Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Personal Perspective on Cuban and US Forces for Change

Personal Notes: Diversity in and About Cuba

by John McAuliff

Cuba is a complicated place in a process of change. As a high level Foreign Ministry person told me twenty years ago, "We are not heaven and we are not hell." He was appealing for support that understood and respected Cuban history and reality.

There is broad agreement that the current economic system is a disaster (see Omar Everleny's ten recommendations here), while achievements in education, health and social environment are world class. The temporary or permanent emigration of some (but not all) of the smartest and innovative people in their 20s and 30s is in part the consequence of the opportunities on any island (e.g. Ireland) and in part the response to deadening bureaucratic mindsets and hostility to "excessive" personal success. An omnipresent and highly repressive factor on space to move and grow is the unilateral US embargo, understandably characterized by Cubans as a blockade.

One of the least understood dimensions of life in Cuba today is the range of active debate about the future within the country and among Cubans overseas. Within the system, the most visible expression is the magazine Revista Temas, its website and the monthly public panels it organizes, Ultimo Jueves. Opponents of self-transformational or evolutionary change in Florida and on the island disparage the same individuals and organizations as agents of the other side because they represent intellectual opening, inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable.

The strongest independent force was the "Laboratory of Ideas Cuba Posible", founded by alumni of Espacio Laical, a publication of progressive Catholics under the auspices of the recently deceased Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Under harsh attack as a proto-party formation for social democrats, the project was laid down in May. As explained to readers they leave a rich legacy of on line compilation of debate in Spanish including posts by their critics.

Still surviving is the on line magazine Joven Cuba, founded at the University of Matanzas in 2010. The rector of the university tried to shut it down but then Minister of Higher Education (now President) Miguel Diaz-Canel intervened. Its goals are described here.

"La Joven Cuba's relationship with the Cuban authorities has been marked by numerous ups and downs. Emerging at the University of Matanzas spontaneously and not by government order in 2010, it was then supported by the authorities and later banned for content considered "hypercritical." It had the public support of President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2013 but after calls to terminate criticism by part the country's leadership in the following years, its relationship with the country's political institutions has deteriorated.

Opposition sectors in Cuba are also critical of LJC's defense of the social achievements of the revolutionary period and its reaffirmation of the socialist idea on the island. Opposition media that receive funds from the United States for regime change in Cuba qualify the project as "officialist."
Members of LJC have insisted on several occasions that their objective is to make a critical assessment of bureaucratic and totalitarian socialism, while prosecuting capitalism for its excessive exploitation of the human and natural resources of the planet."

Several months ago, Joven Cuba began to translate to English two of its best articles every week. They can be seen here. Just published is a very creative analysis of the special challenge of bureaucracy in a socialist system.

Cuban leaders speak regularly now of the Cuban nation to incorporate positively the population now living overseas. This was made possible by the opening created in the early years of the Obama Administration. It does not include the explicitly counter revolutionary Batista descended exiles who still dominate Florida politics but is broader than the old friends that risked life and livelihood when they expressed support. The growing sentiment for engagement has been demonstrated in successive polls by Florida International University.

To date the views of the moderate majority of Cuban Americans are not embodied in Congress, but they did influence the Obama Administration and are emerging as a force for modernization and collaboration in Florida, Washington and Havana. A good source for their perspective is the Cuba Study Group founded by Carlos Saladrigas and led by Ricardo Herrero. They "view national reconciliation as both a process and a goal." Click here for their current weekly newsletter with excerpts on the economic crisis from Omar Everleny Péreardoz, Ricardo Torres and Juan Triana Codoví.

I do not agree with repression of dissidents like the Ladies in White and UNPACU but it is hardly surprising given their financial and political support from explicitly counterrevolutionary exiles and the US government in a context of regime change economic warfare by Washington. Think about how we treated members of the Communist Party in the McCarthy era because of their suspected ties to our enemies in the USSR. But just as McCarthyism seriously crippled the US political fabric and national interests by over-reacting to a real threat, defensive paranoia from security agencies and ideologists in Cuba hampers their country's ability to creatively address substantial problems.

Poster on the wall of the home of an evangelical church member in Baracoa
An illustration of the complicated issue of civil liberties in Cuba is the role of evangelical churches in the Constitutional debate. I don't agree with their position against same-sex marriage but I was impressed that Cuban leaders gave them space to organize for their views nationwide and responded to their objection in the final text. On the other hand, the government's recent refusal to allow an evangelical leader to attend a presumably problematic conference in the US seemed like an effort to control dissidence. (Leave aside for the moment the logistical and political problems for Cubans who seek US visas.)

Then tI read a report in the news service Vice that foreign churches were heavily involved. The story also cited Tracey Eaton's report that the fifth largest recipient of regime change funding by USAID in the Trump Administration was the organization Evangelical Christian Humanitarian Outreach for Cuba ($1,003,674) with links to Florida hard liners.


Cuban officials will never acknowledge that they are affected by policies of the US, but demonstrably when Washington tightens the screws economically and increases its domestic political intervention, space for dissent shrinks in Cuba and vice versa.


