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.