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In Midst of US-Cuba Détente, Havana Seeks to Make Gains in International Arena
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stands near Cuba’s Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel during a wreath laying ceremony for Cuba’s independence hero Jose Marti at Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba 24SEP16. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
This week’s snapshot focuses on Cuba’s re-energized relations with the international community amidst the process of détente with the United States. Following President Obama and President Castro’s 17DEC14 announcements that their two countries would seek a new course of relations, the Caribbean Island nation and only communist state in the Western Hemisphere is experiencing a boost in international engagement following President Raul Castro’s initial wave of refreshed relations in his first decade in power. Since the DEC14 announcements, the Cuban government has enjoyed its removal from the United States’s ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list and high-level meetings with President Obama, Pope Francis, and representatives from Germany, France, Austria, Great Britain, South Korea and Portugal, among others. Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe each traveled to Havana for meetings on bilateral engagement with Cuba. However, as analysts and President Obama himself have warned since the unveiling of the policy change almost two years ago, détente will be a challenging process for all parties involved.
News summary of events during the week of 26SEP16 – 03OCT16
- 26SEP: Days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese president to step on the island, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wound up a visit to Cuba, the first official visit by a Chinese premier, with the two countries signing more than 20 cooperation agreements covering a wide range of areas. (Xinhua)
- 26SEP: Former Cuban President Fidel Castro and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed the need to preserve human existence and world peace in the face of “complexities, dangers and challenges” during their meeting in Havana. (EFE)
- 27SEP: Russia and Cuba signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of atomic energy for peaceful purposes on the sidelines of the 60th session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. (TASS)
- 27SEP: President Obama nominated Jeffrey DeLaurentis, currently the top diplomat at the US Embassy in Havana, to serve as Washington’s first ambassador to Cuba since the restoration of diplomatic ties in JUL15. (EFE)
- 28SEP: A senior Cuban government official said President Obama’s nomination of an ambassador to Cuba is welcome but he should still do more to normalize relations between the two countries during his remaining time in office. (Reuters)
- 28SEP: The Cuban government expressed its wish that the next US president respect the support of the majority of the US people for lifting the economic embargo and Washington’s policy changes vis-a-vis the communist island. (EFE)
- 28SEP: Cuba said it will complain about continued US efforts to weaken its government even as the two countries continue to normalize ties. (Xiunha)
- 28SEP: The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees the confirmation of foreign service nominees, said it was “highly unlikely” that an ambassador to Cuba would be approved this year. (Reuters)
- 29SEP: Cuban President Raul Castro met with leaders of Lesotho and Namibia to boost relations and cooperation with the African nations. (Xinhua)
- 30SEP: The United States and Cuba held the fourth Bilateral Commission in Washington, D.C. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte led the US delegation. (Newsroom America)
- 30SEP: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that he planned to travel to Cuba the following week for a trade mission, seeking to build economic ties with the island. (AP)
- 01OCT: A Cuban diplomat said Havana is negotiating with the United States on six new cooperation agreements including law enforcement and responses to oil spills, while calling for the end of the latter’s subversive activities. (Xinhua)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about Cuba’s re-energized foreign relations
- @Kredo0 – Adam Kredo, senior writer, foreign policy and national security for Washington Free Beacon
- @reuterssarah – Sarah Marsh, Cuba-based correspondent for Reuters
- @carolrosenberg – Carol Rosenberg, reports on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
- @c_sesin – Carmen Sesin, freelance writer and producer and contributor to NBC News, covering Latino and Latin American issues
- @emilydparker – Emily Parker, former State Department policy planning staff for digital diplomacy and former Wall Street Journal writer and editor at New York Times
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding Cuba’s re-energized foreign relations
Joan Navarro, partner and vice-chairman of Public Affairs at LLORENTE & CUENCA and Pau Solanilla, managing director of operations in Cuba at LLORENTE & CUENCA
“…three titanic, but perfectly feasible, challenges [generational handover from the revolutionaries, economic modernatization, and promotion of human capital] should point toward a new horizon, a new destiny to turn all this potential, wealth and plurality into a new inclusive, shared project that will position the country in its rightful place in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres.”
