New York Times og Cuba
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Den toneangivende avis har startet hvad der ligner en kampagne for at USA og Cuba etablerer normale diplomatiske relationer. Det lyder fornuftigt omend argumenterne er noget kærmmeragtige og verdenssamfundets fordømmelse af blokaden ikke omtales meget.

Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD,The New York Times, OCT. 11, 2014

Scanning a map of the world must give President Obama a sinking feeling as he contemplates the dismal state of troubled bilateral relationships his administration has sought to turn around. He would be smart to take a hard look at Cuba, where a major policy shift could yield a significant foreign policy success.

 

For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless embargo. The Castro regime has long blamed the embargo for its shortcomings, and has kept ordinary Cubans largely cut off from the world. Mr. Obama should seize this opportunity to end a long era of enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously since Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro assumed power.

In recent years, a devastated economy has forced Cuba to make reforms — a process that has gained urgency with the economic crisis in Venezuela, which gives Cuba heavily subsidized oil. Officials in Havana, fearing that Venezuela could cut its aid, have taken significant steps to liberalize and diversify the island’s tightly controlled economy.

They have begun allowing citizens to take private-sector jobs and own property. This spring, Cuba’s National Assembly passed a law to encourage foreign investment in the country. With Brazilian capital, Cuba is building a seaport, a major project that will be economically viable only if American sanctions are lifted. And in April, Cuban diplomats began negotiating a cooperation agreement with the European Union. They have shown up at the initial meetings prepared, eager and mindful that the Europeans will insist on greater reforms and freedoms.

The authoritarian government still harasses and detains dissidents. It has yet to explain the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the political activist Oswaldo Payá. But in recent years officials have released political prisoners who had been held for years. Travel restrictions were relaxed last year, enabling prominent dissidents to travel abroad. There is slightly more tolerance for criticism of the leadership, though many fear speaking openly and demanding greater rights.

The pace of reforms has been slow and there has been backsliding. Still, these changes show Cuba is positioning itself for a post-embargo era. The government has said it would welcome renewed diplomatic relations with the United States and would not set preconditions.

As a first step, the Obama administration should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organizations, which includes Iran, Sudan and Syria. Cuba was put on the list in 1982 for backing terrorist groups in Latin America, which it no longer does. American officials recognize that Havana is playing a constructive role in the conflict in Colombia by hosting peace talks between the government and guerrilla leaders.

Starting in 1961, Washington has imposed sanctions in an effort to oust the Castro regime. Over the decades, it became clear to many American policy makers that the embargo was an utter failure. But any proposal to end the embargo angered Cuban-American voters, a constituency that has had an outsize role in national elections.

The generation that adamantly supports the embargo is dying off. Younger Cuban-Americans hold starkly different views, having come to see the sanctions as more damaging than helpful. A recent poll found that a slight majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami now oppose the embargo. A significant majority of them favor restoring diplomatic ties, mirroring the views of other Americans.

The Obama administration in 2009 took important steps to ease the embargo, a patchwork of laws and policies, making it easier for Cubans in the United States to send remittances to relatives in Cuba and authorizing more Cuban-Americans to travel there. And it has paved the way for initiatives to expand Internet access and cellphone coverage on the island.

Fully ending the embargo will require Congress’s approval. But there is much more the White House could do on its own. For instance, it could lift caps on remittances, allow Americans to finance private Cuban businesses and expand opportunities for travel to the island.

It could also help American companies that are interested in developing the island’s telecommunications network but remain wary of the legal and political risks. Failing to engage with Cuba now will likely cede this market to competitors. The presidents of China and Russia traveled to Cuba in separate visits in July, and both leaders pledged to expand ties.

Cuba and the United States already have diplomatic missions, called interests sections, that operate much like embassies. However, under the current arrangement, American diplomats have few opportunities to travel outside the capital to engage with ordinary Cubans, and their access to the Cuban government is very limited.

Restoring diplomatic ties, which the White House can do without congressional approval, would allow the United States to expand and deepen cooperation in areas where the two nations already manage to work collaboratively — like managing migration flows, maritime patrolling and oil rig safety. It would better position Washington to press the Cubans on democratic reforms, and could stem a new wave of migration to the United States driven by hopelessness.

Closer ties could also bring a breakthrough on the case of an American development contractor, Alan Gross, who has been unjustly imprisoned by Cuba for nearly five years. More broadly, it would create opportunities to empower ordinary Cubans, gradually eroding the government’s ability to control their lives.

In April 2014, Western Hemisphere heads of state will meet in Panama City for the seventh Summit of the Americas. Latin American governments insisted that Cuba, the Caribbean’s most populous island and one of the most educated societies in the hemisphere, be invited, breaking with its traditional exclusion at the insistence of Washington.

Given the many crises around the world, the White House may want to avoid a major shift in Cuba policy. Yet engaging with Cuba and starting to unlock the potential of its citizens could end up being among the administration’s most consequential foreign-policy legacies.

Normalizing relations with Havana would improve Washington’s relationships with governments in Latin America, and resolve an irritant that has stymied initiatives in the hemisphere. The Obama administration is leery of Cuba’s presence at the meeting and Mr. Obama has not committed to attending. He must — and he should see it as an opportunity to make history.

