http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/castro-ready-to-talk-with-us-and-us-ready-to-recast-a-relationship-907/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Castro ready to talk with US and US ready to recast a relationship with Cuba

Posted April 17, 2009 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

One would be led to think that some sort of orchestrated behind-the-scenes political discussions have been taking place this week with regards to US Cuba relations.

Earlier in the week President Obama made a major policy change to allow Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba and send money to family members. He also directed his Administration to explore ways to allow more direct flights to Cuba and to allow US communications companies to establish a business presence in Cuba.

On Thursday Secretary Clinton said she expected Cuba to reciprocate for these gestures even though some of the language had a hint of promoting “regime change” in Cuba.

Raul Castro ready to talk about everything with US

However, President Raul Castro, speaking in Venezuela, said Cuba is open to talks with the United States about “everything” including political prisoners. He said “We have sent messages to the U.S. government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything, whenever they want… human rights, press freedom, political prisoners, everything, everything, everything they want to talk about”. The only caveat is that the talks be on equal terms and without challenging Cuba’s sovereignty.

This may be a sticking point because if the US acknowledges Cuba’s sovereignty then the US will have to formally recognize Raul Castro’s government as a legitimate government. The reason the US does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, nor an Embassy in Cuba, is because the US government has never formally recognized Fidel Castro’s government to be a legitimate government.

Furthermore, President Castro also called for the release of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States on espionage charges. The court cases of the “Cuban Five” have been going on for years. This issue is most likely a deal killer since the US is not going to release convicted felons in order to have talks with Cuba.

So, it remains to be seen how Obama responds to Castro’s demands for sovereignty and the release of the Cuban Five.

Even with these comments by Castro, this week’s statements by the US and Cuba is the closest thing to a dialog that the two countries have had in many years. Previously, Fidel Castro has insisted that Cuba’s domestic politics were Cuba’s own business so it is very interesting to have Raul Castro respond by offering “everything” to be on the table and it is also interesting that he responded so quickly.

Obviously the Summit of the Americas is the motivating factor for Cuba and the US.

Obama ready to recast relationship with Cuba

Obama said on Thursday there were a range of steps Cuba could take to recast relations between the two countries, which have been virtually frozen in the decades since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

“My guidepost in U.S. Cuba policy is going to be how can we encourage Cuba to be respectful of the rights of its people, freedom of political speech, political participation, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of travel,” he said during a news conference in Mexico. He also said that now is the time to “recast our relationship” with Cuba but that relations will not “thaw overnight”.

Member Comments

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On April 17, 2009, grant wrote:

It is up to the USA now!  Free the five political prisoners in the USA.

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On April 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

Grant,

The Cuban Five are not political prisoners. Can I assume you are kidding about your comment?

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On April 17, 2009, bernie wrote:

Political prisoners definition is dependent upon who is using the term, as indicated by the above two comments, so I must agree with both comments and then form my own definition???????

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On April 17, 2009, Malo wrote:

President Obama should offer to return to Cuba the “Cuban Five” (Lincoln Diaz Balart, Mario Diaz Balart, Ileana Ros Leitenen, Mel Martinez, and Bob Menedez) on the condition that they never return to the U.S.

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On April 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

Just for the record, and I don’t mean to incite any ideological arguments here but, the US has attacked Cuba TWICE.

Once in June of 1898 in retaliation for the Spanish (allegedly) blowing up the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in February of that year and the second time which was the Bay of Pigs…

“The Summit of the Americas falls on the anniversary of one of the worst U.S. foreign policy fiascoes in recent history, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba on April 17-19, 1961.”

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On April 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

AP

“We have seen Raul Castro’s comments. We welcome this overture. We’re taking a very serious look at it,” Clinton said here at a press availability with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said if reports on Castro “are true, it is a positive step.”

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On April 17, 2009, Yeyo wrote:

Finally a positive step from Raul Castro.
The famous five are not political prisoners but Cuban government spies that have become another tool of their propaganda machine like Elian some time ago.

