for them. The very successful academic study programs in Cuba by and large came to an end – in blatant violation of academic freedoms. As in the case of the restrictions on Cuban-American travel, these unwarranted restrictions on academic travel were imposed by executive order. Hence, here again, President Obama can remove them simply with a new executive order, i.e., with the stroke of a pen. And he should do so, in defense of academic freedoms, because the study programs were valuable politically, and to signal change.

At the same time, he should remove the restrictions that were imposed in 2003 on educational travel. This travel had been organized by institutions such as the National Geographic and various art museums and cultural institutions to take Americans to Cuba to learn about Cuban art and culture. Thousands of Americans traveled to Cuba under these programs, travel which certainly strengthened cultural ties between the two peoples. As in the previous cases, the restrictions were imposed by executive order and, again, can be removed by President Obama with the stroke of a pen.

3. Encourage the Lifting of all Travel Controls

It will take congressional action to lift all travel controls, so that any American who wishes can travel freely to Cuba. It will be important that the president from the outset indicate his full support for such a measure and urge the Congress to introduce and pass the necessary legislation. During the years of the Cold War, the U.S. pushed for the Helsinki Agreements and encouraged Americans to travel to the Soviet Union, believing them to be, in one way or another, messengers of democracy. That seemed to work reasonably well. How then does it make any sense for us now to prevent Americans from traveling to Cuba? In fact, it does not.

4. Begin Issuing Visas to Cubans Again

In years past, it was possible to have academic and cultural exchanges with Cuba, with Cuban scholars coming to U.S. universities and conferences, and Cuban artists and musicians able to participate in cultural events in the United States. Under the Bush administration, that has been virtually impossible. Cuban academics have not even been given visas to come to the conferences held by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). In reaction, LASA has taken the position that until our country is again open enough to invite Cuban participants, it will hold no more conferences in the U.S. Accordingly, last year’s conference was moved from Boston to Toronto. This is an embarrassment to us all. The Obama administration should immediately remedy the situation by instructing the State Department to begin again issuing visas to Cuban scholars and cultural figures invited to participate in exchange programs, research projects or cultural presentations. They should, in effect, go back to the guidelines for visas issuance that existed prior to the Bush administration – and examine the possibilities of broadening those guidelines in the months and years ahead, as relations improve and expand.

5. Remove the Restrictions on Cuban Payment for Agricultural Goods

Over the past few years, U.S. agricultural producers have been allowed to sell to Cuba. Indeed, they are now one of its major suppliers, selling over $500 million a year of their products to the island. Estimates are, however, that those sales could be tripled if the U.S. government would remove the complicated payment system it forces the Cubans to follow. This also could be done with the stroke of a pen and would benefit U.S. suppliers as well as Cuban purchasers. It should be done as quickly as possible. Remove Cuba From the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Cuba has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for many years now. Leaving aside the question of whether it ever should have been on the list, there has been no evidence at all over the past decade that would justify its presence there. I study the list carefully every year and have noted what seems to be an effort on the part of its authors to signal their disagreement with its conclusions. For example, the 2007 report noted that “Cuba did not attempt to track, block or seize terrorist assets, although the authority to do so is contained in Cuba’s Law 93 against acts of terrorism, as well as Instruction 19 of the Superintendent of the Cuban Central Bank.”

But any competent lawyer would respond to that by asking “what assets?” There is no evidence at all that Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization has any assets in Cuba. And so, there is nothing to seize. The only thing the statement makes clear is that Cuba does have laws on the books against support for terrorism. How, one must ask, does that square with the report’s assertion that Cuba is a terrorist state? And the 2007 report also mentions the presence in Cuba of members of the Basque ETA guerrilla organization and the Colombian FARC and ELN. But it acknowledges that they are living legally in Cuba and goes on to state that: “There is no information concerning terrorist activities of these or other organizations on Cuban territory.”

That being the case, their presence, then, is not a cause to keep Cuba on the list. Removing Cuba from the list can be accomplished without fanfare or policy statements. The State Department every spring prepares a report on the subject. In years past, those reports have concluded that Cuba should remain on the list, but have done so without any supporting evidence. This year, once the new leadership is in place in the State Department, it should give instructions to those preparing the report to come up with an honest conclusion. If there is no evidence that Cuba is involved in terrorist activities, the report should say so and recommend that it be removed from the list.

