Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Cuba ‘normalization’: Euphoria meets reality

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Hill

By Gardner Peckham

Media reports last week trumpeted the “normalization” of US-Cuba relations but in the light of day this widespread euphoria crashes headlong into the reality of the limited running room available to the Obama administration and it supporters in Congress.

From the early 1960’s until the 1990’s, nearly all U.S. economic sanctions aimed at Cuba were imposed by Executive Order under the “Cuban Assets Control Regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. But, with enactment of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and even more so with the “Helms/Burton” legislation in 1996, the economic embargo was strengthened and codified into legal statute, that is law. As a result, the only way the economic embargo on Cuba can be meaningfully lifted is with the advent of Jeffersonian democracy in Cuba or, in lieu of that, Congress repealing or changing the law. Since the Administration’s negotiators appear to have ... Read More

Obama’s Cuba mistake: A Q&A with Roger Noriega

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

By Roger F. Noriega

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that he would take steps to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, reversing a policy of isolation that has stood for over a half-century and through 10 presidential administrations. Below, AEI scholar Roger Noriega answers several important questions that have arisen in the wake of Obama’s dramatic move.

People refer to the Cuba sanctions as an anachronism.  After all, we trade and work with many dictatorships. For example, what’s the difference between Cuba and Communist China?

Cuba is in our neighborhood—in a region whose governments have committed themselves to representative democracy and respect for human rights. Yes, we should expect more from that government, particularly in justifying a dramatic policy change. By relaxing these standards to accommodate a totalitarian regime, other governments will find it easier to justify undemocratic behavior that hurts their people and undermines stability in the region.

... Read More

Cuba Says It Has a Right to Grant Asylum to US Fugitives

| December 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News


Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.

Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to ... Read More

Obama’s Grand Reset

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article appeared in The Weekly Standard


Last week’s announcement that the White House intends to restore normal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is part of Barack Obama’s larger project to overturn what he perceives to be wrongheaded, or at least outdated, foreign policies. From Obama’s perspective, the Cold War ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, so let’s catch up to the new reality.

For President Obama, amelioriating this country’s relations with Russia, Iran, and now Cuba amounts to a Grand Reset, a reevaluation of America’s position in a post-Cold War world. However, it’s not clear that either the president or his administration really understands what the Cold War was all about.

According to the White House press release last week: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” That is true, ... Read More

Cuba’s Castro On The Ropes, Obama Throws Him A Lifeline

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily


The celebrations in Havana and the sullen silence in Miami tell you all you need to know about who won this round with Castro’s Cuba. In JFK’s metaphor, Obama traded a horse for a rabbit.

We got back Alan Gross before his Communist jailers killed him, along with an American spy, in exchange for three members of a Cuban espionage ring. Had we left it at that, the deal would have been fine.

But Obama threw in an admission that all nine presidents before him pursued a “failed policy.” Calling for recognition of the Castro regime as the legitimate government of Cuba, Obama said, “Isolation has not worked.”

“Not worked”? What’s he talking about? Isolating Cuba the last 30 years of the Cold War helped bankrupt and bring down the Soviet Empire, which had to carry Cuba on its back.

Obama’s admission is being seen in Cuba as vindication of half a ... Read More

Who Benefits if the Embargo Is Lifted?

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


On a trip to Havana in the late 1990s, I toured the restoration of a 17th century convent with a Cuban architect. He told me the project was having trouble getting replacement floor tiles because of the U.S. embargo. I smiled and told him there was no blockade of the island and that the tiles could be sourced in Mexico. He grinned back at me.

“Well, OK,” he said. “The real problem is that we don’t have any money to buy them.”

Cubans are programmed from an early age to complain to anyone who will listen that “el bloqueo” is the cause of the island’s dire poverty. They know it’s a lie. But obediently repeating it is a survival skill. It raises the odds that the demented dictator won’t suspect you of having counterrevolutionary thoughts, boot you from your job, kick your children out of school and haul you off ... Read More

Obama’s faulty logic on Cuba

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Jackson Diehl

The most revealing sentence in President Obama’s explanation of his radical revision of U.S. Cuba policy last week was his admonition to Americans, and Cubans, that they should not seek the “collapse” of the Castro regime. “Even if that worked,” the president asserted, “we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.”

Embedded in that short remark is the essential logic behind Obama’s decision to lift — or seek to lift — all U.S. sanctions on Cuba without requiring the “significant steps towards democracy” he once said would be needed for such a normalization. It is also the organizing principle of much of his foreign policy. If regime collapse is not a desirable outcome in Cuba — or, for that matter, in Syria, Iran and other dictatorships — it follows that the correct policy is U.S. “engagement” or “direct ... Read More

Cuban migrant missing after Cuban coast guard sinks boat

| December 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor

Cuba’s Coast Guard sank a boat carrying 32 Cubans who were trying to reach the Florida coast, according to a woman who survived and whose husband is missing.Masiel González Castellano told reporters in a telephone conversation from Matanzas, Cuba, that her husband, Leosbel Díaz Beoto, is missing after falling from the boat that was repeatedly charged and hit by a boat manned by the Cuban Coast Guard.

