". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flu Precautions

I remain as stymied as to my personal behavior right now.

We have Biden telling us NOT to ride the subway right now. But how in the world do we get around here without the subway? If the concern is a sneeze in a confined place -- well, what about your cab driver? Or who was in the taxi before you?

Tonight our friend, T.J. Stiles, is at the NYPL Humanities, doing a presentation and reading from his celebrated new work, THE FIRST TYCOON : The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

If we were wise we'd stay home I suppose. We have lots of these going on right now, including one sponsored by PEN on Saturday with Dany Laferrière and Madison Smartt Bell, as well as dinner with Bell and some others from the New Yorker round table on Haitian music and revolution later.

Should all these events be cancelled? What do you think?

Yesterday I went to the library to pick up some works for my project, some dvds, including tge Criterion Chushingura and Yojimbo (and The Spirit, which had a sticky note inside warning the next borrower that this is one of the worst movies ever made -- the page checking out my materials dutifully passed on the warning, but I assured him that I knew it was awful already, just checking it out), and Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, which has been highly recommended. The library was full of people using all the materials. Should I not have gone there?

Then I went shopping for warm weather clothing and found some terrific high quality bargains, including light weight white pants that fit perfectly and fall just right from waist, through hip, to arch of foot. There were lots of young people shopping their brains out from all over the world. Should I not have gone shopping?

I have a hair appointment next week. Should I not go? I have to ride the subway to get there. How do I get groceries? I cannot afford to hide in the apartment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Call of the Drum -- US Caribbean Communities & Cultural Identity

This was one of those weekends of intense, revelatory experiences. Saturday was particularly so.

The conference's title was ¡El Tambor Llama! Tanbou a Rele! The Drum Calls!: Sacred Drumming Traditions of Cuba, the Domincan Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico. It was attended beyond the dream of Elena Martinez, the organizer, of the City Lore cultural center. People flew in, even, from all over the country -- some of them because they learned of it from da List -- just to attend; they weren't presenters, though they present at conferences themselves. Among those who came up because of da List's heads-up it was happening were the dance dept. chairman of George Mason University, and the chairwoman of Tulane's dance dept.

This is both wonderful and unfortunate because there is so little money, and so few resources that could be called upon. I couldn't help but contrast how things were between a mere grad student ethnomusicology conference at Columbiafor grad students and our gallery at Hostos College, filled with high-achieving professionals in these areas of all kinds from cultural institutions, the most elite of Ivy Leagues universities, independent scholars, musicians, members of the communities, both as presenters and as the audience. At Columbia, all day platters of very nice food were available, coffee, water and juices. When it was finished, more and different food rolled out, along with wine and beer. All this for anyone there. The latino communities City Lore couldn't even provide coffee for the attendees. Best they could manage was coffee for the presenters. It seems so damned unfair.

It seems so damned unfair particularly because the people presenting, the people attending, were all so very brilliant and informed, and passionate about what they are doing, beyond degree or career. It was a conference that dealt with the spiritual function of music and dance via the drum, and it is safe to say that everyone there has experienced this spiritual transcendence personally. Beats that Columbia student blithering about the bravery and inspiration of Bayonce's pole dancing routines that nearly sent me screaming out of the room -- and would have except Vaquero kept firm hold of me.

This was a gathering of the tribes such as we had gotten used to in the days of the Cubans coming in regularly. And of the sort we haven't had since. But there is also a huge difference: this was a gathering out of more than the latino communities. This has never happened before, that the latino communites have seen common ground that matters more than language difference with the French Caribbean. And Cuba is the mother-center for all this. Also, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have steered away from considering themselves black, but this seems to be changing, with the deep emphasis now on the Afro of Afro-latin. Woo! It was wild.

This has been going on for the last couple of decades, as we've learned in the Caribbean itself, this surge to find what it has all in common in terms of community and identity and culture. But wehaven't seen this broadly in the U.S. Now too -- which was not the case at all until just the last 4 years, New Orleans counts as an essential vector in that drive to explore and discover the African diaspora and the Afro-Caribbean history. The basis is the commonality of our cultural Kongo roots in language, dance, expression, gesture and music. The electricity crackled in that airless, way too warm college art gallery(naturally this took place on an extra-early hot weekend, and the a/c was not in play -- though the art is brilliant and made that space the opposite of the usual conference grim souless space). Over and over again, Cuban and Its Music and The World That Made New Orleans were refered to, as source and inspiration.

