Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Potential Republican Presidential Candidate Flaunts Embargo on Cigars

[Fred] Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.

The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?

“From the Courthouse to the White House: Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role” by Stephen F. Hayes The Weekly Standard 04/23/2007

Cuban Dissident Supports Travel


A prominent dissident argues from a perspective quite hostile to Cuba’s government that US travel restrictions should be ended.

I found this story in an excellent new blog from Phil Peterson of the Lexington Institute,

In contradiction to Chepe’s thesis that Havana has cooled on tourism, Phil also reports on plans for dramatically expanded Cuban investment in tourist infrastructure ($320 million) and for increased numbers of flights.

--John McAuliff

El Pais, Madrid, May 7, 2007

With the loss of the subsidies from the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries
in the late 1980s, the Cuban Government had no other recourse but to accept tourism
as one of its principal sources of foreign currency. Up to that time it had vetoed the
development of this lucrative activity, despite Cuba’s noteworthy conditions for
development of the so-called smokeless industry.

The considerations for rejecting tourism were based on fear of the “ideological
contamination” that would come with the visitors from democratic countries. It must
be recalled that, in the mentality of the totalitarian Cuban leaders, the ideal of society
would be a totally isolated Cuba, free of any contamination and examples that might
jeopardize the absolute power. Their phobia of the Internet, cell phone, DVD,
videocassettes, and their raids to persecute those who surreptitiously see and hear
foreign TV were not for fun.

In the case of international tourism, although they had to swallow the bitter pill of
allowing it, reluctantly, they always intended to pull back and, if not completely stop
the activity, at least slow its development or reduce it by a percentage, which would
enable them to manage the visitors more easily, using tourism packages taken to
places with little contact with Cubans, in cays or regions such as Varadero, where the
nationals are present only as servants. A Caribbean version of apartheid.

The foregoing could explain now the considerable decrease in the number of people
who visit the Island and the scant advertising seen nationally about the activity which,
for some years, was called the engine of the Cuban economy. Thus, the figures show a
considerable reduction recently. In 2006, arrivals dropped by 3.6%, a trend which
continued in January and February 2007, with declines of 7.0% and 13.0%,
respectively; decisive months in the high season for Cuban tourism.

To explain this situation, the international operators point to a lack of investment in
advertising and infrastructure. To that could be added an absurd, approximately
20.0% revaluation of the convertible peso in relation to the US dollar, taking into
consideration the 10.0% tax and the exchange fees imposed by the Central Bank of
Cuba against that currency, as well as the effect on other currencies, including the
Euro, in the amount of 8.0%. All that done arbitrarily and without taking into account
real economic considerations, including price increases for tourism services.
These factors are not the only ones. One would have to add the recentralization of the
Cuban economy in recent years, with a view to strengthening the role of the State,
which has resulted in slow decision making by companies and, consequently,
increased inefficiency, because the entities do not have, among other things, their own
resources in hard currency.

Certainly all these measures have not been aimed solely against tourism. The joint
ventures with foreign capital have been drastically reduced. In late 2006 there were
just 236, as compared to 313 in 2004, according to official reports. In this respect,
action has been taken against self-employment, with many of the permitted
occupations being cancelled, new permits not being issued for several authorized
occupations, or prohibitions and new taxes on persons with licenses; all of which has
resulted in a decrease in the number of self-employed individuals, including people
who rent apartments and rooms to foreigners.

Clearly, this entire policy is the result of the fact that, a new Soviet Union having
appeared through Venezuela’s subsidies, totalitarianism feels more economically
secure and wants to take advantage of this situation to close the small spaces opened
in the 1990s, including the risky – to them – international tourism, a strategy aimed at
again assuming absolute political control over society.

In these circumstances, the mechanisms established by the U.S. authorities, aimed at
isolating Cuban society from contact with its citizens, and even with Cuban-
Americans, are counterproductive and incomprehensible. In fact, it is aligned with the
policy always promoted by the Cuban Government, of keeping the people on the
Island isolated from any outside contact. The only sensible thing that could help the
Cuban people is what was done in Eastern Europe and later in China and Viet Nam,
where the ties between the peoples were fostered and continue to be fostered, with
unquestionable success.

