Thursday, March 28, 2013

Activist: USAID funds "inconsequential" to Cuba

Frick Curry. Photo: ciponline.org/
Remittances from the U.S. to Cuba "could be as much as $2 billion a year, although nobody really knows since there is no way to accurately track the money flow," according to Frick Curry, a senior associate at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.
Frick wrote:
In any event, this is an enormous amount of money given the size of the Cuban economy. In a very real sense, Cuban-Americans are making their own policy toward Cuba and are far more important actors than government officials in Washington. The $20 million or so that USAID spends every year on regime change is inconsequential compared to the flow of remittances and the money spent by Cuban-Americans visiting the island.
Curry's opinion appears in a March 28 document called "Promoting Change in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba: A Case Study from a Non-profit Advocacy Group."

In the document, Curry says that while U.S.-Cuba relations have stalled, this could be a year of change. He writes:

  • Both Cuba and the United States have undergone dramatic changes during the past fifty years, yet their relations with each other are little changed from the 1960s.
  • Barack Obama’s election in 2008 seemed to promise a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, which is frozen in the amber of the Cold war. Although in its first term the administration took some welcome steps to ease restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans, neither the ban on travel by non-Cuban Americans nor the embargo itself have been relaxed.
  • By all logic 2013 should be a banner year for improving relations with Cuba. Not only is President Obama in his second term, but he won it with 48% of Florida’s Cuban-American vote. Floridians also elected the state’s first Democratic Cuban-American congressman, Joe Garcia. It is clear that attitudes in South Florida are greatly shifting.
  • In addition, the new secretary of state, John Kerry, has expressed serious skepticism about our current failed policy.
  • There is also a strong geopolitical reason to improve relations: Every single country in Latin America, both friend and foe, calls for our doing so. At the 2012 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena the unanimous message to the U.S. was it’s time to move on if we want to be a player in the region.
  • Finally, the people of the United States and Cuba are engaging, even if their governments are not. Last year, 400,000 Cuban-Americans visited Cuba.

7 comments:

Moses said...

Mr. Curry's comments are pragmatic and realistically reflect the current state of affairs between the US and Cuba. Unfortunately for US/Cuba relations there is no one in Havana espousing an equally pragmatic and realistic assessment of our mutual relations. At least no one with any influence with the dictatorship. So where does this leave us? Even if the US were to remove Cuba from the list of States that Sponsor Terrorism, or remove travel bans, both reasonable and possible next steps, what, in-kind response, can we expect from the Castros to reflect greater democracy? How does Obama or his foreign policy agenda benefit by helping the Castros. Dictators, as we are now witnessing in North Korea, are prone to unexpecte extremes to consolidate their power. Would the Castros see positive steps taken by Obama as gesture toward improving relations or as a show of weakness? Finally, despite the shifting attitudes in Latin America, why aren't US interests better served by waiting to see what happens next in Cuba? Can Venezuela continue to subsidize the island? Will the aging Castros be able to contain the rising tide of discontent and open criticisms coming from a once-silent Cuban people? 2013 may seem to be the year of change but what about 2014, 2015...?

Tracey Eaton said...

Good questions...

Omar said...

I have the answers for you Moses (that sounds terribly arrogant especially when you are talking to someone called Moses):
1- "So where does this leave us?"
You gain a lot. For example, you get rid of that yearly worldwide condemnation at the UN. It is truly the international community, the whole of it, voting against that stupid embargo policy. Ending such a thing is a very good thing in itself. Remember that according to Forrest Gump..."Stupid people are the ones who do stupid things". Not to mention that Latin American nations will appreciate that, they have been telling you to end that thing for quite a long time now. After all they are your neighbors.
2- Even if the US were to remove Cuba from the list of States that Sponsor Terrorism, or remove travel bans, both reasonable and possible next steps, what, in-kind response, can we expect from the Castros to reflect greater democracy?
You shouldn't wait for any response really. The Castros as you call them, or Fidel and Raul as I call them, are busier taking care of their grandsons than anything else. It is not about the Castros anymore. It is more an instutional thing and one terrible habit of people with your thinking is that we, nationalist cubans, don't want to enjoy the democratic show. It's fun, sometimes useful and we also what to have it. So, please, don't underestimate us.
3- How does Obama or his foreign policy agenda benefit by helping the Castros? Read 1. Again, it will end a cruel and stupid policy. You must accept once and for all that the declared intention of the embargo was not fulfilled. It damages a lot, but Cubans hasn't got desperate enough to jump into an invasion-justifying civil war. Why? Because the revolution has a point and it has been very successful at smoothing the aggression-related pain.
4- "...why aren't US interests better served by waiting to see what happens next in Cuba? ...2013 may seem to be the year of change but what about 2014, 2015...?"
Oh, came on! Be serious! You have been saying this since 1959! What is new now? That Fidel and Raul are about to leave? OK. Wait and see. Ready yourself for failure. Once again.

