Por Elio Delgado Legón
HAVANA TIMES — In the course of over 14 years, I have often asked myself why so much secrecy has surrounded the case of the five Cubans who were detained in Miami in 1998. These men endured 17 months of solitary confinement in “the hole”, in violation of U.S. law, as well as a 3-year trial replete with similar violations of the country’s laws, and no newspaper made any effort to bring to light what was taking place.
I am referring to Miami’s newspapers, radio and television, yes, for these, to my knowledge, did not go on vacation in the three years the trial lasted. A number of journalists did work, but only to create an atmosphere charged with anti-Cuban sentiments and feelings of antipathy towards those they referred to as spies. We later found out that those journalists had been paid by the US government, to create precisely that kind of atmosphere and steer public opinion and the juries entrusted with the verdict towards those feelings of antipathy.
The judge turned down the petition to hold the trial in a more impartial venue, as the laws of the country demand. The juries were intimidated by Miami’s terrorists, terrorists whose identity everyone knows. In my opinion, the judge was also intimidated and threatened, for the ridiculously harsh sentences she imposed on the Cuban Five cannot be explained any other way.
Rene Gonzalez’ sentence was the least severe: 15 years in prison, a term he has already served. The most severe and irrational sentence was imposed on Gerardo Hernandez: two life sentences plus 15 years.
Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez had their initial sentences overturned and a subsequent re-sentencing took place as a result of an appeal process. However their second sentences were also irrational and unjust, for they were again accused of crimes they did not commit.
They tried to blackmail Rene, using his wife’s detention to pressure him into pleading guilty of espionage, in order to be able to accuse Cuba of spying on the United States. But a true revolutionary like Rene does not yield to blackmail. He would have had to lie, to his country’s detriment, to save himself from a sure conviction. They had no evidence against him, but they sentenced him to 15 years in prison nonetheless.
Conspiracy to commit murder was one of the unfounded charges brought against Gerardo, in connection with the downing, over Cuban waters, of two small planes belonging to the terrorist organization Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate), an organization that had been systematically encroaching on Cuba’s airspace and dropping leaflets that called for an armed uprising against the government.
The organization had announced another fly-over for February 24 and the Cuban government had forewarned US air traffic authorities that, if they encroached on the country’s airspace again, they would be shot down in self-defense, because a terrorist organization could, at any moment, decide to drop bombs instead of leaflets.
Despite this, the planes took off from U.S. soil and penetrated Cuban airspace. The head of the organization didn’t take any chances; he stayed behind to watch his planes be shot down. If anyone is to be held responsible and pay for those deaths, it is Mr. Basulto, the person who sent them to a sure death, without even having had the courage to face the same fate. He used them as cannon fodder to later be able to accuse Cuba of murder.
The government of the United States has repeatedly refused to publish the satellite images which show the exact location where the planes were shot down, for these images show that the incident took place within Cuba’s airspace and, therefore, Gerardo cannot be held liable for the pilots’ deaths in any way.
Of all the charges brought against Gerardo and the other four anti-terrorist activists convicted, the only truthful one is that these men were acting as agents for the Cuban government without declaring this fact at the Attorney General’s Office. But acting as an agent does not mean conducting espionage. These men infiltrated terrorist organizations, not official institutions of the US government.
The Cuban Five have been the victims of innumerable irregularities and violations, violations I have enumerated in a previous post. This is the reason the US government doesn’t want the press to give the case any coverage, for, if the people of the United States knew what was happening, they would demand that this situation, which puts a stain on their country’s judicial system, be brought to an end. All of this ought to be considered by the Obama administration, which must set the Cuban Five free.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excellent example of disinformation, which is false or inaccurate information deliberately spread with the goal of making legitimate information useless. It is inherently different from misinformation, which is spreading information that is unintentionally false.
Cuba’s intelligence chieftains undoubtedly view the recent Justice Department decision allowing convicted spy Rene Gonzalez to remain in Cuba as a strategic victory. As a result, expect a sharp increase in the volume of disinformation and other propaganda emanating from Havana and its allies regarding its incarcerated spies.
