Posts Tagged ‘diplomatic relations’

And what about Washington’s terrorists in Miami ?

May 22, 2015


Andrés Gómez talks with Ricardo Alarcón

by Andrés Gómez, director of Areítodigital

Miami —Everything seems to indicate that once Cuba is removed from the U.S. List of States Sponsors of Terrorism at the end of May — given the prohibitions imposed on the countries on that List— a major stumbling block to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana will be overcome.

Another major obstacle that impedes the reestablishment of those relations is the reluctance of the U.S. government — once relations are reestablished — for its diplomats in Cuba to adhere to the functions permitted to any diplomat accredited in a given country, according to the regulations established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the international treaty regulating such functions to which both countries are signatories.

With the renewal of diplomatic relations will then begin a long, controversial and harsh negotiating process between both governments, towards achieving the long-awaited normalization of relations between both nations, between both peoples.

Long, controversial and harsh, to put it mildly, it will be if the United States government maintains the announced objectives of its new policy towards Cuba. According to Roberta Jacobson, Assistant United States Secretary of State, presently the highest-level official in charge of these issues: “My country is changing its tactics or the form of implementing its policy, but it has not abandoned its goals.”

What process of normalization of relations is possible between both countries if this is the supposed new U.S. policy towards Cuba?

In a negotiating process of “give and take” between the United States and Cuba, what can Cuba give to the United States in exchange for the U.S. government to eliminate the Helms-Burton law and all the regulations that make up the genocidal policy of Embargo? What can Cuba give the United States government so that it eliminates the equally genocidal Cuban Adjustment Act? What can Cuba give the United States for that government to return the illegally and forcibly occupied territory in Guantánamo bay where for more than a century the U.S. has had a naval and military base, and in recent years, it also maintains an infamous concentration camp? What can Cuba give the United States for Washington to end and condemn its policy of State Terrorism maintained against the Cuban people since 1959?

What can Cuba give the United States, for it to bring to trial the Cuban extreme right wing terrorists living in the United States who are responsible for countless and odious crimes, who are the executioners of this policy of State Terrorism?

What can the Cuban people give to the United States government so that it ends the policy of permanent aggression against Cuba that Washington has maintained since the revolutionary triumph in 1959?

What can the Cuban people give the United States government in such a negotiating process, if not its sovereignty, its right to self-determination, its independence, its socialist revolution, all its rights and freedoms, its exceptional gains, its enormous sacrifices, its spilled blood and its dead of more than 56 years of aggression?

Is this the negotiating process that the government of the United States is offering the Cuban people to achieve a normalization of relations between both countries?

The only thing that the U.S. government can sensibly do to really normalize relations between both peoples is to unilaterally and unconditionally dismantle all the framework of war that it has had in place for the last 56 years against the Cuban people; all the structure that has constituted its policy of permanent aggression against the freedoms and rights of the Cuban people, against the inalienable right of Cubans to live and develop in peace.

But now, how is the U.S. government — in this process of normalization of relations between both countries — not just terminate and condemn its policy of State Terrorism against the Cuban people, but rather, how will it bring to justice those terrorists of Cuban extreme right wing organizations before the courts and try them for their crimes? These are indispensable decisions that have to be achieved for the normalization of relations between both countries be attained. It will not be easy for Washington to achieve justice as the victims, their relatives and the rest of the Cuban people demand.

How many victims of that policy of terrorism have there been in Cuba? According to official figures there have been 3,478 people killed and 2,099 maimed. Given the horror that has resulted from the imperial policies of aggression and war against other peoples around the world in the last decades, perhaps the number of Cubans killed and maimed as a result of those years of a sustained terrorist campaign doesn’t seem to be so terrible…

Fidel knew how to place it in the proper context in a memorable speech on October 6, 2001, on remembering the 73 victims of the infamous attack, perpetrated by those same beasts, against a civilian airliner of Cubana de Aviación, on October 6, 1976.

Fidel explained: Comparing the population of Cuba [on October 6, 1976) with that of the United States last September 11, it is as if 7 U.S. planes, each one with 300 passengers onboard, had been downed the same day, at the same time,… And if we estimate the same proportion of the populations, the 3,478 Cuban lives lost due to those terrorist actions that originated in the United States, it would be as if 88,434 people had been assassinated in the United States from terrorist activities, the equivalent of the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the wars of Korea and Vietnam.”

Endless has been the experience and terrible the result of the U.S. State Terrorist policy against the Cuban people. And, obvious differences aside, it has also been hard for us Cubans who for decades have defended the rights of Cuba in the same places where those monsters live and thrive.

