Esteban Morales on Cuba-US Relations

Fernando Ravsberg*

Esteban Morales

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban professor Esteban Morales is one of the most reputable experts on the issue of Cuba-US relations. He has just published a book titled De la confrontacion a los intentos de normalizacion (“From Confrontation to Normalization Efforts”), a volume crucial to understanding the bilateral conflict between the two countries. He agreed to devote part of his limited time to speak with us about the past, present and future of these relations.

Are changes in US policy towards Cuba coming?

Esteban Morales: We would need to do a detailed analysis of the past elections and the current makeup of the US Congress. Obama can’t lift the embargo, because that is a prerogative of Congress, but there are many things he can do. He can broaden academic exchange between the two countries, make it possible for US citizens to visit Cuba, take our country off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism, hold talks about the Guantanamo Naval Base, and increase the United States’ cooperation efforts in the fight against Ebola. Obama can also negotiate the exchange of Alan Gross for our three comrades serving prison sentences in the United States.

There are those who compare the United States coordination efforts in the Ebola campaign with its Ping-Pong diplomacy with China.

EM: Well, it does resemble it in the sense that it is kind of rapprochement that could open other doors. Many things can be done to lessen the pressure on Cuba and those applied on the United States, the pressure Latin America put on the US by inviting Cuba to the 2015 Summit of the Americas, for instance. Washington is paying an increasingly higher price for maintaining that policy of hostility.

Esteban Morales has just published a book on Cuba-US relations.

Could bilateral talks be undertaken in the short term?

EM: I believe it is possible today. In 1977, with the Carter administration, the most important talks to date were held. The problem then was that the bilateral debate included multilateral issues, like Cuba’s presence in Angola and Central America and its relations with the Soviet Union.

What would be the obstacles today?

EM: The obstacles that existed in Carter’s time do not exist today. Our relations with Russia are different, we do not have troops in Africa and the situation in Central America has changed. Cuba’s international activism is of a different nature today – it has more to do with aid in areas of health, education and others.

What we have today are contradictory perceptions. Obama said the main obstacle is the case of Alan Gross, but that can be overcome easily. What happened with Gross is his fault and the fault of US intelligence services, who sent him to Cuba. His own family has said that Obama is responsible for the situation. Our government is offering to exchange him for the 3 Cubans still imprisoned in the US. Everyone would benefit from that.

Would Cuba be willing to release Gross in exchange of starting talks, or is the release of the three Cuban agents one of the conditions?

EM: I believe it’s a condition, because it’s a very painful situation for us – those men have been in prison there for 16 years. They went on a mission to protect Cuba and what they did to them there was unjust. I believe it is right that Cuba should make their release a condition for allowing Gross to return to the United States. The Obama administration has the power to do this and it would not involve high costs for it. The other day, they traded 11 Taliban prisoners for a US soldier.

Does Cuba want to begin negotiations there?

EM: Negotiations needn’t start there. In fact, we’re already working together in the fight against Ebola. We can debate other issues, but, sooner or later, we’re going to have to talk about these people in prison.

Morales believes the struggle against Ebola could bring Cuba and the US closer to one another.

What would be on the agenda for Cuba?

EM: One of the issues we have to talk about is the blockade, particularly its financial aspect, which leads to things as absurd as the US $ 8 billion fine applied on a French bank. Cuba could also ask for US citizens to be allowed to travel to Cuba freely, because that would have a significant impact on the growth of tourism. We could address the lifting of restrictions on a number of medications we need and the US currently does not allow us to buy. We can negotiate the rules of trade with the United States, which today force Cuba to pay in advance and in cash. There are a number of things we can do.

To what extent would the Cuban government be willing to negotiate?

EM: The Cuban government is willing to negotiate everything the US government wants to, including the issue of human rights. What Cuba isn’t going to accept is for Washington to impose parameters on Cuba’s political system, demanding that it become a multi-party system or that it adopt a market economy. Those issues have to do with Cuba’s sovereignty as a country and we would never accept being told what to do in this sense.

Why did previous negotiations fail?

EM: The main cause was that the United States was never willing to negotiate on an equal footing – it always tried to impose its agenda on us. Washington tried to tell us what our international relations should be like, demanding that we break ties with the Soviet Union. They demanded that we leave Angola. That was the end of it, it made it impossible to make any headway, because Cuba could not accept having the US dictate its policy.

What could Cuba do to facilitate a rapprochement?

EM: Two years ago, Cuba advanced an immense number of issues where cooperation with the US was possible, including medical and educational issues. But we won’t arrive at an understanding while Washington continues to think that Cuba is far too small to address it as an equal. Our rhetoric today is very diplomatic vis-à-vis the United States and Raul Castro has said he is willing to talk about anything, anytime, but only on the basis of equality.
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(*) Visit the website of Fernando Ravsberg.


