Lugar Pushes Obama on Cuba

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, April 2 — With the clock ticking away before the April 17-19 Americas Summit, U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar continues to push President Obama to do what he offered in his campaign and more regarding a new Cuba policy.

In a letter sent to Obama on Monday and reported on by the Washington Post, Lugar (R-Ind) suggests sending a special envoy to begin direct talks with the Cuban government. Besides rapprochement, Lugar suggests talks could also include exploring ways where the two countries could cooperate on matters such as the battle against drug trafficking and immigration issues.

Lugar noted that the gathering of presidents and prime ministers in Trinidad and Tobago will be “a unique opportunity for you to build a more hospitable climate to advance U.S. interests in the region through a change in our posture regarding Cuba policy.”

Over the last decades Washington has been widely seen in the region as a bully representing US corporations at the expense of the interests, problems and needs of its developing southern neighbors.

Economic policies, including mass privatizations of public utilities and resources, and the subsequent sharp growth in poverty, have in part led to a string of left leaning presidents to be elected throughout the continent and several efforts to boost regional integration.

Bills are now circulating in both chambers of the US Congress that would ease the travel ban on US citizens wanting to visit Cuba. See:

However, the even bigger issue is the economic blockade the US has maintained and hardened over the last half century in a failed attempt to topple the Cuban government.

Ending the blockade would take further legislation and presidential willpower and would have to overcome the powerful Miami lobby that through hefty campaign contributions to both key Republicans and Democrats has been able to influence US policy on Cuba for nearly a half century.

In his letter to Obama, quoted by the Washington Post, Lugar says the current US policy on Cuba puts is at odds with almost all United Nations member countries and “undermines our broader security and political interests in the Western Hemisphere.”

Meanwhile, back in Havana, the jockeying over Cuba policy on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. has not gone unnoticed. History tells Cubans not to hold their breath for a policy change, but there are also optimists who believe something new may be coming.