30 November 2008

Stop Trying to Subvert the Cuban Government (part two of a twelve step program for a new Cuba policy)

Before commencing any negotiations with the Communist Party in Cuba on dismantling the Economic Embargo, the USG needs to migrate the Embargo from a unilateral, comprehensive one to a multilateral, specific one.

The following changes will put those wheels in motion:

To read part one, click here.

(6) Cancel the 40+ million dollars sent to “non-governmental” institutions to subvert the Cuban government. And re-orient intelligence operations on the island to passive information gathering, i.e. listeners and analysts. Do not funnel money to Cuban nationals unless they are in fact U.S. spies.

(you can buy mercenaries. you cannot buy friends.)

(7) Discontinue the travel licenses for religious organizations.

(We are a secular nation, remember?)

(8) Remove Cuba (and other nations not sponsoring transnational terrorism) from the List of Nations Sponsoring Terrorism, thus redefining the list to focus on our enemy: transnational Sunni terrorists, or, if that’s not politically palatable, on Al Qaeda.

(all nations have their pet “freedom fighters.” Our pretense to standing up against terrorism everywhere fools no one. See Posada.)

(9) Swap the Cuban 5 for the 219 political prisoners and their families on the island.

(The connection is irrelevant: the Cuban government thinks the Miami 5 are innocent; we say they broke the law. The US government thinks the 219 are innocent; the Cuban government says the 219 broke the law.

The politics are not irrelevant: requiring a swap will say that we do not forgive the Cuban government for breaking our laws. If the Cuban government declines the offer, their doing so will undermine their entire PR campaign and send chills up the spines of their best spies.

And, in these negotiations, the first ones to be held, the only thing to say about the Economic Embargo is that, if they swap, we promise to talk about Embargo in the future.

Thus far, we are still correcting our moral footing.)


When the Soviet Union collapsed, the US Government thought it could starve the Cuban government into submission, a policy informed by an intellectually embarrassing Marxist assumption. Just as Marx had been wrong in failing to account for culture and the human spirit, so too were the Cuban-American lobbies that pushed this stupidity.

That said, there is indeed a chilling, new authoritarian wall threatening to form, if only in a figurative sense. And the Cuban Commies are very much a party to it. So are the Chinese, Putin, North Korea, Chavez, Iran, and arguably Syria. And of course, the group would include less (potentially) threatening governments, such as Sudan, whose existential interests are better served by the lot above than by ours.

But it is not in the interest of legitimate democracies to play their cards in such a way that these nations one day conclude that they are better off without ours. And yet, that’s exactly where the USG's current policy of both trading with them and attempting to subvert them is leading us.

Should these troubling governments erect a wall, then, yes, the USG would need to resume subversive activities. But right now, these governments (and, more important, the nations they represent) want to trade and that fact alone is at this historical moment reason enough to suspend our subversive activities.

Our larger policy (with Cuba, especially) should therefore be to listen, analyze, and broadcast creditable findings far and wide. When one of these authoritarian governments crosses a line, such as Sudan did with Darfur and is likely to do in Southern Kordofan, then we will have the credibility with our allies to form an effective response.

But now, it is as plain as day that the USG's subversive actions throughout the world are undermining our attempts to form alliances against actors committing atrocities and against authoritarian governments for their being authoritarian.

With Cuba, therefore, the USG needs (a) to align its policy with one that is consistent with an allied policy toward all of these authoritarian threats, to fold it into a coherent strategy international television audiences can understand (not a case by case one, Condi!, that leaves people baffled and cynical by its contradictions.

It does not make sense to spend 40+ million to support dissidents on the island because the government is full of Communists, on the one hand, while selling flame-throwers and Sonic Blasters to China to help them quash dissent, on the the other. Geez Louise, one wonders where she got her degree!)

(b) to excite the Cuban island with our best ambassadors, i.e. ordinary, big-tipping Americans, and

(c) to promise not to lay our greedy paws on their property again (and obviously not to let another US Marine piss on their monument to Jose Marti).

If we do that, I’m quite sure that among Cuban Cubans we can make friends and influence people so that as we enter negotiations on the Economic Embargo we have Cuban nationals on our side.


