Is the Huff Post Becoming “Granma USA?” 1

It’s Time to Delist Cuba

By Arturo Lopez Levy in the Huffington Post

Each spring, the U.S. State Department releases a report indicating which countries the United States considers “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” Currently the list consists of four countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. This year, John Kerry’s ascent to U.S. Secretary of State generated a discussion about taking Cuba off the list. Given Kerry’s generally reasonable position on Cuba in the past, it was perhaps not surprising that he considered this option.

Nonetheless, on May 1, the U.S. State Department announced that Cuba would remain on its list. It’s a serious mistake.

State Department reports from the last decade have provided no substantive evidence to justify keeping Cuba on the list. In fact, the country’s inclusion is based on dubious allegations. The reports allege that Cuba has provided medical treatment and refuge for terrorist groups from the FARC in Colombia to the ETA in Spain. However, the reports do not acknowledge that the governments of both countries have expressed appreciation for Cuba’s cooperation in this arena.

The reports mention some fugitives from American justice who live in Cuba, but neglect to say that the United States stopped honoring the 1904 extradition agreement between the two countries in early 1959. Cuba has sent back most U.S. fugitives and has generally recognized the validity of U.S. courts, but has occasionally offered asylum to people it considers victims of “political persecution,” including former Black Panther Assata Shakur, accused of killing a New Jersey highway trooper in 1973.

Shakur’s asylum in Cuba has precedent in international law, as well as in decisions by U.S. Courts not to equate all violent political acts to terrorism. Her case constitutes a reason to raise the issue diplomatically and negotiate a new bilateral extradition treaty, but it is not sufficient motive to keep Cuba on the list. It is no coincidence that those Cuban-American politicians who demand that Cuba unilaterally return these few U.S. fugitives are the same ones who have advocated providing refuge for anti-Castro terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles–who in 1976 was responsible for a bomb that took 73 lives (including the Cuban national fencing team) on a Cuban civilian plane. Posada lives freely in Miami.

The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism in 2008 as part of a larger diplomatic strategy to shut down the country’s nuclear program. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained the thinking behind that decision in No Higher Honor, her recently published memoirs. The list, she wrote, was supposed to single out “countries that supply a terrorist organization with training, logistics, or material or financial support. Technically, the North Koreans should have already been removed from the list much earlier; there had not been, at the time, any known terrorist incident involving Pyongyang for two decades.” Using Rice’s same substantive criterion for determining whether a country belongs on the list (no terror incident involving the country in question for twenty years), it is very difficult to argue that Cuba should be there.

Confronted with this double standard and the lack of evidence for keeping Cuba on the list, some defenders of the Obama administration’s decision to keep Cuba on the list simply reply that Cuba is not as important economically or strategically as South Florida is electorally. Yet these self-proclaimed political realists miss an important reality. The Cuban-American community, including the majority of those who oppose Castro, has changed. For most Cubans who came to the United States in the last two decades, the inclusion of their country of origin in the terrorism list is not only unfair, but also an obstacle to promoting changes on the island that could take place through exchanges between Cuba and the United States.

Defenders of including Cuba on the list point to Cuba’s imprisonment of Alan Gross, an American citizen who was arrested for his participation in a United States Agency for International Development regime change program on the island. They also claim that Cuba violates human rights and point to an increase of short-term detentions of Castro’s opponents during the last year.

Yet these actions have nothing to do with the congressional mandate to create a list of States Sponsors of Terrorism under the 1979 Exports Administration Act. Mixing these unrelated issues only demonstrates that the list has become a pretext to punish the Cuban government. This situation feeds into the Cuban government’s narrative that its revolution is under siege, and that because the island is a victim of U.S. double standards and hostility, it has to adopt emergency measures. Using the list in this way is therefore not only inconsistent, but also counterproductive.

If the goal is to provide anti-Castro militants a venue for psychological catharsis, there are other ways for them to vent their frustrations. The State Department already has a mechanism for reporting human rights violations all over the world. The UN Human Rights Council is in the process of evaluating Cuba this year, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has indicated that the Gross arrest is unfair.

The misuse of an otherwise effective foreign policy tool should give pause to responsible members of Congress and the Washington intelligence community. First, it dilutes America’s multilateral anti-terrorist efforts by taking eyes and dollars away from where the real threats are. Second, it sends the wrong message to countries such as Iran and Syria and the groups they sponsor by diminishing both the substantive and political impact of being listed. Third, it weakens the case for monitoring countries such as Iran, whose presence on the list is more easily justified. In short, including Cuba undermines the credibility of the list itself, and has a corrosive effect on U.S. leadership in world.

