Nestor Carbonell on bailing out castro’s Cuba

Fantastic column that tells the 100% truth about the current situation in Cuba.

Read it at Forbes or below the fold.

Bailing Out The Castro Regime?
Nestor Carbonell 04.21.09, 12:30 PM ET
After 50 years of almost continuous antagonism between the U.S. and the Castro-Communist regime, there is a swelling desire in the U.S. and abroad to overcome this predicament through constructive engagement. Since this would not be the first time that engagement has been pursued, let us review the outcome of prior U.S. quests for a rapprochement with this regime, a regime that was expelled from the Organization of American States in 1962 because it had established a Marxist-Leninist tyranny declared incompatible with the inter-American system, had aligned itself with the Soviet bloc and had suppressed all human rights.

Despite a litany of crimes, interventions in the internal affairs of more than a dozen of Latin American countries, and threats to the peace and security of the hemisphere that culminated in the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy tried to seek an accommodation with Castro. On Sept. 23, 1963, U.S. Ambassador William H. Attwood secretly commenced negotiations in New York with the Cuban ambassador to the U.N., Carlos Lechuga.

A few days prior to Kennedy’s assassination, a follow-up meeting was arranged with Castro in Havana. Negotiations were dropped almost simultaneously because several tons of war equipment that were shipped from Cuba to Venezuela’s Marxist “Armed Forces of National Liberation” were uncovered by the local authorities.

In March 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that the U.S. was “ready to move in a new direction,” which could lead to normalizing relations with Cuba and the lifting of the then 14-year-old trade embargo. After almost one year of intense negotiations between Assistant Secretary of State William Rogers and Castro representatives, the U. S. called them off when 15,000 Cuban troops landed in Angola.

In March 1977, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential directive, stating: “I have concluded that we should attempt to achieve normalization of our relations with Cuba.” Interest Section offices were established in Havana and Washington, and a large number of Cuban political prisoners were released. Hopes for normalization were quashed when the Castro regime deployed troops to Ethiopia and, subsequently, unleashed the Mariel boatlift, which brought 125,000 refugees to Florida, including over 2,700 criminals and misfits.

President Reagan tried to engage the Castro regime. In November 1981, Secretary of State Alexander Haig met in Mexico with Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, and in March 1982, General Vernon Walter spoke with Castro in Havana. Negotiations stalled when Castro rejected U.S. trade and other concessions in exchange for ending Cuban military shipments to Central American guerrillas.

With the Cold War over, President Bill Clinton actively pursued constructive engagement with the Castro regime. He liberalized U.S.-Cuban remittances and travel to the island (as currently under way), and significantly expanded people-to-people exchanges. Castro foiled this quest for a rapprochement with a new rafter crisis in 1994 and when two Cuban MIG jet fighters shot down two unarmed civilian planes of “Brothers to the Rescue,” which were flying over international waters in 1996 on a humanitarian mission.

The above examples of frustrated attempts to normalize relations with Communist Cuba reflect a pattern of deception on the part of Castro and his politburo–eager to obtain U.S. concessions without liberalizing the regime, feigning a desire to settle differences with the U.S., yet always scuttling negotiations and resuming their unyielding and contagious anti-Yankee defiance.

Will this pattern change under the dual or solo leadership of Raul Castro–the ruthless party hierarch largely responsible for building the totalitarian military apparatus in Cuba? He has made conciliatory overtures to the U.S., yet he continues to harbor terrorists and support the authoritarian and expansionist design of his chief subsidizer, Hugo Chavez, with over 40,000 Cuban agents, including military and intelligence officers and indoctrinators, based in Venezuela.

Raul Castro has promised structural changes and open debate, but there are no signs of glasnost or perestroika in Cuba; no Chinese-type opening of the inefficient state-controlled economy; no dismantling of the apartheid system, which effectively bars the local population from entering tourist enclaves. A handful of political prisoners have been conditionally released, but more than 300 remain in prison under brutal conditions. Raul Castro has proposed swapping some of them for the five Cuban spies held in the U.S.

Relying primarily on military comrades from the Old Guard, the regime is gearing up to quell increasing discontent and demands for reforms. The dissidents, now more numerous and vocal than in the past, are constantly being harassed, and several high-level government officials, accused of deviationism and disloyalty, were recently purged and forced to repent, Stalin-style.

Notwithstanding these developments, there are those in the U.S. who contend that change in Cuba can be achieved without prodding, through soft diplomacy. They urge Washington to stop, rather that sharpen and intensify, direct support to the dissident movement on the island. And yet it was strong and sustained support to similar movements that helped bring about the democratic transition in Poland and the rest of the Soviet-bloc countries. Others recommend that the U.S. unconditionally lift the embargo on Cuba and give up its levers. That, in essence, is what the European Union did by dropping its sanctions in the vain hope that human rights would improve on the island.

Assuming that Washington will pursue a quid pro quo engagement with the Castro regime, a guarded approach is called for. The key objective from the U.S. side should be to pave the way for democracy in Cuba with tangible steps leading to free elections, and not to prop up the failed and bankrupt tyranny.

It is a tyranny that is striving to perpetuate itself through several means. First, by shoring up its standing with high-level negotiations in Washington and readmission to regional forums. Second, by harnessing plenty of dollars from herded American tourists to supplement Chavez’s shrinking petro-subsidies. Third, by obtaining U.S.-backed credit lines along with access to international banks and monetary funds to facilitate the renegotiation or cancellation of its huge external debt of close to $30 billion, as recently reported by the Paris Club of creditors.

That is the bailout that the Castro regime is seeking–a bailout that, without concrete and irreversible measures for a democratic transition in Cuba, the U. S. must not support.

Néstor Carbonell is an international public affairs consultant; author of And The Russians Stayed: The Sovietization of Cuba, William Morrow, 1989; and Luces y Sombras de Cuba, Ediciones Universal, 2008.

2 thoughts on “Nestor Carbonell on bailing out castro’s Cuba”

  1. Please amigos, read the whole ‘freakin article. Not just the post.

    Senor Carbonell is an astoundingly brilliant, well-informed, brave and courteous caballero. I thank him profusely in the akcnowledgements to my Fidel book, for his help and guidance.

    What a guy!!

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