Last April 28 marked 36 years since the assassination of our comrade, member of the National Committee of the Antonio Maceo Brigade (Brigada Antonio Maceo), Carlos Muñiz Varela, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His assassins, all Cuban extreme rightwingers residing in Miami and Puerto Rico, have still not been brought to justice before the courts. The federal authorities in charge, mainly the FBI, are to blame for the fact that justice has not been achieved. They refuse to reveal the proofs in their possession that prove the guilt of the murderers.

But in Puerto Rico the family members and comrades of Carlos, Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike, led by his son, Carlos Muñiz Pérez — today older than his father was in 1979 when he was assassinated at 26 years of age — and our comrade Raúl Álzaga, have not ceased in their efforts to achieve justice for him and for Santiago Mari Pesquera, a young Puerto Rican independence fighter.

So then, what of Washington’s terrorists in Miami, Puerto Rico and other places, the ones who’ve carried out the U.S. policy of State Terrorism that has cost the Cuban people so much blood and suffering all these long decades?

They are here in Miami, still alive. Some of them are: Félix Rodríguez, Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Remón, Frank Castro Paz, Santiago Álvarez Magriñat, Osvaldo Bencomo Robaina, Sergio Ramos Suárez, Secundino Carrera, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, Guillermo Novo Sampol, Antonio de la Cova, Virgilio Paz Romero, Héctor Fabián, José Dionisio Suárez Esquivel and Luis Crespo. Not many of them are named here, this is only a sample, but many are their hateful crimes.

In these times of change those terrorists ought to feel very vulnerable. The bosses who have protected them, if still alive, are very old and without the power they once enjoyed. The assassins know that many, many, things are changing. As Roberta Jacobson maintains, her government has not abandoned the objectives of its policy with respect to Cuba, but has changed its tactics, the form of implementing its policy… Now anything is possible.

Those terrorists, lackeys of the worst of imperialism, know that imperial powers throughout history, the United States in particular, have shown that they don´t have friends; what they have always shown is that they only have interests. Self interests.

Do these terrorists realize that maybe their days are truly numbered?


U.S-Cuba Relations and the Long Road to Nowhere. “Regime Change is on the Table”

March 18, 2015


Will Obama’s Cuba Initiative Lead to Peace and Prosperity or an Orchestrated Coup?

By Timothy Alexander Guzman

The much anticipated U.S-Cuba talks continues this week as Reuters reported “Cuba and the United States meet for talks on restoring diplomatic relations on Monday, seeking more progress toward an agreement while not allowing differences over Venezuela to impede their historic rapprochement.” The meeting will be held in Havana between Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and the Cuban foreign ministry’s chief of U.S. affairs Josefina Vidal that will continue into mid-week.

Excuse me for being pessimistic, but all of the talk about “normalizing relations” between the U.S. and Cuba will be a major disappointment for those who were rather more optimistic about the Obama administration’s new approach to the Cuban government.

In the end, it will be business as usual for Washington. The Obama administration’s announcement to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba last December is about regaining a foothold on the island-nation. The U.S. wants Cuba to change its political and economic structure for its own interests, therefore regime change is on the table.

These new diplomatic overtures to the Cuban government in the last two-years of the Obama’s Presidency seems like an attempt to undermine Cuban President Raul Castro. Many of Obama’s supporters still hope that he can fulfill his remaining campaign promise to restore ties between the U.S. and Cuba. At this point in time, Obama has nothing to prove. His true colors are out in public. People around the World see Obama’s foreign policies similar or even worst than his predecessor George W. Bush. Obama has two-years left. He is not up for reelection, so for Obama the gloves are off.

Obama seeks a new war powers bill from congress so that he can declare war against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. It would also allow Obama to authorize the U.S. military and its intelligence agencies to implement regime change or military action against governments he deems necessary. Secretary of State John Kerry had previously said that the War Powers bill Obama was seeking “will provide a clear and powerful signal to the American people, to our allies and to our enemies” according to USA Today. Reuters noted that the Obama administration declared that Venezuela is a “national security threat” in a statement by White House spokesman Josh Earnest who said that

“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems.”

Venezuela is a threat to U.S. national security?

Let me get try to get this straight. The U. S. has the largest and most expensive military in the world armed with nuclear weapons, drones and high-tech surveillance capabilities with bases and CIA black sites in more than 130 countries and still has Puerto Rico, the last remaining “colony” in Latin America under its “sphere of influence.” So who is the threat? Cuba will offer its “unconditional support” to the Maduro government making talks with the U.S. more difficult.

The Obama administration knows very well that Venezuela and Cuba are staunch allies. It is a well-calculated effort to destabilize Venezuela’s economy. They want to replace President Nicolas Maduro with someone that would cater to U.S. interests. If President Maduro is removed from power and replaced with a pro-US president, it would only mean that Cuba and every other Latin American nation who oppose U.S. hegemony on the continent would be targeted for regime change or even a military intervention.

