Wednesday, January 18, 2017

GAO: U.S. engagement with Cuba limited

"Embargo restrictions, resource constraints, and Cuban government priorities" have hindered U.S. government agencies' ability to help U.S. companies do business in Cuba, a new Government Accountability Office study says. Highlights of the study are below.

What GAO Found

The Cuban private sector has grown rapidly since 2008 but remains small compared with other economies and faces various constraints. The Cuban private sector includes (1) self-employed entrepreneurs, (2) agricultural cooperatives and other private farmers, and (3) nonagricultural cooperatives. Cuban government data indicate that the percentage of the Cuban workforce in the private sector has grown from 17 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2015. However, the Cuban private sector is smaller than in 16 comparable countries GAO analyzed. It is also still highly constrained by the Cuban government and faces challenges, including a lack of access to needed supplies and equipment.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wet-foot/dry-foot scrapped

Office of the Press Secretary
January 12, 2017

Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy

Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called "wet-foot/dry foot" policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era. Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities. By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not a rumor this time: Fidel Castro is dead

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro is no more. Below is a piece I wrote for al Jazeera:

Havana, Cuba - Fidel Castro, a titan of the Cold War who defied 11 American presidents and thrust Cuba onto the world stage, is dead at age 90.

Cuban state-run television said the former long-time president died at 10:29pm local time on Friday. Castro's brother and current president, Raul Castro, confirmed the news.

Al Jazeera's Latin America Editor Lucia Newman, reporting from Santiago, Chile, said Castro's death hardly came as a surprise.

"He has been a larger-than-life figure who inspired a revolutionary movement all over the world, especially in Latin America," she said.

"As time went by, we had been hearing less and less from Fidel Castro. We all knew he had been ill for a decade and was not seen since August after his birthday, which was celebrated across the country.

"His death is going to have an enormous emotional impact on Cubans. It does really feel like the beginning of the end of the Castro era."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton: Embargo "needs to go"

Below is a draft of a Hillary Clinton speech about Cuba, according to a stolen email posted by Wikileaks.
The email came with this introduction by Dan Schwerin, Clinton's director of speechwriting:
Team, attached please find a draft of HRC's Cuba speech for Friday in Miami. We make the case for lifting the embargo and pursuing a strategy of engagement, and then stepping back to offer a vision for U.S. leadership in the Americas and a broader contrast on foreign policy with the Republicans. In this draft we don't hit Rubio or Jeb by name, so that's one question to consider. HRC is excited about this one and thinks we're in a pretty good place, so that's encouraging. Would be great to hear any comments or concerns on Thursday morning. Also, most of you have met our new speechwriter Megan Rooney, who wrote for HRC for four years before going to work for President Obama. I am super excited to have her on board and I'm sure you'll soon love her as much as I do. Later this evening she'll be sending around an Urban League draft. Thanks as always Dan
FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here at Florida International University. You can feel the energy here. A place where people of all backgrounds and walks of life work hard, do their part, and get ahead. That’s the promise of America that has drawn generations of immigrants to our shores, and it’s a reality right here at FIU.

Today, I want to talk with you about a subject that has stirred passionate debate in this city and beyond for decades, but is now entering a crucial new phase. America’s approach to Cuba is at a crossroads, and the upcoming presidential election will determine whether we chart a new path forward or turn back to the old ways of the past. We must decide between engagement and embargo. Between embracing fresh thinking and returning to Cold War deadlock. And the choices we make will have lasting consequences not just for 11 million Cubans, but also for American leadership across our Hemisphere and around the world.

I know that for many in this room and throughout the Cuban-American community, this debate is no intellectual exercise -- it’s deeply personal. For those who were sent as children to live with strangers during the Peter Pan airlift… for families who arrived here during the Mariel boatlift with only the clothes on their backs… for son and daughters who could not bury their parents back home… for all who have suffered and waited and longed for change to come to the land, “where the palm grows,” as Jose Marti put it. And, yes, for a rising generation less burdened by the legacy of history and eager to shape a new and better future.