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Fulton Armstrong argues persuasively in the American University Latin America blog that Trump's approach is not likely to change after Bolton's departure. My comment:

No doubt a realistic albeit a pessimistic analysis.
As the last paragraph suggests, however, it is the President's unpredictability that is hard to predict.
There is little reason for him to believe that before the election he can make an historic breakthrough with North Korea, Iran or Russia.  How much does he need a significant diplomatic success to sell himself nationally?
If he was able to make a significant deal on Venezuela with Cuba, he could do it in a way that would satisfy all but the hardest hard liners in Florida by actually opening the door to a new government in Venezuela without further human cost internally and among refugeees
If for example the President supported majorities in the Senate and House to legislatively end all travel restrictions, would the Cubans support Venezuelan leaders who were ready to have fair and open internationally supervised elections officially conducted by the existing UN recognized government in cooperation with the opposition controlled Assembly?
The Cubans would risk losing the economic and political benefits of their current special relationship with Venezuela, but unlocking  conventional US tourism could replace the declining benefit of oil from Venezuela and payment for medical services.  It  would enable higher paying Americans to fill rooms in all-inclusive beach resorts and new five star Gaviota owned hotels in Havana.
Establishing trust is the biggest challenge.   Both Presidents Diaz-Canel and Trump will be criticized by a portion of their base for giving stature to the other.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

People to People Diplomacy (Diplomacia de la gente)

People to People Diplomacy:  A step, not a solution


Presented at Ultimo Jueves panel sponsored by Revista Temas, Havana, July 18, 2019


To what extent do international relations involving social actors contribute to the understanding and resolution of conflicts? What problems or obstacles hinder them? How to make them advance? Several connoisseurs of the subject will debate around these and other questions with the attending public.


People to people diplomacy falls into three categories:
-- the broad participation of US citizens in the recently extinguished legal category of people to people educational travel and the still surviving license enabling Support for the Cuban People-- as well as vibrant family travel from the US to Cuba and now limited family travel by Cubans to the US
--the focused participation in academic, educational, professional, cultural and sports exchanges
--the less common conscious intervention in policy debates by independent idea entrepreneurs of both countries

My personal role spans all three categories, no doubt confusing and unsettling to official observers on both sides.  My remarks are based on analogous but different experience with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1975 to 1996 and with Cuba since 1997.

The broad participation of Americans in people to people diplomacy is largely a function of political and legal maneuvers to find a way around and through the US embargo or blockade.  President Clinton initiated 12 categories of purposeful travel.   They were locked in place, that is legally codified, when the Cuban American extremist lobby made that the price for partial opening of US agricultural sales.  Clinton used the categories creatively, although with a requirement of cumbersome specific licensing and semi-restricted frequency of family visits and remittances.  Bush sharply limited the same categories under pressure from hard liners in Miami, ironically with then Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez as the symbolic point person in his Administration.  (Gutierrez is now a prominent advocate of engagement.) Bush dramatically curtailed group people to people travel through complicated specific licensing during the last six years of his terms in office, and notoriously limited family travel to once every three years with no compassionate exceptions.

Obama opened the door early ending all restrictions of travel and remittances for Cuban Americans with important consequences in both countries.   Equally important, President Raul Castro did away with exit permits, the despised white cards.  In his first term Obama restored group people to people travel but it still had to get through the bureaucratic, political and financial minefield of specific licensing by an old guard Office of Foreign Assets Control.  I believe he would have moved further in his first term were it not for the problem of the detention of Alan Gross and the obstructive positions of Secretary of State Clinton and Cuban authorities.

During his second term, Obama and President Raul Castro had the vision and courage to normalize diplomatic relations.  US travel licenses went from specific to general, meaning that the judgement and good faith of the user was controlling, subject always to after the fact but very unlikely sanction by OFAC.  This allowed both large commercial tour operators and small scale entrepreneurs to organize programs and scores did so.  It also made cruises possible.  Finally late in his second term, Obama officially allowed independent individual people to people travel and the situation became semi normal.   Since the embargo based legal premise was still purposeful travel, conventional tourism, most notably all inclusive stays at beach resorts remained off limits.  To some extent the cruises filled that gap as they provided a contained and “safe” experience, usually involving only a day or two of excursions in Havana.

The Trump Administration has sought to undo most of Obama’s accomplishments, first using the medical mystery affecting US diplomats as an excuse to gut the embassy and to end consular authority. Access to GAESA military linked hotels was restricted, most regrettably the Habaguanex facilities recently taken over by GAESA.  Individual people to people travel as abolished despite it being the sector  least related to state agencies.  Most recently group people to people travel was shut down, including most harshly and abruptly cruises.

The authors of this ultra hard line policy are two long time opponents of Cuba’s revolution and of its sovereignty, National Security Advisor John Bolton and his head of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mauricio Claver-Carone.  Claver-Carone is the source of Bolton’s language and strategy against travel.  He was the principal lobbyist against every opening of the Obama administration, publishing the vituperative blog Capitol Hill Cubans, and running the US-Cuba Democracy PAC that funneled millions of dollars of extremist money to Democratic and Republican candidates for the House and Senate all over the country.  He is the probable author of the invidious term “veiled tourism” and of Bolton’s speech to Bay of Pigs veterans in April.  My personal conjecture is that Bolton and Claver-Carone took advantage of President Trump’s travel to England and France to roll out the harsh restrictions on travel in June that are not consistent with Trump’s personal inclinations and business interests.  I don’t think Bolton will last much longer in the White House, most obviously because his hard line military interventionism on North Korea and Iran conflicts with the President’s approach.   As reported in the Washington Post on May 8,

"President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

Broad based grass roots level people to people diplomacy serves largely to create an atmosphere of familiarity and confidence.  The biggest impact is visible on Americans who are not of Cuban origin who discover Cuba is at the very least a safe and non-hostile neighbor with a very appealing culture and people.  More serious visitors learn Cuba’s social and economic successes and failures are different than in neighboring countries and how much historical and contemporary engagement links our societies together.  In virtually all cases they go home with both positive and negative impressions of contemporary Cuba, but with a conviction that travel restrictions and the embargo are damaging to both peoples.  Cubans who interact with a selection of Americans (who are inherently positively inclined or they would not be here) may come to appreciate the diversity and friendly disposition toward them and their country, relieving personal and political anxieties about hostile rhetoric from Miami and Washington. 

