Two Recent Signs of Change in Washington’s Cuba Policies

US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama

Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Café Fuerte)

US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama
US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama

HAVANA TIMES — Within a short 10-day period, US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have addressed Washington’s Cuba policy and have insisted on the need to update and creatively re-shape a policy implemented over fifty years ago, a policy which must be placed in step with the times.

Politicians tend to publicly address only the tip of the iceberg and often conceal the more important maneuvers. I can’t be certain that we’ll be seeing some unprecedented decisions on the matter immediately, but the moderation of recent pronouncements and the White House’s stance towards the timid but real changes taking place in Cuba today (such as the proliferation of self-employment and the laxer travel legislation) are indeed curious.

In the five short years since Obama entered office, more than 100 thousand Cubans have been granted visas to travel to the United States to reunite with their families and as part of cultural, educational or religious exchanges. This year, the State Department announced that it would grant five-year travel visas to Cubans with relatives in the United States, as part of the “normalization” of the way in which Cuban applicants are treated by US migratory authorities.

Closer Ties

In addition, Obama and Kerry’s statements reaffirm the decisions regarding the lifting of restrictions on travel and the sending of remittances to the island (made effective in 2009), as well as increased travel to Cuba by US citizens and so-called “people-to-people” contacts (operative since 2011).

This year, the two countries resumed migratory talks and conversations surrounding the re-establishment of direct mail services between Cuba and the United States. It is also evident that restrictions on the movement of US and Cuban diplomats outside their respective missions have been relaxed.

In the short span of time between Obama’s statements at a fund-raiser and Kerry’s speech at the OAS, an official Cuban delegation (headed by two diplomats) visited the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa and participated in a meeting aimed at reaching a regional cooperation agreement on oil spills. The gathering involved officials from the pertinent US agencies.

The meeting between the Cubans and US officials who attended the gathering was held in an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation. According to sources who participated in the talks, the agreement is now ready to be signed by the parties. Curiously enough, the Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) raised no objections about hotel bills and stipends of Cuban invitees, who participated in a forum sponsored by oil companies.

No Comments about Alan Gross

In their respective speeches (whose Cuba-related fragments are reproduced below), neither Obama nor Kerry made any mention of contractor Alan Gross, convicted to 15 years in prison in Cuba. As we know, Gross is one of the chief hurdles standing in the way of improved bilateral relations.

During his visit to Havana in February, Senator Patrick Leahy recommended that the Gross case be negotiated “discretely”, a suggestion which has apparently not fallen upon deaf ears in Washington.

At the beginning of July, the Cuban government authorized an independent medical team to visit Gross in Havana, an incident which was not reported on by the US press. Gross’ own family has maintained a low profile in connection with the case, even after nearly four years since his arrest, which took place on December 3, 2009.

These are some of the signs that suggest relations between Washington and Havana may be evolving. We should not jump to any conclusions. The embargo is still in place and seems to be set in stone for the time being. What we can say is that the map of political and social relations between the two countries is beginning to be drawn up with a different rhetoric.


4 thoughts on “Two Recent Signs of Change in Washington’s Cuba Policies

  • November 25, 2013 at 10:45 am
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    The US does “deal” with Cuba. There have been a number of bilateral arrangements on everything from drug enforcement to immigration issues.

    The US has called for democratic political change in Cuba before they will lift the embargo. However, Raul Castro has stated repeatedly there will be no political changes in Cuba. Just the other day, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Commerce, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, stated that political parties, other than the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which has been in power since 1959, will “never” be allowed to participate in elections in his country.

    A little known fact is that the US imposed a trade embargo on China for 3 decades. It was only lifted when Deng Xiopeng negotiated a resolution to those issues with the US.

    But I agree with your last comment: the geographical, cultural and familial relationships between the US & Cuba will eventually help Cuba become democratic and free.

  • November 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm
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    The U.S., being a solid oligarchy is no nation to preach democracy to any other nation.
    IN every election for national office, the candidates for each of the two parties is preselected by the wealthy whose money is an absolute necessity for a successful election campaign . Once elected they always serve the needs and desires of those who have legally bribed them to do so.

    To not understand this very basic fact of how the government of the U.S. is run and by whom and why this is not a democracy disqualifies you from serious comment here .

    In its foreign policy history , the U.S. has supported just about any authoritarian regimes and some of the worst as long as they were anti-socialist and pro-capitalist. Trying to impose or support democracy has never been at the center of U.S. foreign policy but rather the imposition of totalitarian forms like capitalism.

    The past is and will be prologue.
    The U.S. War On The People of Cuba will continue as long as they retain their (warped) state socialist form .
    Their governmental form , lack of democracy is of no concern to the oligarchy because it works in their favor .
    Capitalism is a totalitarian form .
    So Moses Patterson is correct for once. There will be no serious changes in the U.S. War On The People Of Cuba.

    I suggest you take a look at the “Killing Hope” website, read the introduction to the book and peruse a couple of the free chapters to get a grasp of what U.S. foreign policy is all about .

    It is not about supporting democracy.
    It is totally about maintaining and extending capitalism and preventing the rise of democratic economies and societies.

    Doubtless what I have said will strike you as unreal but the fact is that you have been fed lies from birth and the truth may well be unrecognizable to you as the truth .

    For an alternative view of things also try daily reading at ZNet .
    You will find Z a source unlike any you now read for your information and I would invite you to read a couple of t.he articles there that interest you and try to find any errors of fact .

  • November 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm
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    This post in incorrectly titled. There has been no change in US/Cuban policy. These recent statements reflect a recent change in the possibility in ‘changing’ policy. There is a difference.

  • November 23, 2013 at 11:56 am
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    It’s about time we had constructive dialogue between the two countries. It couldn’t come soon enough. In spite of our political differences, it no longer makes any sense not dealing with an authoritarian regime 90 miles away from our shores when we deal quite openly with China and other authoritarian regimes around the world. The U.S. has a better chance of helping Cuba become more democratic than we have with China mainly due to our physical and cultural closeness.

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