One would hope that, with the new balance of power in the U.S. Congress and Senate
[sic], there will be more understanding of this matter, and that there will be a radical
change in the policy toward Cuba, especially because Cuba-U.S. relations are vital for
the democratic transition in Cuba. A climate of tension and suspicion in the Straits of
Florida has always been very helpful to the interests of the most change-resistant
sector of the Cuban Government.

So, the proposals made recently by Representatives Jeff Flake, Bill Delahunt, Mrs.
Emerson, and Charles Rangel, among other important U.S. legislators, all made with
great common sense and which, if approved, would doubtless significantly benefit
efforts on behalf of a democratic, reconciled Cuba, where human rights are respected,
are essential to Cubans.

Oscar Espinosa Chepe is a Cuban economist and journalist.

US Brands in Cuba

Posted on Sat, May. 12, 2007

AP Centerpiece: U.S. brands get to Cuba

The golden arches are nowhere to be found. There's not a single Starbucks or Wal-Mart, and no way to buy a Budweiser, a Corvette or a Dell.
But even in Cuba, you can get a Coke.

Despite the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act, which governs Washington's 45-year-old embargo, sales on Fidel Castro's island are lining the pockets of corporate America.

Nikes, Colgate and Marlboros, Gillette Series shaving cream and Jordache jeans - all are easy to find. Cubans who wear contact lenses can buy Bausch & Lomb. Parents can surprise the kids with a Mickey Mouse fire truck.

Dozens of American brands are on sale here - and not in some black-market back alley. They're in the lobbies of gleaming government-run hotels and in crowded supermarkets and pharmacies that answer to the communist government.

The companies say they have no direct knowledge of sales in Cuba, and that the amounts involved are small and would be impractical to stop. But it's hard to deny that a portion of the transactions wind up back in the United States.

"We try and do what we can to police ... but in a globalized economy, it's impossible to catch everything," said Vada Manager, director of global issues management for Nike Inc.

Trade sanctions bar American tourists from visiting Cuba and allow exports only of U.S. food and farm products, medical supplies and some telecommunications equipment. But wholesalers and distributors in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada routinely sell some of America's most recognizable brands to Cuban importers.

Cuba has for years sought out American goods as a way of thumbing its nose at the embargo. Officials at three foreign-owned import companies operating in Havana, who refused to have their names published for fear of economic repercussions, said the communist government itself still imports the vast majority of American goods.

Christopher Padilla, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, said from Washington that Cuba even sends delegations on "buying missions," hunting for specific American products in third countries for resale back home. Cuban press authorities did not make relevant officials available to discuss the practice.

In a country where tourism is the leading revenue source, stocking American brands helps reassure visitors, according to Daniel Erikson, a Cuban economy expert at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

"People, average Cubans included, would rather have Coca-Cola than a no-name generic soda they're not familiar with. That means the government can charge more," Erikson said. "And obviously for the tourist industry it's important for the foreigners who visit Cuba to see products that they know and trust."

All American products are sold in Cuban convertible pesos, considered foreign currency and worth $1.08 apiece - about 25 times the island's regular peso. Although government salaries have increased in recent years, the average monthly pay is still around $15, meaning few Cubans can afford U.S. goods.

But last month, Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said 57 percent of the population has access to hard currency - dollars or convertible pesos - either through jobs in tourism or money from relatives abroad. A 2004 report by the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba estimated that remittances from the United States alone total $1 billion a year.

The influx of American brands began in earnest in 1993, when Cuba scrapped laws that had made it illegal for its citizens to possess dollars. Cubans know the products, despite an almost complete lack of advertising on the island. Angel Hernandez, a 62-year-old retiree, didn't hesitate when presented with a pair of "Air Jordans."

"That swoosh. That's Nike," he said. Like most Cubans, he pronounces the company name with a silent "e" as in "Mike."

Made in China, brick-red Nike Air Max 90 sneakers sell for 129.40 convertible Cuban pesos - about $140 - at a store off Havana's Central Park. High-priced fakes also abound. Several stores, including one inside the Havana Libre Hotel - the Havana Hilton before Castro's 1959 revolution - offer authentic-looking Max Air 80s, but Nike makes no such product.

At the Comodoro Hotel, a boutique wants $40 for assorted small gym bags with pastel or silver swooshes. Their tags read "Made in Indonesia" in Spanish and "Nike de Mexico," providing a hint of their route to Cuba.