The group tours organized by the Cuban receiving agencies that stayed in hotels largely provided in depth interaction only with the guide.  Other Cubans were met briefly in structured encounters offered repetitiously in the repertoire of the agencies to all tour operators and travel agents.  Americans who stay in casas particular gained more individual insights about Cuban reality if they had a common language with their hosts.  Group tours do offer institutional meetings not accessible to independent travelers.   However the Cuban agencies largely focus on volume, income generation and creating a positive impression of the country.  The Cubans encountered were too often the same from group to group. 

Unless a delegation is professionally focused, there has been little or no effort to provide opportunities for meetings with vocational or avocational counterparts that could lead to enduring post trip contact and cooperation.  Visits to Cuba’s very successful social institutions like neighborhood doctors and schools are difficult to arrange except for specialists.  That choice can be seen as protecting them from becoming a “show and tell” for visitors who have only a passing interest in their real work and accomplishments.  Unfortunately some Americans have felt they had a one-sided experience because they have not heard the critical opinion that is naturally part of all societies.

The cruises provided the shallowest experience for both Americans and Cubans as well as the lowest per visitor income to the country.  The more expensive multi-port smaller ships provided greater insight.  Because it hired many Cubans to work on board, the former Cuba Cruise on Celestyl was an economical exception.  Cruise excursions operated through the state receiving agencies obtained a fairly filtered encounter with Cuban life.   The advantage to Cuba was volume because many people came who wanted the comfort and convenience of an American experience in Havana.  However, there seems not to have been a concerted effort to convince them to return as group or independent travelers.

Smaller tours guided by the US based organizer, often in cooperation with an unofficial Cuban provider, have begun to create a new space.  If they were not already using the Support for the Cuban People license, they easily converted to it.  This privatization process offers the greatest opportunity for rapid growth in the informal people to people tourist sector as took place in Vietnam.   It would be accelerated if Cuba licensed guides as cuenta propistas and enabled local people to create travel agencies as small and medium enterprises.  A version of this Cubanized service was provided to cruise passengers who preferred to pay locally for a more personal experience than pay the ship to get on a tourist bus.

Because they are built on a shared agenda, trips organized for sports, cultural, academic or professional exchange are likely to result in more diverse and lasting encounters.  This is true in both directions, although temporarily handicapped for Cubans by the closure of the US consulate.

The last category involves the smallest number of people and can be the most controversial.  Experts on Cuba with an academic or activist background naturally develop relationships, even friendships, and an independent viewpoint based on their experience.  Unless they are in the solidarity realm, they speak with policy makers and implementers in both countries and develop their own ideas about how to overcome the obstacles to fully normal ties including the end of the embargo and restoration of Guantanamo to national sovereignty.  More hard line people in both societies often regard such people with distrust, suspicious that they are somehow an agent of the other country.  In a sense they are, because it does no good if an American speaks to his government without communicating honestly what Cuban interests must be met.  Similarly that same American must convey in good faith the interest of his or her country to Cubans.  Solidarity has an important historical and emotional role, but it is an echo chamber that may be reassuring but cannot change things.  (If you are interested, I am happy to discuss during the questions my off topic and outside the box ideas of how the Cuba-Venezuela-US conundrum could be solved to the benefit of all three countries.)

It is worth noting that people to people diplomacy in all three varieties has its enemies in both societies.  The extremist exiles in the US represented by Marco Rubio and Mauricio Claver-Carone correctly see that any growth in understanding and empathy between Cubans and Americans and Cuban-Americans endangers the power of their hostile narrative.  Their greatest recent success is the new regulations.

Similarly, hard liners within the Cuban system fear the subversive impact of informal or formal track 2 diplomacy as making Cuba vulnerable to the economic and political blandishments of the big neighbor that has sought to dominate the country since the 19th century.  Thus they saw Obama’s initiatives as a Trojan Horse rather than as an opportunity to overcome historic contradictions between the two countries, between Cubans here and overseas, and among Cubans themselves.  In effect both are right.  The ultimate impact of people to people diplomacy between countries so close in geography, culture and history is change.  The protectors of the past will inevitably lose if they do not creatively evolve.

I want to end with a specific example of the problem in hope that the source is either here or wishes to speak with me personally at another time.  I recently came across a polemic by someone writing under the name Arthur González in The Cuban Herald, “PERMITE ESTADOS UNIDOS VIAJES A CUBA CON FINES SUBVERSIVOS”.

Gonzales correctly identifies the hostile intention of this license that was originally intended for Americans who wanted to come to Cuba to support dissidents and encourage disloyalty.  In bureaucratic terms, they too needed a legal way to visit Cuba under exemption from the embargo.  The language that he quotes, however, is not from current US regulations as it applies specifically to groups and conflates different categories.  Because the article as I saw was not dated, it may actually be a republication of a response to an earlier version of the regulations.

In any case, during the Obama administration the language was rewritten so that beyond the insulting aspirations that apply to all permitted travel, the actual Support traveler has the option of a totally un-subversive motive and activities.  The crucial word is “or” 
or
(iii) Individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba; and
(2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:
(i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities; and
(ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
(3) The traveler's schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.