6. Pardon the Cuban Five in Return for the Release of Cuban Political Prisoners

Cuba will never accept preconditions. Demanding that it release political prisoners before the U.S. takes any steps to improve relations is the best way to assure that neither ever takes place. The Cubans have been down that road before, to their regret. Raul Castro, however, has come up with an interesting idea. One gesture for another, as he describes it. Cuba would be willing to talk to a number of the dissidents now held in prison, and their families, to see if they’d be interested in going to the U.S. If so, Cuba would be willing to release them. That would be its gesture. The gesture on the part of the U.S. would be that it free the Cuban Five, the five Cuban agents who came to the U.S. to penetrate and spy on exile terrorist organizations in Miami.

The Cuban Five should be pardoned anyway. Their trials were grossly unfair. There was never any evidence that they had committed any crime other than to be the unregistered agents of a foreign power. They were spying on exile groups, not on the U.S. government. And spying on exile groups is not a crime. The case of Gerardo Hernandez is perhaps the worst. Convicted of “conspiracy to commit murder,” he is serving a life sentence. Yet there was never any evidence at all that he was involved in any way in the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft back in 1996. The conviction of the Five and their long years in prison are a black mark on the U.S. system of justice, one that at some point must be overturned. One can imagine the outcry among some in Miami, however, at the suggestion that they be pardoned.

Raul Castro’s suggestion may offer a way out. It would be difficult for the hardliners to oppose the pardoning of the Five if that was to lead to the freeing of a group of political prisoners in Cuba. And so, hopefully, it is something President Obama can at some point consider.

7. Close TV Marti

For years now, the U.S. has tried to beam television programs into Cuba. The Cubans have by and large managed to block them out so the U.S. is now having the signals broadcast from a plane. This is most expensive and has had questionable success. In any event, the programs are broadcast during the dawn hours, so it is doubtful that many people would be watching even if they could receive the signals. The whole exercise simply makes us look foolish. TV Marti should be cancelled, and in fact so should Radio Marti; rather, we should go back to programs on the VOA. These were widely listened to in Cuba and had great credibility, something Radio Marti has never had.

An Encouraging Word

After so long and bitter a feud, the idea of restoring amicable relations may seem quixotic. If, however, the two sides begin a dialogue and discuss their differences sensibly and logically, they will find that solutions are not so difficult to come by. Neither should pose a threat to the other’s security and economic engagement would benefit both. Dialogue, in short, can produce a mutually-beneficial outcome that confrontation never could.

Dr. Wayne S. Smith is a veteran Cuba-watcher at the Center for International Policy. He first began observing the Cuban Revolution as an analyst in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in early 1957, just after Castro returned to Cuba to begin his guerrilla struggle against Batista. He was then transferred to Havana, arriving there in August of 1958 and remaining as Third Secretary of Political Affairs until the U.S. broke diplomatic relations in January of 1961. He served on the Cuba Desk from 1964-66 and was with the first group of American diplomats to return to Cuba in 1977. From 1977 until 1979, he was director of Cuba Affairs in the Department of State, and then became chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until 1982, when he left the Foreign Service because of his disagreements with policy. Since then, he was been an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University involved with its Cuba Exchange Program, and since 1992, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. where he directs its Cuba Program. He is the author of The Closest of Enemies: A Personal and Diplomatic History of the Castro Years (W. W. Norton, 1987).

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 09, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I agree strongly with 1-4.

    #5 regarding payments from Cuba for US goods… I’m not sure this is a good thing but I’m all for free market trade and the US companies will have to decide if they want to sell to Cuba on credit which means they might get paid for a while until Cuba finds another supplier who is cheaper or willing to sell on better credit terms.

    I disagree on #6. Now we are getting into the area of hostage negotiations. If the Cuban Five were improperly tried, I have to have faith in our judicial system. If a pardon is in order then that should be independent of any offer by Raul (who cannot be trusted obviously) for a release of political prisoners. His idea of releasing political prisoners is to exile them to Spain. That is not freedom.

    #7, I strongly agree.

    So, a note to Dr. Smith, don’t be too wacky and just give up everything in the hopes that Raul might do some “gesture for gesture”. You know he doesn’t want the Embargo lifted and will sabotage any negotiations once we get close to lifting the Embargo.

