Monday, July 12, 2021

McAuliff Messages to White House and State Department

Posted to State Department Contact Page, November 4, 2022

HE Antony Blinken

Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary.

To our great embarrassment, the US stood totally isolated for the 30th time yesterday when the UN voted 185 to 2 with 2 abstentions to condemn our unilateral embargo of Cuba.  (I write "totally" because Israel may vote with us, but its citizens freely travel, invest and work in Cuba.)

We have continued on the reactionary path of the Trump Administration rather than return to the eloquent applauded words of USAID Administrator Samantha Power when she abstained as ambassador to the United Nations.

Given the natural White House preoccupation with Florida politics days before the mid-term elections, I did not expect anything else.  But after Tuesday, the President will have a clear path for at least a couple of months.

At that point an agenda for human decency is obvious that will reverse the baleful Trump legacy and repair our reputation in this hemisphere and the world. 

1)  Truly open remittances by allowing Western Union to channel some $5 million daily to Cubans.

2) Make people to people group and conference travel real by allowing Americans to stay in hotels again.

3)  Restore all other categories of purposeful travel, including independent non officially programmed trips and sports and cultural exchanges.

4)  Remove Cuba from unsubstantiated listing as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, with the additional benefit of restoring ESTA visa waivers to countless prospective European visitors to the US.

6)  Permit correspondent and UTurn banking to facilitate US business engagement.

Beyond that the US has an opportunity to boldly acknowledge and accelerate Cuba's real opening to the non-state sector by suspending the embargo for purchases and sales by private farmers, handicrafts, manufacturers and other entities.  

You and the President simply need to honestly listen to counterparts in the Hemisphere who share your criticism of Havana's economic and political system but believe current US policy is woefully counterproductive and not serving the interests of either the Cuban or American people. 

Having worked with Vietnam for decades, I wish Cuba would learn from its economic system and the U.S. would learn from our mutually respectful bilateral relations, despite contrary views of human rights and democratic governance.

As I have written before, you should apply your heartfelt and worthy expressions of opposition to Russia's sphere of influence presumption about Ukraine to two centuries of US history with Cuba.  The human cost of the embargo does not equal the horrendous toll of Russian aggression, but it is as real and as illegitimate.

We are lucky that Cuba does not follow our parliamentary strategy on Ukraine and call for US suspension from the Human Rights Council because of our persistent disregard for the virtually unanimous opinion of the General Assembly.


John McAuliff

Executive Director

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Message to Vice President Harris   June 7, 2022

Dear Vice President Harris,

The Biden Administration has created a self-inflicted wound about participation in the Summit of the Americas by reversing the decision at the Cartagena Summit ten years ago.

From the closing statement of President Santos, the Colombian host of Summit VI:

"Respect and tolerance for differences indicate that we are a mature region with enormous potential to carry out ambitious projects such as those consigned in the mandates of the VI Summit which had as its motto: 'Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity'

Most countries support Cuba's participation in the Summits of the Americas Process and they vowed to make this purpose a reality starting at the next Summit."

The only way out I can see out of this embarrassing situation is no doubt fantasy--for the President or you to surprise your audience by acknowledging the deeply felt differences over inclusion and, underlying that, between the US and every other country present, over our unilateral embargo of Cuba. 

If one of you pledged to respect their viewpoint and use executive authority and leadership with Congress to ameliorate and terminate the embargo, you can neutralize anger about Summit participation.  

You will also bring real benefit to the lives of all Cubans and create an atmosphere for internally driven reform, potentially removing the issue of inclusion from the next Summit.  

Has it been announced who will host the tenth Summit?  What will have been gained if the US Pyrrhic victory of successful exclusion is turned around in three years?

I have developed this point in posts to the State Department and White House that can be seen here 


John McAuliff

Nested messages to Assistant Secretary of State Nichols,  Secretary of State Blinken and President Biden   June 7, 2022

Dear Mr. Assistant Secretary,

You are no doubt in Los Angeles, without time or inclination to read this message.  However, I wanted to share my somewhat expanded thoughts as sent to Secretary Blinken below. 

I know that a bold and historic move by the President to seize the initiative is unlikely to say the least.  However, as someone who tries to understand both sides of the US-Cuba conflict, I despair that each country has retreated to its position of self-righteous and self-satisfied ideology.

In addition to old school polemics, the latest MinRex statement has elements that could be built on:
One cannot speak of “The Americas” without including all the countries of the hemisphere.  Our region demands cooperation, not exclusion; solidarity, not meanness; respect, not arrogance; sovereignty and self-determination, not subordination....

We are also fully confident that the leaders of the region, who choose to attend, will argue with dignity that the United States cannot treat our peoples as they used to in the 20th century. 

Cuba supports the genuine efforts to promote integration throughout the hemisphere based on civilized coexistence, peace, respect for diversity and solidarity. Cuba has a widely acknowledged record of unreserved support and contribution to all legitimate proposals for actual and concrete solutions to the most pressing problems faced by our peoples. The reality we are presented with today is far from such aspirations.
These words of Ned Price yesterday also were both heartening and discouraging: 
as the host of the summit, we do have wide discretion in terms of invitations. We greatly value the diversity of opinions that we’ve heard from our neighbors in the hemisphere about participation in the summit, what that should look like,....

We, again, recognize and respect the position of our allies in supporting – in support of inclusive dialogue. We also note, as I have, that non-governmental representatives will be in attendance from Cuba, from Venezuela, and from Nicaragua.
As you will no doubt learn this week in Los Angeles, hearing without responding is seen as an exercise of discretion that is arrogant and patronizing.  It also is self-delusional to think inclusiveness is met through our hand picked Cuban dissidents.  That is like Russia or China inviting American Marxist-Leninist parties to a conference and claiming the US is represented.

Let the sun break through the LA smog


John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Dear Secretary Blinken,
Ned Price spoke of your personal involvement into Sunday night about the issue of participation in the Summit.  He also noted today, "We will continue to have an opportunity to discuss the issues that are at the heart of this summit with those partners."
Choosing ideological exclusion has guaranteed that participation and thus US relations with Cuba will be a major topic of this Summit and its historical record.  What else is remembered from Cartagena?
Based on your strong expression of principle against spheres of influence regarding Russia and Ukraine, I am assuming you were on the inclusion side of the argument within the Biden Administration.
In any case I believe there is only one way now to save the atmosphere of the Summit and advance US interests in the Hemisphere.
In his opening speech, the President should acknowledge the underlying problem of the universally opposed US embargo of Cuba.  He can unite with every nation in the room and say with integrity that ending the embargo has the best chance to foster self-directed change in Cuba and to improve the living conditions of its people.  Hopefully that will remove the dispute about participation from the next Summit where a different decision is likely.  (It also stops Cuba's deflection to the US of responsibility for many of its problems.)
Following is a message to the White House I posted this morning.
John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Dear Mr. President,
Whoever advised you to blow off our region and exclude Cuba from the Summit of the Americas should be fired.
If Bloomberg's report is correct that the decision is made, you have compromised a major Hemispheric event and the reputation of the US. by giving priority to domestic inertia, ideology and politics. 
Attitudinally, the US is behaving toward Cuba with the same hegemonism as Russia exhibits to Ukraine.  Our double standards and historical insularity in the Americas constrains even the appeal of our righteous cause in Europe and benefits only China's agenda in our Hemisphere.
You had begun to honor your campaign promises to restore engagement with Cuba and deserve full appreciation for those steps once they are actually accomplished. 
However, you need to pivot from the embarrassment of Los Angeles just as President Obama did from his isolation at the Cartagena Summit and finish the job of full normalization.
You could regain ground if your speech in Los Angeles accepts the conflict about participation and includes commitment to put aside real political differences with Cuba, just as we do with Vietnam. 
Imagine the healing impact if you pledge to respect universal opinion in the hemisphere and the world by ending the embargo through all possible executive action and leadership with Congress. 
Only in that way can you hope to achieve your legitimate goals of greater freedom and democracy.
I believe in you as President but fear you have been badly served by your advisors.
John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development


"Experts: Summit of Americas may erode regional relations"  By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | CHINA DAILY

"Exclusion of countries from Americas Summit a 'mistake,' says Chilean president"


 To the Secretary of State   3/28/2023

Dear Secretary Blinken,

In your press conference in Israel with the Foreign Minister you said, "As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter."