There are over 200 real political prisoners in Cuba, people that were thrown in jail simply for having and opinion different than the official discourse. We have to continue claiming for them.

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On April 17, 2009, pipefitter wrote:

5 hours ago (Telesur), Hillary admitted in a press conference that the U.S. policy of the past has been a failure. Looks like everyone is moving closer together!

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On April 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

Let’s see what happens this weekend and into next week.

This could all be a well orchestrated event to make Obama look stupid too.

Don’t put it past Fidel to get the last laugh.

Imagine that, frail old Fidel Castro making President Obama look stupid. Nah. Could never happen right?

Let’s just wait and see.

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On April 17, 2009, publisher wrote:

Excerpts from an AP story:

“The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” he said at the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony, according to his remarks released in advance by the White House. “I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.”

Analysts cautioned that the week’s developments were encouraging but do not necessarily mean normalized relations are around the corner.

“This is a thaw, but it’s a thaw that’s going to take some time,” said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. “I wouldn’t look for any dramatic breakthroughs. There’s a lot of distrust.”

The flurry of back-and-forth gestures began earlier this week when Obama dropped restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, challenging his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, to reciprocate. Obama noted those moves and renewed his promise for his administration to engage with the Cuban government “on a wide range of issues,” including human rights, free speech, democratic reform, drugs, immigration and the economy.

“Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking,” the president said. “But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.”

In a diplomatic exchange of the kind that normally takes months or years, Castro had responded within hours to Obama’s policy changes this week. He extended Cuba’s most open offer for talks since the Eisenhower administration, saying he’s ready to discuss “human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners — everything.” Cuban officials have historically bristled at discussing human rights or political prisoners, of whom they hold about 200.

The United States replied Friday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offering: “We welcome his comments, the overture they represent, and we are taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond.”

And OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said he would ask the 34 member nations to invite Cuba back into the fold. Analysts doubted Insulza — known for his political caution — would have done so without a nod from Washington, which contributes a huge portion of the OAS budget.

“We’re going step by step,” Insulza said. He called on the group to annul the 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba because its “Marxist-Leninist” system was incompatible with OAS principles. If two-thirds of foreign ministers agree at a meeting in Honduras next month, the communist government will be reinstated.

Obama, in his remarks, rejected what he called a false choice “between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.”

However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made clear that while Castro’s new openness to change was welcome, the U.S. wasn’t abandoning its demand for Cuba to start making concrete moves toward freedom.

“They are certainly free to release political prisoners,” he said aboard Air Force One as Obama flew into Trinidad. “They’re certainly free to stop skimming money off the top of remittance payments. They’re free to institute greater freedom of the press.”

And Castro didn’t retreat from his criticism of U.S. policy, recalling Thursday that the United States has long tried to topple the government that he and his brother Fidel have presided over for 50 years.

“That’s the sad reality,” he said.

Said Peter DeShazo of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “These are very preliminary steps, but they are significant.”

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On April 17, 2009, bernie wrote:

Lets face just about every US diplotmat has been called “stupid” about
the embargo and other restrictions that the US has had on Cuba.
Cuba is a neighbor of the US and the US was to arrogant to compromise,
it was the US that was trying to bully Cuba, not Cuba, US invaded Cuba, Cuba didn’t invade the US.  Our leaders have finally gotten tired of being called “stupid” by the rest of the world.

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On April 18, 2009, Simpatica wrote:

Castro Stole From Us!!

There has been clamor about the U.S. Cuban Embargo ending; there are many influences in the political, business, and private sectors that are working hard towards that end. Some Americans don’t know why the U.S has an embargo against Cuba, or what events caused it, since it happened 50 years ago.

Back in the 1950’s, the United States had a friendly relationship with Cuba.  Many American corporations had a profitable relationship with Cuba and many American citizens worked and had homes in Cuba.  Everything was good with Cuba and the United States.  So what happened and why did it end?  I don’t plan to list all the known reasons, but I would like to share a few things that are just now coming to light.

