Today in History: Cuban-Supported Guerrillas Killed 65 in El Salvador, Including an American “Green Beret” 3

March 31, 1987: Sergeant First Class Gregory A. Fronius, an Army “Green Beret” in El Salvador, died organizing the defense against the unprecedented guerrilla attack on the Salvadoran headquarters of the 4th Infantry Brigade at El Paraiso, Chalatenango. The pro-communist insurgents called themselves the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The well-planned attack followed a visit to the camp by Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes weeks earlier. Sixty-four Salvadoran soldiers were killed and 79 wounded. Fronius, a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), posthumously received the Silver Star for his combat service. Many in the U.S. Intelligence Community believe Montes provided intelligence critical to the attack by the Cuba trained and armed FMLN.

Socialist Newsweekly Publishes Story on Convicted Spy’s Service in Angola Reply

‘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:

Editor’s Note: The Militant prides itself on being “A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people.”

U.S. Administration Calls for Investigation of the Death of Cuban Oswaldo Payá 1

By Juan O. Tamayo,

The Obama administration has joined growing calls for an independent investigation into the deaths of Cuba’s most respected dissident Oswaldo Payá and a fellow dissident in a car crash that some allege was caused by state security agents. “The United States supports the calls for an international investigation with independent international observers” into the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. “The people of Cuba and the families of these two activists deserve a clear, credible accounting of the events that resulted in their tragic deaths,” Nuland said during a news briefing.

Nuland’s comments came amid growing calls for an independent investigation into the July 22 car crash that killed Payá and Cepero, an activist in Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement.
The Cuban government says Spanish politician Angel Carromero caused the deaths when he accidentally slammed the car into a tree in eastern Cuba. Payá and Cepero were passengers. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig survived.

A Cuban court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison for vehicular homicide. He returned to Spain in December under a bilateral agreement that allows each country’s citizens to serve sentences in their own country. Carromero now says his rented car was rammed from behind and forced to crash by a red vehicle with government license plates, and that he had been followed by state security vehicles from the time the four men left Havana.

A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators signed a letter earlier this week requesting that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States, investigate the deaths. “Recent interviews published in Spanish news media indicate that… Carromero is innocent and that the vehicle carrying Payá was deliberately attacked by Cuban government officials,” said the letter.

Sent to ICHR executive secretary Emilio Alvarez Icaza, it was signed by Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, his Republican counterpart Marco Rubio, Arizona Republican John McCain, Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. “Oswaldo Payá was a brave man trying to peacefully advocate for greater political freedoms for his Cuban brothers and sisters,” the letter noted. “It increasingly looks like he paid for that effort with this life. “His memory and family deserve an honest and independent accounting of what happened,” the senators concluded.

Payá’s relatives have repeatedly demanded an independent investigation of the crash, and several Spanish and other European politicians, mostly conservatives, have followed suit. His daughter, Rosa Maria, has said the family might also file a lawsuit against Cuba in Spanish courts because her father had Spanish citizenship.

Castro Apologists Gather for Cuba Seminar 1

Cuba Experts to Hold Symposium at Santa Monica Library

By Jason Islas, Staff Writer — Santa Monica Lookout

March 28, 2013 — Wayne Smith, who served as unofficial ambassador to Cuba under President Jimmy Carter and is currently the director of the Cuba Program and Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, will join six other experts on Cuban culture and politics to discuss the future of the Communist island nation at the Santa Monica Public Library. The Cuba Symposium, which will also feature a talk by journalist Ann Louise Bardach, author of Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington, will seek to answer the questions about the impact President Barack Obama’s second term might have on with U.S. relations with Cuba which have thawed little since the end of the Cold War.

“We’ll be talking about art, but mainly we’ll be talking about is the nature of the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. and what can happen in Obama’s second administration,” said Adolofo Nodal, a Cuban-born American who was general manager of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs from 1988 to 2001. “There are major changes afoot,” said Nodal, who is also the chief operating officer of Cuba Tours and Travel. He was referring to the February 24 announcement by Raul Castro — Fidel’s brother — that he would step down in 2018, which Nodal and other observers of Cuba saw as a sign of liberalization in the Communist nation.

Former National Geographic editor and long-time Cuba watcher, Elizabeth Newhouse, agrees. “They are trying to open up in little ways,” said Newhouse, who will also be speaking at the April 11 symposium. “It would be very helpful in moving that process forward if we engage with them.”