CBS News’ Portia Siegelbaum has an exclusive interview with Cuban intelligence agent Rene Gonzalez, who spent 13 years in a U.S. prison and two years of supervised probation in Florida before being allowed to renounce his citizenship.
Cuban agent Rene Gonzalez reaffirms his commitment to the communist-led island and defends his fellow Cuban spies still in U.S. detention shortly after taking the first steps to renounce his American citizenship.
The Cuban Connection, by Don Liebich
During my recent trip to Cuba I had the opportunity to meet with Johana Tablada, the Deputy Director of the North American Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Ms. Tablada had served in the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. for a number of years and with her youth, engaging personality and fluent, slangy American English; she was a popular figure on the lecture circuit around the U.S. and an effective public relations spokesperson for Cuba. The right wing Cuban émigré community testified to her effectiveness by accusing her of being a Cuban spy. (Emphasis added). (See here) http://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/today-in-history-senior-spy-targeted-church-two-washington-universities/
Ms. Tablada explained that she had had two largely sleepless days as she had tried to unravel the messy case of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, who had kidnapped their two children from their maternal grandparents in Florida, who had legal custody, and fled on a small sailboat. After encountering bad weather in the Florida Strait, the boat ended up docked at Marina Hemingway outside of Havana. Needless to say, the arrival in Cuba of a boat from the U.S. attracted the attention of Cuban Security who immediately put the couple under surveillance.
In cases like this, the default position for the Cuban government is to respect the rights of the parents. However, as Ms. Tablada explained, for Cubans, the welfare of the children trumps everything. She explained that she understood that American family law is complicated and it took some time to receive the appropriate documents from U.S. authorities in order insure that the grandparents had legal custody. Once this hurdle was crossed arrangements were made to return the family to authorities in Florida. There was, however, one glitch. The children wouldn’t leave without their dog. Ms. Tablada said “I have spent the last six hours looking for the dog. The good news is that we found the dog and everybody parents, kids and dog are on their way back to Miami.”
While the U.S and Cuba have no formal relations, there is a lot of cooperation on issues such as immigration, counter-terrorism, drug interdiction and search and rescue. Hopefully, this episode can be a small step toward normalizing U.S. relations with our neighbor to the south. The odds are slim, however, as demonstrated by Florida Cuban-American Congresswoman, Ileana Ross-Lehtinen who issued her usual helpful statement: “Unfortunately, these parents and these poor children, these innocent ones, will now be in a country where there are no laws, there is no redress, and that has been a refuge for fugitives and wanted criminals for many years,”
Editor’s Note: My sincere thanks to Don Liebich, the author of this sorely misguided blog posting, for accusing me of being part of the “right wing Cuban émigré community.” I’ll take that as a compliment.
Kerry’s Cuba Sanity
By Arturo Lopez Levy in the Huffington Post
One would have to go back to John Quincy Adams, who served in the U.S. diplomatic service from the age of 17, to find a predecessor better pedigreed than John Kerry to lead the U.S. State Department. The son of a diplomat, Kerry is a war veteran. He was a senior senator, and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Few experiences have had greater influence on Kerry’s foreign policy views than his decades-long relationship with Vietnam, where Kerry served as a Swift Boat captain during the Vietnam War. Kerry’s experience in Vietnam, where visceral ideological attitudes prevailed over rational analysis, prompted the future senator to advocate for a more realistic course for U.S. policy. A decorated veteran, John Kerry became a spokesman for veterans against the war. He learned that to promote U.S. values and interests requires awareness of the relative nature of power and the force of nationalism in the post-colonial world.
Throughout his subsequent political career, Kerry has sought to correct the foreign policy mistakes that led to the fiasco in Indochina, learning to value diplomacy and engagement above force. Together with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), another veteran of the war, Kerry supported President Clinton’s steps to end the U.S. embargo against Vietnam. The result, according to Kerry, has been a “Vietnam that is less isolated, more market oriented, and, yes, freer — though it has miles to go.”