“We were screaming and crying for help as the boat was sinking. But they ignored us. Instead, they continued charging against our boat. Some people dove in the water and others stayed aboard as the boat sank,” said González, who was contacted during a press conference hosted in Miami by the Democracy Movement. “They knew there were children aboard, but continued to charge against us. They didn’t care.”

The boat, said González, was carrying 32 people, including seven women and ... Read More

On Cuba, Obama Had An Ace, And Played A Deuce

| December 19th, 2014 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

Diplomacy: As the Castros rejoice at President Obama’s move to normalize ties, extend trade credits, take their country off the terror list and free its deadly spies, the queasy question remains: What did the U.S. get in return?

The question is being asked by the more serious leaders in Washington. Marco Rubio for one. “(Obama’s) foreign policy is, at a minimum, naive and perhaps truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region,” said the Florida senator in the wake of the giveaway.

“Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of this country.”

“When it comes to foreign policy and national security interests . .. ,” added Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, “the president should be focused on exactly that — on protecting national security interests. And this doesn’t do that.”

Both are right, because the bottom line on normalizing ... Read More

The Real Cost of Castro Inc.

| December 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Elizabeth MacDonald 

There is a price that the Cuban regime will exact from American companies to do business there if U.S.-Cuba relations are fully normalized, a price that likely won’t benefit the country’s lower classes, but will instead line the pockets of Castro & Co., experts on Cuba warn.

Because of its tight grip, the Castro regime has kept Cuba’s GDP hamstrung. It’s economy is now at a tiny $72.3 billion, less than half that of the state of Iowa, notes Richard J. Peterson, senior director at S&P Capital IQ. In fact, the average worker earns less than $25 a month.

Cuba is in crisis, it needs a bailout. Its crony communism has failed, it is steeped in debt, and its money is running low. Historically, Cuba has enjoyed lifelines in the form of money and oil from Venezuela, which had been generously ... Read More

Bush Commerce Secretary Says Obama Gave Cuba ‘a Major Political Win

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Time

By Eliza Gray

“The U.S. has given so many concessions and not received anything in return,” Carlos Gutierrez tells TIME

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told TIME Thursday that the U.S “will have egg on our face” following President Barack Obama’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in half-a-century. Gutierrez, a Cuban-born former Kellogg CEO who worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, is now a consultant at the Albright Stonebridge Group.

Here’s his Q&A with TIME, lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How much flexibility will businesses have if Congress doesn’t actually act to lift the embargo?

How much flexibility there will be for U.S. businesses will depend on how much flexibility the Cuban regime gives to U.S. businesses. That’s the aspect of this that has brought down these agreements. At the end of day, ... Read More

Cuba Opening Shines Light on Obsolete Telecom Links

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


Cuba is closing the gap to the U.S. Next up: Closing the gap to the Internet.

The island nation has just one modern, fixed Internet connection to the outside world, with spotty access to satellite links providing the rest. Cuba has access to about 1% of the Internet bandwidth available in the nearby Dominican Republic, according to researcher TeleGeography.

Cuba’s population of about 11 million is bigger than the Dominican Republic’s roughly 10 million, but the Dominican Republic is served by five underwater cable systems. The other fiber optic communications lines crisscrossing the Caribbean wrap around Cuba, a black hole in an otherwise connected hemisphere.

That omission is by design. Cuba keeps tight control of its citizens’ access to information, and the U.S. embargo has limited American companies’ ability to build infrastructure that touches the island. The normalization of relations with the U.S. creates an opportunity to bridge the gap, but ... Read More

Price of U.S.-Cuba deal: Releasing a murderer

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Josh Gerstein

The deal President Barack Obama announced Wednesday setting in motion the most significant warming in U.S.-Cuba relations in half a century comes with an American concession that may be a tough sell for the White House: releasing from a U.S. prison a Cuban spy serving a life term for murder.

One of the three Cubans whose sentences Obama commuted Wednesday as part of the groundbreaking  agreement between Washington and Havana is Gerardo Hernández, who was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes over Cuba in 1996, in which four Cuban émigrés aboard the aircraft were killed.

Hernández and the two others released were members of the so-called “Cuban Five” — a group of Cuban nationals convicted in 2001 of acting as what amounted to a spy ring known as ... Read More

Obama Gives Rubio a Gift From Cuba

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Eli Lake & Josh Rogin 

U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement today on plans to normalize relations with Cuba is good news for many constituencies. It’s good for the agribusinesses that stand to sell more food to Cuba. It’s good for Democrats, desperate for a tangible foreign policy success from their president. And of course, it’s good for Alan Gross, the Jewish aid worker arrested in 2009 who warned visitors recently that he feared he would die in his Cuban jail cell.

