From the Elected Members of the Cuban-American Community

Saturday, April 11, 2009
March 24, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

As Members of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus, who represent the overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans in the United States, we would like to briefly share with you some thoughts concerning U.S. Cuba policy.

Just 90 miles from our shores, extraordinary men and women are struggling daily against a brutal 50 year-old dictatorship and look to this great nation for solidarity. Your presidency comes at a decisive moment for Cuba. You will have an extraordinary opportunity to assist the Cuban people in finally achieving their freedom.

Cuba Measures in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Act

We agree with the interpretation of the general license for agricultural travel and the definition of cash-in-advance requiring payment before shipment from U.S. ports, as outlined in Secretary Timothy Geithner’s March 9, 2009 letters to U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez.

However, in regard to Cuban American travel, we are troubled by the explanation in the “Guidance on Implementation of Cuba Travel and Trade-Related Provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009” that the general license grants “unlimited” lengths of stay in Cuba. We believe that this will serve to channel U.S. taxpayer dollars directly to the regime because retirees and Supplemental Security Income recipients could remain on the island indefinitely while collecting U.S. taxpayer-provided benefits.

U.S. Sanctions

The goal of freedom for the Cuban people has long been a U.S. policy of state, supported by Administrations and Congresses of both political parties. This U.S. policy of state becomes more important each day with the serious illness of Fidel Castro, the ultimate power in the very personalized totalitarian Cuban dyarchy. In a bipartisan fashion, Administrations and Congresses have insisted that before the U.S. makes any concessions to the Cuban regime, all political prisoners must be freed, all political parties, the free press and labor unions legalized, and internationally supervised elections scheduled. Any easing of sanctions, without demanding any concessions lessening the oppression of the people by the regime, will serve to strengthen the dictatorship and demoralize the Cuban people.

Aid to the Pro-Democracy Movement

As you will recall, Congress, by strong bi-partisan majorities, recently appropriated a significant increase in U.S. aid to the pro-democr acy movement in Cuba. Congress has also consistently supported funding for Radio and T.V. Marti, which provide the Cuban people with uncensored information that the regime attempts to block, and which also provide pro-democracy activists a vehicle to share their messages throughout the island.

Congress was very clear in its intent that the United States should increase aid to the pro-democracy movement inside Cuba. We look forward to working with you to make certain that U.S. assistance reaches the pro-democracy movement in an efficient and expeditious manner. We also look forward to working with you to make certain that Radio and T.V. Marti continue to be funded and improved to better serve the U.S. national interest in a democratic transition for the people of Cuba.

The International Community

Too many in the international community are seeking to assist the Cuban dyarchy in its goal of obtaining unilateral concessions from the United States and succeed in its attempt at absolutist succession once Fidel Castro dies. It is critically important for the international community to receive a clear message that the Obama Administration stands firmly and clearly on behalf of a genuine democratic transition in Cuba, and will not grant the Cuban dictatorship any unilateral concessions. All our friends in the international community should be urged by your Administration to join the U.S. in demanding free, multi-party elections for Cuba.

Cuba’s Political Prisoners

The Cuban dictatorship will attempt to use political prisoners as a bargaining tool with your Administration. Please recall how the regime has used political prisoners in the past in this manner, only to detain hundreds more once its immediate goals were reached.

We will continue to do all we can to bring to light the inhuman conditions suffered by Cuba’s political prisoners and to call for their unconditional release. Your solidarity and advocacy on their behalf is critical, and it can serve as inspiration, not only for the hundreds of thousands of patriots who have been incarcerated for their beliefs, but for the entire Cuban nation.

We would look forward to joining you in a strong demonstration of support for Cuba’s freedom.

Sincerely,


Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Kendrick Meek

Mario Diaz-Balart, Albio Sires

Robert Andrews, Frank Pallone





24 de marzo de 2009


El Honorable Barack Obama
Presidente de Estados Unidos de América
La Casa Blanca
Washington, DC 20500


Estimado Señor Presidente:

Como Miembros del Comité Parlamentario Pro-Democracia en Cuba, que representamos a la gran mayoría de los cubano-americanos en Estados Unidos, queremos compartir con usted algunas ideas sobre la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba.

