Tag Archives: Cuba-Canada Relations

“On Cuba, Canada has no choice but to walk Washington’s tightrope Add”

CARLO DADE /The Globe and Mail/February 20, 2013

The abridged Globe and Mail version is here:  “No choice but to walk Washington’s tightrope”

The complete unabridged version is presented below, courtesy of Carlo Dade.

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As hard as it may be to believe, one of the most difficult foreign files for any Canadian government to manage is the Cuba file.

The importance of Cuba, throughout the hemisphere is as a symbol. The country is of marginal, if any, economic interest and despite theatrics and histrionics by the Americans is not a real security threat to anyone in the hemisphere larger than say Grenada.

The importance of Cuba in the rest of the hemisphere is its presence as an open sore of a reminder of centuries of American bullying, humiliation and degradation. It is hard to overstate the degree of visceral anger that U.S. policy toward Cuba elicits in the region. Having run afoul of the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, the agency in charge of enforcing the U.S. embargo, this writer can, to some degree, appreciate that anger. Cuba’s prominence also comes from the ease with which any Latin American government, even one of the few right of centre governments like Colombia, earns cheap points at home and with its neighbours to burnish its “el pueblo unido” credentials by kicking the United States without incurring any real cost; given U.S. history with the region the Americans can and will only protest so much.

With Canada things are markedly different. Cuba is important as a symbol of what distinguishes Canada from the United States. Most Canadians strongly disagree with U.S. policy toward Cuba and find it offensive, but instead of anger they are more embarrassed for their neighbour. While the U.S., on the other hand, sees no need to afford Canada the same leeway it affords Latin Americans on Cuba.

And that is where Canada begins to run into problems that its friends in Latin America miss.

Twice each year the U.S. embassy in Ottawa has to certify that Canada is, more or less, in compliance with the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, also known as Helms-Burton. The gist of the exercise is to demonstrate that, despite clearly violating the intent if not the letter of Helms Burton, Canada is doing enough other things to push reform in Cuba to earn a pass from direct sanction by the U.S. The exercise is essentially a series of winks and nods on each side followed by a round of beers, mostly to assuage sore feelings on the Canadian side. And each year the State department and congress go along with this.

Canada has of course vociferously opposed Helms Burton, raised challenges under the NAFTA and adopted laws to counter it. In this it has international law and public opinion on its side. But should the Americans decide to take unilateral action that combination would prove as effective in defending Canadian interests on Cuba as it did on softwood lumber.

As has been seen time and again, all it takes is one member of congress such as one of the easily-riled congressional Cuban lobby, including the out-of-state gringos who raise substantial money in southern Florida, or one particularly well-placed congresswoman to raise a fuss and Canada is left with nothing but a wink and a nod to cover its privates while an Alberta clipper of U.S. unilateralism flaps around it.

Yes, cooler heads would prevail – eventually. But a lot of damage would be done in the meantime.

Not convinced? Well, since when have reason, common sense or self-interest been an insurance policy with any U.S. congress and with this one in particular?

The fine line that Canada walks on Cuba is an object lesson on the Faustian bargain that the country has struck to enable it to get rich and fat off of easy and privileged access to the U.S. market. Criticise the government if you will but what choice does Canada really have? Before answering think of the $1 billion in daily trade across the border or the neighbour who holds one of the one-in-seven jobs in Canada dependent on an open U.S. border.

Canada can, does and will have differences with the U.S. But is has to pick its fights carefully. Avoiding going to war in Iraq makes that list. Having Cuba attend a meeting for which it does not qualify does not.

Despite limited room for manoeuvre Canada has managed a robust policy of engagement with Cuba. This is a policy that has been and is clearly not an embrace of U.S. policy, but neither is it in line with the rest of Latin America.

Canada has a full-fledged aid program in the country that is carried out in consultation with the Cuban government. Canada invests and trades with the country is open to travel and will welcome Cuban athletes to Toronto for the next PanAm games. All without controversy or second thought.

But Canada also recognises that Cuba is dictatorship; something the rest of the hemisphere seems to have forgotten in its fit of pique with the U.S.

While Canada welcomes Cuban participation in hemispheric events, it draws the line at extending to it the same recognition and privileges as the rest of the democracies in the hemisphere; or, to put it more clearly, the rest of the non-dictatorial regimes in the hemisphere. To that point Cuba does not and will not get invited to a meeting the explicit purpose of which is to convene – democratically – elected heads of government. Doing so is as egregious a sin as the U.S. embargo against Cuba and would make a mockery of the decades long struggle against dictatorship in the hemisphere; a fight to which Canada has contributed much.

Looked at in comparison to the U.S. and Latin American positions, Canadian policy toward Cuba seems to have a monopoly on reason and common sense. Rather than apologise for this Canada needs to tell the rest of the hemisphere to knock off the cheap criticism and cut Canada some slack.

Carlo Dade is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and former executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas.

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“Canada should engage Cuba”

By Prof. Peter McKenna. Halifax Chronicle Herald

Original Here: “Canada should engage Cuba”

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird should be commended for undertaking his current six-country tour of Latin America, including stops in Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. But it is his visit to Cuba that is the most interesting and significant.

Canadian-Cuban relations during the Harper years have suffered badly and, for too long, have been locked in an unproductive diplomatic holding pattern. To an outside observer, it has looked as if neo-conservative ideology, underscored by lethargy in the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa, has supplanted pragmatism and common sense.