While I share President Biden's moral outrage that President Putin has disqualified himself from leadership in the modern world, I understand and agree with your official statement about regime change.  Specifically of course, "regime change" is the primary Russian objective in Ukraine and a fundamental reason for rejection of its invasion by international opinion, including by most countries that abstained on the United Nations’ resolutions.

However, your words are empty if they are not consistent.  Until the Obama Administration, regime change was an explicit US objective with Cuba.  The Trump Administration publicly resuscitated the bankrupt Monroe Doctrine and the attendant goal of regime change for both Cuba and Venezuela.  As far as I know, the Biden Administration has done nothing to change that in policy or in practice. 

The core goal of our unilateral embargo is and has always been regime change.  The Trump/Pompeo/Bolton/Claver-Carone and, regrettably now, the Biden/Blinken/Sullivan/Gonzalez restrictions on remittances, travel, conferences, hotel use, etc. are intentional instruments for regime change, as are USAID's purported democracy programs.

Even if the US dislikes the regimes in Havana and Caracas and their political orientations as much or more than Russia dislikes the regime in Kyiv and its political orientation, neither country is justified by geography or by relative power to overthrow them.

As I have written before, I believe the path to peace in Ukraine could lie through Cuba.  The dilemma the Biden Administration faces is how to give President Putin a face saving partial "win" without rewarding him with any territory in Ukraine, and certainly with no gain in the power Russia held before its invasion began.

One way that can happen is through a global rebalance.  A key element in the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a trade-off.  Russia withdrew its missiles from Cuba in return for the US withdrawing its missiles from Turkey (and, some report, from Italy). 

In return for Russia respecting Ukraine's sovereignty (i.e. withdrawing troops), the US should respect Cuba's (i.e. immediately restoring Obama's openings and pledging to end the embargo quickly).  An additional step could link Russia ending claims on the Donbas with the US ending claims on the Guantanamo base and prison.

As over the top as these actions may seem, they really are no more than application of the worthy values you have voiced several times including during your appearance with EU High Representative Josep Borrell :

"the principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices that its citizens would make about their future; the principle that we’re past the time of spheres of influence where one country subjugates its neighbors to its will"

By linking the end of the embargo to peace in Ukraine, the Biden Administration can move beyond the counterproductive domestic political logjam.  It can also argue honestly that ending the embargo is the most effective way to frustrate strategically Russia's efforts to increase its influence and presence in Cuba.


John McAuliff 
Fund for Reconciliation and Development 


To the President and Vice President on Cuba and Ukraine   3/24/22

Dear Mr. President,

Your press conference today after the NATO meeting was exceptional, clearly delineating our united resistance to illegal and horrific Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The dilemma you face is how to give President Putin a face saving "victory" without rewarding him with any territorial gains in Ukraine, certainly no advantage over Russia's situation before its invasion began.

Perhaps that can happen through a global balance.  As you know, a key element in the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a trade-off.  The US would withdraw its missiles from Turkey (and, some report, from Italy) if Russia withdrew its missiles from Cuba. 

In return for Russia respecting Ukraine's sovereignty (i.e. withdrawing troops), the US should respect Cuba's (i.e. immediately restoring Obama's openings and pledging to end the embargo).  An additional step could link Russia ending claims on the Donbas with the US ending claims on Guantanamo base and prison.

As over the top as these steps may seem, they really are no more than consistent application of worthy values voiced by Secretary Blinken several times in the last few weeks:

"the principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices that its citizens would make about their future; the principle that we’re past the time of spheres of influence where one country subjugates its neighbors to its will"

 You can also argue honestly that ending the embargo is the most effective way to frustrate Russian efforts to increase their influence and presence in Cuba.


 John McAuliff

Dear Vice President Harris,

 The President's press conference today after the NATO meeting was exceptional, clearly delineating our united resistance to illegal and horrific Russian aggression in Ukraine.

 The dilemma your Administration faces is how to give President Putin a face saving partial "victory" without rewarding him with any territorial gains in Ukraine, certainly no advantage over Russia's power before its invasion began.

 Perhaps that can happen through a global balance.  As you know, a key element in the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a trade-off.  The US would withdraw its missiles from Turkey (and, some report, from Italy) if Russia withdrew its missiles from Cuba. 

 In return for Russia respecting Ukraine's sovereignty (i.e. withdrawing troops), the US should respect Cuba's (i.e. immediately restoring Obama's openings and pledging to end the embargo).  An additional step could link Russia ending claims on the Donbas with the US ending claims on Guantanamo base and prison.

 As over the top as these steps may seem, they really are no more than consistent application of worthy values voiced by Secretary Blinken several times in the last few weeks:

 "the principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices that its citizens would make about their future; the principle that we’re past the time of spheres of influence where one country subjugates its neighbors to its will"

 The Administration can also argue honestly that ending the embargo is the most effective way to frustrate Russian efforts to increase their influence and presence in Cuba.


 John McAuliff 


To the President and Vice President on the Embargo  2/9/22

Dear Mr. President,

Dear Madame Vice President,

February 3 was the 60th anniversary of the internationally discredited and counterproductive US embargo of Cuba.  Ironically, nothing would democratize the political economy of Cuba more than opening normal two-way trade. 

 If someone on your staff has time, I encourage spending 90 minutes watching a new film "Frenemies--Cuba and the US Embargo".  It was made by Mirella Martinelli, a Brazilian American from Sarasota, Florida.  Toward the end are strong statements from a Cuban actress and from a filmmaker who studied in the US.  They are equally critical of the policies of their own government and of the embargo.

 The filmmaker and several experts on Cuba will be on a zoom panel at 4 p.m. Tuesday, February 8.  Links to both the film and the zoom are here

 Our policies have totally failed for more than sixty years to force democracy and human rights on Cuba by embargo and specific sanctions. However, we could instead create conditions that give greater space for Cubans themselves to press for the changes that they desire. 

 It is exactly for that reason that conservatives in Cuba pushed back after President Obama's visit, warning that his positive gestures were a Trojan Horse for the enduring goal of regime change.  In part they were reacting to the contradiction between nice words and incremental US reforms with the elephant in the room, the explicit economic warfare of a crippling embargo.

 It would be of mutual benefit to acknowledge that our Monroe Doctrine presumptions are not so different than Russia's view of its Near Abroad.  Ukraine is to Russia as Cuba is to us so perhaps that offers an off-ramp to mutual de-escalation, just as removal of missiles from Turkey was linked to removal of missiles from Cuba.

 There is more about the embargo, the Ukraine/Cuba analogy, and a path to freedom for convicted and imprisoned July 11-12 protestors in our newsletter

 Warm regards,


To Secretary Blinken on Cuba and Ukraine    (1/24/22) 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

From your remarks on CNN yesteday:

 "what's at stake here, Dana, are some very basic principles of international relations that have been established since two World Wars and the Cold War that have kept peace and security. Principles like one nation can't go in by force and change the borders of another, principles like one nation can't dictate to another its policies, its choices, including with whom it will associate, a principle like the fact that you cannot now, in the 21st century, purport to exert a sphere of influence to try to subjugate your neighbors to your will."