Every copy of the books that we brought up there were sold within a couple of hours. If we'd had them we could have sold three times as many -- and this is to people who really don't have deep financial resources. Ivor Miller's book -- the only book that exists in this area, just came out, The Voice of the Leopard, that deals with the Abakuá societies in Cuba and the Cross Rivers regions of the Calabar, is priced at over $50, from the University of Mississippi, and every copy Ivor brought was sold. All the merchandise brought by the presenters sold unexpectedly well, including mugs that said, "We Honor Haiti." Outside there were three different Haitian vodun altars of the greatest beauty.

There were four music groups that played Saturday. The first was Alexander LaSalle's Bomba group Alma Moyó. They were performance illustration for Dr. Robert Farris Thompson's keynote, which broke down for us out of various Caribbean art works Kongo gesture and expression (that was worth attending just by itself -- beyond worthwhile even, so briliantly does Master T swing! And people did attend particularly to have the opporunity to hear the brilliant man who has become a legend in his own time.

In the evening, after dinner break (which was so short because people just couldn't stop talking and asking questions) there was a 3-group concert in the Hostos Theater -- which does regularly host latin and folk group music series. It sold out. The core audience, because of where we are located here in the Bronx, is Puerto Rican, but nearly now out-numbered by Dominicans. This is not a Haitian community, and the Cubans have mostly decamped for New Jersey.Vaquero was the emcee; he introduced each group with remarks about their background, cracking funny and wise -- and most importantly, briefly. The audience loved him, and responded to everything he said wildly.

These three groups were, first, Pa'lo Monte, a group that works with traditional sacred drumming, dancing and singing from the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They perform palo, salve, gagá, congo and saradunga, the rhythms and melodies of the 'forest' or uncultivated wilderness.

The Proyecto Enyenison Enkama is a Cuban Abakuá group from New Jersey, that has attempted to re-establish a lodge and all the Abakuá traditions here for the ex-patriated Cuban Abakuás. The first Afro-Latin ceremony I ever witnessed was an Abakuá initiation on my first full day in Cuba, in Matanzas de Cuba, in the home cabildo (lodge) of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, with Diosdado playing one of the iremes -- for some reason their old Carbali name, nañíga, or in Cuba also, 'diabolito,' have come to be regarded as insulting. All three terms were in use that broiling hot day I spent at the Uribon Ifi, (est. 1863) in Matanazas. It was the first time I'd seen iremes, and I had no idea what I was seeing then, but was determined to learn, as far as it was possible. This group re-created a performance of an Abukuá community ritual (as opposed to the secret society member-only kinds) complete with two iremes. They knocked the freakin' house down the ground.

I realized that the first time most of this audience, generally child-bearing and raising age, had seen anything of the Cuban traditional forms in music and dance, was here, in this theater, as kids, with their parents, on that first tour los Muñequitos made in the U.S. -- Vaquero's work. And since the bushcrimesyndicate hammer came down this whole generation has grown up, and is raising families, and hasn't seen anything direct from Cuba in all that time, and are starved for it! The audience had gone crazy before hand, when he spoke of the Cuban embargo and how we can't go there because it is US that keeps us out of Cuba and Cubans out of US.

This was followed by the vnerable (est. 1973) California Haitian vodun group, La Troupe Makandal. Vaquero's introduction included references to how Haiti and Haiti's Revolution is kept out of all the official narratives of history. He mentioned the first book to grapple with this, Black Jacobins, and the audience response startled him -- unlike most audiences, this one knew the book The applause was deafening.

When the whole concert was finished the audience just kept applauding and applauding. It was then I realized I was witness to the tipping point for areas like NYC and California, at least, that have electorally significant Caribbean populations -- they are no longer divided. They are reaching out to each other, and their narrative is the connected Caribbean, in history, in colonialism, in slavery, in culture and spiritual roads. This was more exciting than I can express -- that's obvious as I write this woefully inadequate description. It's thrilling because we are a part of it, and have in our own way, been helpful for this happening, with the Qbadisc record label, the Cuban groups' tours, and now, with the books and articles and presentations.

What a privilege.