One hopes, then, that Baird’s visit can help to unshackle the bilateral relationship and return it to a sense of normalcy and “constructive engagement.”

Indeed, we can’t on the one hand criticize the U.S. government for a failed Cuba policy (after 50 years of ineffective economic sanctions), and then side with the Americans on excluding Havana from the Summit of the Americas process. Nor should we mimic the U.S. approach of isolating Cuba simply because we don’t like the way it organizes itself politically and electorally.

Additionally, we should not forget that Cuba punches well above its weight within the wider region — having just assumed the leadership of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. It has full diplomatic relations with almost every country in Latin America, and has hosted a slew of presidential visits over the last couple of years.

Equally important, more than 30,000 Cuban health professionals are working throughout the Americas and boosting Cuba’s hemispheric standing. Havana’s record on providing low-cost anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS sufferers in Latin America and the Caribbean is another feather in its cap.

Notwithstanding comments by former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who castigated Stephen Harper for the actions of Canadian mining companies that exploit struggling communities in many Latin American countries, the Canadian government should seek to strengthen its relationship with Havana.

The minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Diane Ablonczy, has already done some important work in this area. She has properly recognized that there are huge opportunities for Canada and Cuba to work constructively together on a wide range of issues, including trade, tourism, energy and people-to-people contacts.

Baird’s visit to Havana, if all goes well, could set the stage for a prime ministerial visit to Cuba — or a visit by a senior-ranking Cuban government official (Raúl Castro perhaps) to Ottawa in the near term.

But as former prime minister Jean Chretien found out during his own April 1998 visit to Cuba, it makes no sense to press the Cubans hard on the human-rights front or to attach certain conditions to a continued warming in bilateral relations. Yes, we should raise the issue of democratization and respect for political rights and freedoms; but if we hope to influence them, Baird should do so in a respectful and non-accusatory manner (and without any pre-conditions).

Having said that, we should not forget that Canada does have some cards to play with respect to the Cubans — not the least of which is over $1.5 billion in two-way trade. The number of Canadian tourists visiting the island has also grown to more than 900,000, another indication of how people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have grown exponentially since the mid-1990s.

Toronto-based Sherritt International Corp., which is involved in tourism development, iron-ore extraction and oil exploration, is the single largest foreign investor in the country. Simply put, Canada has had a long and storied relationship with Cuba, across a wide swath of policy areas, since 1959 (and was one of only two countries not to sever diplomatic relations with Havana in 1962).

Canada, then, could enhance its position and prestige in the wider hemisphere by standing up to the Americans on Cuba, and telling Washington to rescind its economic blockade and to remove any ridiculous references to Cuba as a terrorist-supporting country. It should inform Havana that it will be seeking Cuba’s presence at the next Americas summit, should there be one in Panama.

While most of what Fidel Castro said in mid-2012 can be ignored, he was right about highlighting the constructive engagement approach of former Canadian prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien toward Cuba. In fact, we need to jettison the ideologically tinged rhetoric of the Harperites and focus on positive interaction, co-operative dialogue and growing our commercial exchange.

Baird’s visit, then, will not only send the right signals to the Cubans — especially if he handles the diplomacy with deftness — but it will also substantially increase Canada’s prestige and image throughout the wider Americas.

Peter McKenna is professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.

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Human rights should be an integral part of Canada’s Cuba policy

Human rights should be an integral part of Canada’s Cuba policy

February 19, 2013 By YVON GRENIER /TheChronicleHerald.ca

The Harper government has been distinctly forceful in its recent statements on human rights violations in the world. One peculiar exception to this rule has been Cuba.

After a few impromptu comments years ago by the former junior minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, on the dictatorial nature of the Cuban regime, our government (in particular, Mr. Kent’s successor, Diane Ablonczy) has issued nothing but optimistic comments on the “process of economic reform and liberalization in Cuba” (Ablonczy, January 2012).

And yet, my colleague Peter McKenna is worried that Foreign Minister John Baird may “press the Cubans hard on the human rights front” during his visit to Havana (re: “Canada should engage Cuba,” Feb. 16 opinion piece).

Prof. McKenna does not elaborate on the issue of human rights violation in Cuba, so let me quote Human Rights Watch: “Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent.” As HRW documents in great detail, the Cuban government “enforces political conformity using harassment, invasive surveillance, threats of imprisonment, and travel restrictions.”

Human rights organizations in Cuba and abroad have reported an increase in the number of arbitrary detentions for political reasons over the past year (up to more than a thousand a month). Shouldn’t our government condemn that publicly, and depart from a long bipartisan policy of silence on Cuba? After all, we constantly issue statements about human rights violations abroad.

To mention a few examples, last fall, in addition to well-publicized statements on Iran and Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade issued statements to the effect that the government of Canada “has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to uphold democratic principles, respect for human rights and the rule of law” (Sept. 25). It also urged “swift resolution of all outstanding issues” in Sudan and South Sudan, and proclaimed to be “deeply troubled by the reported Sept. 25 travel ban of former President Nasheed in Malé, Maldives” — this prompting Minister Baird to “directly raise the persecution of 19 other Maldives Democratic Party politicians and party officials to President Waheed today” (Sept. 28). Canada also stood “strong as a supporter of the Ukrainian people as they seek to build a nation based on democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law” (Oct. 2).

