The Cuba Study Group Proposal

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera (Progreso Weekly)

cuba-study-groupHAVANA TIMES – The Cuba Study Group (CSG), formed by Cuban-American businessmen, intellectuals and political activists who identify with the so-called “moderate line of the exile community,” has just issued a document titled “Restoring Executive Authority Over U.S. Policy Toward Cuba,” in which it criticizes U.S. policy toward the island and sets forth its proposals for change.

The most important part of those proposals is the elimination of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws, where the core of the problem unquestionably lies, inasmuch as their existence prevents any significant move forward in the relations between the two countries, as they represent the most extreme positions of belligerence.

Until that happens, however, the document describes some measures that President Obama could take that would undoubtedly result in a positive step in that direction.

I must point out that no other group of its kind has been so clear in assuming this position. This contributes a qualitative element to a debate that is currently held by diverse U.S. sectors, indicating the possibility that in the immediate future this trend will strengthen within the very American establishment.

To a degree, the CSG resolves the problem of the imbalance that, from my point of view, has existed between its criticism of the Cuban system and the U.S. policy, focusing its attention on the issue where its contribution to the existing problem can be most effective, thus maximizing its importance in both countries.

With good reason, the CSG argues that the current policy is “counterproductive to the United States’ interests and damages Cuba’s civilian society.” However, its definition of the “United States’ interests,” instead of being based on the advantages for both nations of an improvement in their relations, reprises the argument that an improvement in relations would be more effective to promote the “regime change” that the U.S. hopes to accomplish in Cuba.

Also incorporated within this logic is the development of closer links with the émigrés, as the new immigration policy has made clear. In fact, many émigrés are already participating in the ongoing changes, although it is true that a more-encompassing legal framework is still missing.

This contaminates the nature of the Group’s objectives, hindering the dialogue that allegedly is being promoted, inasmuch as it assumes the same interventionist posture that has been the crux of the dispute.

In truth, this shouldn’t surprise us, since the Group responds to its condition as a U.S. entity linked to the groups of power in that country, which have not renounced to that strategic objective, so it is predictable that the Group will act according to the logic that guides the doctrine of the U.S. foreign policy.

The United States’ hegemonic project regarding Cuba goes back to the early years of that nation. It solidified in the neocolonial state and is not a variation of the dispute between the two countries but its specific context. It determines the conditions of our independence from José Martí until today, so the most we could hope to is a climate of coexistence between two opponents.

I think that beginning from that historical premise (given that Cuba’s conflict with the U.S. did not begin with the Revolution) we should evaluate the pertinence of the CSG’s proposals, as well as its contradictions and insufficiencies.

Several leaders of the CSG have expressed their commitment to the defense of Cuba’s sovereignty, and the document criticizes those who hope that the U.S. “will resolve the Cuban problem.”

I have no reason to doubt their sincerity, but the reader should realize that a sovereign nation needs to be defended only when someone threatens it. The document not only recognizes the source of that threat but attributes to the U.S. prerogatives about Cuba’s national life that conflict with the rights of a sovereign state.

Proof of that is that the extensive criticism the CSG aims at the Helms-Burton law lacks one argument: that law is such an interventionist proposal that not even the Platt Amendment demanded so much.

The truth is that one cannot defend Cuban sovereignty without being an anti-imperialist. And to be that, one doesn’t need to be a Marxist or support socialism, but to recognize that condition as the basis for a fairer and more democratic international order, which is what Third World countries aspire to, especially Cuba.

The ongoing reforms to the Cuban economic model, whose objective is to match its functions to the realities imposed by the country’s situation and the rules that guide the world’s economies, respond to needs of the socialist system itself, which obviously cannot be conceived the same as when it belonged to a socialist camp.

The most important part of those proposals is the elimination of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws, where the core of the problem unquestionably lies, inasmuch as their existence prevents any significant move forward in the relations between the two countries, as they represent the most extreme positions of belligerence.

Clearly, this implies an immense intellectual effort. It requires broadening the domestic debate so as to build new consensus and a change in the mindset of state officials and the citizens themselves.

As the CSG says, reforms encourage the development of the private sector and that can generate contradictions within Cuban society that imply risks for the model. But assuming those risks has been an initiative of the state, not against the state as implied in the document. It is part of inclusive criteria that attempt to find formulas that favor the state’s articulation in the common social goal, which is at heart the essence of socialism.

