Obama Firm on Cuba Policy, says adviser

by Café Fuerte

Anthony-J-BlinkenHAVANA TIMES — One of the closest foreign policy advisers in the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will not take executive action to ease the embargo on Cuba. He noted that any change of policy towards the island depends on the regime of Raul Castro showing “significant changes”.

“Unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking significant steps, I don’t know how we could move forward in our relationship,” said Antony J. Blinken, deputy national security adviser, during a hearing in the US Senate.

Blinken appeared before the Senate to testify at his first confirmation hearing for the post of Assistant Secretary of State, nominated by Obama. After his introduction he answered the questions in a session chaired by the Cuban Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Marco Rubio asked for clarification

And near the end of the two-hour hearing, Senator Marco Rubio took his turn to interrogate Blinken about his opinions about the situation in Venezuela, the crossroads of the negotiations between the government and the FARC in Colombia, and Cuba.

Regarding Cuba, Rubio called for clarification on recent reports that over the next two years of his presidency, Obama could issue executive measures on Cuba to remove barriers of the embargo and promote the normalization of relations with the Castro regime.

Rumors about that possibility have increased in recent weeks following a barrage of editorials from The New York Times asking the administration to renew its policy toward the island.

Blinken denied it and said that such a policy change is not foreseeable in the midst of the attitude of the Cuban regime to maintain prisoner the US contractor Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Anything you could do in Cuba should be consistent with the law and secondly, everything in the future should be done in full consultation with Congress,” the official said.

In the wrong direction

Blinken maintained that the Cuban government has been moving in the wrong direction, increasing political arrests and keeping in prison Alan Gross, whose unjust incarceration remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Blinken said the president has ideas on how to promote the democratization of Cuba and on how to prepare the Cuban people for future changes. He said that if an opportunity arises to move in that direction “he may take advantage of it.”

“But that depends on Cuba and the actions it takes,” he noted.

Rubio insisted that the types of changes in Cuba sought by the Obama administration should not only be in the economic sector.

Democratic reforms

Blinken said that any progress in the bilateral relationship will be determined by “democratic reforms, not simply by economic reforms.”

At the end of the session, Menendez spoke to suggest that Washington should not accept that Cuba attends the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April 2015. He further recalled the recent position of the Cuban regime in opposition to a UN resolution to sanction North Korea, backed by the vast majority of the international community.

Menendez also recalled that Havana insists on the release of three Cuban spies in US prisons in exchange for the release of Alan Gross, when they are very different cases. He also mentioned the name of Ana Belen Montes, a former Pentagon official sentenced to 25 years, as part of the long arm of Cuban espionage on US soil.

Blinken is expected to be confirmed for the position in the State Department before the congressional end of the year recess.

Watch Obama adviser Antony J.Blinken’s responses to questions on Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba:

35 thoughts on “Obama Firm on Cuba Policy, says adviser

  • “|There is no value in having the same argument over and over with people who absolutely refuse to look at the evidence that is presented to them.”
    Quite right Mr. Goodrich!
    To you “evidence” is regurgitated Chomsky and the egg headed opinions of academics safely esconced in their ivory towers and with no actual experience of the reality of life in communist states.To me evidence is that which I or relatives have witnessed.
    But I suppose that I would be churlish if I did not acknowledge your responding to my observations which I guess implies that I am not included in those whom you deem unintelligent. The merit of such recognition by you is however of dubious value.

  • “Institutions of higher learning” are not monolithic ideological factories. There are academics who teach your favourite definitions of Communism and socialism, and there are other academics who teach other interpretations and definitions. That’s a fact you will just have to accept.

    You last paragraph:

    “There is no value in having the same argument over and over with people who absolutely refuse to look at the evidence that is presented to them.”

    You really, really need to read that out loud to yourself a couple dozen times. It’s about you.

  • A very long post written evidently to prove that you do not know what communism is and prefer to take the word of state capitalists like Stalin, the Castros, the Vietnamese , Koreans etc (but only in this instance) as to what communism is.
    To requote/paraphrase Noam Chomsky “…if socialism (communism) are described accurately that description MUST include a bottom-up, democratically- run means of production run by the workers and not a boss, political dictator or manager as they are in capitalism US style and state capitalism as in those countries you accept as socialist or communist.
    You and the other anti-revolutionaries MUST accept the word of Stalin in order to maintain your position as to the true nature of socialism and communism and anarchism for that matter.
    You are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to define philosophies and economic systems that already have definitions taught in institutions of higher learning .
    You are not entitled to your own “facts”
    I recognize the futility of explaining fact to those who refuse to look at it or accept it.
    There is no value in having the same argument over and over with people who absolutely refuse to look at the evidence that is presented to them.

