Monday, June 20, 2022

Biden Administration Policy Deeply Flawed

 

The Semi-Summit of the Americas

    by John McAuliff


The Summit of the Americas offered an opportunity for the Biden Administration to stride forward, separating itself from the baleful linked histories of Donald Trump and Covid 19.  Instead it stumbled backward.

After finding himself isolated on the issue of Cuba's participation at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, President Obama removed Dan Restrepo as his top White House advisor on the Western Hemisphere and embarked on the policy that led to normalization of relations and the beginning of serious mutual engagement with Havana.

Will a similar process happen in the wake of the limited success of the Ninth Summit in Los Angeles?

In ostensible support of its ideological spin on democracy, the US excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.  Seven country presidents chose not to attend: Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, St Vincent, Antigua, Guatemala, El Salvador.  To obtain his presence, the anti-democratic Brazilian President Bolsanaro was given an electorally useful one-on-one appointment with President Biden. 

Through a self-inflicted wound, the Biden Administration lost over 25% of top level participation and squandered an opportunity to unite the hemisphere.  What did it gain?  Will there be any impact this time on those responsible for misjudgment in the National Security Council and the State Department?

From The Atlantic's story about the Summit:

Latin American leaders emphasized an alternative set of issues: They spoke about poverty and inequality; the economic impact of rising inflation; the cost of food, fuel, and fertilizers; and rising debt burdens on their countries, which had to cope with a set of problems they had not caused, including climate change, arms trafficking, and the economic effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine. And many of them scolded Biden over his choice to exclude the region’s nondemocratic governments.

“When we disagree, we need to be able to speak to each other face-to-face,” said Gabriel Boric, the young Chilean president. He called for both the freeing of political prisoners in Nicaragua and the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2022/06/biden-summit-of-the-americas-latin-america/661257/

From the New York Times coverage of the Summit

Johnny Briceño, the prime minister of Belize, publicly chastised Mr. Biden in a remarkable speech just moments after the president had left the lectern. Mr. Briceño said it was “inexcusable” that the United States had blocked Cuba and Venezuela from attending the summit, a decision that sparked the boycott by four countries.

“At this most critical juncture, when the future of our hemisphere is at stake, we stand divided,” he said. “And that is why the Summit of the Americas should have been inclusive.”

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina also lashed out at the United States and called for a change in the rules that allowed Mr. Biden, as the host of the summit, to decide who was invited to the gathering. 

“We definitely would have wished for a different Summit of the Americas,” he said. “The silence of those who are absent is calling to us.”...

The absences have cast doubt on the relevance of a summit that was meant to demonstrate cooperation among neighbors but has instead loudly broadcast rifts in a region that is increasingly willing to defy American leadership.

“It shows the deep divisions in the continent,” said Martha Bárcena, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States. The leaders who decided against attending, Ms. Bárcena said, are “challenging U.S. influence, because U.S. influence has been diminishing in the continent.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/09/us/politics/biden-americas-summit.html

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, told the Summit,

“It’s wrong that Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua are not here, because as you heard from Bahamas, we need to speak with those with whom we disagree….There’s too much narrow-casting instead of broadcasting. There’s too much talking at, instead of talking with…. And the simple priority must be people, not ideology.”

From the Washington Post story about Colombia's election

But Michael Shifter, a fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue...  says it reflects a new reality captured by the division at Biden's Summit of the Americas earlier this month. "Latin America is going its way and the United States is going its way," he said. ...

On Sunday night, Petro called for "a dialogue in the Americas without exclusions," ...

Petro told The Washington Post that he envisions a progressive alliance with Chile and Brazil, a new Latin American left built not on extractive industries but rather on protecting the environment. He also said he would normalize relations with neighboring Venezuela


As always, Cuba is the fulcrum for US standing in the Hemisphere.


Reading comments by US officials in recent weeks reveals attitudes and assumptions that are vintage pre-Obama. (highlighted excerpts below) 

Most recently State Department Press Secretary Ned Price naively or disingenuously tried to distinguish US history with and attitudes about Cuba from China’s perspective on Taiwan.  White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre, Secretary of State Blinken and anonymous senior officials strained to make consistent President Biden's plans to meet with murderous Saudi leaders with his anti-dictator stance about the Summit.  Secretary Blinken ducked when asked why the unelected corrupt and probably deadly leader of Haiti was invited.  A Senior Administration Official discounted the contradictory message of a one-on-one prestige enhancing meeting with the anti-democratic Brazilian president and candidate Bolsinaro and acknowledged preoccupation with the views of Congress.    

Press Secretary Jean-Pierre compared Biden’s meeting with ASEAN heads of State to the Summit, without noting the event included the varied democracies of Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand. Another Senior Administration Official justified exclusion based on a questionably applicable 2001 Summit position, completely ignoring the subsequent decision to include Cuba in the Seventh and Eighth Summits in Panama and Peru.  Secretary Blinken presumptively chose the civil society NGOs that represented countries more than their functioning governments.  National Security Advisor Sullivan dismissed as “idiosyncratic” the positions of countries that from principle would not participate in an exclusionist Summit.  Secretary Blinken asserted the US right as host to reimpose the 2001 Democratic Charter of the Americas and to have a double standard if it is in US interests.

