Is Cuba Ready to Negotiate with the USA?

Fernando Ravsberg*

Sevent percent of all Cubans were born under the US embargo.

HAVANA TIMES — The governments of Cuba and the United States have maintained a series of negotiations in different areas of common interest for a number of years now. The two countries refer to such talks as “technical” in nature, but they could well represent the preamble of deeper and more political negotiations.

The issues discussed till now are related to ecological disasters, immigration, rescue and salvage operations, aviation safety, postal services, seismology and inter-military relations at the Guantanamo Naval Base. Curiously, the United States has not wanted to include the fight against drug trafficking on the agenda.

Agreements that have had positive results have been reached in some of these areas. Talks surrounding aviation safety, for instance, allowed for satisfactory bilateral coordination during an incident involving a US light plane that crossed Cuban airspace and crashed in Jamaica in September.

The essential issues behind the conflict – the embargo, the nationalized US properties, the financing given Cuba’s opposition, human rights, the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, those imprisoned in the two countries and the Guantanamo Base – continue to go unaddressed.

Cuba’s highest authorities have repeatedly told the United States they are willing to sit down and negotiate any issue Washington cares to lay on the table, provided talks are based on three basic principles: such conversations must be undertaken as equals, in acknowledgement of the sovereignty of States, without any meddling in the internal affairs of the other.

US diplomatic chief in Cuba surrounded by dissidents, who receive US 20 million in funding from Washington every year.

Cuban analysts insist that these principles “are set in Stone” and that they are recognized by the UN, adding that, on previous occasions, the United States found it hard to sit down and negotiate on equal footing with a small island in its “backyard” that has very few resources and a mere 11 million inhabitants.

What’s more, when Havana insists on talks “among equals”, it also means to say that, on such controversial issues as human rights, it will not only debate about Cuban dissidents but also about the situation in the United States, extra-judicial detentions, torture, selective murder and police violence.

Some previous attempts at a rapprochement failed because Cuba did not accept the demands made by the United States. At different points in history, the latter demanded the suspension of support for revolutionary movements in Latin America, the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Africa, the breaking of ties with the Soviet Union and a change in its political system as a condition for negotiations.

One of the most urgent issues the two countries face right now are the prison sentences of 3 Cuban agents in the United States and a US agent in Cuba. While Washington calls for the unconditional release of Alan Gross, Havana proposes a “humanitarian solution”: an exchange that will benefit the four detainees.

The White House insists Cuba ought to unilaterally release Alan Gross because his detention is the main obstacle to a bilateral rapprochement. In 2010, the United States even terminated all contracts with the island to pressure Havana, resuming talks 2 years later.

For the Cuban government, the release of its 3 agents – considered heroes on the island – is also a very sensitive issue that it would no doubt put on the agenda. It does not, however, appear to be an obstacle to negotiate other issues, if its counterpart requested this previously.

No one in Cuba knows for certain whether Obama will take any decisive steps in this connection in what remains of his term in office, but many believe there have never been better conditions for such a step – not even the Carter administration had a better opportunity when diplomatic headquarters were opened in the two countries and maritime and fishing agreements were signed.

During the Obama presidency, rhetoric in both countries was less aggressive and no tense situations arose.

During the Obama presidency, there have been no tense situations and the rhetoric in both countries has been less aggressive. Most émigrés, including important businesspeople, support a rapprochement, and The New York Times has recently published six editorials calling for a change in policy towards Cuba.

The main problem today may be the intensification of Cuba’s financial persecution, but that may not be a policy aimed at the island in particular, but rather a repercussion of being on the United States’ list of countries that sponsor terrorism, something which Obama could easily change.

In its most recent editorial, The New York Times notes how the old confrontation mechanisms become contradictory in today’s context. While maintaining a quick-visa program aimed at persuading Cuban medical doctors to leave their missions abroad, the US government publicly acknowledges the role that the island’s physicians are playing in Africa and even collaborates with them in the struggle against Ebola.

