Senate Hearing on Cuba Shows Change


It speaks volumes about the moment United States Cuba policy is in that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus holds a hearing and invites three strong, articulate voices for a new Cuba policy and only two of the old guard clinging to underwhelming rhetoric of Fidel the communist and constructing painful rhetorical stretches about Cuba’s support for terrorism.
That’s just what happened today in Dirksen 215. On the realist side of the equation were Col. Larry Wilkerson, co-chair of New America Foundation’s U.S.-Cuba 21st Century Policy Initiative; Mr. David McClure, president of the Montana Farm Bureau; and Sgt. Carlos Lazo, Iraq war veteran and Cuban emigre. Representing the “stay the course” community, Mr. Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba and Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami.
Take a look at Col. Wilkerson’s testimony here. It’s a clear-eyed, realist case for gradual rapprochement with Cuba.
At least in this forum, the reality of modern-day Cuba is overcoming the static caricatures of the Cold War. Senators like Baucus, recently returned from Cuba, are leading the way. Cuba is ahead of the United States in access to health care, is breaking new barriers in biomedical and pharmaceutical research, and is sending doctors around the world to help countries like Pakistan and South Africa. Cuba is a major tourism destination for the rest of the world, so much so that the supply of hotel rooms cannot keep up with demand. Even Israel, which regularly votes with the U.S. in the UN against Cuba, has companies investing in Cuban citrus farms.
Senator Grassley, the ranking member on the committee, is a fascinating study in the changing mood, at least in the Senate. Grassley said today, “Given the current leadership situation in Cuba, now is perhaps an appropriate time to review the status of our bilateral relationship.” Of course, he’s talking about the transfer of power from Fidel to Raul. Grassley is no ideologue. He’s a realist from an agricultural state and Cuba is a big new market. Change is on the way.
But perhaps the most important indicator of the changing tide on Cuba policy on Capitol Hill was a verbal altercation between Mr. Calzon and Col. Wilkerson after the hearing had concluded. Mr. Calzon walked over to Col. Wilkerson’s side of the table and the conversation escalated to a polite shouting match.
The content of the argument itself was insignificant (it was about Colin Powell’s view of U.S. policy towards Cuba). What is significant is that a few years ago, Mr. Calzon would have ignored Col. Wilkerson. Today his side’s control of Cuba policy is not so certain.
— Patrick Doherty


3 comments on “Senate Hearing on Cuba Shows Change

  1. rollingmyeyes says:

    Recently Bush commented that though we had this little altercation with Vietnam a while back, things were pretty good now. Wow! We lost that war, remember. Why can’t we give up and lose this war with Cuba, then get on with it.


  2. Carroll says:

    You can review canf’s goals here:
    More money for exile revolution activities in and out of Cuba.
    More money for TV Marti.
    Arrest and try Castro.
    US funds for college scholarships for children of Cuban political prisoners.
    Increased immigration for Cuban refugees.
    No travel to Cuba even for Cubans until immigration is increased.
    No trade.
    This is pretty mild, back in the 90’s the exile community had some really radical plans, detailed all the way down to how and who would go to Cuba after Castro was overthrown to set up a new economic regime, how Cuban national businesses would be sold to investors, what would done for exiles who lost their property when they left, etc….which sounded a lot like a return to the Batista regime that was overthrown to begin with.
    As with all other exile groups here their plan is based on.. quote…”having the most powerful country in the world behind them”. Since the Cubans haven’t rallied to overthrow Castro like they rallied to overthrow Batista I don’t see how the exiles here are going to “punish” the Cubans into a revolt, which is what they are doing, particulary after this long.


  3. easy e says:

    “The world is made up, as Captain Segura in Graham Greene’s 1958 novel Our Man in Havana put it, of two classes: the torturable and the untorturable. “There are people,” Segura explained, “who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea.”
    Then – so Greene thought – Catholics, particularly Latin American Catholics, were more torturable than Protestants. Now, of course, Muslims hold that distinction, victims of a globalized network of offshore and outsourced imprisonment coordinated by Washington and knitted together by secret flights, concentration camps, and black-site detention centers. The CIA’s deployment of Orwellian “Special Removal Units” to kidnap terror suspects in Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and elsewhere and the whisking of these “ghost prisoners” off to Third World countries to be tortured goes, today, by the term “extraordinary rendition,” a hauntingly apt phrase. “To render” means not just to hand over, but to extract the essence of a thing, as well as to hand out a verdict and “give in return or retribution” – good descriptions of what happens during torture sessions……..
    Death Squads, Disappearances and Torture – From Latin America to Iraq
    – Greg Grandin


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