Washington’s has several conditions for the diplomatic relations to work. and so does Cuba. Cuba wants to be taken off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Reuters noted one of the conditions set forth by Washington in a report last month ‘Exclusive: U.S. pressing Cuba to restore diplomatic ties before April – officials’ and said:

To finalize Cuba’s removal, Obama would need to submit to Congress a report stating Havana had not supported terrorism-related activities for six months, and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support terrorism in the future. Cuba would be automatically dropped from the list 45 days later.

This demand seems like Cuba would be admitting to the world that they are guilty of terrorism. But Let’s look at the terror networks Washington has historically supported straight out of Florida in an effort to destabilize the Cuban government. Cuba experienced various terrorist attacks since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion which has been orchestrated by the CIA, for example in 1997; an Italian tourist was killed due to a terrorist attack on Cuban hotels committed by Anti-Castro groups.

According to numerous reports, the terrorist attack was traced back to Miami, Florida where Luis Posada Carriles, a Bay of Pigs veteran who worked for the CIA, financed criminals from El Salvador to carry out the attack. The story does not end there. Mr. Carriles had been held for the Cubana airliner bombing in 1976 in a Venezuelan prison which killed more than 73 people with help from Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami businessman who was the head of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). In 1977, Posada and Freddy Lugo (a Posada affiliate involved in the bombing) escaped from prison.

Posada fled Venezuela to El Salvador, where he organized terrorist attacks against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua to support the Contras under U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Oliver North. Posada also worked with another known terrorist from Miami named Orlando Bosch, an associate working for the CIA but was convicted in the US for his involvement in a bomb attack on a Cuba-bound freighter. Both worked in Venezuela to coordinate terrorist attacks against Cuba. However, Bosch himself was considered a “mastermind” of the Cubana airline bombing and was responsible for more than thirty acts of terrorism according to FBI records. Bosch was granted a presidential pardon in 1989 by the George H.W. Bush which was influenced by Republican and Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders.


Washington wants a U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba wants Guantanamo Bay Returned

One of the other demands put forward by Washington is for Cuba to open a six-story U.S. embassy in Havana. Reuters also reported that “Converting the six-story U.S. interests sections in Havana into a full-fledged embassy after 53 years would require ending restrictions on the number of U.S. personnel in Havana, limits on diplomats’ movements and appointing an ambassador. It would allow the U.S. to renovate the building and have U.S. security posted around the building, replacing Cuban police.” I could just imagine the type of operations that would be carried out at the embassy to destabilize Cuba. Cuba has its own demands as BBC News reported earlier this year that Raul Castro wants the U.S. to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba to begin a normalization process which will lead to better relations for both countries. The article titled ‘Castro demands Guantanamo Bay in return for US-Cuba diplomatic deal’ and said:

His brother Raul, who succeeded him as president in 2008, made his demands at the summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Costa Rica. “The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the start of a process of normalising bilateral relations,” he said. “But this will not be possible while the blockade still exists, while they don’t give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base.” The land on which the base stands was leased to the US government in 1903 by Cuba’s then-rulers.

Both demands will be difficult to achieve. The U.S. wants a military presence in Cuba with Guantanamo Bay as a post and a six-story embassy in Havana with its “unrestricted” personnel that will travel freely throughout Cuba. What agencies would operate in the U.S. embassy? Will it be the CIA, USAID, DHS or even the FBI? Or maybe newly funded terrorists straight out of the Middle East who look like Latinos? That is a tough task to swallow for the Cuban government especially after their experiences with the U.S. behind the terrorist attacks that occurred in their territory over the last five decades. It will take a very long time to build trust between both nations before any of these demands are met.

U.S-Cuba Diplomatic Relations R.I.P. 2016

There is distrust between both nations. Does Cuba trust Washington? I don’t think so. The Cuban government and the people are not oblivious to the fact that the U.S. government’s numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, the CIA backed ‘Bay of Pigs invasion’ or the economic embargo despite Obama’s promise to end it, is a part of history that is hard to forget. Obama’s offer to end the embargo comes with tough conditions. Cuba is extremely cautious with U.S. foreign intervention policies which is now directed towards Venezuela. The decline of oil prices clearly orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. was to weaken the economies of both Venezuela and Russia who do rely on high oil prices.

Russian President Vladimir Putin once said that “we all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.” It makes all the sense now for the U.S. to aggressively use sanctions against Venezuela.

Cuba still receives its largest oil imports from Venezuela. I can assure you that if Maduro is overthrown and replaced with a new pro-US figure, the oil contracts will dramatically change or would even come to a stop and that would most likely have a devastating effect on the Cuban economy.

