US-Cuba Policy Change is Coming. . .

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cuban%20face.jpgVice President Joe Biden said this week that President Obama had no intention of ending the embargo of Cuba when he attends the Summit of the Americas in mid-April, but as Senator Richard Lugar and his senior staff member, Carl Meacham, outlined in a Senate Foreign Relations Commitee Print on US-Cuba relations, there is a vast amount of “unclenching the fist” that can be accomplished within the structure of the current embargo — even though I believe that embargo has failed to achieve its objectives for decades and is damaging to American national interests.
Tomorrow — Tuesday — Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) are hosting a media event along with human rights groups as well as business and agricultural representatives to announce the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.”
The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung and Shailagh Murray capture the progressive momentum of what may be ahead in US-Cuba relations today. . .despite the momentary chill that Biden’s comments caused.
Enzi and Dorgan have introduced the bill along with co-sponsors Senators Christopher Dodd and Richard Lugar. More Senators are joining up — including John Barrasso (R-WY), Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Rusell Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Benard Sanders (I-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The press conference will take place at noon iin Room SVC-203 of the United States Capitol Visitors Center and will also feature Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation; Myron Brilliant, Senior Vice President of International Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch.
Congressman William Delahunt will be unveiling a very large list — larger than what Delahunt’s team had in hand last Congress — on the companion bill in the House of Representatives at a big gathering on Thursday this week (he may drop the list to the press today). I’ll have more details on that later.
Unfortunately, I cannot attend tomorrow’s meeting — but hope that other readers, writers, bloggers will — and report back.
I’ll be moderating a meeting in New York on the G-20 London Summit taking place this week, but I am watching these US-Cuba policy developments closely.
— Steve Clemons

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  49. Mrs Jenna Helley says:

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  50. Garrison Morris says:

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  54. oryluyrolyp says:

    Seems to me like Representative Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY) has some explaining to do.
    Records – reported on http://www.r8ny.com, a New York City political Web site – show Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates) accepted a “personal loan” last year for as much as $100,000 from Selig Zises, a large investor in a California-based company that Ackerman called Xenonics Options. However, Ackerman, who denies any improprieties, said the alleged loan was actually a sale of stock that he accidentally misreported.
    “I no longer have it,” Ackerman said yesterday. “I sold it off a couple weeks back.”
    On March 9, 2002, Ackerman, a senior member on the International Relations Committee, purchased between $1,001 to $15,000 of stock in Xenonics, which is today valued at between $100,000 and $250,000, according to financial records.
    The 12th-term lawmaker said he decided to invest in Xenonics – a name he said he doesn’t even know how to pronounce – after a suggestion from Zises, whom he described as a friend.
    The U.S. Army awarded the company a $2.98 million contract a year later to manufacture night-vision equipment. Ackerman said he played no role in steering federal dollars to Xenonics.
    Within two years of his initial investment, Ackerman’s stake in Xenonics Options had ballooned to as much as $1 million.
    Why Xenonics? The answer can probably be found in Ackerman’s close ties to the Zises family, one of New York’s uber-Likudniks. Since 1990, the Zises family Bernard, Seymour, Selig & Jay, contributed at least $30,000 of Unifund CCR Partner proceeds (a vicious collection agency that will sue 160,000 Americans for Credit Card Default this year) to Ackerman’s campaign coffers.
    How close are Ackerman and the Zises? Close enough apparently for Ackerman to have made a statement on the House floor last year in celebration of patriarch Bernard Zises’s 90th birthday, and another upon the death of the Zises family matriarch, Ruth Zises . That’s right: a statement on the House floor.

