Seeing the Tipping Point

Senators Harkin, Dorgan, and Lugar

"It's sort of all over but the shouting, whether our country should maintain this embargo."
--Senator Byron Dorgan

On the front page of The Washington Post today is an article by Karen DeYoung, entitled, "Momentum Grows for Relaxing U.S. Policy on Cuba." The article announces the unveiling this week of bipartisan legislation to end the ban on travel to Cuba for all Americans.

It's a party-line blurring fight. Senators Byron Dorgan (D) and Richard Lugar (R) and their House colleagues Reps. William Delahunt (D) and Jeff Flake (R) are lined up against Sen. Robert Menendez (D) and long-time House hard liners the Diaz-Balart brothers (R) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D). What it represents, however, is the first steps of a broad coalition of Members who are standing up to at long last to assert the national interest over the pecuniary interest of a small but well-monied and vocal clique that has held sway over Cuba policy for decades.

As I've written before, what we are seeing is the recognition that our Cuba policy is doing more harm than good to the United States. The policy has served more to keep the Castro regime in power than to dislodge it, by providing the communist government with a ready-made excuse for why their domestic economy is in such a shambles. The embargo itself is a massive black eye for the United States internationally and it remains the single most important issue for Latin America heads of state, as President Barack Obama will shortly find out at the Summit of the Americas. And, of course, the trade embargo is hurting American businesses, from farming to heavy machinery, to biotechnology to oil production.

The timing, however, is the consequence of the 2008 elections. The national polls tested the hypothesis that the demographic balance of forces in Florida had changed, thus freeing Washington from this onerous policy. That is indeed what happened. President Obama won Florida with only 35% of the Cuban American vote--the first time since the end of the Cold War that this happened. With 10% of the electoral college, Florida is seen as an essential state, giving any must-have constituency an outsize say in the affairs of the nation. With more recent polling showing that the 55% of the Cuban American community in Florida wants to end the embargo, the tide has unmistakably turned.

This new legislation is the manifestation of of all these changes. While the Vice President maintains a position that the administration has no intention of ending the embargo, the statement is tactical. The administration does not control the embargo, Congress does and what Congress is doing is proposing legisation that takes aim directly at the embargo while giving the President political cover.

The embargo, it seems, is not long for this world. I just hope everyone is ready for when the walls actually come down. On both sides of the Straits of Florida.

Kos on Menendez's Bursting Dike

A word of thanks to Markos Moulitsos for picking up my piece, Senator Menendez, the Dike has Burst.

Here's a snip:

Bipartisan Senate group take aim at Cuba embargo provisions

by kos

Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 02:22:03 PM PDT

Remember Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's quixotic stand on behalf of regressive Cuba sanctions a few weeks ago?

There he was, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, holding forth from the well of the Senate making his Alamo stand against some very innocuous provisions to allow Cuban-American family members travel to Cuba and for American agricultural producers to carry out the business they already do with Cuba more efficiently during a time of economic recession.

Most analysts I speak with say this was a picture of a man trying to put his finger in a dike, knowing it was about to burst. Senator Menendez is, you see, the highest ranking Cuban American in Congress and, with the Diaz-Balart brothers and Rep. Lehtinen in the minority, the last hope for defending the embargo against Cuba in the 111th Congress.

The dike metaphor is apt. Obama ran on rethinking Cuba policy, and won Florida. The Cuban-American community is itself split between the geezers still clinging to a generations-long failed embargo policy, and the younger crowd eager for change. Respected foreign policy experts are eager for a more rational Cuba policy, including Republicans like Dick Lugar. And farm state legislators from both parties are eager to open up a new market for their farmers' goods.

In other words, the embargo is not long for the world...

Read the full article here.

Hope and History

In a 2007 book by Conor O'Clery entitled The Billionaire Who Wasn't, which is a fascinating and uplifting tale of the unprecedented philanthropy of Charles Feeney and his group The Atlantic Philanthropies, there is mention of Cuba. For instance, we learn that the island nation has been the recipient of some of Mr. Feeny's philanthropy and the roundabout way he had to operate to remain completely legal given U.S. law (Mr. Feeney is a U.S. citizen). Too, we hear about his meetings with such Cuban leadership figures as Fidel Castro and Ricardo Alarcón.

