Monday, November 24, 2008

9 Ways to Improve US-Cuba Relations

Congratulations to the Brookings Institution on their recent report aimed at US policy towards Latin America (even though I disagree on some points), and especially towards Cuba.

Brookings' report for significant change in US-Cuba relations is premised on repeated calls to meet "global challenges" in the Latin Region through "hemispheric partnerships." Furthermore, "Cuba has long been a subject of intense interest in U.S. foreign policy and a stumbling block for U.S. relations with the hemisphere’s other countries, the members of the [Brookings] Commission felt it necessary to address the issue here."

Its a very interesting read throughout, and fully available online [PDF]. The policy recommendations towards Cuba are below (hard-liners prepare yourselves).

- Lift all restrictions on travel to Cuba by Americans. The ability of Americans to travel to Cuba would allow for better understanding, promote small businesses, and provide information to the Cuban people.

- Repeal all aspects of the 'communications embargo' (radio, TV, Internet) and readjust regulations governing trade in low-technology communications equipment. This would encourage the transfer of information and a freer flow of ideas.

- Remove caps and targeting restrictions on remittances. These financial measures would help get resources directly into the hands of ordinary Cubans, empowering them, improving their standard of living, and reducing their dependence on the state.

- Take Cuba off the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List. This classification is widely deemed to be factually inaccurate. There has been no evidence in the past decade to maintain this classification for Cuba, and top U.S. military leaders have called for the country’s removal from the list.

- Promote knowledge exchange and reconciliation by permitting federal funding of cultural, academic, and sports exchanges. In parallel, U.S. nongovernmental organizations should be encouraged to establish ties with their Cuban counterparts and enhance grassroots dialogue.

- Provide assistance to the Cuban people in recovering from natural and human-made disasters. It would also allow the licensing of construction and other goods needed to support postdisaster recovery efforts.

- Encourage enhanced official contact and cooperation between U.S. and Cuban diplomats and governments. The U.S. government should propose a twelve-month period of intense dialogue, targeted at the exchange of defense attachés and the appointment of ambassadors. Military-military and civilian-military contacts should be fostered. Respectful and cordial relations would be resumed by allowing the Cuban Interests Section in Washington access to U.S. policymakers and expect reciprocity in Havana.

[I can hear Chris Simmons' head spinning in his office right now.]

- End opposition to the reengagement of the international community with Cuba in regional and global economic and political organizations. Cuba should be allowed to participate in relevant seminars, and the international financial institutions should be allowed to conduct fact-finding missions in Cuba.

- Work with the members of the European Union and other countries to create a multilateral fund for civil society that will train potential entrepreneurs in management and innovation. Providing capital to establish small businesses that improve the livelihoods of large segments of the population could increase the demand from within Cuba for expanded economic freedoms
and opportunities for advancement.

Whew! I recommend the full report [PDF]. The US-Cuba policy recommendations begin on Page 28.

[Video Presentation available, courtesy of C-Span.]