State Department Official Clearly Unprepared to Lead Cuba Talks

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Last week, three hearing were held in the U.S. Congress analyzing President Obama's December 17th announcement to normalize relations with Cuba, which stemmed from 18-months of secret negotiations and a lopsided deal with dictator Raul Castro.

The main witness at the hearings was the State Department's top diplomat for Cuba, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson.

(The White House did not authorize the two National Security Council officials who undertook the secret negotiations to testify.)

The main takeaway from the hearings was that Jacobson is clearly unprepared to execute normalization talks with Cuba's dictatorship.

The hearings demonstrated that:

1. Jacobson lacks credibility. The most impacting moment of the hearings was U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's (R-FL) exchange with Jacobson in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whereby it was demonstrated how the State Department lied to the families of three murdered Americans. The State Department had previously told the families (and Congress) that a Cuban spy, who was serving a life sentence for murder conspiracy in the death of three Americans, would not be swapped in a hostage deal with the Castro regime. Yet, that's exactly what the Administration did, despite poor efforts to wordsmith around it.

Thus, how can the American people, let alone the victims of Castro's regime, believe any further commitments made by these incredulous U.S. officials?

Click here to watch the exchange.

2. Jacobson is unaware of Cuba's realities. During the Senate hearing, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) described -- in detail -- how the Cuban military's business conglomerates own the island's tourism and travel-related service industry. Moreover, how this sector is under the direct control of the Castro family, through Raul's son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas. Jacobson was unaware of this important fact. Yet, she still argued that the Cuban people would benefit from increased American travel more than the Castro regime.

How can we trust that the Obama Administration's policy will not disproportionately benefit the Castro regime, when top U.S. officials are shockingly unaware of the Cuban military's control over the economy?

Click here to watch the exchange.

3. Jacobson is unaware of U.S. policy. In another stunning exchange with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Jacobson was asked if she can name the conditions for lifting sanctions under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act ("Libertad Act"). She could not. Perhaps the Administration is more interested in Congress changing the law, than implementing it -- but that is not going to happen any time soon. Thus, it's Jacobson's constitutional responsibility to execute the laws of the United States.

How can the State Department's top Cuba diplomat lead talks with Castro's regime, while not knowing the conditions set forth in U.S. law for the full normalization of relations?

Click here to watch the exchange.

Instead, Jacobson kept regurgitating two talking-points:

- That U.S. sanctions policy toward Cuba has purportedly failed. This is particularly rich coming from an official who couldn't even explain what U.S. policy towards Cuba is. Moreover, in one of the most honest moments of the hearings, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, admitted to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that the U.S.'s engagement policy towards China had clearly failed to yield freedom, human rights and democracy.

Thus, the Obama Administration is using a failed policy as a model to substitute what it also purports to be a failed policy. Makes perfect nonsense.

- That other nations are thrilled with Obama's policy shift. Jacobson was most enthusiastic that other nations were pleased with the normalization announcement. Of course, those other nations have been economically financing and politically apologizing for Castro's dictatorship for decades. They are the same nations whose tourists and businesses helped Castro's regime survive the post-Soviet economic debacle of the 1990s. And now, the U.S. seeks to please them by helping Castro regime's survive its post-Venezuela economic debacle.

Rather than leading by example, the U.S. will now seek to "lead from behind" and adopt an immoral economic relationship with Castro's regime, in order to please other nations. More perfect nonsense.