AFTER THE COLD WAR
What Should U.S. Policy Be?
Wayne S. Smith
place in the world has changed dramatically over the past three years.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and most other communist states,
it is now an isolated anomaly and a threat to no one. Its troops are
all out of Africa; it is no longer supporting revolutionary movements
anywhere in the world; its military ties to Russia are dwindling and
in any event are no longer in any way threatening to the United States.
U.S. policy toward Cuba be now that the island no longer constitutes
a security concern-- or even a foreign policy problem? Bumper stickers
in Miami have been predicting the fall of Fidel Castro by year's end
for the past three years or more. So far, they have been wrong, but
if not last year, might not Castro's collapse come next year? Were that
likely, the U.S. government might logically argue that it should do
nothing other than await the inevitable. If on the other hand Castro's
fall does not appear to be imminent, then a more active policy would
seem to be in order. But should it be one of increased or reduced pressures?
Of cautious detente or of hardened resolve not to deal with the Castro
always been a peculiarly emotional issue in U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately,
it seems to be no less so in this post-cold-war era. Thus, dispassionate
discussion of U.S. options is at a premium. Even so, the great majority
of recent studies that have systematically addressed the questions from
the Inter-American Dialogue's report to the recommendations of the RAND
Corporation have come to the same general conclusion: that present U.S.
policy is obsolete, and that the United States would be better served
by reducing pressures and trying to open a dialogue with Cuba. Recent
efforts to increase pressures, e.g. as embodied in the Cuban Democracy
Act, have been decidedly counterproductive, as pointed up by our isolation
in the United Nations, which on November 24 of last year overwhelmingly
passed a resolution calling for the lifting of the trade embargo. More
serious problems are in store if the Cuban Democracy Act is aggressively
implemented. It is time for the new administration to control the damage
and change direction.
collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost its principal trading partner
and source of economic assistance. As a direct result, its economy has
retracted by some 40 percent since 1989. In 1992, moreover, it was able
to import only half as much petroleum as it once did for its normal
needs. Few spare parts, tires, and other manufactured goods are reaching
the island these days. Not surprisingly, then, public transportation
has been cut back drastically, Cubans must do without lights several
nights a week, and it becomes ever more difficult to get food crops
to distribution centers in the cities, or to get exports from field
and factory to dockside. Almost everything, from food to razor blades
to medicines, is in short supply. No one is actually going hungry. Free
medical care and education remain available, and most Cubans though
by no means all have adequate housing. Even so, daily life has become
an exhausting grind.
does not mean collapse is near. No matter how difficult the economic
situation, the bottom line is that Castro would have to be removed by
force of arms. He will not simply resign or scuttle off into golden
exile. No one who knows Castro can imagine that he will do anything
other than stay and fight. Who then will take up arms against him? There
is no organized opposition in Cuba and not likely to be any. For one
thing, it would be extremely difficult to mount such a force, for Castro's
security apparatus is massive and effective. For another, whether they
like him or not, Castro has dominated the political landscape for over
thirty years and still has more of a psychological hold over the Cuban
people than any of the Eastern European leaders ever had over their
people even at the peak of their power. And, finally, however dissatisfied
they may be with the present situation, Cubans on the island fear the
return of the conservative exiles in Miami even more, especially as
the overwhelming major ity of the population in Cuba is Afro-Cuban,
while the conservative exile leaders are white. For all these reasons,
while many Cubans think of leaving, and some even risk the dangerous
passage to Key West in rubber rafts, few, if any, think of changing
the situation by force of arms.
the army. In Miami, one hears constant talk of a military coup tomorrow,
but there is no more hard evidence of serious divisions in the military
now than when such rumors began over three years ago. In fact, it seems
most unlikely that the army, which is Castro's own creation, would move
against its commander or, at least, that it would take the initiative
to do so.
then, is most unlikely. Should the economic situation deteriorate further,
food riots might snowball beyond control. But such violence would have
to reach the level of a full-scale civil war before it could possibly
result in the ouster of the present government. And with weapons enough
to arm a militia force over 1.5 million strong already distributed among
the population, a civil war would be appallingly bloody and destructive
so bloody, in fact, that it is not an outcome the United States should
wish to see.