Castro did not come into power all by himself.  He had the help of a New York Times reporter, Herb Matthews.  Prior to Matthews story, Castro was considered a rebel of no importance.  Castro was reported to be dead, so that’s why Matthew snuck up to the Sierra Maestra Mountains.  He found out that Castro was alive. The story l was a sensation, and it made Castro out to be a bigger threat then he really was.  As the saying goes “The pen is mightier than the sword.  The support of the U.S. faded and without it, Batista’s days were numbered. 

Shortly after Castro came into power, he confiscated properties belonging to U.S. corporations and individual American citizens living in Cuba.  American citizens scrambled to leave Cuba, because they feared for their lives, leaving all possessions behind.  American citizens and companies had heavy losses.  For the first time, Cuba was a real threat to the United States.  The expropriation of U.S. assets happened such a long time ago, that most Americas don’t know about it.  It was the stealing of American properties, that was the downfall of U.S. relations with Cuba, and it was one of the reasons the Cuban Embargo started in the first place. It’s ironic that there is this talk about ending the embargo, yet nobody is talking about resolving the claims.

The only hope for recovery of their loss assets was with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.  In 1967, the commissions verified that 5,911 of the claims were valid.  In order to get your claim certified, you had to show proof of what your lost assets were.  Your claim was then certified and a monetary value was determined for each claim.

So, why is no one talking about the U.S. Certified Claims anymore?  The strongest voices for the U.S. Certified Claims were that of the corporations that have the largest claims.  They were very active at the beginning; however, their voices have dimmed over the years. CEO’s that represented these corporations have either, retired, changed jobs, or have passed away.  So that’s why we don’t hear very much from them anymore.  Also, companies have merged, gone out of business, or have changed what they do, but the fact is, the claims still exists.  The embargo and settlement of claims should have been resolved a long time ago, but who knew Castro would live so long!

So what has happened to the Americans that lost their home and personal property?  Sadly, many of these individuals have passed away with their claims still unresolved.  You can be assured that they spent the rest of their days clipping newspaper articles about the embargo, in hopes that they would see the end of this before their death.  The message was passed on to their children, that one day they would live to see restitution of their claim. You may not have known about these Americans and about Castro stealing their properties, but that’s because they don’t have the resources to pay for attorneys or lobbyist to negotiate on their behalf.  That’s why I am writing about this.  I hope that these Americans can one day be paid back for the injustice of what happened to them.

An embargo is an official ban on trade or commercial activity with a particular county.  So that’s why most of you will be surprised to know that the United States is one of the largest exporters to Cuba.  In 2000, legislation was passed that allows U.S. companies and farms to export agriculture and medical goods to Cuba.  These industries are fortunate to be exempted from the embargo and they are making money selling to Cuba.  I know the reason the U.S. permits the selling of these products to Cuba is for humanitarian reasons, but I am sure that some of the food ends up feeding tourist in their restaurants and hotels.

Exporting to Cuba is at an all time high; other market niches have been created for consulting firms, staffed with attorneys and ex-diplomats that are experts on Cuba.  These firms are specializing on how you can invest in Cuba now, and how to position your company to make even more money when the embargo ends.  Investors are enticed that Cuba will be the next investment paradise.  The invite is for any investors, American or foreign alike.  American investors are advised on how to make money legally because of the loopholes created with trade exemptions.  If you are foreign investors, opportunities for investments are vast.  Real estate, tourisms, oil, and off shore hedge funds are they way to go.

Recently, it has been reported that foreign investors, have been buying the U.S. Certified Cuban Claims.  Why are they interested in the claims?  They can’t resell it for more then they bought if for. They are buying the claims to protect foreign clients investments.  Whether it’s for protection of current or future investments is not known.  If the claims are gone, the threat of legal action by the claimant later is eliminated.  It is rumored that Castro is encouraging investors to the buy these claims, that way Cuba won’t have to deal with repaying the claims later. It would be safer for their hotel or golf course to be built on land that has no claim against it.  It’s like having an insurance policy for their investments.

