US Says Engagement is Empowering Cubans

By Tracey Eaton

US State DepartmentHAVANA TIMES — One year after Washington and Havana restored diplomatic ties, U.S. policy is helping to empower the Cuban people and give them greater autonomy from the socialist government, a senior State Department official said Wednesday.

“We remain convinced that our shift from a policy of isolation to engagement is the best course for supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people and the emergence of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Cuba,” said the official during a background briefing with reporters.

The official said 700,000 Americans have traveled to Cuba this year, which increased people-to-people contact and boosted private businesses on the island.

As the Obama administration sees it, money from such travelers along with remittances from Cuban-Americans makes it easier for ordinary Cubans to move beyond the daily struggle to feed their families and think about the future. They are “better equipped to express their demands on the Cuban state and what they would like to do to be able to lead better lives,” the senior official said.

The official declined to speculate on how U.S. policy might change once President Obama leaves office, but said many of the administration’s measures to loosen restrictions on dealing with Cuba have become institutionalized.

“I would never speculate on what a next administration may do,” the official said, “but I think to the extent that this has yielded these positive results for the United States, for the Cuban people, it would be difficult to go backwards.”

The official said the number of Cubans working in the private sector has increased and now makes up 25 percent of work force.

But Cuba will face economic challenges in the coming months as its chief ally, Venezuela, experiences economic turmoil, the official said.

“Cubans want a better life and this will require fundamental economic reform,” the official said. “We continue to urge the Cuban government to make it less difficult for their citizens to start businesses, engage in trade and access information online.

“On the issue of human rights, our commitment to democratic reform and fundamental freedom in Cuba is unwavering. Respect for universal human rights is one of our enduring national interests and top policy priority toward Cuba.”

The official said Obama administration officials are working with Cuban officials to schedule a meeting about human rights and expect the meeting to be held in Havana before the year’s end.

“Human rights will continue to be one of the more challenging issues we discuss,” the official said. “We continue to follow President Obama’s lead in advocating for human rights in Cuba, including freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. We will continue to demonstrate our solidarity with and support for democracy activists. We will also continue to publicly criticize the Cuban government for violations of human rights.

“In conclusion, normalization is a long-term process. Human rights, property claims and the return of fugitives from U.S. justice are complex and thorny issues, but we’re making slow and steady progress. In spite of our differences with the Cuban government, our engagement policy is working. We have made significant progress since reestablishing diplomatic relations a year ago. We’re moving in the right direction in our bilateral relationship with the Cuban government and in our relationship with the Cuban people and we have the support of the majority of the American public.”

Related: Granma’s interview with Josefina Vidal one year after U.S.-Cuba relations were restored.

27 thoughts on “US Says Engagement is Empowering Cubans

  • Speaking of humanity George and your view that Raul Castro is entitled to be treated “justly and fairly”, if you google – Raul Castro executions – you will see a photograph of Raul tying one of his victims to a tree preparatory to shooting. And you seek that this man Raul who also executed 78 people without trial on January 12, 1959 should receive just and fair treatment?

  • just saw this…..

    It brings to mind a quote from Samuel Clemens, (paraphrased) “Never argue with stupid people, they’ll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

  • I have noted Circles comment as Editor and respect his rights. But I have to ask why you George choose to live in what you regard as a den of thieves when you could move to North Korea, Vietnam, China, Russia or even Cuba?
    Your suggestion that all of us born in free democratic countries are exploited as thieves is so incredibly stupid that it begs description.
    The difference which is self-evident is that you support totalitarian dictatorship of the mass and that IC as a Cuban experienced its evil and fled, and that I with a peculiar family background that made me conscious of communism in practice from an early age choose to support freedom of the individual with freedom of thought.
    We will never agree as your mind is confined by the communist need to conform and mine is free to choose.

  • George and Carlyle, you are drifting away from the text of the article. If there is nothing more to add on the subject let’s consider the discussion closed.

