Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The weakest link in the trade-embargo chain

Posted on Tuesday, 02.25.14

The weakest link in the trade-embargo chain

In late January, Cuba announced it had decided to freeze funds linked to
the terrorist groups al Qaida and the Taliban. Signed by President Raúl
Castro, the decree stressed that the sanctions demonstrated Cuba's
"commitment in the fight against money laundering, financing terrorism
and the proliferation of weapons."

A few days later, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States
met in Havana. Among the documents generated at the meeting, there is
one labeled "Special Declaration to Support the Fight Against Terrorism
in All its Forms and Manifestations," which "rejects the inclusion of
Cuba in the so-called list of States Sponsoring International Terrorism
of the U.S. State Department."

In early February, the Atlantic Council — a think tank that promotes
"constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs" —
released the results of a poll on U.S.-Cuba policy conducted among
randomly selected U.S. adults. The survey, which concludes that a
majority of Americans would like to normalize relations with Cuba,
included a question about whether or not Cuba "belongs on the State
Sponsors of Terrorism List."

Just a few days later, and for the second time in less than three
months, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. D.C., announced that
it will suspend all consular services, a decision that will prevent
thousands of Cuban Americans and other Americans from traveling to the

On both occasions, the Cuban representatives claimed they were forced to
take this dramatic step because they cannot find a U.S. bank to handle
their accounts. On both occasions, the Cubans argued that their accounts
are problematic for U.S. banks because Cuba is on the State Sponsors of
Terrorism List.

By now the reader must have recognized a pattern: the State Sponsors of
Terrorism List (the SST List.) Those of us who follow Cuban affairs are
used to the regime's tirades against the U.S. trade embargo. The
emphasis on the SST List, however, is fairly new in the regime's
saturation campaign against U.S. policy. Considering that Cuba has been
on the list since 1982, what explains this offensive right now? Even
more interesting, Havana's offensive coincides with a growing interest
in the SST List by liberal think tanks such as the Atlantic Council and
others. Is this a coincidence?

Let me be perfectly clear: I am not accusing the Atlantic Council of
being in cahoots with Havana to change current U.S. policy. Rather, I
think Havana is copying the strategies of the U.S. anti-embargo lobby
and timing its own campaign to coincide with theirs so as to create
momentum. This is not difficult to believe, considering how transparent
the political debate is in this country, and the proficiency of Cuban
intelligence in recruiting romantic American academics.

Even though the embargo was codified into law by the Helms-Burton Act
and can only be lifted by Congress, the president has the prerogative to
tweak the policy through executive orders. But the SST List, which
mandates a number of sanctions against included countries, constitutes a
legal obstacle to any further relaxation of policy.

The U.S. anti-embargo lobby has thus identified the SST List as the
weakest link in the chain of U.S.-Cuba policy. Its explicit goal is to
have the president use his executive power to remove Cuba from the SST
List immediately after this year's November elections, and then make
other "adjustments" to the Cuba policy before the end of President
Obama's second term.

There is no question that in many ways the interests of the U.S.
anti-embargo lobby and those of the Cuban regime overlap to a
significant degree. Taking Cuba off the SST List will open the door for
the White House to lift the travel ban. Flooding Cuba with millions of
naïve American tourists is probably No. 1 on the regime's Top 10 list of
"Things We Need Most to Stay in Power Indefinitely."

My friends in the anti-embargo lobby overestimate the influence of
American tourists, and forget there is not a single case in contemporary
history where a totalitarian regime was toppled, even weakened, by
foreign tourists.

Cuba may have a lower profile on jihadist terrorism than others on the
SST List, but if the regime wants its name removed, it needs to do a lot
more than just announce financial sanctions against al Qaida. Releasing
Alan Gross and delivering fugitive Joanne Chesimard to U.S. justice
would be a good start.

Sebastian A. Arcos is associate director of the Cuban Research Institute
at Florida International University.

Source: The weakest link in the trade-embargo chain - Other Views - -

No comments:

Post a Comment