27 November 2008

Respecting Cuba (part one of a twelve step program to a new US policy on Cuba)

Although not President Bush's most urgent failure, his effort to support the Cuban people has nonetheless been an abject failure.

Now, since I am the change I've been waiting for, since change starts at the bottom--or since all that--I propose the following actions:


(1) Abandon and vacate our claim to Guantanamo Bay.

(we don’t belong there.)

(2) Repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act.

(It’s unjustified, subverts families, and, quite apart from the obvious brain drain, the very brains competent to change the Cuban government, the CAA creates a wicked incentive for all kinds of people with all kinds of motivations to risk their lives in make-shift boats, and, in turn, for good parents to worry sick about their children in those vessels. Enough already!)

(3) Write a law now that prohibits Americans from investing in Cuban property for the first 14 years after Cuba “opens up” (if and when it “opens-up”).

(we need to demonstrate to the Cuban people, not only that we renounce unequivocally our past greedy behavior toward their nation, including their land, but also that our desire to see Liberty on the island is not self-serving.)

(4) Collaborate fully with the Cuban government as part of the region’s civil defense against Hurricanes (an effort that can (and should) be undertaken with the other Caribbean, Central and South American nations).

(the goal should be nothing short of a state of the art system and the envy of the international community.)

(5) Scale down Radio Marti transmissions.

(it’s obnoxious. Truly, it's one thing to go to the town square and speak one's mind. And we should not stop doing that. but it's quite another thing to walk up to one's neighbor's window and shout shit about the way they run their household. Indeed, if you did so in America, you'd probably get shot to death.)


I believe that taken together, and without talking to the Cuban government first, these measures will resonate a message across the island that, whatever we may think of their government, we respect the nation of Cuba itself, a gesture that in the hearts of the ordinary Cubans we profess to support is long overdue.

21 September 2008

McCain and Spain

here's the rub:

At an Ibero-American summit meeting earlier this year in Chile, Chavez was complaining about Zapatero's conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, who was close to Bush and sent Spanish troops to Iraq. Zapatero challenged him in a polite and gentlemanly manner, ...

my guess is that in his comments to Spain's Union Radio, Sen. McCain had a senior moment and blanked on who Zapatero is. But who knows. McCain may have confused Zapatero with the Mexican dissidents in Chiapas, the Zapatistas, which would make sense because McCain suddenly began extolling the virtues of the Mexican government.

But unless one argues that McCain's miscue indicates dementia, the important comments came afterward from his Foreign Policy advisers who asserted a hard line on Zapatero.

As the McCain camp, then, continues to signal to the international community Senator McCain’s intention to conduct foreign policy in a manner consistent with the Bush administration (i.e. you are with us or against us), Washington’s conservative hawks evidently still find Zapertero’s withdrawal of Spanish forces in Iraq too much to swallow.

In the logic of Bush, Zapatero betrayed us so that our treating him as a friend would betray those nations, such as Poland, who have stuck with us.

The fact that Zapatero went toe to toe with Chavez defending Bush in a public event amounts to a distinction that doesn't make a difference.

Once we understand the ramifications of the international relations policies the Republicans present us, we can have a healthy debate about the extent to which (and the manner in which) we ought to enforce our alliances.

At which stage, a good place to start might be with George Washington's parting wisdom:

...permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded....

But don't hold your breath because as a new study demonstrates, American conservatives are more easily frightened than their Liberal counterparts.

And unfortunately for all of us, the cowards hold power.

14 September 2008

The Fanjuls Sugar Connection

Few things ought to curdle the blood of American patriots more than using our secular military to fight Christian (or religious) wars and our tax dollars to bail out cronies.

From the New York Times:

But in the end, the $1.7 billion buyout, scheduled to be completed in early 2009, may also prove to be a financial boon to the state’s remaining sugar superpower, Florida Crystals.

One of the country’s wealthiest families, the Fanjuls of Palm Beach, controls Florida Crystals and today touches virtually every aspect of the sugar trade in the United States.