  • So the great promoter of “freedom” is now advocating censorship. To live in the West is to live a life of crime. The West’s wealth is accrued through fraud (printing of money), extortion and robbery (military might). That is criminal. You Carlyle I do not blame because you were born into it. You were conscripted so to speak. But IC actively chose to live there, having once been out of it, he volunteered in return for a slice of the booty. Thus he is a mercenary. Still I wish him no harm.

  • Hahaha, you think it is production that makes the U.S. the world’s richest country? It is its ability to print dollars, a privilege backed up by military might. Of course Cuba could produce more, that is exactly what the Communist Party is always urging Cubans to do. But they can never achieve the wealth of the U.S. without themselves becoming the dominant imperial power. Cuba is not a poor country. It has a higher GDP per capita than China with more evenly spread wealth. The irony is that despite the wealth of the U.S., many U.S.Americans live in greater poverty than Cubans and Cuba is much more advanced socially, for example with regards to racism. Can Cuba do better? Absolutely. But can we all consume five planets worth of resources? Not unless the laws of reality change. And note I am talking about five planets worth of resources not five planets worth of production. There simply is not enough physical material on the planet for everyone to consume at the average rate of U.S.Americans Live that way if you want to but don’t think it is because the system is somehow more efficient.

  • I’m not so sure it is his country. Know what I’m saying?

  • Note Informed Consent that “George” is accusing you of living a life of crime. He is trying his best to get we other contributors to Havana Times to sink to his level – which is about as low as one can get!
    Having called me a thief and a fraud he is now suggesting that you live a life of crime.
    He is obviously ignorant of the realities of Cuba in addition to being just plain ignorant.
    Havana Times has a problem if creatures like “George” are to be permitted to crawl across its pages!

  • According to some Cuba watchers, the real reason Raul accepted Obama’s offer of normalization, was for regime survival. Venezuela was collapsing and the cash the Castro regime sucked from Venezuela could not go on forever.

    The real reason Obama offered Cuba the breakthrough, so the thinking goes, was because both Venezuela and Cuba are collapsing and it is in the US interest to slow the fall & thereby limit the chaos which might ensue. If Venezuelan government & society were to completely collapse, leading to mass starvation & civil war, there will be millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries, destabilizing them in turn.

    If the Cuban economy collapses, hundreds of thousands of Cubans will take to rafts, swamping US shores. If the people protest the lack of food, the Castro government would resort to violent repression as they have in the past, and are already doing now. But today, few in Cuba believe in the Revolutionary ideals of past decades. There could be a split within the regime between radical and moderate factions. Who knows who would win such a fight? Not the Cuban people, that’s for sure, as they would suffer the most.

    It is in the US interest to avoid such a scenario. Better to provide the regimes in Havana & Caracas a soft-landing, rather than risk the chaos of total collapse.

  • …sorry for all the typos. It’s my phone’s spell check run amuck

  • It’s your crazy idea’s that have doomed Cuba and Venezuela. They live at artificially imposed poverty levels. All things being equal, food, transportation and heath care should not be a problem in Cuba. What holds it back is not over-consumption by the USA, it’s deficient production by the Cuban system. Your idea of what Cuban’s are doing in “solidarity” are a joke. …. Every Cuban is looking for a way out.

  • IC, Cuba is not competing with the U.S.. for wealth, it is trying to live responsibly within its means. Banks create money out of nothing and then charge interest on lending it out. This fraud is maintained through threat of force from the strongest military on the planet. This is the global system that enables the citizens of the U.S. to consume on average five times their fair share of the Earth’s resources. I’m sure you can do arithmetic, so you will realise that it is simply impossible for the whole world to consume the same amount. The global system requires that wealth be unevenly spread. If you live in Cuba the only way you are going to get access to five times your fair share of wealth is to go to where the wealth is concentrated such as in the United States. In doing so you will be depriving others of their fair share. So that is your life choice, consume five times what you are allotted at the expense of others. Those who stay in Cuba continue to consume their fair share living in solidarity with one another and not living off the backs of others. Some say there is no right or wrong so I will not judge your life choices, unlike those who are born into a life of crime, you have actively chosen to live that way, so be it.