Admittedly, Kerry has not always applied these lessons properly — witness his regrettable support for the Bush administration’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. But elsewhere, as in his efforts to ease the archaic U.S. blockade on Cuba, Kerry continues to promote engagement as the fundamental tool of foreign policy.
In a 2009 Tampa Bay Times op-ed, for example, Kerry relates how the success of the U.S. rapprochement with Vietnam helped shape his advocacy for improved relations with Cuba, which he presented as a defense of U.S. interests and democratic values. “For 47 years,” he wrote, “our embargo in the name of democracy has produced no democracy at all. Too often, our rhetoric and policies have actually furnished the Castro regime with an all-purpose excuse to draw attention away from its many shortcomings.”
This evidence has informed the future secretary of state’s position against the ban on travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens. Based on the experience of tourists from other countries and the return of Cuban-Americans who “have already had a significant impact on increasing the flow of information and hard currency to ordinary Cubans,” Kerry understands that unrestricted U.S. travel to Cuba would be “a catalyst for change.”
The senator also placed a temporary freeze in 2010 on the poorly designed USAID Cuba programs, which have led to the imprisonment of Alan Gross, an agency subcontractor. According to an article by R.M. Schneiderman in Foreign Affairs, the revision of the Bush administration-designed USAID programs advanced the possibility of Alan Gross’s release as a Cuban humanitarian act. Senator Kerry participated in a effort to negotiate a diplomatic solution. With State Department’s approval, Kerry met Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba’s ministry of foreign affairs at the residence of the Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
Unfortunately Senator Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American, stepped in and spoiled the possibility of a negotiated solution. The senator from New Jersey demanded that the full 20 million dollars be spent and the provocative programs be restored. Under the pressure of a delicate balance of forces in the Senate, the White House conceded. Schneiderman quoted Fulton Armstrong, a member of Senator Kerry’s staff who was involved in the dialogue with Cuban diplomats. “Poor Alan Gross — Armstrong wrote — the Cuban-American lobby had won.”
Kerry, who has visited Vietnam post-reconciliation, knows that a USAID program there helped to multiply Internet connectivity rates in the country. The USAID program in Vietnam is jointly implemented with the Japanese development agency and with the support of the local government, unlike the Helms-Burton law, which geared USAID programs in Cuba toward regime change and was repudiated in the UN for its unilateralism. The USAID program in Vietnam encourages development, which is what USAID was created for, not efforts to overthrow Hanoi’s government. The premise is that a population more affluent, better educated, and more connected will demand more democratic practices.
According to Kerry, the United States will never stop supporting human rights in Cuba, simply because they are fundamental values of American society. After all, the United States has continued pushing for civil and political liberties in Vietnam since ending its embargo. Washington does so not because it opposes Hanoi’s leaders or to impose a regime change, but as part of a rational strategy of promoting a peaceful evolution to a more open Vietnamese political system. Washington wants stable relationships with the whole Vietnamese nation, not only with the government. Peoples of the world, no matter how suspicious of U.S. motives they may be, appreciate human rights promotion within the framework of international law.
President Obama’s designation of John Kerry is also consistent with the political changes that have occurred in the Cuban-American community, expressed by the elevated Cuban diaspora vote for Democrats in the last election. Like Kerry, and as then-Senate candidate Obama stated in 2004, most Cuban-Americans believe that the embargo has failed and that it is time to influence the processes of economic reform and political liberalization that began in Cuba after the retirement of Fidel Castro.
Once public opinion turned against the war in Vietnam, the political leadership in the U.S. found it had no choice but to follow suit. Kerry is better positioned than anyone to be a leader and see that point of departure when it comes to U.S. policy and Cuba.
Editor’s Note: In the above article, “former” spy Arturo Lopez Levy claims “Kerry understands that unrestricted U.S. travel to Cuba would be “a catalyst for change.” What makes him think travel by Americans would succeed in changing Cuba when the island has hosted millions of Canadian and European tourists and yet remains a police-state? Increased travel by Americans would accomplish nothing but enrich Cuba’s military and intelligence services, which run almost every facet of the island’s tourism sector. In sum, foreigners travelling to Cuba virtually guarantee regime continuity and continued repression.
