CDA Update on Coup in Honduras

June 30, 2009

Dear Friends:

We write today about the coup in Honduras.

On Sunday morning, Honduran soldiers stormed the presidential palace and forced the country’s democratically-elected President, Manuel Zelaya, into exile in Costa Rica.  Following his forced departure, the Honduran National Congress named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as the new president. World leaders have condemned the military coup and voiced support for Zelaya as the only recognized President of Honduras.

Emergency meetings have been arranged by the Organization of American States, Central American Integration System, United Nations and the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas (ALBA) to push for Zelaya’s return to the presidency.  Meanwhile, thousands of protesters demonstrating in the streets of Tegucigalpa for Zelaya’s return were met by soldiers with tear gas, water hoses, billy-clubs and gunshots.  The military has shut down local television and radio stations and cut signals for international news channels, such as CNN en Español and Telesur, in a media blackout that has drawn condemnation from international press freedom groups.

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and other officials have repeatedly called the coup “illegal” and said that Zeyala is the only President that the U.S. will recognize. We released the following statement about the unfortunate events in Honduras:

The Center for Democracy in the Americas deplores the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras, and supports efforts by the United States government, our allies in the region, and the OAS to restore the constitutional order in Honduras. The reaction by the U.S. government, its condemnation of the overthrow of the Zelaya presidency, and its continued firm stand in support of Mr. Zelaya as Honduras’ president, are welcome indications that U.S. foreign policy toward the Western Hemisphere is continuing to move in the right direction. It is very important to the U.S. national interest that we pursue this new course with consistency and that we remain firm in our commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and the protection of human rights in Honduras.

To make it easier to follow the unfolding events, we have set up a page on our website with relevant news articles, Administration statements and links to live reporting. You can access that page here: CDA Reacts, Provides Resources re: Coup in Honduras.

We will continue to follow developments and provide you with another update in a special section of this week’s Cuba Central NewsBlast.

– The Cuba Central Team

ITC says ending the travel ban good for U.S. farmers, General McCaffrey says changing Cuba policy good for America

June 26, 2009

Dear Friends:

We begin the weekly news summary with some food for thought.

We’re for ending the ban on legal travel to Cuba, and we hope that you are too.

Increasing travel to Cuba is not only the right thing to do (for American citizens and for the Cuban people), but it would also give U.S. agriculture a real boost.

Cuba imports more than 80 percent of the food its citizens consume.  Since 2003, the United States has supplied more agriculture products annually to Cuba than any other country, accounting for 35% of all Cuban agricultural imports during 2003-2008.   But we could be selling a lot more.  U.S. producers are not meeting anything near their potential in selling food to Cuba because of our government’s restrictions on travel to Cuba and obstacles to the financing of agriculture sales.

In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission says, with restrictions lifted, 2008 U.S. exports to Cuba would have been approximately $924 million to $1.2 billion (an increase of $216-478 million).

But to see these increased sales, the U.S. Congress must adopt the provisions of “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.”

Ending the travel ban would increase U.S. tourism to Cuba annually by 500,000 to 1 million visits. An influx of U.S. tourists would boost the demand of imported agriculture products, particularly higher-valued products from the United States, and bring more hard currency into the country, allowing Cuba to buy more agricultural products for the domestic population.

This would help average Cubans because a majority of the food Cuba imports goes to Cuban citizens and only a fraction goes to tourists.

Our opponents still believe that an embargo and a travel ban will someday lead to the fall of Cuba’s government, no matter how much hunger and hardship this policy imposes on average Cubans.

We believe this failed and cruel policy must come to an end.

Passing legislation to lift the travel ban would restore our constitutional rights to travel, bring needed engagement to the Cuban people, and raise Cuba’s income, so that the Cuba’s government could buy more food from U.S. producers.   It’s a winner for all concerned.

Read the news blast, and then tell your Representatives, pass the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act – it’s good for average Cubans, good for Americans, and really good for U.S. agriculture.

