[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Cuba Report Released

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cuba Report Released

The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC) has released a report to President Bush highlighting the steps necessary to hasten a transition in Cuba as well as supporting a transitional government. You can read the full 93-page report here, or you can go to Babalu Blog and check out the various pertinent statements here.

There's nothing really new or earth-shattering in the report which suggests a change in the U.S. stance towards Cuba. This has led many to wonder, "why even bother with a lengthy report"? The fact is that it is a well-thought out document with many good ideas, ideas that make sense.

There are some problems, however. Primarily, the plan assumes that a transitional government is in place after meeting several conditions, one of which is free and fair elections. This means no castro (fidel and raul) nor any of their cronies would be involved. How do we get rid of them without direct and potentially forceful U.S. involvement?

The CAFC report states:
Recommendations to hasten the end of the Castro dictatorship include: measures to empower the Cuban people to prepare for change by strengthening support to civil society; breaking the regime's information blockade; a diplomatic strategy to undermine the regime's succession strategy by supporting the Cuban people's right to determine their future; and measures to deny revenue to the Castro regime that is used to strengthen its repressive security apparatus and to bolster the regime against pressure for change.
Sounds good, but we're a long way from even coming close to achieving these goals.

The Lexington Institute, a non-partisan public policy research organization, deals a lot with Cuban issues, mainly from the standpoint that current US policy towards Cuba is severely flawed. There's no doubt that current policy has some serious holes. In its latest Cuba Policy Report, it states the following (thanks to Phil Peters for his permission to publish the report).
Sanctions. Following the assumption that the ups and downs of the Cuban government's hard currency earnings affect its hold on power, the Administration tightened economic sanctions on Cuba in 2004 and estimates that it has cut Cuban hard currency earnings by $500 million per year. Meanwhile, the CIA estimates that Cuba's economy grew at a rate of eight percent last year, a $3 billion increase in economic output. Advances in the tourism, mining, and energy industries, combined with credits and subsidies from Venezuela and China and relationships with other economic partners, are allowing Cuba to absorb, if not ignore, the impact of Washington's new sanctions. Officials argue that the sanctions drain resources that Cuban security agencies need for surveillance and repression of political dissidents - but reports from Cuba indicate, if anything, that the repression is increasing. The sanctions seem to have two consequences: They hurt the Cuban families who are their direct target, and they are a propaganda boon to the Cuban government.
I agree with the propaganda boon part, but I don't see where the sanctions are hurting Cuban families any more than the regime has hurt them on a daily basis for the past five decades. The sanctions place too much importance on the embargo, which is a crutch that is used by both sides, pro and anti, to make their cases. We all know how weak the embargo really is.

The Lexington Institute agrees:
It also bears noting that given Cuba's improved economic position, normalized relations with the United States and an end to the embargo may not be urgent priorities for Castro's immediate successors. In its old age, the embargo is neither the carrot nor the stick that it used to be.
The current sanctions are toothless unless there is bilateral support and enforcement. Neither of these are occurring, nor have they occurred for a very long time. The European Union has been more interested in dialogue and face-to-face contact with the regime, with no success whatsoever in accomplishing the goal of improving the average Cuban's quality of life. One can only wonder what would happen if Europe adopted a much tougher stance on castro. Instead, we sit here 47 years later and castro is still in power.

Back to the issue of how to deal with a successor government. The Lexington Institute has this to say:
Washington will be well prepared if Cuba promptly enters a transition to democracy and free markets. But in the more likely event that Cuba carries out a constitutional succession to a new socialist government, the United States will face challenges that are all but ignored in the 2004 commission report. Should Washington begin a dialogue with the successor government in Havana? What should the message be? What should trigger an easing of U.S. sanctions, or should they be dropped unilaterally?
Unfortunately, the 2006 version of the report doesn't address this either. It describes measures to arrive at a transitional government, which is fine and well, but how long will it be until that happens?

In the end, everyone agrees that castro and the regime needs to go away. I think a tougher stance is required: tougher and multilateral sanctions. The Bush Administration, as with previous administrations, has failed on both counts.

Again, the CAFC report is well written and one can learn a lot about the situation in Cuba by going through its several sections. It is a good blueprint for success once the current regime is eliminated.

However, the devil is in the details, both figuratively and literally.


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