Cuba: The Beginning of the Post-Castro Era
By Arturo Lopez Levy in the Huffington Post
In 1960, when Cuba’s new first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel was born, Fidel Castro had already been ruling Cuba for a year. Neither the Beatles nor the Rolling Stones had conquered the rock ‘n’ roll market. Dwight D. Eisenhower ruled the United States, being the first of 11 U.S. presidents until Obama, who have applied the failed embargo policy against the Fidel & Raul Castro partnership and the political project they represent.
But there are no victories against the calendar. In 2006, Fidel Castro’s illness forced the first transition in the Cuban leadership since 1959. Raúl, then age 76, replaced Fidel, who was almost 80. Despite that it was a succession between brothers of the same generation, the presidency of Raúl Castro has had important consequences for politics and the Cuban economy. Faced with the loss of Fidel’s charismatic leadership, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) began processes of economic reform and political liberalization, in order to rebuild their capacity to govern under the new conditions.
In the last five years, the government has created an important institutional foundation for the parallel transition to a mixed economy and a post-totalitarian relationship between the state and civil society. With the election of the new Council of State on Sunday, the last phase of the transition to the post-Castro era began. Raúl Castro was reelected to the presidency, but for the first time a leader born after 1959, Miguel Diaz-Canel, became the second in command. Although this transition is unfolding with the same party and president in power and is gradual and limited, new leadership and changing priorities are discernible.
If you look at the Communist Party as a corporation (an analogy that should not be abused) Diaz-Canel is a manager who, over time, has served at various levels of its production chain. He worked at its foundation, as a university teacher and youth leader. Later, in the strategic provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin, he administered the implementation of economic reforms and directed the opening of the economy to foreign investment and tourism — all the while, maintaining party control over both processes.
Díaz-Canel is part of the network of provincial party czars who are very important in the implementation of the proposed changes, particularly decentralization. Having worked in central and eastern Cuba, the new first vice president has cordial ties with regional commanders of the Armed Forces, the other pillar, along with the Communist Party, of the current Cuban system. He is a civilian, the first in the line of succession to have little military experience. But he is steeped in the networks of power and well versed in the controlled management of reforms.
If Cuba implements the type of mixed economy proposed by the last VI Congress of the Communist Party and establishes a new relationship with its diaspora and the world, it will also transform politically. With the economy and society changing, the political environment cannot remain intact. The rise of market mechanisms and an autonomous non-state sector will reinforce the new pluralizing flows of information, investment and technology. The new social sectors will seek representation in the political arena. Citizens will have greater access to the Internet, and connect more horizontally.
This does not imply a transition to multiparty democracy over the next five years. Nevertheless, economic liberalization will force an expansion of the current People’s Power system. Economic and migration opportunities will channel some of the energy in the direction of new businesses and travel, but it will not be enough. The party system will be reformed in order to remain at the helm of social and economic changes. Political liberalization will probably start at the lower levels of government, allowing citizens to vent their frustrations at that scale. However, the pressure will rise. Limiting leadership to two terms, at a time when the older generation is leaving power by attrition, will result in a less personalized and more institutionalized leadership that promotes upward mobility of new leaders in an orderly fashion.
Pressures for systemic political changes could increase as the economy recovers. A dynamic Cuban market would whet U.S. corporate appetites and put the U.S. embargo against the island in jeopardy. Ending an irrational relic of the Cold War would increase democratization demands. In the next five years, the central challenge facing Cuban leaders is to have the audacity, creativity and self-confidence to accelerate economic reforms, without losing control of the ongoing political liberalization.