Manager said all Nike products for sale in Cuba are probably knockoffs. He conceded, however, that legitimate distributors outside the U.S. could be selling products to Cuban importers - and that Nike could make money off such sales.

"But what you're talking about is such a small volume there," he said. "And if we are able to detect where ... the products came from, that distributor or retailer runs the risk of having their account discontinued with us."

John Kavulich, senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc. in New York, said "in no way should it be said that this is an end run by U.S. business around U.S. restrictions, because it's not."

"It's almost impossible for American companies to stop," Kavulich said. "Of course, at some point in the transaction, at the very beginning when the legitimate distributor bought the product from Nike, or any company, money went to the U.S."

Kavulich estimated the value of U.S. brands sold in Cuba as "probably $20 million or less on an annual basis," but noted that less than 5 percent of that amount likely represents combined profit for American companies, given all the layers of transactions the products go through to get to the island.

Decades-old Walt Disney cartoons air on state television every afternoon and stores have Mickey Mouse toys and wrapping paper and Snoopy products.

In Havana's Vedado district, fishing supply store DSY offers goods made by U.S. supplier Seachoice Products. A "Heavy Duty Waterproof Flashlight" from the company proudly proclaims "Made in USA."

Saleswoman Dayne Barrios said the products were shipped from Florida to a Mexico distributor, which sent them to Cuba through a government importer. Calls to Seachoice offices in Pompano Beach, Fla., were not returned.

At least two Havana clothing stores call themselves Jordache, one even using the company's horse head logo on its marquee. The shelves inside are crammed with jeans, shirts and blouses with Jordache labels.

Steven Nakash, director of licensing for Jordache Enterprises in New York, said the company heard about unauthorized use of its brand in Cuba several years ago but took no action because "an American company dealing with a foreign territory and battling it out on foreign soil is very, very hard."

Nakash, a member of Jordache's founding family, said the company has international distributors but also licenses its brand to manufacturers, including one in Mexico. He said he was unsure where the products in Cuba came from.

"Is any of the revenue from Cuba coming back to me? Certainly not," Nakash said.

Even after Castro took over, more than 100 U.S. corporations - including Ford Motor Co. - obtained licenses to operate here through foreign subsidiaries.

The U.S. Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 made such third-country transactions illegal, while also authorizing the export of U.S. medicines. Eight years later, the U.S. Congress allowed direct sales to Cuba of food and farm goods, everything from rice, ice cream and livestock to wood products, down feathers and cigarettes.

Since then, Heinz ketchup, Tabasco Sauce and Tyson's chicken have been sporadically available at Cuban government supermarkets, and the United States has become the island's leading supplier of food and farm products.

Prices can be about twice as much as in U.S. stories. Tubes of Colgate toothpaste start at $4.85. You can also find products including shampoo, conditioner and anti-bacterial soap from New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Co. A shaving "mousse" from Gillette Series, distributed by Procter & Gamble Zurich, costs $4.80 a bottle.

Could those items be considered medical supplies? Not likely, say U.S. officials.

But pinpointing whether any American product is in Cuba legally is difficult because the U.S. Treasury Department does not disclose who secures export licenses, citing trade secrets acts.

No American brand is more prevalent in Cuba than Coke, but the Atlanta, Georgia-based Coca-Cola Co. has not sought Cuban export licenses - even though its product would qualify as food.

Bottled mostly in Mexico, Coke goes for $1 at stores - about the same price as at a U.S. convenience store - and up to four times that at touristy restaurants.

Charles Sutlive, a Coca-Cola spokesman in Atlanta, said the company has not authorized any bottler to sell or distribute any of its finished products in Cuba. But he added that the company "does not have the authority to prevent these type of activities in countries where Cuban import-export companies are free to operate."

Indeed, distributors of American goods operating in other countries often insist they are doing nothing wrong - and can even be fined by their own governments for refusing to export to Cuba.

Mexico fined the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City in 2005 after it bowed to U.S. Treasury Department pressure and evicted Cuban officials staying there. In January, a Norwegian hotel owned by Hilton Hotel Corp. sparked an uproar when it refused to book rooms for a Cuban delegation, citing the American embargo.