The contrast behind Friday and Saturday might be summed up like this: "The Pictures Generation exhibit, and the music of Rhys Chatham, "Guitar Trio," performed out of that on Friday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be the last generation in art we see in which the retrospective participants are ALL WHITE."

Vaquero and I kept wondering what "Guitar Trio" (which was actually played with a sextet of guitarists) would have sounded like Friday night if the drummer, the bass player and at least one of the guitarists were African American, or Afro Latin musicians. It would have swung, for one thing.

Also, what if Call of the Drum had the equiavalent state and city underwriting that it provided The Pictures Generation exhibit and the "Guitar Trio" concert?

Friday, April 24, 2009

If You're In the Neighborhood Tomorrow

You might like to check out the "el Tambor Llama" conference and concert at Hostos College, starting at 1:00 PM, with the keynote by the beyond extra-fine Robert Farris Thompson, through to an evening music show that Vaquero will emcee. This makes for a good companion to the current New Yorker Magazine roundtable on Haitian music and culture conducted by Sasha Frere-Jones, the second installment of which goes up soon.

And tonight Vaquero plays in the retrospective of Rhys Chattham's "Guitar Trio" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6 PM. This event goes with the exhibition that opened Monday night of "Pictures Generation."


1:00pm, Keynote address "The Kongo Atlantic Visual Tradition" Dr. Robert Farris Thompson

2:00-3:45pm, Panel discussion"Voices of the Sacred: Abakuá, Lucumí and Vodoú" Dr. Oluseye Adesola, Dr. Ivor Miller, Dr. Lois Wilcken

4:00-5:45pm, Panel discussion"¿Qué palo es? What Congo tradition are you from?" Dr. Martha Ellen Davis, Alex LaSalle, Dr. Ivor Miller, Dr. Marta Moreno VegaModerator: Dr. Roberta Singer

7:30-9:30pm, ConcertPa'lo Monte, La Troupe Makandal, Proyecto Enyenison EnkamaEmcee: Ned Sublette

All day long in the lobby there will be an exhibition of artwork related to these traditions by José Orbein, Kesler Pierre, and Osvaldo Sánchez, as wellas books for sale.

Admission for the concert: $15 (all other events are free)

For tickets please call the Hostos Box Office at 718-518-4455 or go toHostos events website.

For more information please call City Lore at 212-529-1955 x306 ]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

David Simon on Capitalism, Alterman on Torture & Fidel on the Summit

Tipped to me by Renegade Eye: Bill Moyers talks with David Simon about The Wire speaking truth to power in the so-called drug war bs, the poor and capitalism. It's a brilliant companion piece to the bs the Obama people are spewing that we should just move on from the overwhelming facts that this nation legalized torture and used it indescriminately as well, and not a single person is being held accountable -- except Lynndie England -- a poor, uneducated, jobless woman. This interview shows, if you ever needed convincing (Ha!) how well prepared Simon is to take on post-failure of the levees' New Orleans and make Tremé.

Obama, intelligent as he is, educated as he is, married to a health professional, must know that we the people CANNOT 'just move on' from something as traumatic to our national body politic as breaking the law and shredding the Constitution, as committing torture, anymore than an affair is something the betrayed marriage partner can just move on from productively without the faithless partner having been held to account at the very least, with real remorse and apology and change of behavior from the faithless partner -- which in the case of the body politic is all our of perverted and corrupted institutions and those who run and staff them.

All mental health professionals say this. Thus the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa, for example. This nation can't be even as honest as South Africa was -- and truly, in New Orleans and Louisiana, it's been an apartheid system forever. The Civil War didn't change that because the Reconstruction military got driven out in a coup and the nation did nothing about it -- did not want to do anything about it, just like now with torture, stealing elections and creating an evil war and destroying the national and global economy. Louisiana re-established that apartheid system very quickly in every part of the state's institutions, and it wasn't even challenged again until the Civil Rights era. The destruction of New Orleans's poor is part of the new re-establishment of Louisiana apartheid.

The Obama response to everything, including what the U.S. has done for two centuries in South America and the Caribbean, "we can't look back, we must move forward," is his verision of Fukuyama's 1992 The End of History. We know how intelligent that was, how productive for the future that worked out.'Moving forward' cannot take place when all the structures, forms and even the actual personages are all still in place. It's same with those who have created that "perspective of some," that Obama labeled it, that the U.S. is a military bully operating for U.S. and multi-national corps' interests, first-second-third-and-only, that tortures, that commits and supports massacres as in Guatamala -- or that we regard and treat 15% of nation as disposable, that torture is something we don't do, but we did, but we don't, and nobody is responsible for it.