Omar

Moses said...

Thank you Omar for your reasoned response. I have so grown accustomed to apologists for the Castro dictatorship simply regurgitating the time-worn slogans of yesteryear or using deflection as a means to defend the inanities of the regime. It is a pleasant surprise to disagree with you disagreably. When one criticizes the Castros for the lack of toilet paper in Havana the apologist will deflect by responding with "the US killing babies during the Vietnam war". However, in terms of your response, I will use your logic to hopefully explain how hopeless your responses are. #1 basically implies that the world will like the US better if we treat Cuba better. Omar, US/Cuba relations comes up one day a year at the UN. What the US does with fighting Al Qaeda, the use of drones, drought and famine relief and EU reforms just to name a few are daily issues facing the UN. From the perspective of a NON-Cuban nationalist (the other 99.999% of the world) what the US does with Cuba is a very low priority.#2 Not quite sure that I understand your response here but I do know that there is a small but very powerful group of exiled Cubans who HATE the Castros. While I agree in part that the Beasts from Biran should not be the focus of US/Cuban relations, the reality is that they are. They are mentioned by name in US law. Castro I remains the poster boy for Cold War era socialism and is everything Americans hate and fear about the scourge of communism. #3. Just because the embargo has not worked out 100% as planned does not mean it has not worked at all. It has served to limit the expansion of Soviet-style Stalinism to Cuba alone. #4 The fact that Cuba's wetnurse Venezuela may have to reconsider its capacity to maintain the same level of support to the regime and that human biology will likely finally catch up to the Castros are both encouraging signs that the 50 year wait will not be in vain. No President of the US wants his legacy to include 'soft on communism'. This includes making unilateral concessions to Cuba. Doing nothing costs Obama nothing. As long as Gross is in a Cuban gulag, Obama can say he wanted to play nice but the Castros were uncooperative. In the meantime, Obama can visit Mexico, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries (even Brazil) and be well-received. I will repeat again, it costs the US NOTHING to do nothing about Cuba.

Omar said...

A pure breed Yankee for God sake! Thanks for your clarity Moses.
Moses, the world is changing and it is pretty obvious that the US is adapting to this situation. But you are still in the Cold War. For example:
1- “Castro I remains the poster boy for Cold War era socialism …”: Castro I is one of the most authentic symbol of defiance to US imperialism. But even the US imperialism can’t be what it was 10 years ago. Do you remember how empowered you felt after the Soviets’ collapse? You thought that then you would have free reign, didn’t you? It didn’t turn out that way my friend.
2- “No President of the US wants his legacy to include 'soft on communism'”: Which “communism” Moses? Please, show me. On the other hand this old obsession with communism and socialism has backfired in a subtle way. While it was a natural strategy in the Cold-war to make the American public to “hate and fear” the so-called communism you have a large section of the US populace now that is rejecting common sense changes in domestic policies (like a decent universal health care system) due to this pervasive indoctrination. It is not for nothing that “Socialist” is an epithet in US. Look, if you were mildly progressive, you should consider a successful socialist Cuba, one without embargo and ruled by the social-democrat nature of the Cubans, as a gift. A nearby familiar place to enrich your national discussions. Just as we have the US. If you are afraid of something like that, there is little else to do with you.
3- “Gross is in a Cuban gulag’”: Gross’ place is with his loving family, but he is not in a Gulag. This is just cheap rhetoric, the very same you dislike when it comes from the “commies”. The guy broke the Cuban law and he is paying for that. If you want him back: talk to the Cubans. Don’t be afraid.
4- “Obama can visit Mexico … and be well-received”: Mmmmm. Then, you like to be liked. Pretty natural Moses. I understand. End the embargo, respect your neighbor and do it cleanly and openly. Like if you were the big guy in the neighborhood that chose not to be a bully. Because that’s what you have been all this years, a bully SOB. You will be very much loved if you do it in this way. Be nice despite it is true in a sense that the embargo “cost the US NOTHING”. I say DON’T BE AFRAID for God sake. Behave that you are a grown up!.
I understand that you have some hope with the biology. I’m a supporter of the Revolution and I feel some degree of uncertainty. But these feelings are too familiar, Moses. They come and go. Take a visit to the island. Many in Cuba have a deep interest in the stability of this slowly evolving system, and many other are paralyzed by the uncertainty. This won’t change with Fidel and Raul death. Many Miami-Cubans of recent arrival (last 20 years) have a completely different mindset and they are investing in a Cuba that will change but not in your dreamed terms. It is true that the embargo has done damage. But thanks to that fact that it has been a complete failure when it comes to its main goal (a civil war in Cuba that justifies a US invasion) I’m able to write this to you. I’m a survivor man, like many of my family and friends in Cuba, which are part of that tiny fraction that Cuban Nationalist represents in this lovely world.

