Wednesday, March 12, 2008


It is my personal belief that a peaceful process of normalization lies ahead between Cuba and the US, and that others also share this view. Throughout my readings of current and past US policy recommendations, it seems that there is strong and growing support for this goal. And, there are various other indicators (scientific, historical, political) that have led me to this assumption. I have great faith in international institutions and their universal principles in finding solutions to future global problems, just as many others do.

Throughout my research for Mambi Watch I have found that many political analysts on Cuba have worked together in finding possible solutions to the US-Cuba conflict. Most of these recommendations are aimed at the US, and I think that is a good start. To point the finger elsewhere is to ignore a major factor in this asymmetric bi-lateral relationship.

Below are US policy recommendations that I feel are the best road maps to building trust between Cuba and the US, and leading both toward normal relations. They are the recommendations of political analysts that have been observing Cuba and US policy towards Cuba for a long time:

- US-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century: A Follow-On Report (Task Force Report sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, 2001)

- A Road Map for Restructuring US Relations with Cuba (The Atlantic Council of the United States, 2007)

The Task Force Report by the Council on Foreign Relations is very thorough in providing a bi-partisan framework for future US policy, and the Atlantic Council report is a summary of similar recommendations, including some important additional notes. There are also two books that I feel contribute immensely to repairing US-Cuba relations:

- Sad and Luminous Days: Cuba's Struggle with the Superpowers After the Missile Crisis by James G. Blight and Philip Brenner, 2002.

- US-Cuban Cooperation, Past, Present and Future by Melanie M. Ziegler, 2007.

The Blight and Brenner book provides an excellent mental framework for future US policy towards Cuba (and other nations). According to their approach of realistic empathy:

"Were U.S. officials and U.S. advocacy groups to adopt an empathetic approach to Cuba, three changes would be necessary. They would need to: (1) no longer assume the worst about Cuba; (2) acknowledge the legitimacy of Cuban fears; and (3) renounce the Platt Amendment."

Ziegler's book provides the historical lessons from "confidence building measures" (CBMs) between Cuba and the US, and argues:

"At the very least, CBMs offer a new pathway for U.S.-Cuba relations that would be an alternative to the tired politics of the past. The U.S. policy of undermining Castro with the U.S. embargo has punished both countries for over forty years, and the unofficial policy of waiting for the biological solution is likewise flawed."

"Working to build confidence between the two countries serves the long-term interests of both. When the inevitable transition comes, an established pattern of cooperation will make it easier to re-establish healthier diplomatic ties between the United States and post-Fidel Castro Cuba."

All sources above do not demand that the US embargo be lifted unilaterally. But, the two books above disagree with the hard-line position that the embargo be used as a "bargaining chip" in future negotiations. The US embargo symbolizes one of the measures used to threaten Cuban sovereignty with, and it has the potential to derail any future efforts to build trust between the two nations. Nevertheless, demands for its unilateral termination may also be difficult to achieve, and thus a gradual process of termination may be best, perhaps within a time-table. Since this process may be more art than science, I believe an international body like the OAS or UN can better handle bi-lateral promises of ending the embargo, with a separate time-table for the release of Cuban political dissidents arrested in the crackdown of 2003. In fact, RAND Cuba analyst Edward Gonzalez proposed something similar in 1991:

"An inter-American approach has several advantages. It removes the emotionally charged issue of US-Cuban relations, deprives Castro of the opportunity to rally the Cuban population against the imperious Yanquis, and leaves the Cuban leader further isolated and without recourse to the world community should he choose to defy Latin American pressures for democratization."[*]

But, instead of "democratization," I feel the release of the remaining 2003 political prisoners (within a fixed time-table) is just. External demands for democracy upon any nation (even by international bodies) can still be perceived as threats to sovereignty, and can have negative impacts. Low-level diplomacy is best for encouraging a democratic process.

The policy recommendations above are very promising in re-establishing a climate of mutual respect between Cuba and the US, and changing the threatening asymmetrical relationship that exists. Still, the road map to US-Cuba normalization is long and may include unforeseen obstacles, such as "spoilers" like armed groups on both sides. In addition, the process of Cuban reconciliation can also become a long process. But, even drastic examples like Rwanda, can provide lessons on the need for dialogue, reflection and forgiveness. In this case, there are two possible frameworks available:

- Cuban National Reconciliation: Task Force on Memory, Truth and Justice.

- Varela Project's National Dialogue.

The Task Force on Memory, Truth and Justice outlines several historical events that require attention and deep reflection. Still, if the democratic processes in Cuba is slow, strong feelings may linger many years ahead, such as in Rwanda. And, perhaps the Cuban government may take actions to delay a potential democratic transition, such as in Zimbabwe.

The road ahead only becomes clearer if one makes efforts to achieve their desires. In which case, I am hopeful for a peaceful transition to normal US-Cuba relations.

[*] "The Beginning of the End for Castro?" by Edward Gonzalez, in "Cuba in the Nineties: A Special Report" by the Cuba Roundtable of Freedom House, 1991.

1 comment:

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