16 thoughts on “Esteban Morales on Cuba-US Relations

  • November 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm
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    Is the “we” the Royal we, or do you speak of US citizens? There are many of us who care very much about the restrictions imposed by Islamic governments upon their citizens. The recent statement by the President of Turkey that women are not equal to men reflects Islam. Turkey thrived and grew because it seperated Church and State forming a secular government, now it is in danger of allowing reversion to a religious state. The US similarly has a potential major problem with the “religious right”.

  • November 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    When you refer to the US, do you mean the current US government or the 340 million people? You describe the people of Cuba as being slaves under the final Batista regime. Looking at the number of pre-revolution cars in Cuba, it is curious to wonder how the “slaves” were able to afford them. My point is that in your enthusiasm obviously as a US citizen to criticize your elected government(s) and wish to suppprt the Castro family dictatorship regime you have committed the error of assuming -with perhaps a touch of American arrogance, that the only alternative to the Castro family regime is for Cuba to revert to a Batista type puppet US regime.
    Time has passed, the world is different, there are other alternatives.
    The question which all of us who actually care about the future of the people of Cuba rather than your self confession of only caring about money, is do we want them to have freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom to form alternative political parties to the existing one party communist one, freedom to open commercial businesses with more than one employee and freedom to develop and grow?
    Hands up those in favour – is yours up or do you wish like Nero to turn your thumb down?

  • November 24, 2014 at 5:56 am
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    Those Americans who defend the Castro regime certainly don’t care about freedom for the Cuban people. All they care about is rum, salsa, cheap hookers and bashing America.

  • November 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm
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    Alberto, when you wrote:

    “Chronic defenders of the United States wrongdoings on these pages, continually present Cuba as the aggressor and abuser of a feeble, innocent, unblemished United States” …did you really believe anybody commenting here at HT actually fits that exaggerated caricature?

    Could you please provide just one quotation from anybody which presents the US as “feeble, innocent, unblemished”…?

    You followed that absurd opening with a long list of historical outrages, turning up the emotional temperature, but without any intellectual point to your comment.

  • November 23, 2014 at 11:36 am
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    I see you don’t understand that the US doesn’t care about whether Cubans are “free.” If we did, then Manuel Ray would have been presiding over Cuba. We care about one thing: MONEY. The people of Cuba could be slaves, as they were under Batista, and we wouldn’t care as long as we benefited from their labor.

  • November 23, 2014 at 11:34 am
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    Watch and learn. It will happen soon. And for the record, and you would know this if you read up on the subject and the history: the US doesn’t give two shits whether people in Cuba are free — as if we did when Batista ran the country. The US cares about the money.

    People in Saudi Arabia are not free. We don’t care.

  • November 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm
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    No serious commenter here at HT who supports democracy and freedom would deny that any of these events took place. At best, your manner of recounting them is biased but no surprise coming from a shill for the Castro regime. But so what? Respecting your time and my own, trust me that I could produce an equally despicable list of atrocities perpetuated against the US by the Castros. Let’s admit that the two countries don’t like each other, and as a result, have done bad things and call it even. Here’s the difference Dr. Jones. All the bad stuff that we have done against Cuba has been written about in US media, adjudicated in US courts, or at the very least freely published in an open blog called HT without any threats made to its editor by the US government. (As far as I know Circles). The folks you support, the Castros, have admitted to nothing, never allow Granma nor any other state publication to print their transgressions and for the sake of argument, made the posting of this blog from within Cuba impossible for Circles. For all the bad, and there is a lot of it to write about, the US is still free. Cuba is not.

  • November 22, 2014 at 8:55 pm
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    Who gave the Castro family regime the right to dictate to and control every aspect of the lives of he people oif Cuba?
    Who gave the Castro family regime he right to form GAESA and through it and its subsidiaries to control over 80% of Cuba’s economy?
    Who gave the Castro family regime the right to form RAFIN SA (Raul and Fidel Castro Ruz) and to purchase 27% of ETECSA for $709 million?
    Reference to “tthis country” on these pages is reference to Cuba. To think that such reference would imply any other would reflect arrogance – wouldn’t it?

  • November 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm
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    Interesting that so many many Cubans wish to immigrate to this country

  • November 22, 2014 at 9:33 am
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    Chronic defenders of the United States wrongdoings on these pages, continually present Cuba as the aggressor and abuser of a feeble, innocent, unblemished United States, who must be compensated and apologize to for misbehaving. For the sake of time, I copy and paste some of my responses to “another” US apologists

    – GITMO is one the many spoils of the 1898 Spanish-American War, coerced out of the Cuban government with threats of the Platt Amendment, of not leaving the country after 4 years of occupation.

