Tag Archives: US-Cuba Normalization

BIDEN SHOULD PURSUE A FULL ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA

Responsible Statecraft, April 15, 2021
By Arturo Lopez-Levy

Original Article: Engagement with Cuba

The United States needs a fundamentally different policy towards a post-Castro Cuba than the one applied for the last four years. Engagement is the best long-term strategy to peel Havana away from Washington’s rivals in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Caracas. It is also the optimal choice to signal American goodwill to the new leaders of post-Castro Cuba and put the onus on them. 

President Biden should restart normalization efforts not only because the retreat from normalization falls squarely at the feet of the Trump administration, but also because he understands — as his predecessor did not — how to conduct a great power bilateral relationship with a smaller neighbor. Estrangement from the United States was not the Cuban government’s choice, which embraced engagement long before the last embers of the Cold War had cooled.

What Happened after Obama’s opening towards Cuba?

A new and effective engagement policy requires an honest assessment of what happened between Cuba, the Cuban American community, and U.S.-Cuba relations after President Obama launched his full engagement approach in 2014. The Cuban government responded positively to the first African American president’s offers of negotiation. Of course, Cuban officials could have done more, particularly regarding reconciliation with the Cuban American community, but the two countries signed 22 important agreements. President Obama was welcomed in Havana by Raúl Castro. In his memoirs, Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama’s rapprochement, describes how, in a relative short time, Cuba and the United States built a partnership removing many obstacles to a comprehensive interaction between the two societies.

In 2016, President Obama visited Cuba with a focus on transcending the traumas of history and a policy of sanctions repudiated by the overwhelming majority of the international community. The visit was welcomed by almost every segment of Cuban civil society. During this visit, the widespread hope about a new era rose above the resentment expressed toward President Obama by the most radical elements of the Cuban Communist Party. The Cuban Catholic Church, the main protestant denominations, and the Jewish Community welcomed an approach that improved their chances for close relations with their brothers and sisters in faith in the United States. At the same time, Cuba’s emerging private sectors received tangible benefits and profits from the inflow of American visitors.

Unsurprisingly, Trump and his ally, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), cluelessly deviated from Secretary Henry Kissinger’s golden rule for negotiation with Cuba: “Behave chivalrously; do it like a big boy, not like a shyster.” Most of the new sanctions against Cuba were implemented amid the 2020 electoral race. Distrust in Cuba about Obama’s rapprochement as a mere change of imperial tactics, aired by the most radical Cuban left, was confirmed by Secretary of State Pompeo’s last minute gratuitous return of Cuba to the State Department list of state sponsors of terror. This damage has made engagement considerably more difficult and in need of some dramatic gesture in line with the dignity of a democratic great power.

Trump didn’t achieve anything in Havana, but his supporters’ disinformation campaign presenting President Obama as an appeaser touched some nerves within the Cuban American community. By stigmatizing any supporter of Obama-Biden’s engagement as a Castro sympathizer, Trump and Rubio rang the bells of McCarthyism and conspiracy theories within the Latino community. The Democratic Party was portrayed as a communist beachhead. 

By avoiding the discussion about the merits of Obama’s engagement policies, Florida Democrats surrendered a significant political space to Trump’s narrative. Trump succeeded without easing any migration restriction for Cubans, Venezuelans, or Nicaraguans. Using his stay in Mexico anti-immigration policy, Trump kept thousands of Cuban refugees from entering the United States, while increasing the number of deportations to the same archipelago Senator Rubio compared to Hitler’s Germany in senseless analogies. 

A win-win engagement

There is no rationale to argue in favor of half-measure engagement if the decision is to engage. U.S. sanctions against Cuba are not a human rights policy but a violation of the very human rights principles they purport to support. Biden’s policy towards Cuba must eliminate all the counterproductive sanctions contrary to international law and must attempt to implement full normalization of relations with Cuba predicated on Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive of October 2016. 

Adopting a full package of dialogue and rapprochement will multiply the impact of engagement measures in Cuba. For example, it makes no sense to ease travel to Cuba while preventing U.S. airlines from traveling to other cities but Havana. Moreover, given the notoriously electoral nature of the Trump administration’s hostility towards Cuba, it makes no sense to treat Trump’s actions as standard procedure while trying to change U.S. policies which have applied tightened sanctions for 25-years under the Helms-Burton Act’s imperial image.

In public diplomacy, a drastic cut from Trump’s policies will be better for American interests. U.S. diplomats will be in a better negotiating position if their marching orders are seen by Cubans as reflecting a full commitment to engagement. This perception will allow issue-linkage strategies when dealing with the Cuban government. It will also encourage the Cuban government on the path of reforms that are absolutely needed to overcome the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. A summer immigration crisis with thousands of Cubans trying to reach the American or Mexican shores in road to the U.S. southern border is not improbable. Is this in the interest of the Biden administration?

