United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

United States Cuba Relations: "Once More Unto the Breach Dear Friends, Once More"

The ongoing tragedy and saga of U.S. Cuba relations enter a new phase with the announcement of new sanctions and travel restrictions.  The policy failures of the past never get old; it seems so while we wait to read the fine print of the soon to be released regulations and absorb what they mean in real terms for Americans and Cubans, some immediate takeaways for both the United States and Cuba.

The Trump Administration is forcing a policy of confrontation and suffering to resolve issues that have been going on for 60 years between both countries.  No one knows what the effect of lawsuits filed as per Title III of Helms-Burton will be other than chaos, complication, and confusion.  Will claims get resolved?  Flowers will grow in gardens, not deserts.

Politically, the Trump Administration has delivered to the hardliners in Florida and New Jersey what they always wanted, total control of U.S. Cuba policy once more.  For the moment. That was both a payment for delivering Florida to Trump in November 2016 and an extension of credit for a repeat performance in November 2020.  They better deliver or else.

For opponents of this move, the political calculus is straightforward.  Supporters of normalization must either elect a Democrat in 2020 or the alternative, deny Florida and New Jersey to President Trump in his re-election bid.  The good news from this crisis is that finally, normalization supporters may get politically involved enough to make an electoral difference.  Two things only control U.S. Cuba relations, votes, and money.  Everything else is fluff.

For the Cubans, there is an existential crisis on the horizon — also, questions on how they will come through this too. May common sense and good will ultimately prevail.  ...read more ⇒

Monday, July 2, 2018

United States Cuba Relations: The Trump Calculus – How Trump Ended the Cuba Embargo

Is there a scenario in which President Trump would end the Cuban embargo and change U.S. Cuba relations for the better?  It all depends on Florida…


NOVEMBER 3, 2020

It was approximately 10:49PM that evening.  The networks had just called the election announcing that Donald Trump now had 270 electoral votes in his column giving him a second term in office! The President was relishing his re-election moment in the midst of one of the most turbulent first terms in American history.  He had now the 270 electoral votes, but surprisingly and much to his disappointment, he did not carry the state of Florida.  The Trump campaign though had wisely strategized a victory path without Florida.  Florida had gone Democratic due to the demographic shifts and the Puerto Rican vote that tilted the statewide vote blue.  The President was nonetheless embarrassed and humiliated that the state that is home to the second White House, Mar-a-Lago, did not deliver for him.  Even his home state of New York also did not turn out for him either.  He had expected that one though.

As the congratulatory calls came in, Senator Marco Rubio, Florida’s Republican Senator, also called the President; “Congratulations Mr. President on your re-election victory.”  The President responded sternly, “Well Marco, I have to say I am very disappointed in the results we had in Florida.  You guys did not deliver like you said you would.  You embarrassed me. But listen, that’s water under the bridge now.  As we start the next term, as part of the campaign to Make America Great Again, you know what there wasn’t when America was great the last time?”  “No, Mr. President,” responded Senator Rubio.  “There wasn’t a Cuban Embargo,” responded the President.   “So, you know what we’re going to do Marco? We’re getting rid of the embargo.  It isn’t working and hasn’t worked and you guys and your people in Miami are holding everything up.  You know there is at least 100 Billion dollars, that’s Billion with a B Marco, worth of development and construction on that island?  And it’s time that American jobs, American businesses, and Americans get a piece of that business.  The whole place needs to be rebuilt and a paint job. American construction and American paint should be doing that. Not China. Not Russia.  It should be American.  Besides, the Cuban people are nice people.  They need the jobs and the business too. And they love me.  So you and your people in Miami, its now time to get on board this new term.” 