    – GITMO turned the City of Guantanamo into the largest Red Light District in Cuba with rampant sexually transmissible diseases, corruption, kick-backs, violence, rape.

    – Cuban civil service employee Lino Rodriguez was beaten to death and his body was found floating in the bay on 12/17/1940

    – Cuban civil service worker Lorenzo Salomon was arrested and tortured during 15 days, accused of embezzlement on 9/1954

    – Written and graphic documents proves how Batista’s government Air Force was resupplied at NAS on GITMO as late as 12/27/58, whose bombing decimated large areas of the Sierra Maestra and killed countless farmers.

    – On January 12/61, Manuel Prieto a Cuban GITMO employee was arrested, accused of being an agent of the Cuban government. He was tortured, forced to swallow poisoned pills. On 3/13 a pirate boat coming from GITMO, strafed Santiago de Cuba oil refinery with 57-milimter cannon, killing Cuban sailor Rene Rodriguez.

    – On 9/30/61. Ruben Lopez Sabariego was arrested by the GITMO Military Intelligence Service. 18 days later, his mutilated body was given to his wife, alleging, it was found in a ditch. Navy Lt. William A. Szili told the Philadephia Bulletin reporter, that Capt Arthur J. Jackson had finished off with some shots.

    – Fisherman Rodolfo Rosell Salas was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on GITMO in May 1962. His mutilated body was found in his boat adrift near Caimanera. Cuban Border Guard Ramonn Lopez Peña was shot dead in his sentry box in 1964 and Luis Ramirez Lopez Lopez in 1966. Antonio Campos, Luis Ramirez Reyes and Andres Noel Larduet, were wounded by shots coming out of GITMO.

    – A a result of these aggressive acts, Cuba cut-off GITMO water supply from the Yaterita river and over 2000 GITMO employees were given 8 hours to decide either to “exile” on GITMO with all their prerrogatives or return to their families in Cuba and Be On Their Own! Seven hundred decided to return to Cub and their annual leave and retirement benefits was withheld for 40 years in Boyers, PA, while they got old, hungry and died in Cuba. Those who stayed on GITMO, had to wait 15 years, before being able to return to find what was left of their families.

    Need More information on this place of horror?

  • November 21, 2014 at 11:24 am
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    It is the whole point of diplomatic negotiations that two or more countries get together to discuss issues of concern and conflict. Each country makes the sovereign decision to come to an agreement, or not. It is understood that the outcome of the discussions will be an agreement for each country to change policies which are driving the conflict.

    Therefore, in the case of the US & Cuba, the Cubans want the US to change their policy of the embargo. The US wants Cuba to change their policies on human rights, democracy, and financial compensation for seized property of US citizens and corporations.

    The US & Cuba will sign an agreement when both sides decide that’s what they want to do. Until then…

  • November 21, 2014 at 8:35 am
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    I rest my case.

  • November 21, 2014 at 7:41 am
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    Who gave the US the right to tell other countries what their system of government “must” be? Don’t you see this country eating it’s own people now that capitalism has turned into “survival of the fittest?”

  • November 20, 2014 at 10:00 pm
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    If you call the US pulling down our pants, bending over and taking it where the sun don’t shine as “simple” because that is what Professor Morales wants the US to do. Fat chance! Did you read the post regarding what Antony J. Blinken, deputy national security adviser,said to a Senate committee regarding the US plans? http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=107474
    Check it out.

  • November 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm
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    Great article… Esteban has a natural ability to cut through the crap to help simplify the process for the normalization of relations with the US. So many others would rather continue to dwell on complicating the situation rather than simplifying it.

  • November 20, 2014 at 2:54 pm
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    Glaringly absent from Professor Morales remarks are the specific changes that the Castros would be willing to make in exchange for the specific changes he was quite adept at requesting that the US make. Why is that? It is because that behind all the hoity-toity diplomatic sound bites that the Castro propaganda machine continue to broadcast, there is no desire on their part to change anything. In fact, taken off the table entirely are the very issues most important to the US. Morales says, “What Cuba isn’t going to accept is for Washington to impose parameters on Cuba’s political system, demanding that it become a multi-party system or that it adopt a market economy. Those issues have to do with Cuba’s sovereignty as a country and we would never accept being told what to do in this sense.” Well, what else is there? The release of political prisoners is a temporary fix. A corrupt regime could simply release and re-arrest once they got what they want. Morales wants American citizens to have the freedom to travel and do business with Cuba but does not wish to extend the same freedoms to Cuban citizens to do business directly with American businesses. If Morales put the same energy in urging the Castro dictatorship to be as flexible as he suggest for the US, negotiation between the two countries might have a chance. However, given his list of Castro “will not dos”, improved relations between the two countries, at least in the near term, doesn’t stand a chance.

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