If you buy Domino Sugar, you’re buying from the Fanjuls. Ditto C&H Sugar. (That name stands for California & Hawaii, but the Florida Fanjuls acquired it in 2005.) National retailers prefer dealing with coast-to-coast vendors, so if you buy a bag of sugar at Wal-Mart, Kroger or Safeway, you’re also patronizing the Fanjuls.

Take a pill, eat a granola bar — you’re probably consuming special, high-end sugars that Florida Crystals produces for the pharmaceutical and packaged-food industries.

Sugar imported from Mexico and the Dominican Republic also stands a good chance of coming from Fanjul companies.

Is there anything else we can do for members of the tortured Cuban-American community?

“This is going to be a really good deal for the Fanjuls,” says Dexter Lehtinen, a former federal prosecutor whose 1988 lawsuit against the state led to a settlement instituting tough clean water standards. “The state embarked on a nonachievable goal, and now in desperation to wrap up some package, they’re going to have to give access to Florida Crystals on favorable terms.”

Others, like makers of candy and cereal, say the Fanjuls already control too much of the sugar trade. They want to buy sugar cheap and say the Fanjuls have long charmed Congress into legislating price supports that keep it expensive.

“These people have been absolutely extorting consumers for decades, and the only reason they’re existing in the first place is, they were able to get sweet deals from governments that were propping them up,” says Sallie James, a trade policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, referring to Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar.

Free market? What a fairy tale.

31 August 2008

Sarah Palin, Cuba, and The Solidarity of the Weak.

I know that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has had her hands full with the Russians up in Alaska, but, if she wants to catch-up on the roots of relations among low and low-middle income nations, she could do a lot worse than watching the exceptionally well researched film, Cuba: An African Odyssey.

Most impressive, the movie compiles extensive, animated interviews with the aging key players on all sides, including CIA station chief, Larry Levin, Cuban Commander Victor Dreke, and one pissed-off Politburo member telling us how shocked the Soviets were when they learned that in 1975 Castro had dispatched forces to Angola.

What emerges--besides fascinating details such as the CIA estimating the number of Cuban troops in Angola by counting baseball diamonds and historical forget-me-nots such as Pik Botha admitting that in Cairo the Cubans forced the South Africans to release Nelson Mandela as a show of good will--is that forty-two years ago Cuba forged a “solidarity of the weak,” an internationalist ethos that goes a long way in explaining why we cannot get fledgling democracies to support in any meaningful way our efforts to topple brutal tyrants.

But beyond our genuine Human Rights concerns, Solidarity of the Weak is now a Foreign Relations force to wreckin with. Understanding its legacy helps explain, for example, how Iran can dance around “international” pressure and, in part, how Putin could act without fear of significant international consequences.

McCain’s Gunboat diplomacy won’t suffice here, a dangerous fact the touchy codger doesn’t get (or perhaps hasn’t figured out how to frame in terms of his tear-jerking confinement in Vietnam).

To be sure, the quiet alliance of Low and Low Middle income nations is a global thing, an alliance whose teeth were cut fighting the wickedest mercenaries in the history of mankind.

So what other persuasive vehicle beside multinational negotiations does a cash strapped America have to secure the cobalt in the Congo, for example?

06 April 2008

The case against John Yoo mounts

Professor Lederman:

the March 14th Yoo memorandum, and the April 2, 2003 [Department of Defense] DOD Working Group Report that incorporated its outrageous arguments about justifications for ignoring statutory limits on interrogation, was secretly briefed to Geoffrey Miller before he was assigned to Iraq, and became the source of all the abuse that occurred there in 2003 and early 2004.

Here’s the role the OLC plays in US governance:
An OLC legal conclusion does establish the official views of the Executive branch unless overruled by the President, the Attorney General, or OLC itself (as Jack Goldsmith did in the last week of 2003). Therefore, it's a very solemn function for the Office to have. Actually, by law the function has been assigned to the Attorney General ever since the Judiciary Act of 1789; but in recent decades, the AG has delegated the opinion-rendering function to OLC.
and indeed that’s how the Department of Defense interpreted the significance of Yoo:
The DOD General Counsel, Jim Haynes, pretermited the debate by informing the JAGs that OLC's view of the law was determinative -- that no matter how much they disagreed, OLC establishes the law for the Executive branch. OLC's view of the law was . . . the Yoo March 14th memo.
The connection to Cuba is now more than that our presence on Guantanamo is an insult to the dignity of Cubans.