‘I’m Proud of What our Lieutenant Did And of What he Continues to do Today’
By Martin Koppel & Tom Baumann, The Militant, Vol. 77/No. 13, April 8, 2013
HAVANA—Sgt. José Luis Palacio Cuní served from 1989 to 1991 as a squad leader in a 12-man reconnaissance platoon in Cabinda, the northernmost province of Angola. The platoon was led by Lt. Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, today known around the world as one of the Cuban Five. Hernández is serving two life sentences in a U.S. penitentiary on trumped-up charges of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder.
Hernández and Palacio were among the 375,000 Cubans who volunteered for military duty in Angola between 1975 and 1991. The Cuban internationalists fought alongside the armed forces of the newly independent nation of Angola—which had just overturned nearly five centuries of Portuguese colonial rule—to defeat repeated invasions by the armed forces of the South African apartheid regime and its allies.
The Militant spoke with Palacio at a Feb. 21 presentation in Havana of the book The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should be Free.
Today Palacio is a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and a refrigeration mechanic who works in a cold-storage warehouse in Pinar del Río, western Cuba. He recounted his Angola experiences in a 2006 interview first published in the Pinar del Río newspaper Guerrillero. That interview—“Twelve Men and Two Cats: With Gerardo Hernández and His Platoon in Angola”—is reprinted in The Cuban Five, published by Pathfinder Press.
Accompanied by Sergio Abreu, president of the Pinar del Río branch of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Palacio traveled to Havana to attend the February 21 book presentation. The translation from Spanish is by the Militant.
MARTÍN KOPPEL: You were 28 years old when you left for Angola, a member of the UJC [Union of Young Communists] at that time. What did Cuba’s internationalist mission in Angola mean for you?
JOSÉ LUIS PALACIO: I’m proud that this book about our five heroes brings together the experience we lived through in Angola.
Angola was the best school we could have gone through. We saw conditions there that don’t exist in our country anymore. It made us prouder of the Cuban Revolution and strengthened us in our fight to defend the revolution today. The Cuban mission helped Angola defend its independence. It brought the end of apartheid closer. It showed we’re internationalists who will fight for a just cause anywhere in the world.
Many of us were just kids when we went to Angola. We knew little about the world. Over the years we’ve developed as revolutionaries and realize how much that mission helped us. It certainly helped me. And it helped Gerardo too.
I was sad when I first heard the news that my lieutenant Nordelo, as we affectionately called him, was imprisoned in the United States. But I’m proud of what he did, of what he is doing today. It’s an inspiration. He knows I’ll always be in the front trenches alongside him, in every cause we’re fighting for in the world. When the history of humanity is written, there will have to be a page for the five Cuban heroes. They’re internationalist heroes, world heroes.
KOPPEL: What can you tell us about Gerardo from your experiences working with him?
PALACIO: The first thing I remember about Gerardo as a leader is that he treated us like brothers. He was always concerned about the men he was responsible for. He had the ability to sense when you had problems, if you were sad or troubled. “What’s the matter? You feel bad?” he’d say. “Are you getting any letters from home? What’s going on?” He paid attention to detail. “We’re going on patrol. Did you clean your rifle? Do you have your ammunition?” He was always on top of everything.
Nordelo never raised his voice. He never mistreated anyone. If you didn’t understand something, if you did something the wrong way, he didn’t get mad. He’d explain it again. “Try it this way, do it that way,” he’d say. Until you knew it well. Until you could handle any task. In the army there are always officers who are very formal in their approach, or who have a sharp temper. But not Nordelo. He was outgoing, good-humored. He never made anyone stand at attention while he chewed them out. When he wanted to tell you that you’d done something wrong, he’d say:
“Hey, pinareño [native of Pinar del Río], come over here. Listen, man, this is what you did and it was wrong. What’s up? Be sure not to do it again.”
“No lieutenant, I won’t do it again. I promise.”
“Fine. Let’s go play some baseball.”
That’s the way he was. That’s why we respected him.
Nordelo loved to draw cartoons. He loved to read. And he especially liked to encourage others to read—reading opens the mind, he’d say. “If you don’t want to go to school, don’t go. But read. You’ll get a better understanding of things.”
