Obama Administration: Normalizing Relations as Part of Smokescreen

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Statement from the Center for a Free Cuba:

Obama Administration: Normalizing Relations as Part of Smokescreen

The Obama Administration will announce tomorrow that it is normalizing relations with the government of General Raul Castro in Cuba. The operations of the American Embassy in Cuba are expected to acquiesce to a number of Cuban restrictions outside the boundaries of normal diplomatic relations. In order to be able to announce this symbolic success, President Obama will acquiesce maintaining hundreds of Cuban nationals that are employees of the Cuban government inside the American Embassy in Havana. The Administration will continue to contract employees from a Cuban government agency. Many of those employees are intelligence officers, and all of them are susceptible to pressure to spy on the diplomatic mission by the Cuban regime. The U.S. government is not permitted to hire workers in Havana as it does elsewhere in the Americas, but it has to pay the salaries of Cubans working for a Cuban government agency for a number of positions in Havana’s American mission.

In addition, it remains to be seen whether Cubans will have the same access to the American mission that they have in other Latin American countries. The American diplomatic mission in Havana is encircled by Cuban security forces that limit access to the mission.

The Administration has yet to respond to Congressional questions about whether General Castro has agreed not to open up America’s diplomatic pouch, as it has done in the past in contravention of the Vienna Convention.

The announcement comes just a few days after the latest roundup of 226 dissidents who were detained last weekend. In order to be able to normalize diplomatic relations, the Administration, in fact, plays an important role in the smokescreen covering up the increase of repression in Cuba. Shortly after the President’s announcement on December 17th of last year, when he indicated that fifty-some political prisoners would be released (many of them have since been rearrested), Amnesty International said the prison releases “will be no more than a smokescreen if they are not accompanied by expanded space for the free and peaceful expression of all opinion and freedoms in Cuba.”

President Obama’s Cuba legacy now includes actively participating in Raul Castro’s smokescreen covering up increasing repression and abuse of Cubans.

On this Fourth of July, Cubans who disagree with Raul Castro’s government will not be invited to attend the celebration hosted by the U.S. in Havana. Cuba’s Foreign Minister has had a virtual veto on who is invited to those receptions, and the Administration instead organizes a separate event for Cuba’s opposition. This is not the way America’s independence is celebrated in Buenos Aires, San Jose, Costa Rica, Mexico City, and elsewhere, where representatives of those societies are invited and the host governments do not tell the Americans whom to invite.