 “Support for the Cuban People” as I said earlier is the sole channel that survives for people to people travel and diplomacy by groups or independently.  Those utilizing it should be welcomed for their effort to sustain engagement between our peoples, not subject to suspicion that their intent is hostile.


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For questions:

Should Norway, the Lima and Contact groups achieve a political settlement between the Maduro government and the National Assembly led by Guaido with internationally monitored elections, it will only happen with Cuba’s assistance based on Venezuela’s desire to restore its international economic standing.   In conjunction we can expect at least restoration of travel and perhaps more.  For a President prepared to negotiate with North Korea and Iran, Cuba is not so great a reach.  Cuban leaders could face serious questions about how willing they are to deal with an increasingly discredited Trump. Importantly, he has shown no propensity to demand internal political or economic changes in North Korea or Iran, much less regime change.  What would the big or at least cosmetic change in Cuba and bilateral relations be that is the political and public relations equivalent to denuclearization?




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Diplomacia de la gente:
Un paso, no una solución


¿En qué medida las relaciones internacionales que involucran a los actores sociales contribuyen a la comprensión y resolución de los conflictos? ¿Qué problemas u obstáculos les obstaculizan?¿Cómo hacerlos avanzar? Varios conocedores del tema debatirán en torno a estas y otras preguntas con el público asistente.



La diplomacia de la gente entre los Estados Unidos y Cuba se divide en tres categorías:
-- la amplia participación de los ciudadanos estadounidenses en la categoría legal recientemente abolida de los viajes educativos del pueblo a pueblo y la licencia aún sobreviviente que permite el apoyo al pueblo cubano.  Se mantiene el viaje familiar bueno y vibrante de los EE.UU. a Cuba y ahora muy  limitado viaje familiar de los cubanos a los EE.UU.
--la participación focalizada en intercambios académicos, educativos, profesionales, culturales y deportivos
--la intervención consciente menos común en los debates políticos de los empresarios independientes de ideas de ambos países

Mi papel personal abarca las tres categorías, sin duda confusa e inquietante para los observadores oficiales de ambos lados.  Mis observaciones se basan en una experiencia análoga pero diferente con Vietnam, Laos y Camboya de 1975 a 1996 y con Cuba desde 1997.

La amplia participación de los estadounidenses en la diplomacia de la gente es en gran medida una función de las maniobras políticas y legales para encontrar una manera de evitar los limites del embargo o bloqueo de los Estados Unidos. 
El presidente Clinton inició 12 categorías de viajes intencionados.  Estaban encerrados en su lugar, que está legalmente codificado, cuando el lobby extremista cubano-estadounidense hizo que el precio de la apertura parcial de las ventas agrícolas estadounidenses.  Clinton utilizó las categorías creativamente, aunque con un requisito de licencias específicas engorrosas y frecuencia semi restringidade visitas familiares y remesas.  Bush limitó fuertemente las mismas categorías bajo la presión de los revestimientos duros en Miami, irónicamente con el secretario de Comercio Carlos Gutiérrez como la persona señal simbólica en su Administración. (Gutiérrez es ahora un prominente defensor del compromiso.) Bush redujo dramáticamente a los viajes de la gente a través de licencias específicas complicadas durante los últimos seis años de sutérminos en el cargo, y viajes familiares notoriamente limitados a una vez cada tres años sin excepciones compasivas.

Obama abrió la puerta antes de poner fin a todas las restricciones de viajes y remesas para los cubano-estadounidenses con importantes consecuencias en ambos países.   Igualmente importante, el presidente Raúl Castro absoló los permisos de salida, las despreciadas tarjetas blancas.  En su  primer mandato, Obama restauró a la gente del grupo en los viajes de personas, pero todavía tenía que pasar por el campo burocrático, político y financiero de licencias específicas por parte de una antigua oficina de guardia de OFAC.  Creo que se habría movido más en su primer mandato si no fuera por el problema de la detención de Alan Gross y los cargos obstructivos del Secretario de Estado Clinton y las autoridades cubanas.

Durante su segundo mandato, Obama y el presidente Raúl Castro tuvieron la visión y el coraje para normalizar las relaciones diplomáticas.  Las licencias de viaje estadounidenses pasaron de ser específicas a generales, lo que significa que el juicio y la buena fe del usuario era controlador, sujeto siempre a después del hecho, pero muy improbable, sanción por parte de la OFAC.  Esto permitió tanto a los grandes operadores turísticos comerciales como a los  pequeños empresarios organizar programas y las puntuaciones lo hicieron.  También hizo posibles los cruceros.  Al final de su segundo mandato, Obama permitió oficialmente que personas individuales independientes viajaran y la situación se volvió  semi-normal.   Dado que la premisa legal basada en el embargo seguía siendo un viaje despropósitodo, el turismo convencional, sobre todo incluido, las estancias en los centros turísticos de  playa permanecieron fuera de los límites.  En cierta medida, los cruceros llenaron ese vacío, ya que proporcionaron una experiencia contenida y "segura", generalmente involucrando sólo un día o dos de excursiones en La Habana.

La Administración Trump ha tratado de deshacer la mayoría de los logros de Obama, primero utilizando el misterio médico que afecta a los diplomáticos estadounidenses como una excusa para destripar la embajada y poner fin a la autoridad consular. El acceso a los hoteles vinculados al ejército de GAESA fue restringido, lo mas triste las propiedades de Habaguanex recientemente asumidas por GAESA.  Las viajes de personas individuales pueblo a pueblo fue abolido a pesar de ser el sector menos relacionado con las agencias estatales.  Más recientemente, los grupos pueblo a pueblo fueron cerradas, incluyendo los cruceros más duros y abruptos.

