La Alborada – May 20
A group of former diplomats –including some very interventionist ones–, former members of the US legislative and executive branches, retired military officers, current bankers and corporate officials, NGO heads, and some others, have sent an open letter to President Obama asking that he take action to facilitate the penetration of the Cuban economy through actions that are within his power to take.
Somehow, this is being dressed up as an effort to improve relations with Cuba. It is hardly that, however. It looks more like recommendations that might be advanced by Freedom House, USAID, DAI, NSA, CIA, NED, NGOs, and other members of Washington’s alphabet soup. The difference seems to be that these actions would be authorized openly to facilitate involvement in Cuba’s economy, in particular the developing small-business sector, by “US NGOs and other organizations.”
There is no mention whatever of doing any of it with the approval or cooperation of the Cuban government, except in one paragraph at the end of the list, which proposes that the US “engage in serious discussions with Cuban counterparts on mutual security and humanitarian concerns,” and that in so doing it “leverage these talks to press Cuban officials on matters such as the release of Alan Gross and on-going human rights concerns.”
The last part about Alan Gross is a nod to the current US posture that no improvement in relations is possible unless Gross is released unilaterally, but it does not matter: the proposals seek no improvement in relations, but only a new effort to get into Cuban business now. There is nothing urging the President to negotiate an exchange with the remaining three prisoners of the Cuban Five, nor to remove Cuba from the list of sponsors of terrorism. There is no suggestion of doing away with the blockade.
The underlying motivation is revealed in one phrase: “…the U.S. is finding itself increasingly isolated internationally in its Cuba policy.” That is to say that, while the US government and the media argue that the new Cuban economy is not going anywhere, that the Mariel EDZ will draw no investors, and that Raul Castro is incapable of making the economy work, an important sector of the US establishment recognizes that if they don’t get on the bus now they may have to wait a long time before the next one comes by.
These are some of the signers:
– John Negroponte, former Deputy Secretary of State; former Director of National Intelligence, and –based then in Honduras– coordinator of US intelligence and activities in Central America during the wars of the 1980s.
– John Adams, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired); former Deputy U.S. Military Representative to NATO; former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, U.S. Army.
– Admiral James Stavridis, Commander of U.S. Southern Command 2006–2009; Supreme Allied Commander NATO 2009–2013; Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University.
– Paul Cejas, former U.S. Ambassador; President and CEO, PLC Investments, Inc. (management of portfolio investments as well as investments in real estate and venture capital projects).
– Andres Fanjul, Fanjul Group (big sugar).
– Moises Naím, a minister under Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela and currently a right-wing alarmist and proponent of taking down the governments of all of the ALBA countries. (Cuba is, of course, a founder of ALBA.)
– Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
– Ambassador Charles Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, where he actively assisted coup plotters before, during, and after the coup of 2002; President, Institute of the Americas.
– George Weiksner, Vice Chairman, Credit Suisse – the same bank that yesterday agreed to pay $2.6 billion in penalties for helping wealthy US clients evade taxes in a scheme federal investigators said spanned decades.
What do they propose? Here are some examples (emphasis is ours):
– Allow unlimited remittances to non-family members for the purpose of supporting independent activity in Cuba and expand the types of goods that travelers may legally take to the Island to support micro-entrepreneurs.
– Establish new licenses for the provision of professional services to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.
– Allow U.S. NGOs and other organizations to lend directly to small farmers, cooperatives, self-employed individuals, and micro-enterprises in Cuba.
– Allow Cuban entrepreneurs to participate in internships in U.S. corporations and NGOs.
– Authorize the sale of telecommunications hardware in Cuba, including cell towers, satellite dishes, and handsets.
The signers may not be aware of the ZunZuneo debacle and of the way that NSA spies on other countries through back doors built into US hardware, but it seems that they just don’t care what the Cuban government thinks of these ideas. They want Obama to open the gates for intervention.
It’s hard to come to a different conclusion given the character of the proposals. They’re not a good approach to improving relations.