U.S., One of Two in Favor of the UN General Assembly Embargo Against Cuba

Today, the United States was again handed its annual total and embarrassing defeat in the UN General Assembly on the issue of its embargo against Cuba. The vote was 186 to condemn the embargo, two votes in its favor, the United States and Israel, and three abstentions. And the fact is that Israel is one of Cuba’s most active trading partners, i.e., it votes with us, but disagrees with and disregards our policy. On the issue of the Cuban embargo, then, the United States is totally isolated.

By Wayne Smith.


New U.S. – Cuban Debacle

We will all be deeply disappointed by the outcome of Governor Richardson’s recent trip to Cuba.  Not only did he not return with Alan Gross, the American prisoner, he came back with the Cubans accusing him of “blackmail” and “slander” and insisting that he had not been invited down to negotiate Gross’s release – despite his insistence that he had been.  For his part, Richardson, who has in the past had good relations with the Cubans, now says he will never go to Cuba again “as a friend.”

We seem to have fallen into a deep hole.  What could have gone so wrong?  There is clear evidence that Richardson had been invited – for whatever purpose – by the Cubans.  They apparently were offended by his reference to Gross after his arrival in Cuba as a “hostage.”  According to Josefina Vidal, the head of the North American Affairs in MINREX, it was because of that they refused to allow Richardson even to see Gross.  But that cannot have been all there was to it.  There had to be other factors behind so bitter a disagreement.

Could President Obama’s statements – or attitude – have had something to do with it?  While Richardson was still in Cuba, Obama commented to a group of Hispanic reporters that Cuba had not been “sufficiently aggressive in changing its economic policies” or in giving Cubans the right to speak freely.  There were almost no authoritarian communist countries left in the world, he said, but “here you have this small island that is a throwback to the 60s.”

“A throwback to the 60s!”  One can imagine the Cubans rankling at those words!

And in calling on the Cubans to free Alan Gross, Obama said the latter’s conviction “was not based on evidence or rule of law.”

But this clearly was not true.  Gross was in Cuba without proper documents and was illegally distributing communications equipment for USAID, and doing so under a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that called for “bringing down the Cuban government.”  He may not have understood the full implications of his activities, but he must have known them to be illegal.

The timing of the President’s statements raise doubts that they were the cause of the fierce Cuban reaction to the Richardson visit.  The trip may already have gone south before they were made.  That aside, the attitude behind them will remain – in an already poisoned atmosphere.  We seemed to have been moving in a somewhat more reasonable direction.  Tragically, the results so far have been just the opposite – with fault on both sides.

The damage, however, can be repaired.  At some point, Gross must be released.  It makes no sense to hold him indefinitely.  He is in poor health and nothing could be worse for the Cubans than that he pass from this world in their custody.

Assistants to Richardson had suggested the U.S. might be prepared to remove Cuba from the terrorist list.  It should do so.  There is not a shred of evidence that would place Cuba on the list.  Removing it would put the U.S. in a new, more sensible, light.

It was also suggested that the U.S. might allow Rene Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, to return to Cuba when he is released from prison in the weeks ahead rather than having to remain in the U.S. for three years “under observation.”  There is no rational reason to keep Gonzalez in the U.S.  He has already been in prison here for thirteen years without seeing his family.  The U.S. would be applauded around the world for letting him return to them.

These gestures would start us in a more constructive direction – and surely it is time to start.  Are not fifty years of hostility enough?

By Wayne Smith.

Carter’s Press Conference in Havana by Wayne Smith

Carter’s Press Conference In Havana
(from CIP’s Cuba page)
By Wayne Smith, senior fellow at CIP
April 2011

One might have expected the Carter trip to bring forth strong calls for change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, a policy we have suffered with, unproductively, for decades now.  His trip certainly provided the background for such a change and pointed up some of the directions in which we should move, such as removing Cuba from the terrorist list, easing travel controls even further, and, yes, even freeing the Cuban Five.  We should also be moving to ease the embargo to the extent possible.

Wayne Smith’s Editorial in the Sun Sentinel 02/22/11

Case Against Luis Posada Carriles Takes Welcome Turn
by Wayne Smith, senior fellow and director of CIP’s Cuba Program

Astonishing! And just when many of us were convinced that the trial of Luis Posada Carriles was simply a farce. After all, wasn’t the U.S. government just trying this arch terrorist for perjury, for lying about the way he entered the United States (illegally of course), leaving aside his myriad terrorist activities? Continue reading

At last, U.S.-Cuban Relations Begin to Improve

The year 2010 had registered virtually no improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations. There had been rumors and suggestions for some time that the Obama administration might ease restrictions on, at least, academic and so-called “people-to-people” travel to Cuba. Delays were first attributed to the need to  wait until after the November elections – and then, given the disappointing outcome of the elections, there was concern that the administration might not act at all and that 2011 would be as disappointing as 2010.

But then, on the afternoon of January 14, 2011, came the surprise announcement from the White House that restrictions on certain kinds of travel would indeed be eased, that flights to Cuba could go out of additional airfields, not just out of Miami, and that Americans could now send limited remittances to Cuban citizens, provided the latter were not senior members of the Cuban government or Communist Party. Continue reading

U.S. policy towards Cuba

The U.S. needs to change its Cuba policy which is outdated and counterproductive. At a time when Cuba was the ally of the Soviet Union and posed a threat to U.S. interests, the policy made sense. But that time has long since passed. Cuba now poses no threat whatever to the U.S. or to anyone else and is open to normal diplomatic dialogue. All the other states in the Western Hemisphere now have diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. Only the U.S. does not. It is now the U.S. in other words, that is isolated, not Cuba. And the other states have taken note. As the President of Brazil put it last year just before the Trinidad Summit, U.S. policy toward Cuba detracts from its credentials for leadership. Clearly, U.S. influence in Latin America is declining. Increasingly, the states to our south are organizing themselves into groups which exclude the U.S. The U.S. was opposed to Cuba’s renewed participation in the OAS. The other states went against U.S. wishes and invited Cuba to join. Cuba declined, but the point had been made. The U.S. no longer calls the shots.

U.S. policy toward Cuba is irrational and inconsistent with what it does elsewhere. We have normal diplomatic and trade relations with China, and even with Vietnam, with which we fought a bitter and bloody war, but not with Cuba. As a Latin American diplomat here in Washington put it recently: “Your treatment of Cuba suggests a certain irrationality almost bordering on psychosis; it does not inspire confidence in your leadership on a broader scale.”

By: Wayne Smith