    Ease the Embargo for Americans’ sake, not for Raul’s sake.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 12, 2009 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    I agree with everything except #6. The so-called Cuban 5 WERE tried fairly in an independent court of law and found guilty by an independent jury of being agents of a foreign power, committing espionage against the US and conspiracy to murder. These are FACTS. See here:


    I notice that Mr Smith provides no evidence to back up his assertions. It is scandalous to try and lump the case of the so-called Cuban 5 with that of prisoners of conscience (not my phrase - Amnesty International’s) that were subject to an unfair trial that lasted ONE DAY in a court that is subserviant to the Cuban Government.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 12, 2009 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    Readers may be interested in this ludicrous rant from Fidel Castro’s nephew in the British Financial Times:

    Three conditions apply to lifting of embargo on Cuba
    Published: January 9 2009

    From Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

    Sir, Your editorial “Prepare the ground for post-Castro era” (December 31) (see here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fe4b8fbc-d6a9-11dd-9bf7-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1) was uncharacteristically ill-informed. As a representative in the US Congress of hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans and the author of the codification into US law in 1996 of the embargo on the Cuban dictatorship, please allow me to offer the following information.

    The reason we maintain a trade and tourism embargo on the Cuban dictatorship (a regime that has kept itself in power through terror and repression for 50 years) is, first, because it is in the national interest of the US for there to be a democratic transition in Cuba, as it obviously is in the interest of the long-suffering people of Cuba; second, because, as in the democratic transitions that occurred in Spain or Portugal or Greece, or in those that took place in South Africa or Chile or the Dominican Republic, it is absolutely critical that there be some form of external pressure for a democratic transition to take place in Cuba once the dictator is no longer on the scene (and Fidel Castro, while very ill, is still the ultimate power in totalitarian Cuba). At the time of the disappearance from the scene of the Cuban dictator, it will be absolutely critical for the US embargo to be in place as it is today, with its lifting being conditional, as it is by law, on three fundamental developments in Cuba.

    Number one, the liberation of all political prisoners. Number two, the legalisation of all political parties, independent labour unions and the independent press. And number three, the scheduling of free, internationally supervised elections.

    At the time of the disappearance of the dictator in Cuba, the US embargo, with its lifting being conditional upon those three developments, as it is by law, will constitute critical leverage for the Cuban people to achieve those three conditions. In other words, for them to achieve their freedom.

    With regard to your allegation that US sanctions have “failed”, I would ask you to remember what the Cuban dictatorship used to do when it received $5bn or $6n annually from the Soviet Union, an amount similar to what it would begin receiving each year from US tourism alone if sanctions were lifted.

    I would ask you to remember Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, Eritrea and so on. This is not the time to give the Cuban dictatorship countless billions of dollars unilaterally, while Cuba’s prisons remain full of heroic political prisoners and while the regime remains a state sponsor of international terrorism.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 12, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    How about my freedom to travel?

    If we forced every country to change and restricted Americans from traveling there in order to punish those countries, we wouldn’t be able to travel to China, Vietnam, anywhere in the middle east and many more countries around the world.

    The Embargo is not about forcing change in Cuba, it’s about letting Americans’ exercise their freedoms.

    Thank God the Diaz-Balarts aren’t running the US government.

    Cuba consulting services

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 12, 2009 by cubanpete with 127 total posts

    Since the days of Alger Hiss, the U.S. State Department has been infiltrated by persons who placed the interests of foreign powers above the interests of the USA.  Wayne Smith is one such person.

    For change (cambio) we can believe in.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on January 12, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    It’s actually people with the point of view of Lincoln Diaz Balart and his followers, some of them who post here, that have placed their personal financial and political beliefs ahead of the interests of the nation.  Maintaining the embargo is in the interests of Cubans, and also Americans?  The shifting rationalizations of Diaz Balart, who is directly tied to the pre-Castro dictatorship by blood and class loyalty, recall the shifting Bush rationalizations of the Iraq war.
    No me jodan mas por favor.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on January 12, 2009 by paul

    Well said #5.