Bardach, who has been writing about Cuban politics for nearly 20 years starting with a 1994 interview with Fidel Castro for Vanity Fair, said, “I think Raul Castro realizes that the only way to save their bacon is to change.” She will offer an up-to-date political analysis of the current situation in Cuba at the Symposium. “There’s no getting around it, it’s a totalitarian dictatorship,” she said. Due to restrictions enforced by the government, “Cuba has the lowest level of Internet usage in the hemisphere.” And the embargo, which was codified into law as the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992, hasn’t helped Cubans’ access to information, even giving the Cuban government a convenient scapegoat for when Socialist policies fail, Bardach said.

Nodal, Newhouse and Smith are advocates of lifting the embargo placed on Cuba in 1960 and for loosening restriction on travel to the island nation. Though lifting the embargo is likely a distant possibility, some are hopeful that Obama’s second term could lead to looser travel restrictions. “Travel is another step toward a better understanding between two countries,” said Nodal, who sees travel as an opportunity for Americans and Cubans to get to know each other in a capacity other than as enemies. Newhouse said that under President Bill Clinton, travel was opened somewhat, but after the Bush Administration placed Cuba on a list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, restrictions were once again tightened.

Obama has since tried to reverse some of those policies. “In his first term, he opened up travel to Cuban Americans,” Newhouse said. “A year later, he re-instituted the People to People travel.” The nonprofit People to People International was founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 as a grass-roots diplomacy program “dedicated to enhancing cross-cultural communication within and across communities and nations,” according to its site.

As Cuba continues to change, Nodal and other observers hope that the future will bring greater ties with the island nation. “We really just want to get Americans and Cubans to meet,” said Nodal, adding that he hopes people come away from the April 11 Symposium “with an understanding of what the reality is in Cuba,” which he noted from his trip there a week ago, was optimistic.

The Symposium, which was organized by Nodal, runs from 6:15 to 9 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium. Registration is required and those interested in attending should send an email to

Today in History: The Curious Defection of Orlando Brito Pestana 1

March 27, 2002: Orlando Brito Pestana asked Panamanian security to help him, his wife and two daughters defect to the US. At the time of his defection, Brito had been Havana’s Commercial Attaché for a year. Former Cuban Intelligence Officer Enrique Garcia Diaz claimed Brito was a Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer who earlier served in the (then) DGI element known as K-1 (Political/Economic Intelligence Division). While Brito’s motive remains unclear, a Panamanian official suggested he defected because of a scandal involving Sunset Group International. Since the mid-1990s, this firm subsidized Cuba’s sugar harvest and operated a car dealership in Havana. However, allegations arose regarding the bribery of Panamanian officials, as well as reports that Havana was investigating corruption among Sunset’s Cuban associates. As the Commercial Attaché, Brito would certainly have come under scrutiny. Meanwhile, in Washington, an FBI official familiar with Cuban intelligence operations took the unprecedented move of a public warning that Brito could be a provocation. Other senior officials concurred, suggesting that Brito’s “defection” was a Cuban ploy to develop information on how the US detected Ana Montes – arrested just six months earlier.

Today in History: New Intelligence Service Created by Castro Regime 2

March 26, 1959: The new government created a second intelligence service, the Intelligence Information Department of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (DIIFAR). This entity followed the Fidel Castro-directed establishment of the Investigation Department of the Rebel Army (DIER) just ten weeks earlier. Less than three months later, the two organizations merged to form the Department of State Security (DSE).

Today in History: Bogota Severed Ties After Cuban-Supported Overthrow Attempt Failed 1

March 24, 1981: Colombia expelled Cuba’s entire diplomatic staff and severed relations after Havana was forced to confirm its involvement in a failed government overthrow by the urban guerrilla group, the 19th of April Movement (M-19).

Several weeks earlier, M-19 had flown approximately 150 of its Cuban-trained members to Panama. Castro ally and senior Panama Defense Force (PDF) officer, General Manuel Noriega, along with other PDF members, armed the M-19 guerillas and sent them by boat to two locations on Colombia’s Pacific coast. However, the poorly planned operation failed and most of the invasion force was captured. During questioning, the captured guerrillas told Bogota of their three-month training regimen in Cuba and the means that Havana used to secretly return them to Colombia.