The scary part is that the torture may become grounds for an international effort to evict.

30 March 2008

Obama's Foreign Policy Team: Dignity v. Democracy

After nineteen years of North Atlantic efforts to promote “centrist” notions of democracy, i.e. economic liberty and multi-party elections, Joshua Kurlantzick of the Boston Globe reports the results:

The modern record of state-controlled business, by contrast, was chiefly one of failure. When the fascist and communist governments of the 20th century seized the reins of domestic industries, they ended up undermining development and bringing misery to millions of their own citizens. As private enterprise flourished in the West, the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union were widely seen as a repudiation of the idea that governments could successfully control the business sector.

But the wake of the Cold War also sowed the seeds of a new discontent with free-market private enterprise. Many emerging nations were stung by ill-planned privatization strategies in the 1990s. In Latin America, a decade of privatization proved so unpopular that, in a regionwide poll taken in 2001, a majority of people across 17 countries viewed privatization unfavorably. Across Africa, this era, known as the "lost decade," resulted in rising poverty, and even longing for some nations' authoritarian past.
Across Latin America and Central Asia, governments like Bolivia, Venezuela, and Kazakhstan also have reasserted state control over their oil and gas resources. Already, many of these national companies dwarf any rivals. State-owned oil companies around the world now control nearly five times the reserves of their private rivals; Saudi Aramco, the Saudi government's oil company, can pump roughly three times as much oil as any other firm, and has launched a massive $50 billion expansion program that will make it even more powerful. Corporate behemoths such as ExxonMobil and Shell may be among the largest private corporations in the world, but they are no longer the biggest players in their own industry.
In aviation, an industry that requires vast amounts of capital, state-linked airlines now dominate private firms. From virtually nothing two decades ago, Dubai has built Emirates airlines, backed by the state, into a world leader and the second-most profitable airline in the world. The most profitable, Singapore Airlines, also enjoys state support - Singapore's state-owned fund owns nearly half the airline, as well as six of the country's other largest corporations.

Nations are entering global business in another way as well. Besides building companies, states are using their cash reserves to create their own investment funds, and have rapidly become major players in global finance.
more stories like this

The rising price of oil has put a gusher of cash in the hands of authoritarian petrostates like Saudi Arabia and Russia, all of which now want to invest their cash hoards. With their pile of reserves, oil producers like the United Arab Emirates and Asian exporters have developed massive state-controlled funds that can buy into companies around the globe. Abu Dhabi's fund alone controls nearly $900 billion, while China's controls $200 billion and Kuwait's $250 billion.

Overall, state-controlled funds control as much as $7 trillion, according to several estimates, more than the entire hedge-fund industry. And they are growing.

"The [funds] will become absolutely massive in size in the not-too-distant future, and will have powerful implications for the financial markets," notes Morgan Stanley's Stephen Jen, an expert on state funds.
The state capitalists also are gaining influence through their power in global finance. As firms like Merrill Lynch and Citigroup have found out, state funds provide a vital new source of investment across a world in need of capital. The funds are increasingly bailing out American banks, giving them significant leverage over the US financial sector.

And with that, I should think that we can all agree that our efforts to promote democracy have failed.

And then Obama said something about the Iraq War that wasn't incremental at all. "I don't want to just end the war," he said, "but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."
The minds on the horizon:

Scott Gration, a retired general who helped run the air war during the invasion of Iraq.

Sarah Sewall, who helped write the Army’s and Marine Corps’ much-lauded counterinsurency field manual.