    W.Smith sounds like Marifeli Perez Stable…subtle lackey/agent of influence for Cuba.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on January 12, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    You guys are f-in crazy, off your rocker, for real.
    I mean you’re just not living in reality, and this is why Cuban exiles have such a bad rap both within the US and internationally.
    If one were to look at US foreign policy with any objectivity at all, I really dont think you could say with a straight face that “foreign interests” have taken over the US government.  The only foreign interest that has dominated US-Cuba policy over the last 50 years is the interest that the right-wing Cuban exile crowd has in assasinating Castro and taking over the island in a bloody coup so this group can rule again as they did in the past.
    Regardless of whether you agree with my assessment, I challenge you to embrace the reality of the 21st century and move past the cold war politics of Fidel vs. the US or the US vs Communism.  If you fail to see the changes taking place around you then you deserve to be mocked just like we mock those who believe everything Fidel says.  I have much respect for my elders but the endless conversations over cafecitos about how to drive out Fidel must be replaced with some kind of forward-looking mentality if you expect to be included in Cuba’s future.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on January 13, 2009 by paul

    Funny how you say to embrace the reality of the 21st and move past cold war politics, but Cuba is still ran by Communists.

    There’s this nagging push of how “we should change our attitude”, while the country is still an island prison with great public relations by useful idiots.

    Not everyone who is against Castro is some “rich ex batista mafia members”. Outsiders labeling Cubans exiles like that, show utter disrespect to our personal experience, and total appeasement to the Castro regime.

    Those that demonize Cuban exiles, along with their opinions, will continue just being on the sidelines, and not included in Cuba’s future.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on January 13, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Dear Wayne, Nice to see your post. May I add one to the top of the list? Obama should reinstate its most productive head of the US Interest Section… Wayne Smith.

    I would also like to see Luis Posada expelled rather than harbored.

    The situation is as you well know is one of us looking like we are still employing United Fruit Company tactics to ALL of Latin America and in the macro picture. We desperately need Latin America (and India). Obama has the opportunity to change our wilting reputation in Latin America quickly. No other single action will be as eye opening for all of Latin America as changing Cuba policy. The rewards are huge despite what the old, small dogs yelping at your heels have to say.

    I hope our paths cross again soon,
    Con carino y un abrazo fuerte,


    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  11. Follow up post #11 added on January 13, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    The Council of the Americas released a report regarding Latin American trade suggestions to President Elect Obama. These suggestions include easing restrictions on visiting and sending money to Cuba, as well as cultural and other exchanges within the first 90 days of his term in office.

    The Council of the Americas report encouraged Obama to take other steps to generate goodwill in the region, including appointing a special White House envoy for the Americas and supporting Brazil, Mexico and Spain’s admission into the so-called Group of Eight nations, a rich country forum for coordinating economic policies.

    Eric Farnsworth, vice president at the Council of the Americas said “That could have an electrifying effect in terms of hemispheric atmosphere”.

    Cuba consulting services

  12. Follow up post #12 added on January 13, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts


    First of all I should apologize if I offended you, I may have said some things in my previous post that were a bit cruel.  My intention was not to insult anyone personally, but instead provide people with what I hope is a viewpoint representative of the younger generation.

    I would like to respond specifically to some of your points:

    “Funny how you say to embrace the reality of the 21st and move past cold war politics, but Cuba is still ran by Communists.”

    I understand who the leadership in Cuba is, and I also understand they are still in the cold war mentality.  If you disagree with that mentality, it seems that you would agree that BOTH SIDES need to move on.  This is my basic point.  There is a genereational shift taking place in both countries; the Obama election shows this and the generation of jaded Cuban youth shows this as well.

    There’s this nagging push of how “we should change our attitude”, while the country is still an island prison with great public relations by useful idiots.”

    I hear you on the public relations thing.  I am not Cuban but I have many friends and family both in the US and on the island, and I have felt the frustration at how so many people who dont live in Cuba trumpet the cause of revolution but dont have to put up with any of the daily b.s.  But as a US citizen I honestly feel that it is my duty to communicate to my government, family and friends what every single Cuban implored me to do: advocate that the US end the embargo. 

    “Not everyone who is against Castro is some “rich ex batista mafia members”. Outsiders labeling Cubans exiles like that, show utter disrespect to our personal experience, and total appeasement to the Castro regime.
    Those that demonize Cuban exiles, along with their opinions, will continue just being on the sidelines, and not included in Cuba’s future.”