“Mr. President, hold on a second, the last time America was great, Cuba wasn’t communist either.  You’re going to really upset and disappoint the Cuban American community here that has been steadfastly loyal to you sir, I’m not sure I can support you on this.  Besides you made a deal with me and Mario [Diaz-Balart] and let us have Cuba policy” retorted Senator Rubio.  “Well Marco, we deal with communist countries and tough leaders all the time.  I know how to deal with them.  You leave that to me now. You saw what we did with North Korea.  There are peace and economic development there now.  Not nuclear war.   You all did not get this Cuba thing under control for decades and so now its over.  It’s enough already. You can’t even get the party to turn out and vote for me in Florida. It turns out I didn’t even need you to win. Besides we’ve been good to your people in Florida and New Jersey for decades. So now we need to move forward here. Jobs, Marco. Jobs. Our people need jobs.  Cuba needs hotels and retirement villages for our people.  They’ll love the business we’ll give them.  Get with the program, Marco.  Or you’ll find you’ll be looking out for a new job in two years [2022].  Did you know your competitors in the Republican primary are already reaching out to me?  Now, I want you to get involved and take lead on this Marco.  If you don’t, I’ll find one of your colleagues who will.”


POTUS:  Hello Miguel.  Nice to be speaking with you.  Listen, I want to let you know I am going to ask the Congress here to end the embargo.  Its time all of this ended.  Besides, your relatives in Florida were not very nice to me in this last election.  I don’t owe them anything anymore.  Cuba needs help and from what my people tell me, a lot of construction and development.  You can have the best First Class hotels, golf courses, and properties built on your beautiful island. Let’s even put a Major League Baseball team in Cuba.  We can really help Cuba turn the page and move forward as a country.  We need economic security here in the region.  I can’t have all these people coming from everywhere to America anymore.  You can stop being a poor country.  Don’t pass up the opportunity I am extending here. 

POTRC: Well, Mr. President, thank you for calling me.   I think everything is possible as long as everything we do is as equals and with mutual respect.  You cannot tell us to change our political and economic system, and you cannot embarrass or humiliate us.  By the way, we love the American people.  We never had a problem with them.  In fact, we want them here visiting our beaches, staying at our hotels, and even living here in retirement.  There is so much we could do together.  Our problem has always been with our countrymen who fled and have been using your political system to make trouble for us here.  You know we have been having talks with your government for so many years, so you are well aware of our interests and goals.

POTUS: I know, I know. I am up to a stack of briefing books over a foot high on Cuba now on my desk here in the Oval office.  You know what I need Miguel from you as soon as we can?  I need good deals for the people who still have outstanding claims with your country.  If you can give them really good deals, that will take the heat off the issue and set the stage for what will be a great moment in history.  I also know you want Guantanamo back but I can’t do that just now.  We’ll talk about that though as part of our deal.  I know that was a great deal for the U.S. and a bad deal for you guys.  We’ll figure out how to fix that.  Let’s make history for both of our countries.

POTRC:  Mr. President…

POTUS: Call me Donald, Miguel.  By the way, I am going to give you a telephone number to call me directly.  You don’t need to go through anyone.  If you have any questions or concerns, you just call me when you need to.  We’ll set everything up and have our people and staffs implement.  Top down.

POTRC:  That’s gracious of you Donald.  Well, if we can begin to address the concerns we raised and have a plan to move on them, everything is possible, except of course our sovereignty.

POTUS:  I’ll have my people work on that.  Then at some point, we can arrange visits between us during this term of office.

POTRC: Well it was a grand moment when we had your predecessor, Mr. Obama, here to visit in Havana.  But it will be the most historic when you visit us in Havana.

POTUS:  Well, this will be even bigger and better than Obama.  He and Hillary have problems right now as you know.  I’d like to do it at the right time, you know, at the groundbreaking of an American hotel, a new sports stadium, that sort of thing.  I know the best people in the business. We’ll make it a really big deal, a terrific moment for both of our countries.  Then I’d like for you to come visit with me and I’ll show you the White House and even better, Mar-a-Lago.  You’ll love it. 

POTRC:  I’ll be back in touch.  Thanks Donald.

POTUS:  Thanks Miguel.


“...and so I am calling upon the Congress to end the Cuban Embargo once and for all.  I am lifting all restrictions that I can. But now I need you to finish the job.  We need American jobs and businesses coming from ending the Cuban Embargo.  There are over one hundred billion dollars of jobs and construction there. We need to put Americans and Cubans working together to rebuild that island. The last time America was great, there wasn’t a Cuban Embargo. There have been far too much personal politics on this issue for decades.  I have decided it is time to end it.  Like we did with North Korea and so many victories in my first term, it is time to put this problem into the past.  I know that if put to a vote, we have the votes to end the embargo tomorrow.  I know Republicans who support me and even Democrats who are against me at least can all agree on ending the embargo.  So ladies and gentlemen, let’s get this done now…”

The author is a graduate of New York Military Academy, Class of 1981.  His mentor at the Academy was the late Col. Theodore Dobias.