A Biden’s commitment to normalcy in U.S.-Cuba relations will expose all Cuban government’s self-limitations versus the U.S. government’s propensity to engage and respect international norms. A full engagement disposition will attract to the U.S. side the goodwill of Western allies like Canada, the European Union, and most of Latin America. Such an approach might even have spillovers in Cuba’s attitude towards a negotiated solution to the Venezuelan conundrum. After four years of a policy of America First, translated as America Only, it will be an act of productive humility to show some deference to the U.S. allies.

From a political perspective, President Biden should be reminded about his advice to Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2011 that “there’s no sense dying on a small cross.” The opposition by radical exiles will be the same if the president attempts a partial or a full normalization. Concurrently, the political benefits of engagement would multiply the sooner and the more comprehensive the rapprochement policy is adopted. 

Of course, normalization is a tango for two. If the Cuban government wants to reestablish lasting relations effectively with the United States, it must behave as a country, not as a revolutionary cause. It is in Cuba’s national interest to reduce as much as possible the relevance of the Cuban right-wing radicals in the swing state of Florida. This will be possible by reducing the bases for their grievances and opening economic opportunities for the Cuban diaspora. A mixed economy with rule of law and a more committed Cuban human rights policy is in the interests of Cuban society, regardless of what the United States does or says.

Engaging Cuba is not a favor to the Cuban Communist Party. By opening trade and travel to the island and opening American doors to as many Cubans as possible, the United States will influence how the Cuban people view their society and its place in the world. Developing business ties between the two countries, allowing Cubans to visit, work, and study in the United States, and easing visa restrictions as the Obama administration did, will increase the information flows between Cuba and the outside world.

U.S. interests in Cuba are advancing a gradual, peaceful, and well-ordered transition to a market economy and eventually a pluralistic democracy. Ideology aside, such an outcome is also optimal for the majority of Cubans. If there is a marketization of the Cuban economy, more openness and contacts between the Cuban people and its diasporas, and close ties with the United States, it will most likely happen. Not overnight, but it will happen faster and with better results than 60 years of sanctions and siege.

Arturo Lopez-Levy

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ON ANNIVERSARY OF OBAMA VISIT, CUBANS FRET OVER WHETHER BIDEN WILL RESUME DETENTE

Reuters, March 19, 20213:11 By Reuters Staff

Original Article

HAVANA (Reuters) – Five years after former U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Havana, many Cubans hope Joe Biden will also pursue detente but fret he will not do so as energetically after recent White House announcements.

Obama visited Havana in March 2016, the first trip by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years. It was the culmination of a diplomatic opening towards the Communist-run country, seeking to put an end to years of Cold War-era hostility.

His successor Donald Trump unraveled that detente and tightened the crippling U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, arguing that he would force democratic change.

Biden, who was vice president under Obama, vowed during his campaign to reverse Trump’s policy shifts that “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”

But the White House said earlier this month a broader Cuba policy shift was not currently among Biden’s top priorities, even if it was “carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

“I am very concerned that Biden will not continue in the same vein as Obama and will allow himself to be influenced by the politics of Cubans in Miami,” said retired Cuban economist Ileana Yarza.

Trump may have lost last year’s election but he did win the swing state of Florida, in part due to a Republican campaign to paint Biden as in hock to the radical left, a charge that hit home with the state’s large Cuban-American population.

The Cuban economy is now suffering its worst crisis since the fall of former benefactor the Soviet Union, partly due to a slew of new U.S. sanctions under Trump which ended cruises to Havana, limited flights, reduced remittances and dampened foreign investment.

Families separated by the Florida Straits are more divided than ever after he reduced the Havana embassy to skeletal staffing, following a series of unexplained illnesses among diplomats. Consular services for Cubans have been moved to third countries.

Sarah Batista, who runs a souvenir crafts shop in Old Havana, said private entrepreneurs like her had especially benefited from the detente and ensuing tourism boom.  “With Trump, please! Everything has been declining, you know? And now with the pandemic it is even more so,” she said.  “Hopefully, with this other president (Biden), we can have the same luck and the same opportunity that we had with Obama.”

The U.S. sanctions have hurt a state-run economy already smarting from its own inefficiencies and a decline in aid from ally Venezuela.   Proponents of the sanctions say it is these and the resulting economic squeeze that have forced Cuba to pick up market-style reforms once again lately. Critics underscore the cost to a population dealing with shortages of basic goods like food and medicine.

Analysts say it is still early days and Biden has many more pressing foreign policy issues after four years of the turbulent Trump presidency. But for Cubans, every extra day counts.

“In fact, already, the policies aren’t the same because there are no new sanctions,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.  “But everything that the previous (Trump) administration did that stands in the way of a return to the path of normalization has not begun to be reversed.”

Black flags outside the US Embassy in Havana, placed there by the Cuban Government, 1990s
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Nuevo Libro: 90 MILLAS. RELACIONES ECONÓMICAS CUBA-ESTADOS UNIDOS, 1898-2020

Editores: Azcona Pastor, José Manuel, y Santamaría García, Antonio.