exclude the possibility of such an outburst, but the most likely outcome
is that the present government will simply muddle through. One leading
expert, Prof. Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, believes the Cuban
economy is already bottoming out and within the next year or two may
even see some slight upturn. Cuba has signed a new trade agreement with
Russia, mostly at world market prices, has found some new trading partners
and has tripled its trade with China. None of this comes close to replacing
the massive and preferential trading arrangement it once had with the
Soviet Union, but at least it should result in some increase in petroleum
and other imports. Also playing to Cuba's advantage is the fact that
world market prices for a number of its export commodities seem to be
on the rise. Life will remain grim for the average Cuban, but perhaps
soon with at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Cuba must adjust to the world that has changed around it. The Cuban
leaders will be understandably cautious in effecting change. They have
seen what happened in the Soviet Union after Gorbachev gave the proverbial
inch and are determined not to make the mistakes he did. In Cuba, they
say, the process of change will be carefully controlled and will lead
to neither a Western-style democracy nor capitalism.
not. Nonetheless, to meet its own needs Cuba must at least move toward
a mixed economy and a more open political system. The Castro government
can survive, yes, but it cannot restore the Cuban economy and society
to health without such changes. There are now no sister socialist republics
whose economies and trading partners are compatible with Cuba's. Cuba
must trade with market economies. Its investments must come from them
and its other financial arrangements be with them.
then, it must begin to adopt some of the practices and configurations
of those market economies. It may be able to maintain its social welfare
system and continue some degree of centralized planning. n other ways,
however, it has no choice but to change.
is indeed already taking place on the economic side, as evidenced by
the Cuban government's willingness to begin mixed ventures with foreign
private capital and to allow individual Cuban citizens to engage in
private enterprise, at least in the service sector. When this latter
measure (approved at the Fourth Party Congress in late 1991) is fully
implemented, individual citizens will be able to open tailor shops,
TV repair shops, garages and various other enterprises. Much more needs
to be done. If foreign investors can organize private companies in Cuba,
ought not groups of Cuban citizens be able to do the same? Cuba has
a highly literate and industrious population. One has the sense that
if the Cuban government gave them their head, it might well find that
its citizens were capable of solving many of the country's economic
problems on their own. And foreign investors would be more comfortable
with a mixed economy in which Cuban private enterprise, however limited,
also played a role.
not gone far enough, but on the economic side, the Cubans are at least
moving in the right direction and the process will almost certainly
take on a momentum of its own, Castro's socialism-or-death rhetoric
notwithstanding. Like the Chinese, however, the Cubans have been less
open to political reforms. That is unfortunate, for modern economies
are based on data banks instantly available to whoever needs the information,
and on the ability to make decisions quickly, without reference to some
central point. Closed political systems simply do not provide that kind
of foundation. Hence, if it is to compete in today's world, Cuba must
open up its own.
needs to reintegrate itself into the inter- American family of nations.
Most of the Latin American states are supportive, but they insist that
Cuba must begin to give its people a greater voice in choosing their
leaders. Mexico and Venezuela could be most helpful to Cuba in its present
economic crisis by providing petroleum at cut- rate prices. To do so,
they would have to defy U.S. pressures. They are not likely to do that,
or even to move ahead absent U.S. pressures, unless Cuba undertakes
the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in late 1991, the Cuban
government seemed open to the idea of change, though rejecting any move
toward a Western democracy. It promised direct and open elections to
the National Assembly and even suggested that a multiparty system was
an eventual possibility. Some Cuban officials even suggested that known
dissidents could become candidates, provided they complied with registration
procedures. Had the government continued in that spirit and come up
with a credible electoral process, most Latin American governments,
including Venezuela and Mexico, probably would have been satisfied.