Los autores de esta política de líneas ultra duras son dos oponentes de largo tiempo de la revolución de Cuba y de su soberanía, el Asesor de Seguridad Nacional John Bolton y su jefe de Asuntos del Hemisferio Occidental, Mauricio Claver-Carone.  Claver-Carone es la fuente del lenguaje y la estrategia de Bolton contra los viajes.  Fue el principal cabildero contra cada apertura de la administración Obama, publicando el blog vituperativo Capitol Hill Cubans, y dirigiendo el US-Cuba Democracy PAC que canalizó millones de dólares de dinero extremista a candidatos en todo el país demócrata y republicano para la Cámara de Representantes y el Senado.  Es el  autor probable del término invidente "turismo velado" y del discurso de Bolton a los veteranos de Bahía de Cochinos en abril.  Mi conjetura personal es que Bolton y Claver-Carone aprovecharon los viajes del presidente Trump a Inglaterra y Francia para desplegar las duras restricciones en los viajes en junio que no son consistentes con las inclinaciones personales y los intereses empresariales de Trump. No creo que Bolton dure mucho tiempo en la Casa Blanca, sobre todo porque su intervencionismo militar de línea dura en Corea del Norte e Irán conflictos con el enfoque del Presidente.
Como se informó  en el Washington Post el 8 de mayo

"El presidente Trump está cuestionando la estrategia agresiva de su administración en Venezuela tras el fracaso de un esfuerzo respaldado por Estados Unidos para destruir al presidente Nicolás Maduro, quejándose de que fue engañado acerca de lo fácil que sería reemplazar al hombre fuerte socialista por un joven figura de la oposición, según funcionarios de la administración y asesores de la Casa Blanca.

Las raíces de base amplia nivel de las personas a la diplomacia de la gente sirve en gran medida para crear un ambiente de familiaridad y confianza.  El mayor impacto es visible en los estadounidenses que no son de origen cubano que descubren que Cuba es al menos un vecino seguro y no hostil con una cultura y gente muy atractiva.  Visitantes más serios aprenden que los éxitos y fracasos sociales y económicos de Cuba son diferentes que en los países vecinos y tambien cómo los vínculos de compromiso histórico y contemporáneo dejan nuestras sociedades juntos.  En prácticamente todos los casos se van a casa con impresiones positivas y negativas de la Cuba contemporánea, pero con la convicción de que las restricciones de viaje y el embargo son perjudiciales para ambos pueblos.  Los cubanos que interactúan con una selección de Americans (que están inherentemente inclinados positivamente o no estarían aquí) pueden llegar a apreciar la diversidad y disposición amistosa hacia ellos y su país, aliviando las ansiedades personales y políticas sobre la retórica hostil de Miami y Washington. 

Los tours grupales organizados por las agencias receptoras cubanas que se alojaron en hoteles proporcionaron en gran medida una interacción en profundidad sólo con el guía.  Otros cubanos fueron recibidos brevemente en encuentros estructurados ofrecidos repetitivamente en el repertorio de las agencias a todos los operadores turísticos y agentes de viajes.  Los estadounidenses que se alojan en casas particulares obtienen más ideas individuales sobre la realidad cubana si tienen un idioma común con sus anfitriones.  Los tours en grupo ofrecen reuniones institucionales no accesibles para viajeros independientes.   Sin embargo, las agencias cubanas se centran en gran medida en el volumen, la generación de ingresos y la creación de una impresión positiva del país.  Los cubanos encontrados eran demasiado a menudo los mismos de un grupo a uno. 

A menos que una delegación esté enfocada profesionalmente, ha habido poco o ningún esfuerzo para proporcionar oportunidades para reuniones con contrapartes vocacionales o no vocacionales que podrían conducir a un viaje posterior contacto y cooperación.  Las visitas a las instituciones sociales de gran éxito de Cuba, como los médicos del barrio y las escuelas, son difíciles de organizar, excepto para especialistas.  Esa elección puede ser vista como protegerlos de convertirse en un "espectáculo y contar" para los visitantes que sólo tienen un interés pasajero en su trabajo real y logros.  Desafortunadamente algunos de los estadounidenses han sentido que tenían una experience unilateral porque no han oído la opinión crítica que es naturalmente parte de todos sociedades.

Los cruceros proporcionaron la experiencia más superficial tanto para estadounidenses como cubanos, así como el ingreso por visitante más bajo al país.  Los buques más pequeños, más caros y multi puerto proporcionaron una mayor visión.  Debido a que contrató a muchos cubanos para trabajar a bordo, el antiguo Crucero de Cuba en Celestyl fue una excepción económica.  Las excursiones en crucero operadas a través de las agencias receptoras del estado obtuvieron un encuentro bastante filtrado con la vida cubana.   La ventaja para Cuba fue muchas personas vinieron que querían la comodidad y conveniencia de una experiencia americana en La Habana.  Sin embargo, no parece haber habido un esfuerzo concertado para convencerlos de que regresen como viajeros grupales o independientes.