  • Obviously, the Cuban FAR does not pose an existential threat to the US, or even a strategic danger.

    However, Cuba maintains an extensive intelligence network in the US. They do this primarily as a forward defense. They also collect intelligence for resale to other countries, such as Iran, Russia & China. That is where the threat to the U.S. come from.

  • Ana Belen Montes WAS a threat. Now she is serving a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. US military might, even without a GITMO is a threat to all of our enemies. Intentionally so. To Cuba’s benefit, because of their tiny size, antiquated military, and corrupt leadership, the US recognizes that Cuba has bigger problems facing the regime than the US military presence. Besides, there are too many Cuban grandmothers living in Cuba with grandchildren in living in Miami who would never abide a US military action against Cuba. For all the anti-US blather that comes out of Cuba, the Cuban leadership, beginning with the Castros have known better than to give their hair-triggered fellow Cubans in Miami an excuse to justify a real US military invasion.

  • John, it is you who has no clue as what communism IS. You manintain an ideal of what communism should be and more exactly, what you would like it to be. But in the real world, where the label ‘communism’ has been applied, that system has failed. Of course, after these failures, people like you continue to wish to re-label these failed systems. Of course you are ashamed to associate communism with the Castro regime. I would be too.

  • For all of us….

  • De la Cova and his ilks write novels to make a living, rather than getting a job. On December 26. 1956 I was living on Calle H #106, Reparto Sueño, Santiago de Cuba, 4 1/2 blocks from the Moncada Garrison entrance across from Col. Alberto del Rio Chaviano’s home.

    I was an accidental witness of this tragic event from beginning to end. We saw the jeeps returning to the garrison with individuals they had rounded up across town, which was followed by execution gunshot all through the day. My schoolmate father, Sergent Moreno, survived the attack and described the event to us.

    If these pseudo-historians were to be believed, we must ask ourselves, why ALL of them have been incapable of attacking any of the garrisons in Cuba in 50 years?

    They remind of journalist in Ringside, explaining why the champ lost the fight.

  • Fidel’s hours long ramblings? As a Cuban I can tell you that we do indeed remember then, try hard as we may to forget. We called those speeches many things…none of them good.

    It’s a constant wonder how you middle America armchair Bolsheviks continue to admire the Castro tyrants while enjoying the comforts and freedoms of the society you abhor.

  • How is Ana Belen Montes a threat to the US and GITMO with the southern Navy Fleet, two airports WAC-10, the Taliban and everything is, is not a threat to Cuba?

  • HI Terry,
    I have expressed my view regarding the future in Cuba following the deaths of the Castro Ruz brothers – when they will join Dr. Ernesto Guevara and Colonel Hugo Chavez as “sacred” figures in the Socialist paradise – below. You will note that my view is that the Raul Castro Ruz family will control, wioth the political front of Diaz Canel, Rodriguez and Murillo being a puppet government. So in that respect of no change in course we appear to agree.
    I cannot see any sound reason why the US Government should enter into any form of negotiation – respectful or other – with the Castro regime. it begs the question, to discuss and negotiate what?
    The Castro family regime will not change its views or relinquish the smallest part of its control. The people of Cuba will wait in vain for any such voluntary action. They are tired and weary of living in poverty imposed as policy by the regime, but find their only way to achieve change is to abandon their society, their friends and their families and emigrate. That is why Cuba is one of the few countries in the world with a declining population.
    The economy continues to decline. Following my arrival in early October, there was no toilet paper (papel sanitaria) in the shops of our city which serves a population of 100,000, for three weeks. Even copies of Granma were being sought. The lack of coffee for over a month was resolved when briefly supplies appeared from Spain. This was one week following the regime protesting on TV that the US embargo (which they incorrectly call a “blockade”) was prevening Cuba from exporting coffee to North America – to which I heard a Cuban say “Thank God, we would have even less”.
    The number of Casas for sale increases with the “Se vende esa Casa” signs increasing, but with few sales as no one has the money to buy. The base price appears to be 25,000 CUC as that is the estmated sum to enable a move to the US.
    “Post Castro” is in my view a pious hope. The next generation are in good health!

  • HA! HA! HA!
    Typical Goodrich arrogance. He will decide which of the contributors to Havana Times is sufficiently intelligent to merit response.
    Those of us who express our own views on these pages rather than those expressed in publications and repeated by Mr. Goodrich are clearly deemed “unintelligent”. For most of us, that is a relief!