Why are we not using the same language on Cuba?

We are right to oppose the U.S. embargo (not a “blockade”), like most other countries on Earth: There is nothing distinctly Canadian in that policy. But the U.S. embargo is not the main obstacle to democratization in Cuba: The current Cuban regime is.

Here we can take Europe as a model. It has both diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba, but it routinely speaks up against human rights violations on the island. The European parliament awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to two Cuban human rights activists (Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and Guillermo Farinas in 2010) and to the Ladies in White (2005), a group of women whose husbands are jailed in Cuba. The recent detention of another activist, dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, was condemned by the EU, the U.S. and several Latin American governments. But not by Canada.

Cuba is the last dictatorship in the Americas, a region that is supposedly a foreign policy priority of this government. Canadians expect their government to be a leader in the human rights field. No exception.

Yvon Grenier is a professor of political science, St. Francis Xavier University.

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“Review of “The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges.”

H-Diplo Article Reviews  http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/reviews/  No. 383

Published on 31 January 2013

H-Diplo Article Review Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane N. Labrosse

 URL: http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/reviews/PDF/AR383.pdf

Review by Asa McKercher, Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Lana Wylie, ed. “The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 16:1 (2010): 55-178. “Special Section – The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges”

Table of Contents

“Partie Spéciale – La politique des relations Canada-Cuba : Options émergents et défis”

Introduction: Lana Wyle, “Shifting Ground: Considering the New Realities in the Canadian-Cuban Relationship”

Calum McNeil, “To Engage or not to Engage: An (A)ffective Argument in Favor of a Policy of Engagement with Cuba”

Julia Sagebien and Paolo Spaldoni, “The Truth about Cuba?”

Luis René Fernández Tabío, “Canadian-Cuban Economic Relations: The Recognition and Respect of Difference”

Archibald R.M. Ritter, “Canada’s Economic Relations with Cuba, 1990 to 2010 and Beyond”

Heather N. Nicol, “Canada-Cuba Relations: An Ambivalent Media and Policy”

Peter McKenna and John M. Kirk, “Evaluating ‘Constructive Engagement’”

Raúl Rodríguez Rodríguez, “Canada and the Cuban Revolution: Defining the Rules of Engagement 1959-1962”

Trudeau and Castro in Havana, 1976

 Introduction:

In early January 2012, Diane Ablonczy, the Canadian Minister of State for Latin America, travelled to Cuba for her first official visit to the island. In contrast to her party’s longstanding position on Cuba, Ablonczy – one of the more conservative Conservatives – went, not to lecture Cuba on human rights, but to talk business, a softening of Ottawa’s attitude on a thorny issue and a volte-face seen also in recent Canadian policy toward China. At the same time as Ablonczy set off for Havana, Canadians of all sorts were beginning their annual trek from their wintry homeland to Cuba’s sunny shores. Indeed, benefitting from their country’s stance of maintaining open diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba, over one million Canadians were expected to make the trip.1 Yet all was not well with Canadian-Cuban relations that year. In April, on the front page of Granma, Fidel Castro delivered a withering attack on Canada both for the environmental damage wrought by Canadian companies overseas and for Ottawa’s seeming support of London over the Falkland Islands. A week later, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, sided with Barack Obama in blocking an attempt by Latin American nations to invite Cuba to the next summit meeting.2 As these instances show, relations between Ottawa and Havana can be oddly ambivalent. Still, such ups and downs are reflective of a normal state-to-state relationship, one that stands in stark contrast to the hostility between Havana and Washington.

To assess the Canadian-Cuban relationship, Lana Wylie, a professor at McMaster University who over the last few years has done much to deepen understanding of the Canada-Cuba dyad, has brought together a diverse group of scholars for a special issue of the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal examining “The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges”.3 As Wylie explains in her introduction, in light of changes on the island – Raul Castro’s assumption of the presidency and his resulting reforms – and the prospect of a softening of U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, there is a need for such an examination. The contributors, who range from academic stalwarts – John Kirk, Peter McKenna and Arch Ritter – to, importantly, Cuban scholars – Raúl Rodríguez and Luis René Fernández Tabío – provide perceptive prognostications, interesting insights, and prudent prescriptions about the relationship between Canada and Cuba.

Concluding comment…

Disagreements between Canada and Cuba – on human rights, the Falklands, free trade – have not resulted in the sundering of normal relations, nor are there any signs that they will. Engagement between the two countries, constructive or not, thankfully continues, as does the very valuable people-to-people contact between Canadians and Cubans. The contributions to this collection are an excellent example of the benefits of academic exchange between Canadians and Cubans, and scholars and policymakers interested in the bilateral relationship between these two countries will be well-served by reading them.

Fidel Castro at the Funeral of Pierre Trudeau, September 2000

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Canadian diplomats spied on Cuba for CIA in aftermath of missile crisis: envoy

From the Globe and Mail,  October 16, 2012

In a little-known chapter of the Cold War, Canadian diplomats spied for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Cuba in the aftermath of the 1962 missile crisis – and for years afterward.

A major part of that story is told in a forthcoming memoir by retired Canadian envoy John Graham. Mr. Graham was one of a series of Canadian diplomats recruited to spy for the CIA in Havana. The missions went on for at least seven years, during the 1960s. “We didn’t have a military attaché in the Canadian embassy,” explained Mr. Graham, who worked under the cover of Political Officer. “And to send one at the time might have raised questions. So it was decided to make our purpose less visible.”