    Fair enough, again I’m not intending to offend anyone…I am close with many Cubans who left the island because of lack of opportunities.  The people I AM attacking are the Diaz-Balarts of the world who not only have a personal family beef with the Castro’s, but also truly represent a ruling class that was, to put it quite kindly, not in line with the average Cubans. 
    It’s the US who is currently not being included in Cuban affairs.  Maybe thats a good idea, and maybe that’s exactly what the Castros want.  Have you ever considered that?

  13. Follow up post #13 added on January 13, 2009 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Senator Hillary Clinton (soon to be Secretary of State) said today that the incoming Obama administration wanted to lift travel restrictions on families wishing to visit relatives in Cuba and urged the Cuban government to make its own concessions.

    Speaking at her Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton said she hoped the Cuban government would look at freeing political prisoners and open up the economy.

    “The president-elect (Barack Obama) is committed to lifting the family travel restrictions and the remittance restrictions. He believes ... that Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for democracy, freedom and a free market economy,” she said.


    “Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for democracy”

    Hey. What about me and all the other non-Cuban Americans in this country? How about us? We wouldn’t make the best ambassadors? Sounds like reverse discrimination to me.

    Cuba consulting services

  14. Follow up post #14 added on January 15, 2009 by paul

    hear you on the public relations thing.  I am not Cuban but I have many friends and family both in the US and on the island, and I have felt the frustration at how so many people who dont live in Cuba trumpet the cause of revolution but dont have to put up with any of the daily b.s.  But as a US citizen I honestly feel that it is my duty to communicate to my government, family and friends what every single Cuban implored me to do: advocate that the US end the embargo.

    Is it any wonder to you that average Cubans ask you to end the embargo?

    It’s the mantra they are told to repeat, as they risk imprisonment if they criticize their own government. Even if it looks like their own “opinion”, every Cuban knows that there are certain topics you shouldn’t talk about publicly, one being the criticism of internal affairs.

    Do you even know how much Cuba trades with other countries, including the United States already? it’s huge numbers, yet most folks there still have the same quality of life.

    So for me, the lifting of the credit blockade will just make it easier for the Castro mafia to pick and choose what they want to default on, pick and choose what they want to come in, and pick and choose what will come in that will not tamper with their authority. The American business vultures say that this will *bring freedom to the country*, but really, do you think that the Cuban government would jeopardize their authority? they know what they are doing when they ask for the credit blockade to be lifted.

    Do you also think that the Castro mafia and nomenklatura live like the rest of the country? they certainly don’t, and the gated communities tell the story. I know that they don’t want to lose control, but they keep Cubans poor, and control their lives with terrible wages, lack of political rights,but sprinkled with “free” healthcare and education.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on January 15, 2009 by abh

    Paul, I assure you I am very aware of all the things you bring up.  It appears that you assume I am quite naive about cuba.  Maybe I should admit that I once indeed was, but I can honestly say that ive studied both academically and just from many personal experiences the daily reality that cubans face.  It is not a good situation.
    However, it seems ironic to me that as ardent anti-communists, the right wing element of the exile community (that claims to represent all Cuban-Americans and all Cubans) continues to favor an economic embargo to try to make Cubans so miserable that they revolt against the govenment.  It’s just not going to happen.  The reality is that pretty much every Cuban who I’ve spoken with knows that the embargo is used as an excuse by their government to explain their suffering, but at the same time they all know that the embargo is part of the reason that ties with their closest neighbor are non-existent, so of course it should be repealed.  Do you disagree?
    The truth is that the stubborness of the old guard of the exile crowd is quite similar to the stubborness of the old guard in Cuba.  But times are changing, and if the exile crowd doesnt adapt they will be left behind.  And really, I think one could argue that they already have been left behind.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on January 16, 2009 by paul

    Consider this…

    Imagine *if* the credit blockage was lifted, and Cuba was able to purchase everything that their little hearts desired with credit from the USA.

    Imagine if the country still looked the same, would we put fire under the feet of the Communist nomenklatura?

    Do you think the people would revolt, when they see that conditions are still the same?

    I just see so many commercial activities with Cuba and other countries (which it does, even with the USA http://www.cubatrade.org) yet it looks like it gets funneled straight to that small privileged nucleus which keeps Cubans oppressed (and most of the good food to the tourists as well).

