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The Case for the Re-Integration Cuba into the Hemispheric Fold
Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2002

by Stephen Kangal

Last weekís six-day unofficial visit to Cuba undertaken by former US President Carter (1977-81) at the invitation of President Castro should serve as a critical catalyst precipitating the eagerly- awaited, progressive and incremental thaw in US-Cuba relations and hopefully culminating in the inevitable re-integration of Cuba into the Hemispheric fold.

The American people, including traditional hard-liners in and out of the House and Senate as well as the Houseís Cuba Working Group etc are incrementally beginning to appreciate and reject the futility of contemporary US isolationist Foreign Policy towards Cuba. That policy is underpinned by the obsolete and anachronistic 1961 trade embargo imposed by President Eisenhower as well as restrictions on American travel to Cuba. It was summed up recently by President Bush:" Fidel Castro is a dictator and he is oppressive and he ought to have free elections and he ought to have a free press and he ought to encourage free enterprise."

Incidentally democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela, supplying the US with 1.5m bpd of oil, amply complied with all five of the above-mentioned Presidentís criteria for acceptability but was still overthrown by an alleged American-inspired two-day coup aided by a free Venezuelan press and the free enterprise sector. There would appear to be neither consistency nor method in American Cuban Foreign Policy having regard to US trading and other relations with Communist China and Viet Nam and its support for tyrants who turned anti-US such as Noreiga, Saddam Hussein etc- a case of different strokes for different folks.

Jimmy Carter rejected US Policy on Cuba. His view is supported and shared by 72 % of the American public (MSNBC Poll) and more than 40 members of Congress (20 Democrats and 20 Republicans). His keynote address targeting the Cuban people of Tuesday 14 May was uncensored and unprecedented in the scope of his criticisms of the Castro regime. It was delivered from the University of Havana, broadcast live on Cuban TV and published in full in Granma.

He told the Cuban people: "Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years and it is time for us to change our relationship and the way we think and talk about each other."

Carterís vision of future relations is based on re-integrating Cuba into the democratic hemisphere by initiating a massive student exchange program, unrestricted travel, the repeal of the 1961 trade embargo, resolution of the appropriated property disputes by a blue-ribbon commission and eventual reconciliation between Cuba and the United States. His visit was intended to kick-start that process with the US taking the first initiative.

The Bush Administration in a Statement issued by Under Secretary of State John Bolton on the third day of Carterís visit, tried to derail any success that would accrue from the visit by linking Cuba to the "axis of evil" and "rogue states" by charging the Castro regime of exporting "Ö limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort." Carter on the other hand indicated that during his pre-visit briefings at the State Department National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice denied any knowledge of Cubaís capability with BW. The allegation was also down-played by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Incidentally former outspoken US Ambassador to T&T, Sally Cowal heads another pro-Cuba initiative, the Cuba Policy Foundation aimed at contributing to normalisation of US relations with Cuba.

The US Foreign Policy on Cuba is in the throes of a dilemma in the face of various contending domestic economic and political interests. Republican imperative to win a Florida November Governor election determines US foreign policy in the view of Charles Rangel, a New York Congressman. That policy has to pander to the large contingent of Cuban-Americans vote in Florida where the Presidentís brother, Jep Bush is seeking re-election for the Governorship and which is likely to be the underpinning for the Presidentís Speech outlining a toughening of US policy on Monday. Someone has opined that Little Havana (Miami Cuban exiles) controls and dictates contemporary American foreign policy on Cuba.

On the other hand American business has witnessed the extent to which Canadians progressively consolidate and entrench themselves in the commanding heights of the Cuban economy, 90 miles from the USA, and fear that they might not be able to catch up if the thaw is postponed any further. Senator Evan Bayh (D), Indiana summed up the situation:" Weíve tried the embargo that doesnít seem to work. That really has punished US workers and producers cutting off our markets and allowing them to be filled by the Canadians, Europeans and others."

Someone has asked what will be the US foreign policy response to historical human rights/democratic violations in Cuba were oil to be discovered in Cuba by the Canadians, Europeans and BHP Billiton of T&Tís East Coast.

The US isolationist policy denying Cuba from participating in the deliberations of OAS, the FTAA, the Summit of the Americas and other hemispheric institutions except the ACS and CARIFORUM have proved to be ineffective. The EC is dealing with Cuba as well as 100 other countries.

It is not surprising that Carter has chosen to visit Cuba and highlight the need for rapprochement and reconciliation. He was the sixth of the 10 US Presidents elected during the Castro regime and the first in office to try to improve relations by re-establishing diplomatic missions. President Castro thinks highly of Carter and virtually gave him the keys to the Kingdom of Cuba during his visit.

After demitting the Presidency in 1981 Carter established the Carter Centre in Atlanta to promote democracy, safeguard human rights and resolve conflicts. He was instrumental in resolving the political/ elections impasse in Guyana and was expected to hand in his report on his Cuban visit to President Bush on Saturday possibly to pre-empt the expected tough stance to be adopted by President Bush in his statement on Cuba to be delivered on Monday 20 May.

Were the policies of the late Dr.Williams as well as of successive NAR, PNM and UNC regimes in particular and the Caribbean Heads of Government Conference in general to prevail, Cuba would have long been given its rightful seat around the American family dinner table. Castro acknowledged this during his last visit to Trinidad.

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