Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reaction to Pres. Trump from Cuba

No matter what the new policy is about, it is difficult to think of a political meeting and a speech whose content shows less regard for the sensitivities of Cubans. 

Even if everybody knows that it was conceived to please the more reactionary Cuban Americans, it shows a deep conviction that Cuba is nothing more than an appendix of Miami.

There was no effort, not a single line, to express respect for Cuban history, for its independence or sovereignty. It completely showed that those who wrote it or influenced it do not think or care for the destiny of the 11 million Cubans who, at the end, will decide the future of that island.

I could not believe the choice of the chief of the Santiago de Cuba police under Batista to question justice applied in 1959, and that his son was invited to play the American Anthem and only the American Anthem to end the program. What a complete disdain for the Cubans and for those killed by the Batista police all over Cuba from 1952 to 1959. 

It may look clever to choose the military as the target, but it is not.  Of all the institutions created by the Revolution, probably the most prestigious one in the eyes of ordinary Cubans is the Rebel Army. 

In addition, the entrepreneurs in the Island will immediately see that less Americans coming will deeply and first of all affect them.  

In the fight for the minds of the Cubans, President Trump's speech will be a powerful tool to build a consensus around the Cuban Government and Party and to strengthen the legitimacy of their policies.

It is impossible to measure the practical economic impact, but it will be big. They do not prohibit flights, but make it harder for the airlines or cruise ships to have passengers.  Even with groups it will be difficult to select which hotel is blacklisted or not. Just the threat of a possible audit by the Treasury Department will create a serious concern to potential travelers.

The Executive Memorandum already published is not enough to judge the negative consequences on bilateral relations.  It will be necessary to wait for the new regulations from the different departments. 

I am sure the response of the Cuban Government will be serene but extremely firm, and, at the same time, that the path of reform goes on. I think that what we have to prove is that Cuba and the Cubans, can go on and forge a prosperous system with or without embargo. In other words, make the embargo irrelevant.

Jose Raul Viera Linares
formerly First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs


It was a pathetic exercise in an attempt at turning back the wheels of history. Trump’s speech was transmitted live on Telesur and later at 8:30 pm at the end of the National News. Specially damaging for the purposes of Rubio, Díaz Balart, Trump and their cohorts was the histrionic performance of the violinist. It turns out that his father was one of the Batista police'smost brutal officers. He was the Chief of the Police in Santiago de Cuba at the height of the revolutionary struggle in that city. He was personally responsible for the murder of Frank País, one of the heroes of that period. The reaction in Havana since the speech has been anticlimactic. Let us see what the future brings. 

Dr. Carlos Alzugaray Treto
formerly ambassador to the European Union


Trump winds towards Cuba. Notes on a napkin

06/18/2017 11:40 pm ET

Trump’s new policy toward Cuba has had more forecasts than a disturbance in the Caribbean.
Many were freaked out that these winds would recur, going back to December 16, 2014, and sweep away the deals with Obama. The furious of Miami announced a wave that would return us to the ice age of G.W. Bush, and the blacklist of terrorist countries. Most weather commentators were divided between pessimists and very pessimistic.

For other minorities such as mine, that Trump could override Obama’s directive and ban commercial licenses with GAE companies, in addition to continuing with his chatter about human rights and freedoms, was in the cards. It was very unlikely, however, that, for its own interests, he would block cooperation in national security, travel or licenses, such as those granted to commercial airlines, and others (see my interview with Fabiola López, Telesur, June 12).

Now that the disturbance has come out of the sea and entered the earth, we can measure how far the water has penetrated. In terms of visits, it has been downgraded, not to 2014, but to 2015-2016, when to come to Cuba based on people-to-people they had to do it in a group. FAR and MININT companies were blacklisted. Obama’s “Presidential Directive towards Cuba” was annulled. On human rights and blockade, we are where we already know.

Most of the 22 signed agreements remain. No cooperation in security, embassies, rules for remittances, trips without limit for Cuban-Americans and Americans, end of wet-foot/dry-foot, talks about migration, environment, and other subjects, licenses to trade with Cuban non-state companies, academic and cultural exchanges, none of that which had been achieved with Obama has been destroyed.

Despite its negative effect, the noise of this gust has been (and is) greater than the actual damage. There are several reasons for this. In Miami, the furious used it just to boast, for although they did not achieve any of their announced goals, the presidential declaration served for a political show-off. To the Cuban government, it allowed him to update his position before this presidency, using a very carefully calibrated dropper: we reject, but we do not fight, we remain ready to negotiate. To our friends, it encouraged them to reiterate their permanent solidarity. To Cubans, it reminded them of the old face of the US power that is not that of a smiling African American. To our non-enemies, partners, etc., it made them shake their heads at another awkwardness of this president, although not the worst of them all.

It may be too early, perhaps, to estimate all the technical details of this damage. While the tide did not reach the forecasts, there is still uncertainty about licenses for telecoms or hotels, joint testing for cancer vaccines, dollar uses, and credit cards. On the other hand, however, neither freedom to travel nor free trade went to the bottom of the sea. Congress and the Supreme Court can throw them lifelines to stay afloat. As always, the interests generate political winds, which do not stop blowing, even after a cyclone.

Rafael Hernandez
Editor, Revisita Temas

Translation: Walter Lippmann

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