 

Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, The New York Times, OCT. 19, 2014

Cuba is an impoverished island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.

Cuba’s contribution is doubtlessly meant at least in part to bolster its beleaguered international standing. Nonetheless, it should be lauded and emulated.

The global panic over Ebola has not brought forth an adequate response from the nations with the most to offer. While the United States and several other wealthy countries have been happy to pledge funds, only Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.

Doctors in West Africa desperately need support to establish isolation facilities and mechanisms to detect cases early. More than 400 medical personnel have been infected and about 4,500 patients have died. The virus has shown up in the United States and Europe, raising fears that the epidemic could soon become a global menace.

It is a shame that Washington, the chief donor in the fight against Ebola, is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. In this case the schism has life-or-death consequences, because American and Cuban officials are not equipped to coordinate global efforts at a high level. This should serve as an urgent reminder to the Obama administration that the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba far outweigh the drawbacks.

The Cuban health care workers will be among the most exposed foreigners, and some could very well contract the virus. The World Health Organization is directing the team of Cuban doctors, but it remains unclear how it would treat and evacuate Cubans who become sick. Transporting quarantined patients requires sophisticated teams and specially configured aircraft. Most insurance companies that provide medical evacuation services have said they will not be flying Ebola patients.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday praised “the courage of any health care worker who is undertaking this challenge,” and made a brief acknowledgment of Cuba’s response. As a matter of good sense and compassion, the American military, which now has about 550 troops in West Africa, should commit to giving any sick Cuban access to the treatment center the Pentagon built in Monrovia and to assisting with evacuation.

The work of these Cuban medics benefits the entire global effort and should be recognized for that. But Obama administration officials have callously declined to say what, if any, support they would give them.

 

The Shifting Politics of Cuba Policy

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, The New York Times, OCT. 25, 2014

There was a time, not too long ago, when any mainstream politician running for statewide or national office in Florida had to rattle off fiery rhetoric against the Cuban government and declare unquestioning faith that the embargo on the island would one day force the Castros from power.

For generations, among Cuban-Americans, once a largely monolithic voting bloc, the embargo was a symbol of defiance in exile — more gospel than policy.

That has changed dramatically in recent years as younger members of the diaspora have staked out views that are increasingly in favor of deepening engagement with the island. Cuba still looms large in Florida politics and to an extent nationally. But it is far from the clear-cut issue it once was.

That evolution has allowed a growing number of seasoned politicians to call the embargo a failure and argue that ending America’s enmity with Cuba represents the best chance of encouraging positive change on the island. Several prominent Cuban-American businessmen who were once strong supporters of the embargo have changed their stance and become proponents of engagement. The pro-embargo lobby raises a fraction of the money it once did. President Obama now receives more correspondence from lawmakers who favor expanded ties than from those who want to keep robust sanctions.

The shift has not been lost on the White House, where officials are deliberating over how much progress they might be able to make on President Obama’s longstanding interest in expanding ties with Cuba. Mr. Obama supported repealing the embargo when he was running for the United States Senate in 2004 but backtracked as a presidential candidate, saying in 2008 that the embargo gave Washington leverage over the Cuban government.

No bold move on Cuba policy would be risk-free. But the political backlash Mr. Obama would face by taking steps to normalize relations is likely to be manageable, even in the Cuban-American community, and well worth the opportunities there would be for expansion in trade, communications and relationships between Americans and ordinary Cubans.

Charlie Crist, the former governor of Florida who is in a tight race for his old job, recently said he was interested in traveling to Cuba, an idea he later scrapped, blaming a busy schedule. Mr. Crist, however, has emphatically said he has come to see the embargo as a relic that must be shelved. Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in her memoirs, and repeated in a recent interview, that she now favors repealing the embargo, which she called a failure, because it has “propped up the Castros.”

In Florida, members of Congress have staked out positions on Cuba that once would have been considered political suicide. Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, traveled to the island last year and made a strong appeal for an end to the sanctions, saying the United States was failing to capitalize on economic reforms underway on the island. She feels that far from hurting her politically, the stance has made her more popular among constituents, including Cuban-Americans, who want to play a role in the island’s future.

Even in Miami, where old-guard positions remain popular among older exiles, who are largely Republicans, there have been notable changes. In 2012, Joe Garcia became the first Cuban-American Democrat from Miami to be elected to the House. While he publicly supports the embargo, Mr. Garcia holds views significantly different from other South Florida members of Congress. For instance, he has called for clinical trials in the United States of a Cuban diabetes treatment that has shown great promise. He also favors easing travel restrictions to the island.

Still, ending the embargo, which requires congressional action, remains challenging because a small but passionate group of Cuban-American lawmakers is adamant about maintaining the status quo. The most vocal defenders of the embargo are Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey; Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida; and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, both Miami Republicans.

In April, during the height of the crisis set off by Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Mr. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who moved to the United States in 1953, delivered a long, impassioned speech on the Senate floor, arguing that despite the myriad foreign policy crises in the world, Washington needed to focus on the abuses of “a Stalinist police state” 90 miles away. He displayed photos of dissidents and warned that expanded travel by Americans to Cuba was enabling a despotic state. White House officials fear that Mr. Menendez, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, could hold up confirmation of federal nominees in retaliation for further moves to ease the embargo.