21 September 2006

Vice Admiral Stavridis, the ELN, and what to do about Cuba

 This may be a glass-half-full reading on my part, but I detect in the U.S. military command (the ‘geo’ in the geopolitical aspect of US policy on Cuba) a preference for modus vivendi relationship with Cuba, one in which a Chinese-style Cuban Communist party can continue to govern as long as they don’t harbor terrorists.

That may not lead to Most Favored Nation trading status, as China enjoys, but it would give the Communists some leverage, leverage they didn’t have with Fidel in power.

Clearly, the US Generals are worried about a Cuba that openly harbors terrorists, as they’re saying we need to be open to reviewing the policy. And they're not talking about smelling sulfur in Habana.

The Cubans, for their part, are putting intense pressure on the political wing of the ‘geopolitical’ equation. The (remotely) legitimate reason the Cubans are on the List of Nations Sponsoring Terrorists is that in the past they have supported the Basque Separatists and the ELN in Columbia.

We’ve seen within the last year the Basque renounce violence, although there may be one nut still loose. And in October, Cuba will host a peace talk in which ELN offers to surrender.

First, VICE ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (USN) before the Senate,


Stavridis. Oh yes. I've said it twice now. That will be the last time.
The concern that is there in that command, the SOUTHCOM, with Chavez, with the changes in Castro. Certainly, Castro, right now we don't know for sure what's going to happen to him. We know a little bit about his brother, about as much as you need to know. What is your feeling, anything you'd like to say in an opening hearing, as to how you see in the event of Castro's stepping aside?


Thank you, Senator.  
Certainly, is front and center on the windshield for any commander at U.S. Southern Command. And, if confirmed, it will be at the center of my sight picture.  I think, like all of us, I'm very hopeful of a peaceful transition to a democratic regime in . I have to say, I'm not optimistic of that happening in the immediate future.  The basic signals we seem to get from today are that, if Fidel Castro were to step aside or pass on, his brother, Raul, would probably take the reins of power there. And I think, in the end, very little would change under that scenario.  Cuban economy is extremely rocky. At this moment, it's propped up in large measure by oil subsidies from Venezuela. And, as a result of all of those factors, we experience about 8,000 migrants a year coming here to our shores from .  I think, as well,

And now from his written testimony:

The Commander of U. S. Southern Command, General Craddock, has stated that he does not view as a military threat to the United States and that policies and laws regarding need to be reviewed ``stem to stern`` in order to determine if they make sense. General Craddock questioned whether the continuing ban on U.S./Cuban military-tomilitary contacts should remain in effect.


Question: What is your opinion about the need for and pros and cons of military-tomilitary contact with ?

Answer: I believe General Craddock was referring to the fact that we now live in a multi-polar, globalized world in which it would be prudent for the U.S. to re-examine our engagement policies throughout the world. Generally, military-to-military engagement is valuable; however, any engagement must be consistent with U.S. Government law and policy. Currently, the only authorized military-to-military contacts in are minimal administrative conversations surrounding the military facility at Guantanamo Bay. If confirmed, I will assess the specific situation regarding military engagement with


Question: What is your view of the need for review and potentially, revision of U. S. policies regarding ?

Answer: I believe the U.S. policy toward , like all policy, should be periodically reviewed and reassessed to ensure it is relevant to the changing environment. When adjustments to policy are recommended, we should feel free to openly debate both the pros and cons of any given proposal for change.

The story on the ELN from wsj.com:
Colombia Rebel Group Signals Intent To Discuss Amnesty


September 20, 2006 10:58 a.m.

BOGOTA (AP)--The military chief of Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group said Wednesday that the group will raise the issue of a general amnesty during exploratory talks with the government next month.

"The solution to the humanitarian drama, to resolve the problems of the internally displaced and an amnesty for political prisoners, social and trade union leaders, would be well-received, would be the best guarantee of peace," the rebel leader, known as Antonio Garcia, said in an interview with Caracol radio.

Talks between the government and the National Liberation Army are scheduled to start at the beginning of October in Cuba.