Thursday, July 2, 2015

U.S. - #Cuba Negotiations 101: Unit Quiz!

In an historic announcement yesterday, the U.S. and Cuba will indeed reestablish formal diplomatic relations and reopen respective embassies (after 54 years and 6 1/2 months) on July 20, 2015.

Here's the letter that Obama sent to Raúl Castro confirming the opening. Be sure to read the second paragraph about his recognition of the "sovereign equality of States," the "self-determination of peoples," "non-interference in the internal affairs of States," and "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all" (H/T to Café Fuerte for the document). While this is the standard, boilerplate language for such letters (see Raúl's own letter to Obama here), there's nothing standard about such words in the history of U.S.-Cuban relations, or in the Castro government's relations with its own people, for that matter!  

As a college professor, I wanted to urge the readers of my blog to also read the now essential book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana by my colleagues William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh (UNC Press, 2014).

If your time is short, you must at least read the final section of the Obama chapter appropriately (at least until Dec. 17, 2014) entitled, "The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same" (pp. 399-401) and study the key lessons from more than 50 years of unsuccessful attempts at mutual accommodation (the book was published in October 2014) presented in the book's concluding chapter (pp. 402-417) entitled, "Intimate Adversaries, Possible Friends."

Here's a quick cheat sheet on the book's 10 lessons:
1. There have always been opportunities for dialogue (even under Nixon, Reagan, and W.)
2. Cuban leaders instinctively resist making concessions to U.S. demands.
3. Cuba willing to respond to U.S. concerns, but must come at Havana's own initiative (not as concessions to demands).
4. Small successes don't necessarily lead to big breakthroughs (except, it seems, in the case of Alan Gross and the Cuban 5!)
5. Cuban leaders have difficulty distinguishing between "gestures" and "concessions."
6. Timing is everything.
7. An incremental approach to normalization has not worked.
8. Domestic politics is always an issue (on both sides).
9. Neither side gets that the other has an internal bureaucracy, so misunderstandings abound.
10. Cuba wants to be treated as an equal, with respect for its national sovereignty.

As a way to sum this up, I would add that the gordian knot preventing accommodation between Cuba and the U.S. has consistently been that Cuba's most important demand (#10 above) has been the one thing that the U.S. has been unable or unwilling to do (until now).

I'm greatly looking forward to the forthcoming new edition of the book (scheduled to be released late in the fall of 2015), which promises to have a juicy, behind-the-scenes new chapter filling us in on the secret, "back channel" negotiations that preceded the December 17, 2014 announcement.

Indeed, until that date this single paragraph coming at the end of the Obama chapter (p. 400) - and summing up the then still unfinished Obama administration and its foreign policy legacy - served to remind readers that, at least on the fundamentals of Cuba policy, the policy apple of Obama had not fallen very far from the doctrinal tree of George W. Bush (or that of the 9 other presidents that preceded them):

"Despite being cloaked in the rhetoric of change, however, Obama's approach shared two premises common to U.S. policy since the end of the Cold War:

"(1) Significant progress in bilateral relations would come only if Cuba began to dismantle its political and economic systems, replacing them with a multiparty electoral democracy and a free-market economy [aka, regime change]; and

"(2) Even the smallest U.S. steps toward a reduction in tension would have to be met by reciprocal steps from the Cuban side [aka, reciprocity, carrot/stick, calibrated response approach vs. unilateralism]."

That is, "Under Obama, the goal of U.S. policy was not phrased as confrontationally as it was under George W. Bush, but neither was it fundamentally different."

My belief, and I'm interested to see if the authors share it, is that it is fundamentally different now given the looming reestablishment of diplomatic relations and especially Obama's explicit rejection of a "regime change" agenda at the Summit of the Americas in April.

