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Highwire Rapprochement: Developments in US-Cuba Relations
US President Barack Obama stands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro before a
bilateral meeting at the United Nations headquarters, 29SEP15. Photo: AP
This week’s snapshot focuses on the most recent developments in Washington-Havana relations. Alongside the first anniversary of the US and Cuba announcing renewed bilateral relations, both countries have worked to navigate a new status quo. President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro have reiterated their commitments to strengthening relations. Both countries have seen developments in business and travel, as well as negotiating trade and ethics interests.
News summary of events during the week of 14DEC15 – 21DEC15
- 14DEC: US President Barack Obama said in an interview he was open to visiting Cuba in 2016 but first wants to see ordinary citizens there enjoy more personal freedoms. (Reuters)
- 16DEC: US Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) presented a bill to modify the Refugee Education Assistance Act with the aim of forcing Cuban citizens who benefit under it to prove that they are really refugees from political persecution on the communist island. (EFE)
- 16DEC: American lawmakers announced the creation of a group (The Cuba Working Group in the House of Representatives) to promote US interests as newly restored US-Cuba relations evolve. (AFP)
- 17DEC: On this day in 2014, President Obama and President Raul Castro announced the decision to re-establish long-frozen diplomatic ties. (BBC)
- 17DEC: The United States and Cuba announced plans to resume flights between the two countries. (AFP)
- 18DEC: Josefina Vidal, head of US affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said Cuba-US ties have made “important progress” since the two countries announced the restoration of diplomatic relations a year ago, but have yet to see progress in trade, finance and economy. (Xinhua)
- 18DEC: President Castro confirmed his government’s “complete inclination” to continue building a new relationship with the US, while insisting that Washington has failed to meet its key demands for normalization, such as ending the US trade embargo of Cuba and US withdrawal from the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. (Reuters)
- 18DEC: President Obama vowed to give Congress one last chance to approve legislation to shut down the prison for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay before he looks at executive actions to close the facility. (BBC)
- 18DEC: Cuban President Raul Castro urged the US government to halt radio and television broadcasts aimed at the island and other programs that Cuba considers harmful while reiterating that he is interested in deepening the thaw in relations with the United States. (AP)
- 19DEC: The number of medical professionals who defected for residency in the United States reached a record this year, putting a crimp in the newly restored relations between the two countries and prompting Cuba to reestablish travel restrictions on individuals with medical training. (NYT)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the improving relations between the United States and Cuba.
- @MichaelLangan – Michael Langan, Editor, Agence France-Presse Americas
- @mweissenstein – Michael Weissenstein, Chief of Bureau, Associated Press, Havana Director de Noticias, Associated Press, La Habana
- @alangomez – Alan Gomez, Reporter, USA Today
- @acampoflores – Arian Campo-Flores, reporter for Wall Street Journal covering Florida, Southeast, and Caribbean
- @danieljtrotta – Daniel Trotta, Chief Correspondent for Reuters in Cuba
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the improving relations between the United States and Cuba.
José Azel, Senior scholar at the University of Miami, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and author of the book Mañana in Cuba
“Contrary to the argument that the new policy will help improve relations with Latin America, Obama’s implicit concessions to, and approval of, a military dictatorship further weaken American influence in the region and elsewhere, encouraging others to take positions inimical to US interests, as Cuba has done for decades.”
- ‘The New Cuba Policy: Fallacies and Implications,’ World Affairs Journal, 03DEC15
Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow with Brookings Institution
“For the United States, direct support for the Cuban people’s political and economic aspirations for greater independence is an essential condition of 6 normalization and a requirement of U.S. law. For Cuba, it is a direct threat to its mode of control and to be resisted at all costs.”
- ‘United States-Cuba Normalizations: Strategic Implications for U.S. National Security,’ FIU Latin America and Caribbean Center, 09FEB15
Richard Feinberg, Nonresident Senior Fellow with Brookings Institution, Latin America Initiative and Professor of international political economy at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego
“In designing and implementing solutions, as claimants bang on doors and demand attention, policy makers should not lose sight of their overriding purposes. In the interests of both Cuba and the United States, the twentieth-century trauma of massive property seizures should be transformed into a twenty-first century economic development opportunity.”