 Noble and just sentiments.  Do you have the honesty and wisdom to apply them to US attitudes about and behavior toward Cuba?  With the exception of changing borders, everything else is strikingly applicable.

 The US may say we only want what is best for the Cuban people, an economic and political model that gives them freedom and a chance to become more like us, not to mention removing any danger they could ever be a strategic threat.  The Russians use different vocabulary but the underlying dynamic of their view of Ukraine is not very different.  Happily, our use of armed force against Cuba is six decades old, although US military intervention was called for by leaders in the Cuban American community last July and a few weeks ago by Jaime Suchliki of the Cuban Studies Institute, a former major recipient of USAID funds.   In fact both Russian and American aspirations to dominate and incorporate their neighbor date to the late 18th and early 19th century.    (See the essay by historian Louis Perez of the University of North Carolina,  "Cuba as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" )

Let me add now the other side of the equation.

 The Cuban missile crisis ended with a face-saving deal.  The Russians withdrew their missiles and received in return a guarantee the US would not invade Cuba again and we would withdraw our missiles from Turkey.

 A likely public deal seems to be the US tabling the implicit threat for a reasonable number of years that Ukraine can enter NATO and house US or NATO missiles in return for Russia's drawdown of military forces on Ukraine’s borders.  The private off ramp could be, with unspoken recognition of the parallelism, in return for Russian troop withdrawal the US diminishes its hostile pressure on Cuba, restoring Obama's engagement policies and committing to end the embargo. 

 My personal opinion is that nothing would affect internal evolution in Cuba in a more positive way than ending the embargo.  Forces holding back the pace of reform would lose leverage.  (Ask Vietnam's ambassador what the impact politically and psychologically was of the end of the US embargo on the pace of Doi Moi.)  A Russian guarantee of Ukraine's independence should provide a reason for all but the most hardline people in Congress and in Florida to accept the end of the embargo.

 Returning Guantanamo, perhaps along the lines of the Ben Rhodes-Alejandro Castro proposal, might be an executive power alternative to immediately ending the embargo.  (Not incidentally, it will enable the President to meet his objective to close the prison.)  Imagine the exceptional harbor becoming an embargo-less free port for 25 years, providing for Cuban imports from and exports to the US by private and cooperative small and medium enterprises.  Guantanamo can also offer berths for large cruise ships with passengers visiting San Juan Hill in Santiago and the memorials to US and Cuban soldiers who died in the final war of independence.

 If the embargo had been already addressed, could we also link removal of US forces from Guantanamo with withdrawal of Russian military personnel from the Donbas?

 I hope these ideas can contribute to a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis and of our conflict with Cuba.

 John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

(lightly edited for this format)


A Christmas-New Year Appeal

 (more recent posts are below)

December 23, 2021 

HE Miguel Diaz-Canel

   President, Republic of Cuba

HE Joseph R. Biden

   President, United States of America

Dear Mr. Presidents,

Not surprisingly there are many common themes in US and Cuban culture.  One is certainly the importance we both give to the Christmas - New Year holiday period.  A friend told me years ago, don't expect to do any business with colleagues in Cuba during this time.  It is virtually the same in the US.

This is a special moment devoted to family, friends and shared meals, this year again constrained by the painful consequences of Covid.

It is also a time symbolizing generosity and our common humanity, and the aspiration that the problems of the old year are left behind in the new one.

You probably know where I am going, and will no doubt regard me as naive in disregarding political constraints in both countries.

If I were writing my fantasy script, Presidents Biden and Diaz-Canel, along with First Ladies Jill and Lis, will zoom together for a family encounter before the New Year to put aside aggressions and transgressions of the past year.  They could welcome full return to the openings created by Presidents Obama and Castro, removal of Cuba from the list of State Sponsor of Terrorism, release or parole of all those imprisoned related to the protests of July and November (with the option of migrating to the US with their families or remaining in Cuba) and complete restoration of embassies and consulates.  Then they will announce performances of Hamilton in Havana and Opera de la Calle in Washington. 

More realistically statements ought to be made between Christmas and New Years that for humanitarian reasons, including celebration of holiday dinners, the Trump blockage of family remittances and personal donations ends immediately and a significant number of Cubans currently detained on lesser charges related to the July and November protests are released or paroled.  

It should also be announced that both governments plan to reopen consulates by a date certain, with first priority given to overdue visas for family reunifications.

If that is received reasonably in both countries, the branch of peace can be extended soon thereafter to restoration of general licenses for travel, including to provincial cities for easier family reunions, people to people programs, cultural and educational exchanges, business delegations and conferences, with use of State owned hotels.  A broader release or probation of protest related prisoners can be declared, to include everyone except those convicted of specific acts of violence, looting or property destruction.   A date certain can also be announced for full restoration of embassies and consulates and resumption of legal migration accords established during the Clinton Administration.

There will remain substantive issues between the governments, including views of the legitimacy of the protests and of the roles of both governments in their creation and handling as well as the release of prisoners who did commit acts of violence, looting and property destruction (not unlike the aftermath of Black Lives Matter demonstrations).  The status of State Sponsor of Terrorism and use of Democracy Funds, regulation of internet services, conflicting views of human rights and democracy, the embargo, property claims, return of Guantanamo, the rest of the already established mutual agenda, etc. will remain to be addressed by normal diplomacy.

On the positive side we can learn from each others’ successful campaigns against Covid and other diseases and return to the spirit of medical cooperation sounded so eloquently by Ambassador Samantha Power when the UN applauded her for abstention on the annual embargo vote. 

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

--John Lennon

performed memorably by Opera de la Calle  


John McAuliff

Executive Director

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Analytical Postscript

I link the issues of restoration of the Obama-Castro opening with release of protest prisoners knowing that it is not an obvious or easy assumption by either side. 

Cuba argues that a small segment of its people engaged in illegal social disruption, leading to violence, because of economic conditions created by Covid, exacerbated by the embargo and Trump/Biden sanctions on remittances, travel, etc. and because the US has violated Cuba’s sovereignty since the Bush Administration through democracy program funding, internet agression and overt political support for opponents and protestors. 

The US argues that most of those arrested were exercising internationally recognized human rights to organize politically and to protest publicly, that Cuba’s economic problems are largely self-created by a dysfunctional system and that the Cuban government fears opposition from its disenchanted people. 

I argue that many if not most of those arrested were victims of the inability of the two governments to move beyond the Trump era and return to a path of resolution of bilateral disputes and tensions.  Thanks to Presidents Obama and Castro, our nations had opened the way to creating mutual trust and understanding and a palpable sense of hope.  This was deliberately sabotaged by the regime change policies of the Trump Administration, carried out by the ideologically and vengefully driven John Bolton and Mauricio Claver-Carone. 

Only those in both countries who fear change and democratic evolution on Cuban terms were pleased.

The failure of the November 15 protests can be ascribed to effective Cuban government control that was repressive but involved few arrests and no violence plus the absence of a self-directed base once the leadership was neutralized.  Or there may have been a misjudgment by the Archipielago organizers that the spontaneous actions of July 11 could be replicated with a political agenda.  Explicit involvement by exile organizations in Florida, Congress and US officials may also have been counterproductive, provoking Cuban nationalism.   In either case the failure demonstrated conclusively that regime change continues to be an illusion--as a goal and as a threat.

You can spend the rest of your Presidential mandates reliving the ineffective past since neither country will surrender its principles to the other, or you can take steps that convince the majority pro normalization sentiment in both populations that you are acting humanely and boldly for a different future. 

Neither of you can move us forward alone.

