The closing: This is the last news summary we will publish during the presidency of George W. Bush. While every president since Eisenhower tried and failed to replace Cuba’s government and economic system with models more pleasing to the United States, no one pushed the policy harder or on a more sustained basis than President Bush. He becomes the tenth president to leave office thwarted by the resilience of Cuba’s government and its absolute unwillingness to succumb to five decades of U.S. pressure, from outright violence to an increasingly unenforceable and ineffective embargo. As is the case all over the world, the Bush presidency ends with America’s image in tatters both in Cuba and throughout the region. This unfortunate chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations is finally coming to a close.
The opening: In just a few days, we in the United States will have a new president, and Cuba offers a compelling opportunity for Barack Obama to show the region and the world that the White House and U.S. foreign policy are both under new management. There is clearly a diplomatic opening offered from the Cuban side – with the region organized to oppose the embargo and Raúl Castro expressing his willingness to talk to the United States – and we see signs that the incoming administration appreciates the significance of the moment.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton affirmed that Obama would honor his campaign commitment to repeal restrictions on Cuban-American travel and family support. But she went further in questions about agricultural trade, cooperation on energy, and Cuba being included on State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List, and responded by saying:
“We anticipate a review of U.S. policy regarding Cuba and look forward to working with members of the Committee and other members of Congress as we move forward to the consideration of appropriate steps to take to help advance U.S. interests and values in the context of relations with Cuba.”
Reasonable men and women of good will can differ with the new administration in its views of Cuba policy. We believe that the embargo should be ended, that the constitutional right to travel belongs to all Americans, and that our relations with the region could move to an entirely different and more positive course if we ended this policy, an artifact of the Cold War, and we should embrace the world as it is today.
The new administration hasn’t reached this point yet. In fact, they aren’t even in office yet. And once they are, there are surely going to be bumps in the road going forward, and we’ll be there to criticize them when they occur. But recognize this: there is nothing that we can see in Senator Clinton’s testimony that forecloses U.S. foreign policy moving in this new direction. That is exactly what a policy review can produce.
There is no shortage of ideas from which the new administration can choose. In case President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton need to fill out their reading lists, we’re pleased to offer here what CDA and others have written and produced to ensure the new administration is ready to reform this policy on Day One.
Recommended Reading for the Obama Administration:
9 Ways for US to Talk to Cuba and for Cuba to Talk to US, Center for Democracy in the Americas
Memo to President Obama by Julia Sweig and Talking with Castro by William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh. Both are from the January 2009 edition of Cigar Aficionado, which is not available online but can be purchased at newsstands now.
Reach Out to Cuba, William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh
Religious Leaders Letter on Cuba Travel Policy, National Council of Churches, Church World Services and other Christian leaders
Purposeful Travel, American Association of State Colleges and Universities and others
Lifting Restrictions on Travel and Remittances to Cuba: A Case for Unilateral Action, The Cuba Study Group
Reexamining U.S. Cuba Policy, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Society of Travel Agents, Grocery Manufacturers Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others
Charting a New Course on U.S.-Cuba Policy: Seizing a Historic Opportunity, ENCASA/US-CUBA
An Opening with Cuba Can Give Obama Momentum Internationally, Wayne Smith, Center for International Policy
A new era for Cuba: Only normal ties would give the U.S. influence over the island’s future, Phil Peters, Lexington Institute
“The Case for a New Cuba Policy,” Jake Colvin, National Foreign Trade Council
Obama Administration Should Pursue New Approach to Promote Democracy in Cuba, Freedom House
Re-Thinking U.S.-Latin American Relations: A Hemispheric Partnership for a Turbulent World, the Brookings Institute
U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality, Council on Foreign Relations
Now that we’ve brought this week’s opening to a close, it’s our pleasure to introduce this week in Cuba news…
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