When the necessary electoral reform law was issued in late 1992, however,
it had been reduced to near-farcical terms. Candidates are not simply
nominated and inscribed on the ballot after securing a prescribed number
of signatures. Rather, names are put forward by the so-called popular
organizations (such as labor unions and women's federations) which are
then carefully screened by a Commission of Candidacies. The commission
in turn presents its recommendations to the respective municipal councils,
and the councils, not the people, make the final decision as to who
the candidates for the National Assembly will be. Worse, there is only
one candidate for each office. The people can vote or not, but they
have no choice as to for whom they vote. Not only were dissidents effectively
ruled out as candidates, but as of late 1992 were subjected to increasingly
argue that this is not the end of the process. The electoral system,
they say, can be further reformed, perhaps even to provide a simpler
system of nomination and for multiple candidates for each office. They
also argue that continued U.S. pressure and hostility make these and
other reforms more rather than less difficult. As one Cuban official
put it, There is a direct relationship between the level of tension
between Washington and Havana and the degree to which there can be internal
relaxation in Cuba.
human rights activists say
that Castro is simply an unbending authoritarian leader who in the final
analysis does not want to open up the system or lose any degree of control.
It is an argument that cannot be dismissed out of hand. Castro is an
authoritarian leader. That is obvious. The question is whether or not
he is also pragmatic enough to understand that it is only by opening
up that he can revitalize Cuba and turn it into an integrated and smoothly
functioning member of the international community. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, whatever the answer to that question, most of Cuba's human
rights activists, despite the more repressive measures against them,
call for a reduction of bilateral tensions as the best means of creating
a climate in which positive change can take place. Elizardo S nchez,
of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation,
for example, urges the United States to lift its trade embargo and normalize
relations immediately. No government is likely to negotiate or to liberalize
under pressure, he points out. Thus, if the United States wants to help
the cause of democracy and human rights in Cuba, the best thing it could
do is to drop its efforts to pressure and isolate Cuba and instead begin
a process of engagement.
wisdom seems to be that any effort to reduce pressures against Cuba,
say, to lift travel controls or the prohibition on the sale of foods
and medicines, would encounter the massive opposition of the Cuban-
American community as a whole. But this reflects a gross misunderstanding
of the complexities of that community, which is by no means united on
these issues. Recent polls indicate that while the overwhelming majority
of Cuban- Americans dislike the Castro government and might favor a
U.S. invasion, a bare majority would also favor (in the absence of an
invasion, one must assume) negotiations be-tween Washington and Havana.
Increasingly fearful of the consequences of a bloody civil war for their
loved ones still on the island, more and more people in the Cuban- American
community are calling for reduced tensions and negotiations.
of support for Mario Baeza during the recent controversy over his nomination
as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs is also instructive.
The right-wing Cuban American National Foundation demanded that his
name be withdrawn, inasmuch as they regarded him as "soft on Cuba."
What seemed to be the majority of the community, however, rejected the
foundation's position and expressed support for him.
the views of the Cuban-American community should be taken into account,
but they by no means constitute an insurmountable barrier to a more
flexible policy better adapted to the post-cold-war period. On the contrary,
if properly explained, such a policy would be well received by the majority
of that community, so long as they understood that its objectives were:
1) to encourage movement toward a more open system and greater respect
for human rights, 2) to improve the living conditions of their loved
ones on the island, and 3) to make it easier for families to visit.
thirty years, U.S. interests with respect to Cuba were of a security
nature and had more to do with Washing ton's global rivalry with Moscow
than with Cuba itself. Every Cuban action had to be analyzed within
a cold-war context, i.e., in terms of whether it advanced Soviet objectives
and in some way undermined our own. Early on, U.S. officials even insisted
that it was not Cuba's socialist system that concerned us. Cuba's internal
arrangements were its own affair; rather, what was at issue was its
interventionist foreign policy and its military ties to the Soviet Union.
Under the Carter administration, human rights were added to our list
of concerns. We could move toward normalization, Carter indicated, if
Cuba ceased its intervention in revolutionary situations in various
parts of the world, and if it showed greater respect for human rights.
as five years ago, U.S. officials were still saying that the obstacles
to a more normal relationship with Cuba had to do essentially with Cuba's
foreign policy, not with its system at home. What stood in the way of
better relations, they said, was Cuba's undiluted commitment to the
export of armed revolution and its close military ties to the Soviet
what was said, but all those obstacles have now been removed and the
cold-war context in which we once analyzed all Cuban actions has evaporated.
Cuban troops are out of Africa. Cuba is no longer supporting revolutionary
movements, and its military ties to Russia are virtually nonexistent.
None of that has made any difference. Rather than reducing pressures
against Cuba, the Bush administration, if anything, increased them.