    Reply

  55. Corita CloverFox says:

    Buenos Amigos! I recently stayed in Cuba for 2 months, and learned a great deal about the country, and by far, travel to Cuba … it is the Caribbean’s only Treasure Island … a golden paradise. It is important to learn as much as you can before traveling there, especially for first-time explorers, so that you don’t experience “Culture Shock” as it is different, yet without a doubt exceptionally splendid and intriguing. Consider travel to Cuba, before the less positive influences of the United States infiltrate their culture, and be in the midst of some of the most loving, generous, resourceful, and interesting people in this world. I know the “ins” and “outs” of travel to/in Cuba, and if I can assist your visit, please contact me.
    Gracias, y saludos: La Tramposa Zorro del Trebol. http://www.cubacharters.net

    Reply

  56. ... says:

    kathleen, the usa was easily conned into war in iraq… going to war in iran ought to be an easy step, especially with non existent leadership in the usa and a war gov’t in israel… if they can’t have a nuclear showdown with russia over cuba, maybe they can try for one over iran…their are no good leaders today, especially in the usa..

    Reply

  57. fidel castro ruz says:

    and estevan clemons worries about the powerful cuba lobby…and turns the other cheek to the slaps on the face that the israel lobby is dishing out to america.
    justicia.
    philip giraldi says.
    ‘Washington’s connivance in Israeli war crimes does grave damage to America’s interests both overseas and at home. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly cited America’s blind support of Israel as one of his justifications for terrorist attacks against the American people. Opinion polls suggest that foreigners who dislike the United States frequently do so because of Washington’s support of Israel. Scenes of Israeli abuse of the Palestinians are a staple of nightly television throughout the Muslim world, where America is seen as Tel Aviv’s enabler. If Obama truly wants to do what is right for the American people, then he can take no more significant step than cutting off arms sales to Israel.”
    call a spade a spade estevan clemons….dont be afraid, be a patriot.

    Reply

  58. Kathleen G says:

    fidel castro ruz..the whole world has been watching this hypocrisy as you have said for “decades”. How many times does the U.S. have to hear that this is one of the main reasons for the hatred towards the U.S. coming from this part of the world. Makes you wonder if the intention is just to keep things stirred up so that the U.S. can keep their foot in the door and defense companies keep making billions.
    And now this group of Congress folk have threatened Obama with a deadline with Iran. They are pushing for more sanctions against Iran based on what evidence
    Friday, March 27, 2009
    Letter to President Obama on U.S.-Iran policy
    March 26, 2009
    The President
    The White House
    Washington, D.C. 20500
    Dear Mr. President:
    We write in strong agreement with your firm position that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. We are distressed by the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that Iran has already stockpiled enough low enriched uranium to generate one nuclear weapon.
    Clearly, the Iranian nuclear program must be dealt with on an urgent basis. We wish to share our views with you as your Administration reviews U.S. policy toward Iran. We believe that several principles will be vital to the success of any effort to engage the Government of Iran:
    Engagement must be serious and credible, but it cannot be open-ended. Our goal should be to bring about Iran’s near-term suspension of uranium enrichment, and we should offer Iran meaningful incentives in order to achieve this goal. But we cannot allow Iran to use diplomatic discussions as a cover for continuing to work on its nuclear program. Iran must verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program within at most a few months of the initiation of discussions.
    We urge that the talks begin as soon as possible, so that we will have the earliest possible indication of whether they will succeed in halting Iran’s nuclear program. American action on this matter cannot be deferred. Waiting until after the Iranian presidential elections in June would give Tehran as much as six more months of unhindered enrichment and stockpiling.
    Should the process of engagement not yield the desired results, we would urge you to immediately apply the tools at your disposal to increase economic pressure on the Iranians. Examples of powerful actions within your legal authority include:
    Sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran
    Sanctioning international banks that continue to do business with Iranian banks
    Denying access to American ports to shipping companies whose ships call on Iranian ports
    Sanctioning insurance companies that insure vessels calling on Iranian ports or that insure aircraft landing at Iranian airports
    Sanctioning energy companies investing in Iran’s oil and gas sector
    Beyond our own independent efforts, we must also line up our allies now to take significantly greater action if the process of engagement does not yield the desired results. In that case, our allies should accept that the urgency of the situation will require stern measures that will broadly affect Iran’s economy. They should be prepared to prohibit Iranian banks from operating on their territory and to
    cease allowing Iran to conduct international financial transactions in Euros, pounds, and yen. Similarly,
    they should stop the practice of providing export credits to their companies seeking business in Iran, and they should also bar their companies from continuing to deliver refined petroleum to Iran. In addition, they should cease selling Iran catalytic converters, which are critical to the functioning of Iran’s own refineries.
    We must make Iran a matter of the highest priority in our relations with Russia and China.
    In short, Mr. President, if we truly mean that Iran cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, urgent action is required today. We must use the time available to us to begin engagement and to convince the Iranians of our seriousness of purpose. Otherwise, we will face far more difficult decisions in the future.
    We look forward to the results of your policy review and to the early implementation of your policy of engagement. We stand ready to work with you to deal with the grave threat that Iran now poses to international stability and security.
    Sincerely,
    The Honorable Steny H. Hoyer
    The Honorable Howard L. Berman
    The Honorable Ike Skelton
    The Honorable Sylvestre Reyes
    The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
    The Honorable Gary L. Ackerman
    The Honorable Robert Wexler
    Additional Coverage
    Letter to President Obama on U.S.-Iran policy (.PDF version)
    SO WHY ARE WEXLER, ACKERMAN, WAXMAN, REYES, SKELTON, BERMAN AND HOYER APPLYING THIS TYPE OF PRESSURE ON OBAMA…WHEN OBAMA HAS JUST ATTEMPTED TO REACH OUT IN A GESTURE FOCUSED ON DIPLOMACY INSTEAD OF INFLAMMATORY RHETORIC TOWARDS IRAN?
    YOU WOULD ALMOST THINK THIS GROUP WHO SIGNED THIS LETTER ARE PUSHING FOR A CONFRONTATION WITH IRAN
    The I lobby (led by Rosen who has been indicted on espionage charges for passing classified intelligence to Israeli officials) takes out Charles Freeman so that you can make sure that there will not be fair and balanced analysis of intelligence about Iran and then tell President Obama you have a “few months” to negotiate with Iran.
    Insanity