The Commerce Department's Padilla said the U.S. sanctions have international reach, applying to American products anywhere in the world.

"If companies knowingly sold to a Cuban importer, they can be prosecuted," he said. "Willful blindness is not an excuse to violate the law in these matters."

Despite potential legal hot water, Nakash confessed a certain pride that his brand has cracked Havana.

"I can very much appreciate seeing a Jordache shop there," he said. "I, as an American, can't go to a country like Cuba. But our brand can."


© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune Article by John McAuliff

Article published May 11, 2007 Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Guest columnist

Lifting restrictions on travel offers benefits for U.S. and Cuba

Prior to the 2004 presidential election, the Bush administration responded to pressure from Cuban-American political leaders in Florida to roll back opportunities for nontourist "purposeful" travel to Cuba that had been opened by the Clinton administration. This action was based on the false accusation that such programs served as a cover for tourism and provided significant economic support for the Cuban government.

The retreat on freedom to travel had devastating humanitarian consequences for Cuban-Americans. Previously they had been able to make one authorized visit per year to their extended family, with unlimited additional opportunities for emergency travel for health or other compelling reasons. Now they can only visit members of their immediate family and must be very cautious about timing. If, for example one's father is seriously ill, and after several months passes away, one must choose between a visit during his final months or for his funeral. If one's mother passes away the following year, tough!

As a result of this draconian policy, a variety of U.S. educational, cultural, people-to-people, sports, religious, humanitarian, professional and foreign affairs institutions no longer were able to obtain licenses for familiarization visits and exchanges with counterparts.

Bipartisan sentiment in the Republican-controlled Congress sought to end travel restrictions via amendment to the Treasury appropriations bill. The goal was to deny funding for enforcement of sanctions against travelers. However, majority support in both Houses was frustrated by leadership maneuvers behind closed doors, justified by the threat of a presidential veto.

Democratic majorities offer a new opportunity for legislative remedy. In particular, a bill submitted in January by Rep. Charles Rangel (HR 654) with Rep. Jeff Flake would end restrictions on travel to Cuba by all Americans. To date it has attracted 103 bipartisan co-sponsors. Because of the ripeness of the issue and Rangel's seniority, prestige and status as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, support will grow. Sens. Michael Enzi and Byron Dorgan have submitted comparable legislation (S 721) that has attracted 20 bipartisan co-sponsors.

In principle, this is a policy in consonance with the traditional values of the United States rather than with the restrictions Cuba places on travel by its own citizens.

In practice, large-scale visits by Americans to Cuba will have a substantial impact on our nation's ability to understand and positively affect the process of transition there.

The Rangel and Enzi bills have been endorsed by over 1,500 diverse representatives of the American academic, religious and humanitarian communities. Not least among the signers of an online statement of support is Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, who served the Clinton and Bush administrations as head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Much of my professional career has been devoted to bringing about normal relations between the U.S. and its former adversaries in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. When I began my work, suspicion and hostile rhetoric resulting from grievous human and social legacies of war were more pronounced on both sides of the divide than they have ever been with Cuba.

Yet in conjunction with normalization with the U.S., all three countries have moved successfully from command to market economies. The personal freedoms and democratic participation of their citizens have steadily increased, although even now their political cultures are more like Cuba's than ours. Vietnam, in particular, has growing strategic ties to the U.S. Based on visits to Cuba during the past decade, I see no reason that the same mutually beneficial process could not take place between our neighboring countries.

John McAuliff is executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. The online statement and signers may be seen at Cubatravelbill/. To see the full text of proposed legislation, go to and type "HR 654" and "S 721" in the box provided.

ASTA on Travel to Cuba

US travelers predicted to flood Cuba after restrictions end

By eTN Staff Writer

An estimate of 1,798,000 tourists from the US will visit Cuba annually within two years of the end of travel restrictions.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) testified to the US International Trade Commission on April 24 that by conservative estimates 1,798,000 Americans will visit Cuba annually within two years of the end of travel restrictions. Paul Ruden, ASTA’s senior vice president for Legal and Industry Affairs, predicted there would be 835,000 recreational visits by air, 480,000 cruise visitors and 482,000 family visitors. He noted that another study had estimated 2.8 million total visits annually.