Clearly, then, security interests are not the key.
are real U.S. interests in Cuba and what kind of outcome would best
serve those interests?
Damage to the U.S. International Image and to Relations With Third Countries
all, it is obvious that since Cuba is no longer a security concern or
a foreign policy problem of any significance to us, it would now be
illogical to disrupt our important relationships with other countries
over Cuba. Indeed, avoiding such problems should now be the principal
objective of our Cuba policy. There may have been a time when it was
worth putting our relations with other governments at risk in order
to pressure them to reduce their trade and financial dealings with Cuba.
If so, that time has passed. Our economic relationships with Canada,
Mexico and the European Community, for example, are of vital importance,
far outweighing any remaining objectives we have toward Cuba. To put
the first at risk in pursuit of the second would border on the irrational.
U.S. economic interests the only aspect of our international position
that can be damaged. Confidence in U.S. leadership is being undermined.
Europeans, Canadians, Latin Americans, and governments friendly to us
elsewhere have always regarded the U.S. obsession with Cuba as slightly
irrational. Most had their own disagreements with Havana and regarded
it as a cold-war antagonist, as did the United States. But they (including,
from 1975 forward, the Latin Americans) saw no utility in not having
diplomatic relations or not trading with Cuba. They pointed out, moreover,
that it made little sense for the United States to have full diplomatic
and trade relations with its principal communist adversaries, the Soviet
Union and China, but not with Cuba. Today, with the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, they find continuing U.S.
hostility toward and efforts to isolate Cuba simply inexplicable and
worrisome. Especially troubling to them is continued U.S. refusal to
sell foods and medicines to Cuba, a refusal that appears to many as
inhumane. To U.S. explanations that normal relations are impossible
because Cuba does not have a democratic system and violates human rights,
they counter that one is likely to do more to encourage improvements
in those areas through constructive influence than through efforts at
isolation. They note also that Washington has normal, even cordial,
relations with a whole series of countries that are no more democratic
than Cuba and whose records on human rights abuses are far worse than
Cuba's. China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and, yes, Kuwait, come immediately
calculations of other governments, Washington's obsession with so small
a country that poses no threat to it or anyone else causes doubts about
its ability to provide sound leadership in the vastly changed world
of today. As a European diplomat in Washington, speak ing off the record,
put it recently:
States talks of a new world order embracing settlement of disputes through
diplomacy, full respect for international conventions, unimpeded trade,
and the free movement of peoples and ideas across borders. Yet, for
no compelling reason that we can see, the United States violates all
these principles in its dealings with Cuba. It is not a reassuring performance,
and certainly does not reflect the kind of vision and seriousness of
purpose one expects of a world leader.
a More Open System
is not over whether to do it, but how best to do it. Most human rights
activists in Cuba, as indicated above, say that a more democratic form
of government could best be accomplished through reduced tensions and
more normal relations. Objective evidence supports their thesis. It
has been precisely during periods of relaxation of bilateral tensions
that the Cuban government has shown itself most disposed to move in
the desired direction. During the inchoate Carter opening to Cuba back
in 1978 and 1979, for example, the Cuban government released most political
prisoners then held, some five thousand, and allowed any who wished
to to leave the country. And it was in 1987 and 1988, as the Reagan
administration in its last two years negotiated a number of issues with
Cuba, including the Angolan problem, and as the expectation grew that
a Bush administration might be willing to have a more normal relationship
with Cuba, that significant improvements were registered in the field
of human rights. More prisoners were released, international groups
were allowed to go through the prisons and interview political prisoners,
and greater tolerance was shown toward the small groups of human rights
activists on the island. In its human rights report for 1988, the State
Department acknowledged that there had been a significant improvement.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration did not act on that basis; rather,
in March, 1989, shortly after the report was issued, it circulated a
memorandum indicating there would be no improvement in relations with
Cuba because there had been no change in Cuban conduct.
left to wonder why withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and the improvements
in the human rights situation acknowledged in the State Departments
own report did not constitute change. Whatever the answer, the Bush
administration took an even harder line toward Cuba, and as it did,
gains in the human rights area gave way to reversals. As one Cuban official
It is only
when there is a relaxation of tensions between our two countries that
we can relax at home. So long as the U.S. pursues a hostile policy toward
us and we have to be concerned about external pressures and CIA efforts
to subvert us internally, we must demand tight discipline and unity
behind the government.