  • How does one get into a position whereby the average citizen is able to consume five times their fair share of the world’s resources? The “reality suffered daily by Cubans” is the reality of living within their means. This is the reality you too would have to live if you did not steal and fraudulently live off the rest of the world. The irony is you do not even realise you are doing it, you take it for granted. “My way of the highway” is the mantra of the U.S., not Cuba.

  • Raul’s policy as evidenced by the rejection of Barack Obama’s proposal that there be reciprocation by Cuba in taking actions to improve relationships. is quite simply one of:

    ‘My way or the highway’.

    The so-called Revolution – ie: the system rather than the revolution, is in itself corrupt requiring no assistance in that respect from elsewhere.It is a good idea to have “more humane engagement” which should start with the removal of prosecution for dissent by the Castro family dictatorship.

    The concept that “the stance of the Cuban Revolution” (a reference to the dictatorship) pursues “justice and fair play” is in direct contradiction to the reality suffered daily by Cubans.

  • Your admission of inability to say something better than George is understandable.
    You speak of the dictators having: “dignity, pride and manhood” without consideration of the Cuban people paying the hideous price for the overblown egos of the Castros who have their foot firmly placed upon the necks of the subjugated.

  • Hey brother….still waiting on why hundreds if thousands of Cubans, myself included, risk their lives to flee all the beautiful socialist benefits Castro has given the people? Risking and dying to Rachel, what all Cubans call freedom. What do they know that you don’t brother? ….and it’s not illegal they’re running to South America? Why us that brother?

  • Hurrah Brother George! I could not have said any better! The Cuban Leaders have stood up with dignity, pride and manhood to the great America, They demanded respect and they received it. Cuba still has to keep its eyes wide opened and their ears to the ground, for no one can trust America. But Brother George, how can you say that you want to amend the relationship with me, how can you say that you want rapprochement with me, but you still have your foot in my throat (the embargo) throttling me? How can you seek a new form of friendship but you are holding on to my property which has never belonged to you in the first instance? How do you want me to trust you and believe in your sincerity? Hold fast to your ideals my brother!

  • Raul did not seek rapprochement with the US, he sought to be treated justly and fairly. There has been some progress. This victory has been achieved by standing firm. The US has been forced to change its approach towards more humane engagement. However they are still seeking to corrupt the Revolution. The new situation requires careful consideration, but there is no reason to weaken the stance of the Cuban Revolution towards justice and fair play.

  • Yes Griffin, I had read that article prior to making my comment. I’ll stick with my figures.

  • The US is your country, not mine. If it were mine, I would use my energy by trying to remedy some of the endless faults you perceive, rather than burdening readers of Havana Times with your phlegm.

  • Kennedy, so are you opposed to Raul Castro’s decision to seek rapprochement with the US? Do you recommend from your US perch that Cuba go full back to the Cold War position in relation to the empire and all that meant for Cuban families? Keep in mind that many of our readers and commenters are not US citizens like you and have even less influence than you do as far as the US Congress ending the embargo, which appears hear to stay until one day it isn’t, which may not be in our lifetime.

  • Your anti-US rants are your own business. But this blog is about Cuba. Racism in the US is probably the worst in the world. It’s so bad that you should create a blog about it. Havana Times is not that blog.

  • Carlyle, How can you ever think that full cooperation could exist between Cuba and America when the latter declares that it wants good relationships to be restored without lifting the embargo and without allowing Cuba to use its currency to trade world wide or to return that parcel of territory called Guantanamo? I am a boxer by profession; you give me license to ply my profession, but how can I put on the gloves to box when you have my two hands shackled behind me?