Raul Castro is now letting foreign investors lease land for 75 years. Leisure Canada is boasts that it’s the leading developer in luxury resorts.  Cuba has numerous joint ventures going on with foreign investors.  They are building golf courses, condos, and hotels.  Havana Holdings Ltd, who own Esencia Hotels, is building the Carbonera Country Club, which is the first Cuban golf course that has a 75-year lease.  Cubans are saying to their investor friends, “Bring on the golf projects”.  There are so many business ventures going on that there are too many to name.

It’s very likely that Hedge Funds could be the driving force behind these transactions.  Hedge funds, like the Herzfield Caribbean Basin Fund, are buying up shares of shipping services, cruise lines, railways, airlines, and anything else that will prosper when the embargo ends.  Cieba Investments fund is registered in the Channel Islands and focuses on Cuban real estate and tourism.  Coral Capital Group is a British Virgin Islands, which invests in Cuba.  Coral Capital also has a fund called Laroc Trading Fund.  These funds are registered in places like the Cayman Islands, British Isles, Guernsey, Isle of Man, and other places that exempt then from disclosing their ventures.  Exotix is an investment-banking boutique, specializing in distressed or undervalued debt and equity in under developed countries.

Everyone has figured out a way to make money in Cuba.  Americans are doing business with Cuba, because of export exemptions.  Attorneys and Cuban business/investment consultants are thriving.  Hedge Funds have their tentacles in most of the investments in Cuba, and are probably behind the recent acquisitions of the U.S. Certified Cuban Claims. The embargo will probably end soon, because everyone wants a piece of the pie, while U.S. Certified Claimants probably won’t even get a crumb.  Theses Americans have been patiently waiting for 50 years to have their claims resolved and Castro has figured out a way to get rid of them by making them disappear.  These were Americans were encouraged to do business in Cuba, kind of like what’s going on now; only these Americans are getting the short end of the stick.

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On April 18, 2009, Roberto Coven wrote:

The way Obama handles talks/negotiations with Cuba will reveal how much he is his own man versus how much he will in the end be a presidential puppet like many of his predecessors.  Although he has shown courage and been consistent with most campaign promises in general,  the Cuba issue is probably the stickiest politically he will face.

If he allows all americans to travel openly to Cuba without restriction that will be very encouraging.  If he ends the embargo I will consider him a statesman and celebrate that a new dawn has finally shone on Cuba-American relations.

If he expects Cuba to become a democratic country during his time in office and makes any significant changes dependent on that, he will end up being just as shortsighted as the last 50 years has proven we americans have been about Cuba.

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On April 19, 2009, Marek wrote:

“This may be a sticking point because if the US acknowledges Cuba’s sovereignty then the US will have to formally recognize Raul Castro’s government as a legitimate government. The reason the US does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, nor an Embassy in Cuba, is because the US government has never formally recognized Fidel Castro’s government to be a legitimate government.”

Not true:

“The Cuban Revolution of 1959 saw the overthrow of General Fulgencio Batista and the rise to power of the Cuban revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro. The U.S. government formally recognized the new Cuban administration, but relations deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban government passed the first Agrarian Reform Law, allowing for the expropriation of large-scale (largely American-owned) land holdings. The compensation offered (based on 20-year bonds at 4.5% interest for the tax-declared value) was seen as inadequate, and was rejected by American interests. During 1960, tensions between Cuba and the US escalated into economic warfare. Each time the Cuban government took control of American properties, the American government in response to that took countermeasures, resulting in the prohibition of all exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.”

“Shortly after Castro came into power, he confiscated properties belonging to U.S. corporations and individual American citizens living in Cuba.”

Wow - talk about historical paraphrasing.  There’s a little something called *context* that’s missing here…

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On April 20, 2009, Cubana wrote:

I am a little bit cynical in respect of Raul’s comments. Whenever the Cuban government talks about human rights they usually limit their definition of rights to such things as freedom from hunger, shelter, schooling and health. Not the ability of the people to change their government, freedom to travel, press freedom, etc. And when he mentions political prisoners he only means the so-called Cuban 5, as there are or course no political prisoners in Cuba as the Cuban government is always telling us!