States also has economic interests in Cuba. It is a relatively small
market, but for certain regions and companies, trading with Cuba could
be quite lucrative. Louisiana and Arkansas used to supply the bulk of
Cuba's rice imports and could again. There are a number of American
companies that would be most interested in refining Cuban sugar, and
the United States could profitably import a large share of Cuba's nickel
production. American businessmen are interested in investing in Cuba,
and, of course, the United States wants to be compensated for the goods
and properties nationalized by the Cuban government back in the late
latter issue, a recent statement issued by the State Department accused
Cuba of refusing to pay such compensation. This was a direct misrepresentation
(the kind of deceitfulness, indeed, that one hopes will be corrected
by the change of administrations and new hands at the helm in the State
Department). Cuba has consistently acknowledged its obligation to compensate
U.S. property owners and indicated its willingness to sit down at the
negotiating table. Indeed, it has long since worked out satisfactory
compensation agreements with all other countries that had claims against
it. Cuba would not, of course, negotiate in a vacuum. Cuban officials
have consistently indicated that settlement of the compensation issue
would have to be accompanied by a lifting of the embargo. They were
not the first to link the two issues, however. Back in 1960, the United
States imposed its embargo because Cuba had nationalized all U.S. properties.
And as the two sides began discussing a negotiating agenda in 1977,
it was the United States that insisted the embargo could not be lifted
until the compensation issue had been worked out. In now taking the
position that the reverse is also true, Cuba is simply accepting our
line is that the United States could be compensated and that trade would
be of economic benefit to both countries. Indeed, a recent trade study
carried out by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
estimated that trade between the two countries might go above $2 billion
a year the first years after resumption of relations, and perhaps even
higher thereafter. It is not an astronomical sum, but in these times
of economic difficulties and trade deficits, every gain is important.
the Consequences of a Bloody Explosion
if it is in the interests of the United States that the population of
Caribbean countries remain in place rather than emigrate massively to
the United States, that is doubly true of Cuba, the largest and closest
state. A bloody civil war there would result in perhaps hundreds of
thousands of refugees ending up on our shores, to say nothing of the
pressures that would be exerted on the U.S. government to intervene
to halt the fighting. Far better for the United States would be a peaceful
transitional process in Cuba, leading over time to the kind of more
open political and economic system that would be more attuned to the
changed world of today and that would open the way to a better future
for the Cuban people.
to advance our interests
study in how not to advance our objectives is seen in the recently passed
Cuban Democracy Act, the brainchild of the ultra-conservative Republican
organization, the Cuban-American National Foundation. Though proponents
describe the act as a guideline for a "fresh new policy,"
it is in fact a rehash of what we have been doing for the past thirty
years, with some minor embellishments aimed at tightening the embargo
still further. It is not difficult to understand why in the heat of
the campaign President Clinton endorsed the Cuban Democracy Act (sometimes
called the Torricelli legislation, after Robert Torricelli, the Democratic
congressman from New Jersey who introduced it). Its proponents described
it in misleading terms and made false claims as to what it might accomplish.
They insisted, for example, that it would not cause problems internationally,
because other countries did not sympathize with Castro, and because
as sanctions were to be taken against the parent companies in the United
States rather than the subsidiaries incorporated abroad, it did not
violate those countries sovereignty. The reality is quite different.
From the beginning, other governments warned that they did see the legislation
as a violation of their sovereignty. Shortly after its enactment, the
U.N. General Assembly, on November 24, 1992, overwhelmingly voted against
the United States in approving a resolution calling for the lifting
of the U.S. embargo. The year before, a similar resolution had not even
made it to the floor. Thanks to the Cuban Democracy Act, the United
States was isolated, with only Israel and Romania voting with us.
be far more serious problems if the U.S. government tries to implement
the legislation in an aggressive manner. They may indeed not sympathize
with Fidel Castro, but Canada, Great Britain, Mexico and some of other
our major trading partners do see provisions of the act as violations
of their sovereignty and have passed blocking legislation of their own.