A Senior Administration Official insisted that announcements of reform of US policy on Cuba were not related to the Summit, but Reuters reported "A Treasury Department official said publication of the new regulations was purposefully aligned with the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles." 

Is their unthinking US exceptionalism based on ignorance of history, politically opportunistic hypocrisy, ideological blinders or a conscious embrace of Monroe Doctrine hegemonism.   Maybe it is the latest manifestation of Wayne Smith's full moon and vampire theory of Havana's impact on Washington or Lou Perez thesis of “Cuba as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”.


I suppose it is also possible that Secretary Blinken and his White House colleagues are so caught up in the self-created US bubble that they honestly believe that Juan Guaido and our sponsored Cuban dissidents truly are the authentic voices of their people, like Donald Trump truly believes he was reelected and China and Russia truly believe in the fulfillment of their regional destiny.


For the sake of both the US and Cuba, I hope that the disappointment of the Summit of the Americas and the electoral results in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Colombia and anticipated in Brazil lead to a profound rethink of US policy before China and Russia take full advantage of our obliviousness and/or intransigence.


John McAuliff
Peace Corps Peru,1964-66
First National President, Committee of Returned Volunteers
Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development
62 time visitor to Cuba since 1997

 

Addendum from a consultant to the London based Caribbean Council,  published in Dominican Today 6/24/22 

David Jessop
The View from Europe
The recently ended Summit of the Americas will likely be best remembered for the US decision not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the chaotic unprepared way in which Washington tried to manage this, and the decision by some hemispheric leaders, most notably Mexico’s President, not to attend.
While this may be unfair in terms of substance, it is a real indication that in the longer-term, US influence in the Americas is waning and that others sense opportunity for influence or division....
China’s confidence in its burgeoning economic and political influence in Latin America and the Caribbean can be seen in the post Summit criticism leveled by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, who bluntly asserted: “the US needs to abandon its attachment to the outdated Monroe Doctrine and highhanded approach.” This same awareness of Washington’s slowly declining influence can also be seen in Russian actions and comments. It to believes that the Monroe Doctrine era is over and has said that its intention now is to deepen relations with Latin and Caribbean nations that have remained neutral on the war in Ukraine.
https://dominicantoday.com/dr/opinion/2022/06/24/us-influence-in-the-americas-is-waning/

 

Our June 14 webinar on travel and the Summit  https://youtu.be/2PAp774zNSg
Our June 13 newsletter   https://conta.cc/3xLF9HK

 typos corrected and paragraph added 6/23/22

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The moral and historical insularity of the Biden Administration is laid bare in this dialogue between Matt Lee of Associated Press and State Department spokesperson Ned Price:


QUESTION: Ned, just going back to what you said about the Chinese policy and the idea, this “might makes right” and that the Chinese seem to be going into this following this idea that big states can dominate small states. So there are a lot of historians who would say that the United States itself has had that same policy towards – particularly towards countries in Latin America.

But since we’re talking about Taiwan in this instance, let’s talk about small island – islands that are off the coast of each country. How exactly would you describe U.S. policy towards Cuba? Is that not the case of what – the same thing of what you’re accusing the Chinese of doing with Taiwan? And if not, why not?

MR PRICE: Matt, I think you can compare what Beijing is doing to Taiwan with clear acts of intimidation, flying sorties into what are – what is clearly ­

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Ned, you invaded.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PRICE: Are you going back 60 years? Is that where you’re going to?

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: You have a long (inaudible) Cuba.

QUESTION: You can go back longer than – longer than that. I just want to know – I – again ­

MR PRICE: Matt, we’ve had this – we’ve had this conversation before. I’m here to speak to the Biden administration, not to the Kennedy administration or the Eisenhower administration.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Okay. So let’s talk about the Biden administration and its policy towards Cuba, which still has the embargo, right? Is that not a case of a big state trying to dominate a smaller state?

MR PRICE: This ­

QUESTION: Which is exactly the same thing that you’re complaining that China is doing?

MR PRICE: This is a case of the United States seeking to help advance the democratic aspirations of the people of Cuba. If you take a look at what we have done, including in recent weeks, we’ve taken steps that ­

QUESTION: Yes.

MR PRICE: ­ seek to fulfill those aspirations: family reunification, visa processing, providing support to Cuban entrepreneurs, taking measures of accountability on senior Cuban officials who have been responsible for the repression, including the renewed repression that has followed the July 11th protests. So our approach to Cuba, I think, is the comparison you’re trying to make.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to make the comparison. I’m asking you if you – if there is a comparison to make.

MR PRICE: Okay. So I guess the answer would be no. Yes. Great.

QUESTION: You clearly would say no. Okay. Fine.

 

The most dangerous form of ideology doesn't acknowledge itself as an ideology.


 *****************************

Background Press Call By Senior Administration Officials On New Cuba Policy

MAY 17, 2022

Q    Yes, thank you very much.  I think that — that was my — my question was the relationship between this process and the Summit of the Americas, and whether — for the countries that have expressed concern about attending the summit in the absence of a Cuban invitation, whether that timing is in any way related to the announcement you’re making today. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   No, so the — I mean, this was always planned for what we’re doing.  It’s a coincidence.  But I would say that in the conversations we’ve had with other leaders, we have laid out also just the level of ambition of the summit agenda as really where the focus should be.  And I think the large majority of interlocutors — and something where Senator Chris Dodd, as special advisor for the summit, has been very active — I think agree that we should be focusing on addressing a whole host of shared challenges in the region and not blow up the summit over who shows up and who doesn’t.


Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, June 6, 2022

Q    On the Summit of the Americas with the U.S. not inviting Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua for “principled reasons,” as it’s been described —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    — about democracy, does the President feel in any way embarrassed that a neighbor like Mexico is not coming?  Does it rise to that level of awkwardness?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, let me just first say that the President was aware that — when speaking to Obrador — that he wasn’t going to attend.  He was aware before the press conference was made, before he made his decision to make that announcement. …

And so, I mean, at the end of the day, to your question, we just don’t believe dictators should be invited.  And that’s — and so we don’t regret that, and we will stand — the President will stand by his principle…..

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Back to the Summit of the Americas: With Mexico and Honduras not coming and El Salvador not being expected, how do you have a high-level or effective immigration discussion with the region, with the presidents of Mexico and two thirds of the Northern Triangle countries boycotting this event?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I think we’re able to still — you know, we’re able to still have an array of conversations and really focus on our agenda….

Yes, you know, we have these — you know, these — these couple of countries who are not going to be attending, but we have to — the President has to stick by his principle.  He believes that he needs to stick by his principles and not invite dictators.  But we can still have a fulsome conversation.  There is a full agenda where he’s going to be very busy…..

Just as he has engaged recently with leaders of ASEAN in Asia — and this week, he’s going to do that at the Summit of Americas — the President will look for opportunities to engage with leaders from the Middle East region. 

Q    Just to follow up: Congressman Schiff said, on “Face the Nation” yesterday, the President should not go to Saudi Arabia, and that he would not shake the Crown Prince’s hand.  He said, “This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way.”  How does that weigh on the President’s thinking about a possible trip?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you know, Congressman Adam Schiff is someone that we — we respect very much, that the President respects very much.  As the President said on Friday, he believes it’s his job to try to bring peace where he can….

Q    Karine, in your description of the three countries that were not invited, you said President has drawn a line at dictatorship, which is basically taking the moral position and putting that in a priority above, say, getting more oil from Venezuela and so forth. 

But when you got to Saudi Arabia, you said you were looking to work for the American people toward a better solution.  Does this suggest that the President, who called Saudi Arabia a “pariah state,” does not believe it is a dictatorship or believes that, for whatever its governance’s shortcomings, obtaining the oil is more important?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you — as you started off saying, the President is focused on getting things done for the American people.  You know, and if he determines that it’s in the interest of the United States to engage with a foreign leader and that such enga- — such an engagement can deliver results, then he’ll do so. 

 

Background Press Call Previewing the President’s Agenda for the 9th Summit of the Americas  JUNE 06, 2022

Q  And second, if you could address the inconsistency between the President saying that he doesn’t want to invite non-democratic dictators to a summit like this while at the same time saying that, in terms of visiting Saudi Arabia and having engagements with MBS, he’s willing to do that because the interests of the United States are, sort of, more important than — you know, and you have to deal with people you don’t necessarily like to deal with….

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL  One is: We have at no time said, including in discussions of participation related to this summit, that we are severing all relations or refusing to engage with countries about whom we have significant concerns related to democratic governance.  We engage with countries like that in all parts of the world, and we will engage with countries like that in our own hemisphere when we think it’s in our interest to do so.  That’s a different question from whether and when we’ll invite those countries to participate in a regional gathering that we believe is intended to and is best served by celebrating the democratic principles that unite the vast majority of the hemisphere.

So we think it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison and in no way suggests an approach that is different based on region by region.

Q    Hi there.  Thanks for doing this.  You all said today that the President took a principled stance in choosing not to invite dictators to the summit.  And I know Mike was just asking about this.  But you also debated whether to invite representatives from Cuba and Nicaragua up until the very last minute, through this weekend, is my understanding, up until the start of the summit.  So if this was such a principled stance that you all were taking, why was it such a tough call for you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So I guess this is what I would say, which is: There are a wide range of views on this question of participation in our own hemisphere and then even in the United States, in our own — you know, in our own relations with our Congress and in the public debate here in this country.

And so what we have done in recent weeks, going back almost a month now, is consulted — consulted with our partners and friends in the region so that we understood the contours of their views; consulted with members of Congress who had strong views on sort of both sides of this participation question

And in the end, the President decided and very much made this point in all of the engagements that we had — we made this point in all the engagements we had — which is that we believe the best use of this summit is to bring together countries that share a set of democratic principles.…

We’ve said from the beginning of this administration that we would take into account the views of our partners and allies on all of the key questions in our foreign policy.  This is no different from that.  And we believe fundamentally in engagement with Congress on the key questions of policy and politics as well. 

In the end, that’s where we came down, and we feel very comfortable with the approach that we’re taking informed, again, by the consultations we had with our — with our region and in our own political system.

Q    Hi.  Thank you for doing this.  I have two questions.  First one is: How do you reconcile this question on democracy and the concerns on democracy with inviting Bolsonaro for a bilateral meeting, and remembering that we are five months from the election and Bolsonaro keeps saying that he might not recognize the results of elections that are considered fair for the United States?...