A solo 90 millas de nuestras costas, hombres y mujeres extraordinarios están luchando diariamente contra una brutal tiranía de 50 años y miran hacia esta gran nación en busca de solidaridad. Su presidencia llega en un momento decisivo para Cuba. Usted tendrá una extraordinaria oportunidad para ayudar al pueblo cubano a finalmente lograr su libertad.

Las Medidas sobre Cuba en la “Ley de Asignaciones Ómnibus para el Año Fiscal 2009”

Estamos de acuerdo con la interpretación d e la licencia general para los viajes agrícolas y la definición del requisito de pago en efectivo por adelantado previo a los envíos desde puertos estadounidenses, como fue explicado en las cartas del 9 de marzo de 2009 por el Secretario del Tesoro Timothy Geithner a los Senadores Bill Nelson y Bob Menéndez.

Sin embargo, con respecto a los viajes de cubano-americanos, estamos preocupados por la explicación en la “Guía para la Implementación de los Viajes a Cuba y Estipulaciones Relacionadas con los Viajes en la Ley de Asignaciones Ómnibus de 2009”, de que la licencia general concede estadías “ilimitadas” en Cuba. Creemos que esto servirá para canalizar dólares del contribuyente de Estados Unidos directamente al régimen ya que jubilados e individuos que reciben Ingresos de Ayuda Suplementaria podrían permanecer en la isla indefinidamente mientras reciben beneficios proveídos por el contribuyente de Estados Unidos.

Las Sanciones de Estados Unidos

La meta de la libertad para el pueblo de Cuba ha sido una política de estado de Estados Unidos por largo tiempo, apoyada por Administraciones y Congresos de ambos partidos políticos. Esa política de estado se hace más importante cada día con la grave enfermedad de Fidel Castro, el poder supremo en la muy personalizada diarquía totalitaria cubana. De una manera bipartidista, las Administraciones y los Congresos han insistido en que antes de que Estados Unidos haga cualquier concesión al régimen cubano, todos los presos políticos deben ser liberados, todos los partidos políticos, la prensa independiente y los sindicatos obreros legalizados, y que se convoquen elecciones libres con supervisión internacional. Cualquier relajamiento de las sanciones, sin exigir ninguna concesión que reduzca la opresión del pueblo por el régimen, servirá para fortalecer a la tiranía y desmoralizar al pueblo cubano.

La Ayuda al Movimiento en Favor de la Democracia

Como usted recordará, el Congreso, con una fuerte mayoría bipartidista, recientemente asignó un importante aumento en la ayuda de Estados Unidos para el movimiento que lucha por la democracia en Cuba. El Congreso también ha continuamente apoyado los fondos para Radio y T.V. Martí, que proveen al pueblo cubano información no-censurada que el régimen intenta bloquear, y que también proveen a los activistas por la democracia un vehículo para compartir sus mensajes a través de la isla.

El Congreso fue claro en su propósito de que Estados Unidos debe incrementar la ayuda al movimiento por la democracia en Cuba. Esperamos trabajar con usted para asegurar que esos fondos lleguen al pueblo cubano con prontitud y eficacia. También esperamos trabajar con usted para asegurar que Radio y T.V. Martí continúen recibiendo fondos para servir al interés nacional de Estados Unidos en una transición democrática para el pueblo de Cuba.

La Comunidad Internacional

Demasiados en la comunidad internacional están buscando ayudar a la diarquía cubana en su meta de obtener concesiones unilaterales de Estados Unidos para su intento de imponer una sucesión absolutista tras la muerte de Fidel Castro. Es críticamente importante que la comunidad internacional reciba un claro mensaje de que la Administración Obama se mantiene firme y claramente a favor de una genuina transición democrática en Cuba, y que no le concederá a la tiranía cubana ninguna concesión unilateral. Su Administración debe urgirle a todos nuestros amigos en la comunidad internacional que se unan a Estados Unidos en exigir la convocatoria de elecciones libres, multipartidistas para Cuba.