The U.S. would hope that it will strangle the Cuban economy to the point where the people would get angry at the Castro government causing civil unrest. The Cuban people have endured a lot of pain and struggle since the revolution began and I believe that they will overcome any hurdle that comes their way. But I do not see a breakthrough for Cuba or the U.S. despite the fact that legitimate Cuban and American businesses, farmers and the tourism industry would benefit each other. But the U.S. wants Cuba to become a corporate haven filled with fast food companies, GMO foods and casino’s filled with prostitutes run by organized crime and corrupt politicians similar to the Batista era before 1959.

Demands from both the U.S. and Cuba will not be met by the end of Obama’s term. If a Jeb Bush, or a Hillary Clinton or any other future candidate who is “selected” (Yes, I meant “selected” not “elected”) for the Presidency because he or she would most likely be hawkish on foreign policy. Most of the candidates for 2016 Presidential elections are war mongers whether Democrat or Republican including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Any candidate who becomes president would be bad for U.S-Cuba relations.

Either way, all I see is a long and dangerous road that will lead to nowhere. The obvious is that Obama is more aggressive in his foreign policy by calling out Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security. It is a sign that the Obama administration’s last two years in office will create more instability and war. Venezuela is sure on the list for regime change, once again. If that happens, Cuba will prepare its military and intelligence apparatus to repel any attempt by the U.S. to destabilize its country.

The talk about U.S-Cuba relations warming up will get cold pretty fast, because it is just talk. If Obama was serious about closing Guantanamo Bay’s torture chamber, he would use his executive powers (which he constantly uses for domestic purposes) to immediately shut down the facility, but he won’t, nor will the next President. Its time to face the possibility that the new U.S-Cuba talks will fail until trust is rebuilt between the two nations and that is something that is extremely hard for the Cuban government to do. Who can blame them?,

Diplomatic relations: The game of the USA with Cuba

March 13, 2015

Cubans do not get excited about relations with the US
Talks are going on between the United States and Cuba about the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, broken since the early sixties of last century and accompanied of an infamous blockade maintained by successive governments, occupants of the White House and condemned by everyone, including the UN, where Uncle Sam has, for years, suffered successive defeats when the subject is placed in annual vote by the General Assembly.

Valter XEU *

With the media power it has, the rulers of the great northern country prey to spread to the four corners of the world that the communist regime of the island is, and remains, harmful to their own people.

Cubans sit, discuss with the north Americans and know what their strategy is in talks for the return of normalization of relations between the two embassies. And what about the diplomatic talks with Iran? When things are settled, what happens? The US and its European allies always create a new fact, a new requirement and the talks will prolong without knowing when they end and so, Israel will continue to take advantage to demonize Iran to the international community.

The Supreme Leader has warned that Iran will not give up further developing his project that is peaceful and follows the strict supervision of the IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency, a body linked to the UN.

The same thing happens among Cuban Americans, endless conversations with a different sense of the Iranian case, but the influence that Cuba has on the continent, especially in Venezuela, where the United States act to overthrow the Maduro government.

The blockade remains
They facilitate the passage of north Americans to the island, which was once illegal, punishable by imprisonment and a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This, from the nation that says it is the most democratic in the world, and that prohibits its citizens from visiting this country under penalty of imprisonment and fine, perhaps worried about hiding from American eyes, a country that the government and the media painted as hell and that in reality was completely different.

If there’s one thing that left the Cubans in complete joy, was not the resumption of news of diplomatic relations with the US but the coming back of two of the five heroes who were arrested and sentenced to life in prison in the United States, accused of spying when in fact they worked in agreement with the US intelligence services, to watch some crazy elements in the Miami mafia, which are always involved in cases of perpetrating terrorism against Cuba. The Five Heroes (as they are known in Cuba) are loved and deified by the Cubans, getting all kinds of homage of the people and the government, in which appears the figure of former President Fidel Castro, the mentor of the pressures and demonstrations around the world, the freedom of the five.

And so, with the festivities for the return of the “five heroes”, to the consumption of rum in the country has increased with daily celebrations of the return and not the resumption of relations between the two countries that Cubans do not take seriously. “If they, Americans, want to talk, talk, we talk with everyone. If you think that will make us paytaxes, then you are sadly mistaken. In these fifty years, we have supported and faced all kinds of pressure and sabotage committed by them and that only made the lives of Cubans difficult and it is not now that we bend, because we are talking about resumption of diplomatic relations, despite the continuing blockade firm and strong,” a Cuban official stated.

So in this climate, you can already anticipate that things will not be easy between the two countries.

The base of Guantanamo and some Cuban funds frozen for decades in the United States and the lifting of a number of barriers, will always be on the agenda of discussions and are well known to the Cubans, who intermittently push other discussions that will become endless, like the question of the Iranian nuclear program.

Cubans know that behind this rapprochement is all a policy framework in Latin America, specifically in Venezuela.

