Snags in US – Cuba Relations

By Pilar Montes

Our socialism is irrevocable. Foto: Lucas Garcia Molinari

HAVANA TIMES — Since December 17, 2014, relations between Washington and Havana seem increasingly marked by the ups and downs of unfulfilled and rejected proposals, and no one side is entirely to blame.

Perhaps the White House and even the US Congress don’t have the authority to decide. Perhaps real power is in the hands of weapon manufacturers or among the super-rich, those who conceal their fortunes in tax havens.

   In his most recent essay, professor Noam Chomsky points out that, in the times of Adam Smith and especially in today’s world, true power isn’t to be found in States or governments but in transnational conglomerates, gigantic financial institutions, commercial emporiums and similar structures.

How else can we explain that, following Washington’s promises two months ago, made shortly after President Obama’s visit to Havana, that Cubans and their banks would be authorized to use dollars for commercial transactions, Cuba is still unable to make a single transaction in greenbacks?

In March, foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes told Cuban newspapers that the decision to authorize the use of the dollar by Cuba was apparently not enough, because banks still feared possible sanctions from Washington. Rhodes added that the administration would have to speak to banks about the change in policy.

In addition, on April 20, a European court accused the online payments system PayPal of allowing a user in Luxembourg to purchase a theater ticket for a play that had the word “Cuba” in the title.

Photo: Lucas Garcia Molinari
Photo: Lucas Garcia Molinari

On May 9, Cuba condemned the continued application of the US blockade’s extraterritorial laws when a British bank shut down the accounts of the Cuban Solidarity Campaign (CSC) owing to US sanctions.

Though Washington’s unfulfilled promises put the ball on its side of the court, it didn’t take long to tie the game announcing the start of voyages to Cuba by the cruise company Carnival, based in Florida.

All of a sudden, the many Cuban-born US residents wishing to travel to Cuba were informed by the company that they were only authorized to carry US citizens falling under one of the 12 categories approved by the government, as Cuba maintained a law that barred Cubans from travelling to the island by sea.

The old regulation still in effect, dating back to the first years of the revolution, was unearthed by the US company, which was condemned by protesters in Miami who accused it of discrimination, threatening to file suits in court.

After being made fools of, at a time when Cubans no longer require government permission to travel, the island’s authorities lifted the restriction and freed Carnival of any liability.

The cruiser arrived in Havana with 700 passengers on board, including nearly two dozen Cuban born travelers, and continued on its way to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

Moving on to Coffee

On April 22, the US State Department and Treasury announced that the United States would authorize the import of Cuban coffee, but only beans from private growers who had to demonstrate they had no links to the State.

cafe-cubano   This rather forced proposal, which was not accompanied by the crucial ingredient of guaranteeing the use of the US dollar in transactions, was not met by a clever or creative response from Havana. The initiative remained a proposal.

Instead of returning the blow and accepting the deal, establishing export licenses for producers and all applicable sanitary restrictions, the use of certificates of origin and the payment of pertinent tariffs, on the condition that the United States authorized the use of the dollar in transactions, the response was to retreat to the barricades.

For the United States, establishing the “defense of human rights” as a condition for all dealings with poor countries has yielded results, not because they abide by the norms of international trade this way, but because they can show their brawn more clearly.

For Cuba, an adequate response would have been to up the stakes, to make an unexpected move or reply with an offer that’s impossible to turn down, to have surprised its opponent.

Cuban coffee does not stand out because it is exported en masse but because of its excellent quality, particularly true of the Arabica beans, which places among the world’s favorites.

The grain is sold by several State companies who package the product and hold export licenses.

In addition, the coffee industry has only now begun to recover in Cuba. Suffice it to compare the 2015-2016 harvest, which reported 5,503 tons of green coffee (ready for toasting), with the 1961 harvest, where 60,000 tons were collected.

Besides the low yields, the area planted in coffee trees dropped from 160,000 to 67,087 hectares. Elexis Legra, head of the Coffee, Cocoa and Coconut Department of the Grupo Empresarial Agroforestal business group affiliated to Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture reported that, in addition to guaranteeing supplies, the company has also raised the price paid to growers to the equivalent of US $14 dollars per 100 pounds of green coffee.

Legra explained that, with more supplies and through science and technology, in 2017, coffee yields will increase by 30 percent and that, by 2020, the country will be producing around 20,000 tons.

As no one is exactly sure who’s the boss in the United States, and even more doubts will exist after the November elections, Havana must modernize its methods and be clever in negotiations if it wishes to maintain its independence.

15 thoughts on “Snags in US – Cuba Relations

  • May 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Excellent conclusion. Any delusions on the part of Cuban optimists should be put to rest.

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    You have made your point. It’s a good thing you aren’t doing the negotiations for Cuba.

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    If you said, “I think or I believe that Moses. ….” you could hide behind the excuse that you are simply “expressing an opinion.” But when you write “Moses thinks or Moses believes….” , you are pretending to state a fact. In this case, your facts are wrong.

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    You are lying unless you can quote anything I have written in support of dictatorship a form of government I detest whether it is left or right – Cuba having experienced both!

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Read above for the response – open your eyes rather than just blindly following your herd leader!

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Herr Mattner, I give you that title which I hope is correct as a courtesy recognizing from your writing above that you despise the USA far too much to possibly accept living there. I have given Mr. Haney the opportunity (see above) to retract his direct lie that I have at any time in any of my intermittent contributions to the Havana Times, written anything that favours or indicates anything other than opposition to dictatorship. Mr. Haney and I may disagree politically, but that does not justify flagrant lying by either of us.
    Yes, I take grave exception to his statement and invite him to check with the Editor Circles Robinson, whether he can find anything in my posts which approves dictatorship. Being opposed to the Castro dictatorship does not mean that one approves or approved the dictatorship of Batista.
    The reasons for my contributions being intermittent is that my home and much of my family are in Cuba.
    My friendly advice to you is not to support Mr. Haney just because you are of similar political viewpoint. Do you really approve of lying?

  • May 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    You Mr. Haney having determined to lie, can either retract your statement that I have at any time written anything in these columns that supports Batista or Dictatorship or provide a quotation where I have done so. You otherwise will remain a bigoted liar!

    In my lifetime I have seen too much dictatorship of both left and right, to be anything but opposed to both.

    Yes, I am opposed to the Castro family regime and the Communist Party of Cuba – and yes by living in Cuba I know the system, how it is administered and the consequences for the people of Cuba. You are obviously one of those who like seeing such methods applied to others, but do not seek them for yourself preferring to skulk in the backwoods of the United States of America where you have freedom of speech and freedom to vote for your party of choice.

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