U.S.-Cuba Relations: Obama Gives, Castro Takes

Saturday, October 10, 2015
By Guillermo I. Martinez in Sun-Sentinel:

How U.S.-Cuba relations work: Obama gives, Castro takes

Raul just says what he wants, and Obama gives

Negotiations between two nations are not an easy proposition, even under the best of circumstances.

Usually it entails a difficult give and take by each country, a lot of posturing until an agreement is reached.

That has not been the case in the negotiations between the United States and Cuba in the efforts to normalize relations. So far things have been moving quite smoothly with Cuba making demands and President Barack Obama acquiescing to most of what Cuban President Raul Castro seeks.

The process started Dec. 17, when Obama and Castro announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries after more than half a century.

That was the start of one of the most bizarre negotiations in recent history. In addition to the usual political requests, Cuba asked and the American government acquiesced to having a Cuban spy jailed in the United States artificially inseminate his wife in Cuba.

Since then, the United States has been doing most of the giving, and Cuba demanding more and more each time.

In July, the United States unilaterally declared Cuba was no longer among the worst international offenders when it comes to human trafficking. What did the United States get in return? Nada! Zip! Nothing!

But the United States and Obama were not through giving Cuba things it wanted.

In September, the Obama administration announced still another batch of regulatory changes that would make it easier for Americans to travel, do business in Cuba and even invest in the island.

It makes no difference if any and all business with Cuba has to be made with the son-in-law of Raul Castro. Obama was in a giving mood, and Castro was gladly willing to take.

According to reports, the rules announced in September would allow American companies to open branches on the island, and conduct transactions and finance operations there.

Then came the second meeting between Obama and Castro, at the United Nations. Again the two men, now at least on pleasant terms, shook hands.

One would have expected Castro would at least be thankful for Obama's giving mood. An indication the two countries were on much better terms would have been most welcomed.

Despite repeated complaints by the United States that Cuba was violating the human rights of the dissidents on the island, thugs working for the government and police harassed, beat up and jailed dissidents in Cuba.

In fact, since the United States and Cuba first announced they were re-establishing diplomatic relations, the Cuban government had increased its repression on dissidents. The number beaten, jailed or intimidated has doubled.

During Pope Francis' visit to Cuba, the dissidents were kept away. When one came close to the Pope with a communique in hand, secret police whisked him away violently. Neither the pope nor the American government said anything about the incidents.

At the United Nations, Castro delivered his usual anti-American speech, full of demands. Cuba wants the United States to return Guantanamo Naval Base, reparations for the Cuban economic blockade (Cuba's term for the embargo) imposed by the United States, and the end of U.S.-sponsored Radio and TV Martí broadcasts.

Not a word about human rights, or allowing greater freedom to the Cuban people. Not a word about allowing more foreign business enterprises in the island. As far as Castro is concerned, he has given all he needs to give.

And he is right. Why give anything at all when Obama is in such a generous mood?. Who knows how much more Obama is willing to give.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said there was much more that Obama could do by executive order. He does not need Congress to lift the embargo in order to still grant more concessions to Cuba.

All this because a weak American president — the weakest in more than 35 years — believes that increased contact between Americans and ever day Cubans on the island will bring about changes that the Cuban government will not be able to stop.

Despite my skepticism, one must hope Obama is right and that the everyday Cuban — the one making $20 a month — benefits from this attempt at bringing the two nations closer.

However, I will not be holding my breath waiting for more concessions from Cuba.