On the Cuban side, there has often been an insistence that no accommodation was possible unless the U.S. first got rid of the embargo (known as the "embargo first" policy approach). Clearly, the Cubans have not made this approach a "deal-breaker," seeing it now as a necessary part of the path to full "normalization" (known as the "embargo eventually" policy approach).

In that vein, yesterday Obama importantly called on Congress "to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from traveling or doing business in Cuba."

Now, as an incentive for my readers, as (or even before) you read through Back Channel, see how many of the following questions you can answer - the questions are from my midterm exam given last week in my summer class: "Cuban Culture and Society."

And stay tuned, I will present the answers in a future post!


Cuban Culture and Society – LTS/ANT/SOC 3015
Professor Ted Henken
Summer Session 2015
Baruch College, CUNY

A. Short Answer (50 points): Provide the single word, phrase, or sentence requested.

1. Name the 10 U.S. presidents in office sequentially during the course of the Cuban revolution prior to Obama.

2. How did James Donovan, who negotiated with Fidel Castro in 1962-63, answer the question: "How do porcupines make love?"

3. What was the thing Donovan was in Cuba to negotiate?

4. One lesson from the Back Channel book is that the U.S. and Cuba have often used third countries and third parties to negotiate. What third country was instrumental in their achieving the December 17, 2014 accords?

5. If the Teller Amendment was a promise that the U.S. made itself in 1898 to relinquish control over Cuba to the Cubans, which related amendment was the U.S. betrayal of that promise in 1902?

6. What were the last four words of the speech given by Fidel Castro at his trial for attacking the Moncada Barracks in 1953?

7. What was the date of that attack?

8. Upon Fidel Castro's first trip to the US after the revolution in early 1959, two key, unprecedented things did NOT happen on each side. What were they?

9. During the summer of 1960 the U.S. State Department came out against using what it called "the ultimate weapon" against Castro because it would be counterproductive. "It might cripple the Cuban economy, but it would not dislodge Castro's government. On the contrary, it would "rally Cuban nationalist sentiment around Castro." What was this ultimate weapon (the U.S. did indeed impose it on Cuba that summer)?

10. Who said, "Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan"? And to which defeat was he referring?

11. All throughout the history of negotiations with the U.S., Cuba consistently refused to compromise on one issue. What has it been?

12. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the U.S. consistently raised two issues with Cuba having to do with its foreign policy. What were these two issues?

13. Taking place in 1965, what was the first formal diplomatic accord negotiated between Washington and Havana since the revolution?

14. Which U.S. Secretary of State instructed his aides in the mid-1970s to deal with Fidel Castro using the following words: “Behave chivalrously; do it like a big guy, not like a shyster. Let him know: We are moving in a new direction; we’d like to synchronize; …steps will be unilateral; reciprocity is necessary”?

15. Which two Cuban foreign policy priorities amounted to insurmountable “obstacles” to reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States during the Nixon and Ford administrations?

16. Despite Carter’s failure to get Cuba to withdraw troops from Africa, his failure at reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the debacle of the Mariel Boat-lift, his administration did achieve a number of significant and lasting milestones in its relations with Cuba. Name one of them.

17. We often remember the Mariel Boat-lift of 1980 when 125,000 Cubans came as refugees to the United States. However, the book explains that this flow was partly the result of another slightly smaller flow in the opposite direction during 1979. What was that flow?

18. As the Cold War came to an end and the Soviet Union disappeared, U.S. goals in Cuba shifted from trying to influence its foreign policy to trying to do what?

19. What U.S. law passed in 1966 gave Cubans physically present in the U.S. the ability to regularize their status, becoming U.S. permanent residents after just one year and one day?

20. Suspected terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was put on trial in El Paso on January 10, 2011. Despite a long career of political violence, Posada Carriles was only tried (and found innocent of) which crime(s)?

21. In 1994, Fidel Castro told a group of former U.S. ambassadors that he needed a two-term president to normalize relations with Cuba. What was his reasoning behind his (accurate) prediction of this fact?

