Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Declaración del OC sobre violencia contra Antonio Rodiles


El Observatorio Crítico Cubano deplora la violencia física ejercida el pasado día 5 de julio de 2015 contra el opositor Antonio Rodiles, quien como consecuencia debió ser intervenido quirúrgicamente. Rodiles fue operado de urgencia por una fractura del hueso nasal tras ser detenido y golpeado por agentes de la Seguridad del estado mientras participaba en una marcha de las también opositoras Damas de Blanco.

En principio, nuestro colectivo se coloca en las antípodas de las posturas políticas de Rodiles, pues defendemos un modelo de sociedad emancipada de los poderes globales, y nos oponemos al injerencista bloqueo estadounidense contra Cuba. No obstante, las diferencias políticas nunca serán argumento suficiente para justificar las prácticas violentas e ilegales con que la Seguridad maneja su relación con la disidencia en la isla. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What "The New #Cuba" means to me

Viva Cuba, Viva Fidel, Viva Obama?

My only comment on yesterday's news item below is that onlookers would have been wiser to chant "Viva Obama" or "Viva la Convivencia" given the political bravery and risk the president has taken in "engaging" the Cuban government while aiming to "empower" the Cuban people.

Still, quite an historic day...


As onlookers chanted "Viva Cuba, Viva Fidel," the Cuban flag was hoisted outside of the country's newly established embassy in Washington on Monday.

The gesture marked a symbolic end to more than five decades of hostility and mistrust between the two countries.

The U.S. also opened its embassy in Cuba on Monday, but there was no ceremony. That will take place when Secretary of State John Kerry visits Havana on August 14.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Machado Ventura turns Google down

Seems like Google made Cuba an offer it COULD refuse... You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. 

At the same time, most Cubans I know say that José Ramón Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Central Committee of Cuba's Communist Party and Vice President of Cuba's Council of State, 85, represents the hardline past and this may be his Waterloo. Vamos a ver. 

In his brief report of this news, OnCuba's Fernando Ravsberg quipped the following:

"Dicen que cuando la limosna es demasiado grande hasta el pobre desconfía."
[They say that when the donation is too large even the poor become suspicious.]


Cuban Vice President Machado Ventura just spoke the following words about the future of the Internet in #Cuba:

El vicepresidente cubano Machado Ventura habló sobre el futuro de la Internet en Cuba:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fifo in '05: "No one here has become a neo-liberal!"

Up late re-reading the chapter on Cuba's private, home-based "paladar" restaurants from the book "Entrepreneurial Cuba" that I recently published with Arch Ritter, and I came across this GEM from one of Fifo's last marathon speeches on November 17, 2005:

"Referring to U.S. promotion of private enterprise in Cuba, Fidel Castro reminded his listeners that self-employment has no real future in a socialist Cuba. 'The Empire was hoping that Cuba would have many more paladares but it appears that there will be no more of them. What do they think, that we have become neo-liberals? No one here has become a neo-liberal'."

Can someone please tell Raúl?!

Or, perhaps I should say, "What a difference a decade makes" or "This is what change looks like."

Fidel equated self-employment and paladares with neo-liberalism (!).

Raúl sees them as part of a new, still socialist Cuban economic model where the (still euphemistically named) "non-sate sector" plays and complementary role in economic development and the provision of goods, services, and employment, allowing the state to focus on the fundamentals.

Compare the above quote from Fidel, with this one from Raúl from December 2010:

“Self-employment is one more alternative aimed at increasing the supply of goods and services to the population. We should facilitate their work rather than generate stigmas and prejudices against them, much less demonize them. It is fundamental that we modify the existing negative approach that quite a few of us have towards this form of private work.”

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?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

POTUS on #Cuba

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 01, 2015
Statement by the President on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

Rose Garden

11:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat.

More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana. Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.

When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don't think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened. After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people. But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working. Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere. The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don't have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn't working, we can -– and will –- change.

Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship. As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies. Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal. And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.

This is not merely symbolic. With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people. We'll have more personnel at our embassy. And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island. That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.

On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba. And I've been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences. That will include America's enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information. And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.

However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement. That's why we've already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba. And we will continue to do so going forward.

Since December, we've already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday. Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement. One Cuban said, "I have prepared for this all my life." Another said that that, "this is like a shot of oxygen." One Cuban teacher put it simply: "We are neighbors. Now we can be friends."

Here in the United States, we've seen that same enthusiasm. There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba. American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba. Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives. One Cuban American looked forward to "reuniting families and opening lines of communications." Another put it bluntly: "You can't hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past."

And that's what this is about: a choice between the future and the past.

Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward. I believe it's time for Congress to do the same. I've called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba. We've already seen members from both parties begin that work. After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?

Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation. But it's long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn't work. It hasn't worked for 50 years. It shuts America out of Cuba's future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.

So I'd ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people. Listen to the American people. Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, "I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them."

Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement -- through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people -- is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights. Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change. It's what inspires the world to reach for something better.

A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana. This is what change looks like.

In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said: It is my hope and my conviction that it is "in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort." Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come. And a better future lies ahead.

Thank you very much. And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen. They're here. They don't always get acknowledged. We're really proud of them. Good work.