Historical Precedents

 When I was in Havana for the anti-climactic November 15 protests, someone described them as Biden’s Bay of Pigs.  The parallel drawn was to the embarrassing defeat of a full-on strategy of support by the Administration, in part for the principle of the human right to demonstrate but also in part with the expectation this was the beginning of the end of the regime.  The parallel I saw was that Biden, like the Kennedys, had been misled by advisers who were either self-deluded or seeking to provoke US military intervention.  My own suspicion is that their more likely objective was that a violent confrontation between demonstrators and Cuban security forces would destroy any chance of Biden returning to the Obama-Castro agreements.  

US responsibility for the fate of 1,113 captured Bay of Pigs invaders was abundantly clear, the CIA having organized, trained and funded them.   Even so the means to achieve their release a year and a half later was indirect, a secretly negotiated US government motivated private donation of $ 53 million in food and medical supplies, in current value $ 463 million.  US responsibility for Cubans arrested during July and November protests is more complicated.  A small number in July were no doubt beneficiaries of direct US funding, virtual agents of influence.  More were shaped by years of US government sponsored media and internet hostile to both the Cuban government and its ideology.  The largest number were probably motivated largely by personal hardship and frustration traceable to Covid, the embargo and Trump/Biden sanctions.  

No doubt a problem for the US to negotiate release of protest related prisoners is that it could be interpreted as accepting Cuba’s case that they were instruments of US intervention.  The problem for Cuban authorities are the prisoners that can be seen in phone videos looting stores, throwing rocks and destroying police cars.  Cuban security officials are no more inclined to tolerate violent misbehavior than police counterparts in US cities wracked by out of control racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020.  Since some Bay of Pigs combatants had no doubt fired on and killed Cuban soldiers, extreme behavior by protestors should not be an automatic game changer.

The more recent parallel is the case of the 75 opponents arrested in the Black Spring of 2003.  While Cuba charged they had all directly collaborated with the US Interests Section and received financial or material support, the US, Canada and European governments treated their arrests and long sentences as gross violations of human rights and imposed political and economic sanctions.   Bipartisan momentum in Congress for improved relations died. Eight years later, negotiations with the Catholic Church and Spain led to release of the 75, with most choosing exile.  Presumably connected to the negotiations European sanctions were lifted.  Greater travel from the US. was allowed and conditions were created for secret negotiations and the historic Obama-Castro normalization of 2014. 

Later we learned that the aggressive collaboration by US diplomats with dissidents had been intended to provoke Cuba into closing the US Interest Section, a long time goal of right-wing exiles who dominated the Bush Administration’s policy.  The 75 like the hundreds of prisoners from the July and November protests were casualties of war, pawns serving political purposes in the US.  Hopefully resolving the situation of those arrested last summer will not take as long as the 75, or even the Bay of Pigs prisoners.


Message to the White House   1/13/22

Dear Mr. President and Madame Vice President,

My first political involvement was with the civil rights movement, including voter registration during the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964.  Thus I appreciated the strength and clarity of your remarks in Atlanta.  

Senator McConnell’s bizarre and extreme reaction suggests you and the country may be closer to victory than the media anticipates.  Hopefully principled Republicans will offset the potential disloyalty of Senators Mansion and Cinema.

Looking internationally, as you address the danger of war created by the Russians in Ukraine, I hope you recognize that US attitudes and actions toward Cuba are painfully similar.  

Both large countries feel that their values and interests should be reflected by a smaller neighbor.  They use political and economic pressure as well as military force to bring that about.

Russia’s behavior is currently more egregious and overtly militaristic.  However, the US followed such a  path at the Bay of Pigs and last July was pressured by Florida leaders to undertake with force a “humanitarian intervention”.  Moreover, unilateral economic embargo is a form of warfare, exacerbated by Trump/Biden sanctions on remittances, travel, exchanges and business. 

International opinion, including of our closest allies, overwhelmingly decries both Russian and US sphere of influence presumptuousness.  

It is to no one’s interest but if Ukraine is entitled to welcome a US military presence on the border with Russia, Cuba is entitled to welcome a Russian military presence on our sea border.   The Cuban Missile Crisis was solved in effect by mutual withdrawal.   

Russia should let Ukraine be Ukraine and we should let Cuba be Cuba-- even if we don't like it.


John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Message to the White House  1/6/22

Dear Mr. President and Madame Vice President,

Your remarks today on January 6 were exceptional.  The Vice President set the stage well for an historic address by the President.

In contrast, the January 4 response by the President to me on Cuba was embarrassing and disingenuous.  It could have been sent by President Trump or Bush or any of your predecessors except Carter prior to the Obama-Biden Administration.

I will respond to it in specific terms later.  My full thoughts about where we stand on US-Cuba relations are in our newsletter that went to more than 8,000 persons.  It can be read here


John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


John McAuliff @mc_auliff

Replying to @SecBlinken

If you truly care about well being of jailed protestors, rather than scoring points initiate negotiations for their release. Cuba sees them as tools of US as in Black Spring and Bay of Pigs. They believe July 11 was result of Biden echoing Trump.

My response to January 6 statement:  Visa Restrictions Against Cuban Officials


JANUARY 6, 2022

Dear Secretary Blinken,

I take seriously and agree with your concern about "harsh and unjust sentences handed down to peaceful protesters" in Cuba.  

No doubt you realize that as with racial justice protests in the US in the summer of 2020 not all of those arrested on July 11 were peaceful.  By implication you are not defending the well documented instances of violence, although some prominent dissidents do.  It may be worth making that clearer in order not to diminish the importance of those whose crime really was just political protest.  (See post by Tania Bruguera and videos here )

My concern is this statement, "The United States continues to use all appropriate diplomatic and economic tools to push for the release of political prisoners".  I hope that is true.  However all I have seen are symbolic visa sanctions like the eight you are announcing and rhetorical posturing.  Those steps may meet political demands in Congress and in south Florida, but they do absolutely nothing to help the prisoners.   If anything they make their situation worse as they confirm Cuban suspicion that protestors were instruments of the US and consequences of Biden-Trump policies.

As I wrote in my Christmas-New Year message to Presidents Biden and Diaz Canel, the only realistic path to the release of both prisoners that were peaceful and violent is to use the diplomatic tool of negotiation as took place around the Black Spring 75, the Playa Giron POWs and Alan Gross.

No doubt the US does not want to accept that it has the same causal relationship with all four instances of imprisonment, but I assume diplomats can find appropriate language.  Obviously the wrong words will make it sound like the US is demeaning Cuban jurisprudence or that Cuba is treating the prisoners as hostages for bargaining purposes.

The refusal of US and European officials to take seriously Cuba's political and legal viewpoint on prisoners resulted in unnecessarily long detentions for Mr. Gross and the 75.  I hope that you can rise above the political moment and obtain the rapid release of the July 11 prisoners.  They should be offered the option of remaining in Cuba without prejudice or immigration to the US, Canada or Europe with their families.

From conversations in Havana in November, I think this could work.  I have no idea what Cuba would want from the process.  Restoring the Obama policies is certainly a logical step.  Legally ending all restrictions on travel and agricultural sales is an additional mutually beneficial inducement.  I would like to also see the end of the embargo and the return of Guantanamo but those truly healing steps no doubt must come at a later stage after mutual trust is restored and in conjunction with Cuba relaxing its internal economic and political controls.


John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Call for Self-reflection by the Secretary of State    December 13, 2021

Dear Mr. Secretary of State

You said this on Meet the Press on Sunday:

  "one country can't dictate to another country its choices, its decisions, and its foreign policy, with whom it will associate. One country can't exert a sphere of influence over others. That's what Russia is purporting to assert. And if we let that go with impunity, then the entire system that provides for stability, prevents war from breaking out is in danger. That's why this is so important"

You are entirely correct.  Now please reflect upon how your policy toward Cuba fits within that paradigm.