Ficha técnica

Nº de páginas:                       471

Editorial:                               S.L. – DYKINSON

ISBN:                                     9788413772882

Año de edición:                     2021

Plaza de edición:                   ESPAÑA

Fecha de lanzamiento:         05/03/2021

COMPRAR LIBRO: 90 MILLAS

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO

Las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos han estado determinadas por el embargo a la isla que el gobierno de Washington estableció tras el triunfo de la revolución en 1959. Esa política no ha cambiado, aunque ha sufrido endurecimientos y también flexibilizaciones. Al llegar Barack Obama a la Casa Blanca inició una fase de normalización, coincidiendo con el avance de las reformas aperturistas en la Gran Antilla, iniciadas en la década de 1990, pero hasta hace poco discontinuas. Sin embargo, para ello empleó los recursos de relajación de las medidas que ofrecen las propias leyes del embargo. Es decir, sin modificarlo, lo que ha permitido a su sucesor, Donald Trump, restablecerlas en su versión más dura. Este libro estudia el problema de los vínculos entre los dos países desde comienzos del siglo XX desde la perspectiva de lo económico, que fue razón esencial de los mismos, y muestra cómo la falta de un sentido de estado y de conformidad con la influencia tuvo en la constitución de otro –Estados Unidos ocupó Cuba entre 1898 y 1902, tras su guerra de independencia– implicó dejarlas al juego de intereses particulares que rige el funcionamiento del sistema político norteamericano y que tal defecto los ha dotado de un asimetría que ha prevalecido a los cambios de coyuntura y circunstancias desde entonces, al triunfo de la revolución, al fin de la Guerra Fría.

INDICE GENERAL

Capítulo I. 90 millas. Relaciones económicas Cuba-Estados Unidos en perspectiva histórica. Antonio Santamaría García; José Manuel Azcona Pastor

Capítulo II. Avance y retroceso de los capitales norteamericanos en la industria cubana del azúcar, 1890-1959. Alejandro García Álvarez

Capítulo III. Proteccionismo y restricción de la oferta: los orígenes de los controles de producción de azúcar en Cuba y la relación comercial con Estados Unidos, 1921-193. Alan D. Dye

Capítulo IV. Ajustes al modelo de dominación: la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba tras la revolución de 1933. Oscar Zanetti Lecuona

Capítulo V. “Cuba sería un cementerio de deudores”. El problema de la moratoria en la década de 1930. Julio César Guanche

Capítulo VI. El nacionalismo moderado cubano, 1920-1960. Políticas económicas y relaciones con Estados Unidos. Jorge I. Domínguez

Capítulo VII. Relaciones comerciales azucareras Cuba-Estados Unidos, 1902-1960. Jorge Pérez-López

Capítulo VIII. Las relaciones Cuba-Estados Unidos desde la revolución hasta el periodo especial.Victor Bulmer-Thomas

Capítulo IX. Failed on all counts. El embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Andrew Zimbalist

Capítulo X. La ventana de oportunidad que se abrió y se cerró: historia de la normalización de relaciones Estados Unidos-Cuba. Carmelo Mesa-Lago

Capítulo XI. El bloqueo económico en el contexto de las agresiones de Estados Unidos contra Cuba. Historia no contada y evolución reciente.José Luis Rodríguez

Capítulo XIII. Cuba-Estados Unidos: la gestión de las empresas cubanas. Ileana Díaz Fernández

Capítulo XIV. Viajes, remesas y trabajo por cuenta propia. Relaciones económicas entre los cubanos emigrados y su país de origen.Jorge Duany

Capítulo XV. El papel de los visitantes de Estados Unidos en la economía cubana. Historia y realidad. Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva; José Luis Perelló Cabrera

COMPRAR LIBRO: 90 MILLAS

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Wall Street Journal Editorial, BIDEN SHOULD RETURN TO ENGAGEMENT WITH CUBA

It would benefit ordinary Cubans and put the onus on the regime to respond.

By Editorial Board , Wall Street Journal

March 11, 2021, 8:00 a.m. EST

Original Article: Engagement with Cuba

USA and CUBA

House Democrats are reportedly pressing President Joe Biden to reverse U.S. policy on Cuba once again, returning to the detente that prevailed before Donald Trump took office. Biden should indeed take the first steps toward renewed openness — and put the onus on Cuba’s Communist leaders to respond.

As with so many of his predecessor’s policies, Trump was quick to declare the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba a “bad deal” and began dismantling it wholesale, imposing or re-imposing more than 200 restrictions on travel, trade, and financial and diplomatic ties. The clampdown won Trump votes in southern Florida, but by almost any other measure it failed. Cuba’s Communist regime remains firmly entrenched. If anything, it’s grown even more dependent on U.S. rivals Venezuela, Russia and China. Hardliners in Havana have continued to crack down on dissent. Cuban entrepreneurs flourished when Americans were allowed to visit the island, but the combined impact of revived U.S. restrictions and the pandemic have left them struggling.