ASTA was invited to testify as the representative of the travel industry because at the request of Congress the USITC is preparing a report on the economic impact in the US of its unilateral embargo of Cuba.The report will add impetus to the debate on Capitol Hill about ending travel restrictions this year. A bill introduced in the House in January (HR 654) has gathered 103 cosponsors. Similar legislation submitted in the Senate in March (S 721) has twenty cosponsors.

John McAuliff, facilitator of the ad hoc Travel Industry Committee on Cuba, warned that, "Congress could focus on easier humanitarian legislation that permits only family reunion visits by Cuban Americans if the nationwide travel industry does not make its interests known by June."

ASTA is on record favoring the end of travel restrictions, testifying in 2000 before USITC:

"It is an ASTA core principal that travel restrictions should not be used as an instrument of governmental policy. Travel and tourism are essential to fostering constructive interactions for the benefit of all peoples and in furtherance of world peace... More than just the proverbial 'two edged sword,' travel restrictions are a sword without a hilt. They injure he who wields them as much as their intended victim."

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll in February found that 18 percent of Americans would be “very interested” and 22 percent “somewhat interested” in going to Cuba on vacation.

Printable Version published May 11, 2007 published: Friday, 11 May 2007, GMT © 2006 All rights reserved.

Forbes Reports on Congress and Cuba

Congress Looks At Cuba
Brian Wingfield, 05.02.07, 6:00 AM ET

The frenzy over what U.S.-Cuba trade relations will look like once history claims Fidel Castro is festering once again.

The ailing dictator failed to show for the annual May Day parade in Havana Tuesday, fueling speculation that his days are numbered. But wind is already gathering in the sails of lawmakers here who are pushing for a return to normal relations with Cuba.

At the request of Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is currently investigating the effects on American producers of U.S. travel and agricultural export restrictions with Cuba. Several bills have already been introduced in the House to ease the U.S. embargo, which has been in place since 1962, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is pushing a measure that would lift the trade embargo altogether.

No one is expecting a normalization of relations, at least while President Bush is in the White House, but the stage appears to be getting set for his successor. Castro has already outlasted nine U.S. presidents. If he does make it through 2008, he will almost certainly not outlast a 10th. Whatever the outcome, U.S. businesses are eager to invest in a new Cuba.

The ITC has not given any indication what it will say in its final report to the Senate Finance Committee later this summer (the commission does not comment on ongoing investigations), but a growing body of evidence suggests that keeping the current restrictions in place limits the profit potential of U.S. businesses.

Under U.S. law, trade relations with Havana are limited to certain food exports and medical supplies, and at least regarding agricultural products, all payments must be made in cash.

According to the ITC, the U.S. exported $337 million in agricultural, fish and forest products to Cuba in 2006. Much of this is rice, wheat, chicken, corn and soybeans supplied by companies such as Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Tyson Foods.

But some experts say this figure could nearly double if the current restrictions were relaxed.

"Forty years ago, the U.S. provided 60% of Cuba's food imports," said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson in his testimony before the ITC. "Our goal should be to regain and exceed that market share."

North Dakota has already exported more than $32 million in dry beans, peas, wheat and other products since 2002. Johnson, like many officials in agricultural states, has called for all sanctions against Cuba to be lifted.

Before the embargo was put in place, Cuba was the leading market for U.S. rice suppliers. It has since fallen to eighth place, according to the USA Rice Federation. The federation estimates that up to 600,000 metric tons of rice--about the same amount that Cuba imported from the U.S. between 2001 and 2005--would be imported annually if restrictions were removed.

And according to the American Society of Travel Agents, if the U.S. were to lift its travel restrictions to Cuba in 2008, nearly 1.8 million Americans would visit the country by 2010. This could impact U.S. gross domestic product by as much as $1.6 billion, the society says.

But much of this potential will depend upon Cuba itself. For one thing, the nation only contains 11 million people, meaning that there is a ceiling on the amount of agricultural imports it can handle.

And according to John Kavulich, senior policy adviser to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the data provided by the Cuban government regarding U.S. imports are unreliable and unverifiable because they are provided by a centrally planned government with a poor track record of transparency.

"The true impediments to the expansion of agricultural, fish and forestry products from the U.S. to Cuba are in Havana, not in Washington, D.C.," he says. He adds that it is also questionable just how much Cuba is would be able to handle an onslaught of American tourists. "They've let their tourism infrastructure crumble."