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I guess what I would say about the decision to do a meeting is that President Bolsonaro is the democratically elected leader of Brazil, a country with whom the United States shares a significant set of common interests and concerns. 

We obviously also have some disagreements with the president and the government of Brazil that will also be the subject of what I’m sure will be a candid conversation between the two leaders.  This is, frankly, what international relations is all about.  And I don’t think anybody should be shocked by the fact of the meeting.  In our view, it’s very much in our interest to do that, and we’re looking forward to the conversation….

 

Background Press Call by a Senior Administration Official on the Vice President’s Engagements Regarding Root Causes of Migration   JUNE 07, 2022

And I’m glad you started with Honduras.  And I think the President of Honduras herself has said that she didn’t plan to come, and the reason that she — it was that she believes all countries in the region should be invited.  And, you know, mainly that’s a reference to Cuba, which was not included. 

The Vice President has a good relationship with the new President — I say “new”; it’s been over 100 days now — of Honduras.  She went to her inauguration.  She supports her efforts to support democracy and, indeed, fight anti-corruption — the issue I mentioned a minute ago.  

But like I said, President Biden took a decision not to invite Cuban participation.  This is a longstanding principle, in fact, of the Summit of the Americas which — and I think the third summit in 2001, in Canada, all of the countries participating made clear that democracy should be a core principle for this summit. 

So we’re consistent with that collective decision, not just the U.S. one.  And if that was the reason that — you know, as the President of Honduras, we respect her decision.  If she wants to make a stand on that issue and feels differently, that’s obviously her sovereign right. 



Secretary Antony J. Blinken Panel Discussion at the Media Summit of Americas Session: “A Commitment to Journalistic Freedom”  JUNE 7, 2022

QUESTION:  I want to know how you justify the invitation to Dr. Ariel Henry from Haiti when he is ruling with no mandate in contravention of the nation’s constitution, and then he’s been implicated in, I think you would admit, very serious crimes, including the murder of a Haitian journalist just this February by the Haitian police.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So we’ll have plenty of opportunity, I think, in the days ahead to talk about the summit, the participation in the summit, who’s here, who’s not.  In Haiti, we continue to work for a transition that leads to appropriate elections that are supported by all the Haitian people.  We continue to work to deal with gang violence that is afflicting the country and is doing terrible damage to the Haitian people.  We continue to work to try to find ways to support the Haitian people, who have borne more than their share of trouble in the last years, both human and naturally made.

So in all of these ways we’re working, including with partners in our hemisphere, to try to support the Haitian people.  But we want to see them have a truly representative government, and that goes down the path of getting to new elections in the coming time.

QUESTION:  But Prime Minister Henry is refusing to negotiate with civil society.  Again, he is actually governing with no constitutional mandate.  His government has been implicated in many different crimes, including potentially the murder of the past president.  You yourself have said in your speech here today and in previous statements that countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, that you mentioned are being excluded from the Summit of the Americas because you deem them to not be democratic.

But how can you use that as your justification when you have the so-called prime minister of Haiti, who is ruling under no sort of democratic mandate here, despite the fact that this is well-known in terms of the repression of journalists, the repression of protesters, and his previous involvement in the coup against President Aristide that The New York Times has at least alleged the United States Government was supportive of?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, we, like many other countries, are determined to get into the facts of what happened in Haiti, including the assassination of the previous prime minister.  We’re determined to find the facts wherever they lead and to whomever they lead.

 

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Español  JUNE 7, 2022

QUESTION:  Nine heads of state won’t be here.  Three weren’t invited – Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua.  Three decided not to come because they weren’t invited – Mexico, Honduras, and Bolivia.  El Salvador and Guatemala didn’t come for other reasons, and Uruguay because the president has COVID.  Is it going to be the same, and is it a Summit of the Americas if these – if all the leaders aren’t here?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, it’s a democratic hemisphere – at least, that’s what we want and hope, and that’s something we want to affirm with this summit.  People can make their own decisions and choices about who’s here and who’s not.  But virtually all of these governments are represented in the formal summit of leaders at very senior levels – either the head of state or, in some cases, the foreign minister.  For example, my friend and counterpart Marcelo Ebrard from Mexico will be a full and active participant in this summit.

I can also tell you that Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua are here.  I saw them.  I met with them.  I met with civil society leaders and activists from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.  There will be people from NGOs, from different parts of those societies, who are as representative and, frankly, more representative in my judgment of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan people than the regimes that are in place right now, and they’ve very much a part of the summit.  I’ve already met with a number of them.

QUESTION:  You were at Arizona State University.  You met with students.  You spoke about journalism and the challenges that journalists face —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Venezuela.  And someone highlighted that you’re planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, which doesn’t respect journalists – we have the Jamal Khashoggi case – which isn’t considered a full democracy.  Isn’t there a double standard where the U.S. has a – is looking for a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country that has oil, but signals Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and gets Andrés Manuel López Obrador to react and decide not to come?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, just in the case of Saudi Arabia, what we’ve said from the start of the administration is that we sought to recalibrate – not rupture, recalibrate – our relationship with Saudi Arabia to make sure that it reflected, better than we thought it did in the past, our own interests and our own values.  Part of that was putting human rights and freedom at the center of that relationship….