But it's the remarks of Mr. Feeney's daughter, as recorded by Mr. O'Clery, that really struck a resonant chord with me. I had earlier in the book learned that Mr. Feeney has accomplished miracles in Vietnam and other countries, including his ancestral homeland, Ireland, and Australia and South Africa. Then, at the head of chapter 31, Mr. O'Clery describes Mr. Feeney in Feeney's daughter Juliette's words: "Like Vietnam, Cuba had gotten a raw deal from the United States, he believed. Cuba and Vietnam came from the idea of righting an American wrong."

In other words, perhaps the greatest philanthropist in U.S. history knows how remarkably flawed U.S. Cuba policy has been for many, many years and is doing what he can to begin to rectify that wrong.

It is time the U.S. government helped him.

In Mr. O'Clery's book, as you read about this remarkable man, Chuck Feeney, not only do you gain insight into a remarkable heart, soul, and business mind but you also learn how a group of very dedicated people set out to reverseâ€â€is "pay for" too strong a phrase?â€â€the crimes of U.S. policy.

Not with any noticeable sense of guilt or angst but with a straightforward altruism that recognizes governments for the flawed establishments they are, recognizes men and women who work in governments for the timid and conforming creatures that they by habit and custom must inevitably become, and uses the extraordinary entrepreneurial talents of a single man and his trusted colleagues to counteract these realities. It is a sublime story, as profound as the words of Noble Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney's lyrics, quoted on page 268 of O'Clery's book:

History says, don't hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

President Obama, let's get busy and help Mr. Feeney make hope and history rhyme for Cuba.

-- Lawrence Wilkerson

[Ed. note: The New America Foundation which hosts The Havana Note is a recipient of grants from the Atlantic Philanthropies. The comments made by Col. Wilkerson are his own.]

Senator Menendez, the Dike has Burst

There he was, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, holding forth from the well of the Senate making his Alamo stand against some very innocuous provisions to allow Cuban-American family members travel to Cuba and for American agricultural producers to carry out the business they already do with Cuba more efficiently during a time of economic recession.

Most analysts I speak with say this was a picture of a man trying to put his finger in a dike, knowing it was about to burst. Senator Menendez is, you see, the highest ranking Cuban American in Congress and, with the Diaz-Balart brothers and Rep. Lehtinen in the minority, the last hope for defending the embargo against Cuba in the 111th Congress.

Now, however, the dike has burst. At a time when the nation is reeling from the worst recession in years, our failed embargo on Cuba is keeping American farmers and businesses from significant orders. After the devastation of the 2008 hurricanes, the Cuban government is providing 75% of the food for its 11 million people. Most of that has to be imported from countries much further away than 90 miles. China just received the order for a new fleet of Cuban Buses--not Detroit. One third of Cuba's housing stock is still gravely damaged or destroyed because the island cannot get the building materials to rebuild. Yet American suppliers would be happy to fill those orders.

Today that objective reality was made political reality by 15 Senators who signed onto a letter organized by Max Baucus, an ag state Senator from Montana. Addressed to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the Senators urged Tim Geithner not to stray from the letter of the law as passed by Congress in the Omnibus legislation, in effect telling Geithner that whatever deal Menendez thought he had with Treasury, it shall not stand.

This is important. The 2008 presidential election showed that the Cuban American community in South Florida no longer has a lock on Florida's electoral vote, liberating the president from having to continue a policy of isolation that makes no sense for America. This letter, and its strong showing of support in the Senate, reveals that the Congressional control that pro-embargo members had is crumbling around them.

Menendez had already angered the Administration by holding up the appointment of Science Advisor John Holdren over perceived slights on Cuba policy. That Menendez, a member of the Senate Democratic Leadership, caused such tumult and likely embarrassment for the Obama administration and for Senate Majority Leader Reid on a must-pass piece of legislation was too much, and now Senator Baucus has added some parliamentary dynamite.

The new reality is that there is no political obstacle to a decisive shift on U.S. Cuba policy. Not in Florida and not on Capitol Hill. Now the question is about political will in the White House.

I have reprinted the letter and signatories below.
March 16, 2009

Secretary Timothy F. Geithner
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Geithner,

We are concerned by a March 11 Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) notice outlining its planned implementation of provisions passed in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. The intent of those provisions was to facilitate already legal agricultural trade with Cuba.

The Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000 authorized agricultural exports to Cuba by payment of cash in advance or third-country bank letters of credit. For several years, until early 2005, such cash-based sales were taking place and working well. After goods shipped from U.S. ports, the Cuban buyers initiated payments, routing them through third-country banks, as required by the law. There were no reported instances in which a Cuban buyer took possession of U.S. goods prior to completing payment to the U.S. seller, a fact acknowledged by the Treasury Department during the confirmation hearing of Deputy Secretary Kimmitt in July 2005.

