Saturday, May 17, 2008

CFR paper – is it embargo-lite on Cuba?

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, writing at TPM earlier this week, flagged a new Council on Foreign Relations task force paper as calling for an end to our embargo of Cuba.

Well, Clemons may have a Kennedy School degree, or whatever his poly-sci background is, but he is overstating the case just a bit.

The CFR formal task force paper calls for a partial end to our embargo of Cuba (PDF). Basically, it wants to end Helms-Burton, which is indeed a start, but it only calls for tweaks, not full jettisoning, on pre-1996 aspects of the embargo.

Better late to the game than never, I guess from the Establishment pillar of our “bipartisan foreign policy establishment.” (BPFE, below.)

First, here is Clemons on the highlights, per Steve Clemons, of the paper vis-a-vis Cuba, followed by a few thoughts of mine on his analysis:

1. Permit freer travel to and facilitate trade with Cuba. The White House should repeal the 2004 restrictions placed on Cuban-American family travel and remittances.

2. Reinstate and liberalize the thirteen categories of licensed people-to-people “purposeful travel” for other Americans, instituted by the Clinton administration in preparation for the 1998 Papal Visit to Havana.

3. Hold talks on issues of mutual concern to both parties, such as migration, human smuggling, drug trafficking, public health, the future of the Guantanamo naval base, and on environmentally sustainable resource management, especially as Cuba, with a number of foreign oil companies, begins deep water exploration for potentially significant reserves.

4. Work more effectively with partners in the western hemisphere and in Europe to press Cuba on its human rights record and for more democratic reform.

5. Mindful of the last one hundred years of U.S.-Cuba relations, assure Cubans on the island that the United States will pursue a respectful arm’s-length relationship with a democratic Cuba.

6. Repeal the 1996 Helms-Burton law, which removed most of the executive branch's authority to eliminate economic sanctions. While moving to repeal the law, the U.S. Congress should pass legislative measures, as it has with agricultural sales, designed to liberalize trade with and travel to Cuba, while supporting opportunities to strengthen democratic institutions there.

Why is this only a partial end?

I did not see Steve referencing the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act (the Torricelli Law), for example. Wiki Cuban embargo for more details about what all the “Cuban embargo” involves.

Let’s be blunt.

Point 3: Our BPFE, not to be confused with BFE, will have a radically different idea on the “future of Gitmo” than a democratic as well as an authoritarian Cuban government.

Point 5: So, Cuba doesn’t get respect until it becomes a democracy?

Beyond that, there’s nothing about an apology for the U.S. propping up Bautista all those years, etc.

But, the paper is about more than just Cuba.

It covers broader U.S.-Latin America relations as well. And, befitting the CFR, globalization seems to be a magic bullet of the paper.

Here are some highlights:
1. Free trade/globalization as part of the “solution” in summary/overview;
2. Latinos expect democracy to be social democracy, which BushCo and even Clintonite DC didn’t get;
3. Cuban economy has been growing faster than US in the past couple of years;
4. Still high inequality on Gini indexes in much of Latin America;
5. NAFTA of limited effect in Mexico due to ag subsidy in US, and, extrapolating out, the same will be true in the WTO unless Doha round makes major change;
6. Columbia violence more drug-driven than political now;
7. Failure of Plan Columbia in War on Drugs and shift of pro-drug work to Mexico;
8. Notes that FARC laptops found in Ecuador must be authenticated by Interpol;
9. Migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to US higher, as percent of population, than from Mexico and estimated, in absolute numbers, as at one-tenth of the Mexican migration;
10. Transnational gang worries are growing;
11. Benefits of “circular migration” touted;
12. Deepened ties with Brazil, especially re Doha round of WTO, recommended;
13. Work more with Mexico on energy and security issues recommended;
14. Negating Venezuelan influence by increasing funding for social justice programs in Latin America recommended’
15. Blames Cuba, not US embargo, for many of Cuba’s long-term core problems.

So, it’s a mixed bag of neoliberalism, with a fairly optimistic view of free trade’s power. In short, it’s nice, but it’s not “all that.”