Also incorporated within this logic is the development of closer links with the émigrés, as the new immigration policy has made clear. In fact, many émigrés are already participating in the ongoing changes, although it is true that a more-encompassing legal framework is still missing.

Like other Cuban-American organizations, the CSG can contribute to this process. Its proposals against the current U.S. policy fit perfectly in this dynamics, but they are limited because they are conceived as contrary to the premises that inspire them.

No doubt, the project begun by Cuba is very complex and proceeds (as the government itself has acknowledged) through unknown roads, so it is likely that errors, advances and retreats will be made. However, one distinguishing quality is that it can be carried out in full sovereignty, without external interference or imposition, so its failure or success will depend exclusively on the Cuban people. That’s a luxury that most countries cannot afford, one that, as I see it, constitutes the essence of what has been achieved so far and what is worth defending at all costs.

The CSG document absolutely ignores the resistance shown by the Cuban people to ensure this condition and takes it for granted that the ongoing reforms will crack the nation’s will, not stopping to think that they could in fact strengthen it. That’s the desire of most of the revolutionary sectors that support them.

It is a historic truth that U.S. policy has failed precisely thanks to this capacity for resistance and we must say that the document gives a good account of that policy’s failure, though not of its causes. However, I feel that the CSG’s analysis falls short, because the policy is not only failed but also unviable, given the relative deterioration of U.S. hegemony throughout the world, particularly in Latin America.

In any case, perhaps without meaning to, the CSG document brings us closer to that conclusion. That would be a good starting point for the dialogue it proposes with the “Cuban civilian society,” where I assume they will include those of us who do not share their concepts about the future of Cuba and the nature of its relations with the United States.

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9 thoughts on “The Cuba Study Group Proposal

  • I think there is a bit of a contradiction to say on the one hand that nobody cares about Cuba and on the other that it is a political risk. Is there any real evidence that the embargo has swung any election either way or even affected them in any way? Does anyone remember Clinton and the Buena Vista Social Club issue or Obama’s People to People trips? Is it even an issue for Cuban-Americans, because after all in practical terms they probably do more to keep the current Cuban government in power than Chavez and Brezhnev put together.

    I don’t know if he can, but one way for Obama to move things forward would be to allow Cuban-Americans businesses and individuals to do business with Cuba if they so choose. He can then always argue for “freedom of choice”, “reconciliation of Cuban families”, “help build civil society”, “greater importance of the war on terror” etc

  • Actually, I “like” the banking industry, and I think that fractional reserve credit is one of the greatest inventions of civilization. With this historically evolved mechanism, properly utilized, modern cooperative socialism can reform the monetary/financial system and transform the world in fairly short order.

    What I do not like is the scam of charging time-based interest on fractional reserve credit debt. This is fraudulent, and should outlawed forever in our Constitution.

    If the US people will give our movement/party a political mandate, this will be part of our Bill of Transformation that will make banking an instrument of and for the people, rather than a racket of usury parasitism by the monopoly bankers.

    Thanks for the tip on the book, Moses. I already feel that the insurance industry is a gigantic scam, although I hesitate to believe it is as much an ogre as monopoly banking.

  • Your comments have led me to believe that you don’t like the banking industry. I would suggest you read a book called ‘The Invisible Bankers’ by Tracy Kidder. If you think bankers are the bad guys, you are going to go ballistic about the insurance industry. BTW, against what moral standard are you judging the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws? How do government-sanctioned acts of repudiation against private citizens who speak out against their government (like what you have done here) hold up against that same standard? How does government-ordered murder as described to the daughter of Oswalda Paya, Rosa Maria, by the driver of the car, Angel Carromero measure up?

  • Given the regime desperately wants the embargo lifted, it seems unlikely therefore that they expect it to crumble their dictatorship. More likely, it will enrich the ruling oligarchy while taking some of the pressure off from their grumbling subjects.

    As Moses has pointed out: ending the embargo is on the top of the Castro’s to-do list. It’s near the bottom of Obama’s.

  • Interesting article.

    The Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws are immoral, imperialistic laws which should never have been put in place. Having been put there, they should be removed.

    This, it seems logical, would need to be done by the entity which put them there, the US Congress.

    Then the question is: How might the US Congress repeal those two hurtful laws?

    The legislators of the US Congress, of both major parties, are puppets of the monied powers who fund their expensive campaigns, put them there and keep them there. These powers are varied, but ultimately they are the monopoly bankers; and these people see the world through a lens that subordinates all questions to that of maximumprofits.

