Carlos Montaner’s Advice to Obama re Cuba Policy

The always thoughtful Carlos Alberto Montaner gives his analysis of Obama’s options regarding Cuba. To summarize his views:

Cuba seeks:

  • Obtain access to US credit markets.
  • Obtain access to American tourists dollars.
  • Release of Cuban spies.

The most reasonable scenario from the US perspective:

  • The death of Fidel Castro is the starting point for change. Any gestures while Castro is alive would probably be counter-productive.
  • Castro’s death should trigger the much awaited CONCESSIONS.
  • Avoid negotiating governmental structural changes with the regime. Too reminiscent of past ‘our-SOB’ strategy.
  • Gradually reduce economic sanctions in exchange for movement on political prisoners or dissidents.
  • Elevate diplomatic status to a US Embassy.
  • Sports and cultural exchanges.

Aside from indulging in the columnist version of a booty call, noting that ‘10 US presidents have bashed their heads,’ I hope everyone notices that the top 2 items which he believes that Cuba desires are what is denied them because of the embargo. Why people believe otherwise amazes me. Finally, re the sports and cultural exchanges: Alvarez Guedes si, ping-pong no.

Articles referenced is copied in full at end of post.

Raúl wants to chat

Miami Herald posted on Tue, Jan. 06, 2009


Shortly before his profoundly anti-American speech of Jan. 1, Raúl Castro, at the time in Brazil, insisted publicly on his desire to talk with President-elect Barack Obama. What is his intention?

He has three objectives up his sleeve: to gain access to soft credit so that he can import American goods despite his government’s well-earned reputation for insolvency; to attract hundreds of thousands of American tourists; and to gain the release of five of the 14 Cuban spies captured in 1999 by the FBI. (Nine of them admitted their guilt, made deals with the judges and prosecutors, were given very light sentences and have already been discreetly reintegrated into society in the United States.)

Once he attains the first two objectives, Raúl Castro would practically liquidate what remains of the embargo. With the third, he would please Fidel Castro, who is determined not to die until his ”hardest” agents return to Cuba. Naturally, despite the general clamor that demands deep political changes, neither Fidel nor Raúl would even think about opening the margins of participation in Cuban society. They intend to maintain a communist state with a single party and a total absence of freedoms.

Fidel’s firm grip

Obama should harbor no illusions regarding Cuba. Ten U.S. presidents before him have bashed heads with the regime of the Castro brothers. However, it is probable that, during Obama’s first four-year term, things will begin to change inside the island. The starting point for those changes could be the death of Fidel Castro, who has been slowly expiring since the summer of 2006. While it is known that most of those in the structure of power would like a profound reform, the old comandante, a stubborn Stalinist, prevents it.

This observation is important: While Fidel Castro is alive, any significant concession the Obama administration may make to Havana will be counterproductive. It will be interpreted as, ”Fidel Castro is right, and we don’t need to make any substantial change in our totalitarian model.” However, the moment Fidel disappears, Washington must make a goodwill gesture, even to Raúl Castro, as a sign of encouragement to the reformist forces, with the explicit message that the United States is willing to generously help Cubans transform the country into a peaceful and reasonably prosperous democracy.

For Obama’s government, that must be the objective: Cuba’s peaceful change into a stable democracy with freedoms and respect for human rights, a democracy with a productive apparatus that allows Cubans to live in their homeland without having to emigrate illegally to the United States. A nation similar to Costa Rica, with good relations with its neighbors and the United States; a nation that, far from expelling its people for lack of opportunities, is able to absorb the thousands of exiles who would return to Cuba if living conditions were acceptable there.

Washington discredited

The achievement of that objective leads one to discard any temptation to negotiate in Cuba with a tyranny like the one in China or Vietnam, with a kleptocracy like the one in Russia or with a military dictatorship. That only postpones the problem, it does not solve it. For almost all of the 20th century, the United States played the ”our-SOB” card, and the results were dreadful. Washington became totally discredited because it preached democracy and protected the dictatorships. After Somoza came the Sandinistas. After Batista, communism came to Cuba. It makes no sense to revive that strategy in the post-Castro era.

What can Obama do to stimulate changes in Cuba? He can adopt several measures: to gradually reduce the economic sanctions if the dictatorship releases political prisoners or relieves its pressure on the dissidents; elevate the rank of the United States’ diplomatic representation to the category of embassy; facilitate sports and academic exchanges.

But before any initiative is taken in Washington, a key question must be asked: Will that step lead Cubans toward democracy and an economic opening, or will it help consolidate in power an authoritarian oligarchy that abusively divvies up the nation’s revenues? That’s the litmus test. If the result is the latter, there’s no sense even in trying.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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