Mr. Graham said he worked as a spy for two years, between 1962 and 1964. His mandate was to visit Soviet bases, identify weapons and electronic equipment and monitor troop movements. The espionage missions began after President John Kennedy asked Prime Minister Lester Pearson – at their May, 1963, summit in Hyannis Port, Mass. – whether Canada would abet American intelligence-gathering efforts in Cuba. As a result of the crisis, which brought the superpowers to the brink of nuclear war, the Soviets had agreed to withdraw nuclear missiles from Cuban territory, in exchange for Washington’s pledge to remove its own missile batteries from Turkey and Italy.

To monitor Russian compliance, the United States needed to supplement data gleaned from almost daily U-2 reconnaissance flights. It had few assets on the ground. Its networks of Cuban agents had been progressively rolled up by Castro’s efficient counterintelligence service. And having severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, it had no embassy of its own through which to infiltrate American spies. Soon after the summit meeting, Ottawa sent diplomat George Cowley to Havana. Now deceased, Mr. Cowley, who had served in the Canadian embassy in Japan and sold encyclopedias in Africa, spent about two months in Havana in the late spring of 1963.

He was followed by Mr. Graham, seconded from his post as chargé d’affaires in the Dominican Republic. His formal training, he told The Globe and Mail, was minimal – a few days at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. At the end of it, an agency officer offered him a farewell gift – a sophisticated camera with an assortment of telephoto lenses. He declined the present, arguing that if he were ever caught with it, he’d surely be arrested.

“But how will we know what the Soviet military convoys are carrying?” a CIA officer asked him. “We need precision. Configuration is essential for recognition.”

“I’ll draw you pictures,” Mr. Graham said. “It was a bit like the character in Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, but that’s what I did.”

In the Greene novel, an inept salesman, recruited to spy for Britain, sends illustrations of vacuum cleaner parts to his handler, calling them drawings of a military installation.

Mr. Graham’s sketches, however, were the real thing. To get them to Canada, he flew to Mexico City – the only regional air connection – and deposited the drawings at the Canadian embassy. From there, they were dispatched by diplomatic courier to Ottawa. Copies were subsequently sent to the CIA and, Mr. Graham later heard, to the Kennedy White House.

Read the complete article here: Canadian diplomats spied on Cuba for CIA in aftermath of missile crisis:

John Graham, 2012

 

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Foreign Business in Cuba: Beware the Dangerous Embrace: Havana is at the same time attracting and terrifying entrepreneurs

by Nancy Macdonald and Gabriela Perdomo

Original Article is located here: Maclean’s Magazine, August 8, 2012

Until this spring, Stephen Purvis had it all. The British architect, who’d helped launch the Saratoga, Cuba’s poshest hotel, was one of the more prominent figures in Havana’s business community. As chief operating officer of Coral Capital, one of Cuba’s biggest private investors, he was overseeing a planned $500-million resort in the sleepy fishing village of Guanabo. The Bellomonte resort, which would allow foreigners to buy Cuban property for the first time, was part of Havana’s ambitious, multi-billion-dollar plan to attract high-end tourists and badly needed foreign exchange. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. The musical Purvis produced in his spare time, Havana Rakatan, had a run at the Sydney Opera House last year before moving on to London’s West End. But in April, the 51-year-old was arrested on suspicion of corruption as he prepared to walk his kids to school in Havana.

Purvis’s arrest could have been anticipated. Coral Capital’s British-born CEO, Amado Fakhre, has been held without charges ever since his arrest in a dawn raid last fall. The investment firm is being liquidated, and both men have faced questioning at Villa Marista, Cuba’s notorious counter-intelligence headquarters. They are not alone. Since last summer, dozens of senior Cuban managers and foreign executives, including two Canadians, have been jailed in an investigation that has shocked and terrified foreigners who do business in the country.

Since replacing his brother Fidel as president in 2008, Raúl Castro has painted himself as a reformer, and Cuba as a place where foreign businesses can thrive. Over the last year, he has relaxed property rights, expanded land leases and licensed a broad, if random, list of businesses—everything from pizza joints to private gyms. And he’s endorsed joint venture golf courses, marinas and new manufacturing projects. Canadians are chief among those heeding Raúl’s call to do business with Havana. Hundreds have expressed interest in the Cuban market in the last year alone, according to Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. Flattering reports in Canadian media have praised Raúl’s efforts. Yet they seem to overlook troubling signs that Cuba appears to be moving backwards.

Raúl’s sweeping changes were meant to pave the way for massive foreign investment in Cuba. The country, which was forced to lay off 20 per cent of its public workforce last year, is barely as developed as Haiti, and will need an influx of foreign cash to stay afloat. There is urgency to the project. Time is running out for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Cuba’s benefactor, who funds the country to the tune of $10 billion a year, says José Azel, a University of Miami research associate. At home, Chávez, who is sick with cancer, is also fighting off a tough challenge from Henrique Capriles in presidential elections slated for October. His successor will almost certainly cut Cuba’s generous aid package to deal with Venezuela’s own needs.

So a strange incongruity exists in Cuba today: Havana is bending over backwards to attract foreign currency at the same time it is imprisoning some of its biggest Western investors. For all Cuba’s reforms, this Castro appears to be as intent on maintaining an iron grip on the country as the last one.

