Don’t pack your suitcases
Director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y Cubano-Americanos de la
Universidad de Miami
(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- When Communism collapsed in the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe in 1990, Cuban-Americans, American companies
and tourists optimistically expected Cuba to be the next domino to fall.
I became well known back then for telling everyone “not to pack their
The recent announcement by President Obama about a change in U. S.-Cuba
policy is generating similar optimism. Yet my warnings from the 1990’s
are still valid today.
There are four main reasons to tone down our expectations. First the
Raul Castro military regime is not about to provide any major
concessions to the United States. On the contrary, Castro remains a
steadfast Stalinist, allied with Iran, Russia, North Korea, and
Venezuela, and a supporter of terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah
and ETA. He is no Den Chao Ping, no reformist, and no believer in market
reforms. For him and his octogenarian military allies, the way to
preserve and transfer power to their selected heirs is by maintaining
tight political control with no major political reforms in Cuba. Human
rights conditions will deteriorate rather than improve. It would be
difficult for President Obama to justify further U. S. concessions.
Second, the President faces strong opposition in Congress to any
unilateral concessions to the Castro brothers. A unified and powerful
coalition of Republican and Democrat legislators will thwart the
President’s attempt to give too much and get little from the Castros.
The abolition or modification of the Helms-Burton Law, which codifies
the embargo, must be approved by Congress, a most unlikely event.
Third, the foreign policy challenges facing the President in 2015 and
beyond will prevent his continuous attention to the Cuba issue.
Relations with Russia; conflict with Iran; violence and instability in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; increasing tensions in the Korean
Peninsula; and growth of worldwide and domestic terrorism will more than
fill the President’s plate.
Finally, dismantling the embargo is a complex and slow process. The maze
of laws, regulations and issues surrounding the Helms-Burton Law will
require time, effort and significant finesse.
For example, the issue of the Castro government’s confiscation of U. S.
and Cuban properties must be resolved before any real normalization. A
cadre of sophisticated American and Cuban-American lawyers await the
moment to collect on the judgments rendered by U. S. Courts against the
government of Cuba and/or to file new law suits to garnish the proceeds
of any trade with Cuba and investments on the island. The issue of
property confiscations is one of many thorny issues that need to be
resolved before any real normalization.
For the time being the current U. S. Interests Section in Havana may be
upgraded into an Embassy and several thousand more Americans will visit
Cuba. This will do little to improve the lives of the Cubans or to bring
democracy to the island. For the past decade several million tourists
from Europe, Canada and Latin America have visited Cuba, yet the island
is no freer or prosperous. If we believe that American tourists can
change Cuban society, we should send them to North Korea, Iran and
At a time that the U. S. is sanctioning some of these countries, it is
ironic that we are removing sanctions from Cuba. Engaging with a
military dictatorship in Havana is an ill-advised policy that sends a
message that the U. S. is willing to accept anew a militarism in Latin
America that we have rejected for the past forty years. Our new
engagement with Cuba and our recent one with the military in Egypt send
contradictory messages about American foreign policy and questions our
commitment to Human Rights and freedom in the world.
Source: Don’t pack your suitcases – Misceláneas de Cuba –