    Reply

  59. fidel castro ruz says:

    “even though I believe that embargo has failed to achieve its objectives for decades and is damaging to American national interests.”
    speaking of the american national interest….
    http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2009/03/30/stop-arming-israel/
    Israel has long enjoyed a special status, committing war crimes as a matter of policy and, uniquely, still being able to buy weapons on the international market. Stopping the sale of weapons to Israel is a proportionate response, because Israel is not militarily threatened by any or even all of its neighbors acting together. A ban on weapons sales would send a strong message while not detracting from Israel’s ability to defend itself
    To be sure, many countries have engaged in war crimes in the past 50 years, but Israel has done so repeatedly as a policy of intimidation, using American weapons and political cover to carry out the crimes. Israel’s war crimes have damaged America’s reputation all around the world. When Israel acts badly, the rest of the world sees Washington behind it, sometimes obscenely so, as when then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice described the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” after Israel devastated Lebanon in July 2006. It is the Muslim world’s perception that Israel can do anything to Arabs and never be rebuked by the U.S.
    Israel has been engaging in war crimes since the country’s founding, when it deliberately terrorized Palestinian civilians to make them flee their homes. In 1967, Israel attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 American sailors and Marines, apparently because it believed that the Liberty had intercepted orders by the Israeli government to execute thousands of Egyptian prisoners captured in Sinai. In 1982, Israel used cluster weapons on Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and its army officers stood by while its Phalangist allies killed thousands of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
    Most recently, in January’s fighting in Gaza, the tally of Israeli war crimes seems almost too incredible to believe. The violations have been carefully documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights, and the International Red Cross. The UN rapporteur for Gaza, Richard Falk, called the Israeli offensive, in which nearly 300 children and 121 women died, “a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law.” The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) used phosphorus artillery shells against a United Nations compound where more than 700 people were sheltering, killing 42. The UN had called the Israelis repeatedly to tell them there were hundreds of civilians seeking shelter in the building. A UN school sheltering 1,600 civilians was hit two days later. The spent phosphorus shell casings left in Gaza revealed that they had been made by Thiokol Aerospace and the Pine Bluff Arsenal in the United States.
    All such actions are violations of the Geneva Conventions. Israel also used drones to target and kill civilians and shot down women and children advancing under cover of a white flag. A tank fired into an apartment building, killing the three daughters of a Palestinian physician, with an IDF board of inquiry subsequently finding the deaths “reasonable.”
    Col. Pat Lang, who served as the U.S. Army liaison to the IDF while in uniform and later in a similar capacity with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a civilian, observed Israeli soldiers using a tank’s machine gun to shoot at Palestinian Christian women who were hanging up their laundry, “just for the fun of it.” He once was caught up in an Arab street demonstration and was told by an Israeli officer afterward that he would have been shot dead but for the fact that he did not look Palestinian and to kill a foreigner would have caused trouble. Israeli snipers finishing their training courses order T-shirts with distinctive artwork. One recent shirt featured a pregnant Arab woman with a bull’s-eye centered on her and the English slogan “1 shot, 2 kills” underneath.