At the same time, we have, as we do with countries in the hemisphere, broad relationships that have many interests in play.  We try to make – we try to account for all of them to best reflect our own interests and values.  But the President has been very clear that whether it’s Saudi Arabia or other partners around the world, or whether it’s adversaries, we are going to make sure that human rights is fully reflected in our foreign policy.


Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan En Route Los Angeles  JUNE 08, 2022

JAKE SULLIVAN:  So the substantive work of the summit has in no way, shape, or form been touched or adjusted or reduced by the participation question.  These two things are operating in entirely distinct lanes. …

The fact that their leaders aren’t coming is, in each case, its own reflection of, again, these idiosyncratic decisions each of them are making, and I honestly wouldn’t read too much into it one way or the other….

I think this doesn’t have to do with the fundamental question of democracy.  I think it has to do with a difference of opinion — a diversity of opinion, frankly — across the hemisphere — frankly, across our Congress, across the American public sphere — as to what the right way to approach the invitation of a dictator or a non-invitation of a dictator is. 

And that’s really, kind of, more of a question about the role and purpose of participation in a summit like this.  It’s not a question about whether democracy is a good form of government or a bad form of government.


Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Daniela Barragan and Alejandro Paez of SinEmbargo Al Aire on YouTube   JUNE 8, 2022

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) So why did the U.S. decide not to invite certain countries to this summit, even though the president of Mexico asked for that, and when this is a summit that’s intended – intention is to work on structural problems like inequity and poverty in the Americas?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.  Well, first I would say that a number of those countries are here.  They are at the summit.  I met yesterday with Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, all of whom are representing their country, from civil society, from the human rights community, from the artistic community.  They are as representative – I would argue more representative – of their countries than their governments at this point in time.  So they’re here; those countries are all here at the summit.

And of course, in a different way, as I said, Mexico is fully here with a very strong delegation led by my friend and counterpart, the Foreign Minister Ebrard.  As I said, we had a very respectful difference of opinion on this.  Usually the host country makes the decisions, and we felt it was important at this time to reinforce the Democratic Charter of our hemisphere, and to remind people that we’re supposed to be joined by these democratic principles, and the countries here should reflect that.

But again, all of these countries actually are here.  It may not be in some cases their governments or regimes, which really do not have popular legitimacy.

 

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Jorge Ramos of TelevisaUnivision   JUNE 9, 2022

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, actually, those countries are here.  For example, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua – I met with representatives from all three countries from civil society, also human rights activists and defenders.  I would argue that they’re as – and probably more representative of their respective peoples than the governments or regimes in place.  So they’re fully here, they’re a vibrant presence at the summit, and that’s important….

QUESTION:  So let me insist on this:  So the fact that obviously the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, they’re not here, but also neither are the presidents of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia.  Are we seeing the creation of an anti-democratic bloc in the hemisphere?  Is that a concern to you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First, Jorge, when it comes to Mexico, we’ve had and I’ve had extensive conversations with my friend and counterpart Marcelo Ebrard.  The President is very much looking forward to receiving President López Obrador at the White House in July.  We have a very deep and ongoing collaboration on virtually all the issues that concern both our countries.  We have a difference of opinion on this particular question of attendance at the summit.  Typically, the hosts make those decisions.  We decided that it was important to focus on the underlying democratic principles that bring our hemisphere together.  Back in 2001 at the Summit of the Americas, that gave rise to the Democratic Charter, and we want to make sure that countries continue to look to those principles….

QUESTION:  — in Mexico.  Let me finish with this.  I want to understand your philosophy right now between the U.S. and dictatorships.  In 2016, President Obama went to Cuba and he believed that more contacts, more tourism, more diplomacy would promote democracy in the region.  You and President Biden seem to be going a different way, probably more sanctions, isolating Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.  What’s the right way?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  These are complicated, challenging questions that we face for many, many years.  Our focus in each of these countries is to take the steps we believe are most effective in advancing and certainly defending the human rights of people in those countries and their democratic aspirations, which are shared across all of those countries.

In the case of Cuba, we had the protests in July of last year, and we saw the incredibly repressive reaction of the government: putting minors in jail, sentences of 30 to 35 years, most recently artists who are kind of icons for those protesting last July being threatened now with sentences of ten and six years for simply expressing their views artistically.  So we’ve seen that.  We think it’s very important to stand up for those who are being repressed, persecuted.  At the same time, we’ve taken some limited steps – in terms of family reunifications, in terms of travel, remittances, in terms of investing in entrepreneurs – that we think can also help advance the Cuban people in meeting their own aspirations.

QUESTION:  Yeah, but maybe the question is:  If the U.S. is treating other dictatorships the same way, why treat Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua in one way and China and Saudi Arabia in a different way?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think in each of these cases, there are a multiplicity of interests that come into play.  We have to look out for all of the interests of the American people, and hopefully the people that we’re engaged with.  And what President Biden has done in each of these cases is to put human rights and democracy at the heart of our foreign policy, but it’s not the only thing that we look at.  We have to bring everything together in a way that advances the interests of the United States.  And one could go through each of these at the same time, but there isn’t – there are underlying principles, including the principle that we need to be standing up for the rights of people when they’re being repressed in one way or another.  But the question is:  How do we do that most effectively?  And the answer in an individual case may be a little bit different.

