The opening of Cuban and American embassies in each others’ capitals as part of the diplomatic normalization announced by President Obama includes unprecedented, important concessions to Gen. Raúl Castro that will be difficult to maintain by future American administrations.
Among those concessions is the payment of millions of dollars to the Cuban regime for Cuban government employees who work inside the U.S. mission. All of them are a security threat to the U.S. embassy in Havana. U.S. embassies around the world employ foreign nationals, but in Cuba they are Cuban government workers. This anomalous arrangement was expected to end with the reopening of an American embassy in Cuba.
In addition, the State Department has yet to respond to congressional inquiries about whether Castro has pledged to honor the Vienna Convention and to not open or interfere with the American diplomatic pouch.
The lack of transparency in bilateral negotiations, the administration’s failure to inform Congress and the heavy Cuban police presence surrounding the embassy in Havana that prevents normal access to the Cubans are also issues. The embassy is the old U.S. Interests Section building with a new sign and, for the first time in 50 years, an American flag.
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Unfortunately, the announcement took place a few days after the arrest of 226 peaceful dissidents throughout the island.
Obama’s Cuba policy suffers from the same problems some of his foreign-policy initiatives have encountered elsewhere, including self-imposed deadlines and a disregard for American national interests, the reestablishment of a hostile Russian presence on the island accompanied by an intelligence gathering facility. And, Cuba’s alliances with North Korea and Iran come to mind.
In reality, the new Obama policy is the old and discredited policy that ignored human-rights abuses and based American diplomacy on corporate interests.
The archives are full of smiling American presidents with folks like Trujillo, Somoza, Batista and other strongmen. Obama will have to get used to seeing his photograph with Castro as part of that infamous collection.
Frank Calzon, executive director, Center for a Free Cuba,