Despite this fact, OFAC issued a rule in February 2005 that defined “payment of cash in advanceâ€Â as payment prior to shipment of goods. The change in definition has brought all cash-based sales to a halt, rendering the cash in advance provision useless and undermining Congress’s intent to facilitate agriculture sales to Cuba. Your March 5, 2009 letter stated that OFAC will continue to use this definition. This is contrary to the intention of the provisions included in the Omnibus legislation to halt this use.

We are troubled to see OFAC continue this practice. Its March 11 notice mistakenly suggests that the “ordinary commercial meaningâ€Â of “cash in advanceâ€Â requires payment prior to shipment of goods. Such an interpretation is legally inaccurate. The American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service has studied this issue in depth and concluded that, “[I]t would appear difficult to find legal support for OFAC’s interpretation that ‘payment of cash in advance’ requires payment be received prior to shipment. As a review of four traditional methods of payment indicates, it appears customary within the international trade and finance community to place the emphasis on the legal transfer of control, rather than on the date of shipment…OFAC’s interpretation appears to limit the available payment options to those that are considered risky, undesirable, and underutilized….â€Â

In your Questions for the Record during consideration of your nomination earlier this year, you committed to “… taking great care to follow congressional intent and working closely with members of Congress to ensure that OFAC’s activities with regard to Cuba are achieving its important objectives without unnecessary hurdles or unreasonable administrative delays.â€Â We urge you to stand by that pledge.

We look forward to working closely with you on this matter.


Senator Max Baucus Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Jeff Bingaman Senator Mike Enzi
Senator Tom Harkin Senator Pat Roberts
Senator Blanche Lincoln Senator Mike Crapo
Senator Jon Tester Senator Kit Bond
Senator Patty Murray Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Mary Landrieu Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Tim Johnson

Cuba's Russia Problem

Just a quick note to reinforce what my colleague Phil Peters is saying about the Russia-Cuba non-axis at his blog, Cuban Triangle.

My contention is that Cuba's broad international strategy follows the Yugoslav model of balancing and taking rents from multiple powers and being beholden to none. China, Russia, Brazil, sometimes the EU, and certainly the hemispheric player Venezuela all fit this model.

We will have to see if this strategy survives the transition of power in Havana, but the strategy, as Phil mentions, has its downsides. Russia's relation to the US is more strategic than its relations with Cuba, and Cuba can get the short end of the stick when its patrons' relationships to Washington change. It is a major weakness of the Cuban strategy with a new government getting on its global feet in Washington.

More soon.

Gains in Congress and OFAC Just the Beginning

Florida Senators Martinez and Nelson

Everyone who seeks normal relations between the US and Cuba is justifiably celebrating the one-two punch of the Cuba language in the Omnibus Appropriations bill and the OFAC regulations to implement it as the first step toward restoring freedom of travel to everyone. While Cuban Americans have not yet achieved the unlimited travel and remittances promised by candidate Obama, they have regained the ground stolen by President Bush in 2004.

The Treasury Department’s fast action through OFAC is a more significant indicator of where the Administration is heading than the fig leaf that Secretary Tim Geithner provided the two rejectionist Democrats, Senators Menendez and Nelson, so they could vote for cloture.

It is worth reading his letters carefully as they affirm that a larger change is coming.

We are, however, currently reviewing United States policy toward Cuba to determine the best way to foster democratic change in Cuba and improve the lives of the Cuban people. Your views and the views of others on Capitol Hill will be important to that review, and the President remains committed to consulting with you as we consider changes to Cuba policy. (Texts here posted by Jake Colvin.)

Of course Senators Menendez, Martinez and Nelson will be consulted, but not more than other Senators like Kerry, Lugar and Dodd. A further encouraging note was in a Miami Herald story:

''The guidance issued yesterday by the Treasury Department was issued pursuant to a law passed by Congress,'' White House spokeswoman Gannet Tseggai said Thursday.

''The president was not involved in the drafting of that provision, and it does not take the place of his own review of family visits and family cash remittances,'' she added.

Americans who care need to add their weight to the Administration's discussion so the President does not stop at family travel. A Citizens' Appeal for engagement with President Obama on Cuba can be seen here in the just posted newsletter of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development.

