Monday, May 25, 2015

United States Cuba Relations: Guest Posting/Commentary - "Should Embassies Have "Training Courses" - La Alborada

Editor: We republish with full credit to La Alborada, www.cubamer.org, its Op-Ed entitled "Should Embassies Have "Training" Courses" and ask the following:

1) Why do we have official "training" courses to begin with at our embassies in foreign countries?

2) Wouldn't journalism courses be more appropriately conducted at private universities and monies spent on "training" courses be better spent instead on actual scholarships for students to visit and attend our colleges?

3)Would we tolerate such "training" courses by foreign countries here in their embassies in the U.S?  Why is it acceptable then for us to do it in other foreign countries?

4) One of the stumbling blocks to normalization is what activities the U.S. embassy in Havana would conduct with Cuban civil society.  Similarly the Cuban embassy in Washington DC would conduct parallel activities with American society.  What is appropriate then and what is not?  That is what should be flushed out in black and white, in straightforward English and Spanish and put into writing, and respected by the parties.

5) Would the monies being spent on so called "Democracy" programs be better spent instead in the creation of a United States Cuba Bank for Reconstruction and Reconciliation to promote American and Cuban investment and compensation for all parties affected by the U.S. Trade Embargo?

Should embassies sponsor “training courses”?
La Alborada – May 25

Imagine that Cuba finds a big deposit of commercial-quality oil, so big that it can cover domestic needs and even derive income from exports. Maybe it's enough to fund a series of training programs operating from the new embassy in Washington and dedicated to the self-improvement of young people in the U.S.

The programs would cover four major areas, as follows.

One of the programs would focus on human rights (condition of Indian reservations, treatment of black people by police, jails, massive domestic spying, unaffordable education and health care, homelessness, and so on).

Another would discuss democracy versus oligarchy and plutocracy, covering aspects such as elections that are decided by the amounts of money involved, gerrymandering, rules meant to prevent voting, and the determination of interest groups including some from abroad. Also, special seminars would cover the Deep, or Phantom, State, including the national-security complex, the military-industrial complex, and high-level banks.

A third would address the role of journalists and how to create news media that are independent of the government control exercised through intermediaries like the corporate boards of directors, managing editors, and lower-level editors – even the advertisers. That would include how to use news and social media to impact on national and world opinions.

The fourth would prepare the participants for leadership, meaning how to organize against government levels according to particular demographic areas or social groups, with an eye to eventually bringing all of these together to face off against the national government at the right moment -- maybe even to bring it down.

This training would be accompanied by a few benefits. In order to motivate participation in the courses, those chosen would be granted stipends. In addition, Cuba would invite selected students to travel to the island for periods of total immersion at advanced levels, taught by very experienced personnel. Of course, that would not preclude some R&R at the beaches or Havana nightclubs.

The US would probably object to an educational series of this sort, and properly so. Embassies are for diplomacy, not for intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. Cuba could say, in the new spirit of reciprocity, "but you do things very much like this; why shouldn't we?"

It's a simple question. The answer would not be as simple.

...read more ⇒

Monday, April 27, 2015

United States Cuba Relations: A Crock of Adam

Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, is usually a smart politician and able public servant.  Not everyone gets elected to the U.S. House of Representatives at the age of 26 and then heads into statewide office as the Ag Commissioner of one of the most important states in the country.  However, everyone has their moments when one is left scratching their head.

 Last week Commissioner Putnam wrote a polemic on the reasons against opening the Agriculture trade with Cuba that can best be described as a crock of...well, you get the gist.  The letter can be read here: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/60121/1252472/Delegation_Ltr_04-22-2015.pdf

Commissioner Putnam unfortunately got played handily by the Cuba embargo hardliners, who refuse to see the reality that their position is flawed and the majority of Americans, Cuban Americans, and even Cubans want normal relations.  So the anti-normalization strategy appears to be manipulate politicians controlled by them and belittle and minimize any progress that gets made.

What is most concerning is that even Commissioner Putnam ignored the fact that the rest of his colleagues from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) have come out endorsing and expanding the Agriculture trade with Cuba and the end of the embargo.  Here is NASDA's most recent policy statement on trade with Cuba issued in February, 2015:

"Trade with Cuba Current U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba allow for U.S. food and agricultural sales to Cuba but contain very challenging and specific licensing and financial provisions to which U.S. exporters must adhere. U.S. trade policy to Cuba is inconsistent with trade policy to other countries.

• NASDA urges the Administration and the U.S. Congress to reexamine U.S. policy towards Cuba and lift the current embargo against Cuba. The U.S. should:

• eliminate the “Cash Only” sales provision of the current law as well as extend trade to other areas besides food and medicine;

• streamline laws and regulations related to visa and license requirements to better promote trade activities and

• allow long term contracts, which will provide more efficiencies for both parties;

• allow exchange of biotech research would have a benefit to both countries; 87 NASDA Policy Statements

• allow importation of Cuban products into the U.S. only on the condition that there are appropriate safe guards for our domestic markets, particularly for import-sensitive commodities;

• hold Cuba to the same sanitary/phytosanitary standards as the rest of the world trading community; and

• ease travel and tourism restrictions for both countries, or at the very least, allow plant and animal health officials, as well as food safety officials of both countries to travel to and from Cuba.

• NASDA urges the Administration and the various U.S. government agencies to interpret the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act as broadly as possible, especially the financial terms so companies can compete with other countries in the global marketplace."

So when the rest of your counterparts from the other 49 states can agree on such a statement, one may wonder how Commissioner Putnam's letter can pass the smell test.  If Commissioner Putnam really is interested in what is in store for Florida when relations do normalize and is concerned about phytosanitary standards, he ought to do what at least many of his counterparts have done, go to Cuba and see for himself and engage in a dialogue with our neighbor.  Especially when the state that stands to be the greatest economic beneficiary of normal relations with Cuba is the Sunshine state.

Considering Commissioner Putnam may be a future Governor or even U.S. Senator from Florida, it is time he divorce himself from the hardline thinking that in this instance does not serve his best long term political interests. ...read more ⇒

Thursday, April 23, 2015

United States Cuba Relations: Republished Post from Progresso Weekly- "Wanted"

The United States and Cuba fugitive issue summed up in one political cartoon, both countries harbor fugitives wanted by each other.  Republished here with thanks to Progreso Weekly.
...read more ⇒