This week in Cuba news…

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Abbreviated Cuba Central News from Rio

June 12, 2009

Dear Friends:

This week, the Cuba Central Team compiled our news summary at the meeting of the Latin America Studies Association (LASA) in Rio de Janeiro.

LASA´s conferences have convened in Montreal (2007) and now in Rio after the Bush administration used its visa policies to thwart participation by Cuban scholars at its meetings in the U.S.

Here in Rio we are enjoying a vibrant debate and discussion on a stunning variety of matters relating to the region – from security to income inequality to how Hip Hop is changing culture – in a climate of openness and with full contributions by academics and experts from Cuba and throughout the region.

We look forward to the time when LASA can decide to host one of its upcoming International Congresses in the U.S. with the knowledge that all of its members and invited guests can attend without obstacles put in place by our government.

This week in Cuba news…

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OAS and Cuba, Obama and Democracy

June 5, 2009

Dear Friend:

Once again, we report on an enormously consequential week for Cuba policy.

Since you heard from us last…

In a compromise move, the OAS acted to lift its forty-seven year suspension of Cuba.   Cuba agreed to restart the migration talks initiated by President Clinton and broken off by President Bush.  El Salvador’s new president, Mauricio Funes, restored his country’s diplomatic recognition of Cuba, leaving “you know who” as the only nation in the region without formal ties to Havana.   Cuba replaced its Central Bank president amidst growing signs that the island’s economy is suffering the strains of the global financial crisis.  Closer to home, some businesses in Miami are forecasting an end to the embargo and are analyzing the strengths and weaknesses they bring to the table if the future means trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba.  And the Center for Democracy in the Americas sent a (“what gives?”) letter to the Treasury Department asking for an inquiry into actions cutting off Cubans and others from access to IM.

The OAS decision is really big news.  As we explain below, the outcome on the OAS suspension of Cuba’s membership is a compromise – while symbolic – between nations that pressed for Cuba’s unconditional reentry into the organization versus the position of the United States that initially required Cuba to make political reforms before a lifting of the suspension could be considered.

This compromise truly has something in it for everyone.  Cuba has spent months organizing the region diplomatically, and in the end, the U.S. was forced to accede to regional pressure to lift the suspension in a resolution that contained no specific political demands on Cuba.   Cuba got the result it wanted, and felt no reservations about declining in the end to seek a full restoration of its membership.  The United States was able to say that it blocked Cuba’s readmission, and it produced a diplomatic result that chips away at our positioning in the region as a force for Cuba’s isolation no matter what.   The hardliners in U.S. politics got to trot out their tired references to appeasement, but their shrill comments made them more marginalized than before.

Most important is this: what we may be seeing is an emerging shift in how the Obama Administration is pursuing long-standing U.S. goals for democratization and human rights in a fundamental way.

The OAS debate took place in the same week that President Obama made his historic speech about the U.S. relationship with the Muslim world.  That address contains words that demand to be read in a broader context.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq.  So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people.  Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people.  America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election.  But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things:  the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.  These are not just American ideas; they are human rights.  And that is why we will support them everywhere.

What the Presidents seems to be saying is that pursuing democracy rather than imposing is not an abandonment of U.S. values, it is a more effective way of pursuing the same results.   In subtle and incremental ways, that has been the shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba, where the administration’s actions in restoring Cuban-American travel and offering renewed migration talks have taken place unilaterally, without waiting for Cuban concessions.

This new approach – which sets aside conditionality, telling Cuba it must “earn privileges” like negotiations before they are offered -found its way into a statement by Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, when he spoke about the OAS compromise.

“The United States looks forward to the day when a democratic Cuba rejoins the inter-American system. Until then, we will seek new ways to engage Cuba that benefit the people of both nations and of the hemisphere.”

“Until then”….he said….”we will seek new ways to engage Cuba.”

This is just our interpretation.  They haven’t announced it, and either the administration or Cuba could do something to pull this new approach off course.  But if this is where the U.S. is heading it will make progress on Cuba – in fact, progress everywhere – a lot easier to obtain without, we say again, setting aside what we believe.

This week in Cuba news…

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