United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

U.S. Cuba Relations - Strategies of the Past Have Not Worked [Guest Post]

The following post is presented by Albert A. Fox Jr., The Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy and The United States Cuba Political Action Committee:

The strategies of the past have not worked!
Please accept this memorandum in the same constructive manner in which it is sent, but we need to start candidly assessing our failures regarding the US/Cuba relations, and specifically, not being able to get Congress to approve legislation that will allow Americans to freely travel to Cuba. Accordingly, the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation is taking the liberty of sharing our thoughts with persons and organizations working US/Cuba relations. Please feel free to share this with e-mail/memorandum with interested parties you deem appropriate.
Many have serious philosophical and political differences with the Cuban Government and hope President Raul Castro will continue to make positive reforms started under Fidel Castro. Many of us would also like Cuba to improve its human rights policy and allow more freedom of the press and movement throughout Cuba. However, not withstanding the aforementioned, we must recognize Cuba is a sovereign country. There is no justification for the United States to continue embargoing Cuba at this point in time.
One cannot criticize the Cuban Government without acknowledging the Cuban Revolution of 1959 created benefits for the masses, namely a healthcare system for its entire population and an educational system that has produced one of the highest literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere.
In our opinion, the time is long overdue for an inclusive and substantive debate among us regarding US/Cuba relations. Anyone with a limited knowledge of the United States' policy toward Cuba knows it is primarily driven by domestic politics in Miami and Tampa, Florida, and Union City, New Jersey. The policy has far more to do with hatred, retribution, pride and money than it does with Communism and human rights violations. Our great country should be above denying the sale of food or medicine unless absurd conditions are met solely to protect the selfish interest of a group of Cuban American extremists. The work ahead of us, to lift the embargo in its entirety is not difficult; it is not a question of not knowing what to do, but rather, a question of having the will to do it.
Inadvertently, we make our adversaries look good, because we are not organized, do not speak with one voice and do not participate in the political money game. Over the last 12 years that the Alliance has been working to enhance US/Cuba relations, scores of organizations have been formed and continue to be formed to remove the embargo toward Cuba. Most respectfully, we do not need more organizations, we need more cooperation. Unfortunately, many of us are more concerned with giving credit to our favorite Senator or Congressman. Those of us with liberal biases don't like to work with conservatives, and those of us with conservative biases don't like to work with liberals. Some of us are more concerned with who will get the credit for whatever project we undertake; and some of us are more interested in having our name in the media. Accordingly, we end up working at cross-purposes.
If Congressman Albio Sires, the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Senators Joe Lieberman, Bob Menendez, Frank Lautenberg and Bill Nelson can get together to support an outdated Cold War Policy that has been a failure by any analysis; surely, we can find Congressmen and Senators to support a policy that is in the best interest of the American people and the Cuban people. While we have many friends in the Congress, they do not work with the same intensity for our goals like the Diaz-Balart work for their goals.
Theoretically, lifting the embargo toward Cuba should be very, very easy. If one were to make a list of the groups/corporations of proponents and opponents of the United States embargo toward Cuba, the number of proponents would be approximately ten, and the opponents would number in the hundreds. In addition, approximately 70 US Senators and 325 US Representatives would vote to lift the embargo if given the opportunity in an up or down vote. As a matter of fact, 65% of Cuban-Americans want to begin a constructive dialogue with the Cuban Government as it is not how we want it to be. In the last 12 years, collectively, we have made hundreds of trips to Cuba, organized and participated in seminars, supported legislation, visited Senators, Congressmen, Governors, business leaders and key Congressional Aides, met with administration officials, written letters and op ed pieces, held press conferences, conducted television interviews, taken Congressional Staff to Cuba and very much more.
With all of that effort and work, what have we accomplished? The answer is--nothing!
As a matter of fact, one may argue, the embargo toward Cuba today is tighter than at any time during the last 50 years. Does this mean we are incompetent? Quite the contrary. It is inconceivable to me if all of us worked together our talents and resources would be no match for mediocre members of Congress like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, yet we continually lose ground to them and a handful of extremists in the Miami Cuban-American community. These "self appointed" leaders are driven by hatred that rivals the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and the Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. They have only one goal in mind: reversing the results of the 1958 Cuban Revolution. Ironically, they never cared about the existence of dishonest, tyrannical governments inCuba before the Revolution. Those governments executed thousands and thousands of Cuban Citizens and stole vast sums of money from the Cuban Treasury. The Diaz-Balart types never cared about Cuba's poverty or human rights violations under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. But because they have manipulated our political system by persuading politicians of both political parties with campaign money to accommodate their selfish desires, only a coordinated lobbying campaign will be effective in reversing their perceived political influence. Moreover, they desire to promote a military confrontation between our country and Cuba. They want American soldiers to be sent to Cuba to accomplish for them what was unachievable by the supporters of Fulgencio Batista. This goal is absurd to say the least. The United States is never going to send the "Marines" to Cuba unless our national security is in danger, which it is not. All our energies should focus on speaking with one voice, lobbying the United States Congress and contributing to political campaigns, for that is the only way change will take place. We must recognize it is "our friends" in the Congress that do not allow Americans travel to Cuba, and not "our enemies."
If the Elian Gonzalez saga taught us anything, it is when our side speaks with one voice, the Cuban American National Foundation (which was a dead organization until President Obama resurrected it!), the Cuba Liberty Council and its cohorts is the money they give to selected elected officials. This, too, is a misconception. In the last thirty years, extremist Cuban-American Political Action Committees have contributed to Senators and Congressmen-in hard money-approximately $20 million. By comparison, the National Rifle Association, the Trial Lawyers Association and the pharmaceutical companies donate millions annually.
The Alliance proposes to hold a general meeting sometime in early December in Tampa, FL, to discuss how we can work together to develop a comprehensive strategy to get Tampa to break ranks with Miami and the new Congress to lift the travel ban in 2011. No group or individual should be excluded from participating solely because of turf concerns or petty partisan political considerations. So many on our side of the fence operate under the umbrella of “if it is not their idea, it is a bad idea.” This issue is so vital to the national and economic interest of our country and Cuba that we must find a way to work together. The staffs of several Senators and Congressmen would also like us to meet so they and others would know how much support exists for lifting the travel ban to Cuba and indeed, the embargo. Everything related to US/Cuba relations must be on the table for anyone to discuss, including resolution of the Cuba Five.
At the conclusion of this “general meeting”, we should have agreements and disagreements in several areas. But we will have clarity as to who thinks what and where we need to go as a group working together to achieve goals of mutual interest. Even if we continue with this “shot gun” approach, where all of us do what we want, when we want and how we want, at least it will be a decision approved by the attendees.
We could start with a dinner meeting one evening and begin the following day at 7:30am and conclude at 4pm.
Finally, the Alliance proposes that an ad hoc planning committee be created, made up of individuals from all the various groups that work so hard to enhance US/Cuba relations.
Please e-mail the Alliance at afoxcuba@aol.com if you would like to be a part of the planning committee. Again, by putting all our talents and resources, it is inconceivable that we can not defeat the extremists in Miami who continue to support a failed and outdated foreign policy.

Albert A. Fox, Jr.
Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation
8675 Hidden River Parkway
Tampa, FL 33637



jonas said...

excellent piece....and you have my complete and utter support

Anonymous said...

Yes! It's time that we the Americans get our freedom to travel back and that food and medicine reaches Cuba and it's people. I will support in what ever is in my reach.

Julio Rodriguez said...

Great Work! Thank You.

Miguel Angel Moya said...

Tonight we will make a meeting in NY where the project will collect donations for Cuba want to participate in your project just as we do to donate