President Donald J. Trump is a graduate of New York Military Academy, Class of 1963.  His mentor at the Academy was the late Col. Theodore Dobias.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

United States Cuba Relations: US State Department Internet Task Force Meeting February 7, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to present public testimony at today's hearing. I am a Foreign Affairs Principal and Chair of the Latin America Practice at Gotham Government Relations with offices in New York and Washington DC.  I am also the founder and Chief Editor of the USCubaPolitics.com blog which has been in existence since 2009.  I also appear today as someone who with both accuracy and precision, predicted and published on May 2, 2012, a blog post entitled "The Freedom of Alan Gross and the Cuban Five", the historic event that occurred with the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba on December 17, 2014.  http://www.uscubapolitics.com/2012/05/united-states-cuba-relations-freedom-of.html
 I have always maintained that our embargo and sanctions against Cuba are counterproductive and neither in the best nor strategic interests of the United States.  The fact that our relations with Cuba are always determined by the domestic politics of the State of Florida and Hudson County, New Jersey has not served our country well.  These policies are fear based and have not, do not, and will not, inspire the changes that I believe most of us would like to see. 
History bears this out, and yet now we are here again looking at how to promote internet access in Cuba?  This is another misguided policy attitude rooted in the fear that Cuba will never change, so somehow we must force that change.  Paradoxically, Cuba is a country who fears that it will change too quickly and somehow lose itself in that inevitable process.  Both countries are mistaken.  Because change is inevitable and constant.  But we can only address the United States’ role in the matter here.
If we want to promote internet and the free flow of information, then our conduct should reflect that proposition by congruency of our behavior.  How is promoting internet access and free flow of information possible as long as there are travel restrictions, a trade embargo and sanctions?  The power of the market demands for information should drive that process, not a political decision.  We were just beginning to make progress when we experienced the reversal in policy last year on June 6, 2017. 
Then we have to ask why Cuba when one-third of the world's population lives under authoritarian rule and much of it with internet restrictions and the free flow of information.  Yet there is no task force like this on other countries. Why? So let's not kid ourselves or even those constituencies in Florida or New Jersey that this Task Force is actually going to open up the internet in Cuba. 
What we should be doing through normal travel, trade, and engagement is to keep pointing out the benefits of the robust and open exchange of information and access to the internet.  Similarly, if Cuba ever aspires to host world-class sporting, science, and entertainment events, even an Olympics in the future, for example, they will need to have a world class internet infrastructure. 
We need to be speaking to the possibilities the Cuban people will have when the number of computers owned by Cubans and internet hi-speed connectivity are no longer luxuries, but an integral part of their society and education.  None of that is possible through this Task Force. 
What we can also do as other countries are doing is allow Cubans to visit, study, and work as authorized abroad.  That is an avenue that opens the information world to Cubans.  Cubans I have spoken with visiting here and elsewhere point out their amazement and pleasure of being able to access the internet at hi speeds, low cost, and without burdensome regulations.  They take those experiences home with them, and that also reflects how a change will come to Cuba in that regard.  But we cannot even do that while we have a skeleton-staffed Embassy and Consulate in Havana and Cubans now have to gamble the costs of travel to Colombia to roll the U.S. Consular appointment dice to see if they can get a visa to visit the United States.  The United States and Cuba should be working together to unravel the mystery of the sonic injuries that is evidently the issue there. 
We need to resolve the outstanding issues that frustrate both countries from having the proper complement of diplomatic and consular staff to serve the people efficiently and in a timely fashion.
In conclusion, my recommendation is that this Task Force report back to the President that the best way to help promote internet access in Cuba is through facilitating normal trade and travel relations and lifting the embargo.  Everything else we have tried in the past has failed.  It is time for us to get back to the future.
Thank you.

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