Characterizing Cuba as a terrorist state–and more generally implying that the island in any way poses any threat to U.S. security–hinders the United States’ ability to develop a strategic vision for post-Fidel Cuba. The list encourages hostile actions against Cuba in American courts, thereby aggravating conflicts and blocking new exchanges. The island is a country in transition that is carrying out market-oriented economic reforms without changing its centralized, one party system. This situation calls for policies of engagement completely different from those required for dealing with a terrorist threat.

Editor’s Note: Arturo Lopez Levy is an admitted “former” intelligence officer and close relative of the Castro family. A prolific writer, Castro apologist, and de facto agent of influence, his efforts have been well covered by Cuba Confidential, Babalu blog, and Cuba expert Humberto Fontova.

Huff Post Continues its Love Affair With “Former” Cuban Spy, Arturo Lopez Levy 3

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.

Raul Castro’s Propagandist “Cousin” Keeps Steady Pace With Influence Operations 1

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.

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.

The Media’s Love Affair With Castro Collaborators Reply

The Fourth Estate’s torrid tryst with sympathizers of the Cuban Revolution continues this week with the Huffington Post again running a feature by longtime Raulista and “former” Cuban Intelligence Officer, Arturo Lopez-Levy: Cuba Under Raul Castro: Economic Reform as Priority?

Not to be outdone, the Associated Press published Cuba’s new heir apparent has work cut out for him and the Pacific Standard ran Our Guide Proves Prescient in Outlining Post-Castro Cuba. Both of these articles star “award-winning” journalist Ann Louise Bardach, who has admitted that a Cuban spy attempted to recruit her during a visit to its Interests Section in Washington. News flash: when a journalist and self-professed “Cuba Expert” is targeted for recruitment by the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), it’s safe to say that said journalist’s opinions and publications are already very pro-Castro.

Editor’s Note: At no time did any of the news outlets advise their readers of their sources’ “previous” associations with Cuban Intelligence.

“Former Spy” Recycles Tired Call For Cuban 5 Swap 1

Earlier today, the Huffington Post published this shameless propaganda piece by Arturo Lopez-Levy, an admitted “former” intelligence officer closely connected to Cuban President Raul Castro Alan Gross: Time to Negotiate

Other than a few light edits, Lopez-Levy published the exact same piece in “Open Democracy” on January 23, 2013.Alan Gross: time for a negotiated solution

For more on Lopez-Levy’s intelligence career, see his recent book, Raul Castro & the New Cuba

Prolific “Former” Spy Continues His Pro-Castro Influence Operations Reply

Alan Gross and the U.S. Pragmatism Deficit

Courtesy: Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) – a program from the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies

By Arturo Lopez-Levy, January 25, 2013

Beltway foreign policy analysts frequently praise the Obama administration for its “pragmatic” approach to world affairs. In dealing with Russia, China, or the economic crisis, the current White House has won plaudits for rejecting more ideological schools of thought in favor of evidence-based, flexible solutions.

A pragmatic approach to foreign policy is by nature flexible, responsive to changes in the target country, clear in its interests and goals, and creative in its implementation.

In short, it’s everything the Obama administration’s approach to Cuba isn’t.

To be sure, in his first term, Obama showed pragmatism by eliminating travel restrictions that had only caused resentment on the island, in the Cuban-American community, and among academic, religious, and humanitarian constituencies in the United States. But after criticizing the Bush administration’s dogmatic policies of isolation, the Obama administration has adjusted course only at the margins.

In Its own universe

The worst managed issue between Cuba and the United States since 2009 has been the detention of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in a Cuban military hospital since December 2009. But instead of facing the facts, the Obama administration has created its own fictional narrative of the controversy, which contradicts even its own publicly available documents.

Alan Gross is an American international development expert who entered Cuba five times as an unregistered foreign agent. A USAID subcontractor, his mission was to create a wireless Internet satellite network based out of Jewish community centers to circumvent Cuban government detection. With the Cuban government well aware of the U.S. role in seeding the Stuxnet virus that nearly derailed Iran’s nuclear program, this was a huge red flag.