North Americans believe that in talks with Cuba, Cuba’s allies in Latin America will not react but remember the intervention in Venezuela, where the presence and influence of the US in the protests are visible, plus penalties in applications in order to lead the country to economic disaster and hence weaken the Maduro government.

Also the Cubans see that the United States is concerned about the growing Russian presence on the continent and alliances established with these Cubans, Nicaraguans, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and strong business in the area of ​​imports from Brazil.

Talks are the backdrop to destabilize all this, while Unclke Sam thinks that Cuba will not raise its voice over what is happening in Venezuela, whose ties of friendship with Cuba were built and solidified in the era of Chávez.
Huge mistake!

* Valter XEU is editor and publisher of the portals Patria Latina and Iran News,

Who’s Behind the Restoration of US-Cuba Relations?

March 12, 2015


A Cuban-US caravan of academics, social movements and trade organizations were at the centre of negotiations leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, says Larry Wilkerson.
Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army soldier and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on US national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled “National Security Decision Making.”


SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Discussions between Havana and Washington about the restoration of diplomatic relations are currently underway. One item of serious concern to Cuba is that they continue to be on the list of state sponsored terrorism. They would like to be removed from it.

According to the State Department and the Cuban officials, however, things are going and progressing quite well. But how did all of this come about in the first place? Thawing of relations between Cuba and the U.S., which has been on and going on for fifty-four years. That is the topic of our next discussion with Larry Wilkerson.

Larry is, as you know, the former Chief of Staff for the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He’s currently the adjunct professor of government at the College of William & Mary. Thank you so much for joining us, Larry.


PERIES: So Larry, this is very intriguing. We know that the thawing of relations between the two countries didn’t just pop up and get resolved. How did all of this come about?

WILKERSON: I think there have been … I don’t think, I know, there have been quite a few people … I’m trying to adjust my screen right now. There have been quite a few people working on this for quite a long time.

If you want to, if your viewers want to read a really good text on this, the new book by Billy

LeoGrande at American University, who is an expert on Latin America, and Peter Kornbluh at the National Security Archives at George Washington University, who has done seminal work on getting, uncovering, grasping and pulling out of the government official documentation. Their new book, Back Channel to Cuba, is an extraordinary read on all of the attempts, from the very beginning. Dwight Eisenhower through John Kennedy, through Lyndon Johnson, through Richard Nixon, on up to Bill Clinton and then to George W. Bush, and the attempts we have made over those half-century worth of years plus to have better relations with Cuba.

You can imagine that, among others, Wayne Smith, former member of the U.S. Intersection in Havana, who under Al Haig’s secretariat actually resigned his position based on his objections to U.S. policy and so forth. A host of others, including myself, were in Cuba for a conference in December, and on 17 December we were in a conference room with the Cubans, and we were able to pipe the TV in and listen to Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, and President Obama announce this latest attempt at a new relationship, a closer relationship. I guarantee you that in that room of some two hundred or so people, there was not a dry eye in the room, Cuban or American.

PERIES: Larry, the latest version of these negotiations that actually lead to the official announcements were, were being done through a committee, I understand, that have been working at it for a very long time which you have been a part of. Tell us a little bit about that process.

WILKERSON: I don’t want to take too much credit for it, because there are all manner of nonprofit organizations that have been oriented towards better relations with Cuba. Trade organizations, just, organizations involved with democracy and freedom and liberty spreading, and so forth.

I’ve been involved for the last four or five years with a group sponsored by a host organization that tries to mediate between states in terms of antagonisms, tensions, and so forth. Under their guise, meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, with then President Lula’s people. Meeting in Buenos Aires, meeting in Mexico City, meeting in Toronto, and meeting in Havana, we conducted this sort of track to a diplomacy. We tried to meet in Washington, but OFAC at Treasury wouldn’t allow us visas for the Cuban visitors, so we doubled up on Havana.

What we did was put together—Meeting with Cubans. Cuban academics, Cuban economists, Cuban environmentalists, and so forth. Moving as we needed to into the various sectors of the Cuban ministries, and into U.S. government, too, and consulting for time to time. We put together a road map for better relations between the two countries. We delivered that to Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, in May of 2013. We were told by the Assistant Secretary that it was read line-by-line. And so we like to think that we had a little bit to do with putting together, perhaps, some of the specifics of what now is beginning to take place.

PERIES: Larry, in this road map, what were some of the points of contention, or what was perceived to be points of contention, that are transpiring now?

WILKERSON: One of the things you see from Peter and Bill’s book that I mentioned, Back Channels, and one of the things we learned very, very up close and personal, as we went through this some five years of talks and other activities that have been going on around them, the first prerequisite for Cuba is to be treated with respect. To be treated as an equal. Not an equal in power or economic might or financial might, but an equal in terms of diplomatic and political relations. To be treated as a sovereign country, and not to be always treated as if until you change what you’ve determined to be your governance system, we won’t talk to you. So that was the first prerequisite, that we treat Cuba with human decency.