22. The book, Back Channel to Cuba, was published in October 2014. Thus, the authors conclude that, “Under Obama, the goal of U.S. policy was not phrased as confrontationally as it was under George W. Bush, but neither was it fundamentally different.” What key premises did Obama’s supposedly different approach share with both the Democratic and Republican presidents that preceded him since the end of the Cold War?

23. Was the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) created before or after the triumph of the Cuban revolution on January 1, 1959?

24. The Cuban government reports that Internet access on the island between 23-26 percent. Why might this rate of access actually over-represent the actual accessibility to the web on the island?

25. How did President Clinton significantly change U.S. policy toward Cuban immigrants attempting to come by sea between 1994 and 1995?

26. However, in question #25 above why did Clinton’s change in U.S. migration policy NOT amount to a fundamental change in the special treatment Cubans continue to receive?

27. Raúl Castro and Barack Obama sat down in Panama in April 2015 for the first substantive conversation between presidents of their respective nations since 1959. However, they did briefly meet and shake hands in December 2013. What was the occasion/setting of that meeting, and what words were exchanged between them?

28. Armando Chaguaceda describes the promise of broad-based political participation in the Cuban Revolution as “besieged.” In fact, he says that Cuba has “a sea of participation,” but what is the problem with that “sea”?

B. Identification (25 points): Write five separate single paragraphs each of which defining and describing the significance for U.S.-Cuba relations of five of the following fourteen terms.

1. Elián González.                                             8. Brothers to the Rescue. 
2. Actos de repudio / Acts of repudiation.        9. Calibrated response.
3. Radio Martí & La TV que no se ve.    10. Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
4. Jorge Mas Canosa and the CANF.              11. Wet-foot, dry-foot policy.
5. Jimmy Carter and the Varela Project.         12. Helms-Burton Act.
6. Transition vs. Succession (Cuba 2006).      13. Yoani Sánchez.
7. The Cuban Medical Professional Program. 14. The special period.

C. Essay (25 points): Choose one essay question below and answer it with reference to our readings, making sure to be both descriptive and analytical. Your answer should include as much specific detail as possible, be coherently organized, and be between 4-5 paragraphs in length.

1. Negotiations and Their Lessons: Over the past 55 years of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuban governments, the two countries have been at loggerheads since each side demanded the one thing the other side was most unable or unwilling to concede. What were the demands, priorities, and “non-negotiables” of each side, how did they change over time, and what have been the reasons that a deal has been so elusive? Finally, what are some of the most important “lessons” that our authors (LeoGrande and Kornbluh) draw from the history of U.S.-Cuba negotiations?

2. The Cuban Five and the U.S. War against Terror: On December 17, 2014 the U.S. and Cuban governments announced that they were reestablishing diplomatic relations after 54 years of isolation and mutual antagonism. However, the “trigger” or “hook” that allowed for such a historic accord was the resolution of the cases of the “Cuban Five” and Alan Gross. Briefly describe how the case of the (1) “Cuban Five” is related to the issue of (2) terrorism, the (3) shoot-down of two civilian aircraft piloted by the Brothers to the Rescue, the (4) activities of Luis Posada Carriles, and (5) the 5-year imprisonment of Alan Gross. How did each country differently view these cases? In your answer be sure to make reference to the essay by Saul Landau, “The Cuban Five and the U.S. War against Terror” and the “Clinton” chapter in the LeoGrande and Kornbluh book.

3. Cuban Migration – From Exiles to Immigrants: One issue that repeatedly brought the U.S. and Cuba to the negotiating table was that of international migration. Describe the various waves of Cuban migration to the U.S. over the past half-century. How has each side sought to politicize that migration and why has it come in episodic “waves” and not in a constant flow? What were the specific issues within each wave that forced the two countries to make accords with one another? Finally, how has the motivation and composition of Cuban immigrants changed over time and how might this change contribute to the thaw in bilateral relations we are witnessing today?

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