Los Presos Políticos Cubanos

La tiranía cubana intentará utilizar a los presos políticos como un instrumento de negociación con su Administración. Por favor recuerde como el régimen ha utilizado a los presos políticos de esa manera en el pasado, para después detener a cientos más una vez que sus metas inmediatas fueron logradas.

Nosotros continuaremos haciendo todo lo que podamos para llamar la atención a las condiciones infrahumanas sufridas por los presos políticos en Cuba y para pedir su liberación incondicional. Su solidaridad y su voz en favor de ellos son fundamentales, y pueden servir de inspiración, no solo para los cientos de miles de patriotas que han sido encarcelados por sus creencias, sino para toda la nación cubana.

Esperamos poder unirnos a usted en una fuerte demostración de apoyo en favor de la libertad de Cuba.

Sinceramente,


Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Kendrick Meek

Mario Diaz-Balart, Albio Sires

Robert Andrews, Frank Pallone






Click here to download the letter

On Cuba, Obama must first think of Latin America – and democracy

Chritian Science Monitor Editorial Board April 10, 2009

On Cuba, Obama must first think of Latin America – and democracy

The region's democracies need to be defended, as does US nurturing of liberty

How to deal with Cuba has vexed US presidents since communist Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Now it is President Obama's turn. But this time, more than US-Cuban ties are at stake.

In coming days, Mr. Obama's actions toward the island state will reveal if he will be an active democracy promoter in global affairs, much like presidents before him.

Click here to read this article in its entirety...

Don't Buy Your Ticket to Cuba Just Yet

Friday, April 10, 2009
Kiplinger
April 10, 2009
By Andrew C. Schneider

Looking forward to Congress lifting the ban on travel to Cuba? Well, don't make plans yet. It's likely to happen, but not as soon as you think...unless you're a Cuban-American with family on the island.

Congress won't rush to end the 46-year-old embargo on American visits to the island (minus a brief lifting by President Carter), despite predictions to the contrary.

Click here to read this article in its entirety...

Cuba After Castro

Click here to watch

This week, members of Congress visited Cuba, and some of them met face to face with its aging leader, Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul.

The 2009 Great Decisions episode, Cuba After Castro examines the future of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Guests include:

Julia Sweig, Director, Latin American Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Sarah Stephens, Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas

Peter DeShazo, Director, Americas Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Susan Segal, President and CEO, Council of the Americas

Mauricio Claver-Carone, U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC

News Conference on U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Click here to watch today's news conference

Possible Cuba Policy Changes Spark Debate

Congressional Black Caucus Members Should Have Visited Political Prisoners & Their Families in Cuba

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Sagnip (609) 585-7878

April 9, 2009

Congressional Black Caucus Members Should Have Visited Political Prisoners & Their Families in Cuba
Smith, Wolf to Try a 3rd Time for Visas; Ask Cubans ‘Let Us In’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ-4th) and Frank Wolf (VA-10th), leading human rights advocates in Congress, will hold a press conference Thursday on the House Congressional Black Caucus Delegation’s visit to Cuba and meeting with Fidel Castro, and on Cuba’s latest push for normalized relations with the United States in order to tap into lucrative American tourism and commerce, while ignoring the fate of political prisoners and lack of freedom on the island nation.

In February Smith and Wolf were denied entry into Cuba.

Who: Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chris Smith
What: Cuba’s Political Prisoners & U.S. Relations
When: Thursday, April 9, @ 10 a.m.
Where: Cannon House Office Building Terrace (Independence Ave. & N.J. Avenue)

Smith, a newly appointed House Delegate to the United Nations, and Wolf, have been attempting a humanitarian visit to check on political prisoners in the island nation. Smith is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. He had expected to travel to Cuba in February with Wolf, but the government has refused to allow the visit by not providing a visa.