Las giras más pequeñas guiadas por el organizador estadounidense, a menudo en cooperación con un cubano no oficial han comenzado a crear un nuevo espacio.  Si aún no estaban usando la licencia de Apoyo al Pueblo Cubano, se convierten fácilmente a ella.  Este proceso de privatización ofrece la mayor oportunidad de un rápido crecimiento del sector turístico de las personas informales, como se llevó a cabo en Vietnam.  Se aceleraría si Cuba licenciase a los guías como cuenta propistas y permitiera a la población local crear agencias de viajes como pequeñas y medianas empresas.  Se proporcionó una versión de este servicio cubanizado a los pasajeros de cruceros que preferían pagar localmente por una experiencia más personal que pagar el barco para subirse a un autobús turístico.

Debido a que se basan en una agenda compartida, los viajes organizados para el intercambio deportivo, cultural, académico o profesional probablemente resulten en encuentros más diversos y duraderos.  Esto es cierto en ambas direcciones, aunque temporalmente discapacitados para los cubanos por el cierre del consulado de Estados Unidos.

La última categoría involucra al menor número de personas y puede ser la más controvertida.  Expertos en Cuba con antecedentes académicos o activistas desarrollan naturalmente relaciones, incluso amistades, y un punto de vista independiente basado en su experiencia.  A menos que estén en el ámbito de la solidaridad, hablan con los responsables políticos y los ejecutores de ambos países y desarrollan sus propias ideas sobre cómo superar los obstáculos a los lazos plenamente normales, incluyendo el fin del embargo y la restauración de Guantánamo a los nacionales Soberanía.  Las personas más duras en ambas sociedades a menudo consideran a esas personas con desconfianza, sospechan que lo son de alguna manera un agente del otro país.  En cierto sentido lo son, porque no sirve de nada que un estadounidense hable con su gobierno sin comunicar honestamente lo que los intereses cubanos deben cumplir.  Del mismo modo, ese mismo estadounidense debe transmitir de buena fe el interés de su país hacia los cubanos.  La solidaridad tiene un importante papel histórico y emocional, pero es una cámara de eco que puede ser tranquilizadora pero no puede cambiar las cosas. (Si usted está interesado, estoy feliz de discutir durante las preguntas mi fuera de tema y fuera de la caja ideas de cómo el enigma Cuba-Venezuela-EE.UU. podría ser resuelto en beneficio de los tres países.)

Vale la pena señalar que la diplomacia de la gente en las tres variedades tiene sus enemigos en ambas sociedades.  Los exiliados extremistas en Estados Unidos representados por Marco Rubio y Mauricio Claver-Carone ven correctamente que cualquier crecimiento en la comprensión y empatía entre cubanos y estadounidenses y cubano-estadounidenses pone en peligro el poder de su narrativa hostil.  Su mayor éxito reciente es las nuevas regulaciones.

Del mismo modo, los partidarios de los buques duros dentro del sistema cubano temen el impacto subversivo de la diplomacia informal o formal de la pista 2 como hacer a Cuba vulnerable a las insensibilidades económicas y políticas del gran vecino que ha tratado de dominar el país desde los 19 th siglo.  Así vieron las iniciativas de Obama como un caballo de Troya más que como una oportunidad para superar las contradicciones históricas entre los dos países, entre los cubanos aquí y en el extranjero, y entre los propios cubanos.  En efecto, ambos son correctos.  El impacto final de las personas en la diplomacia de la gente entre países tan cercanos en geografía, cultura e historia es un cambio.  Los protectores del pasado inevitablemente perderán si no evolucionan creativamente.

Quiero terminar con un ejemplo específico del problema con la esperanza de que la fuente esté aquí o desea hablar conmigo personalmente en otro momento. Hace poco me encontré con un polémica por alguien que escribe bajo el nombre Arthur González en El Heraldo Cubano, "PERMITE ESTADOS UNIDOS VIAJES A CUBA CON FINES SUBVERSIVOS".

Gonzales identifica correctamente la intención hostil de esta licencia que originalmente estaba destinada a los estadounidenses que querían venir a Cuba para apoyar a los disidentes y alentar la deslealtad. En términos burocráticos, ellos también necesitaban una manera legal de visitar Cuba bajo exención del embargo.  El idioma que cita, sin embargo, no es de las regulaciones actuales de los Estados Unidos, ya que se aplica específicamente a los grupos y confunde diferentes categorías.  Debido a que el artículo que vi no estaba fechado, en realidad puede ser una respuesta a una versión anterior del reglamento.

En cualquier caso, durante la administración Obama el lenguaje fue reescrito para que más allá de las aspiraciones insultantes que se aplican a todos los viajes permitidos, el viajero de apoyo real tiene la opción de un motivo totalmente poco subversivo y actividades.  La palabra crucial es "o"
 (iii) Individuos y organizaciones no gubernamentales que promueven actividades independientes destinadas a fortalecer la sociedad civil en Cuba; y
Cada viajero participa en un programa de actividades de tiempo completo que:
(i) Mejorar el contacto con el pueblo cubano, apoyar a la sociedad civil en Cuba,opromover la independencia del pueblo cubano de las autoridades cubanas;
(ii) Resultado en una interacción significativa con individuos en Cuba.
El horario de actividades del viajero no incluye el tiempo libre o la recreación por encima de eso consistente con un horario de tiempo completo.

"Apoyo al pueblo cubano", como dije antes, es el único canal que sobrevive para que la gente viaje y la diplomacia por grupos o de forma independiente.  Aquellos que lo utilizan deben ser bienvenidos por su esfuerzo por mantener el compromiso entre nuestro pueblo, no sujeto a la sospecha de que su intención es hostil.