Probably the second one was that everything’s on the table. This has particularly become true since Raúl took over from Fidel and has been more or less the leader of the Cuban government. In this case, it meant that we would talk about anything. If we were Cubans, we would talk about anything, so long as you respected our sovereignty and treated us with respect and equality, we were willing to put any issue on the table.

We’re willing to talk about migration, we’re willing to talk about oil spills, hurricane preparedness, disaster relief. We’re willing to talk about human trafficking and drug trafficking, and all the things that we have been more or less cooperating in ever since JFK’s time, but on a very, very limited, narrow focused basis.

We’re willing to talk about anything including approaching a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, with the Cubans understanding what the Mexicans understand. You know, so close to the United States, so far from God. That’s sort of the mantra. And when you’re close to the United States, you’ve got to be very careful about how you deal financially, economically, and so forth.

In fact, one of the things that I warn the Cubans about, they don’t need any warning on this but I felt it would be especially significant coming from an American academic and a military man. I warned them about opening too fast. If this is a genuine opening, if it is a genuine attempt to normalize relations, lift the embargo, take them off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list which they haven’t belonged on for at least ten years, maybe twenty. If it is that, then be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

That is to say, you don’t want the United States coming back in in its enormously predatory, capitalist way, and ruining some of the real gains of the revolution, like crime-free states, universal health care—indeed, some of the best health care in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world, and the other gains of the revolution, you don’t want to ruin those. They protected the environment really well, for example. You need to be careful about how you let this colossal economic and financial giant re-enter your country.

PERIES: Now, we know that Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Senator Marco Rubio in Florida are all challenging President Obama about these negotiations and the restoration of diplomatic relations, and promising to undo it. Where do you think that stands?

WILKERSON: I think it’s about as Luddite a stance as I can identify in my Republican party, and that is saying something because all they’ve been is Luddites for the past decade or so, and I say, all they have been—There are some holdouts. There’s a Jeff Flake, there’s a Susan Collins, there’s a Lamar Alexander. There’s apparently a Bob Corker in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee now that have a pragmatic approach to politics and really want to get something done.

But the innumerable members of the Republican Party now, and I put that in a category of forty or so, maybe a little more, that are just simply bent on punishing this president, just simply bent on doing anything that’s contrary to the President, even if it’s in the disinterest of their country, that alarms me greatly. I would put a few Democrats in that category too, with regard to Cuba. You mentioned one of them, Senator Robert Menendez, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He will do anything he can, as will Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and others, to stop the President in this attempt to normalize relations with Cuba and eventual lift the embargo and take them off the state sponsored terrorism list.

They are out of sync with Cuban-Americans. Poll after poll now shows that the majority of Cuban-Americans are for closer relations with Cuba, are for better relations, are for eventually eliminating the state sponsor of terrorism stigma, and lifting the embargo. These are young Cubans, I would say forty-five and below. They are dominating the Cuban community in New Jersey, Nevada, and of course Florida now, the Miami area in particular. They are beginning to shift this, so Senator Menendez, Mario Rubio, they’re on the wrong side of history and I’m frankly very glad about that

PERIES: All right. Well, we’ll continue to keep a watch on this. Larry, thank you so much for joining us.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.,

History absolves Cuba, as US moves to restore diplomatic relations

February 11, 2015

On 21 and 22 January, Cuba and the US held direct talks about restoring diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, exploring cooperation on various issues and reviewing existing migration accords. The meeting in Havana took place one month after the historic announcements made simultaneously on 17 December 2014 by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro about a thaw in US-Cuban relations. This included a prisoner swap which finally freed the remaining Cuban anti-terrorist agents imprisoned in the US, known as the Cuban Five. The announcements followed 18-months of secret talks facilitated by Canada and the Vatican. The tactical change by the US administration reflects the failure of its Cuba policy, and economic and (geo)strategic developments which put competitive pressure on US capitalists who do not benefit from the blockade.

The head of Cuba’s delegation, Josefina Vidal, gives a press conference following talks with US representatives in Havana in January 2015.

Historic announcements: 17 December 2014

Obama announced three broad policy changes: First, the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the re-establishment of a US embassy in Havana and a visit to Cuba of high-ranking officials to initiate talks about these issues and shared interests ‘on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response’. He cited health collaboration in Africa, where Cuba has sent hundreds of medics to fight the spread of Ebola, as an example. He asserted that the US would raise its differences ‘on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba.’ Second, he indicated that the US would consider removing Cuba from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Third, ‘we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba’ – making it easier for people in the US to visit Cuba, authorising financial transactions and easing some trade restrictions.