  • Dear Mr. Goodrich, how nice it is to see that in my absence you have decided to cease your sulking “will not rerspond” attitude and partake in discussion.
    The difference between you and I has been in the past and remains that I live in the world of reality and you in the world of theoretical immagination. As you may recall from my previous contributions, my experiences of communism include my late fathers expoeriences as Head of Station for MI6 in Vienna, living there (with the exception of 1954 – 1958 when he was in South Korea and Vietnam) from May 1945 until December 1997.
    We had an apartment in Vienna from late 1945 until 2004. I have therefore memories of the quadrapartite division of Vienna lying within the surroundinmg Russian zone. The UK zone was the southern part of Austria centered on Klagenfurt. I also served as an officer in the Royal Military Police in Germany during the period when we were occupying forces. These experiences in Austria and Germany provide me with experience of USSR communist behaviour and practices.
    I am as you already know, married to a Cuban and our home is in Cuba. My knowledge of the practices of the Communist Party of Cuba are in consequence real, not theorettical.
    You prattle on about various authors who think of politics as theory, not as holding responsibility for the government of people. My political views are
    based upon the effect of political parties actions upon their electorates – or in the case of communist regimes, their involuntary subjects. In my view all those who have ruled as communists have acted in ways that are contrary to what I regard as being in the best interests of humanity. The implosian of the Russian communist empire resulted in the libertation of over a dozen countries, none of which when introducing democracy chose to elect communist governments.
    My interest does not lie in the books which you quote and not living in the world of reality, admire. When you can point to a society governed by whatever it is that you regard as your form of communism, do please let the rest of the world know. Until then accept the realities of North Korea. Vietnam, China, the former USSR and Cuba and their descriptions of themselves and recognition by the world at large as being communist.
    They represent reality not some imagined Cloud Cuckoo Communist theory.

  • Cuba’s so-called socialist tendencies and its activities against imperialism ( U.S. hegemonic policies to extend and preserve capitalism ) ARE indeed a threat to the wealthy rulers of the United States hence the 54 year embargo
    The purpose of the embargo as stated by then Under Secretary of State Thomas Mallory in1960 was to make life so miserable for all Cubans that they would overthrow their own revolution : i.e. return to capitalism and the also oligarchic totalitarian bullshit “representative democracy” such as we have in the U.S.
    And you ARE correct. The politicians don’t want to listen to the people and guess what ? they don’t have to because they will get elected no matter what they do short of being caught in bed with a live boy or a dead woman.

  • You have no clue as to what communism is ..or isn’t since you believe that what existed in the Soviet Union and in Cuba was/is communism .
    There are books available that can explain to you what communism is and it is decidedly not the STATE CAPITALISM that was the old Soviet Union and is the present day Cuban economic form.

  • Back around 2000 right wing columnist and TV news panel guest Georgie Ann Geyer wrote an anti- Castro book called Revolutionary Prince or some such in which she predicted that once Fidel no longer ruled that the revolution would collapse .
    Even though Fidel stepped down and has not been involved in political matters for about six years now, this same wishful thinking goes on today with Raul at the helm and is likely to be just as inaccurate as Geyer’s predictions .
    No one can forget Fidel’s multi-hour speeches .
    Those were lessons that the Cuban people also still remember and take to heart.
    I will not respond to unintelligent replies.

  • The only action by Cuba that would result in normalized relations with the USA is a return to feral capitalism and a stoppage in the anti-imperialist views and alliances of the revolution.
    Any assertion that normalization depends on a democratic Cuba is a flat-out lie that is clearly demonstrated by U.S. foreign policy history of the past 100 years .
    ( see ” Killing Hope” or “Rogue State ” websites for the evidence)
    Unless, of course, capitalism and oligarchies are to now be considered democratic forms .
    The U.S. actions against Cuba and their intended consequences were spelled out around 1960 or so by Under Secretary of State Thomas Mallory and those policies were instituted within a year by the Eisenhower administration.
    Those who contend that democracy in Cuba is the end game would do well to Google Mallory and read his oft-quoted statements on the purposes of the embargo .

  • We should follow all the other countries in the world and recognize Cuba. Trade will benefit millions of Cuban citizens. 55 years of embargo has accomplished nothing. We dont support dictatorial rule in China or Vietnam but commercial relations with them have benefited them and us.

  • The poll you referred to was sponsored by the Cuba Study Group. They represent business interests eager to do business in Cuba, as such they have an outspoken anti-embargo position. The poll was designed to elicit the response they wanted. The poll has been thoroughly debunked as an exercise in CSGs anti-embargo campaign.

    If you think Cuba poses no threat to the U.S., look up the career of Ana Montes.

