Missing the Point
Foreign Policy's Associate Editor Joshua Keating posted an article on Fidel Castro that meditates on power relationships in Cuba based on the theme of what Fidel is wearing in his public appearances.
He may want to cast his net a bit wider. Keating credits as the source of his insights Professor Jaime Suchliki, a fixture in the right wing of Cuban American exiles in Miami. Suchliki is intensely anti-Castro, fervently backed Bush's interventionist campaign against his homeland and opposes any reform in US policy toward Cuba by the Obama Administration.
It is hard to tell from the outside what the distribution of power is between the Castro brothers. It is notable that Fidel has not directly spoken to the most sensitive issues of domestic politics, economic reforms and release of prisoners.
The Jeffrey Goldberg interviews so blithely dismissed by Mr. Keating are worth reading in their entirety in the Atlantic. (The latest installment is here.)
They certainly will come as a surprise to knee-jerk anti-Fidelistas as he denounces anti-semitism from Iran, regrets his letter to Khrushchev about attacking the US, and acknowledges that, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore".
The fascination with Fidel, by the right and the left, are an obstacle to seeing the real currents of reform currently underway in Cuba. Regrettably the White House has yet to demonstrate that it comprehends this process and is ready to take steps that will have a positive influence. So far it is not inclined to use its authority to modify travel and other executive sanctions in defiance of dead end special interests in Florida and New Jersey.
If they really intend to do it before Congress returns, the clock is running out on the Administration making significant change in Bush era regulations that harshly restrict non-tourist travel.
AFP reports that Governor Bill Richardson reaffirmed to the Inter-American Dialogue conference yesterday that,
"US-Cuba relations are heading into a positive phase. I see changes"...Richardson said US President Barack Obama was considering lifting some travel restrictions to Cuba for US citizens.
On a less affirmative but still suggestive note,
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said he also welcomed the direction Cuba was taking, but cautioned: "these steps are clearly not enough... to normalize relations."
"We are looking forward, hopefully, to additional releases of prisoners as things go," he added.
"The policy of the Obama administration is we need more engagement with Cuba rather than less engagement," Valenzuela said.
In addition to public opposition from the Cuban American Congressional quintet, their well rewarded allies from Florida are reportedly making their views known in the White House. The indomitable Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been named by one source as being concerned 'the proposed changes go too far'.
Since Schultz and the quintet opposed even the President's authorization of general licenses for Cuban American family travel, it is hard to know how little they would consider acceptable, or why the White House would let their special interests compromise an important national policy decision. Among the issues at play is surely the breadth of visits covered, how much of OFAC's attention will be diverted to controlling US citizen travel and whether the near monopoly given Travel Service Providers will be maintained.
After a conference call with Rep. Howard Berman, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am more convinced than ever that the only game that matters right now is the one being played in the White House. As the change.org letter says, "Mr. President, Be Bold on People to People Travel to Cuba".
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Links and Resources
Tracey Eaton's Along the Malecon blog on conference call with Representative Berman here.
IPS interview with Esteban Morales on debate within the Communist Party and the danger of corruption here
"'No better mediator' than the Catholic Church in Cuba, assert dissidents" in response to letter to the Pope from other dissidents who "called for an end to the Church’s 'political support' for the Castro regime, which they referred to as 'Satan’s commissioners on earth.'" here