Tony Lake and Susan Rice, veterans of the Clinton administration’s left flank.
On Scott Gration:

Gen. Scott Gration, a retired Air Force jet pilot, says hello to me over the phone in Swahili. He learned about the crushing misery of the world's poor by growing up in Congo, where his parents were missionaries. After the violence following Congolese independence in 1960, Gration had an experience few Americans ever will: He became a refugee. "We lost everything we owned, and what we took with us, they confiscated," he remembers.
On Sarah Sewall:

Sarah Sewall, a Harvard professor and another of Obama's closest advisers, also knows about stepping outside of her comfort zone. A longtime human-rights advocate with the disarmament organization, the Council for a Livable World, Sewall found herself in 2005 and 2006 with an unlikely partner: Gen. David Petraeus. He and two colleagues were rewriting the Army and Marine field manual for counterinsurgency and wanted Sewall's input on how to create a more just, humane, and successful doctrine. For agreeing to help, she was attacked by some on the left. "Should a human-rights center at the nation's most prestigious university be collaborating with the top U.S. general in Iraq in designing the counterinsurgency doctrine behind the current military surge?" Tom Hayden wrote online in The Huffington Post.

Sewall's involvement may have lost her some influence within the academic left, but she has become a hero to the military's growing circle of counterinsurgency theorist-practitioners. "Her impact on the thinking about the war and the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been significant and not without cost," says Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the counterinsurgency community's luminaries. "She has shown, in my eyes, great moral courage. I think Senator Obama is listening to someone who has thought long and hard about the use of force and who understands the kinds of wars we're fighting today."
Quoting Samantha Power, the theorist :

This ability to see the world from different perspectives informs what the Obama team hopes will replace the Iraq War mind-set: something they call dignity promotion. "I don't think anyone in the foreign-policy community has as much an appreciation of the value of dignity as Obama does," says Samantha Power, a former key aide and author of the groundbreaking study of U.S. foreign policy and genocide, A Problem From Hell. "Dignity is a way to unite a lot of different strands [of foreign-policy thinking]," she says. "If you start with that, it explains why it's not enough to spend $3 billion on refugee camps in Darfur, because the way those people are living is not the way they want to live. It's not a human way to live. It's graceless -- an affront to your sense of dignity."

How would a US foreign policy promoting the dignity of Cubans be different from the current one?

While it may be impossible to say how ‘dignity promotion’ would play-out anywhere, I can suggest one action for Cuba that would not be inconsistent: Vacate and Abandon Guantanamo, lock, stock, and barrel.

10 March 2008

U.S. Assistant Secretary Shannon on Consolidating the Hemisphere

Of the twenty-five hundred words comprising Assistant Secretary Shannon's written testimony, only six of them are rooted in the word 'cuba.'

All six of those words, specifically 'cuba' and 'cuban,' appear in only one of its thirty paragraphs.

And the word 'Castro' does not appear at all.

In other words, to a Congressional committee hearing evidence on "Cuba's Future," the highest ranking administration official to appear has next to nothing to say about the Cuba?

Why the diplomatic denial of Cuba's existence, both linguistic and actual?

Looking to the text for clues, the document emphasizes multilateral actions (and institutions) and, of course, American aid money, like billions.

So, first of all, what audience is predisposed to the USG when it works multilaterally and gives away a lot of money? Europeans, mos def! (as Omar from The Wire would say). The rest of the world, mas o menos. But certainly not the to-hell-with-the-UN Americans, including CANF and company.

And yet, we know that CANF fully backs this administration, so from the start one must be skeptical of Dr. Shannon's testimony.

The phrase Dr. Shannon and the Administration now use to describe their thinking on Cuba is 'consolidating democracies':

The focus of our policy is fourfold:

First, to consolidate democracy and the democratic gains of the past. This includes broadening participation in the democratic system to assure that ordinary citizens have a role in the political process;

Since when does one broaden a thing to consolidate it? Let's come back to that.

Second, to promote prosperity and economic opportunity in the region;

Third, to invest in people, because we recognize that economic opportunity without individual capacity to take advantage of that opportunity is meaningless to the vast numbers of the poor and vulnerable in Latin America and the Caribbean;

One must admit that it is little pathetic to see an American, a Republican, to boot, bury the word 'individual' with Social Democrat-like concerns. I guess it is no longer sufficient to assert the intrinsic virtue of economic liberty.

Finally, to protect the security of democratic states.
Yea, what isn't a security issue these days?