    The real problem is that government. It doesn’t matter what we do on our end, which is the equivalent of using a defibrillator on an old corpse.

  17. Follow up post #17 added on January 16, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    There are two groups of Cubans with money in the current economy.  The nomenklatura and people with relatives abroad.  The crazy part about people with relatives in the US is that their contacts are limited, by US law.  There need to be more people-to-people contacts, if I can use that phrase, so that average Cubans can interact with their closest neighbors, and natural trading partners, if you will.
    Both the nomenklatura and the Cuban right wing exiles share one thing in common: they are participating in an effort to deny average, poor Cubans a successful life.
    I guess maybe they share more than one thing in common.  I could probably think of a few others, including racist tendencies in both groups.  But I digress.

  18. Follow up post #18 added on January 16, 2009 by paul

    “People to people” contacts don’t mean a damn thing if the Cuban government controls access to things that will jeopardize their monopoly of control. That “contact” is as good as the government which has, until recently, allowed to Cubans to *WOW* buy phones and sleep at foreigner hotels.

    There is already “people to people” contacts with Canadians, and Canada has a huge trading relationship with Cuba. There is not one drop of change with that, but then again, most Canadians i’ve talked to, love going to Cuba to play weekend Communist.

    “Right wing exiles” (nice pejorative/sweeping generalization for us exiles) send plenty of money to Cuba, which the Cuban government shaves off a huge piece for themselves. The Cuban Military Mafia will rejoice when more money can be sent to the island, because that will mean big(ger) $$$$$.

  19. Follow up post #19 added on January 16, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts


    I think that if you re-read my posts you will find that I carefully used the term “Right Wing Exiles” to describe just that: fiercly anti-communist Cubans, the majority of whom left in the early years of the revolution, who favor the embargo and control the Cuban-American politics in Florida and much of the country.  You will note that I specifically mentioned that these folks claim to represent all Cuban-Americans and all Cubans. 

    My argument is the the embargo hurts all Cubans.  You may say the Cuban government is at fault.  But that doesnt change the reality that the embargo is making life more difficult for average—and especially poor—Cubans.  This is a fact that seems to be lost on those who favor the embargo, a policy that has done no good and definitely makes average Cubans wonder how those who call their country home but live in the US could perpetrate a policy that causes so much hardship to all.

    I have met many of the ‘weekend communists’ about whom you refer, and I often would find myself shaking my head at the contradictions inherent in their trips.  However, what is the alternative to encouraging tourism?  Should people from the US, Canada, and any other coutnry for that matter NOT be developing ties with Cuba? 

    I fail to see what you have in mind for Cuba.  Continue the embargo?  Hope for a counter revolution?  Neither of these options seems desireable.

  20. Follow up post #20 added on January 16, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Paul, I must say speaking of sweeping generalizations….. all exiles don’t send money.. but I guess “plenty” is a relative adjective. However,all Batista exiles seem to want the property they lost back… Just as Cuba would like the Guantanamo base back. Remember we balckmailed them into in order to end the illegal occupation contrary to the Teller amendment. Manifest destiny, promises of freedom and free elections and we shove Tomas Estrada Palma down their throat to get the Isle of Pines back…It is an ugly history right on through Machado, Menocal, Prio, Batista and all our other pupet Presidents with their death squads.. and we talk about human rights…LOL.

      Canada by the way also has a socialist health care system and education unlike the US. Yo conozco una Mafia solamente y esta es en Miami.

    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  21. Follow up post #21 added on January 16, 2009 by paul


    When the US is already a major exporter to Cuba for food, and Cuba already buys plenty of goods on a cash basis, where is the blockade?

    The answer sits at the hands of the Cuban Military Mafia who controls the floodgates.


    It’s not a “socialist” health/education system. It’s a social democrat system with influences mostly from economic liberals,christian democrats and social democrats.

    The Cuban Military Mafia can certainly learn from that, along with the mixed market economies of Western Europe. You don’t need to dangle healthcare and “free” education on a string, as if it’s something that cannot be offered to people without being subjected to an authoritarian society.

    And regarding the credit blockade, my view is to let Cuba buy more than what it already does STILL on a cash basis (or with strict government overview for credit so they don’t default on our American companies). I repeat that Cuba already trades so much with Canada and other global partners, yet it still doesn’t reach your average person. The real problem is that government, and giving the Castro Mafia an added lifeline is just making life better for them.