At the international level, all of Latin America and the United States’ European allies are pushing Washington to cease in its policy of hostility towards Cuba. Regional governments included the island in the Summit of the Americas, despite Washington’s protests, while Brussels negotiates an agreement with Havana.

Cuban politicians consulted prefer not to speak on the basis of speculation and avoid addressing the issue, but they appear to have certain expectations, as though they were convinced that the ball is in their counterparts’ court.

The average Cuban, however, does not seem that hopeful. It wouldn’t be the first time negotiations begin and meet with frustration after the initial steps. What’s more, nearly everyone has in some way become accustomed to living this way: 70 percent of Cubans have lived under the embargo since the day they were born.

(*) Visit the webpage of Fernando Ravsberg.

37 thoughts on “Is Cuba Ready to Negotiate with the USA?

  • November 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    So it seems commenter Rich Haney has written a book:

    Celia Sanchez: The Legend of Cuba’s Revolutionary Heart

    From what I can tell from the promo blurb and the one customer review, Haney advances several novel theories about Sanchez & her role in the Cuban Revolution. As the reviewer wrote:

    “Despite the circumstance that almost all the data cited is inaccurate or even false it seems this is the only book length English language biography of Celia Sanchez Manduley, and thus of interest.”

    While I may not agree with your biases, and I may dispute some of your facts, I do intend to read your book and glean from it what verifiable facts are presented. At the very least, it promises to be an adventurous story.

  • November 25, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Sweig’s alleged “objectivity” is thoroughly discredited by the fact that in the acknowledgements to her book on the Cuban Revolution she thanked the Cuban intelligence agents Josefina Vidal and Jose Gomex Abad. These two Cuban agents had worked with Sweig in Havana, directing her to the information they wanted her to use.

    Vidal was expelled from the U.S. in 2003 for espionage, following the arrest of the Cuba spy, Ana Montes. At the time she served as a “diplomat” in New York at Cuba’s mission to the U.N. Abad was one of the main conspirators in the 1962 plot to bomb Macy’s department store.

    An “objective” historian would not thank two Cuban intelligence agents for their help in writing her book.

  • November 24, 2014 at 6:31 am

    ” I am viscerally pro-democracy and not pro-Castro but I think his revolution says a lot more about the U. S. than about Cuba”. In other words, you are more anti-US than you are pro-Castro. OK, but this simply means that you are more willing to overlook UMAP camps and pre-criminal laws in Cuba as long as the Castros remain poster boys for the anti-US resistance movement. Likewise, these democratically-elected leftist presidents take advantage of the iconic potency that Castro’s anti-establishment present to give credibility to their own progressive movements. But people like my wife, who actually lived under Castro tyranny with no other perspective or agenda other what it was like to live with shortages, crumbling infrastructure, declining education and health care and the lack of personal freedoms are not fooled by Castro’s revolutionary imagery. She opposes the dictatorship and also opposes the pre-revolution Batista and Mafia-ruled false democracy that dominated Cuba. What she wants, as do a majority of CUBANS is a free and independent Cuba. Free of Castro and US dominance.

  • November 23, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Moses, anti-Castro zealots who have, for the most part, controlled the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since 1959 pretend that the Batista-Mafia-U.S. dominance of Cuba in the 1950s was exactly what the majority of Cubans on the island wanted and needed. That is a lie. Were all the Castro worshipers from Nelson Mandela to many of the greatest Latin American authors (Marquez, etc.) stupid? Are all those Castro worshipers democratically elected Presidents of Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc., etc., stupid? Are the only smart people in this world the ones who have reason to hate Castro the most, such as the Batistianos, the Mafia and greedy foreign businessmen. I am viscerally pro-democracy and not pro-Castro but I think his revolution says a lot more about the U. S. than about Cuba because it chased the Batistianos, the Mafisoi, and those businessmen off the island, back to the U. S. from whence they came. If that is not so, tell your readers why it is not so.

  • November 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Oh Gordon, get real!

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