That's not a perspective. That is truth. That is history. History that hasn't ended. Not as long as the same institutions, personages, objectives and desires remain in place without any accountability.

Eric Alterman's Altercation & The Nation regarding Pres. O's determination not to give us trials of torturers:

[ "Hey, Mr. President. Put these barbarians on trial and watch me. I'll be the guy out in front of the courtroom with a lawn chair, some sandwiches, and a cooler of fine beer. I'll be the guy who hires the brass band to serenade these criminal bastards on their way off to the big house. I'll be the one who shows up at every one of their probation hearings with a copy of the Constitution, the way crime victims show up at the parole board when their attacker comes up for release. I'll declare a national holiday -- Victory Over Torture Day -- and lead the parade right up whatever gated street it is that Cheney lives on these days. Trust me, Mr. President. I can take it." ]

In Counterpunch, "The Secret Summit" by Fidel Castro:

[ "Neither represented nor excommunicated, only today could I learn what was discussed at the Summit of Port of Spain. They led us all to entertain hopes that the meeting would not be secret, but those running the show deprived us of such an interesting intellectual exercise. We shall get to know the substance but not the tone of voice, the look in the eyes or the facial look that can be a reflection of a person's ideas, ethic and character. A Secret Summit is worse than a silent movie. For a few minutes the television showed some images. There was a gentleman on Obama's left whom I could not identify clearly as he laid his hand on Obama's shoulder, like an eight-year-old boy on a classmate in the front row. Then, another member of his entourage standing beside him interrupted the president of the United States for a dialogue; those coming up to address him had the appearance of an oligarchy that never knew what hunger is and who expect to find in Obama's powerful nation the shield that will protect the system from the fearsome social changes." ]

First Blurb Is In for TYBTF

[ "Ned Sublette is a literary Spirit Master, and The Year Before the Flood is his most personal and astounding work, full of mad knowledge and unorthodox insights about race, crime, history, politics, music and all the other ingredients that flavor the righteous roux that is New Orleans.

-- T.J. English, author of
Havana Nocturne and Paddy Whacked" ]

Note! T.J. is so very informed and classy that he doesn't use that stupid metaphor EVERYBODY uses as soon as New Orleans is mentioned -- gumbo. He goes for the base, which is the roux, without which you don't have gumbo at all, which is why hardly any non-New Orleawnian attempt to create gumbo is a failure, not like the real thing at all. He knows that gumbo is meant to be eaten in a home, not a restaurant. Ha!

Which is why I don't make gumbo. The roux takes hours and hours and hours of constant personal attention.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Miami Herald's Transcript of the Obama SA Summit Press Conference

Posted on Sun, Apr. 19, 2009
Transcript of Obama news conference
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago)

Following are the three bits pulled from the Press Conference that were of the most interest to me personally:

[ "But one of the things that I mentioned in both public remarks as well as private remarks is that the United States obviously has a history in this region that's not always appreciated from the perspective of some, but that what we need to do is try to move forward, and that I am responsible for how this administration acts and we will be respectful to those democratically elected governments, even when we disagree with them." ]

This is the Obama version of the end of history; he labels it 'moving forward.' But this isn't going to take place when all the structures, forms and even the actual personages are all still in place who have created that "perspective of some," that the U.S. is a military bully operating for U.S. and multi-national corps' interests, first-second-third-and-only, that tortures, that commits and supports massacres as in Guatamala -- well we can go on, can't we.

[ "One thing that I thought was interesting -- and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms -- hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have -- have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region." ]

Amen, Brother O. But nevermind, you'll just go on to repeat the same old same old though you insist it's the end of history, er, a fresh start.

[ "Look, what I said and what I think my entire administration has acknowledged is, is that the policy that we've had in place for 50 years hasn’t worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free. And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it come to our policy in Cuba.

It is my belief that we're not going to change that policy overnight, and the steps that we took I think were constructive in sending a signal that we'd like to see a transformation. But I am persuaded that it is important to send a signal that issues of political prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy -- that those continue to be important, that they're not simply something to be brushed aside.