 

Flights to Cuba

Charter flights from airports in Florida to Camaguey, Holguin, Santa Clara and Santiago

⚠️Atención pasajeros:

A continuación anunciaremos las operaciones de vuelos charters programadas hasta el momento procedentes de Estados Unidos hacia el resto de las provincias de Cuba para el mes de Junio, esta información esta sujeta a cambio, a medida que se vayan programando más operaciones en los restantes aeropuertos:


Aeropuerto Internacional Abel Santa María (Santa Clara) a partir del 16 de Junio:

-1 vuelo los jueves hacia Miami

-2 vuelos los domingos hacia Miami y 1 hacia Tampa.

-2 vuelo los miércoles hacia Miami y Tampa.


Aeropuerto Internacional Ignacio Agramonte (Camaguey) a partir del 23 de junio:

- 1 vuelo jueves y sábados hacia Miami


Aerpuerto Internacional Frank País (Holguín) a partir del 17 de junio

-1 vuelo Lunes, Martes y Viernes hacia Miami

-1 vuelo los Martes hacia Tampa


Aeropuerto Internacional Antonio Maceo (Santiago de Cuba) a partir del 20 de junio:

-1 vuelo Viernes y Lunes hacia Miami


Kingston, Jamaica to Havana and Santiago

Hasta el momento InterCaribbean se mantendrá operando con las siguientes frecuencias durante el mes de Junio: 

Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí (La Habana):

-Martes y Miércoles hacia Kingston.


Aeropuerto Internacional Antonio Maceo (Santiago de Cuba):

-Lunes, Miércoles, Jueves, Viernes y Domingo desde Kingston.


Dominican Republic to Havana and Santiago

Hasta el momento Air Century se mantendrá operando con las siguientes frecuencias durante el mes de Junio:

Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí (La Habana):

- Martes, Miércoles, Jueves, Sábados y Domingos desde Santo Domingo.


Aeropuerto Internacional Antonio Maceo (Santiago de Cuba):

-Viernes desde Santo Domingo


For additional flights to Havana from other countries and updated information from Cuban authorities, go to the ECASA channel of Telegram.  Start out here https://t.me/EcasaCuba/854


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

OFAC Cuba Regulation Changes June 8, 2022, with interpretation

 

Frequently Asked Questions

https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/faqs/updated/2022-06-08

704. Can travelers engage in “people-to-people travel” to Cuba on an individual basis or as a part of a group?

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may not travel to Cuba to engage in “people-to-people” educational exchanges on an individual basis.  However, group people-to-people travel is generally authorized for educational activities, subject to certain conditions.  Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended 31 CFR § 515.565(b) to authorize group people-to-people educational travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, provided such travelers are accompanied by an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization.  Travel-related transactions authorized pursuant to § 515.565(b) must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and will result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba

For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see § 515.565.

The export or reexport to Cuba of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (15 CFR parts 730 through 774), including vessels and aircraft used to provide carrier services, may require separate authorization from the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  See § 515.533.  For additional information regarding BIS’s export controls, see BIS’s Cuba webpage.

Updated: June 08, 2022
Updated on 06/08/2022
Cuba Sanctions


702. What constitutes “educational activities” for generally authorized travel and other transactions?

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, including U.S. academic institutions and their faculty, staff, and students, are authorized to engage in the travel-related transactions set forth in 31 CFR § 515.560(c) and such additional transactions as are directly incident to the 12 categories of educational activities, as described in § 515.565(a).  Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools to engage in certain educational activities, including study abroad programs, in Cuba, Cuban scholars to engage in certain educational activities in the United States, and certain activities to facilitate licensed educational programs. U.S. and Cuban universities may engage in academic exchanges and joint non-commercial academic research under the general license.  This provision also authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide standardized testing services and certain internet-based courses to Cuban nationals.  For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, see § 515.565.

In addition, a general license at § 515.565(b) authorizes, subject to conditions, group people-to-people educational travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, provided such travelers are accompanied by an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization.  See FAQ 704.

Please note that this general license excludes direct financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List.  For a description of the scope of the prohibition on direct financial transactions and the restrictions and exceptions that apply, see § 515.209.  This general license also excludes from the authorization lodging, paying for lodging, or making any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property in Cuba on the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List to the extent prohibited by § 515.210.

Updated: June 08, 2022
Updated on 06/08/2022
Cuba Sanctions

701. What constitutes generally authorized travel-related transactions for “professional research and professional meetings” in Cuba?

31 CFR § 515.564 (a)(1) contains a general license that authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to professional research in Cuba.  Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, professional research in Cuba relating to a traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise.

Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended § 515.564(a) to include a general license authorizing, subject to conditions, travel-related and other transactions incident to attendance at or organization of professional meetings or conferences in Cuba.  This general license authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to travel to Cuba for purposes of attending or organizing professional meetings or conferences, such as  meetings or conferences to support expanded internet access and remittance processing companies and to provide additional support and training to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.

Please note that these general licenses exclude from the authorization lodging, paying for lodging, or making any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property in Cuba on the Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List to the extent prohibited by § 515.210.  For a complete description of the scope of this prohibition, see § 515.210.  The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of professional research or a full-time schedule of attendance at, or organization of, professional meetings or conferences, respectively.  An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually.  For a complete description of what these general licenses authorize and the restrictions that apply, see § 515.564.

