Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thoughts on Cuba travel

One of the more interesting aspects of the Obama administration's decision to ease some specific types of travel to Cuba is that all it does is return to Clinton-era rules.  The usual suspects argue that this will give a boost to the regime, when in fact its impact will be almost exactly nil.  Perhaps it has some symbolic value, as the administration clearly is open to at least the idea of liberalizing relations, but simply switching back to a decade ago will not change U.S. policy toward Cuba too much.

Yet as John McAuliff at The Havana Note points out, it is plausible that more will happen after the midterm elections.  Some of the Republicans who win seats may well want more access to Cuba for businesses.  We'll see how ties to other issues--some of the Cuban Americans Obama needs for immigration oppose liberalization.


leftside 1:44 PM  

It's a hugely disappointing US response to a major Cuban effort at normalization. It will do little to show Havana that the US is really interested in mending the relationship and therefore will do little to hasten more change on the island (the supposed US policy goal).

Cuba's release of all prisoners of conscience was exactly what Obama had publicly called for. This should have been heralded as a victory for Obama's policy of dialogue. Instead we responded with silence and peanuts like this. Going back to the (still quite restrictive) pre-Bush rules on educational travel is hardly a gesture at all - let alone a reciprocal one. You still have to obtain a license from the US Government, which requires you be fully hosted (spend no money) and be working on your educational project completely full time (plus a litany of other arcane requirements to appease the Miami mafia). I still will be not allowed to travel to Cuba, but I could jimp on a plane to Iran tomorrow. It just doesn't make sense.

In Obama's defense, there is not a whole lot the Executive can really do on the embargo and travel ban. Both are creations of Congress. But some strong Presidential signals that the time is now to advance such legislation (which is slowly proceeding) could do wonders.

Mike Allison 3:38 PM  

I'd be happy to see the travel restrictions removed tomorrow.

Leftside, do you really think that sending prisoners of conscience into forced exile is really a major concession on the part of Cuba?

I think that both Cuba and the US took small steps in the direction of improving bilateral relations.

However, in neither case should the changes in policy be hailed as some great breakthrough.

leftside 6:41 PM  

Jeez, my message has been lost again. Maybe it has something to do with the hyperlinks... I'll try again without.

Leftside, do you really think that sending prisoners of conscience into forced exile is really a major concession on the part of Cuba?

Mike, there is no "forced exile" here. Don't know where you got that from. Cuba and the Catholic Church have always been upfront in saying that those who want to leave the island will be released first, but those who want to stay can do so as well. Cuban National Assembly President Richard Alarcon was quoted repeating this lately (in the link I had in the deleted post). So your assumption is wrong.

You can not minimize the complete release of all Amnesty's prisoner's of conscience. If you would have asked any US official or Cuba expert before the release, they would have put this as the most important thing Cuba could do to begin a reconciliation. The fact that Cuba called the bluff so easily should not be seen as a concession to the US. It was done from a position of strength and humanitarianism. However, Havana made clear that they will not tolerate any similar crimes in the future. Working with US entities for the purposes of furthering our regime change policy will never be permitted.

Greg Weeks 6:55 PM  

Huh. No hyperlinks and it came through? I got the previous one as well.

Mike Allison 8:19 PM  

Maybe you are correct and "forced" isn't the right word. However, at least in the article that you posted, they were offered certain exile or the possibility of being released into the island at some later date - "Alarcon signaled that other freed detainees may be even able to stay in Cuba if they wish."

If I were a dissident in prison, I would see my choice as certain exile or the possiblity of release.

Should the Cuban government decide that I can leave prison and re-enter society, which is not a given, I would again confront two choices.

1. Don't engage in the politics that got me arrested in the first place and perhaps live in "peace" or
2. Returns to the "activities" that got me in trouble in the first place and face certain persecution.

leftside 12:30 PM  

Mike, the names of those to be released has been made published. To suggest that Cuba would back track on that now is speculative and highly unlikely. Many other so-called political prisoners have been released back into Cuba in the past.

I would again confront two choices.

1. Don't engage in the politics that got me arrested in the first place and perhaps live in "peace" or

There is no prohibition from engaging in politics in Cuba. What is strictly forbidden in Cuban Law is working with US (or other enemy foreign government) funded entities to further their interests - and undermine Cuba. There are plenty of Cubans who understand this line, and have never been arrested for their oppositional political work. The 75 who were arrested in 2003 (and now all to be released) chose to consort with US diplomats, be organized by them, take funding and other resources from them and appear on US funded propoganda outlets. It is not asking too much that Cubans stay away from US Officials and their funded entities. Cuba has every right to have this law and enforce it as long as the US retains its regime change policy and funding against Cuba.

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