United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

U.S. Cuba Relations - Memo to Senator Kerry - Part Two

December 14, 2009

The Honorable John Kerry

United States Senate

Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Kerry,

I hope you receive this communiqué in the same spirit and respect in which it is sent regarding United States/Cuba relations. While we have met on several occasions over the years, there is no reason for you to remember me at this time.

However, I vividly recall your appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings which began April 20th 1971, my birthday, regarding the Vietnam War. I was in the room as a senate staffer on the Democratic Policy Committee under the leadership of the great, late majority leader Mike Mansfield. I also recall the positive atmosphere and excitement your standing room only testimony generated among the media, the public, Vietnam Veterans, Capital Hill staffers and many members of the House and Senate. It was a great day for America to see a young war hero expose congressional leaders for not acting with the speed and alacrity needed to disengage our great country from a United States foreign policy blunder.

I also recall the committee’s chairman at the time, Senator Bill Fulbright saying to you, “young man maybe one day you will chair this committee”. Senator, I write you today in your capacity as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee!

Accordingly, I respectfully request you go back and read the statement you gave before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971. Then apply that same logic to solve the United States/Cuba dilemma. As proud of you as I and others were that day in 1971, and on other occasions throughout your distinguished career, I and many are disappointed in your work to enhance U.S./Cuba relations to date.

In my view, your speech last Tuesday and your recent editorial was nothing more than a way to placate those of us who want to enhance U.S./Cuba relations, while at the same time not expending any political capital to accomplish anything substantive. What you said on December 8th 2009, you could have easily said last January; however, in January we got the “Lugar Staff Report” which was also misleading to those who want to enhance U.S./Cuba relations. In reality, the “Lugar Staff Report” amounted to nothing more than words. The report is like other reports, hearings and editorial pieces. It appears too many that those actions are accomplishing something, when they do nothing more then embolden our adversaries to make sure the embargo remains intact.

Likewise, the hearing held by Chairman Howard Berman, of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 17th 2009 was a waste of time. Absolutely nothing of substance has resulted or will result from that hearing. Those of us that monitor U.S./Cuba relations closely are disappointed in Chairman Berman’s role to date, regarding U.S./Cuba relations. In a personal conversation in his office, six years ago, he said “that we could not pass legislation to undo the travel ban bill because of Tom DeLay”. Congressman Tom DeLay has been gone from the House of Representative for several years. What is different now that Democrats control the congress, than when the Republicans controlled the congress regarding U.S./Cuba relations? Other then a few cosmetic changes, the United States embargo towards Cuba is stronger today then at any time in the last 50 years.

I would also respectfully like you to refer to the portion of your comments in 1971 regarding “Where is the Leadership?” Just like many members of the senate at that time gave all sorts of reasons why we could not disengage ourselves from the Vietnam nightmare, so it is today many senators give specious reasons as to why we must continue embargoing Cuba or why we can not act, i.e. busy senate calendar or Cuba must “do something” first. To continue to embargo a small sovereign country that poses no threat to our national security defies logic. (I have legally traveled to Cuba 72 times in the last eleven years. I have been from one end of the island to the other and have even visited the Island of Juventud. I have participated in numerous meetings with Cuban citizens and with Cuba’s leaders, including Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, and Ricardo Alarcon. Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt in my mind there is not a real dissident movement in Cuba. We keep trying to create one which is nothing more than counter productive. The Cuban government and the Cuban people want nothing more then to be our friends and to be treated with the same respect we treat any sovereign country).

Senator, as someone who participated in “vote counting” in the senate, I assure you there are 70 “yea votes” for any legislation that would allow Americans the right to freely travel to Cuba. The point I’m making here Mr. Chairman, is what your late colleague Senator Russell Long used to say, “Protect me from my friends because I know how to handle my enemies”. It is “our friends” that keep the embargo in place, not our enemies.

What would be the reaction if congress were to lift the travel ban to Cuba tomorrow morning? Approximately 500 persons in Miami, Florida would go ballistic, 50 in Tampa, Florida, 50 in Union City, New Jersey and perhaps nine members of the United States Congress. Everyone else in the United States would accept or applaud the decision. In addition, every leader of every country in the world would welcome that decision.

You must know how hypocritical we look in the eyes of every country in the world - friend and foe alike - because we continue to embargo Cuba. All know that America’s embargo on Cuba exists solely because of vengeance, hatred, retribution and political money. America is much greater than that.

Finally Mr. Chairman, we must engage the Cuban government as it is, not how we want it to be. There is so much more you can do right now to put thisCuba dilemma behind us. Why not do what the late Senator George Aiken suggested regarding the Vietnam nightmare. You recall he said, “We should just declare victory in Vietnam and bring the troops home”. Let’s declare victory in Cuba and remove the travel ban!

Just like you led the effort to have diplomatic relations with Vietnam, put that same enthusiasm to lead us again regarding U.S./Cuba relations.

Most respectfully yours,

Albert A. Fox Jr.


Albert A. Fox Jr. is the President of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy

Email: afoxcuba@aol.com