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Thursday, February 27, 2014

CUBA- A CARIBBEAN PUZZLE FOR THE U.S.

What type of relationship should U.S. establish with Cuba? Chose all that apply. Comments welcome!




  
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     Cuba is a real conundrum for America. On he one hand, the government censors or controls newspapers, TV stations and the radio. The Cuban people are not allowed access to the Internet and they get all their information about the world by reading the newspaper Granma and a few others also produced by the government.
     So, should the U.S. open up relations with Cuba? We lack formal diplomatic relations and tough sanctions remain in place. Recently, however, our relationship has been picking up and a few U.S. restrictions have loosened during Obama's tenure. While the administration of George W. Bush strongly enforced the embargo against Cuba and sharply lowered the cap on family remittances (from $3,000 to just $300 in 2004), Obama reversed this policies during his first term. Eventually, Obama went further and allowed U.S. citizens to send remittances to non-family members in Cuba and to travel there under license for educational or religious purposes.     
     In 2009, the Obama administration resumed migration talks with Cuban officials after they were held up during the Bush administration. Now, these talks have resumed and Americans with family living in Cuba can travel freely and there is no cap on remittances for them.

 
     Still, Cuba presents a conundrum to the freest nation on earth. A major event which keeps us from normalizing ties stems from the case of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor who was arrested in Cuba in 2009. Gross traveled to the country to deliver communications equipment and arrange Internet access for its Jewish community. Cuban authorities alleged he was attempting to destabilize the Cuban regime through a USAID-sponsored democracy-promotion program and sentenced him to fifteen years in prison. Cuba also remains on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, due to Fidel Castro's training of rebels in Central America in 1972. However, Castro announced in 1992 that Cuba would no longer support insurgents abroad, and the State Department's annual report for 2012 states there is no evidence that the country has provided training or weapons to terrorist groups. So, should they still be on the list?     
     Perhaps so, since the Human Rights Watch's annual report for 2013 said Cuba "continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights" through detentions, travel restrictions, beatings, and forced exile. However, Cuba released more than fifty political prisoners and foreigners in Cuban prisons in 2010 and 2011 under a Vatican-brokered deal. Instead of Secretary of State John Kerry, perhaps Pope Francis should negotiate any U.S.- Cuban covenants.        
     The puzzle recently grew more complex when a North Korean ship going from Cuba to North Korea was stopped in the Panama Canal. Hidden onboard were items that violated international sanctions against the North Korean government. Under hundreds of tons of sugar lie 240 metric tons of weapons, including two Volga and Pechora antiaircraft missile systems, nine missiles, two Mig-21 jets and 15 jet engines for the planes. All was to be repaired in North Korea and shipped back to Cuba. So, what is your opinion? How should the U.S. deal with a nation lying just 90 miles south of Key West, one that shuts off information to the Internet and to radio, television and social media? Should the U.S. reestablish normal relations with Cuba? Should we establish full diplomatic relations? End the travel ban? Lift the trade embargo?
     Please take the poll at the top and thanks  in advance.