But Obama’s decision is also very good news for Marco Rubio, the man emerging as the leader of the Republican fight against Obama’s new outreach to Cuba. When Republicans take control of the Senate in the next Congress, Rubio will be in charge of the subcommittee that oversees diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere and would hold nomination hearings for America’s first ambassador to Cuba since 1960.

It doesn’t look like that nomination ... Read More

On Cuba, Obama abandons a clear position for a vague project

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Charles Lane

The U.S. embargo on Cuba — or what’s left of it after President Obama’s dramatic Cuba policy announcement — may be a futile gesture. But it is, or was, not an empty gesture.

It put the United States firmly on record that it would have as little as possible to do with a regime whose misdeeds have included inviting Soviet nuclear weapons onto its soil, sponsoring violent guerrilla groups throughout the Western Hemisphere, harboring fugitives from U.S. justice and — last but certainly not least — systematically trampling its citizens’ most basic rights.

In place of this clear position, Obama has taken a stance that is more nuanced morally but, he assures us, more efficacious practically.

He might be right, too — if you believe that this administration, or its successors, will have the diplomatic smarts, and the attention span, to maneuver the Castro regime into letting its people have more ... Read More

Obama and Cuba: The Triumph of Ideology over U.S. National Interests

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
National Review

By Elliot Abrams

The American Left has loathed the embargo and overlooked all of Castro’s repressive actions since the 1960s. They have blamed the U.S.–Cuba deadlock entirely on the United States and have sought the end of the embargo whenever a Democrat was in the White House. Under Johnson, Carter, and Clinton they did not get their way; that had to await Obama.

When the Soviet Union fell, the Castro regime was in dire straits. It survived through sheer repression — until it was sustained by Venezuelan oil money sent by Hugo Chávez. Today Chávez is dead, oil is under $60 a barrel, and Venezuela is reeling. Who will bail Castro out this time? Now we have the answer: Barack Obama.

Put aside the prisoner exchange, which one can be for or against and still decry the rest of Obama’s moves today. It’s clear that Obama told the Cubans ... Read More

Rubio Leads Republican Charge to Block Obama Cuba Policy in 2015

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Kathleen Hunter

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who may run for president in 2016, is leading a Republican charge to do everything possible to block President Barack Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba.

Yet even Rubio says there may be little the Republican-controlled Congress can do.

“I would concede that many of the changes that have been made today, such as diplomatic relations, fall within the purview of the presidency,” Rubio told reporters today in Washington.

Rubio, whose parents left Cuba in 1956, said Republican lawmakers will “use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible.”

Blocking funds for an embassy in Cuba and refusing to confirm an ambassador to the island nation are steps Rubio and others in his party suggested Congress might be able to take.

“We’re going to have a very ... Read More

Cuba’s Castro Brothers Get Big Present From Santa Obama

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

Foreign Policy: Just as its patron Venezuela hit the rocks, Cuba got a last-minute rescue from none other than President Obama, who announced a Santa Claus-like package of wish-list goodies for the Castro brothers. Why?

In many ways, President Obama’s announced plan to normalize relations with Cuba, lift the embargo, extend trade credits and remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terror list is about on par with the rest of his foreign policy.

It was done by executive order without consulting Congress, just like last month’s decision to temporarily legalize 5 million illegal immigrants.

It was justified by a claim the U.S. embargo was “not working,” comparable to Obama’s claim the U.S. immigration system is “broken.” In reality, the problem in both cases is that of a halfhearted willingness to enforce the law, rendering it full of holes.

As for the hostage swap in the bargain, that of U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor ... Read More

Cuba’s Castro has given little and gained a lot, analyst says

| December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

The restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba has triggered debate on how far normalization will go. Human rights fellow Mark P. Lagon tells DW why he doesn’t expect dramatic changes to come fast.

DW: Why did President Obama push ahead with this now?

Mark P. Lagon:He feels that the Senate is shifting in power to a Republican majority and he wants to take a step in a direction that’s of dialogue with an autocratic government. This is in line with some other politics he’s pursued in the past; for example he also has an inclination to dialogue with the Iranians.

What are the chances that this rapprochement will go any further – seeing as the US House of Representatives and Senate will be dominated by Republicans soon, who may not be in favor of lifting the embargo?

This not cut entirely along partisan lines. ... Read More

Obama gives the Castro regime in Cuba an undeserved bailout

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Editorial Board

IN RECENT months, the outlook for the Castro regime in Cuba was growing steadily darker. The modest reforms it adopted in recent years to improve abysmal economic conditions had stalled, due to the regime’s refusal to allow Cubans greater freedoms. Worse, the accelerating economic collapse of Venezuela meant that the huge subsidies that have kept the Castros afloat for the past decade were in peril. A growing number of Cubans were demanding basic human rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly.

On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide ... Read More

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