  • By 2016, not much will have changed in Cuba. Economic growth will continue stalled, outmigration will continue to climb to record levels and both Castros will be two years closer to meeting their maker. Cuban leadership will be chomping at the bit to negotiate with the bad ole’ US. You misunderstand however, post-Castro Cuba will not trigger significant change in Cuban politics but it will provide a diplomatic opening that the US will be able to exploit. The military oligarchy will rush to cash in on the businesses and properties they control. (See post-USSR Russia). American business will open the checkbook and every tinpot Cuban general with a hotel property or two will line up to cash out. The same of New Man/Updating the Socialist model rhetoric will likely continue but the sound of ‘ching-ching’ will be overwhelming.

  • Having been in Cuba since early October, I have returned to Canada for a brief spell before going back home again in early December.
    Other contributors will perhaps recall – some with irritation – that I always refer to the Castro family regime and the article under discussion along with some of the responses indicates why. In three and a half years when Raul retires as President – but not necessarily as head of the military, and by which time Fidel will have faded from the scene, it is correctly considered that the “younger” generation of politicians will assume political power, led by Diaz Canel aided and abeted by Rodriguez and Murillo. In my view they will be but puppets acting as a Government public face with the Raul Castro family jerking the economic power strings.
    It is increasingly evident that the fifty five years during which Raul Castro controlled the military were used to full advantage by him. Yes, Fidel was the President, but the economic power was controlled by Raul. He took the opportunity to allow the military to enter the commercial world under the umbrella of GAESA which is now headed by his son in law, husband of daughter Deborah. The consequence is that GAESA through its subsiduaries like Gaviota controls 80% of Cuba’s economy. The security system is controlled by Alejandro Espin Castro, Raul’s son. It is he who utilises the CDR system of community information about every man woman and child in Cuba. The farce of the production of the male perfumes of Ernesto and Hugo by Labiofam SA headed by Raul’s nephew, brought Raul out in full fury about the abuse of these two “sacred” figures – calling into question how he views the future elevation of Fidel and himself as Dieties. It is logical that as Ernesto and Hugo are deemed to be amongst the deceased Gods, Fidel and Raul think of themselves as the equivalent of living Gods.
    The power currently held by the Castro family regime will remain firmly within that family’s grasp following the deaths of Fidel and Raul. The appointment – I nearly wrote annointment – of Marino Murillo as Economic Supremo of the Government of Cuba is of insignificance compared with the economic control held by the Castro family. The 27% of ETECSA held by RAFIN SA will nott change hands. Gaviota SA plans another 14,000 hotel bedrooms by 2017.
    The world at large including the US will fool itself if it thinks that tha biological timeclock is key to resolution of the numerous problems posed by Cuba.
    Obama’s timeclock is no different in terms of effect than those of previous US Presidents from Dwight D Eisenhower onwards regarding Cuba. Removal of the embargo lies within the power of Congress. Presidents as politicians come and go. Just as Elizabeth II has known 12 Prime Ministers, she has known every President from Franklin D Roosevelt onwards. But Parliaments and Congresses remain.
    Moses Patterson refers to the military oligarchy emerging to rule with an iron fist – for oligarchy read Raul Castro family!
    I found HumbertoCapiro’s comments about Moncado very interesting – but the figures 26 7 are written all over Cuba – especially on the streets outside the casa of CDR Presidents – demonstrating how to make a glorious success of an ill planned failed endeavor.
    My own experiences of communism lead me to believe that any thought of change or adaptation is always optimistic as no change in fact occurs. The Raul Castro family are not going to go and the foot soldiers of Diaz Canel Rodriguez and Murillo will loyally march in step – after all who appointed them to office?

  • ‘Biological’ clock? Why not look at the White House clock. Obama’s time is ticking away and in the mean time he remains a toothless tiger, a bit like a man without portfolio.
    Once the Castro’s do depart from planet Earth, I doubt there will be little change in Cuban policy.
    I guess you (Patterson) can live in your dream world.

  • I am a Republican and I for one believe that this hateful embargo is just a matter of keeping in line with some wishes of some powerful Cuban Exiles that want to punish Castro. Meanwhile, we have not accomplished anything with this embargo and we are only hurting our Cuban neighbors. All this nonsense about human rights is garbage. If that was really a viable issue, we would have an embargo on China, Russia,Vietnam and a host of other countries. THERE IS NOT A COUNTRY IN THE WORLD THAT AMERICANS ARE FORBIDDEN TO VISIT — WITH THE EXCEPTION OF CUBA. It”s all about politics and Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes.

    Again, the Politicians don’t want to listen to the will of the people. Polls show that most Americans want the Embargo lifted and some others don’t care one way or another.—- in any case, there are only a few (influential) people that want it to continue

    As far as Alan Gross, I don’t believe he is innocent or he was duped by the CIA. I wish both governments would stop jerking around and swap out the prisoners on both sides. What is the big deal?

