United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Sunday, April 24, 2011

United States Cuba Relations - Splitting Hairs and Gerontocracy

There have been several major events on the U.S. Cuba relations front since we last posted. The first was Cuba's Communist Party Congress. The second was the U.S. Treasury OFAC publication of its guidance and application of new travel regulations to Cuba on April 19, 2011.

The Duel of the Gerontocracies in Havana and Miami

Rather than repeat what has already been said in the blogosphere and the news, we make the following observations - Two thirds of the Cuban population know only two things their entire lives; the U.S. embargo and a Castro leading their government. Now the one part of that equation that we actually have control over is the embargo and travel sanctions. The second, whether a Castro will continue to rule Cuba indefinitely seems to have been answered with the pronouncement of term limits. Yet Cuba remains with a very elderly leadership in place and will still have to wait for several more years for Raul Castro to retire. The more fundamental question is how does that political leadership connect with its youthful majority population? Young people in Cuba have a genuine right to question what their government has achieved for them. The expectation that their government reform their system to respond to their desires is only rational. Will the proposed political and economic reforms be enough? They like all young people throughout the world want a future worth having. That is the obligation owed to them by their elders. Power should and ought to transfer and flow, regularly. That is one of the hallmarks of real democracy. There is a time for retirement and a place for elder leaders and allowing the younger generations to have dominion and decision over their nation's future. This is an issue that obviously will be answered at a future date.

Meanwhile in Miami, we endure our own gerontocracy of thinking that does not accept the reality of the failure of our policies nor the pain and suffering heaped upon the Cuban people through our embargo and sanctions policies. It does not matter that our policies don't work. Yet there always seems to be a justification to keep the failure going. Regardless of whether our policies work, votes and money from this anachronistic way of thinking keep the policy going in Washington DC. Whatever influence Miami hardliners have on Cuba, it is neither positive nor constructive.

Splitting Hairs on Travel

One of the most uneviable positions working for the federal government has to be working at the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control ( OFAC ), Cuba division. The people there often have a difficult job. These folks literally have to split hairs in policy interpretations and turn logic on its head often to carry out the political whims of whoever is controlling U.S. Cuba policy at the moment.
That is just what happened with these new set of regulations. There is analysis on them and the plethora of logical inconsistencies in detail at

A good question for the Congress to ask the Treasury Department and the White House is who are the individuals actually formulating our U.S. Cuba policy guidelines and what are the logical rationales for these positions? These should be made public and put on the record for all to read and question the thinking that went behind these regulations. The bottomline is that there will be a little more travel to Cuba under these guidelines. However, these new travel rules are not the great fulfillment of the campaign pledge made by President Obama that he would change the dynamics of our policies with Cuba. There is not much to celebrate with these travel regulations. As Americans, we should be fighting to lift the unjust travel ban in Congress and have our voices heard politically in the next election campaign, just like the pro-embargo people are already doing to keep the insanity in place. What can you do? When the congressional and presidential campaign workers start calling you and ask for a campaign contribution for their candidate, let them know how disappointed you are with our travel policy to Cuba and ask what are they going to do in the next Congress and administration to lift the travel ban completely. It may be the only time they may actually listen to you. - Tony Martinez