ECONOMIST: In transition - America and Cuba
Yummm... this Havana Club Rum (anejo 8 anos) was my first purchase in Costa Rica last week. This would easily blow any Rum sold in the US out of the water at its price. Then we all enjoyed Romeo y Julieta's at the wedding rehearsal. Then I got to thinking about going back to Cuba for my honeymoon, if this all goes through!
27 January 2007, The Economist
Pressure is growing for a re-think of policy towards the island
THE fading health of Fidel Castro, coupled with the advent of the new
Democratic Congress, means that America is under growing pressure to
change its tough stance towards Cuba. Before Christmas, a ten-member
bipartisan congressional delegation travelled to that dangerous
island for a series of meetings with senior Cuban government
officials. "It's a time for change," says Jeff Flake, Republican of
Arizona, who led the delegation. "There's a new dynamic now."
Both sides feel it. Since taking over from his invalid brother in
late July, Raúl Castro has twice offered to open normalisation talks
with America. Each time he has been tersely rejected. The Bush
administration says it is not interested so long as either Castro
brother is in power. Critics say the administration is ignoring
political developments in Cuba, where Raúl is showing signs of a less
doctrinaire style of rule. But promoting change in either capital is
no easy task. For the past six years the Bush administration has
fought off efforts in Congress to soften the embargo, using the
Republican majorities there to defeat repeated attempts to alter its
That has now changed. The relevant committees in the 110th Congress
are now headed by longstanding critics of the embargo. These include
Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and
Max Baucus, who heads the Senate Finance Committee. In the Senate Joe
Biden of Delaware, a liberal and non-ideologue, has taken over the
Foreign Relations Committee.
William Delahunt, the Democrat who now heads the oversight panel of
the International Relations Committee in the House, has already
announced that he will hold hearings shortly into Cuban aid
programmes. Other hearings could be held on scandal-plagued Radio and
TV Martí, the Miami-based government broadcasting outlets directed at
Cuba. A government report has already exposed flaws in aid to Cuba's
tiny dissident movement, as well as in funding for anti-Castro
projects in the United States.
Critics say all these programmes have done a good job of fuelling the
anti-Castro industry in Miami, while having little impact in Cuba.
That, of course, has long been the dirty secret of America's Cuba
policy. "The administration is not interested in Cuba, it is
interested in Calle Ocho," says Philip Peters, vice-president of the
Virginia-based Lexington Institute, referring to the main avenue that
cuts through Miami's Little Havana district. Miami's Cuban-American
electorate and campaign contributions have long been seen as
politically vital, less because of their actual size than because of
Florida's perennial importance as a big presidential swing state.
In 2004, though, the Bush administration overreached itself. A
presidential "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" proposed
increasing aid to the dissidents while imposing tight limits on cash
remittances to relatives on the island. Cuban-Americans were also
restricted to one trip to Cuba every three years, and to visiting
"close relatives only" not including aunts, uncles and cousins.
But the travel and money limits, while popular with some hardliners,
are disliked by many Cuban-Americans, especially those who have
arrived in the past two decades and still have ties to family on the
island. Many now advocate personal contacts as a useful vehicle for
Last month, a group of Cuban exile organisations in Miami echoed the
call for easing restrictions on travel and remittances. Consenso
Cubano issued a report saying that the policy violated "fundamental
rights of Cubans." It was endorsed by the influential, and extremely
conservative, Cuban-American National Foundation. Four prominent
dissidents in Cuba also signed a statement in late November asking
America to lift its travel restrictions. American laws "in no way
help" their struggle, they said. Will George Bush listen? It's not
what he's best known for.
Labels: cuba us embargo