Updated: June 08, 2022

 
Updated on 06/08/2022



§ 515.210 Restrictions on lodging, paying for lodging, or making reservations at certain properties in Cuba.

Except as otherwise authorized pursuant to this part, no person subject to U.S. jurisdiction may lodge, pay for lodging, or otherwise make any reservation for or on behalf of a third party to lodge, at any property in Cuba that the Secretary of State has identified as a property that is owned or controlled by the Cuban government,


The all-inclusive list of prohibited hotels is here:   https://www.state.gov/cuba-sanctions/cuba-prohibited-accommodations-list/cuba-prohibited-accommodations-list-initial-publication/

---------------------------------------------------

Frequently Asked Questions

https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/faqs/added/2022-06-08

Cuba Sanctions

1057. Are remittance forwarding service providers required to independently verify that a sender’s family or donative remittance is authorized when processing such remittances?

No.  Under 31 CFR § 515.572(a)(3), banking institutions, as defined in § 515.314, including U.S.-registered brokers or dealers in securities and U.S.-registered money transmitters, are authorized to provide services in connection with the collection, forwarding, or receipt of remittances authorized pursuant to the CACR, subject to certain conditions.  In addition, under § 515.570(h), banking institutions are authorized to unblock and return blocked remittances that would have been authorized under § 515.570(a) or (b).  Banking institutions may rely on the statements of their customers that remittance transactions are authorized unless they know or have reason to know a transaction is not authorized.  A banking institution is expected to conduct a level of due diligence commensurate with its overall risk profile and internal compliance policies and procedures with respect to a transaction involving Cuba or a Cuban national.
Released on 06/08/2022
Cuba Sanctions

1056. What does the June 9, 2022 amendment to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) do?

Effective June 9, 2022, in consultation with the Department of State, OFAC amended the CACR to implement elements of policy changes announced by the Administration on May 16, 2022 to increase support for the Cuban people.

Professional meetings and conferences in Cuba:  Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended 31 CFR § 515.564(a) to include a general license authorizing, subject to conditions, travel-related and other transactions incident to attending or organizing professional meetings or conferences in Cuba, such as   professional meetings or conferences to support expanded internet access and remittance processing and to provide additional support and training to independent Cuban entrepreneurs.  OFAC also amended and added cross-references to § 515.564(a) in notes to §§ 515.534, 515.542, 515.547, 515.572, 515.577, and 515.591.

Group people-to-people and other academic educational activities: Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended § 515.565(a) to remove certain restrictions on authorized academic educational activities. OFAC also amended § 515.565(b) to authorize group people-to-people educational travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction and that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, provided such travelers are accompanied by an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization.  Travel-related transactions authorized pursuant to § 515.565(b) must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities; and will result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.  This amendment does not authorize individual people-to-people travel.  Travel for tourist activities is not permitted.

Remittances:  Effective June 9, 2022, OFAC amended § 515.570(a) to remove the $1,000 quarterly limit on family remittances to Cuban nationals who are close relatives.  OFAC also added § 515.570(b) to authorize donative remittances to Cuban nationals who are not prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba, prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party, or close relatives of a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba or prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.  Finally, OFAC added a general license in § 515.570(h) authorizing the unblocking and return of previously blocked remittances, provided they would be authorized under the revised § 515.570(a) or (b).
Released on 06/08/2022


********************************

FFRD Press Release


For immediate release  6/8/22


For further information, contact John McAuliff
jmcauliff@ffrd.org, 917-859-9025 (phone or Whatsapp)


The Biden Administration announced on the opening day of the Summit of the Americas new regulations governing US travel to Cuba.  (See below)


John McAuliff, Executive Director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, characterized the regulations as "welcome but with limited immediate application, possibly intended to soften the impact with Summit participants of the unpopular decision to exclude Cuba."


"It does little good to permit group people to people travel and professional conferences yet leave in place Trump's punitive political prohibition on use of all hotels.  From personal experience I know that tour groups cannot easily function spread around fifteen or twenty private casas particulares. (bed and  breakfasts)."


McAuliff also observed, "The US visitors who work best outside of hotels are independent visitors.  Ironically the new regulations reiterate that the general license applies only to groups not to individual travelers."


He noted, "Both Cuban and American officials are hostile to the most authentic, least scripted, encounters.  Independent travelers with a good guidebook or an independent Cuban guide, available despite their prohibited local status, enjoy the most spontaneous and personally meaningful experiences."


Finally regarding the provision on remittances he said, "It is profoundly humanitarian to permit unlimited family and donative emittances , but meaningless until Western Union and similar services are allowed to operate conventionally with Cuban banking institutions."

McAuliff concluded, "If the Administration wants to be taken seriously, it needs to restore use of Cuban hotels and listen to other countries in the Hemisphere about the need for an inclusionist approach to Cuba, including the end of our unilateral and universally condemned embargo."


John McAuliff  founded the Fund for Reconciliation and and Development in1985.  He worked for twenty five years to achieve normalization of US diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, initially on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee.  He has worked for the same goal with Cuba for the last twenty-five years, visiting the country 62 times, most recently during the first half of May 2022.  He lives in Riverhead, New York.



Rafael Hernandez on Biden's Partial Restoration of the Cuba Opening


US Policy Towards Cuba: Another Roll of the Dice?

