Why Cuba might not be safe for Snowden
By Max Fisher, Published: June 25, 2013 at 4:19 pmE-mail the writer
One of the countries discussed as a potential haven for Edward Snowden
is Cuba, the tropical communist hold-over ruled by Fidel Castro's
younger brother Raul. Snowden was even expected to fly to Cuba on
Monday, on the way to Ecuador, though he never boarded the flight.
One Cuba scholar thinks that the country might not be willing to shelter
Snowden, though. Anya Landau French, who previously headed up the New
America Foundation's Cuba program and now writes a Cuba policy blog
sponsored by the Center for International Policy, points out that Cuba
agreed in 2006 to stop its practice of harboring American fugitives.
And, unlike Ecuador, Cuba has an interest in calming relations with the
United States, not worsening them.
In the State Department's 2006 report detailing why it would continue to
list Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, it noted that Cuban
authorities had given assurances they would no longer accept "new" U.S.
fugitives (whether their crimes were considered political or not).
Allowing Snowden to transit Cuba would be a break of faith from that
assurance given. Allowing a fugitive to transit your territory is
tantamount to giving refuge, as the fugitive wouldn't be able to reach
their ultimate destination without the transit stop.
To be clear, though, Cuba's 2006 agreement is nowhere near binding. The
country could surely offer to assist Snowden if it wanted to. The point
is that Havana doesn't seem to want to do this sort of thing anymore. In
2007, around the time of the agreement, the U.S. estimated that Cuba was
harboring 70 American fugitives. And these were not necessarily
whistleblowers or activists. The most famous, Charlie Hill, is wanted
for murdering an Arizona state trooper and hijacking an airplane.
Another killed a New Jersey state trooper.
This was back in the Cold War, after all, when the U.S. was trying to
topple Fidel Castro, who wanted to do whatever he could to needle the
Americans. Today, the U.S.-Cuba stand-off is thawing. There are more and
more Cubans economic migrants to the United States, which began easing
travel and money transfer restrictions during President Obama's first
term. Cuba reciprocated in October. The death of Venezuela's
anti-American leader, Hugo Chavez, raised hopes that the U.S. and Cuba
might finally be ready to move past decades of hostility.
Other than Cuban citizens themselves, who are held back by the U.S.
embargo that makes it tough for them to even get Internet access, few
people would benefit more from easing U.S.-Cuba tensions than the Cuban
leadership. This is probably not a moment when the Cuban leaders are
trying to throw sand in America's face, for example by defying an
earlier pledge not to harbor fugitives.
It's entirely possible, of course, that they might shelter him anyway.
But Havana's likely calculus would seem to make that less than a sure
thing. French speculated that Cuban leaders might even be tempted to
trade him for some of the Cuban citizens still held in the United
States. Tough to say. Presumably, someone in either Russia or Ecuador or
both is looking out for Snowden's interests now and will make sure he
doesn't end up in another country, as in Hong Kong, that doesn't want to
shelter him. That might include Cuba.
Source: "Why Cuba might not be safe for Snowden" -