None of this serves U.S. interests. Under Obama, the U.S. and Cuba struck more than 20 agreements that addressed U.S. security concerns, on issues ranging from counter-narcotics to the environment. Biden should open the door to renewing such cooperation.

That will require lifting Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which the Trump administration imposed in its closing days with no real justification. Biden will also need to restore frayed diplomatic ties — appointing an ambassador, staffing up the U.S. embassy (taking additional security precautions while the cause of a mysterious illness that struck U.S. diplomats in recent years remains under investigation), and resuming consular services so Cubans can travel to the U.S. again. The two sides should cooperate on public health to combat the pandemic and restart talks on security issues.

Further opening should focus for now on improving the lives of Cubans on and off the island. The administration should lift restrictions on remittances. And it should allow travel to the island, because American visitors are good for local enterprise. That means permitting flights to cities other than Havana and people-to-people exchanges, while drawing up a shorter “restricted list” of entities with which Americans are forbidden to do business.

Cuba shouldn’t expect the U.S. to lift more targeted sanctions, however, let alone the decades-old embargo — whose provisions are now codified into U.S. law — unless it begins to move, too. Among other things, that means addressing certified claims for property seized after the 1959 revolution, now estimated at nearly $9 billion with interest. Cuba’s leaders should play a constructive role in resolving the Venezuelan crisis and improve their record on human rights at home. The government has recently taken some steps to rationalize the country’s currency system and promote the private sector, but should do more to open the economy to outside investment. The Communist Party transition next month, when 89-year-old Raul Castro is scheduled to step down, offers a moment for the regime to affirm its intention to reform.

Stubborn and suspicious as they may be, Cuba’s leaders should remember two things. First, all these measures are in their nation’s own best interests. Second, any thaw in relations will be temporary unless Biden can point to results. The Cuban regime made a big mistake in failing to build on Obama’s initiative, leading many in the U.S. to conclude that engagement was pointless. The next detente will fail unless it benefits Americans and Cubans alike.

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CUBAN AMERICAN BUSINESS LEADERS CALL ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND CUBAN GOVERNMENT TO MAKE ENGAGEMENT RESILIENT TO POLITICAL CYCLES

February 16, 2021
Contact: Ricardo Herrero
 C
In a newly published policy paper, the Cuba Study Group cites engagement as the best way to advance U.S. national interests, reassert regional leadership, and promote freer, more prosperous future for Cuban people


*Download the policy paper in English and Spanish versions.* 


Washington/Miami – The Cuba Study Group, a non-partisan organization comprised of Cuban-American business leaders and young professionals, published a policy paper on Tuesday calling renewed diplomatic engagement with Cuba vital to advancing U.S. national interests and to promoting a freer, more prosperous future for the Cuban people. The policy paper, delivered Tuesday morning to the White House, is the first comprehensive policy vision delivered to the Biden Administration by a prominent Cuban American organization, and challenges both the United States and Cuban governments to “strive to make the normalization of relations resilient in order to insulate progress from unpredictable political cycles.” 

The policy recommendations come just two weeks after the White House asserted that its efforts on Cuba policy will be grounded in support for democracy and human rights, and that Cuban-Americans are the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba. The white paper, titled U.S.-Cuba Relations in the Biden Era: A Case for Making Engagement Resilient as a Means of Providing Long-Term Support for the Cuban People, which can be downloaded in English and Spanish versions on our website at www.cubastudygroup.org, calls for a new approach at engagement that puts long-term support for the Cuban people, and their well-being, at the center of U.S.-Cuba relations

“As the new Administration undertakes a review of standing Cuba policies, it’s important to communicate that simply reversing Trump era actions that unduly harmed the Cuban people during the last four years won’t be enough,” said Carlos Saladrigas, Chairman of the Cuba Study Group. “We believe the Cuban people at home and abroad hold the keys to more resilient relations between the United States and Cuba, and should be seen as partners in this effort. That means both governments must take proactive steps to strengthen ties between their nations’ civil societies and private sectors over the next four years. Only through deep and transparent socio-economic bonds will we be able to protect progress toward normalization against cyclical political winds.”

The policy paper reaffirms that the United States should continue to highlight Cuba’s democratic failings and continue to support actors across the Cuban spectrum working to ensure that greater economic and civic freedoms are guaranteed on the island. It cautions, however, that “strident denunciations of the failures of communism and absolutist conditions for sanctions relief are feeble substitutes for robust diplomacy” like the kind needed to empower the Cuban people to shape their own destinies.