*********************************
Para preguntas:

Si Noruega, los grupos de Lima y Contacto logran un acuerdo político entre el gobierno de Maduro y la Asamblea Nacional liderada por Guaido con elecciones internacionalmente vigiladas, sólo sucederá con la asistencia de Cuba basada en el deseo de Venezuela para restablecer su posición económica internacional.   En conjunto podemos esperar al menos la restauración de los viajes y tal vez más.  Para un presidente preparado para negociar con Corea del Norte e Irán, Cuba no es un gran alcance.  Los líderes cubanos podrían enfrentar serias preguntas sobre lo dispuestos que están a lidiar con un Trump cada vez más desacreditado.Es importante destacar que no ha demostrado ninguna propensión a exigir cambios políticos o económicos internos en Corea del Norte o Irán, y mucho menos el cambio de régimen.  ¿Cuál sería el gran o al menos cosmético cambio en Cuba y las relaciones bilaterales que son las relaciones políticas y públicas equivalentes a la desnuclearización?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Irish Celebration in Havana October 16-18

An Invitation to Celebrate 
Twenty Years of Bilateral Relations 
Between Ireland and Cuba with 
Mick Moloney and the Green Fields of America

Mick Moloney and the Green Fields of America will perform in concert at the Teatro Marti in Havana on October 17 as part of the celebration of twenty years of bilateral relations between Ireland and Cuba.   The event is sponsored by Barbara Jones, the Irish Ambassador to Mexico, also accredited to Cuba, who previously served as Ireland's General Consul in New York.  Leaders from Dublin are expected to attend.  

The Green Fields of America with Cuban friends in Holguin, November 2017.


This will be the fourth visit by the widely acclaimed traditional musicians of Green Fields to Havana (including at the US Residence hosted by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis), Holguin and Santiago.  Moloney is a professor of folklore at New York University who has received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts of the US and the Presidential Distinguished Service Award from Ireland.

The Fund for Reconciliation and Development (FFRD) which sponsored the previous tours by Green Fields is offering a program from October 16 to 18  that includes the concert, music sessions, an escorted Irish walking tour of Old Havana, and a visit to Tarara and Bacuranao beaches where New York's Captain Dynamite Johnny O'Brien landed supplies and soldiers in 1897 in support of the final war of independence.  An optional extension from October 19-20 will include an excursion to Artemisa and Matanzas provinces, including the probable birthplace of the father of 
Eamon de Valera, Ireland's independence leader and President .

For more about the Irish heritage in Cuba, go here.


Wednesday, October 16  

Fly to Havana, 
*  At the Provincial Library (the original US embassy) view a power point presentation on the Irish and Irish American heritage of Cuba as presented by Rafael Moya to President Michael Higgins when he visited Havana
*  Dinner on own or with Cuban friends at paladar Doña Eutimia
*  Irish music session

Thursday, October 17

*  Walking tour of Irish and Irish American sites in Old Havana with Rafael Moya 
*  Lunch at Tarara beach where Captain Dynamite Johnny O'Brien from New York delivered weapons and soldiers in    for the third independence war; visit another landing site at Bacuranoa beach
*  (optional) Early dinner with Cuban friends
*  Concert at Teatro Marti by Mick Moloney and the Green Fields of America, joined by Cubans whose Celtic ancestors immigrated from Asturia and Galecia and have mastered Irish traditional instruments and music
*  Reception (to be confirmed)
*  Irish music session

Friday, October 18

*  Join Green Fields as they engage with a Cuban school of music
*  Lunch on own
*  Visit Cuba Emprende at Centro Felix Varela, a training center for entrepreneurs sponsored by the 
    Catholic Church
*  Opportunity to visit historical sites in Old Havana or Vinca Vijia, the home of Ernest Hemingway
*  Dinner on own or with Cuban friends at paladar Atelier 
*  Opera de la Calle, Tropicana or other Cuban cultural performance
*  Jazz Cafe

Return flights are available throughout the day to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, Atlanta and New York.


Supplemental program  

Saturday,  October 19 

*  Excursion to provinces of Artemisa and Matanzas to see locations of Irish and Irish American history, including executions at Matanzas fortress, the museum at the O'Farril sugar plantation residence, and the probable birthplace of the father of President Eamon deValera; overnight in Varadero

Sunday, October 20

*  Fly from Varadero to Miami or return to Havana for flights or independent exploration


Travel will be under the Support for the Cuban People license.  Participants will book their own flights to Cuba and will pay directly for rooms in casas particulares arranged by themselves or by FFRD (approximately $40 per night).  Additional costs will be assessed for local and provincial travel, for group meals, for guide services and for organizing.


For further information, contact John McAuliff  jmcauliff@gmail.com, 917-859-9025