The extent to which the other side is in a state of aggressive denial can be seen in a leaked internal memo from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC

the mobilization of Democratic Members of Congress, and their aggressive outreach to the White House and Leadership on this issue has made it clear to the Obama Administration that there is a very vocal majority, bipartisan coalition in Congress that opposes even the slightest changes to current policy

Also possible is that the White House concludes that there are a few unreconcilables so married to narrow sectarian interests that they are ready to expose their Party and President to a week of diversionary and politically costly debate about embarrassing Congressional earmarks and ballooning deficits.

While some advisers may counsel accommodating them to avoid future problems, others will note that once the President changes travel policy to the maximum non-tourist level, that issue is over as a direct White House concern. The bitter end opponents can't do much beyond grumbling to their donors and their shrinking piece of the Florida and New Jersey community,

The tactic of putting the Cuba language in the Omnibus Appropriations bill foreclosed amendments in the House, but gave disproportionate power to two Democrats in the Senate whose votes prevented cloture. The reverse will apply to the stand alone full travel bill. There should not be a major problem in obtaining subcommittee and committee approval and assembling sixty Senate votes to end travel restrictions, but the House will afford more difficult terrain at all stages.
I am of mixed feelings about how Secretary Geithner addressed the precedent setting creation of a new general license category for the marketing or agricultural and medical products. OFAC has not yet published regulations in this area but his intent is clear and reasonable:

"regulations promulgated pursuant to that provision will seek to ensure that only travel for credible sales of food and medical products is authorized."

The problem lies in implementation.

"Any business using the general license will be required to provide both advance written notice outlining the purpose and scope of the planned travel and, upon return, a report outlining the activities conducted, including the persons with whom they met, the expenses incurred, and business conducted in Cuba."

Pre and post trip notification requirements are an annoyance and are hard to independently verify, except in cases of egregious public violation. A more relevant control is inherent in the nature of a general license, i.e. it applies to a category of people based on who they are and the reasonableness that travel is consistent with their professional or avocational identity.

OFAC may be tempted to apply a similar formula to grant general licenses for other forms of non-tourist travel like educational, religious and humanitarian. This requirement would be petty and unnecessary but is preferable to a time consuming and politicized vetting process of applications for specific licenses. (More on general vs. specific licenses here )

Senator Dodd pushed back arguing this novel restrictiveness of the meaning of a general license violated the intent of the new law in a letter posted by Phil Peters.


Obama's campaign statements on unlimited and unrestricted travel vs. how Sen. Nelson mischaracterized them during the Omnibus debate can be seen here

Cuba: Obama's "Relaxation Measures" Tippy Toe in Right Direction , Sort Of....


I haven't had time yet to digest the Obama administration's "relaxation" of restrictions in US-Cuba relations. I'm on a boat -- and sailing in the vicinity of Cuba tomorrow, though in Curacao today.

But I will say that the Obama team needs to prepare for an onslaught of frustration and anger regarding anything that designates certain "ethnic categories" of Americans.

Relaxing Cuban-American travel is discriminatory against other Americans. We have had too much law and too many norms that didn't permit some classes of Americans access to. . .hmm. . .let's say the White House and many other positions and opportunities.

Communist governments often tell their citizens where and when they can go somewhere.

An American government only soils its own reputation by trying to restrict the travel of US citizens -- in a way not dissimilar than what the Soviets did, or the Chinese government used to do, or even the Cuban government today.

Obama needs to show the "courage of his convictions" and stand up for American democratic values with regard to US citizens. Restricting travel for any US citizens as payoff to a cabal that run a political machine in Miami is a gross violation of the social contract American citizens have with their government.

Even the George W. Bush administration for the first three years of its tenure allowed non-tourist people-to-people travel and exchange. Engagement works and would benefit American interests in the region. From what I can tell, Obama does not even go back to the status quo under the last Bush administration. That's a shame, and it's wrong.

Opening opportunities for "Cuban-Americans" as opposed to other "Americans" is something one can hardly imagine a man like Barack Obama doing.

It's wrong. He should fix this immediately. Or expect a wave of dissent about the racism and discrimination that Obama is apparently upholding in these "relaxation" moves.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.

Senate Omnibus Debate Targets Cuba


Yesterday in the Senate debate on the Omnibus Appropriations bill Bob Menendez (D, NJ) delivered a long and impassioned speech against Cuba. Any policy change we can imagine had a condition attached which would make it a non-starter in Havana. In the case of even family travel he took a position reflective of his long links to hard liners in Miami.

In exchange for more frequent visits from Cuban-American families who bring money and resources to the island, let us insist that the Cuban regime permit those who want to travel to Cuba and visit human rights activists, democracy activists, independent journalists, and other civil society advocates, be given visas as well.