The policy paper delineates three specific tracks:

  1. Restoring Support for the Cuban People as a Policy Priority and Rebuilding Trust
  2. Tackling the “Tough Stuff” and Making Normalization Stick Through High-Level, Direct Diplomacy
  3. Responding to Openness with Openness 

The first track lays out detailed policy recommendations for rolling back harmful Trump-era policies, as well as steps for restoring support for the Cuban private sector, resuming public health cooperation, restarting fundamental diplomatic functions, rebuilding trust, and better engaging Cuban-Americans as partners. The second recommends the designation of a special representative to tackle long unresolved disputes and to move forward on the negotiation of cooperation agreements. The track third argues for further openness to steps taken by the Cuban government, which has begun important reforms such as ending its dual currency and its recent expansion of the private sector. However, the Cuban government will need to recognize greater rights for its citizens to help cement progress and increase congressional support for further action on counterproductive Cuba sanctions or other targeted assistance. 

“While the Cuban government was slow to respond to many of the opportunities provided by renewed diplomatic relations in 2014, the Cuban people themselves made significant progress expanding the island’s nascent private sector and civil society,” added Ricardo Herrero, CSG Executive Director. “Cuban-Americans are ready to be constructive partners, and have long contributed to the future of the island. The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to act, and to do so boldly, but Cuba must also do its part. Failure to lock in significant progress during the next four years could entrench another generation on both sides of the Florida Straits into the patterns of hostility and suspicion that have defined most of the past seven decades.”

“Cuban-Americans are clamoring for a legal framework that makes it possible to openly work with and invest alongside Cuban entrepreneurs, not only to help them succeed individually but also to bolster the island’s nascent private sector and improve the island’s economy,” added Karina Duquesne, a Cuba Study Group Young Professional Member and corporate attorney. “Now that Cuba has opened up much of its economy to private enterprise, enabling Cuban entrepreneurs to open bank accounts in the United States and authorizing American companies to provide business-to-business services to those entrepreneurs would help build a community of stakeholders vital to sustaining this new era of engagement.”

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BIDEN SHOULD ACT FAST ON CUBA

By William M. LeoGrande

Special to the Sun Sentinel |

Jan 28, 2021 at 10:09 AM

Original Article: Biden Should Act Fast on Cuba

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute ploys to poison the well of foreign relations with China, Iran and Cuba will force President Joe Biden to make repairing foreign policy a priority. China and Iran are intrinsically more important than Cuba, which poses no real threat to the United States. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for the president to move quickly to re-engage with Cuba as he promised during the campaign.

Cuba is a high-profile foreign policy issue because it played such an out-sized role as a focal point of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Obama’s 2014 opening attracted global attention and praise as a historic achievement akin to President Richard Nixon’s opening to China. Quick action to re-engage with Cuba will send the message that Biden intends to have an active foreign policy, re-engaging with both allies and adversaries and rebuilding U.S. stature in the world.

Moreover, the humanitarian situation on the island justifies early action. The Trump administration has caused real hardship by blocking travel and the flow of remittances to Cuban families. If the new administration delays in fulfilling Biden’s campaign promise to reverse those sanctions, it will prolong the suffering of Cuban families unnecessarily.

Re-engagement is also the best way to support human rights. Although Cuban leaders have never been willing to make concessions about internal affairs in order to mollify Washington, human rights conditions in Cuba have been linked to U.S.-Cuban relations historically. When relations have improved, the human rights situation has improved as well; when relations have deteriorated, Cuban leaders’ heightened sense of threat has led to crackdowns on dissent. The best way to exert a positive influence on human rights in Cuba is to re-engage with the Cuban government while, at the same time, continuing to express our basic commitment to democracy and human rights.

The crisis in Venezuela poses another humanitarian challenge. The hardship endured by Venezuelans and the migration pressure on neighboring countries demands early attention.

President Trump’s failed policy of regime change has made matters worse, underscoring the reality that the only path back to democracy in Venezuela is through a negotiated political settlement. Given Cuba’s support for Nicolas Maduro’s government, Cuban cooperation will be necessary to achieve a Venezuelan settlement, just as it was necessary for ending the conflict in southern Africa in the 1980s. By re-engaging with Cuba sooner rather than later, the Biden administration can begin to create the conditions for progress in Venezuela.

Practically speaking, the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas, scheduled for late 2021 and hosted by the United States, is a decision-forcing event that will compel the new administration to formulate its policy toward Latin America, including Cuba. The summit will also provide an opportunity for President Biden to meet Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel — a meeting that would be more productive if the new administration has already taken steps to repair the damage done to relations by Trump.

Although the United States may not have as much at stake in relations with Cuba as it does elsewhere, the bilateral relationship offer a wide variety of opportunities for cooperation because Cuba is a near-neighbor. During President Obama’s last two years in office, the United States and Cuba signed 22 bilateral agreements on issue of mutual interests ranging from counter-narcotics to environmental protection.