Legal complications, disruptions in our economic relationships, and
even damage to our political relations could follow. Proponents of the
act have led us into exactly the kind of situation that it should be
our primary objective to avoid, i.e., putting important relationships
at risk over an issue that is no longer even a significant foreign policy
problem. In so doing, they have done the country a disservice.
proponents also claimed that the bulk of Cuba's hard-currency trade
is with U.S. subsidiaries. Hence, they said, if that subsidiary trade
could be stopped, it would deal a devastating blow to the Cuban economy.
In fact, no more than 18 percent of Cuba's hard-currency trade is with
subsidiaries. Even if the legislation were enforceable and trade with
those subsidiaries could be stopped altogether, the only consequence
would be that Cuba would then buy from companies that are wholly foreign-owned.
It would be an inconvenience at most, a devastating blow by no stretch
of the imagination. Indeed, in the event, the Cuban Democracy Act has
been useful to Castro, enabling him to point to the tightening of the
embargo as the cause of Cuba's economic problems, and as new evidence
of U.S. hostility.
insisted too that the act was a "carefully crafted mix of carrots
and sticks," and in fact at the time Mr. Clinton endorsed it, it
did contain a number of carrots however minor. By the time it was enacted
into law, however, they had been removed. Its sponsors claim that it
for the first time opens the way to shipments of foods and medicines
to Cuba. But Cubans in the United States have long been able to send
packages of foods and medicine to their families on the island and medicine
donations to churches and other organizations had been made well before
the legislation was enacted. The act does not increase those shipments
or even provide more flexible guidelines. An earlier version of the
legislation aimed to lift the embargo on the sale of medicines, but
by the time the bill had been put in final form, so many conditions
had been added as to render the provision meaningless.
not meaningless is the act's intent to close off subsidiary trade altogether,
90 percent of which is in foods and medicine. Thus, while proponents
talk of opening the way to shipments of those commodities, their legislation
aims to do the exact opposite.
the act does not in any way expand communications between the two countries,
as its sponsors would have us believe. Allegedly, it opens the way to
direct mail service. The Bush administration, however, had already proposed
such service. The Cuban government's response was that according to
international conventions, mail had to be carried aboard regularly scheduled
air service. That may or may not be a correct reading, but it remains
the Cuban government's position. The act does not even address that
fact and thus fails to change the existing situation in any way. The
president could open the way to such mail service by negotiating a new
civil air agreement with Cuba and resuming regularly scheduled air service.
He has all along had the authority to do that, however; hence, again,
the act in no way changes the existing situation.
final analysis, the Cuban Democracy Act does almost nothing that its
proponents claim and will cause the United States more problems than
it will Fidel Castro. Indeed, in recently rejecting the Act as unwise,
former Costa Rican president and Nobel Prize winner Oscar Arias said
that "[such measures] that tend to impose more sacrifice on the
Cuban people are arguments that one gives Fidel Castro to continue living
in the Cold War."
as indicated below, the Cuban Democracy Act can be interpreted and implemented
in such a way as to cause minimal damage to our relations with third
suited to the post-cold- war era
approach to the Cuban issue would begin by formulating policy measures
that are carefully geared to the advancement of U.S. objectives. It
is important to note also that achievement of those objectives does
not hinge upon the fall of Fidel Castro, however viscerally pleasing
that outcome might be to U.S. leaders. Those objectives of highest priority
do not even require reciprocal measures on Cuba's part. If, for example,
we wish to protect our position with third countries and erase the image
of the United States as irrational bully in its dealings with Cuba,
we should immediately take measures to do so, irrespective of attitudes
and actions on Cuba's part. Those measures could include the following:
and implement the Cuban Democracy Act in such a way as not to violate
the sovereignty of other countries or to interfere with normal trading
prac tices. The act, for example, says the president "should [emphasis
ours] encourage _other governments_ to restrict their trade and credit
relations with Cuba."
encourages them, how energetically, or even whether or not he does so,
is left to the discretion of the president. In the wake of the Soviet
Union's collapse, those relations no longer have any security implications
for us or for anyone else. Even in the midst of the cold war, virtually
no other government, from 1975 forward, cooperated or even agreed with
our trade embargo against Cuba. Much less are they likely to do so now,
with the cold war a thing of the past. Efforts on our part to force
them to cooperate will simply separate us from our allies and diminish
confidence in our capacity for mature leadership. The president could,
however, advance U.S. objectives and at the same time be within the
spirit of the law by urging other governments to restrict their economic
relationships with Cuba except as those relationships might help to
influence Cuba toward a more open political and economic system, an
objective that serves everyone 's interests.