 Are we aspiring to dictate any less to Cuba than Putin is to Ukraine?   Are a unilateral economic embargo and prolonging Trumpian sanctions in principle and international law any more acceptable than military threats? 

Is our demand that Cuba have a political system we approve of very different than Putin's demand that Ukraine have one that he approves of.

Can you justify our occupation of the Guantanamo Base as more legitimate historically than his occupation of Crimea?

Bottom line, "one country can't exert a sphere of influence over others". 

I know, we are the good guys and he is the bad guy.  Our goals are noble and principled; his are selfish and exploitative.

Step back; look in the mirror; ask our allies in Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe how they honestly view our behavior. 

 Every aggressor in its own mind has a good reason for its aggression.  The target sees things differently.


John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Transmittal of Petition with 5000 Signers  December 9, 2021

Dear Mr. President, Madame Vice President and Mr. Secretary of State,

It is my honor to inform you that we have 5000 signatures on our petition to you about Cuba which reads

We ask you to finally implement the pledge of the Biden-Harris campaign to "promptly restore" President Obama's opening with Cuba including general licenses for all travel; cultural, sports and educational exchanges; flights to regions and cruises; unrestricted remittances and personal transfers; agricultural sales; business agreements; and renewal of full embassy and consular services.

 We have posted on-line everyone who wanted their name shared organized by zip code so your staff can see the nationwide distribution of support.  The list begins here

 The reality that virtually nothing came of the much-anticipated protests of November 15th, whether because of repression or disinterest or both, offers you the opportunity to turn away from Trump and towards Obama on Cuba.  Please add to the holiday joy of this Christmas season in both countries and begin a new era in the New Year.


 John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development


Cuba and Ukraine     December 7, 2021

Dear Mr. President,

It may have struck you during your conversation with Mr. Putin today that Ukraine is to Russia as Vietnam is to China and as Cuba is to the US--not to mention as Ireland is to England.

Small countries always have problems with big neighbors.  Their cultures and economies are closely linked, positively and negatively.  The big country believes its values and political system are naturally in the best interest of the small one--and is not averse to using its greater power, including sanctions and military force, to assure its view prevails.  The small country may ally with its neighbor's rival to protect its sovereignty, which further provokes the big country.  

A smart big country relies on the inherent weight of geography, as aggravating as the behavior of the small country may be. 

As you may guess, I believe it is as important that the US back off trying to dominate Cuba as for Russia to back off trying to dominate Ukraine.  Both should have the patience to let nature take its course.

I was in Cuba to see and feel what would happen on November 15th.  My reflections are here

As you know, almost nothing happened.  Some blame Cuban government repression.  Others blame overreaching by protest organizers.  My impression is that both are correct, but the bottom line is that the abysmal failure has been characterized as Biden's Bay of Pigs.  Like JFK, you were misled by your advisors, based on ignorance or malevolence.

As in 1961, the combatants are left behind as prisoners.  Like JFK you have the opportunity to free them.  Morally they are a US responsibility, inspired by our words and democracy funds.  Hopefully instead of $463 million in food and medicine, their freedom will require only courageously undoing the Trump policies that contributed to the social disorder.


John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development 


Cuban Entrepreneurs Here and There   October 4, 2021

Dear Vice President Harris,

Your enjoyable visit with Daniella Senior at her Colada Shop might have reminded you that the same creative energy exists in Cuba in its nascent private sector.  

After years of struggle, they are finally achieving legal status as micro, small and medium enterprises.

The best way to help them thrive is for the Biden Administration to finally restore remittances, a source of capital for small businesses, and travel, the market for local sales.

How much longer will you face embarrassing questions like this at the White House press conference on September 30th:

"Q Thanks, Jen. Just to follow up on Mike's question on what the Cuban foreign minister said. Just to be specific, he said, "It's a pity that President Biden couldn't implement his own policy toward Cuba." And I just wondered if you had a specific response.

MS. PSAKI: I don't."

Prolonging for more than eight months Trump's inhumane ban on remittances  is unconscionable and has contributed to unnecessary suffering and deaths.  

If the Administration does not act on Cuba this month, there could be another crisis in November that will make it even harder to keep your promises.


John F. McAuliff 

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Any Difference with Trump?  October 4, 2021

Dear Mr. President,

Can you cite any example in which your policy on Cuba and with whom you meet is different than President Trump's?                                                                                      

September 30 White House Press conference:

Q On one other separate topic: There have been a number of issues in the last, say, several weeks in which advocates -- allies of the President are describing him as “Trump-like.” Most -- less in terms of his personality and sort of tone and tenor, obviously, but in terms of policy. Even today, a representative of the Cuban government describing the frustration with the President continuing to maintain Trump-era policies vis-à-vis Cuba.

Does the -- what’s the President’s reaction? And does he accept that in some areas of policy he is, you know, in agreement with the former President? 


Q Thanks, Jen. Just to follow up on Mike's question on what the Cuban foreign minister said. Just to be specific, he said, "It's a pity that President Biden couldn't implement his own policy toward Cuba." And I just wondered if you had a specific response.

MS. PSAKI: I don't. 

UN and Covid Addresses by the President  9/23/21 

Dear Mr. President,

As I watched your meaningful speeches at the UN and at the Covid summit, two points occurred to me:

1)  "We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technological exploitation, or disinformation."

The US embargo of Cuba is a near universally condemned example of a stronger country seeking to dominate a weaker one by economic coercion.   Restrictions on remittances, travel, etc. imposed by Trump and continued by your Administration are more of the same.

Are we manifesting "Do as I say, not as I do"?

Some of your advisers will say hypocrisy does not matter because our coercion is for a good democratic purpose.

2)  If you hope to truly address the global need for Covid vaccines, it is politically biased narrow mindedness to ignore Cuba's progress on a different more affordable and more accessible medical science that  now includes children from two years old.  They have submitted their results to the WHO.  If successful, we should find ways to collaborate.

The White House has been sitting on the report you wanted on remittances for three weeks.  This is obviously lower priority in Washington but delay continues the harsh human cost on people in Cuba and on their family members in the US who desperately want to help them.  

I received this note from a colleague in Holguin, a single mother with two small children, afflicted with covid.  I am unable to send her any assistance through Western Union:

Te cuento que el virus me cogio los riñones y los pulmones, pero no hay medicinas, estoy tomando te y cocimiento. A mis niños si los tengo tomando antibióticos, resolvi unas medicinas, vencidas pero todavia se la pueden tomar los niños. Me duele mucho el cuerpo, y la tos se me mejoro, pero no me puedo ingresar en el hospital, no tengo con quien dejar a los niños, y mami no puede sola con los dos y menos los niños enfermos. 

John McAuliff 

Cardinal O'Malley 9/10/21

Dear Mr. President,

After writing to you yesterday, I learned of the visit by Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley to Cuba.  (links below)  

I hope you will have an opportunity soon to speak with him.

He was treated as a very high level guest and met with your counterpart, President Miguel Diaz-Canel, as well as visited the Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the place Cuba's other Covid vaccines were created.

As I wrote some weeks ago, a donation of five or ten million syringes from USAID through the Catholic Church would have a great impact on Cuba's ability to vaccinate its entire population.  

Announcing such a donation and restoration of remittances and travel during a meeting with the Cardinal would be humanitarian initiatives hard to rebuff in both the Senate and in Havana.

It could also create the basis for mutually beneficial collaboration with Cuba on a vaccine for children.

In addition such a humanitarian gesture will contribute in a positive way to the potential for evolutionary change in response to the social upheaval of July 11.