‘These are the steps I can take as President to change this policy’, Obama stated. He cannot, however, unilaterally end the US blockade of Cuba which is ‘codified in legislation’. He made explicit, however, that he considered the US blockade to be a failed policy, and hopes the US Congress would ‘lift the embargo.’

It is important to be absolutely clear. Obama is not supporting Cuba’s right to self-determination; to develop its socialist system without interference and sabotage 90 miles from the US shore. He believes that a more effective strategy to destroy Cuban socialism is to distort, seduce and pervert it through, what he calls, ‘engagement’, by imposing the logic of the capitalist market, social relations and cultural values on Cuba.

‘[W]e will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests… these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach… through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values.’

Obama’s speech exposed the hypocrisy of US policy towards Cuba when he welcomed ‘Cuba’s decision to provide more internet access for its citizens’ just after having admitted that ‘our sanctions have denied Cubans access to technology’; a tacit admission that the US blockade is the principal reason for Cuban’s limited internet access.

Perhaps referring to the brutal chaos resulting from US and Nato interventions in North Africa and the Middle East, he said: ‘it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse… we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.’ Likely Obama believes that increasing US access to Cuban society will improve the effectiveness of ongoing covert operations aimed at generating an internal opposition – a tactic which has also failed.

Cuban President Raul Castro began his brief speech by making two political assertions: first, of his political continuity with Fidel Castro who, likewise, pursued efforts to ‘normalise’ relations with the US on the basis of sovereign equality. Second, to pre-empt critics claiming that rapprochement with the US would lead to the restoration of capitalism, he reiterated that ‘the task of updating our economic model [is] in order to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism’.He continued:

‘The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease…While acknowledging our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to dialogue on all these issues… The progress made in our [prisoner] exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.’

In a speech to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit on 28 January, Raul stressed issues on which Cuba would not compromise: ‘[the] normalisation of bilateral relations… will not be possible as long as the blockade exists, or as long as the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base is not returned, or radio and television broadcasts which violate international norms continue, or just compensation is not provided to our people for the human and economic damage they have suffered… If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States makes no sense.’

On 16 January, new US rules did indeed come into effect enabling US citizens to visit Cuba without applying for licenses, although they still had to certify one of 12 ‘legitimate’ purposes for travel. Restrictions were eased on sending money to Cuba, and on spending money and using credit and debit cards in Cuba. The new rules facilitate US telecommunications, financial and agricultural companies to do business on the island.

The talks on 21 January constituted the annual review of existing Cuban-US migration accords. Despite talk of ‘normalising’ relations, the head of the US delegation confirmed that the Cuban Adjustment Act would remain in law. This encourages illegal emigration from Cuba by automatically granting US residency to any Cuban who enters the US, regardless of how they arrived. No comparable law exists for the population of any other country – so much for normalisation!

On 22 January the delegations discussed steps towards the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and reviewed the state of existing cooperation on air security, aviation and oil spills, and identified new potential areas: drug trafficking, terrorism and epidemics (starting with Ebola), seismic monitoring and protecting marine biology. The Cuban delegation proposed scientific collaboration on environmental protection, mitigating the effects of climate change and preventing natural disasters. The issue of human rights was also addressed although the discussion went beyond the US’s discredited neo-liberal script. The head of the Cuban delegation, Josefina Vidal expressed Cuba’s concerns about the guarantee and protection of human rights in the US, highlighting the continued illegal detentions and torture in the US base at Guantanamo, alarming police brutality and increasing racial discrimination. She also raised the issue of the racially-biased application of the death penalty, wage differentials which see women paid 25% less than men, the incidence of child labour and limits on trade union freedoms. The talks concluded on the need to continue talking.

A victory for Cuba

These developments represent a victory for the Cuban Revolution; a tribute to its tenacity, principles and resistance. Clearly, opening up to US capital and the ‘economic hitmen’ who fight its political battles, implies risks for Cuba that have to be managed. However, the revolutionary government understands those risks and is implementing measures to manage them. All proposals for foreign investments must be vetted by the central government. Foreign capital will be channelled to priority areas to develop Cuba’s productive infrastructure. Most foreign investments are carried out through joint ventures with the Cuban government, as Ivonne Vertiz Rolo, Vice Director the Ministry of Foreign Trade recently explained: ‘with the aim of guaranteeing the participation of our enterprises in projects of strategic interest, to effectively transfer new technologies, to raise the qualifications of the Cuban labour force and protect the environment’ (Granma, 11 December 2014). There are also legal limits on private accumulation and property ownership, while socialist state ownership predominates. Cuba is not the Wild West or the former Soviet Republics in the 1990s. It is not open to carpet baggers, oligarchs and exploiters. Only those who are ignorant of, or ignore, the devastating impact of the US blockade can argue that the opportunity to improve Cuba’s access to international markets, including in the US, should be shunned for some idealistic notion of soldiering on in isolation.