By: Raphael Hernandez


May 20, 2022 |


Politics often pushes each other. He takes action because he has no choice, forced by circumstances. It is more like a ship on the high seas, which weathers the storm, and tries to continue without letting go of ballast, because it is difficult for it.

All policies have a conservative premise, consistent in following the course they were leading. Except when the turbulence is coming up, and there is no way to circumnavigate it, and course changes are imposed. Sometimes those course changes precipitate actions that go further, and that push the ship through unexpected seas.

To imagine that behind each new direction there is a change plan that is followed as a map is to ignore its nature. Even when there are contingency plans, circumstances force politics to operate without all the elements at hand, that is, half-blindly, making decisions that feed off each other or are denied, in continuous trial and error. Paying the costs, or offsetting them with the benefits, or claiming that this avoids higher costs. But especially trying to weather crises, which contain a quota of what is expressed in English as hazard : risk, danger, and therefore threat.

Like all those previous times, the Cuban government has maneuvered to promote an exit at the negotiating table. As is known, since the post-cold war here, Cuba ceased to be among the critical issues in its global foreign policy, as are national security issues. And uncontrolled migration is one of those issues for the US, because it represents a hazard . Not for nothing is a powerful Department of Homeland Security in charge of it.

Despite the continuous invocation of human rights, nothing in the White House's package of measures towards Cuba can be explained from that logic. Since the migration crisis is a premise and the center of US interest right now, the cooperation of the Cuban government is imperative. To achieve this, they have no other choice but to go back on the most sensitive part of their harassment during the last 5-odd years: the obstacles to Cuban travel and remittances.

Once they are forced to open the window with Cuba, to negotiate the reactivation of the migratory agreement, some other pending topics sneak in: visits by North Americans under general license, including group people-to-people visits; direct flights to provinces; visas for visits (B1 and B2) with multiple entries (five years). And others are added, which had never existed, such as direct banking operations to private entrepreneurs; and direct remittances to Cuban banking institutions. Those with the banks favor, in the medium term, expanding economic relations.

What other elements of judgment do these measures contribute in relation to the factors that govern the policy towards Cuba?

Despite the much talked about feud from Miami and from Congress, this package contradicts it, once again. Although since the end of the 1990s, commentators, media outlets, experts here and there have often repeated that the policy towards Cuba is dictated by the right-wing Cuban-American lobby in Florida, this repeated thesis has served more as a perfect justification for all the administrations that they don't want to spend the political capital required to loosen a 60-year ballast.

The proof is that Bob Menéndez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who a few days ago was something like the Colossus of Rhodes, who would not let a pin pass in favor of Cuba, has now become less than expendable. Marco Rubio himself, who attacks Biden for taking "the first steps towards Obama's policies on Cuba", rebels against the priority that the White House gives to the search for a negotiated solution to the immigration problem.

Rubio is not alone. Some analysts seem to attribute the causes of this step forward to a kind of latent Obamaism that survives among veterans from 2009-2016, participants in this Biden administration. One would have to ask where these lags come to light and what can cause them. Looking at the many things of the first magnitude that fill your hands only in foreign policy (Russia-Ukraine, the Taiwan issue with China, the nuclear dispute with Iran, the global international trade agenda), is it reasonable that the fulfillment of your  “bell promises” Regarding reversing Trump's measures against Cuba, can this be the lever for this package of new measures? Is it that there are marches in Hialeah demanding that compliance? Does a Democratic victory in the next elections in Florida really depend on those Cuban-Americans?

In any case, it is a fact that the opening to travel benefits Cuban-Americans and their relatives here. If we go by the polls, that “silent majority” on the side over there changes its public position regarding the blockade or normalization (what it dares to say to pollsters when they ask it on the phone), depending on whether the administration moves in favor or against these topics. So we might expect the polls not only to favor travel and remittances, but to reestablish their disposition in favor of normalization and against the blockade. Which would be very plausible, if only as a consequence, not a cause, of this package.

Finally, what can this decision mean in the perspective of the next Summit of the Americas? To what extent can it be dressed as a "sand" that compensates for "lime" aimed at excluding Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela?

What new space does it open to the countries that have made their participation depend on the reversal of that exclusion? How does it affect advancing a US-Cuba-ALyC* triangular framework? What role can that triangle have in continuing to push normalization? To what extent could it prevail over other more sensitive triangles, such as those with China or Russia at their vertices, in a strategic perspective for the US? Too early to tell, I'd say.

Returning to the foreseeable consequences of the package of measures, as it stands right now, and without falling into further speculation, a horizon can be envisioned in realistic terms. Although there is no plan in motion equivalent to a return to Obama's policy, the multiplier effects that the implementation of these measures may have are not negligible. Despite the fact that many continue to see it only in economic numbers, the reopening of the communicating vessel represented by US visitors constitutes a permanent bridge of what Ho Chi Minh called people-to-people diplomacy, whose political effect on US society is difficult. exaggerate.

We'll see.

      * ALyC  = America Latina y Caribe


Translation  by computer.  Original Spanish here

http://www.cubadebate.cu/opinion/2022/05/20/la-politica-de-estados-unidos-hacia-cuba-otro-golpe-de-dados/

(the comments reveal much about the debate in  Cuba)