I was going to say "Have a good weekend" but that hardly seems possible during the 20th commemoration of the tragic events of 9/11.

John McAuliff

Covid, travel   9/9/21

Dear Mr. President,

Your Covid remarks today were spot on. 

Everything must be done to defeat this plague and you have brought many strong options to the table.

May I suggest an unusual path that could help address the gap of vaccinations for children under 12.

I was on a Harvard webinar today featuring a presentation by Dr. Vicente Vérez Bencomo, Director of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana, moderated by Marcia Castro, Professor of Demography and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard  School of Public Health.

Dr. Verez discussed Cuba's positive trials of a vaccine for children.  If it receives WHO approval, the US should explore collaboration with the Cubans to make it available here and in other countries.

The Cubans have enough confidence in their locally developed vaccines that they plan to begin reopening for visitors on November 15th.   Prospective US visitors and our travel industry need you to restore all general licenses without further delay so they have time to prepare for business and to hire staff.

John McAuliff 

Remittances   9/3/21

Dear Mr. President,

By now you must have received the report you requested on remittances to Cuba.  I hope you will quickly move to restore them.

For more than seven months your Administration has perpetuated the cruelty of the Trump Administration, denying to Americans the ability to provide $2 billion in desperately needed assistance to family members in Cuba.

 One of the participants in your White House meeting with Cuban Americans tweeted:

         Ricardo Herrero


Sep 2

We live in a bizarre time when allowing Western Union to resume operations in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is considered less problematic than allowing it to resume operations in Cuba.…

Quote Tweet



· Sep 2

EXCLUSIVE Western Union resuming services to Afghanistan - senior exec

The vast majority of Americans and most Cuban Americans will welcome your action.  The self-interested voices of a few Senators who fantasize about regime change should not dissuade you.


 John McAuliff

P.S.  Restoring remittances also provides support for long overdue economic reforms permitting private micro, small and medium enterprises.

Ending the Afghanistan War and Intervention in Cuba 9/1/21

Dear Mr. President,

Your speech on ending twenty years of war in Afghanistan was difficult but essential and in marked contrast to the silence that came from the White House when the war in Vietnam came to a similarly complicated and tumultuous end.
It seems inherent in undeclared wars where US intervention is defeated by indigenous forces that a classic end of hostilities and orderly withdrawal of combatants, much less of local allies, is not possible.
Your characterization of the conflict as "civil wars with the Taliban" was significant because it allows for a reasonable post-war relationship with the nation of Afghanistan, despite Mr. Klain's inappropriate and premature preclusion of normal diplomatic recognition.
Your words about the cost in deaths and injuries to Americans were eloquent and moving.  I wish you had also acknowledged the costs to Afghans on both sides of the conflict as well as to innocent civilians.  That is not only more just in moral terms but also would have resonated favorably with the people of Afghanistan and with international opinion.
Finally, you said correctly, "When I was running for President, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war.  And today,  I’ve honored that commitment."   It is past time to also honor your commitment to promptly restore remittances, travel and other steps of normalization and engagement with Cuba.  

You noted your rejection of "nation building ­ trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and unified Afghanistan".  The unilateral US embargo amplified by Trump's sanctions, seeks a similar goal by other means with Cuba.    I do not dispute the economic and political faults of Cuba's government, just the wisdom and effectiveness of our interventions to address them.

John McAuliff

Maintaining the Embassy, Remittances Report

(To the President)

The Washington Post reported today:

"President Biden is planning to withdraw the U.S. ambassador and all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Tuesday, and it is unclear when or if they might return to the country, according to two U.S. officials."

Please do not act unilaterally on this matter.  The US more than any other country in the world acts as though diplomatic recognition is a reward rather than a function.

Recall that it took 20 years to restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam and more than 50 years with Cuba.  What was accomplished by those gaps other than egotistical political posturing?  It is easy to break relations; hard to restore them.  We create a big moral and political crisis around a question of practical self-interest when we finally get around to normalization.

Especially in a situation where there are tens of thousands of Afghans and hundreds of Americans who have a legal or moral claim on entry to the US, some official diplomatic and consular presence in Kabul is essential for travel documents.

Continuing US representation may also give Afghans who are prepared to risk staying because of the contribution they hope to make more confidence to try.

My daughter has not been able so far to arrange for the departure of any of the staff in her USAID funded legal training program and surely her organization is not the only one. (She reports incidentally that the Taliban did not release all the ISIS-K prisoners in Bagram, because at least one of them to whom they were providing legal aid is still imprisoned.)

By the way, Monday marks the 30 day deadline you set for a report on renewing remittances to Cuba.  I do not argue that this takes priority one day from final military withdrawal from Afghanistan.  However we had a good system in place with Western Union.  For seven months you have allowed the unconscionable restrictions of Donald Trump to continue despite the more than 50% of Cubans whose suffering would have been less.

Afghan Deaths

 (To the State Department)

The Secretary's speech about Afghanistan today was quite good.

It was welcome that he mentioned the number of displaced Afghans but he should have also cited the number who have lost their lives and been injured.  The media only mentions US losses which is one reason we are as unlikely to learn lessons from Afghanistan as we did from Vietnam.

Regardless of what our media picks up, understanding of and sympathy for their suffering would be heard by the people of Afghanistan, regardless of their politics, and by international opinion.


Senator Menendez Misleads on Afghanistan and Cuba

Dear Mr. President,

Senator Menendez was opportunistic, unrealistic and unreliable in his remarks reported by the Washington Post about the tragic deaths of Americans and Afghans yesterday:

"The most vocal Democratic criticism came from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who questioned whether Taliban guards had failed in letting the ISIS bombers get so close to the Kabul airport." ...

 “As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” Menendez said in a statement, before the full details of the death toll had been officially announced."

Providing security at the Kabul airport is not an easy problem, but whom does he propose should provide additional perimeter security?   If Americans did it, they would become even more vulnerable.

Senator Menendez is equally opportunistic, unrealistic and unreliable about Cuba.   Show courtesy to his important Senate position by informing him of your policy to restore remittances, the embassy and travel, but do not ask for his permission.


John McAuliff

Following the Afghanistan Model with Cuba  8/23/21

Dear Mr. President,

Stay strong on Afghanistan.  Ignore the people who kept us there uselessly and want to provoke a way to return.

1975 in Saigon was worse.  After April 30th when the South Vietnamese government and military collapsed, all we did was pick people up at sea for the next three years.

Phnom Penh two weeks earlier is less remarked upon because we did almost nothing to save people allied with the US from the Khmer Rouge.

Even more important than how you assist those who leave is whether the US can influence positively how the Taliban forms a new government and how it treats the hundreds of thousands of people affected by our twenty year effort to remake their society and culture.

If you show equal political courage by renewing engagement with Cuba, it will actually be easier and have a more visible short to mid term positive outcome.  Your call for a solution to restore desperately needed remittances is due in one week. 

Restoration of travel must be announced at the same time so Cubans who benefit from American visitors will find hope and US businesses can hire staff for the coming winter season.

Both you and President Diaz-Canel face a problem of domestic opponents who fear more than anything else peaceful evolutionary change.   Neither of you should allow yourselves to be immobilized by the necessary words of the other. 

As soon as remittances resume, the Vice President, the First Lady  and USAID director should visit Cuba to discuss substantial medical and food assistance for distribution through the Catholic Church.

Ulises Aquino of Opera de la Calle is still in Miami, collecting assistance for his theater company.  Change the mood: bring Opera to Washington; send Hamilton to Havana.  Enjoy a performance on line


John McAuliff 

On Afghanistan and Echo Chambers

Dear Mr. President,

 Your just completed presentation on Afghanistan was courageous and correct.