He threatened that the Cuba language, "put the Omnibus bill in jeopardy".

After he spoke, Senator Reid took the floor, expressing warmly his long association with Menendez:

As the distinguished Senator from New Jersey knows, I have locked arms with Congressman and now Senator from New Jersey for many years. In fact, my votes in years past have not always been in the majority, but they have always been something I felt comfortable doing and still feel comfortable doing.

I appreciate the statement made by my friend from New Jersey. I am committed to work with him to see what we can do to resolve the injustice that is taking place 90 miles off the shore of America and, once and for all, give those people who live in Las Vegas--people do not realize the largest number of Cuban Americans live in Florida, next is New Jersey, and, surprisingly, next is Nevada.

I worked with my friends there, Tony Alamo and many others, over the years to try to bring justice to an unjust system. I appreciate very much the statement made by my friend from New Jersey. I look forward to working with him on all other issues.

Reid did not say he would support Menendez' goal of stripping the Cuba language from the bill. A news story says Bill Nelson, Florida's Democratic Senator, favors inclusion of the Cuba language

Amendments will be accepted for debate, but the Democrats may try to vote down all of them in order to get the bill adopted by Friday and avoid its return to the House.

However, if Menendez and Martinez succeed in blocking the Cuba language with Reid's help, this bodes ill for a stand alone Cuba travel bill. It also could have a negative effect on the Administration's interagency policy review.

[Look here for the Cuba language. See below for my previous posts on the Omnibus bill.]

CUBA: Big Changes in Castro's Guard

raul catro white shirt.jpgSomething big is up in Havana. So big that some are saying that Fidel Castro has finally moved on to the next world -- though I don't believe this to be the case.

Others are saying that they saw Fidel out in public today on an odd shuffling, walk about, flanked by well armed security guards -- and a trailing Mercedes.

What has happened is that Raul Castro, now President of Cuba, has sacked his brother's closest followers and advisers in government.

Both Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque have been given pink slips. These were Fidel's most obvious heir apparents and his chief ideological spear carriers in the next generation of Cuban political leadership.

This is one of those historical pivot points in normally opaque (often Communist) regimes that will be remembered for generations.

Raul Castro seems fully in control now -- and he's done with ideology.

Raul not only demands pragmatism from his team, he wants a government that "works" and which can function with greater efficiency than the past. This is particularly the case given the grim reality that the global economic crisis is hitting Cuba hard -- as the price of oil has made Venezuela's patronage less robust and global tourism to and investment in Cuba have both taken significant hits in recent months.

Ideology is on feeble legs throughout Cuba despite Senator Bob Menendez's anachronistic screed on the floor of the Senate this afternoon about Cuba's governing villains. Menendez today seemed to be pining for the enemies of the past, so the warped politics of anti-Cuba, anti-Castro compulsive obsessiveness could live another day.

But Menendez is behind the times and has been complicit in undermining American national interests with Cuba for far too long -- and he and others in Cuba who have strangled opportunity for a new course in US-Cuba relations should pay a political price for for their destructive intransigence. Menendez should go check in with his friends at the formerly right wing Cuban American National Foundation who for the most part think that pols like Menendez, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Diaz-Balart brothers in Congress, and their Democratic Party ally Debbie Wassmerman Schulz went way too far in strangling Cuban-American family emergency travel and financial remittances.

We are at one of those significant punctuation points in Cuban history.

We may be at a real moment of opportunity in US-Cuba relations if Obama's team of foreign policy hands can find the guts and smarts to realize that it was wrong during the Bush administration for a Cold War with Cuba to actually get colder over the last ten years -- and to realize that incrementalism only works in times of historical continuity.

As Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Baker, David Abshire, Paul Volcker, Thomas Pickering, George Soros, Bill Joy, Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, Francis Fukuyama, and many others have said -- this is a time of significant "historical discontinuity."

Change is needed and is a smarter, better choice than incrementalism and inertia.

Let's not see a Foreign Affairs article written this next year titled "Who Lost Cuba?"

Cuba matters a great deal -- far beyond its 11 million people and beyond even Latin America. Cuba is the ripest fruit for picking on America's tree of foreign policy options.