###

Debate on NPR

Coddling Cuba

Coddling Cuba
Why do the members of Congress rushing to befriend the Castros ignore the island's pro-democracy movement?

The Washington Post
Thursday, April 9, 2009; A16

HALF A DOZEN members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent hours huddling with Fidel and Raúl Castro in Havana this week as part of a swelling campaign to normalize relations with Cuba. "It is time to open dialogue and discussion," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told a news conference in Washington after their return. "Cubans do want dialogue. They do want talks." Funny, then, that in five days on the island the Congress members found no time for dialogue with Afro-Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez.

Mr. García, better known as "Antúnez," is a renowned advocate of human rights who has often been singled out for harsh treatment because of his color. "The authorities in my country," he has said, "have never tolerated that a black person [could dare to] oppose the regime." His wife, Iris, is a founder of the Rosa Parks Women's Civil Rights Movement, named after an American hero whom Afro-Cubans try to emulate. The couple have been on a hunger strike since Feb. 17, to demand justice for an imprisoned family member. They are part of a substantial and steadily growing civil movement advocating democratic change in Cuba -- one that U.S. advocates of detente with the Castros appear determined to ignore.

Click here to read this article in its entirety...

Cuban PAC blasts CBC trip as 'embarrassment'

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
From The Hill:

Cuban PAC blasts CBC trip as 'embarrassment'

Just when you think it can't possibly get worse...

I'm absolutely speechless...

[U.S. Rep. Emanuel] Cleaver called his trip the most interesting he had ever taken. He said he preached Sunday at an Episcopal church where he was allowed to speak freely and meet privately with congregation members. An interpreter was at Cleaver’s side throughout his trip.
“To see all of these myths melt right in front of my eyes was something to behold,” he said. “We’ve been led to believe that the Cuban people are not free, and they are repressed by a vicious dictator, and I saw nothing to match what we’ve been told.”

He said delegation members did not discuss Cuba’s checkered human-rights record, although Cuban government members raised the issue and said they would talk about that and any other topic if the U.S. wanted to open discussions.

Raul Castro reminded Cleaver of the late baseball great Buck O’Neil because he could so ably remember names and dates. Castro, 77, insisted to Cleaver that he was not like his brother, who was known for long-winded speeches.

“He’s one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met,” Cleaver said.

Lawmakers' Cuba concerns are misplaced

Please see the case and point made by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) in this morning's Miami Herald.

Congressional Black Caucus Urged To Visit Afro-Cuban Political Prisoners And Democracy Activists

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Congressional Black Caucus Urged To Visit Afro-Cuban Political Prisoners And Democracy Activists

Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) April 6, 2009 -- U.S. based groups are urging the Congressional Black Caucus ("CBC") to inquire about the health and safety of Cuba's courageous political prisoners and democracy activists during their current visit to Cuba, such as Afro-Cuban prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and civil rights activist Jorge Luis Perez Garcia "Antunez."

Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp., a Washington, D.C. advocacy group, has joined forces with Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL.org), to highlight the plight of the island's Afro-Cuban civil rights and democracy activists, and urge the CBC to advocate on their behalf.

Of concern to both organizations is the health of Dr. Biscet, a peaceful human rights and democracy advocate currently serving a 25-year sentence for these activities (New York Times, May 19, 2004). Dr. Biscet, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, is said to be in poor health. Antunez, who spent 17 years as a political prisoner before his release in 2007 (New York Times, April 24, 2007), has been on a peaceful hunger strike in his home since February 17th demanding the cessation of torture in Cuba's political prisons. Cuban authorities recently assaulted Antunez' home with tear gas (Miami Herald, March 26, 2009).

"It would be scandalous for the CBC delegation to visit the beach resort of Varadero during their trip, but not even inquire about Afro-Cuban political prisoners and democracy activists," said Mauricio Claver Carone, Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp. "Dr. Biscet and Antunez are the Dr. Martin Luther King's and Nelson Mandela's of the 21st century," Claver-Carone concluded.