Now for the numbers:

Since 2001, we have spent over $7.5 billion in development programs, including alternative development funded out of ACI (now ACP), and about $4.5 billion in security programs, including remaining ACI programs. If our FY 2009 request is approved, development programs since 2001 will top $8.5 billion and security programs will reach approximately $6.7 billion, including $1.1 billion for Merida, for a total of over $14 billion

$14 billion? For a little perspective, recall that six years ago Secretary Powell was trying to buy Turkey's vote in the UN on Iraq with a 15 billion dollar loan. I can't say I'm impressed with the USG's efforts to rid our precious hemisphere of its squalor.

Okay, so what is Dr. Shannon saying that the Administration does with the 45 Million we give them to deal with the Cuba problem?:
Consolidating Democracy

The United States is committed to fostering democratic governance and protecting fundamental rights and liberties in the Americas. Working multilaterally through the Organization of American States (OAS) and other institutions in the Inter-American System, we are helping our partners in the Americas respond to poverty, inequality, and marginalization. With our support and funding, the OAS is working to strengthen its capacity to help the Americas` elected governments respond to the challenges of democratic governance and honor the region`s shared commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We are supporting the work of those building broader based political parties that incorporate communities which have traditionally been marginalized. We also continue our support to OAS` Electoral Observation Missions and our efforts to deepen inter-regional pro- democracy cooperation between the OAS and the African Union.

Working bilaterally, we support all sectors to strengthen Haiti`s democracy and promote long-term development. The United States remains Haiti`s largest bilateral donor, with a foreign assistance request of more than $245 million in FY 2009. Programmed in close coordination with the Government of Haiti and other international donors, our aid focuses on governance and the rule of law, elections, security, economic growth, and critical humanitarian needs. With reduced inflation, increased GDP, and a shift from peace building to peace keeping, it is clear that the benefits of democracy are taking hold.

Our FY 2009 foreign assistance request of $20 million for <Cuba> is consistent with recommendations in the second Commission for Assistance to a Free <Cuba> (CAFC) report. Since the formation of CAFC, Economic Support Funds to <Cuba> jumped to over $21 million in FY 2004 and an estimated $45 million in FY 2008. This assistance is key to helping the democratic opposition and civil society promote the dialogue needed for a successful transition to democracy. The United States reaffirms the belief that the Cuban people have an inalienable right to participate in an open and comprehensive dialogue about their country`s future, free of fear and repression, and to choose their leaders in democratic elections. We reiterate Secretary Rice`s February 24, 2008 message regarding our support of the Cuban people in their efforts to obtain ``the fundamental rights and liberties expressed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.`` We continue to urge the Cuban Government to begin a peaceful transition to democracy and encourage international partners to help the Cuban people bring about positive change.
That statutorily defined word 'transition' is not defined here in terms of free enterprise, etc., but rather in terms of multiparty elections. Beyond what the administration believes, calls for, and urges, Dr. Shannon is not saying.

But with his prepared statement, we can see that by 'consolidating democracy,' the Administration means to purge the Americas of Cuba's one party state, thus consolidating the hemisphere into a set of governments holding multi-party elections.

Since he is not willing to tell us in an open forum the way in which they intend to achieve those ends, we have to assume (or hope) that the classified portion of the 2006 CAFC report answers the question. After all, Congress is not suppose write blank checks.

But the significance of Dr. Shannon's testimony is not meaningless: Cuba cannot take off the table the real possibility that the USG continues to subvert governance in Cuba, a policy that no doubt violates international law and good sense, not to mention gets a lot of Cubans thrown in jail.

25 February 2008

The Berman Committee

On 5 March 2008, Acting Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman will hold hearings on US-Cuba relations:

It is my intention to hold hearings with representatives of the Administration and outside experts to assess the impact of Castro’s retirement and to review U.S. policy toward the island.

I have three questions:

(1) For the last 49 years, the Cuban government has demanded that the USG vacate and abandon its claim to Guantanamo Bay. Our response has been that there is a lease.

Can you explain how it is that a lease should trump Cuba’s sovereign right to her territory?