    Reply

  60. Jhn Allison says:

    Clearly, the return to pre-2004 guidelines for cultural visits to Cuba is A Good Thing, but not nearly enough. Enough would be Freedom To Travel for all US citizens and residents. Enough “War on Terror” through such strange tactics in places where there is no terror except by terrorists living in and protected by the US b the US – Posada Carilles for example. If anyone wants to go to Cuba on a tour organized by a Cuban tour organizer with 20 years of experience there, now living in the US, I will happily put you in touch with her.
    johnvallison@yahoo.com

    Reply

  61. Don Bacon says:

    Liberalization of the embargo makes sense because it would help the Cuban people and promote US interests in the hemisphere (Cuba has allies), and also it would be consistent with our other foreign (unconditional) relationships which include “Communist police states” and plain vanilla “police states” (e.g. Vietnam, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia).
    Also it would be a lot of fun to visit friendly close neighbors, especially Cubans. There are probably other reasons, but those are some.
    You can’t, or shouldn’t, put a price on friendship.

    Reply

  62. Zathras says:

    As I’ve written here before, I am sympathetic to the idea of a course change in America’s Cuba policy.
    I’d point out to Steve Clemons, though, that Cuba’s government is still a Communist police state, and ask him if there is anything at all he’d expect from that government in exchange for all the liberalization he’s recommending on the American side. Setting aside the views of those Americans who believe Communist police states rock and the somewhat larger number who think any government that is anti-American must be OK, Americans who take foreign policy as seriously as Clemons obviously does must be aware that reducing the scope of the embargo promises substantial economic and other benefits to Cuba — more, frankly, to Cuba than it does to the United States.
    I’m not arguing that the price for those benefits ought to be prohibitive for Havana, or exorbitant in any way, but surely there ought to be one. Deals are better than unreciprocated gestures of goodwill, just on principle, and two countries only 90 miles apart will have so many issues to cope with in the coming years that a major change in policy on the American side should be part of a deal bringing something we want from Cuba.
    Which would be….well, that’s what I’m asking. Unjamming Radio Marti? Assurances about restricting future Cuban immigration to the United States? Help with the drug trade, help with Chavez, cooperation on fighting invasive species, or something else? Or is liberalizing the embargo just something we are doing to feel better about ourselves?

    Reply

  63. Don Bacon says:

    Steve, thanks for covering and promoting this issue. I’d love (legally) to go to Cuba. Off the top of my head, how about you organize a meeting in Havana and accredit those of your faithful who wish to attend? That would focus some minds. Clemons & Castro — the mind boggles. Mambo too.

    Reply

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