    Cuba is not a threat to the United States — however, we are dealing and helping some countries that if they had a chance, they would destroy us.

  • I agree with you Terry. Moses lives on another planet in another reality. I do not think things will change significantly when both Castros are deadl.

  • “Raul and Fidel will always be celebrated as heros of the revolution”

    Dont think this will hold water when all the truth about the Castros will be revealed to the Cuban people! The fact that they dont want internet access for the population show their fear!

    VIDEO LECTURE ON BOOK “The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution” – by Antonio Rafael De LA Cova : De la Cova chronicles the assaults and their aftermath as they happened, with a special focus on countering false statements later made by Castro at his subsequent trial and in his published defense speech History Will Absolve Me–a required text for Cuban schoolchildren to this day. Through research and interviews, de la Cova brings to light the persistent falsehoods told of atrocities committed by Batista’s soldiers and Castro’s rebels. He proves that Castro invented a legend of prisoner torture, mutilation, and dismemberment and that likewise Batista falsified the historical record of the attack. The myths surrounding the assault provided superb fodder for building support for the successful guerrilla campaign that brought Castro to power in 1959. Assessing the impact of this mythology, the divided loyalties of the Cuban soldiers, and U.S. policy toward Cuba in the 1950s, de la Cova presents a detailed and candid survey of the lasting importance of the Moncada attack and its place in history as the birth of the Cuban revolution.


  • So I gather that you support 56 years of the same Castro family in power dear? Pleas splain why your support!

  • Your arguments on the embargo and why the US won’t be living it anytime soon have just been validated.

    “Unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking significant steps, I don’t know how we could move forward in our relationship”.

    Just so.

  • The first post-Castro government probably won’t be much different than the current one. But it seems clear the US will not be making any major deal with the Castros. Let’s just say there’s some serious bad blood between them.

    After the Castro’s are gone, the US will start to move toward reconcilliation, and hopefully so will Cuba.

    It is interesting to hear such a clear statement from Obama’s top advisor on Latin America, Anthony Blinken. If any US President in the past 6 decades could have been expected to make concessions toward Cuba, it was Obama, who began his term in office by reducing restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba. He got nothing in return from Havana.

    Most Russians today consider Stalin a monster, but he still has his admirers. So it will be with the Castros.

  • I believe Cuba will be very different in some ways, and not for the better, after the departure of the Brothers from Biran. The military oligarchy will come from out of the shadows and rule Cuba with an iron fist. That is if democracy has not come to Cuba before. In other ways Cuba will be the same. Still poor and crumbling, no matter who is in charge. Respectful negotiations could begin tomorrow if the Castros really wanted it. Send Alan Gross home. I am not the picketing type but I would pick up a sign and march in front of the White House myself if Obama allowed US negotiators to sit down with Castro’s thugs while Gross remained in a Cuban gulag.

  • “The Castros have to make the next move or the US will just wait out the ‘biological’ clock.”

    Moses, why are you so convinced that the Cuban government will be so much different once Raul and Fidel have passed on? Cuba’s current political structure is very well entrenched… it’s not dependant on the Castro’s for it’s continued existence. You make it sound like the Cuban government will completely bend over for America once the Castros are no longer at the helm. I beg to differ… if anything, Raul and Fidel will always be celebrated as heros of the revolution, and to honor their memory, you can bet that the Cuban government will not be open to disrespecting their legacy as the founding fathers of the new Cuba by quickly changing direction. I think it would be far more productive for the US government to enter into respectful negotiations now… while Raul (and Fidel) can still be involved so as to publically confirm their commitment to address all issues of contention. In my opinion, that would prove to be a much more significant step in the process and have a much deeper impact on future negotiations, post Castro.

  • Nothing Cuba does will satisfy the U.S. government. Obama is catering to the same people who want him out of office. If the U.S. doesn’t want Cuba to attend the summit then the U.S. should stay home. Who are they to decide who should attend? Also keep Alan Gross in jail if the US won’t free the 3 Cuban heroes who have been unjustly imprisoned 3 times the amount of years that Gross has.

  • It’s like I have been saying all along. The Castros have to make the next move or the US will just wait out the ‘biological’ clock. By the way, when Blinken said, “if an opportunity arises to move in that direction “he may take advantage of it.”. That’s polispeak for “when Fidel dies and/or Raul is dead or just out of office”. Hoorah!

  • what arrogance. we dont dare insist that saudi arabia institute democratic reforms. of course they have lots of oil and cuba doesnt. nuff said.

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