Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Courage and Leadership

With the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama just a week away, several US-Cuba policy analysts have already made their recommendations to the coming administration. Fortunately, there seems to be a strong agreement among many experts supporting US engagement instead of isolation.

I noticed (through the Havana Journal) that Wayne Smith, Cuba Program director at the Center for International Policy, shared his US-Cuba policy recommendations at Counterpunch last week. He suggested seven steps, most of which would increase people-to-people contacts between the two nations.

This week, Cuba experts Peter Kornbluh (senior analyst at the National Security Archive) and William LeoGrande (dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University) made a strong argument in favor of engagement and dialogue between the two governments.

And also this week, the Center for Democracy in the Americas released a report titled: 9 Ways for US to Talk to Cuba and for Cuba to Talk to US. This report is excellent. It includes nine essays that provide US-Cuba policy recommendations on nine different issues, such as security, migration and academic exchanges. The main mission of the report:

"Cooperation in these fields will give political leaders in both countries the confidence they need to close this fifty-year chasm of mistrust, so we can finally engage in the difficult negotiations that will bring this conflict to an end."

But, in my opinion, behind these policy recommendations lies the instinct to solve our problems humanely between neighbors, which brings me to Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson. I first noticed this story on the Cuba Journal blog, an article originally from the Key West Keynoter, reporting on a proposed diplomatic convoy from Key West to Cuba.

Key West Mayor McPherson wants to arrange a convoy of "city officials, community leaders, and other residents" to initiate US-Cuba diplomatic talks once Barack Obama is in office. "We're in a perfect position to act," says McPherson. According to the story, McPherson had this idea after Cuba was seriously hit by two devastating hurricanes last year.

"We should have been the individuals ready to send them aid," says McPherson, noting that he tried to "get some movement through [President] Bush" but was unsuccessful.

Best of luck to Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson. He's being very courageous, as a politician in South Florida, to take a leadership position in an effort that could bring positive change for many. May President Barack Obama have the same courage to fulfill his promises on US-Cuba policy.