- “Cuba, Three Big Challenges And One Destiny,” The Holmes Report, 27SEP16
Mina Pollmann, Pacific Forum-CSIS Young Leader and Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
“How Japan will distinguish its economic agenda in Cuba – whether it be engagement through government-backed official development aid or private investments – from China’s is a question that will continue to bedevil Japanese policymakers. The opening of Cuba is just the next chapter in a much longer story of Sino-Japanese competition for influence in (and access to the resources of) the developing world.”
- “For the First Time, Japan’s Prime Minister Is Visiting Cuba,” The Diplomat, 17SEP16
Mervyn Bain, senior lecturer in International Relations, University of Aberdeen
“To understand why relations between Cuba and Russia are reviving, you need to consider recent initiatives in Cuban and Russian foreign policy. Cuba’s political influence has been growing both in Latin America and throughout the developing world. From out of Moscow, meanwhile, a “Putin doctrine” has emerged. It wishes to return Russia to great power status and forge a multi-polar world that is not dominated by America…[With the US-Cuba detente,] The question is to what extent Cuba will manage to ride both horses at once in future.”
- “Cuba is reheating relations with Russia and US at the same time,” The Conversation, 30SEP16
Ásgeir Sigfússon, spokesman for the American Foreign Service Association
“I would say 0%. With Marco Rubio on the Senate foreign relations committee, it’s never going to happen. They have sworn to do anything they can against the normalisation of relations…The president is exercising his right to be a late lame duck president trying to do everything he can. It’s symbolic. He drove through the normalisation of relations and gets to claim he’s the one who did it.”
- “Obama’s pick as ambassador to Cuba has ‘0% chance’ of approval, union says,” The Guardian, 29SEP16
Sebastián Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University
“[Cubans see the changes] with optimism. For a simple reason: They’ve been told that the problems in Cuba are a result of the hostility of the United States…When the President says there’s no longer any hostility, they are optimistic about the change.”
- “Obama picks envoy to Havana as Cubans await change,” CNN, 29SEP16
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to Cuba’s re-energized foreign relations
- Fidel Castro, China’s Li agree on need to preserve world peace
Media: EFE (Spain)
Date: 26 September 2016
Havana, Sep 26 (EFE).- Former Cuban President Fidel Castro and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed the need to preserve human existence and world peace in the face of “complexities, dangers and challenges” during their meeting in Havana, state-run media reported.
Castro and Li, in particular, coincided in their assessments of the international situation in the “animated dialogue” they held on Sunday afternoon at the home of the former leader of the communist island and head of the Cuban Revolution.
- Obama Nominates First Ambassador to Cuba in Over 50 Years
Media: New York Times
Date: 03 October 2016
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday nominated the first United States ambassador to Cuba in more than a half-century, defying opponents of his policy of rapprochement with the government of President Raúl Castro in an effort to further cement a new relationship between the countries before he leaves office.
- Cuba to discuss detente, “subversive” plots with U.S.
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 28 September 2016
HAVANA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) — Cuba said on Wednesday it will complain about continued U.S. efforts to weaken its government even as the two countries continue to normalize ties.
Delegations from both countries are to gather in Washington on Friday as part of the fourth meeting of the Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission, Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at the CubanForeign Ministry, told reporters at a press conference.
- Raul Castro meets African leaders to deepen political ties
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 29 September 2016
HAVANA, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — Cuban President Raul Castro on Thursday met with leaders of Lesotho and Namibia to boost relations and cooperation with the African nations, according to a government statement.
Castro met with Prime Minister of Lesotho Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili at the presidential palace where they exchanged views on bilateral relations and expressed their will to strengthen ties with further cooperation in areas such as health, education and sports.
- Louisiana governor heading to Cuba next week for trade talks
Media: Associated Press
Byline: MELINDA DESLATTE
Date: 30 September 2016
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards is traveling to Cuba next week for a trade mission, seeking to build economic ties with the island nation now that the U.S. is moving to normalize relations between the countries.
The Monday through Friday trip will include Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson. About 50 other state, local, education and business officials also will participate.