 As a country we have come to confuse pride in our values and institutions with expectation they will be universally shared by people with substantially different histories and cultures.  We also are prone to be misled by an echo chamber.  We hear only the local people who agree with us and find it hard to distinguish between principled honesty and expedient self-interest.

 You need to make clearer the path to insure that Afghans closely linked to the US presence are able to leave the country.  My daughter who  works with  a  US  NGO that had a legal defender training program is now preoccupied about how their staff will find a safe route for emigration.

 Presumably the Taliban will find it preferable that people leave whose religious, political, military and cultural loyalty they doubt if a system can be developed that respects their sovereign authority and governmental legitimacy.

 I hope you are successful for the benefit of both our peoples and the larger agenda of your Administration.

 John McAuliff


Vietnam-Cuba Parallels

 Dear Vice President Harris,

I was very exciting to hear you will be visiting Viet Nam in a few days.  After SNCC and the Peace Corps, the next thirty years of my life were focused on Vietnam, first in the peace movement, then working for post-war normalization of relations with the US.  After that happened, in the late 1990s my attention shifted to the same objective with Cuba.

Which leads me to suggest you find some time to speak with the Vietnamese about Cuba.  The two countries have extremely warm relations, in part because of a similar history with the US. 

Havana is frustrated that it has not been as successful in achieving reconciliation with us after sixty years as the Vietnamese were after twenty years--despite their similar single party controlled democracies.  

Hanoi is frustrated that the Cubans have not been able to break through their ideological blinders and paranoia about American intentions to move to a market economy—despite the dramatic example of what that means for popular well being.

It is also worth reflecting on comparisons between Vietnam's 3,000 year history with China and Cuba's 300 year history with the US--their common problem of maintaining independence in the face of deeply interlinked cultures, economies and histories.

Have a great trip, and enjoy the food.  You probably won't have time but the restaurant that President Obama and Tony Bourdain famously enjoyed is worth a stop.  Or, if you like fish, go to the original Cha Ca in the Old City.

John McAuliff

Appeal to the President to be Joe Biden With Cuba  8/6/21

Dear Mr. President,

You are on the verge of a phenomenal achievement, adoption of an one trillion dollar infrastructure bill with real bipartisan support. 

I appeal you to apply similar personal skills to your interaction with Cuba.  

For that to happen you should fire whomever gave you the description of Cuba as a "failed state".  It is so wildly inaccurate that it could lead to disastrous policy choices and strengthen Trumpian forces within the Cuban American community.  Regime change rhetoric blocks all productive communication with Cuban leaders, in and out of government.

I have traveled to Cuba 60 times since 1997--as a Cuban security screener informed me at the airport in March 2020, a visit that was to have included celebration of St. Patrick's Day with the Ambassador of Ireland, based in Mexico, accredited to Cuba.  (You may have met Barbara Jones when she was Consul in New York.  She had to cancel because of Covid.)

Cuba has serious problems as reflected in the July 11 protests but they do not affect the underlying stability and functioning of a well educated and culturally rich country (as Dr. Biden can attest from her visit).  There have been serious debates for more than a decade about economic and structural reforms.   Leaders in the government have supported many of them but implementation has been agonizingly slow.  (Sound familiar?)  Your staff would be surprised if they review the critical comments we have posted on our blog.

In particular today's article from the Spanish paper El Pais provides honest insight into the views of Cuban students

You could dramatically change human parameters within Cuba and between our countries by using USAID funds to send via the Catholic Church ten million syringes for Covid vaccinations.  Caritas could provide them through local churches to health clinics. (Private US groups have already sent six million.)

Response to President Biden's Opening Remarks at His Meeting with Cuban Americans 7/30/21

Dear Mr. President,

I appreciate your desire to stand with the Cuban people but you are being badly misled about what that means.

In your statement on Friday, you characterized the July 11th protests as a "historic demonstration of the will of the people".  They were historic, but realism requires recognition that, as with protests in the US, only part of the people were represented.   It would be presumptuous of me, as it is of your advisers, to say how most Cubans feel, and in particular whom they most blame for their current difficult situation.

Many Cubans who are critical of their government are at least as critical of the US embargo and of your prolongation of the Trump attack on remittances and travel and on visas for immigration and visits.  You won't know that if you only hear the words of Cubans who are supported by right wing Cuban Americans or by USAID, NED, NDI, IRI, etc.

However you feel about the validity and utility of years of US democracy funding for regime change, you have to worry about the problem of a closed circle of US agencies receiving the information they want to hear and indeed have helped to create.  

There is a double edge to "expanding our assistance to political prisoners and dissidents".  From the viewpoint of many in Cuba that is further evidence of self-interest and disloyalty, much as many Americans in the 1950s distrusted the relationship between members of the US Communist Party and the Soviet Union.  

You should also consider why your goal of "rallying nations to speak out and increase pressure on the regime" has been such a failure, including the effort to engage the OAS.  Our closest allies in Europe and the Americas share our criticism of Cuba's governance and economic system but believe our embargo is a significant contributing factor and are disappointed in your six month failure to undo Trump's damage.

When will you meet with Americans, including over 80% of Democrats, who favor engagement over hostility?

Contact Us | The White House  8/1/21


Dear Mr. President, 

The remittance section of the White House "FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Measures on Cuba" starts out OK but makes no sense at the end.  

"without a portion of the proceeds being siphoned off by the regime"  

WRONG  The fees received by FINCIMEX come from the up front payment by the sender to Western Union.   They are only 22% of the Western Union fee, low by international standards.  When I sent donations for our Irish music programs, the only deduction was the normal 3% foreign exchange charge.  FINCIMEX funded a network of 420 Western Union branded offices and had to pay for rent, salaries and computer infrastructure.

"do not reach their intended recipients, including some of the most vulnerable populations"   

DISINFORMATION  I have never heard this before or seen any evidence.  My guess is you are being spun by Miami urban legends or deliberate falsehood.

"instead are being used as a stopgap to treat their government’s failures"

POLITICS  This is a non-sequitur but may reveal the actual agenda of opponents of remittances.  Their real objective is to punish/stop Cuban Americans and Americans from helping family and friends because we are transferring dollars into Cuba's national economy.

That is the money the government uses to import food from the US and buy medicine and consumer goods for sale to the recipients of remittances and other people.

You could set a humanitarian example by negotiating directly with the Cuban government to move FINCIMEX from the military linked holding company GAESA to another corporate home.

This is a diversion from your essential and worthy agenda.

John McAuliff


Response to President Biden re Remittances

Dear Mr. President,

Last Thursday you mischaracterized how remittances work with Cuba.

"I would not do that now because the fact is it’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it."

Having used Western Union several times to send funds to friends in Cuba who play Irish traditional music (more on that in another message), it did not ring true so I double checked my memory and spoke with experts.  My report is here

The bottom line is that recipients in Cuba receive 100% of funds sent, minus only the 3% applied to all foreign currency exchanges.  All fees are paid up front to Western Union by the American sender.  Fincimex, the Cuban company that handles disbursement, receives less than the norm for its services.  You can get the exact amount from Western Union, but it is less than 1/3 of the prepaid fee.  Fincimex must pay the cost of 420 Western Union branded pay outs nationwide, including rent, staff and computer infrastructure.

You could enable reestablishment of this totally credible system immediately.  

If the fact that Fincimex is part of the military-linked Gaesa holding company is problematic because of the political optics in Florida, I suspect that mutually respectful conversations between your personal representative and a representative of Cuba's president could quickly solve that problem.