  22. Follow up post #22 added on January 17, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    After Obama lifts the restrictions on remittances and Cuban-American visits to the island, your “what blockade” argument will make more sense.
    I am waiting for the day gleefully.
    Do you support Obama’s policy?

  23. Follow up post #23 added on January 18, 2009 by paul

    Obama’s policy is fine, because Castro’s mafia doesn’t deserve to have history swept under the rug. That blockade is there for a number of reasons, that can’t be doctored by the best revisionist historian out there.

    I actually wish that Castro also believed in “change”, and just like Obama wants to allow us to visit the island, that Cubans could also go visit other countries as they please.

    I also wish that the remittances would be out of the reach of the government. They take something like 20% I believe.

  24. Follow up post #24 added on January 18, 2009 by abh

    Yeah I think it’s 18%, extremely high.  In my opinion, Castro cant afford to NOT allow you to visit the island.  I hate the 18% passionately but you have to admit it was a pretty schrewd (sp?) move on Fidel’s part.

  25. Follow up post #25 added on January 18, 2009 by pipefitter

    It looks like some of you are not aware of the facts as far as Cubans traveling outside the country. We have had three of our Cuban relatives visit us in Canada so far. All we had to do was write a letter of invitation saying we would like them to visit us, pay for the airfare, (who in Cuba now could save say $800.00 dollars Cdn?) and write a notarized letter to Canadian Imigration stating that we would be responsible for their wellbeing while in Canada. They paid for their Cuban passports in Cuban pesos visited Cuban imigration and the Canadian Embassy in Havana and that was it. They came and we all had a good time for a month and they went back to Cuba, end of story. 
    One of these same Cubans was asked by her daughter to come and visit her in the U.S. Her daughter had to pay a fee in U.S. dollars before they would interview her mother in the U.S. interest section in Havana and in a very short interview was sumilarily refused a visa to come to the states.  It seems that there is something else at play here in respect to Cubans visiting outside the country.

  26. Follow up post #26 added on January 19, 2009 by paul

    Your case is the exception, not the norm. Cubans have a hard time traveling outside of the island, and usually have to go through tons of loopholes. The ones that I’ve known to travel outside of Cuba, have to have all of their Communist credentials in order, and they have to fake/exaggerate their allegiance to Cuba in order to prove that they aren’t going to stay where they are going.

  27. Follow up post #27 added on January 19, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Paul, You keep making these statements that are contrary to reality. Let me ask you something. When was the last time you were in Cuba? For how long? How often do you go physically to the island? When did you start going and how many times have you visited?

          I mean I have spent at least three months on the island for each of the last 15 years. I sure don’t have ALL the answers but I do have more than most. There is no communist documents that need to be “in order” for a Cuban to leave Cuba currently a Cuban requires a passport, visa, health certificate, invitation letter and ticket.. but all this Communist fake/ exaggerate myths you are spreading is simply not true.

          As for Pipefitter’s comment it is accurate for Canada, when it is the US naturally there are very different rules and it is restricted. It is not only restricted by the Cubans It is restricted by the US. After 1980 limits were set and a lottery was created that has since been modified for IMMIGRATION. Because of the wet foot / dry foot policy unique to Cuba, BOTH governments are very selective who visits the US.  I disagree with Paul’s stating that Pipefitter’s situation was abnormal it is NORMAL for Cuban nationals visiting anywhere except the US.

    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  28. Follow up post #28 added on January 19, 2009 by pipefitter

    I think the longest wait was for the Canadian government to give the ok for them to come to Canada. They didn,t have to give any blood or swear to give any pro Castro speaches or anything in Cuba before they left.
    Cubaking is right, I think you have to spend time there to understand what is going on in Cuba and not try to judge it by reading and listening to crap coming from the Cuban Miami old boys.

  29. Follow up post #29 added on January 19, 2009 by paul

    Two folks from the internet tell me their opinion, so that MUST be true. I have talked to folks with very different experiences, but I’m glad that you folks have had it so easy in YOUR particular situations.

    “Cuban Miami old boys” LOL…spoken like a true troll.

  30. Follow up post #30 added on January 19, 2009 by pipefitter

    Troll not, just a west coast Canuck too far away from Ottawa to get instruction from the Cuban embassy.