A March 2009 report by the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies revealed that Afro-Cubans represent over 60 percent of the island's population, but only 17% of the senior leadership of the Communist Party and 10% of the senior command of the Cuban Armed Forces. Afro-Cubans also represent 80% of Cuba's massive prison population.

"If over half of Cuba's population is Afro-Cuban, that means human rights abuses in Cuba are by default racial issues, as the ruling cupola remains almost entirely white," said Henry Gomez, BUCL President. "The CBC should not stick to the program devised by their regime hosts of propaganda, beaches and monuments," suggested Gomez

Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, Corp. is a Washington, D.C.-based, non-partisan institution that promotes human rights and democracy.

Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty, Inc. is a Florida non-profit corporation that generates awareness about the Cuban reality. More information at http://bucl.org

# # #

State Department Press Briefing - Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow - Summit of the Americas

Only the Cuba portions, fascinating exchange and absolute media obsession! Click here to watch the entire briefing.


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release
April 7, 2009


On-The-Record Briefing

Ambassador Jeffrey S. Davidow on the upcoming Summit of the Americas

April 6, 2009

Washington, D.C.


MR. AKER: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s our great pleasure and privilege today to be able to introduce Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, who is the Special Advisor to President Obama for the Summit of the Americas, which will take place later this month in Trinidad and Tobago.

QUESTION: Hi. Do you expect Cuba to be an issue at the summit? Do you not want it to be an issue? And what will you do to see that it’s not an issue? Are you getting pressure from other countries to bring it up? And do you think Cuba should be a participant in the summit?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, to answer your first question, no, I do not think Cuba should be a participant in the summit. This is the fifth summit. And from Miami, you will recall that the summit – the first summit was in 1994 and it was a celebration and in a way it continues to be a celebration of the profound change in this hemisphere as compared to many periods in the past when the hemisphere was marked by undemocratic governments.

In 1994 at the first summit, it was a unique – up till that time, a unique moment in time because every government represented there had been elected, was democratic. And here we are, 15 years later, and that trend of democracy has continued. Cuba was not at the first summit. It still remains an undemocratic state. The United States still hopes to see change in Cuba that at some point will allow Cuba to rejoin the inter-American community. But it will not be at this summit.

Now, will Cuba be discussed, which was your other question. This is an open meeting of 34 heads of state. I don’t think one can dictate what is going to be discussed, particularly in – as I mentioned, there’s one meeting which is a private meeting just of the heads of state. In a way, we believe that it is not – it would be unfortunate if the principal theme of this meeting turned out to be Cuba. As I’ve told you, I think there are a lot of very important issues that warrant discussion, whether it’s the economic issue, social inclusion, the environment, public safety. We would prefer, obviously, to focus on what we have been preparing for, but there is no effort on our part to try to stifle conversation on any topic.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Cuba. If you just said that the U.S. is looking for dialogue, then why not include Cuba if you want to open better relationships with the continent?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, we are obviously interested in having the best possible relations with – you know, with countries that you had mentioned, Venezuela and Bolivia, and other countries. Our relationship with Cuba is a complicated one. It’s a complex one, and I don’t intend to dissect it here.

But the fact of the matter is, is that the United States seeks and would like to see and would hope that others in this hemisphere would like to see a Cuba which affords to its people the same kind of minimal rights which almost every other country, indeed every other country that will attend this summit, does afford to their people as a – as democratic nations.

So I don’t think it makes sense to try to compare Cuba and Venezuela or Ecuador or China or what have you. The fact of the matter is, is these have different histories, different backgrounds, different political situations, and we just have to be realistic about that.

May I – I’ll continue – okay, you, sir.

QUESTION: Dan Dombey, Financial Times. Two questions, if I may. First, would you view the President’s longstanding pledge to get rid of the restrictions on family visits to Cuba as just a humanitarian – just a – justifiable on humanitarian grounds, or is there also an element to which that improves relations with the rest of the continent?