Many contemporary foreign policy issues are transnational and can only be addressed through cooperation with our neighbors. On most of those issues, U.S. and Cuban interests coincide; significant progress can be made if Washington returns to a policy of engagement. For the Biden administration, delaying means delaying opportunities to advance U.S. interests.

Of all the foreign policy challenges that Biden faces, re-engaging with Cuba is among the easiest. The basic principles of re-engagement can be laid out quickly because they were well-defined in then-President Obama’s Oct. 14, 2016 policy directive.

Every sanction Trump imposed on Cuba was imposed unilaterally by executive authority, so they all can reversed the same way. Most could be retracted in a single package simply by returning the regulations that govern the U.S. embargo to their status on Jan. 20, 2017. A few of Trump’s actions will take longer to repair — removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and re-staffing the U.S. embassy in Havana. But much can be done in the meantime.

Since Biden’s election, Cuban leaders have expressed their interest in a better relationship based on cooperation and mutual respect. Washington should not wait for Havana to take the initiative. Trump broke off engagement with Cuba, so Biden should take the first steps to restore it — the sooner the better.

William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.

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UNITED STATES AGRICULTURE COALITION FOR CUBA ENCOURAGES BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO IMPROVE U.S. / CUBA AGRICULTURE RELATIONS

For Immediate Release January 14, 2021

Contact: Paul Johnson Phone: 773-814-2493; Email: usagcoalitionforcuba@gmail.com

Original Letter: USACC

United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Encourages Biden Administration to Improve U.S. / Cuba Agriculture Relations

The United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) today wrote to President-Elect Biden to urge a return to policies of engagement toward Cuba, for the sake of the U.S. national interest, to boost U.S. food exports to Cuba, and to support the development of beneficial relations between our countries’ agricultural sectors.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. President-Elect: The undersigned members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba congratulate you on your election victory and wish you every success in office.

We would like to offer our views on U.S. relations with our neighbors in Cuba.

We share your view that six decades of economic sanctions against Cuba have been ineffectual. Our sanctions hurt the Cuban people, limit American influence in Cuba, and antagonize friends and allies, while doing nothing to advance any U.S. interest.

A turn to policies of engagement will serve our national interest and benefit U.S. agriculture, which has long practiced many forms of engagement on a global scale. Freed of restrictions, we expect that ties between our agricultural sectors will produce important economic and humanitarian benefits and contribute to better relations between our peoples and governments. American strength in agricultural exports has been built over the years on the principle that all markets matter.

Cuba is an opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers: it imports $2 billion in food each year, less than ten percent from the United States. U.S. exports of potatoes, wheat, animal feed, dairy, poultry, rice, and other products stand to grow significantly.

U.S. farmers, businesses, private organizations, NGOs, and universities can work with Cuban counterparts on the challenges of increasing productivity, adapting to climate change, and building sound commercial strategies.

With Cuba now allowing its private sector to import and export, and also inviting foreign investment in private farm cooperatives, the opportunities for Americans to assist in the growth of that private sector have expanded

We offer these recommendations.

First, we urge you to resume efforts to normalize relations. We hope you make clear that neither our principles nor our interests are served by harming the Cuban economy and increasing hardship for the eleven million neighbors who live in it. We urge you to inform Congress that your Administration would welcome legislation to end the embargo entirely, should Congress choose to act.

Second, we urge early action to restore the Cuban Asset Control Regulations to those in place January 20, 2017 and to suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. These regulatory steps are important to U.S. agriculture, to business generally, and to any Americans seeking to make a positive difference. Recent experience shows that U.S. travelers propel growth across Cuba’s private sector, benefiting many thousands of Cuban families.

Third, we urge you to support legislation to put U.S. exporters on an equal footing with our competitors by allowing us to negotiate trade terms including private financial credit.

Fourth, we urge resuming full operation of our Embassy in Havana as health considerations permit. The lack of consular and other operations impedes travel, business, and effective diplomacy. A full Embassy staff, which we hope will include U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel, can support continued work on the 2016 agriculture memoranda of understanding, especially in plant and animal health, and to create conditions for two-way trade, including Cuban exports. American agriculture supports a Cuba policy based on our broad national interests, enabling citizens and business across our country to engage freely.

We are confident that such a course will have strong bipartisan support, and we urge you to take it.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

 USA Rice Federation

National Corn Growers Association

American Soybean Association

US Grains Council

U.S. Wheat Associates

National Sorghum Producers

National Potato Council

National Association of Wheat Growers

National Onion Association

National Turkey Federation

US Dry Bean Council

Keesling Farms-Chase,

Kansas Isbell Farms-England,

 Arkansas American Feed Industry

Michigan Agri-Business Association

 Minnesota Department of Agriculture

 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture

Kansas Wheat Commission

 Hoverson Farms-Larimore,

North Dakota Sietsema Farms, Allendale,

Michigan Allied Potato-Bakersfield, California

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BIDEN PLOTS CUBA RESET IN REBUKE OF TRUMP’S SANCTIONS

By Ben Bartenstein

Bloomberg, December 15, 2020, 11:00 a.m. EST

Original Article: Cuba Reset

President-elect Joe Biden’s team plans to bring the U.S. closer to normalized relations with Cuba, reversing many of the sanctions and regulations imposed during the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

That strategy includes reducing restrictions on travel, investment and remittances for the island nation that are perceived to disproportionately hurt Americans and ordinary Cubans, said the people, who requested anonymity because the new administration is still coming together. Other measures that target Cuba for human rights abuses would remain in place, the people said.