  31. Follow up post #31 added on January 19, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Paul,..................ROFLMAO…........................You have NOT been to Cuba?

    .................................You wrote THIS…...............................................

    ” I am NOT Cuban but I have many friends and family both in the US and on the island”
    ..................................................................................................My sides hurt from laughing…. .....What else are you a self proclaimed expert on? Because I have just deposited your sweeping statements of farts….( I mean facts) into one of Pipefitter’s Pipes in the community septic tank… (Toilet for experts like you) .

    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  32. Follow up post #32 added on January 20, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    Just for the record i think the quote about not being cuban was taken from something i had said…i believe paul was quoting my words…

  33. Follow up post #33 added on January 20, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Thanks ABH….. 

    Also for the record, One does not have to visit Cuba to have input, nor be passionate about it… My ire here is with sweeping statements ( particularly ones that are inaccurate) and perhaps once again… a post being hijacked and getting off topic.
      Pipefitter made a contribution based on personal experience and suddenly he is accused as being a troll? It seems to me that he is not deserving of name calling…. Unlike Paul’s “Cuban mafia” comment I see nothing but facts in ” Cuban Miami Old Boys”  The fact is that Miami Cubans are disproportionately pro embargo above 55 years of age…. so Old Boys is quite an honest and correct phrase.  As we know recently by even the most biased polls the pro embargo crowd is in the minority.. even in Dade county polls. However no one can argue that US policy has come from Miami based families for the last 50 years. Families Like Bacardi, Fanjual, Lobo, Pedroso.
        Even if Paul was or is Cuban, why on earth would he take offence to the phrase Cuban Miami Old Boys? It is alot less derogatory than Cuban Mafia…..LOL.

    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  34. Follow up post #34 added on January 20, 2009 by paul

    You guys have your points and experiences, and I have mine. I can’t speak for 100% of the situations, and neither can you guys. The guys that I’ve known went through hell to travel outside of the country, and they also told me that it’s normally difficult for Cubans to travel. That does not surprise me, considering that only just recently, could Cubans stay at foreigner hotels.

    Pro blockade folks are also from the Mariel generation, it’s not “just” an “old boys” thing. Me and my family left during that time, and they have nothing but nasty memories of mistreatment by Cuban authorities. Even when the USSR was keeping Cuba afloat, the products were disgusting, and of terrible quality.

    “Pipefitter” got tagged as a troll because not all exiles come from a bourgeois background. Many common folks left the island, because they were tired of the abuse, the police state and the suffering. Suffering that is inexcusable IMO, because you don’t need authoritarianism for people to have second generation rights (Canada and western EU member states are great examples).

  35. Follow up post #35 added on January 20, 2009 by Cubaking with 33 total posts

    Paul, Good point and well presented. ... Cuba has a long history of police abuse and suffering.. .. from its inception.  Alafia.

    My Cuba books are found here Havana: My Kind of Town and Nature’s Ancient Religion

  36. Follow up post #36 added on January 20, 2009 by paul

    Thank you Cubaking.

  37. Follow up post #37 added on January 20, 2009 by abh with 244 total posts

    Is it possible the “Obama spirit” has infiltrated this blog and filled the people with optimism and good feelings?


  38. Follow up post #38 added on January 30, 2009 by dylan_x

    I think that the Cuba Embargo should be lifted, so many problems were caused because of it. Only large corporations could go into the country, what about the small businesses wanting to expand? I agree with ways one through four. They made sense to me and those are good ways to start even if the embago isn’t completely lifted.

  39. Follow up post #39 added on January 30, 2009 by pipefitter

    Hint, I you want to send money to Cuba, send Canadian dollars as Cuba does’t charge such a big fee for exchange. The exchange rates U.S. to Canadian and to C.U.C’s is about what the market exchange is at the time.
    Obama schould lift the embargo and not restrict it as it is now for Cuba to buy food only. Cubans need materials etc. that are common in the U.S. as it is only 90 miles away. You also have to look at what is going on in South America as many countries are turning more inward to South American trade and away from the U.S. thanks to Mr. Bushes Forein policy. By opening up relations with Cuba it may also help U.S.relations in South America.

  40. Follow up post #40 added on January 30, 2009 by paul


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