An additional unknown is what course of action the U.S. will take once Castro dies. Initially, it appeared that U.S. businesses were willing to leap into to Havana to bring capitalism back to the Caribbean island. But after Castro first became ill last summer, it became apparent that a new government under Fidel's brother, Raul, will probably continue the communist policies of the last four decades.

Nonetheless, it appears that U.S. policymakers are setting the stage for an easing of the economic sanctions. Bush will undoubtedly veto any free standing bill that might relax the embargo. But the pressure is building to open more U.S. markets to Cuba. And with Bush in retirement and Castro likely no longer around after 2008, the lid just might come off.

Embargo Violation Contradictions

Between an Embargo and a Hard Place
Export Law Blog, DC - April 30

Posted by Clif Burns

LogicaLogicaCMG, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of U.K.-based LogicaCMG plc, pleaded guilty last Wednesday to violating the U.S. embargo on Cuba. According to a Department of Justice press release, the violation occurred in 2001 when New Hampshire based CMG, which was merged into LogicaCMG on December 30, 2002, configured and shipped a telecommunications server to Cuba through Panama. The server was designed to permit text messaging on the Cuban wireless telephone network. LogicaCMG agreed to pay a $50,000 fine. The company also entered into a settlement agreements with the Bureau of Industry and Security ("BIS") and the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC").

The conundrum for LogicaCMG is that its parent company, which almost surely approved the guilty plea, is subject to European Union Council Regulation 2271/96, which forbids LogicaCMG "whether directly or through a subsidiary" from complying with the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The Settlement Agreement with BIS, although not yet posted on the BIS website, almost certainly involves further representations from LogicaCMG that it will not further violate the Cuba embargo, normally enforced by conditioning a suspension of a denial of export privileges or suspension of all or part of a monetary fine on future compliance with U.S. export laws.

LogicaCMG is no doubt taking a calculated risk that the E.U. is unlikely to enforce Regulation 2271/96. To the best of my knowledge, the blocking regulation has only rarely been enforced if at all. Still, this is hardly a comfortable position for the company.

Former Head of Interests Section Calls for Change in US Policy

Play a Part in Cuba's Future

Miami Herald, April 20, 2007

Carlos Pascual, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy Studies
Vicki Huddleston, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies

Fidel Castro might borrow Mark Twain's line ''The report of my death was an exaggeration,'' were he inclined to dispel the rumors and exaggerated pronouncements of his political demise and death. His health improving, Castro could be back in power by the time he celebrates his 81st birthday on Aug. 13.

With the campaign for president well under way, Republican candidates—and the Democrats will not be far behind—are already adopting the anti-Castro rhetoric and stiff support for the embargo that has helped elect U.S. presidents, members of Congress and Florida's governors.

The Bush administration—by dictating policy and giving little in return—has so far stuck to our hundred-year-old vice of treating Cuba as if it were a wayward 51st state. Neither side of this equation—dictating or giving little—has produced positive results for U.S. foreign policy; it has merely transformed Cuba policy into a domestic political issue.

Whether it's Fidel or Raúl Castro—or some combination of the two—time is running out on U.S. policy on Cuba. During the next five years, there will be an ongoing political transition in Cuba. Fidel may return to power, only to be followed once again by Raúl if Fidel's health again deteriorates. And, Raúl at 75, is unlikely to rule long. As the inherently unstable situation continues, the United States can sit on the side lines, allowing the Revolution to regenerate and renew itself, or we can encourage reform by reducing Cuba's isolation.

Oil reserves

If we continue to stubbornly insist that Cuba must first magically transform itself into a functioning democracy before we talk, we will be out of luck. The appeal of our aid, trade and investment will slip away. We will become irrelevant because Cuban, Venezuelan and other foreign companies are now developing huge offshore oil reserves. When the oil begins to flow, the income it generates will reinforce the ruling elite by creating jobs for Cuba's restless youth and by improving lives. Cubans will no longer need the investment and jobs that Americans—especially Cuban Americans—could provide.

Perhaps it is time for American oil companies to lead the way in opening up Cuba? After all, the expropriation of these companies led President Eisenhower to impose the first comprehensive sanctions.