    The only way that I can get to box and the only way the license would become effective is if you unshackle my hands! Unshackle the embargo, unshackle the grip you have on Guantanamo which is Cuba’s territory and then you can speak about normalizing relationships. It is quite obvious for all and sundry to see why the Red Indians have oft times referred to Americans as people with forked tongues, Nobody can hold on to their word for their word is not their bond.

    This is why they are mistrusted the world over! How could you ever expect Cuba to trust America when America’s sole intention is to turn back the hands of the historical clock to the days of Batista by trying to stifle the Cuban Revolution which has brought about so many changes in the lives of the average Cuban? What does America mean by Human rights? Does the average American Black man enjoy Human rights in America? Does the Red Indians, the original inhabitants and rightful owners of America enjoy Human Rights?

    Does President Obama a Black man and the most educated President America has ever had in its history who presently occupies the White House, enjoy Human Rights when they are trying their utmost to significantly tarnish the period of his Presidency as if he did not exist and as if he never occupied the White House? Can Racist America possess the gall, the bold face, the brass face to whisper anything about Human Rights when it has supported the worst of the worst dictatorships in the world, and the most repressive military juntas in Latin America, to the point of training their officers at the School of the Americas in Virginia?

    How can anti- working class America dare to talk about Human Rights when it is hell bent on destroying the Venezuelan Revolution by waging economic warfare on the Venezuelan people; to deprive them of the social gains they have enjoyed under Presidents Chavez and Maduro! Cuba has educated its working class people; the working class in Venezuela are being educated.They are accessing medical attention. Housing is being provided to replace the shanties which were the norm; the working class people have had their dignity and pride as the human beings they are, restored and America detests this. And now coming to talk about Human Rights to be restored in Cuba?

    Perhaps America means the human rights of ignorance, disease, squalour, degradation, hopelessness, extreme poverty?

  • The number of Cubans with government licenses for operating a private business has declined by about 10% over 1 year ago. However, there are some reports that more Cubans are working without a licence, under the table, or part-time. The Castro regime is having difficulty in controlling the growing underground economy. The total number of licensed and underground private workers is guestimated at around 1.5 million.

  • Barack Obama has to be given great credit for clarifying in both the press conference and his speech at the Alicia Alonso Theatre in March that whereas he is prepared to institute change in US policies towards Cuba, there has to be reciprocal action. That was why the venomous letter entitled “The Man Obama” and purportedly written by Fidel Castro, was read in full at 7.00 p.m. on Mesa Redondo on March 28th, 2016. Doing so took a full ten minutes! The following day Bruno Rodriguez Carrilles gave a speech clarifying that changes in the Embargo or actions regarding Guantanamo had to be made unilaterally by the US.
    In short, the Castro regime intends to make no form reciprocal change. In my opinion, the views expressed by the State Department official in the Tracey Eaton article are so much waffle trying to maintain that the Castro regime is moving towards undefined change and that the Obama visit has had actual effects. It is true that the visit raised some hope that change would occur, but none has been visible and the regime continues to hold relentless power and control over a wearied subjugated people. For the Castro regime any thought of change in their absolute power is anathema.
    You are correct Moses in saying it is the Castros turn to do something, but they are well experienced in the art of masterly inactivity!

  • This article quotes an unnamed US official as saying that 25% of the Cuban labour force is employed in the private sector.Cuba has a work force of 5.2 million, that implies 1.3 million being employed in the private sector.
    In May 2015, the Cuban Ministry of Labour and Social Security reported a total of 504,613 employed in the private sector of whom 17% also held a government position.
    So in effect the US official is saying that employment in the private sector has much more than doubled in one year. Anybody who knows Cuba well would find such a claim extraordinary. But, it poses a question of where the US official obtained his figures other than from the Mad Hatter?
    The claim made by “a senior State Department official that: “US policy is helping to empower the Cuban people and give them greater autonomy from the socialist government” can only be described as wishful thinking.
    It is to be hoped that the US Government will become more accurate in its assessments than that given in the article.

  • There nothing mentioned about lifting the embargo. It’s the Castros turn to do something.

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