Omar

Moses said...

Thanks again Omar. If you will, please indulge me one more round of comments. My responses above express today's political realities in the US and not necessarily my personal outlook which I describe as centrist or moderate. The US, as a whole, remains very conservative with regards to foreign policy. We believe in democracy and freedom of expression at home and abroad. 'Socialist' as a label is indeed a scarlet letter to invite political scorn. Please keep in mind that Obama's very mild version of universal health care was fought to the wire tooth and nail as being an example of his 'socialist' political outlook. I do not share your presumption that the fall of the Soviet bloc evoked a feeling of the US being all-powerful. Instead, most Americans felt relief that the war against the red tide was over. Now, personally, I do hope that a free and democratic Cuba will emerge from the changes that are occuring. Should Cuba become a socialist state along the lines of say Sweden, all the better. Even along the lines of a Vietnam (with an independent media and freedom of expression of course)would make a nice neighbor. I really wish the best for Cuba as democratically determined by Cubans such as yourself. (I should mention that I lived in Cuba for three years until 2008 and am currently married to a very well-known and beautiful former Cuban newscaster with two beautiful Cuban-american children and we visit Cuba at least twice a year.) I disagree with your comments regarding life after the Castros. I sincerely believe they bring a stifling effect to Cuban opposition voices who will rise to be heard, even at great personal risks, once the Castros are gone. My anti-Castro rhetoric is homegrown. During my years in Cuba, I saw first-hand what most foreigners never see in two week vacations. I was often mistaken for an Afro-Cuban and treated as such until I spoke up and my California valley guy accent gave me away. I know a lot of Cubans who, like you, are proud to claim to be survivors. I hope you will get to live in a Cuba where Cubans can thrive and grow, not just survive.

Omar said...

Thank you Moses. It is me the one asking now for a last chance to comment. Vaya, pa’ no quedarme dao’. I understand how humiliating is for Afro-descendants in Cuba to be screened more frequently than others by the police in the streets. I apologize for that. I dream with the day we have a black president but that will surely be far from enough. For example, despite Barack made it to the top Afro-descendant in US makes a disproportionately high fraction of the incarcerated population. The couple of times I have been the victim of racist attitudes here in Sweden I have felt terribly.
Look Moses, in the last universal condemnation of the US embargo against Cuba by the UN General Assembly, the US representative replied as usual and the first four sentences of that speech were:
1-“The United States strongly supports the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their own future.”
2-“It is the Cuban government, however, that continues to deprive them of this aspiration.”
3-“As with other Member States, the United States determines its conduct of economic relationships with other countries in accordance with its national interests and principles.”
4-“Our sanctions policy toward Cuba is just one of the tools in our overall effort to encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms to which the United Nations itself is committed.”
Sentences 1 and 3 are clashing. The tension between “principles” and “interests” is always a difficult one. And generally the “interest” prevails, and they are justified as the mean to the “principles”. Doing the right thing is rare. Examples abound. While I do admire the spirit of the founding principles of the US, the Gettysburg Address and all that, I’m worried about this clash in the case of Cuba. Which are the interest being defended by the US in this case? Property claims? Not to mention the power in Miami. In both cases a lot of talking about freedom and democracy but nothing regarding the future of these claims. It is not that both of you reject any intention of claims in the future and then keep pushing with the embargo for the principles sake, like the ambassador said in 4. I know this sounds silly, but the point is that all your good wishes for Cuba will be meaningless if this interest filled agenda prevails. After all, Central American countries have “democracy”, don’t have “communism” and no embargo and are they really any better? With the mysterious exception of Costa Rica, they are in terrible shape.

I do appreciate your time and I have the best wishes for you and your family.

Omar