US on Verge of Momentous Cuba Decision: Whether to Take Island off Controversial Terror List 3

HAVANA (Associated Press) – A normally routine bit of Washington bureaucracy could have a big impact on U.S. relations with Cuba, either ushering in a long-stalled detente or slamming the door on rapprochement, perhaps until the scheduled end of the Castro era in 2018. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry must decide within a few weeks whether to advocate that President Barack Obama should take Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a collection of Washington foes that also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Cuban officials have long seen the terror designation as unjustified and told visiting American delegations privately in recent weeks that they view Kerry’s recommendation as a litmus test for improved ties. They also hinted the decision could affect discussions over the release of jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross, whose detention in 2009 torpedoed hopes of a diplomatic thaw. Inclusion on the list means a ban not only on arms sales to Cuba but also on items that can have dual uses, including some hospital equipment. It also requires that the United States oppose any loans to Cuba by the World Bank or other international lending institutions, among other measures.

U.S. officials agree the recommendation, which Kerry must make before the State Department’s annual terror report is published April 30, has become ensnared in the standoff over Gross. The American was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he was caught bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally while working for a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba has been on the terror list since 1982, and is also the target of a 51-year U.S. economic embargo — the reason why the island of beaches, music and rum is the only country Americans cannot visit as tourists. Removal from the list would not change that.

Critics say Cuba’s inclusion on the list has little to do with any real threat posed by the Communist-run Caribbean island, and they say the list has become so politicized it’s useless. North Korea was removed in 2008 during nuclear negotiations that ultimately failed, and was never put back on. Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden had been hiding out, is not on the list in large part because of its strategic importance.

Longtime Cuba analyst Philip Peters of the Virginia-based think tank the Lexington Institute said removing Cuba from the list “makes sense … just because it’s been a specious allegation that the United States has repeated for many years … It would improve the atmosphere.”

Others argue against rewarding Havana unless it releases Gross. “I have long believed it’s in our interest to see an improvement in relations with Cuba,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Gross’s home state of Maryland who traveled with a congressional delegation to Havana last month. But “the first step needs to be resolving Alan Gross’s situation.”

Voices calling for a change in the policy are growing louder, however. Last month, The Boston Globe cited administration sources saying high-level diplomats determined Cuba should be dropped from the list. That prompted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to say there were “no current plans” to do so, though she did not explicitly rule out the possibility.
Last week, a Los Angeles Times editorial called for Cuba’s removal from the list, and other newspapers have voiced similar opinions. The Cuba Study Group, a Washington-based exile organization that advocates engagement to promote democratic change, issued a white paper in February calling for an “apolitical” reexamination of the terror designation.

While Kerry can review the designation even after the State Department’s report comes out, Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list in April would almost certainly rule out its chances of removal in 2013. A U.S. official involved in deliberations told The Associated Press that Kerry will ultimately decide and nobody under him is in a position to predict what will happen. “It’s very much up in the air,” he said. But another administration official said that lifting the terror designation will be a hard sell while Gross remains imprisoned. “It’s very unlikely,” the second official said. “There is no consensus. And if you are on (the list), you stay on as long as there is no consensus on taking you off.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Ostensibly, Cuba has been designated a terror sponsor because it harbors members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, the Basque militant organization ETA and a handful of U.S. fugitives, many of whom have lived here since the 1970s. But much has changed in recent years. Late last year, peace talks began in Havana between Colombia and the FARC, and even Washington has voiced hope that the negotiations will end Colombia’s half-century old conflict. ETA announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011, and Madrid has not openly called for the return of any Basque fugitives. Cuba has enjoyed improved relations with Spain and Colombia in recent years, and both countries routinely vote at the U.N. against continuing the U.S. embargo.

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has freed dozens of dissidents and has begun opening its economy and society, though it remains a one-party political system that permits no legal opposition. Castro announced in February that he would step down in 2018 and signaled a likely successor. The time might also be ripe in terms of U.S. politics.

While in the Senate, Kerry was an outspoken critic of America’s policy on Cuba, saying it has “manifestly failed for nearly 50 years.” He called for travel restrictions to end and held up millions of dollars in funding for the type of programs Gross worked with. His boss, President Obama, no longer has to worry about reelection or pleasing Cuban-Americans, an all-important voting bloc in the crucial swing state of Florida.

Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba observer and the author of “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington,” said all the political winds would seem to point toward a reboot in relations — except for Havana’s decision to hold Gross and try to swap him for five Cuban agents in the US. “In a way they cooked their goose with Alan Gross,” she said. “The Cubans thought, ‘Gee what a brilliant idea, we’ll have a chit to trade.’ Little did they know that they would be at this moment where you have considerable momentum to move on in Washington, and politically, because of the Gross mess, Washington can’t act.”

Apologist-Staffed “Think Tank” Sees Alan Gross Conspiracies Everywhere Reply

“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.

Spy-Propagandist Arturo Lopez-Levy Keeps “Spinning” Regime’s Version of Reality 2

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.