Big Week Approaches for US-Cuba Relations

Havana mural Foto: Elio Delgado Valdes
Havana mural Foto: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — The ball is moving quickly in the new relationship between the United States and Cuban governments. High level delegations will hold important talks in Havana starting Wednesday, first on migration issues, and then, on Thursday, negotiations open to resume diplomatic ties broken off by the US in 1961, reports dpa news.

The Cuban government also confirmed for the first time its plans to open an embassy in Washington, as will the White House in Havana, announced by US President Barack Obama on December 17.

“On January 22nd takes place the first meeting on the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry (MINREX) stated.

“At this meeting the principles and steps for the restoration of diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies in both countries will be addressed,” it added.

Josefina Vidal, director for US affairs at MINREX, will lead the Cuban delegation at the meeting to be held at the Havana Convention Center,

Washington announced earlier that Assistant Secretary of the Department of State for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, will head up the US delegation in Havana.

In simultaneous speeches by Presidents Obama and Raul Castro, both countries announced on December 17 a historic agreement to resume diplomatic ties after more than half a century of rupture and ideological confrontation.

Playing in Havana.  Photo: Carolyn Looby.
Playing in Havana. Photo: Carolyn Looby.

Obama also ordered measures that weaken the US economic embargo imposed on Cuba for more than 50 years. The measures came into effect on Friday January 16th. The full embargo, however, can only be lifted by the US Congress.

Bilateral meetings begin next Wednesday in Havana with a round of talks on migration issues. The meeting was scheduled for some time and is part of one of the few mechanisms for contacts that already existed between the two countries.

The migration talks are held on a intermittent  basis since the mid-90s and seek to coordinate joint actions to tackle illegal migration.

Jacobson is the highest diplomatic representative to travel to Havana in decades.

US senators visit

Meanwhile, on Saturday a delegation arrives in Havana of six US senators and representatives who have already been to Cuba several times in recent years. The group of Democratic Party politicians is led by Patrick Leahy from the state of Vermont. They will be on the island for three days.

Besides Leahy the delegation includes: Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; and Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Peter Welch of Vermont.

“This is the first visit to Cuba by members of Congress since the change in US policy was announced by President Obama on December 17,” Leahy said from Washington on Friday.

“We have all been to Cuba before, and we strongly support the president’s new direction for our policy toward Cuba. We are going this time to discuss our expectations, and the Cubans’ expectations, for the normalization of relations,” added Leahy.

The senators will meet with representatives of the Cuban government and also hope to meet with the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega. On previous visits, Leahy has always met with representatives of Cuban civil society, noted US diplomatic sources.


6 thoughts on “Big Week Approaches for US-Cuba Relations

  • January 21, 2015 at 1:28 am
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    “If today it is possible to prolong life , health and the productive time of persons,
    if it is perfectly possible to plan the development of the population in accordance
    with growing productivity, culture and development of human values , what are they waiting for to do so ?” FIDEL CASTRO
    The Comandante Che would have liked for the almighty God to be invited for and at this occaision in his mysterious way, of that I am sure. An opening prayer by the Archbishop and of course thanks to God as always would bode well as we walk forward with God into a future that he has planned so perfectly.
    The powers that be , whom for the laws and devices which have sustained the
    Revolution , should be as always . That said , change for the better can be
    accomplished as has been the case since the Revolution.
    As for me, I would hope that the people are given the opportunity to in
    a productive way cast a vote and be heard so as to help guide the Committee
    as they complete the removal of the embargo in the most efficient and
    timely manner as is the norm in Cuba. This process will of course require
    consultations and approval from those whom have stood with us and due consideration should be given.
    Thank You

  • January 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm
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    I am surprised that someone with your background can be so wrong about basic facts regarding Cuba.
    (1) According to Wikipedia, in 2011 only 800,000 Cubans are ‘members’ of the Cuban communist party. This is far from the nearly 6 million eligible voters.
    (3) NOT delivering more than 100,000 daily barrels of oil to Cuba would help and not hurt Venezuela. Cuba ‘pays’ for this oil by exchanging the services of medical personnel, engineers and sports trainers. This exchange is estimated to heavily favor Cuba. If Cuba could find other sources of affordable oil, Venezuela would celebrate it.
    (4) Cuba has very few natural resources. The resources they do have are fully exploited. Fishing “fleets” that fished Cuban waters were foreign-owned. As recent as the early 1980s, Cuba was the largest sugar-exporter in the world. Today, Cuba does not rank in the top 10 countries that export sugar.
    (5) Converting Cuban ports would be neither quick nor cheap. Nearby Cancun, Mexico and Jamaica receive more than 10 times the tourists that visit Cuba each year. Their market dominance will not be overcome easily. Cuba lacks the necessary infrastructure to increase their tourism profile significantly.
    (7) Paroled Cubans who have received their legal status through the Cuban Adjustment Act provisions are subject to the same restrictions of any green card resident.