Few are more keenly aware of the pitfalls of doing business in the new Cuba as a pair of Canadians sitting in jail in Havana. It has been more than a year since Sarkis Yacoubian, the president of Tri-Star Caribbean, a trading firm with headquarters in Nova Scotia, was detained in the Cuban capital. And September will be the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Cy Tokmakjian, the president of a trading company based in Concord, Ont. He and Yacoubian have both been imprisoned without charges. Their assets now belong to Cuba. No trial date has been announced.

Both Yacoubian and Tokmakjian ran well-established businesses in Cuba, had years of experience in the country, and multi-million-dollar contracts with several government ministries. Yacoubian imported the presidential fleet of BMWs. Tokmakjian, who’d been in Cuba for more than 20 years and did $80 million in annual business there, had the rights to Hyundai and Suzuki, which are used by the country’s police.

So far, Raúl has scared off more joint ventures than he has attracted, jeopardizing the investment Cuba needs to succeed. Spanish oil giant Repsol quit the country in May. Canada’s Pizza Nova, which had six Cuban locations, packed its bags, as did Telecom Italia. The country’s biggest citrus exporter, BM Group, backed by Israeli investors, is gone. A Chilean who set up one of Cuba’s first joint enterprises, a fruit juice company, fled after being charged with corruption last year. He was convicted in absentia. Shipping investors are pulling out, even as Cuba prepares to open a new terminal on the island’s north coast.

Experts say Raúl’s crackdown is an attempt to reassert control. By targeting the biggest names in the business community, he’s sending a message, says Azel. “Raúl doesn’t want to be Gorbachev,” the Soviet statesman who brought down Communism in the former Soviet Union. “He wants to be the guy who makes socialism work.”

Yet as detentions pile up it remains unclear what exactly the jailed Canadians and Britons have done, or what the regime means by clamping down on corruption. “Cuba’s version of what is legal and proper is different from the rest of the world,” says Ted Henken, president of the Washington-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. Even sales commissions are viewed as corrupt, says Yoani Sánchez, a Havana-based journalist. Foreign companies can’t pay their Cuban employees any more than the standard wage, about $20 a month, says Sánchez—barely enough for two weeks’ living in poor conditions with a poor diet. Many foreign bosses routinely top up pay with bonuses and commissions, which Havana considers bribery. For years, says Henken, corruption was the grease that made wheels turns. “You got what you needed to live from what was thrown off the back of the truck.”

It is not clear whether the detained Canadians are facing charges for salary top-ups, for example, or for legitimate corruption allegations. Canada’s Foreign Affairs department would only confirm that “consular services are being provided to two Canadian citizens detained in Cuba.” Executives at Tri-Star Caribbean and members of the Tokmakjian family declined comment, citing the “extremely sensitive” nature of the situation.

Azel’s advice to potential Canadian investors? Stay away. “You’re defenceless. There’s no independent judiciary to adjudicate any kind of claim,” he says. “Doing business with Cuba is a very risky proposition.”

So then why all the new resorts and planned golf courses? Why do so many Brits and Canadians take the personal and business risk? Because it’s widely believed that the days are numbered for the U.S. travel ban on Cuba, which has barred Americans from visiting the island for almost three decades. Predictions for tourism growth are off the charts—up to six million annual visitors, from two million today, says Gregory Biniowsky, a Canadian consultant who’s lived in Cuba for two decades. Cuba’s boosters believe the country, with its vast, undeveloped white sand beaches, just 45 minutes by plane from Florida, could come to rival Jamaica or the Dominican Republic as a tourist draw. “It’s just a matter of time before things boom here,” says Biniowsky. Five billion barrels of oil lie under Cuba’s waters, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. To some, getting in on the ground floor is worth the risk. But foreign investors who lose sight of the dangers could find themselves in serious trouble.

The old Royal Bank of Canada Building in Havana. The interior of the building is below.

Photos by Arch Ritter, April 2012

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Peter McKenna: “Canada needs a new approach to Cuba”

Original Here: : http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Canada+needs+approach+Cuba/6477890/story.html#ixzz1sbPP0BZN

Following last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to seriously reassess his position on Cuba (which was not officially invited to the inter-American gathering) and re-set the Canadian-Latin American relationship.

Indeed, we can’t on the one hand criticize the U.S. government for a failed Cuba policy (after 50 years of ineffective economic sanctions) and then side with the Americans on excluding Havana from the Americas Summit process. Additionally, we should not forget that Cuba punches well above its weight within the wider region.

Notwithstanding recent comments by former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who castigated Harper for environmental damage caused by Alberta’s oilsands and Canadian mining companies for exploiting struggling communities in many Latin American countries, the Canadian government should seek to strengthen its relationship with Havana. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (and Consular Services), Diane Ablonczy, has already done some important work in this area. She has properly recognized that there exist huge opportunities where both Canada and Cuba can work constructively together on a wide range of issue areas, including trade, tourism, energy and people-to-people contacts.

The next step is for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to undertake an official visit to Havana in the coming months. That, of course, would set the stage for a prime ministerial visit to Cuba — or a visit by a senior-ranking Cuban government official (Raul Castro?) to Ottawa in the near term.

But as former prime minister Jean Chrétien found out during his own April 1998 visit to Cuba, it makes no sense to press the Cubans hard on the human rights front or to attach certain conditions to a continued warming in bilateral relations. Yes, we should raise the issue of democratization and respect for political rights and freedoms, but if we hope to influence them here we should do so in a respectful and non-accusatory manner (and without preconditions).