    Monopoly bank profits come from the creation of new money through the issuance of fractional reserve credit debt, and the charging of time-based interest on this debt.

    And so, if the Cuban Study Group (CSG) wishes to untie the hands of the US President with regard to relations between the two countries–and this would require the elimination of the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws–then, the CSG should focus their attention on the monopoly bankers who are the primary US political puppeteers.

  • AC, as a second-term President, Obama is burdened with the responsibility of leaving the Democratic Party in 2016 better off than when he was first elected in 2008. Given the current climate, he has a decent shot at regaining the majority in the House in 2014. To do so, however will mean he must not give the Reeps anything they can use against the Dems, including a ‘soft on communism’ label. Improving relations with Cuba must be in exchange for some measurable progress towards democracy on the island. There are no significant economic reasons to do business with Cuba. Of course, individual US businesses will likely greatly benefit should doors to the Cuban consumer open. But on the macro level, Cuba is too poor and small to ever be more than a rounding error for US business policy.The Latino politics of south Florida is indeed becoming more Democratic and less Republican. But not because Cubans are changing their party registration. However the growth of the Dominican, Puerto Rican, and even Mexican voter registration is changing the landscape. The truth is while polls show increasing number of Cubans are personally less conservative and,therefore less anti-castrista, they are not voting in greater numbers. Most analysts believe the ’50-50′ split is probably as good as it gets for Democrats within the Cuban community that actually votes. Florida remains a swing state so Obama must be careful to do anything that would lessen his electoral successes for the next Democratic Presidential candidate. Finally, Obama’s legacy, black, white, or green, as President, is grounded in his passage of his Universal Health Care legislation, the killing of Osama bin Laden, ending two wars and restoring the US economy. Improving relations with Cuba during his watch as he has done with Myanmar is only icing on the cake. You are correct to say he will do nothing with regards to our relationship with Cuba to risk damage to his legacy. I dare say that it is likely that Obama WILL DO NOTHING with regards to US Cuban relations BECAUSE doing so risks damage to his legacy.

  • Thats part of their point, Obama can’t run for reelection, so whatever he does is not going to have any political cost for him whatsoever. As for the political cost to his party, it depends on how he sells itself and so far he has proven to be very good at that.

    After all, breaking with a failed policy lasting 50 years will help reinforce his image of “change you can trust” completely forgotten in his two mandates, no to mention that it will be boost US image with the rest of the world, particularly with Latin America, and the general US population will regain their constitutional right to travel to Cuba arbitrarily removed long time ago.

    Additionally, he can save taxpayer money by removing the funds currently going to promote government change in Cuba and can tap in a new market for US exports. And finally, if the popular belief that Cuba will crumble once removed the pretext they give for their shortcomings rings true, he may go in the history as the man that destroyed Communism in the hemisphere.

    The only real downside going to be the predictably reaction of the Cuban hardliners in Miami, a group that is politically in decadence, has lost internal cohesion and with it political clout (the vote was split 50-50 last election) and as it members gets older and die, moves quickly towards irrelevance.

    If he were to apply a cost-benefit analysis to the Cuba issue, he probably would do it without thinking too much. Sadly, the Cuba issue has very low priority in US politics and he is trying very hard to act as conservatively as possible as president, probably to not taint his legacy as the first black president. And it means acting with caution and not taking risks, so he probably will do nothing and continue the status quo in the Cuba issue.

  • “… its failure or success will depend exclusively on the Cuban people.”

    Is the author advocating true democracy for the Cuban people? The direction of the country has not depended on the Cuban people for over 60 years. Isn’t it about time the Cuban people regained control of their country from these dictators who have ruled Cuba so badly in their name?

  • The core leadership of the CSG is made up of conservative Cuban-American businessmen. This group has presented a pragmatic list of recommendations to President Obama for the purpose of improving relations with Cuba. What is surprising is that this group, which did nothing to elect and re-elect this Democratic President, now has some expectation that he would expend valuable political capital through the use of highly-controversial Executive Orders to effect unilateral changes in US relations with Cuba. It is clear to see the benefit of these changes for people of Cuba. Equally, those Cuban-American businessmen with the best relations with the Castro regime would also likely benefit greatly by being “first in the door” once business opportunities open up between the two countries. What is less clear, is how Obama, weakened politically by these actions, will benefit.

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