Story continues here: http://www.themilitant.com/2013/7713/771350.html
Editor’s Note: The Militant prides itself on being “A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people.”
“Secret Files of Alan Gross” Debunk State Department Cover Story, Says the Center for Democracy in the Americas
Gross had broad plan paid for by ‘Transition-to-Democracy’ funds
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Documents released by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, hearing a $60 million lawsuit filed by imprisoned USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, describe a broad mission vastly exceeding State Department explanations of his activities. The plan Gross wrote and submitted to his employer DAI, a federal contractor in Maryland, was conceived, in his words, to “change the status quo” and “hasten a transition to democracy,” using U.S. government funds set aside for “transition-to-democracy initiatives.” According to a detailed analysis by Tracey Eaton, an investigative journalist, Gross’s plan cited the strategic importance of Cuba’s Jewish community, which he believed could be used as a “secure springboard” to reach others in Cuba, including 30,000 members of the country’s Masonic Lodges. An infographic included in his plan also cites additional targets: “Youth, women and Afro-Cubans.”
Gross’s plan says U.S.-based humanitarian organizations that take computers and other supplies to Jews in Cuba could be useful in DAI’s democracy project. He didn’t explain in detail what he had in mind, but one possibility is that these groups could be used, perhaps unwittingly, to shuttle equipment to Cuba. Eaton released his analysis today, as part of an on-going collaboration with the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA). Rather than disclosing the larger purpose of his mission, the State Department has responded to questions from reporters by claiming Mr. Gross was focused only on connecting Cuba’s Jewish community to the Internet.
For example, Victoria Nuland, State Department Spokesperson, told reporters on November 28, 2012, “Alan Gross was given a 15-year prison term simply for the supposed crime of helping the Jewish community of Cuba communicate with the outside world.” The new documents demonstrate that this is not the case.
“Our organization has visited Mr. Gross in prison on two occasions and we are eager to see him come home,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of CDA. “But, his words describe regime change activities he had underway, paid for by regime change funds. The U.S. government really should stop repeating ad nauseam a cover story that is untrue, appears aimed at deceiving the U.S. public and avoiding blame for his predicament, and is contradicted by the plan Mr. Gross was putting into effect and the reports he filed to describe it.”
For further information about CDA, visit our website.
SOURCE: The Center for Democracy in the Americas
Editor’s Note: CDA members include CFR staffer Julia Sweig and the hard-left Institute for Policy Studies, among others.
Proponents, Dynamics, and Challenges of Cuba’s Migration Reform
By Arturo Lopez Levy in the Huffington Post
Cuban opposition blogger Yoani Sanchez, who is on an 80-day world tour to receive numerous awards from her international supporters has said that she has two messages to the world: 1) that Cuba is changing because the Cuban people are changing; 2) that that trend does not mean the government is changing its policies. This is nonsense, but unfortunately it has not been properly discussed because her appearances at several American campuses, including my alma mater, Columbia University, has been more an occasion to accolade her than to engage in critical thinking about Cuba and U.S. policy toward the island.
Cuba is changing because the political context of the island has changed with the retirement of Fidel Castro. There is a virtuous cycle in which less vertical relationships between the citizens and the state are emerging. These new types of links are the result of new attitudes among the population, but also of changes in several official policies. Unfortunately those changes have not been reciprocated by a substantial lifting of the U.S. travel ban to Cuba, a policy still anchored in the Cold War. The Obama administration’s response to Cuba’s restoration of the right to travel has been limited to simply calling it a positive development.
Ms. Sanchez’s mere presence in the United States was impossible without some important changes in Cuba’s travel policies. On October 16, Raul Castro’s government announced a package of changes that included repealing law 989, which was instated in December 1961 and allowed the government to confiscate the “property, rights and shares” of those who “are definitively absent from the national territory,” and made substantial changes to the migration law of September 1976. The unpopular exit permits and letters of invitations, which had saddled would-be Cuban travelers with burdensome fees and prevented many Cubans, including Ms. Sanchez from traveling in the past, were eliminated as of January 14.