- ‘Reconciling U.S. Property Claims in Cuba: Transforming Trauma into Opportunity,’ Brookings, 01DEC15
William M. Leogrande, Professor of government at American University in Washington, DC and co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana
“What will happen now that Washington has replaced the policy of regime change with one of coexistence and engagement? To be sure, the U.S. “democracy promotion” programs aimed at stimulating opposition in Cuba have not disappeared and will likely remain for some time. But they are no longer part of an overall policy of hostility that Cuba can point to as justification for suppressing opposition.”
- ‘The End of the Bogeyman: The Political Repercussions of the U.S.-Cuban Rapprochement,’ American University
Timothy Belevetz and Ronald Oleynik, Holland & Knight law firm
“Because the state runs virtually all significant business enterprises, it raises the possibility that any payment of a bribe related to not only traditional government functions such as permitting, licensing, and government contracting but also business deals that in other places would be strictly between private parties will be a violation of the FCPA.”
- ‘A warning on doing business in Cuba,’ CNBC, 30JUL15
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the improving relations between the United States and Cuba.
1. US and Cuba to resume regular flights
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 20 December 2015
Washington (AFP) – The United States and Cuba on Thursday announced plans to resume flights between the two nations, erasing another vestige of what had been strained ties rooted in the Cold War.
The latest progress as the countries work to build on their restoration of full diplomatic relations this summer was made public a year to the day after President Barack Obama and counterpart Raul Castro first said they would bury the hatchet.
2. ANALYSIS: Why US-Cuba Normalization Is Accelerating
Media: The Nation (US)
Byline: Peter Kornbluh
Date: 17 December 2015
When Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cuba last August to raise the Stars and Stripes over the newly reopened US Embassy, his entourage included Carlos Gutierrez, a prominent Cuban-American businessman who served as secretary of commerce in the George W. Bush administration. As part of Bush’s tough-on-Cuba policy, Gutierrez co-chaired the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, which recommended a comprehensive and aggressive policy of regime change. Given his previous efforts to roll back the Cuban Revolution, Gutierrez would seem the last person who would want to travel to Havana—let alone receive a visa from the Castro government.
Over the last year, however, Gutierrez—the Cuban-born son of a pineapple-plantation owner who rose to be CEO of Kellogg—has become the highest-profile convert to President Obama’s policy of engagement. “Today, we have an opportunity to actually help the Cuban people. We shouldn’t let the opportunity pass,” Gutierrez said in a recent interview, adding: “I would ask any opponent of normalization to visit Cuba. I believe they will reach the conclusion that the Cuban people are the biggest losers [in] the policy of Cuba isolationism.”
3. Raul Castro urges US to end broadcasts aimed at Cuba
Media: Associated Press
Date: 20 December 2015
HAVANA (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro urged the U.S. government Friday to halt radio and television broadcasts aimed at the island and other programs that Cuba considers harmful while reiterating that he is interested in deepening the thaw in relations with the United States.
The comment came in Castro’s first review of the rapprochement that he and U.S. President Barack Obama began a year ago.
4. 2015 sees “important progress” in Cuba-U.S. ties but only in diplomacy: Cuban official
Media: Xinhua (China)
Date: 18 December 2015
HAVANA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) — Cuba-U.S. ties have made “important progress” since the two countries announced the restoration of diplomatic relations a year ago, but only in diplomacy, said a top Cuban official.
The two countries have yet to see progress in trade, finance and economy, said Josefina Vidal, head of U.S. affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
5. Lawmakers to defend US interests under new ties with Cuba
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 16 December 2015
Washington, Dec 16, 2015 (AFP) – American lawmakers announced Wednesday the creation of a group to promote US interests as newly restored US-Cuba relations evolve.
Twelve lawmakers from both parties did so in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.