  • January 19, 2015 at 11:37 am
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    On your first sentence.: The U.S. does not feed itself. Oh yes it has the food but some 40 million Americans do not make enough money to buy it . That’s the number of people in the U.S. who are what is euphemistically called ” food insecure which, translated into the plain language the GOUSA does not want to use, means they go hungry .
    Second, Cuba’s conditions may be largely due to what both the embargo and some 50 years of anti-Cuban propaganda from the capitalist countries have achieved.
    You seem to have forgotten that the explicitly stated purpose of the U.S. embargo as clearly described by then Under Secretary of State Lester Mallory was to impoverish and starve the Cuban people ALL THE CUBAN PEOPLE such that they would voluntarily overthrow their revolution .
    Evidently you believe that the embargo did not achieve the poverty part of that plan and that Cuba was engaged in world trade on an even playing field and that its STATE CAPITALIST economy failed on its own.
    Of course Cuba is in dire economic straits and a move towards a democratic economy ( socialism) will both change things for the better for the Cuban people and simultaneously incur intensified future U.S. hostilities.
    Democracy is simply not allowed by the Empire .
    ( Except in Burma ……hahahahaha`
    or jajajajajaja if you’d prefer. )

  • January 19, 2015 at 10:12 am
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    Having lived in Miami/Dade over 20 years and 3 years in GTMO working as an analyst of Cuba, I have some concerns over how this process is being done. Some of the issues to consider are:
    1) Cuba is a Communist Democracy. Everyone is a member of “The Party” and can vote in elections unlike the USSR where about 6% were Party members which controlled what the government did. As stated by John, they are Leninist and led by “The Vanguard” which these negotiations may have an impact on when Fidel and Raul pass on. The Cuban people have already seen changes and compromises due to the realities of economics and are starting to see younger members of government as possible future leaders. These negotiations will not change Cuban government but are a perfect spot for politicians to push agendas that could influence the future of Cuban government.
    2) Capitalism causes the fall or change of socialism or communism as has been seen in the USSR and China. Once people find out they can have more than nothing they want the opportunity to try. The problem with these negotiations is that they will not address the Vanguard controlling the capitalism as seen in China. Some small personal businesses are currently tolerated but we will see if the people actually benefit from changes in economy.
    3) Cuba political alliances have been based on their need for oil. US oil production and the reduction in oil prices could create a chance for the US to market to Cuba which would break their dependence on Venezuela. This would upset Venezuela and could cause hardship for their government.
    4) Cuba has a huge amount of resources that open trade could make the government very wealthy. They have produce, fish, sugar, tabaco and minerals. Their fishing fleet used to be one of the largest in the world and stripped the coasts of many countries of their fish to exchange with the USSR for oil. They are a major sugar producer and produce excellent rum and cigars.
    5) Cuba has port facilities in Havana and Guantanamo that could quickly be converted to container ports and cruise ship harbors. The weather is very nice in Cuba most of the time and the port in Guantanamo is the deepest in the Caribbean. This could make Cuba the largest tourist destination, free trade zone and transport hub in the Caribbean. It has excellent entertainers, diving, beaches and boating facilities plus multiple airports which can all be applied to the tourist business quickly and linked to Miami and Key West.
    6) The major problems with the negotiations are that the Vanguard will not change for a while, countries that benefit from the embargo will oppose it such as Venezuela and some central/south American countries that currently trade with Cuba at discounted prices and:
    7) The removal of wet foot/dry foot policies would mean less benefits to Cubans coming here since they would have to follow the Visa process and could be deported back to Cuba if they violate the conditions of their Visa. Visas for opposition political opinions would have to be negotiated since even Plato agreed with Cuban policy of removing dissident thought from the prefect state and the Vanguard will not tolerate open debate.

  • January 17, 2015 at 10:19 pm
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    Neither system is perfect, but at least the imperfect regulated market system of the U.S. allows it to feed itself. Cuba lived off the Soviets and now Venezuela. Cuba’s leaders are not planning on changing their system more than they need to survive the collapse of the Maduro regime. The deal they have cut will let them replace the Venezuela largess with tourist dollars and increased remittances. To keep control of the situation they are going to need to work fast enough to get the tourist dollars flowing before they get cut off.

    Cuba is not about to turn into a U.S. satelight. A regime that has weathered 50+ years knows how to hang on. The leadership will survive, they will be a little nervous about changes but that is the price. Everyday Cuban’s will be a little less equally poor. Such is the price. The Miami old guard will hate it, but that is how it goes. No utopia.

    Those hung up on Castro are stuck in the 60’s. The communist vs capitalist thing is over. Every country now has some level of social welfare and some kind of private market. The real action is with the challenge from the Islamist. Forget the communist, in this era it is Islam that is on the rise.

  • January 17, 2015 at 11:31 am
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    These preparatory steps in the easing of hostilities by the GOUSA against the Cubans are just that: preparatory .
    They will lead into something different vis a vis democracy in Cuba or they will not.
    For the record, the US has a free-enterprise (private) capitalist economy and its government is an oligarchy: a rule by the wealthy -or in the case of the USA -the candidates chosen by the wealthy.
    Both systems are not democratic.
    These systems however are what the GOUSA want to install in Cuba claiming that they are democratic and this is what the embargo is all about and always has been.
    Also for the record Cuba has a state-capitalist (managed by government officials) economy which is no different from the U.S. private system in its lack of decision-making power vested in the workers .
    Cuba is also Leninist ( elite -cadre led) and in this is no more or less responsive to those at the bottom of the society than is the oligarchy in Washington D.C.
    It would seem that the two systems have much more in common than they have major differences.
    One of those serious differences is how the goods and services of each country are distributed . As poor as Cuba is, that poverty is shared as equitably as the embattled Cuban economy can manage . The same cannot be said for the wealthiest private capitalist economy where some 40 million people live in dire poverty.
    But the main point is ……absent the constraints of the embargo- IF it is lifted and all other hostilities from the U.S. cease -will the Cuban leadership THEN make the moves that would make Cuba a socialist society by empowering the grass-roots worker -based organizations in the workplaces, establishing or enabling a great many cooperatives and more importantly reducing the role of the (Leninist) Cuban Communist Party ( PCC) to a strictly advisory one..
    This is a new ball game.
    Will Cuba’s present totalitarian systems become accepted as not all that different from the totalitarian systems of the oligarchy in the U.S.A or will future moves toward a truly socialist and democratic society create a cause for a new war on the revolution by the USA ?
    I suspect we’re going to know fairly soon .

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