Canada could also earn some diplomatic credit with its Cuban friends (and build stronger linkages with the Argentines, Brazilians and Mexicans) by pushing U.S. President Barack Obama on an anti-Cuba bill passed by the Florida state legislature in March. Harper should firmly ask Obama if there is any way that this counterproductive bill can be quashed. The offending legislation was sponsored by Miami Republican lawmakers determined to punish the Cubans by restricting state and local governments from signing procurement contracts with any companies that do business with Cuba and Syria. Both countries still remain on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The point here is not only to prevent Florida taxpayers from supporting companies that have commercial relations with Havana, but to compel those same companies from operating and investing in Cuba. In a word: it’s about “internationalizing” the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba — which has always been seen in Washington as the key instrument for removing the Castros from power.

Clearly, if this bill is signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott, it could have negative repercussions for Canadian companies bidding on contracts in the sunshine state.

But the constitutionality of such a bill is seriously in doubt, since only the federal government (and Congress) in Washington has the legislative competence to conduct foreign policy (and impose sanctions). And it is well-established that state and local governments are constitutionally prohibited from setting policy that conflicts with federal law-making responsibilities. A similar law in Massachusetts — which sought to limit state businesses from dealing with companies inking commercial deals with rights-abusing Burma — was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

Canada could enhance its position and prestige in the hemisphere by standing up to the Americans on Cuba. Accordingly, it should seek Cuba’s presence at the next Americas summit, should there be one.

While most of what Fidel Castro said in early April can be ignored, he was right about highlighting the constructive engagement approach of former Canadian prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien toward Cuba. Indeed, we need to jettison ideologically tinged rhetoric and focus on positive interaction, co-operative dialogue and commercial exchange.

To be sure, one of the keys to Canada opening up the door to wider and deeper relations with the Americas has to involve Cuba. Taking up the question of Cuba’s importance in the region is a good place for Stephen Harper to begin.

Peter McKenna is professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island and the editor of the forthcoming book, Canada Looks South: In Search of an America’s Strategy.

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Cuba’s World Heritage Sites

By Arch Ritter

Havana Fortifications, by Natascha Chaviano, 1997

I think of Old Havana almost every day when I walk over the gates in the Hartwell Locks of the Rideau Canal on my way to Carleton University. This is because the Rideau Canal and its Fortifications, like Old Havana and its Fortifications, is a fully certified “World Heritage Site”!  The Rideau Canal was built in 1834 to provide a secure water route from Montreal to Lake Ontario – secure against the United States, which had just been defeated in the War of 1812 when it tried to capture Canada. The Havana Fortifications were designed to secure the harbor and the Armada against pirates and the British – who in fact had succeeded in capturing Havana in 1762 (see the second last picture below.).

Rideau Canal entering the Ottawa River

Having lived beside the Rideau Canal system in Kingston and Ottawa for over half a century, I took it for granted but was pleasantly surprised when it received World Heritage (WH) status. But in thinking further, perhaps the WH designations have not been debased – at least not in the case of the Canal, which is an amazing piece of 19th century engineering. It was built by British tax-payers, English military engineers, Scottish stone-masons, and Irish navies.  It has been in active service from 1840 to the present. Its sister canal is the Caledonian Canal in Scotland.

Cuba has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The jewel in the crown of course is Old Havana, which is undoubtedly one of the historical wonders of the Western Hemisphere. The work of the “Historian of Havana”, Eusebio Leal, in preserving and reviving the old city is outstanding and perhaps underappreciated. I have visited only a few of the other WH sites in Cuba, so I will not venture any commentaries on the possible debasement of standards in the acceptance of such sites on the part of UNESCO. (One suspects that as more and more sites receive the WH designation, the standards may decline.) Trinidad and Viñales, are destinations for many visitors to Cuba and certainly worth seeing. The inclusion Camaguey and Cienfuegos historic centers was a surprise for me. I have not yet been to the other sites so I will not comment.

Here is a listing of the World Heritage Sites, hyperlinked to the relevant UNESCO web pages

There are also three additional sites in the process of proposal or submission to UNESCO.

Cuba seems to have done very well relative to other Latin American countries in having sites granted the WH status. Only Mexico with 31 and Brazil with 18 have more such sites. Otherwise, the countries with the most designations are the larger European countries with long histories such as the UK with 29 WH sites, France with 37, Germany 37, Italy 46 and Spain 37. The United States has a mere 21 WH sites while Canada has 15. The process for obtaining UNESCO designation appears to be rigorous and impartial (See the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.) However, I suspect that the campaigning by national governments to have their sites nominated and accepted is an important factor as well.

Is there an economic value to having sites receive the UNESCO World Heritage designation? Certainly tourist promotion and foreign exchange earnings are perhaps the most obvious economic benefit. Travelers pay attention to the designation and often conclude that sites with the designation are worth visiting. I at one time thought that it would be an interesting challenge to visit all 936 UNESCO sites during my life. If life and finances were infinite I would definitely do so. I am currently at # 97 so I might not make it all the way. However, I will definitely try to visit all of Cuba’s WH sites.

A second benefit is that UNESCO requires that any site with the WH designation has to be taken well maintained. This provides a useful incentive to preserve cultural sites and protecting natural sites. Greater international and national attention to the cultural and physical sites can only be positive.