Because of the eruption of legitimate popular dissent in Cuba, and the police repression that greeted both peaceful and destructive protest, you are faced with a choice.  You can double down on the dead-end policy that preceded the Obama-Biden Administration or take the political heat from Republicans in Florida and restore remittances, travel and consular authority.  

The former leads to additional instability and bilateral acrimony; the latter offers a path to peaceful economic and political evolution with growing US influence.


Response to Statement by President Biden on Protests in Cuba


We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.

My message in response through White House contact form:

First, strong appreciation for your decision to end the US military presence in Afghanistan and the clarity of your press conference.  Comparisons to the situation in Vietnam in April 1975 should note that the US people and Congress struggled for years to end aid to the Thieu regime.  No such opposition exists to aid to the government of Afghanistan.  Kabul will have the resources to succeed if it has the will, integrity and ability.

I am glad you are concerned about the situation in Cuba but today's statement does not show the same vision and courage.

Suffering and repression in Cuba are real but your Administration's failure to promptly reverse Trump's policies has been an undeniable contributing factor.

Most dramatically the continued ban for over five months of family remittances and personal gifts has blocked desperately needed humanitarian assistance from Cuban Americans and American friends.

If you are serious about "relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic", provide the syringes and components for production and distribution of Cuban developed vaccines.

Cuba, like our own society, becomes more repressive when threatened.  

By echoing Trump's terrorism accusation, his voting against the UN embargo resolution rather than abstaining and his denigration of Cuban medical assistance to other countries afflicted by Covid, your Administration has reinforced fear in Havana that the US is falling back to regime change for domestic political reasons.

"Fundamental and universal rights" that must be respected include the ability of Americans to travel to Cuba and freedom for international trade and investment as endorsed with virtual  unanimity by the UN for twenty five years.

Moral support of protestors if they are not US linked is legitimate but can lead to simultaneous migratory crises from Haiti and Cuba.

The accusation that, "the Cuban regime" is "enriching themselves" in this crisis echoes a Republican theme in Miami and diminishes your statement. 


A Letter to the Secretary of State Regarding His Misguided Words About Cuban Medical Teams and Covid

Secretary Blinken might want to consider the extant Trumpian influence within his Department. 12:12 is the Cuba reference during his introduction to the annual Human Trafficking Report

Dear Secretary Blinken,

You gave an excellent and thoughtful presentation at your introduction to the “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report” except for your comments on Cuban medical aid programs.  That section sounded like political propaganda from the Trump era, especially with an implicit comparison to China's treatment of the Uighurs.  

Politicized verbal excess does give you something in common with your Cuban counterpart.  Hopefully there will come a day when the two of you can reflect on the deleterious impact of domestic politics on your role as diplomats.

It was regrettable to give prominence to a shoddy section of the report based on biased attacks from hard line Cuban Americans and hold-over allies in the State Department rather than objective professional analysis.

It appears that some balancing language was inserted, no doubt a struggle.   But the authors should feel shame to have written, "the government used the pandemic as an opportunity to expand the reach of its exploitative export medical services, sending more than 2,770 workers to 26 countries to provide medical care."

Would it have been too hard to acknowledge the motivation of the volunteer participants, the value of the short term services they provided and the appreciation of the countries that hosted them?  Rather than offering tribute to their sacrifice, lost lives are used as a basis of criticism, "at least four Cuban medical professionals died after contracting COVID-19, three in Venezuela and one in Angola."

Trump's response to Covid was to force every Peace Corps volunteer in the world to abruptly abandon her or his post without approval of or even consultation with the host country.  For whatever mix of motives Cuba acted more honorably in sending medical volunteers to provide humanitarian assistance despite the danger.

On the topic of more conventional analysis of human trafficking, this language would be funny if it were not symptomatic of the inherent bias that distorts the credibility of the report, "The government did not report investigating cases of trafficking in 2020, compared with 15 potential cases of trafficking investigated in 2019.... Authorities did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of foreign nationals for purchasing sex from child sex trafficking victims, compared with five foreign nationals imprisoned in 2019 from Italy, Serbia, India, France, and the Netherlands."

Because of Covid there were far fewer foreign tourists in Cuba in 2020 to be charged.  In addition, Cuban police had higher priorities, as did ours, from the pandemic crisis.

It was not only the US embargo vote at the UN that was a step backwards.  Ambassador Power's abstention address honored the work of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade and the spirit of international medical collaboration. 

I hope that the Administration’s review of Cuba policy can include an honest and balanced evaluation of its medical assistance programs, treating them as soft-power we should compete or cooperate with positively rather than attempt to destroy.


John McAuliff


US Embargo Vote at the UN

Dear Secretary Blinken,

 It was retrograde, even shameful, to follow the Trump path rather than Obama on the embargo vote at the UN yesterday.  Not surprisingly neither US Ambassador was associated with our rather lame intervention.

 I suggest you read and take seriously the statements by the European Union, ASEAN and CARICOM

 This is the letter I sent to the New York Times:

To the Editor,

 In 2016 when Ambassador Samantha Power eloquently explained to the UN General Assembly why the US would abstain on the resolution condemning our unilateral embargo of Cuba, she received a rare ovation.   On Wednesday, the Foreign Minister of Cuba received the only ovation when he criticized the Biden Administration for abandoning its own campaign promises and supporters.

It is hard to understand why an Administration that was bragging last week about rebuilding relations with allies in Europe could so blithely ignore the unanimous message from the European Union not only that the embargo is wrong, but also that the policies of the Trump Administration worsened the lives of the Cuban people and hopes for change on the island.

A policy review of US relations with Cuba that is concluded in a timely fashion has merit.  But backsliding to Trump's position on a symbolic UN vote hurt Biden politically and damaged his credibility in the world.

Even more disturbing in humanitarian terms is that for five months of bureaucratic dithering Biden has joined Trump in denying Cuban Americans the ability to send remittances to desperate family members.  Economically Biden's inaction on restoring travel has cost jobs in a beleaguered industry that needs months to prepare for Cuba's post Covid reopening.

John McAuliff

Dear President Biden,

Congratulations for all you achieved in Europe.  On Wednesday you have another opportunity to affirm your collaboration with allies and respect for international opinion.

You will choose whether the US returns to Ambassador Samantha Power's historic abstention on the annual UN condemnation of the US embargo of Cuba, an action that prompted a rare ovation from the General Assembly. 

Instructing Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to follow the Trump path of voting against the resolution would disgrace your Administration.

It is time to stop hiding behind "not a priority" and "a very thorough review".  For five months you have unconscionably prolonged Trump's attack on Cuban Americans by forbidding them to send remittances to family members in desperate need.  You have also frustrated the creation of jobs by businesses and organizations that need months to prepare for return to Cuba.

This is our newsletter that was posted to more than 8,000 subscribers this morning, most of whom supported your election. 

Thanks for returning sanity to the White House.  Don't forget Cuba.

John McAuliff


Dear Secretary Blinken,

Congratulations for all you achieved in Europe.  On Wednesday you have another opportunity to affirm your collaboration with allies and respect for international opinion.

You will choose whether the US returns to Ambassador Samantha Power's historic abstention on the annual UN condemnation of the US embargo of Cuba, an action that prompted a rare ovation from the General Assembly. 

Instructing Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to follow the Trump path of voting against the resolution would disgrace the State Department.

It is time to stop hiding behind "not a priority" and "a very thorough review".  For five months you have unconscionably prolonged Trump's attack on Cuban Americans by forbidding them to send remittances to family members in desperate need.  You have also frustrated the creation of jobs by businesses and organizations that need months to prepare for return to Cuba.

This is our newsletter that was posted to more than 8,000 subscribers this morning, most of whom support this Administration. 

Thanks for returning sanity to Foggy Bottom.  Don't forget Cuba.


John McAuliff

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