also has broad discretion in applying the provisions of the act aimed
at forcing other countries not to provide "assistance" to
Cuba, assistance which is so broadly defined as possibly to include
normal trading practices such as preferential pricing. If implemented
as broadly and aggressively as some of the act 's proponents wish, those
provisions could seriously undermine the North American Free Trade Association
and possibly disrupt economic relations with Russia and various other
countries. In practice, the prescribed sanctions should only be contemplated
in cases of outright assistance, such as budget underwriting and military
aid. Nothing that relates to normal trading practices, or to humanitarian
aid, should be affected.
the way for the sale of food and medicine to Cuba. Many Americans believed
the prohibition of such sales should not have been imposed in the first
place, that the United States should never be in the position of refusing
to sell food and medicine to anyone. To maintain such a ban now, with
the cold war over and when it is clearly the Cuban people themselves
who suffer the consequences, cannot but appear inhumane.
above, though the legislation does not have that effect, proponents
of the Cuban Democracy Act insisted that they wished to facilitate shipment
of foods and medicines to Cuba. The president should take them at their
word and lift the prohibition on the sale of foodstuffs (which he has
the authority to do any time he wishes). He could also make possible
the sale of medicine. The act authorizes such exports, but stipulates
that the president must be able to verify by onsite inspections and
other means that the exported item is to be used for the purposes for
which it was intended and only for the use and benefit of the Cuban
circumstances, the Cubans would of course reject on-site inspections
by U.S. personnel. The act, however, does not say by whom the inspections
are to be carried out. Hence, the president could meet the on- site-inspection
provision by calling on the Pan American Health Organization, which
has offices in Cuba, to monitor the utilization of any U.S. medical
exports and confirm that they were benefiting the Cuban people.
all military exercises in the vicinity of Cuba. Such maneuvers appear
to other countries, and especially to the Latin American states, as
unnecessarily threatening and reminiscent of the "big stick"
policies of the past. They serve no important need and can be put on
Marti should be closed. It is neither seen nor heard in Cuba. That we
continue year after year to waste the taxpayers' money on such an enterprise
is seen by other governments as evidence of our irrationality when it
comes to Cuba. It should be closed as an economy measure. If the administration
wishes to reduce the federal deficit, such utter waste as this cannot
be countenanced. Its closure, at the same time, would be seen by other
governments as indicative of a new pragmatism and balance.
other measures that should be taken with a view to encouraging greater
openness in Cuban society, and beyond that, to avoiding the bloody explosion
feared by all. As with the first set of measures, these should not be
conditioned on any particular Cuban response. If Cuba responds positively,
so much the better, but the steps should be taken even if it does not.
At the very least, they would serve to make it clear that the onus for
any continuing hostility and any failure on Cuba 's part to liberalize
internally rests with Havana and not with the United States. They also
represent our best hope, whether or not they succeed, of moving Cuba
in the direction of positive change. And they would serve the humanitarian
purpose of lessening the isolation of the Cuban people.
all travel controls and encourage Cuba to do the same, so that Cubans
and Americans, subject only to normal visa requirements, can travel
freely back and forth. In principle if not in point of law, denying
American citizens the right to travel to another country is an in fringement
of their fundamental rights that should not be continued by a Democratic
administration sworn to uphold basic freedoms. Beyond that, allowing
Americans freely to travel to Cuba would be an excellent way of increasing
the flow of information and new ideas to the Cuban people. When one
wishes to let sunlight into a house, one does not try to keep all the
windows closed. Yet, that has been our approach to Cuba. Permitting
American tourists to travel to Cuba would result in some revenues for
the Cuban government to be sure, but the resulting political impact
would be more than worth that concession. The single step taken by the
United States in thirty years' time that has caused the Castro government
the most difficulty was not the embargo, sabotage raids or the Bay of
Pigs invasion; rather, it was the return in 1979 and 1980 of over a
hundred thousand exiles to visit their families. That proved so destabilizing
that the Cuban government had first to stop and then scale back the
visits before resuming. This points up the fact that if there is to
be any barrier to travel, it should be imposed by Cuba and not by the
United States, a country which is supposed to believe in the freedom
of travel and which is committed under the Helsinki Agreements to the
free flow of peoples and ideas across borders.