 Havana Fortifications Castillo de la Fuerza

Fortaleza de San Carlos de La Cabana, La Habana

“His Britannic Majesty’s Land Forces Taking Possession of Havannah (sic.), August 14, 1762 and Sloops of War Assisting to Open the Booms” Artist: Philip Orsbridge.    Less than a year after Havana was captured by the British in the Seven Years War it was returned to Spain in exchange for Florida by the Treaty of Paris. By the same treaty, France chose to retain Guadalupe and Martinique in exchange for Quebec which went to the British.

Living History at Fort Henry Kingston

 

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Special Section of the Journal “Canadian Foreign Policy”: The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges,

A publication appeared in 2010 on Canda-Cuba Relations. It is now hyper-linked in this Special Edition of Canadian Foreign Policy Volume 16 Issue 1; Spring 2010 edited by Professor Lana Wylie. Political Science, McMaster University, Hamilton Canada. The journal is produced by the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa. This issue is a bi-national production with Cuban authors as well as Canadians. Summaries of the articles are summarized below. The complete essays are available in the hyper-linked source above.

SPECIAL SECTION - The Politics of Canada-Cuba Relations: Emerging Possibilities and Diverse Challenges

 

INTRODUCTION

SHIFTING GROUND: CONSIDERING THE NEW REALITIES IN THE CANADIAN-CUBAN RELATIONSHIP

The articles in this issue of Canadian Foreign Policy consider the current relationship as well as survey the history of Canada’s association with Cuba, touching on the highs and lows of the relationship and making suggestions about the future direction of Ottawa’s policy toward the island state. In selecting the articles that would appear in this issue, the editorial team at the journal and myself, as special editor for this issue, strove to ensure that the issue reflected a range of approaches and perspectives. The nine scholars who penned the following articles thus write from the perspective of six different disciplines: Geography, Political Science, History, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Business, and Economics. Even more interestingly, they tackle the relationship from both the Canadian and the Cuban perspectives, and bring fresh epistemological approaches to the study of the issues.

Peter McKenna, John Kirk, and Archibald Ritter are well-established Canadian scholars with careers that have been  devoted to the relationship. Not only have each of them spent much time in Havana, but they have done so in many capacities, from being visiting scholars at the University of Havana to advising the Canadian government about the direction of policy. In this issue they give us important perspectives on how the history of Canada’s approach toward Cuba is likely to shape the current direction of policy. The various approaches taken by Heather Nicol, Calum McNeil, and Julia Sagebien and Paolo Spadoni both challenge established ways of making sense of the relationship and complement the perspectives taken in other articles of the issue.  Each of these scholars has contributed much toward our knowledge  of Cuba, and in this issue they make crucial observations about the  various ways in which we have to come to understand the relationship. However, it was especially important that an issue devoted to furthering our understanding of the Canadian-Cuban  relationship reflect on it from both the Canadian and Cuban  perspectives. Luis René Fernández Tabío and Raúl Rodríguez help  us appreciate the view from Cuba. The two articles by the Cuban  contributors further demonstrate that what Canadians take as  given facts about Cuba, or about Cuba’s relationship with Canada, are notsettled at all.

CANADA AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION: DEFINING THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 1959-1962 RAÚL RODRÍGUEZ RODRÍGUEZ

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 was a turning point in the history of the Cuban republic; a new Cuban government started a process of socio-economic and political transformations. The initial reaction of the United States government—with the additional support of the Cuban propertied class—led to the deterioration of  the United States-Cuba bilateral relation.

As the US economic sanctions were instituted, the Cuban government turned to other Western states, Canada among them, to try to minimize the economic impact of US policy. Canada’s export-oriented economy was poised to benefit from the new  opportunities offered by the Cuban market, and Cuba offered  Canada a means to assert its sovereignty by forging an independent  foreign policy stance. Canada was forced to observe  restraint and allegiance to its NATO partners, and especially to its closest ally, the United States—the state most hostile to the outcome of the Revolution in the context of Cold War. This complex scenario started to unfold in 1959, and was fraught with challenges and opportunities for Canada Cuba bilateral relations.

THE CHRÉTIEN YEARS:EVALUATING ‘CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT’     PETER MCKENNA AND JOHN M. KIRK

For most of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s ten years in office, his approach toward revolutionary Cuba was predicated on a policy of constructive engagement, or principled pragmatism. The piece begins by outlining the nature and extent of Canada-Cuba engagement, exchange, and dialogue during the Chrétien period. The article will then identify what worked in terms of bilateral relations and what did not, and in light of the Chrétien highs and lows, it will highlight the key lessons learned and explain why. Lastly, it will conclude with a series of policy recommendations for Canadian governments (current and future) to contemplate if Ottawa—especially given the changing United States-Cuba dynamic—hopes to enhance and strengthen ties with a post-Fidel Cuba.

CANADA-CUBA RELATIONS: AN AMBIVALENT MEDIA AND POLICY     HEATHER NICOL

This study examines Canadian newspapers and Parliamentary texts dating from 2000 to 2009. It suggests that there is, and has been, a consistent relationship between media portrayal of Cuba issues since the mid-1990s, but that in recent years as Canada’s  certainty of, and support for, Cuba has declined, a contradictory press facilitates an ambivalence towards Cuba that reflects the current state of Canada-Cuba relations.