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Venezuela Update # 12


International Crisis Group on Role of the UN


3. Facilitating reconciliation in Venezuela. The struggle for control of Venezuela created drama in the Security Council in the first half of this year, as U.S. officials including Vice President Mike Pence came to New York to press for President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster. Maduro’s allies, notably Russia, responded with strident statements in his defence. Yet the UN could still have a role in helping both sides find a way out of an impasse that is contributing to a humanitarian catastrophe and massive refugee flows and could have regional spillover effects.
By the middle of the year – with neither Maduro nor his rival for the presidency, Juan Guaidó, able to secure victory – UN debates over the crisis lost energy. The foreign backers of both sides appear to have concluded that there was little to gain from public disputes in New York. Some Guaidó supporters, including European governments, also hope that Secretary-General Guterres could play a more impartial role in resolving the crisis if the Security Council can avoid further fights on the issue.
So far, Guterres and UN officials in Venezuela have been wary about engaging in the crisis too publicly. The Secretary-General has held back from any effort to assist in Caracas until both sides clearly want him to do so, and has taken a back seat to the on-again, off-again negotiations between the government and opposition currently being facilitated by Norway; the Trump administration’s view that the UN should not be involved certainly has played a role.
While some commentators and human rights organisations have called for the Secretary-General to approach the situation less cautiously, the UN has not been entirely silent or absent. After her visit to Caracas in June, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a damning report listing major violations by the Maduro government. UN agencies in Venezuela have also prepared a plan for greatly increased humanitarian aid to the country, with the aim of supporting 2.6 million people in urgent need.
 If the two sides [in Venezuela] reach a compromise along the lines under discussion, the UN may be well placed to observe elections and assist in building the institutions required for good governance. 

The conditions for further substantive UN engagement in Venezuela could at some point ripen. Though a counterproductive round of new U.S. sanctions soured the mood in August, Crisis Group discussions with elements in both the Maduro and Guaidó camps suggest a compromise around early, credible, internationally monitored elections could be possible – with the caveat that the pro-government electoral commission will need to be changed, National Assembly powers restored, some U.S. sanctions lifted and institutional guarantees introduced to escape the winner-take-all dynamic of past polls.
If the two sides reach a compromise along the lines under discussion, the UN may be well placed to observe elections and assist in building the institutions required for good governance. It may also be able to help make a political settlement stick. A special representative of the Secretary-General, backed by a political mission, could manage these roles. Either the Security Council or UN General Assembly could give a mandate for this work, though a Security Council resolution backed by all the P5 would carry the most weight. Coming together behind a Security Council resolution would also be an elegant way for the U.S. and Russia, in particular, to step back from their earlier clashes over Venezuela, lest the situation hurt their relations further.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How to use the Support for the Cuban People license

How do I go to Cuba on my own?

1) Book non-stop to Havana on Jet Blue from JFK or on United from Newark.  American, Delta and Southwest have connecting flights.  American or Jet Blue flies from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Holguin, Varadero, Camagüey and Santiago (from May 3d).

2) Select “Support for the Cuban People” as the appropriate license category from the airline menu.

3) Use AirBnB or Trip Advisor to reserve a room or an apartment (casa particular) from a private owner

4) Eat in a private restaurant (paladar)

5) Buy handicrafts, art and clothing from self-employed craftspeople and creators (cuenta propistas)

6) If you need a guide, hire her or him privately (preferably in advance)

7) As much as possible, use private taxis (also available between cities)

8) Whatever you do, wherever you go, be intentional and responsible that your goal is “a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people … and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.”  (The judgement of what qualifies is your own.)

9) Apportion recreational activities like concerts, dancing and the beach as in a normal work week

10)  Keep a journal or list of your “meaningful interactions” for five years.

Current US government regulations are here.  

Essential information for independent travelers   tinyurl.com/Cubabasics 

Join 81% of Americans to call for the end of all travel restrictions   tinyurl.com/Cuba4all

31 CFR § 515.574 - Support for the Cuban People.


§ 515.574 Support for the Cuban People.
(a)General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in § 515.560(c) and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people are authorized, provided that:
(1) The activities are of:
(i) Recognized human rights organizations;
(ii) Independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy; or
(iii) Individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba; and
(2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that:
(i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, orpromote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities; and
(ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.
(3) The traveler's schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule.
Note 1 to paragraph (A):
Each person relying on the general authorization in this paragraph must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§ 501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
Note 2 to paragraph (A):
Staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) are examples of activities that qualify for this general license. However, in order to meet the requirement for a full-time schedule, a traveler must engage in additional authorized Support for the Cuban People activities.
Example 1 to § 515.574:
An individual plans to travel to Cuba, stay in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eat at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shop at privately-owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) during his or her four-day trip. While at the casa particular, the individual will have breakfast each morning with the Cuban host and engage with the Cuban host to learn about Cuban culture. In addition, the traveler will complete his or her full-time schedule by supporting Cuban entrepreneurs launching their privately-owned businesses. The traveler's activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Because the individual's qualifying activities are not limited to staying in a room at a rented accommodation in a private Cuban residence (casa particular), eating at privately-owned Cuban restaurants (paladares), and shopping at privately owned stores run by self-employed Cubans (cuentapropista) and the traveler maintains a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people, supports civil society in Cuba, and promotes the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities, and that results in meaningful interaction between the traveler and Cuban individuals, the individual's travel qualifies for the general license.
Example 2 to § 515.574:
A group of friends plans to travel and maintain a full-time schedule throughout their trip by volunteering with a recognized non-governmental organization to build a school for underserved Cuban children with the local community. In their free time, the travelers plan to rent bicycles to explore the streets of Havana and visit an art museum. The travelers' trip would qualify for the general license because the volunteer activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba and constitute a full-time schedule that enhances contact with the Cuban people and supports civil society in Cuba, and results in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.
Example 3 to § 515.574:
An individual plans to travel to Cuba, rent a bicycle to explore the neighborhoods and beaches, and engage in brief exchanges with local beach vendors. The individual intends to stay at a hotel that does not appear on the Cuba Restricted List (see § 515.209). The traveler's trip does not qualify for this general license because none of these activities promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba.
[80 FR 2299, Jan. 16, 2015, as amended at 82 FR 52003, Nov. 9, 2017]