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Thursday, February 17, 2011

United States Cuba Relations - The Richardson Perspective

Former Governor Bill Richardson spoke at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday, February 15, 2011.  The transcript of his remarks are available to review/download on the blog.

Richardson's most important assertions for the pathway to improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba rely upon a basic premise of reciprocity between the parties.  This is different than the quid pro quo approach that has been the operating standard for much of the last fifteen years.  Both sides know very well what steps need to be taken to improve the relationship.  The issue is for each side not to wait for the other to act, but do what is necessary to change the policy that both countries apply to each other and their respective citizens.  There are steps that each side can take right now and upon those actions, conditions will be set to tackle the more complicated ones.  Most significantly he called upon the Cuban government to release Alan Gross and the U.S. Congress to review, modify and terminate where necessary, the USAID funding for the "Democracy" programs which are at the root of Mr. Gross' incarceration.  He also called for the President to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terror List, noting that Cuba being on the list is more emotional than rational or logical.  Removal of Cuba from that list is essential to set conditions in place to allow U.S. telecoms to establish an affordable infrastructure to bring down the high cost of telephone calls to Cuba, now averaging around $1.00 per minute.  Americans and Cuban Americans with relatives and friends in Cuba continue to pay this high cost.   This issue has been discussed at length on this blog and we invite readers to look back at our archives for the discussions.

Similarly, a distinguished attorney, Stephen F. Propst, from the law firm of Hogan Lovells, provided a comprehensive paper on Presidential Authority To Modify Economic Sanctions Against Cuba, a paper you can view and download here on the blog.  Pay careful attention to pages 13-18 where he explains in detail how President Obama can do much more to help change the equation on the U.S. Cuba stalemate.  It is interesting to note that the pro-embargo side's counter to the Probst paper was to republish the Conference Report to the Helms Burton Act!
-Tony Martinez

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