Seven Actions Obama Should Take On Cuba Now
Peter Kornbluh | January 24, 2013
In US foreign relations with hostile states, President Obama declared in his inauguration speech this week, “engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.” With his reelection behind him–in which he garnered more Cuban-American votes in Florida than any Democrat in history–and his legacy in front of him, here are steps the president should take to engage the Castro government and forge a sensible, sane, and productive US policy toward Cuba.
(1) Remove Cuba from the State Department list of nations that support terrorism. Among The Nation’s list  of twenty ways the president should exercise his executive power is this long-overdue action. Cuba’s designation as a supporter of terrorism is an enduring injustice. Yes, Cuba has some criminal fugitives living on the island. But it is hard to accuse Cuba of harboring terrorists while Luis Posada Carriles, a prolific lifelong terrorist, is living freely in Florida. Moreover, Cuba’s current efforts to host and mediate a cease-fire and permanent peace accord between the FARC and the government of Colombia is hard evidence that it is playing a constructive role in seeking to end conflicts that breed terrorism in the region.
(2) While we are on the subject, Obama should order the arrest of Luis Posada Carriles and hold him under the Patriot Act until his extradition to Venezuela, from which he is a fugitive for the terrorist crime of blowing up a civilian airliner in October 1976, can be arranged. When the Bush administration let Posada set up residence in Miami in 2005, Venezuela sent a formal extradition request. If Obama is serious about fighting terrorism, he should finally grant that request.
(3) With Cuba off the terrorism list, Obama should end the economic and commercial sanctions that have accompanied its designation as a terrorist nation. The Department of the Treasury would thus cease to fine international banks for doing business with Cuba, which has undermined Cuba’s slow evolution toward a more capitalist-oriented economic system.
(4) And to support economic changes currently underway in Cuba, Obama should expand the general licensing for travel to Cuba of businessmen, scientists, citizens and others associated with industries like agriculture, travel, construction, oil, automobiles, healthcare and more. While the travel ban itself cannot be lifted without a majority vote in Congress, the president can create categories of general licensing that will allow far more Americans to freely travel to Cuba. Such a decree would intruct the Office of Foreign Assets Control to stop playing the role of travel dictator and simply provide all necessary licenses to travel agencies and educational interest groups involved in promoting travel to Cuba. Now, ironically, Cuban citizens are more free to travel here than US citizens are to travel there, since the Castro government lifted more than fifty years of restrictions on the ability of its citizens to travel freely abroad, earlier this month. If Obama is to be true to his overall commitment to advance civil rights, he can with the basic civil right of allowing US citizens to travel freely to Cuba.
(5) The president should also reconfigure the so-called “Cuban Democracy and Contingency Planning Program” mandated by the Helms-Burton Act and run out of USAID, from the failed “regime change” orientation to a set of transparent, non-interventionist “people-to-people” programs. Incoming Secretary of State John Kerry, who knows quite a bit about USAID’s misconduct in Cuba from his tenure as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, should immediately move to review and revamp the goals and operations of these misguided and counterproductive regime change efforts.
(6) To engage Cuba with normal diplomacy, Obama should order a bilateral dialogue on all areas of mutual interest: environmental cooperation, counternarcotics operations, counterterrorism, medical support for Haiti and more. On the agenda should be the case of contractor Alan Gross, who was sent to Cuba by the USAID Democracy Program on a quasi-covert mission to set up independent satellite network communications systems, and then abandoned to his predictable fate of being caught and tossed in jail. It’s time to let him return home to his family.
(7) Finally, Obama should commute the sentences of the so-called “Cuban Five”: Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, and René González (who is now on parole). These intelligence operatives were actually counterterrorism agents focused on anti-Castro exile groups that, frankly, have posed a threat to Cuban citizens and national security interests alike. All of them have served more than twelve years in US prison. They have been punished enough and also deserve to return home to their families.
Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/172414/seven-actions-obama-should-take-cuba-now
Recent Greetings to us from members of the Cuban 5.
Please click the links for scans of the letters!
Antonio Guerrero: Antonio Guerrero 2013-1-23 letter
Fernando Gonzalez: Fernando Gonzalez letter 2013-1-23
The following is sourced from http://realcuba.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/alan-gross-case-spotlights-u-s-democracy-programs-in-cuba/
ALAN GROSS CASE SPOTLIGHTS U.S. DEMOCRACY PROGRAMS IN CUBA
LAWSUIT FILED BY FAMILY YIELDS DOCUMENTATION ON “OPERATIONAL” NATURE OF USAID EFFORT
CONTRACTOR INTRODUCES CONFIDENTIAL RECORDS IN COURT ARGUMENTS
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 411 Posted — January 18, 2013
Edited by Peter Kornbluh
Washington, DC, January 18, 2013 — The U.S. government has “between five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba, and the USAID-sponsored “Democracy” program aimed at the Castro government is “an operational activity” that demands “continuous discretion,” according to documents filed in court this week, and posted today by the National Security Archive. The records were filed by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), one of USAID’s largest contractors, in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 for attempting to set up satellite communications networks on the island, as part of the USAID program.