The prospect of a détente between Washington and Havana rekindles memories of the thaw that Biden helped champion during the Obama administration, when the two nations restored diplomatic ties that had been broken for decades following Fidel Castro’s rise to power.

But the president-elect is returning to an even messier scene: the Cuban economy is suffering its worst crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union amid fallout from Covid-19 and U.S. sanctions. At the same time, Cuban intelligence officers have helped prop up Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, allowing his regime to consolidate its grip on power in defiance of demands for free and fair elections.

With a packed domestic agenda, it’s unclear how quickly Biden will move on implementing his Cuba policy. Even if some changes happen early, the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown could delay the benefits of any measures that allow for greater travel to the island. It’s also unclear whether Biden will increase staffing at the U.S. embassy in Havana. The Trump administration pared back diplomatic operations after strange illnesses, including brain trauma, afflicted some U.S. diplomats and their families.

Biden said in October that the U.S. needed a new Cuba policy, though his team has been firm in condemning efforts by Havana to silence dissidents, including a recent raid on a house full of activists and artists.

The president-elect has also denounced Venezuela’s Maduro as a dictator. Just as the Trump administration connected Cuba and Venezuela policy, using sanctions as a tool intended to spur political change, Biden’s team may try to leverage a rapprochement in exchange for the Cubans reducing their presence in Venezuela and supporting a diplomatic resolution to the crisis there, according to the people.

Another complicating factor is Florida. While Biden’s advisers have criticized Trump’s Latin American policies for being heavily influenced by electoral politics, particularly the goal of winning the Sunshine State, they still face a sobering reality: The Democratic Party must defend a narrow House majority in 2022. Any policies that are perceived as easing pressure on Cuba and Venezuela without getting significant concessions from their left-wing governments could risk backlash at the polls.

For their part, investors are showing an early vote of confidence in Biden’s potential Cuba policy. The $43 million Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, which is geared toward Cuba and the Caribbean, has surged since the U.S. election.

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THE UNITED STATES AND CUBA: A NEW POLICY OF ENGAGEMENT

WASHINGTON- The Washington Office on Latin America and the Center for Democracy in the Americas 

December 17, 2020

Today the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) are releasing The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement,” a roadmap for how the Biden-Harris administration can implement a policy of engagement toward Cuba. Six years after President Barack Obama’s December 17, 2014 announcement that he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba, we continue to emphasize the importance of engagement to advance the interests of the U.S. and of the Cuban people. Engagement accomplished more in two years than the policy of hostility achieved in sixty, and is a more effective strategy to advance the cause of human rights, political liberty, and economic reform. Engagement will facilitate family ties, cultural exchange, and commercial relations, expanding the market for U.S. businesses, raising the standard of living for the Cuban people, and encouraging economic reform on the island. A new policy of engagement entails relatively little political risk and has the potential to mobilize a wide variety of constituencies in support. Our report expands on why Cuba should be a priority, why a variety of bipartisan stakeholders including the business community, Congress, and Cuban Americans support policies of engagement. The roadmap lays out a series of sequenced recommendations in three sections “Repairing the Damage: The First Nine Months,” “Taking the Initiative: The Second Year,” and “Finishing the Job: A Legislative Agenda” detailing how the Biden-Harris administration can move quickly to implement much-needed change in U.S.-Cuba policy. 

The Full Report: The United States and Cuba: A New Policy of Engagement,”




Finishing the Job: A Legislative Agenda

One lesson from the Obama years is that a policy based exclusively on executive action is notenduring. As we have witnessed, a new administration can quickly dismantle it. If we hope to persuade the Cuban government that a constructive relationship with the United States is possible and will flourish to the extent that Cuba moves toward a more open political and economic system, Cuban authorities must be convinced that U.S. policy is durable. That will require legislative action to remove some of the constraints on engagement that Congress has enacted over the years, first and foremost the embargo. Ending the embargo is Cuba’s highest priority in its relationship with the United States; so long as the embargo remains in place, progress toward a more normal relationship will be limited.

Regardless of which party ultimately holds the majority in the U.S. Senate, the administration should publicly express support for legislation to end the embargo, and work with the bipartisan Cuba Working Group in the House and champions for engagement in the Senate to cultivate congressional leadership on engagement.

First Steps

Two actions that could gain some Republican support are repeal of the Cuba-related sections in the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) that limit travel and agricultural sales.