(especially in the context of the Reagan administration's claim that at anytime a nation could back out of an agreement--see Nicaragua v. US, specifically the Reagan Administration's position on the '1946 Declaration.')

(2) Brazil. Recently, Brazil has extended a slew of loans and credits to Cuba. Brazil is also a beneficiary of as many as 100 IMF projects.

In the context of the Helms-Burton provision ordering the USG to withhold money to the IMF by the amount any nation financially assists Cuba, can you tell us

(a) if any of those projects are in jeopardy?

And (b) what significant actions the State department has taken to discourage Brazil from financially assisting Cuba?

(3) In 2004, the Bush Administration declared that its official policy was to subvert the succession of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul.

Did that policy fail?

24 February 2008

The WSJ on the Stocks that Stand to Gain if Cuba expands Foreign Investment

In an article by Corey Dade titled "Business Hold Few Hopes of More Trade Soon," quote:

Until trade relations between Cuba and the U.S. change, Robbert van Batenburg of Louis Capital Markets, an agency brokerage whose clients include hedge funds, recommends investing in companies already operating in Cuba. Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, for instance, owns a 50% interest in the Cuban state-owned cigar company Habanos SA through its acquisition last year of Spanish-French tobacco company Altadis SA. Cuban cigars would be a hot item in the U.S. if the embargo was lifted.

One of Mr. van Batenburg's favorite investments is Sol Melia SA, a Spanish hotel chain with two dozen properties in Cuba. He said he expects the company's annual revenue from Cuba might double quickly if travel restrictions were lifted, based on the volume of U.S. tourist traffic to nearby Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

"It's going to be an avalanche of tourists who are going to visit the island, to see the buildings, the old cars driving around," Mr. van Batenburg said. "This is nostalgia at its best."

Robin Farley, a leisure analyst at UBS Investment Services, said building the infrastructure to support American travelers might take years. In the short term, that would mean a boon for cruise lines. "Their assets are mobile," Ms. Farley said.

Large U.S.-based hotel operators such as Global Hyatt Corp., Hilton Hotels Corp. and Marriott International don't own or operate hotels in Cuba, but yesterday there was fresh speculation about whether the companies would pursue development in the region.

"We believe Cuba has great potential as a tourist destination, and we will monitor the situation there and look for opportunities as they arise and become viable," said K.C. Kavanagh, a representative of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which owns brands such as Sheraton and W Hotels.

The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, based in New York, says food and agriculture producers that capitalized on the U.S.'s lifting of the ban on food sales to Cuba in 2000 are best positioned to benefit from relaxed trade. The U.S. is Cuba's top source for such products. Last year, U.S. companies sold about $438 million of food and agricultural products to Cuba, up from about $139 million in 2002, according to the council.

Commodities exported to Cuba include poultry, rice, wheat and soybeans. Cargill Inc. and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. started shipping shortly after the ban was lifted and now consider Cuba an important market in the region. Cuba is the sixth-largest poultry and egg export market for the U.S., according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

19 February 2008

Congratulation, Fidel Castro

By resigning on his own terms, Fidel Castro today defeated official US policy to unseat him and his government.

I read many commentators say that Raul Castro (or Carlos Lage) will bring democracy to the island. I say they won't.

With Cuba, it's important to notice that, unlike democracies, the government is legitimated by the Revolutionary Army (FAR). (With a democracy, of course, the government is legitimated by the people).

To understand why the Revolutionary Army will never peacefully yield its authority to legitimate Cuban governments, one needs to understand the way in which the U.S. Government marginalized--indeed, allowed noble FAR forces to starve to death--in the aftermath of the 1898 War.

That does not mean that the next Cuban government will not enact democratic reforms.

They surely will, although I highly doubt we'll see significant changes in the judicial process, such as an end to summary executions and other procedural reforms many good Cuban lawyers would like to see, not at least until the US Government officially abandons its attempts to subvert the Cuban government by coercing her citizens.

To be honest, with the delicate security implications alive today, such as Cuba's connection to Hezbullah and Syria, I am not sure exactly what policy changes the U.S should make, but it cannot be a wise thing to let the Cuban people on the island drift closer to our Arab foes.