The promoters of the travel reform:
Equally deceitful is Ms. Sanchez’s attribution of changes to travel policies to the fragmented and weak political Cuban opposition. The number of active opponents to Cuba’s government has moderately increased in the last 20 years but still they are not more than a few thousands. Their power of mobilization is still meager. No street demonstration of the opposition has reached 500 participants yet. The greatest empowerment of Cuban civil society is associated mainly with the religious communities, independent intellectuals and amphibious groups that operate independently but within legal organizations such as the Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC).
The political logic of Cuba’s new migration policy is evident: 1) it opens doors to the definitive emigration of those most irritated by official policies; 2) it increases the possibility of circular migration by reducing the costs of and barriers to travel in both directions; 3) it synchronizes Cuba’s migration policy with economic reforms elaborated in the guidelines of the VI Congress of the Communist Party.
The dynamics that have driven changes in Cuba’s migratory policy are related to internal legitimacy, the economic reforms, and the politics of emigration. Raul Castro’s government constitutes a transition to a post-totalitarian regime, without the levels of ideological mobilization that were possible under the charismatic leadership of Fidel Castro. After two decades of failed policies, the Cuban Communist Party faced not a vibrant opposition but the people’s alienation. Fostering economic growth, increasing the standards of living of the population and providing space for some individual liberties is the only way to restore legitimacy.
The changes are positive steps that bring Cuba closer to compliance with international standards of freedom of movement. Their proponents are public officials who are sufficiently pragmatic to react to the globalization of the new political, economic and cultural elites and to the demands of the reformist sectors on the island and in the emigrant community, and who are capable opening up public debate about issues like civil liberties and economic reforms. Cuba’s international models, setting aside its hesitance to import foreign solutions, are the market socialisms of China and Vietnam.
The effect of such dynamics will create challenges for the Cuban government, which still needs to respond to the concerns of its population, now connected to the outside world, in the absence of spaces for citizens to voice their complaints. The changes taking place will inevitably lead to demands for further reforms. Cubans may now reside for two years in the United States, study or work in Mexico or Spain, and return to Cuba with their newly acquired monetary, human, and social capital. The dominant sentiment in a population with a median age of 38.7 years is in favor of gradual and orderly changes, but more reforms and liberalizations will undoubtedly be demanded.
The Challenge for the United States
The challenge for the United States is not to find a temporary, quick fix, like in the migratory crises of 1980 and 1994, but rather to implement structural modifications. The adopted changes are not meant to unleash a massive or uncontrolled emigration to relieve an urgent crisis. It is not a coincidence that the second provision of the new legislation (Decree-Law 302) distinguishes between the “Cuban Adjustment Act” and the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, the former legislative, the latter, an executive order. Extending to two years the time that Cubans can stay abroad without losing residency status, for the first time permits Cubans to be eligible for the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 while maintaining their residency, status and property on the island. Cuban citizens who are also citizens of countries that do not require a United States visa (Spain, in particular), or who have visas from third countries, can reach U.S. soil and, if they enter legally, after one year, may begin procedures to obtain permanent residency and eventually, citizenship.
The new dynamic created by these migration policy changes is very favorable to moderate sectors within the Cuban emigrant community, which, given the increase in travel, would benefit from the growth of a transnational public space between Cuba and the United States. These new forces favor a less hostile bilateral relationship. For those groups and for the sake of U.S. national interests, which is not the same as the vindictive desires of the exiled Cuban right, the ideal would be an adjustment of U.S. policy that discontinues the automatic acceptance of Cubans arriving irregularly, but permits those who enter with legitimate visas for family visits, study or travel, to claim legal residence under the Cuban Adjustment Act.
Since January 14, the paradoxical reality is that the majority of Cubans are free to visit the United States, if they get a U.S. visa, while the majority of U.S. citizens are prevented from visiting the island. As Cuba changes, the inability of U.S. policy to adjust to new the context looks more schizophrenic than ever.