Move Forward With Cuba
By VICKI HUDDLESTONDEC. 26, 2014
When President Obama announced that the United States would normalize
relations with Cuba, he quoted a Cuban saying — "No es fácil," or "It
won't be easy" — to emphasize the long road ahead in discarding a more
than 50-year-old policy.
Mr. Obama's historic announcement has provided the foundation for a
vastly improved relationship. But ensuring that the new relationship
prospers and becomes an engine for a democratic and stable Cuba will not
be easy. To move the process forward steadily and quickly, the United
States and the international community should agree on a strategy that
encourages positive change.
The symbolism of full diplomatic relations is huge: The American flag
will fly in Havana, and the Cuban flag in Washington. But for American
and Cuban diplomats to collaborate effectively, each government should
remove all remaining restrictions on their travel and allow them to meet
with appointed and elected officials, as well as representatives of
advocacy groups, news organizations, universities and other parts of
civil society. The first order of business is for our diplomats to
expand and formalize cooperation on migration, the environment,
narcotics and crime.
Under a policy informally known as "wet foot, dry foot," Cubans caught
in the waters between Cuba and the United States are sent home or to a
third country, while Cubans who make it to America's shores are allowed
to stay. The policy needs to be rescinded — an action that can occur
through executive order — to foster safe and orderly migration and to
Cuba is the largest island neighbor of the United States. Opportunities
for joint research, the definition of territorial waters and the
prevention and cleanup of toxic spills will benefit both the United
States and the Caribbean basin.
Exchanging information on criminal activity, providing training on
border control and undertaking joint enforcement action against
traffickers in illicit drugs, weapons and people will make the region
and our country safer.
These are the relatively easy issues. The harder ones will be the
settlement of claims for property that was confiscated after Fidel
Castro took power in 1959, and the status of the Guantánamo Bay naval
base, which is on land that has been leased under an agreement dating to
1903. (The Cuban government does not recognize the legality of the lease.)
Negotiations are the only way to begin to resolve these two challenging
issues. The United States government should open negotiations with the
Cuban government on all registered claims of American citizens. Good
will generated through the settlement of these claims could set in
motion a process for exploring formulas that would lead to a fair
resolution of the claims of those who were Cuban citizens at the time of
The United States should also begin a process that would result in
returning the southern half of Guantánamo Bay, the land where the naval
base sits, to Cuba. Cuban sovereignty over the territory is not an
issue. The 1903 treaty and subsequent agreements recognize Cuban
sovereignty over the land, but until both governments agree to abrogate
the treaty, the United States can legally continue to occupy the territory.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue
reading the main story
Finding solutions to these disputes will build trust that can help the
United States to press Cuba's government to ease its authoritarian rule.
But resolution of these issues should not be preconditioned on political
reform; they are essential to any future friendship between our countries.
This is not to say that the United States should not use incentives and
disincentives to encourage political and economic reform. If the Cuban
government allows the free flow of communications, the transfer of
financial resources for small business, and greater economic opportunity
for its people, then the United States should not block financial
assistance to the Cuban government from institutions like the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. If the Cuban government
reduces restraints on civil society so that Cubans can speak and
assemble freely without fear, the United States should dismantle Radio
Martí and Televisión Martí, which broadcast American information to Cuba.
The international community has a critical role. It can act as an honest
broker in facilitating discussions and in pressing Cuba to move toward a
more open society. For Cuba to become a full and active member of
organizations like the Organization of American States, the
Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, it must meet the
standards for membership.
There is substantial disagreement among Cuban-Americans over Mr. Obama's
decision to normalize relations, but progress over the long term may
ultimately depend on them. One obvious reason is that a future president
who disagrees with the new policy could reinstate the measures Mr. Obama
has eliminated. He or she could downgrade diplomatic relations, rewrite
embargo regulations and squash talks on everything from migration to
The more the administration consults with and involves Cuban-American
leaders, the more likely it is to support the normalization of
relations. In the long term, reconciliation between Cubans and the Cuban
diaspora is essential.
Of course, Cuba's future is ultimately up to the Cubans on the island —
not just political dissidents, but all of society. No lasting change can
take place unless Cubans are willing to cast off fear and demand that
their voices be heard. The reinstatement of normal relations with the
United States will be a crucial opportunity for the people of Cuba, one
that must not be squandered.
Vicki Huddleston, a retired United States ambassador, was the deputy,
and then coordinator, for Cuban affairs at the State Department from
1989 to 1993, and was chief of the United States Interests Section in
Havana from 1999 to 2002.
Source: Move Forward With Cuba - NYTimes.com -