And secondly, the President also, of course, on his trip is going to Mexico ahead of the Trinidad summit. Can we expect any more deliverables in terms of the relationship with Mexico, or should we be content with what we’ve just got in the last couple of weeks in terms of –

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, look, I think our policy with Mexico is fairly well established. The President and the Secretary of State, indeed the whole cabinet, have made it clear that our relationship with Mexico is of the highest priority. We have programs of support for Mexico, the Merida Initiative, which are on their way into being implemented. The level of cooperation between the United States and Mexico is higher than it ever has been in a whole range of issues, but in – particularly in terms of law enforcement. And Mexico is, as you can see, daily in the newspaper making very strong efforts and successful efforts.

On the question of relaxation of some of the restrictions in our policy towards Cuba, the President has said while he was in campaign and has been repeated since and the Secretary of State has said that – and the Vice President most recently in Chile, that we can expect some relaxation and changes in terms of the restrictions on family remittances and family travel. And as the Vice President said in Chile when he was down there, this does not include a lifting of the embargo.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Yeah, just more broadly on Cuba policy, is the Administration hopeful that, you know, the changes that have been going on there and changes in the – you know, the Cuban-American population or organizations – is the Administration hopeful that these can – will help bring about a closer relationship up – perhaps upgrading to an embassy, the interests sections, that kind of thing?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I’m not going to comment on domestic politics here. The fact of the matter is that for all of the reportage and speculation about changes in Cuba, the fact remains that the situation in that country as it relates to the freedom of its own citizens does not seem to have changed with the departure of Fidel Castro from the presidency, at least the formal departure, and the advent of his brother.

What I think is very important in talking about Cuba is that we should view Cuba in the context of this hemisphere, which, as I said, is a democratic hemisphere. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s when governments in this hemisphere were run by military dictatorships, when there were countries with political prisoners with no free press, Cuba, though special, was not totally unique in terms of human rights. Now, it is clearly the odd man out. As I say, there is no government in --

QUESTION: Are you talking about Cuba under Batista or under Castro?

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I’m talking about both.

QUESTION: Okay. But so --

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: And I’m glad you recognize that there’s not much difference. That’s your point.

QUESTION: What – okay, so if that’s the case, and things haven’t changed and you don’t want to comment on internal politics, why ease the restrictions? Why --

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: The President has said, made the point that he wants to allow Cuban Americans to have, as a matter of both moral – a moral matter and the question of elemental justice, to have more contact level --

QUESTION: Does the Administration see that as a way to bring change if more money is going in, if there are exchanges --

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: The President has said that he thinks that Cuban Americans are the best possible ambassadors --

QUESTION: Okay.

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: -- of this – of our system when they visit that country.

QUESTION: And what about the idea – there are moves afoot on the Hill to lift – to allow all Americans, not just Americans with families in Cuba to go – what is – what’s the Administration’s position on that?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I think that’s an issue still to be debated. But right now, what the President is looking at is – and I can say this because I know; I’ve read his promise in his May speech while he was a candidate in Miami that there will be lifting of restrictions on the question of – or a lessening of the restrictions on remittances and travel.

Yes.

QUESTION: Jeff Mason with Reuters. Two follow-ups on two issues that have just been discussed – first on climate change, can you give any more details on what kind of preparatory work towards Copenhagen might be done at this summit? Will there be any bilaterals specifically on that issue? Are there any specific goals you’ll be looking for?

And second, on the issue of Cuba, just broadly, what will the President tell his fellow participants about the U.S.’s strategic review of that relationship?

AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, on climate change, I would direct you to, you know, the special negotiator for climate change. I don’t think that we should expect specific outcomes – negotiating outcomes from this summit. It’s not the time and place, it would seem to me, when you get heads of state together. I’m sure that the President will mention it and the desire to cooperate, but that cooperation will be taken care of at other levels and not at the summit.