• Repeal the prohibition on travel to Cuba that is not expressly licensed in the CACR.

• Repeal the limits on the use of credits for financing U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.

Several additional measures would facilitate commercial ties:

• Repeal Section 211, a special interest provision of U.S. law that invalidates certain Cuban trademarks in the United States and threatens reciprocal protection for U.S. brands.

• Approve an amendment that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, authorizes the United States to provide Cuba with foreign assistance for the purpose of developing  sustainable energy sources and implementing its 100 year plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Ending the Embargo

The embargo is a central obstacle to the normalization of relations with Cuba, as President Obama recognized when he called on Congress to repeal it. For Congress to repeal the embargo it would have to amend a number of different statutes in addition to the TSRA.33 The most important:

• Repeal the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, or at least the sections that limit the freedom of U.S. subsidiaries in third countries to do business with Cuba, and that prevent vessels engaged in commerce with Cuba from entering U.S. ports for 180 days.

• Repeal the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, or at least the sections that inscribe the embargo into law, prohibit U.S. support for Cuban participation in IFIs, and impose extraterritorial sanctions on other countries (Titles III and IV).

• Repeal the section of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that authorizes the president to unilaterally impose a trade embargo on Cuba.

Once the embargo is no longer mandated by law, the President can lift it simply by not renewing the emergency authorities under the Trading with The Enemy Act. If economic sanctions against Cuba are called for in the future, they can be imposed under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Some legal scholars argue that the President has the authority to end the embargo by executive order. Because the embargo regulations codified by the LIBERTAD Act include the President’s licensing authority without any limitation, there is a legal argument that the licensing power extends to ending the embargo entirely.34 The principal rationale for such a step would be President Clinton’s contention, in his signing statement, that certain passages of the law, including codification, constitute unconstitutional infringements on the President’s authority to conduct foreign policy.35

33 For an effort to compile a complete list of the amendments required, H.R. 403 (Mr. Rangel) 114th Congress 1st Session, January 16, 2015.

34 Robert L. Muse, “The President Has the Constitutional Power to Unilaterally Terminate the Embargo on Cuba,” Global Americans, October 8, 2020, ttps://theglobalamericans.org/2020/10/the-president-has-the-constitutional-power-to-unilaterally-terminate-the-embargo-on-cuba/. For concurring opinions, see Kevin J. Fandl, “Adios Embargo: The Case for Executive Termination of the U.S. Embargo on Cuba,” 54 Am. Bus. L.J. 293; and Pete Jeydel, “How Much of the Cuba Embargo Could the President Unilaterally Lift?” Steptoe International Compliance Blog, October 21, 2016, https://www.steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com/2016/10/how-much-of-the-cuba-embargo-could-the-president-unilaterally-lift/.35 William J. Clinton, “Statement on Signing the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996,” March 12, 1996. The American Presidency Project, ttps://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222515. For the constitutionality of the LIBRTAD Act, see Joaquin Roy, “Lawyers Meet the Law: Critical U.S Voices of Helms-Burton,” Yearbook of International Law, 6, 39 (1997/1998)

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CUBA STUDY GROUP Press Release: STATEMENT ON THE NEW CUBA REGULATIONS

Original Here: THE NEW CUBA REGULATIONS

November 9, 2017

The regulations announced on November 8 2017 are highly counterproductive.

Instead of supporting the Cuban private sector, as the administration has stated, new travel rules harm Cuban entrepreneurs and their employees by making it more difficult for individual Americans to visit the island and patronize their businesses. Rather than deal a lasting blow to the Cuban military, the ban on U.S. interaction with 180 Cuban state enterprises imposes unwieldly, and arguably unenforceable, regulatory burdens on U.S. citizens. More generally, these measures represent a setback to the broader process of normalization, which continues to be overwhelmingly popular with both the U.S. and Cuban people.

The Cuba Study Group disagrees, in particular, with the Trump administration’s decision to ban non-academic educational and individual people-to-people travel. The free flow of people, ideas, information, and goods helps, rather than hinders, the cause of meaningful reform on the island. Moreover, U.S. travelers frequent privately-owned rooms and other small businesses at a higher rate than visitors from any other country. President Trump’s measures will therefore hit the island’s private sector hardest, not the government, as tourists from other countries will continue to patronize state-owned companies and hotels.

Raúl Castro is slated to step down from the presidency in early 2018. At the same time, the country’s internal economic agenda has stagnated, and Hurricane Irma just devastated wide swaths of the island’s northern coast.

At this juncture of uncertainty and transition, it is in the best interest of the United States to remain engaged as the island confronts multiple challenges. By providing the Cuban government an excuse to revive a siege mentality, the Trump administration’s policies ultimately favor those in Cuba in a position to benefit most from the status quo where essential economic and political reforms continue to be neglected. As in the pre-normalization era, the Cuban people, and not the Cuban government, will most keenly feel the results.

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