Miami Offers an Opportunity for Obama
At the beginning of this week President Obama is focused on one of the most serious and difficult to solve problems confronting any administration, the danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Later in the week he will be in Miami and face one of the most enduring yet solvable of administration foreign policy problems, Cuba.
This could be the most appropriate place and best chance he has to reset US relations with Havana, and thus with the western Hemisphere.
As I wrote here last week, both countries appear to be retreating to well-worn and counterproductive positions.
Secretary of State Clinton replied to a question at the University of Louisville:
...it is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would then lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years.
I don't believe she is right, but if she is, the only logical response is for the US to do everything in its power to create momentum toward normalization.
Reciprocity is a natural aspect of mutually respectful diplomacy, but preconditions and unreasonable expectations put US policy completely under the control of precisely the people Clinton characterizes so negatively.
In fact, were Cuba's leaders to reject serious positive initiatives from this Administration, they will have political problems, not only with the population but with many colleagues in the government and in the Communist Party.
In Miami, the President can pivot on the Secretary's expressed belief and announce on the one year anniversary of enabling unlimited family travel that he will complete the job with similar authorization of the rest of non-tourist travel (educational, cultural, religious, humanitarian, sports, support for the Cuban people, etc.)
Only the hardest of hard liners in the Cuban American community will reject such a position. Frankly I doubt that many of them will be contributing to the Democratic Party or voting for Democratic candidates, an important aspect of the President's trip to Florida.
On the other hand, two-thirds of Americans including Cuban-Americans, and especially the President's base, will be heartened that a new spirit can overcome the dead hand of the past. (They will be even more enthusiastic if he also endorses legislation in Congress to restore the freedom of travel to Cuba for all Americans.)
Otherwise, he will be stuck, presumably at least until after the mid-term election, with the same official illusions that our unilateral travel and trade embargo don't isolate us with the world and the passive if not defeatist conclusion of the Secretary of State:
And so I think that many in the world are starting to see what we have seen a long time, which is a very intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for the Cuban people, and I hope will begin to change and we’re open to changing with them, but I don’t know that that will happen before some more time goes by.
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Links and Resources
Full answer by Secretary Clinton at University of Louisville
President Raul Castro's speech to the Young Communist League