Since 2000, less than one percent of all newspaper articles published in all Canadian major dailies have discussed Cuba. This lack of media coverage is striking, considering that Canadian companies have invested largely in Cuba and that Canadians have been among the largest groups of vacationers to the island for quite  some time. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has invested millions in official development assistance, while the current Conservative Government plays upon human rights issues on the island and the inherent failures of former rounds of Canadian constructive engagement to resolve these. The maintenance of normalized relations with Cuba has been  consistently challenged in Parliamentary debates by Conservative MPs. The latter have linked human rights abuses on the island with an increasingly critical approach to Canada’s traditional policy of constructive engagement.

CANADA’S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA, 1990 TO 2010 AND BEYOND     ARCHIBALD R. M. RITTER

During the Colonial era, from Independence to 1959 and throughout the regimes of Presidents Fidel and Raúl Castro, Canada and Cuba have maintained a normal and mutually beneficial economic relationship. During the first half of the 1990s, this relationship was invaluable for Cuba as it adjusted to the loss of Soviet subsidization and to its disconnection from the former Soviet Bloc. In these years, Canadian participants were enthusiastic and optimistic about future economic relations. However, in the 2000s this was replaced by greater realism and some skepticism concerning the possibilities for deepening economic interaction.

Following a brief review of the evolving relationship from 1959 to 1990, the nature of the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba is analyzed in more detail for the 1990 to 2009 era. The future economic relationship is then explored, focusing on Cuba’s economic recovery and policy environment, and the probable impacts of normalization with the United States.

CANADIAN–CUBAN ECONOMIC RELATIONS: THE  RECOGNITION AND RESPECT OF DIFFERENCE      LUIS RENÉ FERNÁNDEZ TABÍO

Despite geopolitical and ideological obstacles, the economic relationship between Canada and Cuba has, for the most part, been characterized as a prosperous and positive exchange for the two countries and its people over time. This paper suggests that Canadian-Cuban relations hold the potential to function within a different framework as a kind of new paradigm for North-South relations in the Western hemisphere in the face of US hegemony and its confrontational policy toward Cuba. With Canada and Cuba having benefited from a practice of good business, perhaps this exchange has provided a stable and prosperous base for the two nations to critically analyze structures to build upon for future relations. The significance of this relationship could be explained as a kind of mutual understanding the two have in the making of a new history, the outcome of the two countries having shared a common geographic position in relation to the United States.

TO ENGAGE OR NOT TO ENGAGE: AN (A) EFFECTIVE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF A POLICY OF ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA     CALUM MCNEIL

This paper seeks to explore the role of emotion in Canadian and American policy toward Cuba, with specific consideration of the emotional and normative dynamics associated Canadian-Cuban policy during the 1990s, and with the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996. A key point of comparison of this analysis is the assumption shared by both Canadian and American policy toward Cuba that regime change is inevitable, and that it will invariably correspond to the norms predominant in the domestic political systems of both states. It is my contention that a consideration of emotion allows us to gain insight into the decision-making behaviour in both states—and amongst the mass publics contained within them. It also allows us a means to more fully understand the possible particularities that distinguish the rational calculus of one state’s policies from another. By broadening our understanding of these, I illustrate how a policy of engagement is preferable to either embargo or constructive engagement.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CUBA?    JULIA SAGEBIEN AND PAOLO SPADONI

The search for truth in and about Cuba is an elusive and puzzling pursuit primarily affected by: 1) competing narratives of contested events; 2) the emotional distress that accompanies the experience of cognitive dissonance; 3) the Cuban cultural propensity towards vehement disagreement; and 4) the syncretic capacity of Cubans to inhabit several worlds at the same time. Canadian Cuba observers must strive to develop a balanced understanding of these competing narratives about Cuba and of the people

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Baranyi and Legler: “Canada’s long engagement with Cuba: paradoxes and possibilities”

By Thomas LEGLER y Stephen BARANYI, Universidad Iberoamericana (México) y Universidad de Ottawa (Canadá)

América Latina Hoy, 52, 2009, pp. 131-146; Canada’s long engagement with Cuba, paradoxes and possibilities

Professors Legler and Baranyi have produced an interesting analysis of Canadian relations with Cuba and the possible implications for the European Union and the United States which somehow I missed a few years ago. A Spanish language version of  full document is hyper-linked above. Unfortunately it is not available in English.  Here is the Abstract in English however.

ABSTRACT: The European Union, Latin America and even the United States have each initiated distinct processes of dialogue with Cuba. What relevant lessons can be drawn from Canada’s long history of engagement with the Revolution? This article documents the evolution of Canada-Cuba relations since the 1940s, focusing on the ups and downs of these relations since a policy of «constructive engagement» was launched in the mid-1990s. It argues that this approach (in its many guises) has not had a major influence on the liberalization of Cuban politics. Moreover, what little influence Canada had during the «Special Period» has diminished with the economic recovery and the diversification of Cuba’s external relations over the past decade. As such, the authors conclude that the most appropriate strategy for Canada and other «engagers» is to take a coordinated, long-term approach of supporting a variety of endogenous change processes inside Cuba. A realistic strategy should include ongoing but low-profile dialogue with the current regime, cooperation with a wide range of possible reformers within and beyond the state, and support for broader social changes through trade, foreign investment, tourism, academic and cultural exchanges.


ThomasLegler

Stephen baranyi

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