US Congressional Delegation Enthusiastic on Cuba

Isbel Díaz Torres

Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

HAVANA TIMES – The delegation of US Democrats headed by Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic Party minority in the US House of Representatives, showed much contentment and enthusiasm this past week in Cuba.

Many of these representatives, like Minnesota’s Collin Peterson, have been attempting to normalize relations between the two governments for more than 25 years, and the announcement made on December 17 last year has been like a much-awaited reward for their long efforts.

Generally speaking, the US representatives didn’t stray far from the issues that the Undersecretary of State announced last month: Cuba’s removal from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, the opening of Cuban accounts in US banks and the establishments of embassies in the two countries.

It would nevertheless be good to analyze some comments, in order to understand the details that are being kept from the public.

At the residence of the Press and Cultural Attaché of the US Interests Section in Havana, Nydia Velazquez told us that, in addition to taking part in official gatherings, she met with Cuba’s self-employed (some of whom were private restaurant owners) during this trip.

The congresswoman is interested in providing technical assistance and incentives to these small business owners, so that their ventures can grow and expand through the “type of model that works,” through US financial institutions that is.

Collin Peterson, member of the Agriculture Committee, told his counterparts that “we want to help you” and that “we can sell you good food at a good price.” Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut, proposed that Cuba import rice from the United States.

The enthusiasm is such that Massachusetts representative Jim McGovern (also from the Agriculture committee) announced that the US Parliament’s Cuba Task Force would soon be reestablished and expressed that he is confident they will succeed in lifting the embargo.

Some, like New York’s Elliot Engel, didn’t forget one of the key issues of these negotiations. “We’re very concerned with human rights,” said Engel, adding that “I’d like to see more changes from the Cuban side.”

Unfortunately, the US delegation was unable to reveal how the Cuban government responded to these sensitive issues. Nor did we hear anything about the United States’ offer of greater Internet connectivity on the island.

California’s Anna Eshoo, who met with Harold Cardenas, one of the young bloggers from La Joven Cuba, merely enumerated the potential benefits the Internet would bring Cubans and expressed her hope that 95 % of Cuba would soon enjoy a broadband connection.

Did she know about the international telecommunication services agreement that the Cuban phone company ETECSA and the US company IDT Domestic Telecom signed on Friday, the day after the press conference?

Perhaps she did, but they didn’t make anything too clear. The message was unequivocal: in contrast to the image of neutrality Jacobson offered us in January, the posture now seems to be one of unbridled enthusiasm.

This suggests the doors are being opened more and more, in accordance with a pre-established plan to which our people have no access.


7 thoughts on “US Congressional Delegation Enthusiastic on Cuba

  • February 24, 2015 at 7:33 pm
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    Since when does having nothing to back up your arguments prevent you from commenting ?

  • February 24, 2015 at 7:27 am
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    You haven’t been listening. Have you never heard a Cuban complain about working hard all month only to earn a ‘symbolic’ salary? It is a HUMAN right to be able to earn a living wage. Have you never heard a Cuban complain about the hopelessness of public protest? It is a HUMAN right to be able to air grievances in the public square. You don’t know one Cuban who has complained about the price of a Cuban passport? It is a HUMAN right to have access to travel. Like I said, you haven’t been listening.

  • February 24, 2015 at 7:25 am
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    In the same way, if you ask a slave born in captivity it may complain about the quality of food but will tell you nothing about multipartidism.

  • February 24, 2015 at 7:22 am
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    I want to disagree with you. I really do. But I got nothing…..

  • February 23, 2015 at 1:57 pm
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    Isbel, like my in-laws in Guantanamo, have no real-life experience with American politicians. In Cuba, when Fidel or Raul announces something they want changed, it gets changed. That’s the nature of dictatorships. Who can oppose them? Here in the ‘States, Obama would struggle to get a Mother’s Day resolution passed out of Congress. Political enthusiasm is one thing: political reality is another.

  • February 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm
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    Isabel, you hit the nail on the head:

    “The message was unequivocal: in contrast to the image of neutrality Jacobson offered us in January, the posture now seems to be one of unbridled enthusiasm.

    This suggests the doors are being opened more and more, in accordance with a pre-established plan to which our people have no access.”

    President Obama wants a deal with Castro. He doesn’t care what’s in it, so long as he gets that deal. In his speech announcing his new Cuba policy, Obama gave passing lip-service to the idea of supporting civil society & human rights in Cuba, but he hasn’t done much about it since. His chief negotiator was not aware that Helms-Burton stipulates improvements in human right and the holding of free elections in Cuba are conditions for lifting the embargo. Yet it is her job to negotiate the removal of this law! As if to celebrate the new mood between Cuba and the US, Castro’s goons arrested over 200 dissidents on Sunday, February 22nd. Well done! http://www.capitolhillcubans.com/2015/02/image-female-cuban-dissident-pelted.html

    Obama did make it clear that he sees the anti-Castro faction in Congress (which included Republicans and Democrats) as his true adversary in these negotiations, not the Castro regime, who are his partners.

    “California’s Anna Eshoo, who met with Harold Cardenas, one of the young bloggers from La Joven Cuba, merely enumerated the potential benefits the Internet would bring Cubans and expressed her hope that 95 % of Cuba would soon enjoy a broadband connection.”

    So a Californian politician met with a pro-Castro blogger and discussed how wonderful it will be when 95% of Cubans have broadband! That would be an increase of about 94.9%, right? Did she raise the issue of the Cuban MININT establishing firewalls and internet surveillance technology to control that marvellous access?

    “Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut, proposed that Cuba import rice from the United States.”

    Cuba imported 500,000 tonnes of rice last year, mostly from Vietnam. I don’t know how much rice they got from the US, but they do import a lot of other food from the US. Connecticut does not grow rice, so it’s a question who’s interest DeLauro is promoting.

    I would say the attitude expressed by the US politicians represents not merely unbridled enthusiasm, but grossly uninformed enthusiasm as well.

    PS: I hope Nancy Pelosi’s husband is enjoying his fine Cuban cigars.

  • February 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm
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    Since 1993 I have visited Cuba 87 times on research and not once has a Cuban ever complained about their human rights. They do complain about many other more important things such as food , transportation and good paying jobs as we enjoy in Canada.

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