Change there can happen at extremely low cost to the United States. And America's approach will telegraph much about exactly what kind of America Barack Obama is trying to usher forth in this next phase of restoring U.S. benign moral, economic and political prestige. . .and power.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note

Brookings Offers Obama a Roadmap


“I didn’t come here to do the same thing we have been doing or to take small steps forward. I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November.â€Â

--President Barack Obama, radio/internet address 2/28/09

“Obama's leadership is needed to change the dynamic between the United States and Cuba. The status quo is no longer an option. Not only has it failed to achieve its goals; it has tarnished our image in the hemisphere and throughout the world. Waiting for Congress to act will only further delay change. Fortunately, even in the case of Cuba, Congress has not materially impaired this country's venerable constitutional arrangement under which the president has the ultimate authority to conduct our foreign affairs.

Again and again we hear that the embargo can't be changed because the Helms-Burton law codified it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you agree or disagree with the current commercial embargo, the president can effectively dismantle it by using his executive authority.â€Â

--Carlos Pascual and Vicki Huddleston, Miami Herald Op Ed

If President Obama brings the same boldness to international problems as he shows domestically (above quote), and if intellectual and policy expertise matters, his Administration’s interagency review of US relations with Cuba will be a breakthrough--and receive a warm welcome. (A compilation of studies and statements released in the past year can be found here.)

Last week began with a compelling letter from Senator Richard Lugar and far reaching recommendations from senior Foreign Relations Committee staff member Carl Meacham. (pdf here) It concluded with an eminently practical road map to normalization drawn up by a diverse group under the sponsorship of the Brookings Institution.

The project directors were Carlos Pascual, Vice-President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at Brookings (a rumored prospect for an important State Department post), and Vicki Huddleston, Visiting Fellow and former head of the US Interests Section in Havana (a member of the State Department transition team). Membership ranged from pro-engagement professors, a scholar at a prominent conservative think tank, and former European ambassadors--to a Cuban American denounced by Havana as a terrorist.

From the preface, which suggests how large a departure this is from the hostile rhetoric and policy of the previous Administration and much of the past five decades:

It should be understood that a policy of critical and constructive engagement -- while having as a goal evolution to a peaceful and democratic Cuba -- does not promise an overnight metamorphosis. It is a process, a pathway with various detours and obstacles that over time arrives at its destination. It will take Cuban cooperation to achieve a real improvement in relations, but we should not publicly link the initiatives to specific actions of the Cuban government.

The road map was divided into short, medium and long-term initiatives. Go on line here to review the whole list because their achievement step by step constitute a practical road map to full normal relations. Following are selected points which I found particularly positive:

ïÂ® Remove all restrictions on family and humanitarian travel to Cuba.

ïÂ® Permit and expand specific licenses for people-to-people travel for educational, cultural and humanitarian purposes -- all travel permitted under law.

ïÂ® Allow all Cubans who meet requirements of U.S. immigration law to travel to the United States.

ïÂ® Provide licensing for providers of U.S. government and private assistance in order to advance the goals of U.S. policy identified in this report.

ïÂ® License Cuban state and non-state entities to access satellite and broadband communications networks.

ïÂ® Review the evidence to determine if Cuba should continue to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

ïÂ® Conduct a review of the purpose, content and implementation capacity of the new contracts awarded to private companies and non-governmental organizations during the last months of the Bush Administration

ïÂ® Encourage and fund a wide variety of educational exchanges and scholarships that promote understanding and provide training in diverse fields such as arts, economics, and journalism.

ïÂ® Allow licenses for U.S. companies to participate in the development of Cuban offshore oil, gas and renewable energy resources.

ïÂ® Work with Congress to restore Executive Branch authority over travel to Cuba.

ïÂ® Reach mutually acceptable solution for restoring Cuban sovereignty over the territory of Guantanamo Bay.

Huddleston told the Miami Herald that the position on travel restrictions reflected differences within the group. Returning travel authority to the executive is a step back from most similar policy documents and pending legislation to end all obstacles to American visits although it could amount to the same thing. Internal differences may also be the reason for the counterproductive stipulation of specific rather than general licenses for people to people travel which requires OFAC bureaucratic vetting and forces trips within groups. There is no direct reference to ending the embargo, but nor is there endorsement of making that step conditional on actions by Cuba. Lifting the embargo could be implied by the final recommendation:

ïÂ® Achieve full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

The road map contains a welcome dramatic departure from similar reports by calling for the return of the territory of Guantanamo Bay. This might reflect that all Cubans, whether leaders in Havana or alienated exiles, share a view that US control of the base compromises their country’s sovereignty, was forced on them as a classic unequal treaty, and is the sole surviving provision of the shameful Platt Amendment.

I don't agree with every recommendation, or with the premise that any country should have a "goal" for another, but the Obama Administration could do far worse than adopt this road map as its own.