air and mail links. Washington need only negotiate with Havana a new
civil air agreement so that regularly scheduled air service replace
the almost daily charter flights between Miami and Havana. As charter
flights are permitted, there is no objective reason not to have common
carriers. And as a result of phasing over to scheduled routes, direct
mail service could also be resumed.
ahead with the expansion of telecommunications, a measure the Cuban
Democracy Act calls for but then timidly sidesteps. The equipment is
already in place for such service. The obstacle is Cuban insistence
that they be paid the over $80 million owed them for past phone service.
Those funds are now in a frozen account. The act pointedly does not
"require" that those funds be unblocked, but neither does
it say they cannot be. The president should therefore instruct U.S.
negotiators to work out a formula for their payment and thus open the
way to a vast expansion of telephone service between the two countries.
He could do so in the full spirit of the act itself.
and academic exchanges are an excellent means of increasing the Cuban
people 's access to information and ideas. Performers, artists and intellectuals
from both countries should tour the other. Academic exchanges should
be expanded so that Cuban scholars can actually matriculate in U.S.
universities and so that Fulbright scholars can study in Cuba.
in the protection of the environment and in the interdiction of drug
traffickers is manifestly in the interest of the United States. Bilateral
agreements to that end should be negotiated immediately, including one
providing for the periodic access of U.S. inspectors to Cuba 's nuclear
power plant and the same for Cuban inspectors to nuclear power plants
in the southeastern part of the United States.
Cuba respond positively to these steps on the part of the United States,
the next step is to begin negotiating the various bilateral issues that
stand in the way of a more normal relationship. These would include,
first and foremost, compensation for nationalized U.S. properties and
lifting the U.S. embargo. Progress on compensation would be complicated
by the U.S. position that in addition to the principal, Cuba should
pay 6 percent per annum on that sum, and by Cuba 's counter-claims stemming
from the Bay of Pigs invasion and the thirty-year U.S. embargo. A formula
informally discussed back in 1977, however, might offer a way around
these complications: the United States would throw out its demand for
payment of interest, and in return, Cuba would drop its counter-claims.
The two sides could then get down to negotiating 1) the principal to
be paid in compensation, and 2) the lifting of the embargo and the establishment
of a surcharge on Cuban imports into the United States out of which
that compensation would be paid. With that done, full diplomatic relations
should be restored and the two sides should go on to the solution of
other outstanding issues, such as the return of the Guantanamo Naval
Base, for which the United States no longer has any compelling need.
between the two countries may not be cordial for a very long time even
after normalization, and cannot be until Cuba has transformed itself
into a much more open society showing full respect for the civil rights
of its citizens. But it is through a process of engagement such as that
described above that the United States can do the most to encourage
Cuba toward such a transformation.
1. As stated by Elizardo S nchez to Wayne Smith during a conversation
in August, 1991. 2. See Guy Gugliotta, Exiles Urge Moderation Toward
Cuba, Washington Post, January 19, 1993, p. 4. 3. Christopher Marquis,
Candidate for Latin Post Gains Support, Miami Herald, January 28, 1993,
p. 12A. 4. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, speech at Punta del Este conference,
1962, in Organization of American States, Actos y Documentos, Octava
Reunión de Consulta de Ministros de Relaciónes Exteriores (OAS documents/series/F/III,
8), p. 79. 5. Statement of Michael Kozak, Deputy Assistant Secretary
of State, in hearings of the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere
Affairs, August 2, 1989. 6. Secretary of State Baker in memorandum of
March, 1989: no improvement because Cuba had steadfastly failed to offer
any concrete proposals of its own to satisfy longstanding and well-known
United States concerns. 7. Washington Post, November 25, 1992. 8. Donna
Rich Kaplowitz and Michael Dana Kaplowitz, New Opportunities for U.S.-Cuban
Trade (Johns Hopkins University.