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    Normalization of Relations With Cuba Is All But Irreversible Now

    Normalization of Relations With Cuba Is All But Irreversible Now
    President Obama’s new directive mandates positive engagement, as opposed
    to perpetual hostility, as the new modus operandi.
    By Peter KornbluhTwitterYESTERDAY 2:37 PM

    With just under 100 days remaining in office, President Obama has
    launched a final offensive to assure that his administration’s effort to
    normalize relations with Cuba will outlast his presidency and be
    recorded as one of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the annals of US
    foreign policy. With great fanfare, on October 14 Obama issued a
    comprehensive directive as well as new regulations to further normalize
    relations and nullify key aspects of the 55-year-old economic embargo
    that, to date, the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to lift.
    Most importantly, the new presidential directive mandates positive
    engagement, as opposed to perpetual hostility, as the modus operandi of
    future US policy toward Cuba.
    “This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve
    already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and
    intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and
    our people,” said Obama as he summed up his purpose in a White House
    press release. His directive, the president noted, takes a
    “whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban
    government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible.”

    Since Obama and Raúl Castro announced a breakthrough in relations on
    December 17, 2014, the reversibility of Washington’s rapprochement with
    Havana has been the central question. Could political, commercial, and
    cultural bridges between the United States and Cuba be constructed—and
    firmly reinforced—so that the process of normalization could withstand
    current and future enemies of reconciliation?

    Donald Trump is one such enemy. In September, he turned Obama’s Cuba
    policy into a campaign issue by threatening to roll back the advance in
    relations. “The next president can reverse them,” Trump declared to a
    largely Cuban-American audience in Miami, “and that is what I will do
    unless the Castro regime meets our demands.” Via Twitter last week,
    Trump reiterated that he would “reverse Obama’s executive orders and
    concessions toward Cuba until freedoms are restored.”

    Described by US officials as “the manual” for US government agencies to
    institutionalize a policy of engagement, the new Presidential Policy
    Directive will make it harder for the next president to reverse course.
    Titled “United States-Cuba Normalization,” the 12-page
    directive—referred to officially as “PPD-43”—describes “priority
    objectives for normalization” and “directs actions required to implement
    this PPD” for all government agencies to follow in the future.

    The directive includes a report card on the considerable success of
    reconciliation efforts in less than two years:

    We have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress
    toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship. We opened our
    respective embassies, six U.S. cabinet secretaries visited Havana, four
    Cuban ministers visited the United States, and I became the first
    sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928. We established a
    Bilateral Commission to prioritize areas of engagement, and we concluded
    non-binding arrangements on environmental protection, marine
    sanctuaries, public health and biomedical research, agriculture,
    counternarcotics, trade and travel security, civil aviation, direct
    transportation of mail, and hydrography. We launched dialogues or
    discussions on law enforcement cooperation, regulatory issues, economic
    issues, claims, and internet and telecommunications policy.
    At the same time, Obama’s PPD is a repudiation of past efforts to roll
    back the Cuban Revolution. “We will not pursue regime change in Cuba,”
    it states categorically. “We will continue to make clear that the United
    States cannot impose a different model on Cuba because the future of
    Cuba is up to the Cuban people.”

    The directive, along with new Treasury Department regulations that went
    into effect yesterday, have generated headlines for removing the $100
    limit on the amount of cigars and bottles of rum US travelers can bring
    back from Cuba; “Obama lifts restrictions on Cuban rum, cigars,” read
    the USA Today coverage. But the new initiative opens the door to far
    broader economic, humanitarian, and cultural interactions. Moreover, it
    redefines some of the more contentious US programs, loosens sanctions,
    and circumvents the embargo on two-way trade with Cuba. Among its

    For the first time, the United States will begin importing, marketing,
    and selling Cuban medicines and pharmaceuticals, once they are approved
    by the FDA.

    Cubans with access to the Internet and electronic payment options can
    now purchase a wide variety of US consumer goods—from auto parts to air

    The Cuban government can now buy certain US agricultural implements on
    credit. Bush-era regulations required cash-in-advance purchases.

    To facilitate commercial shipping between the two countries, the
    Treasury Department has removed the onerous requirement that foreign
    ships carrying goods to Cuba have to wait 180 days to dock in US ports.