Any rapprochement with Cuba, whatever the motivation, faces ardent opposition from the right-wing Cuban exile community whose strategic handle on political and economic power has enabled it convert Cuba policy into a US domestic issue. Although the majority of Cuban-Americans support improved relations, there are politicians in the Senate and Congress who will attempt to block progress. The Obama administration has calculated that there is more to gain through ‘engaging’ Cuba than there is to lose in a conflict with a political elite that losing its leverage.

Political pressures

In autumn 2014, the New York Times published a series of editorials criticising US policy towards Cuba and arguing for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. The editorials were clearly contrived to generate public support for Obama’s announcement. Policy changes introduced in Cuba since 2008 and as part of the 2011 ‘guidelines for updating the economic and social model’, especially those promoting private-farming, self-employment and small businesses, and permitting the free sale of property, have allowed US commentators to claim that Cuba is making the liberalising reforms stipulated as prerequisites for an improvement in relations. It is unlikely that the current political rapprochement would have been possible without these measures.

However, the US has also been forced into this concession by the rejection of its Cuba policy throughout Latin America, where even right-wing governments criticise US attempts to isolate Cuba. In the 1960s the US demanded that the rest of the continent break off diplomatic relations with Cuba. All except Mexico obeyed. But over the years every sovereign nation has restored relations with Cuba, leaving the US behind in a region of growing global significance that the US historically treated as its own backyard. Today, Cuba is central to the movement for regional political and economic integration; a regionalism which rejects US interference. Several countries had threatened to boycott the annual Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015 if the US continued to exclude Cuban participation. Obama was forced to back down: ‘This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas’, he said.

Economic pressures

Despite the US’s unilateral, punitive legislation prohibiting third countries from trading with Cuba, the revolutionary government has been busy diversifying trade and securing investment partners. The pace of these collaborations is speeding up, especially with the new super-port and development zone being built in Mariel, with Brazil as a major partner. Benefiting from Cuba’s important geostrategic location, the port will accommodate the world’s largest container ships (see FRFI 238). Foreign investment is set to increase significantly since Cuba’s new foreign investments law was approved in 2014 (See FRFI 240).

In his annual speech on 14 January 2015, Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, enthused about the prospects of trade with Cuba, which he perceives as a new market of pent-up demand for consumer goods, such as computers, smartphones and cars. The Chamber of Commerce is a powerful lobby which spent $35 million on the mid-term elections in 2014, and Donohue travelled to Havana in summer 2014. ‘Somebody is going to sell’ to the Cubans, Donohue said, ‘and it’s not going to be all us.’ He pointed out that many countries were increasing trade with Cuba, including Russia and China. Indeed, the Presidents of both Russia and China also visited Cuba last summer on missions to increase trade and investment.

During Putin’s trip, $32bn of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt was written off, leaving just $3bn to be paid over ten years. Repayments will be spent by Cuba on projects jointly decided with the Russians. ‘We will provide support to our Cuban friends to overcome the illegal blockade of Cuba’, Putin said on 11 July. Russia is exploring for oil and gas in Cuban waters and assisting the Mariel port construction. Cuba will host navigation stations for Russia’s own satellite global positioning system, Glonass. Other economic, financial, military and intelligence projects between the two countries are underway.

Two weeks later, Chinese President Xi Jinping made his second visit to Cuba in less than four years. Cuba’s annual bilateral trade with China is worth almost $2 billion. President Xi signed 29 trade, debt, credit and other agreements. China will continue to restructure debt, estimated at $6 billion, import Cuban nickel, sugar and cigars, digitalise the television system, upgrade communications and cyber security and cooperate in the health, education and science sectors. China is providing a $120 million loan and assistance with the construction of another new port and industrial development zone in Cuba’s second city, Santiago de Cuba. President Xi thanked Cuba for advancing cooperation between China and Latin America and strengthening South-South cooperation.

Meanwhile, the European Union is Cuba’s biggest external investor and second most important trading partner, accounting for 20% of total Cuban trade. In October 2014, British Foreign Officer Minister, Hugo Swire was the first government Minister to visit Cuba in a decade. He was there to discuss trade and investments.

In early January, some 30 US agricultural and food companies announced that they would pressure Congress to end the blockade. Other companies have stated that they will initiate trade and investments with Cuba. Meanwhile the stalwarts of the Cuban exile-community have promised to block Congressional moves to end the blockade. Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart complained bitterly that ‘president Obama has given everything, all the concessions that that regime was asking for’ and ‘getting, frankly, very little’ in return. Well played Cuba!

An edited version of this article is printed in the Feb/Mar 2015 issues of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!,

*Dr Helen Yaffe, completed her doctorate in Cuban economic history at the London School of Economics. She is the author of Che Guevara: the economics of Revolution, first published by Palgrave MacMillan in English in 2009.

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