In an August 2008 meeting toward the end of the George W. Bush administration, according to a confidential memorandum of conversation attached to DAI’s filing, officials from the “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” as the Democracy effort is officially known, told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials stated, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.’”
Gross has spent three years of a 15-year sentence in prison in Cuba, charged and convicted of “acts against the integrity of the state” for attempting to supply members of Cuba’s Jewish community with Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite communications consoles and establish independent internet networks on the island. Last year, he and his wife, Judy, sued both DAI and USAID for failing to adequately prepare, train and supervise him given the dangerous nature of the democracy program activities.
During a four-hour meeting last November 28, 2012, with Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh at the military hospital where he is incarcerated, Gross insisted that “my goals were not the same as the program that sent me.” He called on the Obama administration to meet Cuba at the negotiating table and resolve his case, among other bilateral issues between the two nations.
The exhibits attached to DAI’s court filing included USAID’s original “Request for Proposals” for stepped up efforts to bring about political transition to Cuba, USAID communications with DAI, and Gross’s own proposals for bringing computers, cell phones, routers and BGAN systems–”Telco in a Bag,” as he called it–into Cuba.
According to Kornbluh, DAI’s filing is “a form of ‘graymail’”–an alert to the U.S. government that unless the Obama administration steps up its efforts to get Gross released, the suit would yield unwelcome details of ongoing U.S. intervention in Cuba.
In its effort to dismiss the suit, DAI’s filing stated that it was “deeply concerned that the development of the record in this case over the course of litigation [through discovery] could create significant risks to the U.S. government’s national security, foreign policy, and human rights interests.”
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________________________________________________________ THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.
After over 50 years of US hostility towards Cuba, President Obama has the opportunity to change course. On November 6th, he broke the Republican stronghold and won over half of Florida’s Cuban-American vote, even in hardcore Miami. A week later, an overwhelming consensus of the UN General Assembly voted for the 21st consecutive year to condemn the continued U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, by a vote of 182-3, with only 2 abstaining (both U.S. possessions).
The latest obstacle raised against altering our Cuba policy is the case of Alan Gross, who has been held in Cuba for three years, on a 15 year sentence after he was paid some $500,000 to work undercover for a U.S. agency funded to promote dissension in Cuba. Specifically, he was arrested after smuggling into Cuba sophisticated equipment available primarily to U.S. intelligence officers to make untraceable communications. So far, the Obama administration and a unanimous resolution by the U.S. Senate have demanded his release, and the Washington Post editorialized that if Cuba does not comply, then U.S. relations with Cuba somehow “ought to get worse.” They proclaim that Obama cannot discuss a mutual release of prisoners with Cuba — even though his family supports such discussions, as do the Cubans — because there is “no equivalency” between his case and that of the Cuban Five, since Gross was “never charged … with espionage” (W.Post. 12/5/2012), even though none of the Cuban 5 were charged with committing espionage either. See Wikipedia for a fair summary of his case.
As a lawyer, I was one of very few people allowed to visit Fernando Gonzalez during his long stay in the Federal Prison in Oxford, WI (he is now imprisoned in Arizona). As one of the Cuban 5, held in U.S. jails since 1998, he had been assigned by Cuba to monitor Orlando Bosch, a career terrorist who operated freely in Miami. Bosch is most notoriously known for engineering the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airplane, killing all 73 on board. But it was Fernando who was jailed by the U.S. (now serving his 15th year), and the biggest crime he was charged with was working for Cuba without registering as a foreign agent. Clearly Mr. Gross’s situation is at least equivalent in that respect, except that he worked as part of a U.S. program to undermine Cuba’s revolution, while the Cuban Five worked to defend its own people from acts of terrorism plotted in South Florida. (Cuba complained that over 3,000 Cubans were killed by U.S. based terrorism, and that the U.S. government was not enforcing our own laws against such attacks.) None of the Five had any classified U.S. information, so none were ever charged with espionage, although three of them were given life sentences in Miami for supposedly conspiring to do what they never actually did (spy on the U.S.). They are considered heroes in Cuba, and their’s is the only domestic case in U.S. history criticized as being unfair by both the U.N. and Amnesty International.
Obama could resolve this issue by negotiating with Cuba, starting with a mutual release of these prisoners. He also has the opportunity to work towards normalized relations with Cuba, restoring the right of U.S. citizens to travel there, and for mutually beneficial trade. (After Hurricane Sandy tore through Cuba’s second largest city, causing what a UN observer called “the worst catastrophe in 50 years” there, it is still illegal for any U.S. supplier to sell any Cuban even a hammer or a bag of cement.)
For more information, including on Cuba’s travel policy reforms and travel options from the U.S. to Cuba, visit www.wicuba.org. To contact the White House, call 202 456-1111, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see additional info & actions on our website, or at http://www.wicuba.org,/www.freethefive.org or www.thecuban5.org. Sign up for our listserve! Click here: http://eepurl.com/lNi_n
Categories: Cuba and Obama