    US contractors and specialists can now provide goods and services in
    Cuba to assist in the development and support of public housing,
    transportation, water management, waste management, non-nuclear
    electricity generation, hospitals, and primary and secondary schools in

    Cubans students and scholars who want to study or conduct research in
    the United States will benefit from expanding grants, scholarships, and

    The $400 ceiling on purchases by US travelers in Cuba has been removed.
    Travelers are now free to buy whatever they want during trips in the
    future—including rum and cigars!

    In defining future US policy, Obama’s directive also redefines, but
    doesn’t end, the congressionally mandated USAID “democracy programs”
    that, as quasi-covert regime-change operations, have created ongoing
    tensions with, and indignation in, Havana. “We will pursue democracy
    programming that is transparent and consistent with programming in other
    similarly situated societies around the world,” states the PPD.
    Transparency has become the new code word for Cuba policy. Unlike most
    presidential directives, which are highly classified, PPD-43 is
    unclassified. “We used to have secret plans for Cuba. Now, our policy is
    out in the open — and online — for everyone to read,” National Security
    Adviser Susan Rice emphasized as she rolled out the new initiative at
    the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington last week.

    In her speech, Rice quoted a Cuban expression: “Es el mismo perro con
    diferente collar,” meaning “It’s the same dog with a different collar.”
    “Well, esto es un perro diferente — this is a different dog,” Rice
    argued. “This is real change.”

    After decades of multi-form US intervention, el mismo perro is what some
    Cuban officials continue to see. “We are not stupid,” Cuba’s ambassador
    to Mexico, Dagoberto Rodriguez, declared in harsh terms during an
    interview with the leading Mexican magazine, Proceso. “We realize that
    the policy of the United States continues to have the same objective” of
    subverting the revolution. From the foreign ministry in Havana, Cuba’s
    chief negotiator with the United States, Josefina Vidal, issued a
    somewhat more diplomatic response. Obama’s directive was a “positive
    step” toward normalization, she said, but “does not hide the purpose of
    promoting changes in the political, economic and social order, nor hide
    the intentions to further develop interventionist programs.” Overt or
    covert, the Cuban government objects to the democracy-promotion
    programs, and Cuban officials believe Obama can do more to gut the
    embargo than he has.

    As the new trade regulations went into effect this week, Vidal led a
    demonstration of several thousand students at the University of Havana
    to protest the continuation of the embargo and focus attention on the
    upcoming annual United Nations vote to condemn it. A number of students
    wore T-shirts with a new Twitter hash tag: #YoVotoVsBloqueo—I vote
    against the Blockade. While Obama’s directive calls on Congress to lift
    the trade sanctions and declares that “we will continue to work toward
    that goal,” the Cuban government is making the most of its yearly
    opportunity to rally the world community against the embargo and
    denounce US policy. For 24 years in a row, the UN has overwhelmingly
    voted to condemn the embargo and US violations of Cuba’s sovereignty.
    Last year’s vote was 191 to 2, with only Israel voting alongside the
    United States.

    Conceivably, this year’s tally could be 193 to 0—if Washington and
    Havana could agree on more temperate language for the resolution that
    reflects the ongoing process of normalization and Obama’s executive
    efforts to poke holes in the embargo. With the UN vote scheduled for
    October 26, the White House faces an opportunity to make a dramatic and
    unprecedented move against the Republicans in Congress. The United
    States could either abstain, or vote to support, a UN resolution against
    a set of sanctions over which President Obama officially presides, but
    politically opposes. “World opinion matters,” Obama noted during a
    recent interview with The New Yorker magazine about his Cuba policy. “It
    is a force multiplier.”

    Regardless of how the United States votes at the UN, Obama’s
    rapprochement with Cuba will become a case study in the history of US
    foreign policy. With the legacy of Obama’s presidency in mind, the White
    House positioned the new initiative as part of a broader model of
    diplomacy and negotiation in a dangerous world. To underscore that
    point, the rollout of the new PPD came on the 54th anniversary of the
    CIA’s discovery of intermediate-range Soviet missiles in Cuba—the
    beginning of the dramatic superpower crisis over a Caribbean island that
    nearly led to nuclear Armageddon. In the conclusion of his statement on
    his new Cuba initiative, Obama articulated the larger lesson he hopes to
    leave behind: “The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today’s
    actions,” he said, “should remind the world of what’s possible when we
    look to the future together.”

    Source: Normalization of Relations With Cuba Is All But Irreversible Now
    | The Nation –

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