Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Easter Open Letters to Both Governments

Bring the Spirit of Two Easters to US-Cuba Relations

March 29, 2024

Dear Assistant Secretary Nichols and Deputy Minister de Cossio,

To Irish Americans who value their ethnic heritage, Easter carries a significance of irrational bravery in the face of a colonial master--and unexpected eventual victory.

To persons raised in a Catholic tradition, beyond the chocolate bunnies lies the message of rebirth and salvation.

In the spirit of both meanings of Easter, I wish you a happy holiday and want to convey the equally improbable hope that the Barbados agreement on Venezuela can be saved in conjunction with a fulsome return of the status quo pre Trump both within Cuba (July 11 amnesty, greater political space) and within the US (removal from SSOT, hotel use, independent people to people travel, suspension of Title III, souvenir rum and cigars).

My Venezuela dream is posted here


My comparison of Peace Corps service to Cuban medical teams, recalling the wisdom of Samantha Power, is posted here


Confronted by the daily tragedy of arrogant aggression in Gaza and Ukraine, the shortages and hopelessness afflicting Cuba and its emigrants feels almost tolerable.  But unnecessary suffering is unnecessary and you and your leaders have the potential to finally put it behind us now rather than for the next generation.


John McAuliff


April 1, 2024

Dear Assistant Secretary Nichols and Deputy Minister de Cossio,

When I reviewed my message to you of last Friday, I realized that I had omitted a significant step that could be taken by the US, the restoration of licenses for cruises.

During the Obama Administration, cruises had developed as the largest channel for travel to Cuba by Americans who were not of Cuban origin.

As reported by the US Trade and Economic Council on May 17, 2019
"MINTUR reported that in 2018 seventeen (17) cruise lines delivered approximately 800,000 passengers to the Republic of Cuba compared to 619,000 in 2017 and 541,000 in 2016.  Media reporting has 6,770 passengers in 2012, 37,513(9) passengers in 2015, 397,520 passengers in 2017 and 500,000 passengers in 2018." 
I don't know which figures are more accurate and what percentage of the passengers were from the US but from personal observation American cruise ships were reshaping our presence in Cuba..  

Cruises are inherently a limited source of revenue for Cuba and a shallower experience but they open doors to a wider range of visitors for reasons of age and psychological comfort in a new and forbidding environment.  Most passengers participated in bus tours arranged by the cruise companies with a Cuban receiving agency, not much different than found in existing people to people tour programs.  More experienced travelers set off on their own, patronizing private restaurants and hiring independent guides.  

In principle, it is simple for the Commerce Department to restore permission for cruises.  Companies that are tangled up in legal suits because of the enabling of Title III could be cautious to return.  Until the court  cases and appeals are resolved, Cuba may need to find alternative docking facilities that are not encumbered by Cuban American claims.  US citizens can undertake authorized ground programs by utilizing Support for the Cuban People or People to People group licenses.

There is an option that avoids this problem entirely but may strike you as even more far-fetched:  Guantanamo.  Obviously there are no Cuban Americans claiming ownership of its docks.  Cuba's best deep water port could receive larger cruise ships than other cities.  Passengers can be bussed to Santiago which is rich in sites providing a shared history.  The San Juan Hill memorial honors both American and Cuban war dead.  A bust memorializing Clara Barton for her medical assistance to victims of the Spanish military can be found on the Malecon.   The history of the Cuban revolution is richly reflected in a city that is home to the Moncada Barracks and the grave sites of Jose Marti and Fidel Castro.  Santiago also justifiably claims to be a source of great musical performances and creativity.

While solving the Guantanamo issue is conventionally seen as a late stage normalization agenda item, creating a transitional Panama Canal style joint authority could provide a way to implement the President's commitment to close the prison.

It should not be impossible to recognize that the base was established through a classic unequal treaty as the Platt Amendment required it for US military withdrawal and Cuban independence.

I could not find an on-line reference to the US principle of only maintaining bases in other countries when they are welcome but a google search brought me this matter-of-fact observation:   
"Overseas bases depend on host nation acceptance of the sovereign imposition they involve and the political liabilities they entail." 

AIR WAR COLLEGE AIR UNIVERSITY OVERSEAS MILITARY BASES: UNDERSTANDING HOST NATION SUPPORT by Jeffrey J. Draeger, CDR, USN A Research Report Submitted to the Faculty In Partial Fulfillment of Graduation Requirements 15 February 2012
From Ireland's Easter Proclamation of Independence, language parallel to Cuba's view of its relation to the US 
"We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible."   24 April 1916

John McAuliff


The Link Between Irish and Cuban Nationalism in 19th Century New York:
Father Felix Varela, Tammany Hall, and Captain Dynamite Johnny O'Brien
click here   https://cubapeopletopeople.blogspot.com/2024/01/father-felix-varelas-us-cuba-bond.html