The USAID program was approved under section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act, a law explicitly committed to regime change in Cuba. Gross’ actions were covert. He never obtained the informed consent of the Cuban government or the Cuban Jewish community, which has always expressed opposition to the Helms-Burton law—particularly its attempt to politicize religious communities as tools to promote opposition groups.

Moreover, Gross didn’t know Cuba and didn’t speak Spanish. He was in over his head.

All this is well known, but Washington maintains that Gross was in Cuba as part of regular humanitarian programs. The United States insists that the international community simply misunderstands the Helms-Burton law, pretending that it’s about anything other than undermining Cuba’s sovereignty. USAID claims that Cuban civil society, religious groups, and even dissidents who criticize the Helms-Burton approach are mistaken. The Helms-Burton law helps them; they just don’t realize it.

A confidential document from a USAID task force associated with Gross’ work indicates a pattern of consistent misinformation. At the top of a list of go-to sources of information on Cuba, the program recommended the “Babalu” blog, an irrelevant website managed by rabid pro-embargo elements. The blog has called President Obama a “Marxist tyrant” and has also taken aim at Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and various Cuban Americans who disagree with the editors’ McCarthyism. The fact that President Obama’s own USAID recommended Babalu as a reliable source of information is in itself grounds for closing the program until some adult guidance is guaranteed. Only on that planet was Alan Gross appropriately warned about the risks associated with his mission.

Story continues here: http://www.fpif.org/articles/alan_gross_and_the_us_pragmatism_deficit

Admitted Former Spy Calls For Alan Gross Negotiation 1

By Arturo Lopez-Levy 23 January 2013

The case of Alan Gross, an American development expert sentenced by Cuba to fifteen years in prison for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”, is the latest instalment (sic) in the tense story of Cuba-US relations. Negotiating is the only way to break the cycle.

Last year, in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of representatives, Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) demanded that Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, reveals whether the US somehow tried to negotiate with Havana, the release of Alan Gross. Mr.
Gross is an international development expert who worked for a contract of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and is serving a fifteen year prison sentence in Cuba, condemned for participating in acts against Cuban sovereignty and political integrity.

Gross entered Cuba five times as a non-registered foreign agent. His mission, as a USAID subcontractor, was to create a wireless Internet network that would circumvent Cuban government detection. The USAID program was approved under section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act, a law committed to regime change in Cuba. Gross’ actions were covert. He never obtained the informed consent of the Cuban Jewish community, which has always expressed opposition to the Helms-Burton law, particularly its attempt to politicize religious communities as tools to promote opposition groups.

Mr. Gross didn’t know Cuba and didn’t speak Spanish. Gross loved Cuban music but that is hardly a qualifier for the type of covert mission he was recruited for by Development Alternatives Initiatives (DAI), a contractor for the US government. A clear indication of the lack of professionalism of the USAID Cuba program is its recently declassified listof go-to sources of information about Cuba headed by the website Babalu Blog. You don’t need to be a Cuba expert to realize that the Babalu blog is hardly eduational (sic) on Cuba but disseminates right wing propaganda against every Cuban American or American who disagrees with its writers’ McCarthyism. Accordingto Babalu Blog, for example, President Obama is a “Marxist tyrant” in the “Stalin-Mao-Castro tradition”.

Questioning the Obama administration, Republican congressman Rivera said: “It is outrageous that the Obama administration would be negotiating with a terrorist regime to free an American hostage.”

This policy is correct: the US should not give in to the demands of terrorists. That would only encourage them to take further hostages. But this has nothing to do with Gross or Cuba.

Rivera’s references to terrorism are a manipulation. The State Department has not recorded a single terrorist act sponsored by Cuba in two decades. Recently, Havana hosted another round of negotiations between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos. The Colombian government not only appreciated Cuba’s facilitation of the conversations but also demanded that Havana be included in the next Summit of the Americas. In Spain, the other country supposedly a target of groups protected by Cuba, the ETA has demobilized and successive socialist and popular governments have thanked Havana for receiving freed commandos of the Basque organization.

Read more here: Alan Gross: Time for a Negotiated Solution

Editor’s Note: Arturo Lopez-Levy is an admitted “former” intelligence officer closely connected to Cuban President Raul Castro. He details some of his spy service in his recent book,
Raul Castro & the New Cuba

The View From the American Left: “Kerry’s Cuba Sanity” 2

By Arturo Lopez-Levy, January 4, 2013

Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) — A project of the Institute for Policy Studies

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, 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.

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.

The nomination 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.