Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thirteen Additional Presidential Initiatives

Many actions by the executive branch in other realms can significantly impact future discussions of bilateral relations in both countries. The natural tendency will be to hold these steps as bargaining chips in negotiations, but their value may be greater by utilizing them to create parameter and perception shifts at critical points in the process.

1) Officially disavow “Regime change” as the goal for US policy. It is impossible to have serious discussions of bilateral problems with a government when your avowed purpose is to destroy it.

2) Remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism (as advocated by Richard Clarke). This objectively false status affects many practical matters, including the issuance of visas to Cubans. Politically it is the lynch pin for opponents of change and silly after North Korea’s removal.

3) Utilize the US Interests Section as a diplomatic beachhead in Havana as President Carter intended, rather than as a center for promoting and rewarding dissidence and opposition. Take the electronic billboard off the front of the building as a symbolic opening, to which the Cubans should respond by removing their black flags. Adopt the practices and protocols of US embassies in Vietnam and China.*

4) End restrictions reciprocally on the travel of Interest Section diplomats (as well as UN Mission staff) for appropriate visits and meetings outside of the respective capitals (and New York).

5) Suspend Cuba Democracy Fund expenditures by USAID and its grant recipients, including the National Endowment for Democracy, pending objective evaluation of purpose and effectiveness. Cancel grants and contracts that were political rewards for Cuban American Republicans and that sustain a partisan anti-change lobby in Miami and Washington. (NGOs -- non-governmental organizations -- that receive US democracy funding are ipso facto persona non grata in Cuba.)

6) Turn off TV Marti as both illegal and a big waste of money. Make Radio Marti an objective source of news rather than a vehicle for exile politics.

7) Remove objections to Cuba obtaining a broad band connection from the offshore fiber optic cable rather than forcing it to wait for Venezuela to provide one.

8) Allow normal credit and payment procedures for sales of US agricultural and medical products.

9) Permit recognized US NGOs and religious agencies to undertake humanitarian and

development aid projects without the costly, time consuming and political vetting process of licenses from the Treasury or Commerce departments. (The fact that a project obtains official US permission makes the Cubans suspicious about its real motives, particularly given legislative language touting NGOs and civil society as a means of promoting democracy, i.e. subversion in Cuban eyes.)

10) Shred the two presumptuous reports by Bush’s Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.

11) Stop OFAC’s embarrassing efforts to enforce our unilateral embargo in third countries,

such as barring Cubans from staying at or meeting in hotels owned by US companies.

12) Clear the legal decks by freeing prisoners convicted as agents of the other (Black Spring Fifty-five; Cuban Five) and dropping extradition claims (Posada Carilles and Bosch; Joanne Cheismard, et.al.)

13) Grant visas to Cuban academics and professionals to attend conferences and reestablish or initiate personal contact with US counterparts.

*(Contact with all sectors of opinion in a host country, including critics, is a normal diplomatic function. However the Bush Administration was deliberately provocative, contributing to the Black Spring crackdown and resulting Congressional reluctance to change policy, as may have been intended by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega when they set “ambassador” Jim Cason’s marching orders.)


You can help us be more effective in reaching out to the Obama Adminstration by contacting those you know in the transition team and among prospective appointees and by making as generous a contribution as possible to sustain our work.