In terms of Cuba, I think the President will say that, you know, we are engaged in a continual evaluation of our policy and how that policy could help result in a change in Cuba that would bring about a democratic society there. I don’t think he’s going to be in any way unwilling to discuss that. As I said, however, there’s a very long agenda of topics that we think are quite important, that other governments think are important, and it would be unfortunate if the conference spent more time on that topic than it would have to.

Why don’t I take just a couple more questions? Well, I’ll keep going and – did I – yes, sir.

Classic...

From Reuters --

"Obama has said he would maintain the trade embargo until Cuba shows progress on human rights and democracy, which [U.S. Rep. Barbara] Lee said the delegation discussed only generally with the Cubans."

Yet, they've spent 4 whole days attacking U.S. policy!

Bail out Cuba? No way!

Monday, April 6, 2009
BY MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE

The Miami Herald
Mon, Apr. 06, 2009

With bailout fever spreading through the Capitol, it's hardly surprising that even a bankrupt dictatorship has found surrogates to plead for a handout.

Americans thought the financial-services industry was audacious in asking for billions of taxpayer dollars while senior managers gold-plated their bathroom fixtures, scheduled ''team-building'' sessions at luxurious resorts in the Napa Valley and paid themselves unmerited bonuses. Then executives of Detroit's Big Three automakers, also seeking billions, flew their private jets to Washington.

Now, a host of business and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and the American Farm Bureau, are voicing their support for bailing out the Cuban government. In a letter earlier this year to President Obama, they urged him to extend U.S. trade credits and financing to the Castro brothers' regime. Needless to say, Cuban authorities quickly reacted to this generous -- and unconditioned -- proposal with praise and enthusiasm.

The letter essentially endorsed a Cuba-policy report released by the NFTC just as the Paris Club of creditor nations disclosed that Cuba already owes $29.7 billion to its international trading partners -- with little hope for repayment -- and ranks second on the list of the world's most indebted nations.

Coincidentally, the Castro regime's biggest international benefactor, President Hugo Chávez of oil-rich Venezuela, is scrambling to adjust his domestic and international spending as declining oil prices remain steady below the $50 a barrel mark. Chávez had been making his short- and mid-term budget forecasts on an assumption that the price of oil would average $60 a barrel. From a fiscal standpoint, it's unsustainable for him to continue his ideological handouts around the hemisphere. However, Cuba has been the biggest beneficiary of Chavez's largesse, raking in about $5 billion a year.

If U.S. trade credits and financing aren't sufficient to bailout the Cuban regime, the American business groups, so eager to subsidize this dictatorship, held multiple press conferences this week with their Congressional allies promoting legislation to send American tourists to Cuba. According to Cuba's Ministry of Tourism, lifting U.S. restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba would net the Castro government $5 billion annually. Wouldn't that be convenient?

Never mind that Cuba's travel and tourism industry is owned and operated by the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which keeps and spends the money. Try to forget, too, that Cuban nationals are denied access to those isolated resorts -- including the hotels, beaches, clinics, restaurants and stores -- where foreign tourists only vacation.

Curiously, the American business group's letter to Obama never uses the words freedom, democracy or human rights; nor does it mention the most popular word in America today -- change -- in any context that might help the Cuban people. Perhaps its authors were unaware that Cuba's nascent civil society was struggling for ''change'' even before it became the Obama campaign's mantra. Change translates into the Spanish word cambio. When young Cubans began wearing white wristbands last year -- á la Lance Armstrong's yellow wristbands -- imprinted with the word cambio, the Cuban government's repressive response was sweeping arrests and prison sentences.

Obama correctly promised, while campaigning, to keep the embargo on the Cuban dictatorship and use it as leverage to negotiate civil liberties and political freedom. Cubans admire the United States as much for its democratic ideals and personal freedoms as for its prosperity. Change cannot be achieved by bailing out Cuba's longtime oppressors.

For Cuba to become a credit-worthy nation, it must first become a multi-party democracy that respects its citizens.