It will take courage and vision to change course, but the alternative is that neither the United States nor Cuban Americans will play a part in Cuba's future. In Poland, Hungry, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union before the fall of the Iron Curtain, our contacts spread the idea that there was an alternative way of life and helped reinforce internal discontent with communism's failure. The following actions, although modest, would allow the administration to seize the initiative after a half-century siesta:

Modify our isolationist policies—allow family and people-to-people visits—as their out-reach will reduce social tensions, allowing for some reforms during the ongoing and uncertain transitional years.

Renew bilateral cooperation on anti-narcotics, crime, migration and preservation of the environment. These objectives are as much in our interest as they are in Cuba's.

Offer incentives for internal reform, such as permitting direct telecommunications links and the sale of communications equipment.

Encourage the Organization of American States to begin a dialogue with the Cuban government about the political and economic reforms that Cuba must undertake to again become an active member.

When Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to ''tear down that wall,'' he did so from a position of moral superiority. He believed that the values of democracy and a market economy would prevail over authoritarianism and communism when people had a chance to be exposed to both. If, as a nation, we still believe in these core values, the implication should be clear—we should seek contact with the Cuban people to empower them to take charge of their future.

The price of partisan politics will be to persist in a failed policy that will continue to give life to Castro's legacy, thereby preventing the contacts that would empower the Cuban people to take charge of their future.

© Copyright 2007, The Brookings Institution

Return of Guantanamo to Cuba,0,2061760.story

From the Baltimore Sun

Critics suggest U.S. return Cuba base

Guantanamo viewed as imperialist symbol

By Carol J. Williams

April 18, 2007

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- President Fidel Castro wages a silent protest against the U.S. "tenants" of this bay in southern Cuba from a drawer in his desk. There lie 47 uncashed checks drawn on the U.S. Treasury, each for $4,085, the annual rent fixed in a 1903 lease agreement that has vexed Cuba's leader since a leftist revolution brought him to power nearly a half-century ago.
The presence of U.S. troops on Cuban soil has long rankled Castro, who has often ranted about the "imperialist occupation."

Julia Sweig, director of Latin American studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted the international outcry over the Pentagon's use of the base at Guantanamo to detain and prosecute prisoners in the war on terror.

"One way to unload the problem would be to give it back to Cuba," she said. "The question is, would the Cubans want it back? Because it's become such a global symbol of what has gone wrong with America - not just a symbol of our colonial impulses but of the anti-imperialist fight throughout Latin America - it's something Cuba uses to greater benefit than getting the base back."

In a report last month on Guantanamo's role in the troubled relationship between Havana and Washington, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs think tank concluded that returning the territory is essential to ending the perceived U.S. domination of Latin American neighbors.

During President Bush's trip last month through Latin America, even friendly leaders reminded him of the message conveyed to the region by U.S. military occupation of the Cuban territory, said the council's director, Larry Birns.

"Guantanamo is the symbol of 19th-century gunboat diplomacy practiced by Washington," Birns said. He added that a movement is gaining ground throughout the Western Hemisphere "questioning the United States' legitimacy in occupying Guantanamo under the present arrangement."

The U.S. government gained control of Guantanamo Bay and surrounding territory in 1903 under an agreement the newly independent Cuban government accepted from U.S. liberators after the 1898 Spanish-American War. The U.S. military wanted a base to position forces to protect the Panama Canal, then being built. The base also played an important role during the Cold War, allowing U.S. forces to monitor Soviet movements in the region.

But since the demise of the Soviet Union and its communist empire in 1991 and the return of the Panama Canal to its host nation in 1999, the U.S. base has lost its strategic significance and now serves as little more than "a colonial relic," Birns asserted.

The agreement limits use of the Cuban territory to "coaling and naval purposes only," neither of which appears to cover the prison or tribunal operations. The agreement prohibits "commercial, industrial or other enterprise," but the U.S. base has a McDonald's, two Starbucks, a Subway and other concessions.

Such breaches render the treaty voidable, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs stated in its report.

Caleb McCarry, the Bush administration's point man on a post-communist Cuba, said Guantanamo is on the table - if and when Cuba throws off its one-party regime. But some U.S. officials say the base is crucial to U.S. interests.

Carol J. Williams writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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