What was remarkable about the summit was that every leader who was participating was democratically elected. We might not be happy with the results of some elections; we might be happier with others; we might disagree with some of the leaders, but they all were conferred the legitimacy of a country speaking through democratic channels. And that is not yet there in Cuba.
Now, I think that as a starting point, it's important for us not to think that completely ignoring Cuba is somehow going to change policy, and the fact that you had Raul Castro say he's willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that's a sign of progress.

And so we're going to explore and see if we can make some further steps. There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban merican families to send remittances. It turns out that Cuba charges an awful lot, they take a lot off the top. That would be an example of cooperation where both governments are working to help Cuban families and raise standards of living in Cuba." ]

I'd like to see all this implemented right here in the U.S., including the closing of our secret prisons and secret arrest and stocking of those prisons with political prisoners, who still seem to be tortured, among other things. I'd like to see these same policies implemented then, that Cuba is being ordered to implement, with China and North Korea and many, many other of this nation's 'friends.' I loathe this nation's lying hypocrisy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Very Disappointed, But Not Surprised

You all heard Sec of State Clinton's economic growth advice dispensed to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, right? Get yourselves sweatshops.

As if, um, Clinton hadn't heard ... the DR and Haiti already did that, and the sweat shops already long ago departed for parts even cheaper, meaning outright slave labor in U.S. territory - islands of the Pacific, and China.

Get thee some history, OK? Or at least some information.

In the meantime Obama shows himself as ignorant of Latin America as we know him to be. He's also in denial of history: when instructed in the two hundred years of U.S. corporate colonialsim and interference and exploitation of this region, he airly dismissed it as 'your point of view.' Blech.

It is also so demeaning -- and expressive of the U.S. treatment and attitude toward the Caribbean and Latin America, that Cuba is a primary subject of discussion, yet Cuba isn't even allowed by the U.S. to be there on her own behalf. Infuriating ignorant tacky behavior. So like U.S.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring, Glorious Spring!

It's 75 degrees! The sun shines! Tonight, Cyril Neville at Sullivan Hall!

In the meantime the slog through the copy editing phase, the line editing phase, all those other phases continue. Never ever think TYBTF has been generated by anything but perfectionism -- as perfectionist as mortal human beans can ever achieve, anyway.

Still, out to the Hudson for walking in the sun and fresh air had to be achieved, and it was good.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vaquero Interview Tonight KRIO Radio, 5 PM - Seattle

It's the annual Experience Music Project conference on pop music in Seattle. For a variety of reasons (all logistical, not personal), Vaquero decided it was best not to attend this year.

However, EMP insisted he be a presence somehow, so they arranged for this interview tonight on KRIO Radio, 5 PM Seattle time, so at least his voice can be heard. The subject of the interview is the forthcoming book, The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans (August, 2009).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Akira Kurasawa's "The Hidden Fortress"

(1958), b&w, Starring, natch, Toshiro Mofune.

I have the restored and cleaned and gorgeous Criterion version from 2001.

The linear notes (are those informational inserts in dvds called that, as with cds?) tell me that this film was a source for the first Star Wars (which, I confess, I've seen exactly once, when it was released, and, which, I further confess, did for me not so much -- so much not so much that I've never watched another entry in the Star Wars franchise), because, supposedly the term for such a film in Japan was 'period -set pictures,' supposedly, in Japanese then, jedai-geki. Is this true? Were there other parallels / influences from The Fortress that affected Lucas and his silly Star Wars franchise? If so, what?

Thank you in advance, I remain, as ever, etc. etc. etc.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Tom McDermott -- New Orleans Duets"

New Orleans musician and amigo, Tom McDermott, has just dropped a new joint, a project he did just for fun and for love, over an extended period -- it began prior to Katrina and only recently was completed.

It's got every style of New Orleans music you can think of, including the bamboula from the days of Gottschalk, and even tango, with some voodoo and anything else, except hiphop.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fifth Summit of the Americas + Obama

From Yahoo! News:

[ "Obama travels to Mexico on Thursday for his first visit to the region as president and heads to Trinidad and Tobago on Friday for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. As he did at the G20 summit of major economic powers in London this month, the president plans to emphasize listening to regional leaders and working on shared goals." ]

Obama knows very little, if anything about the Caribbean and Latin America. As he's been in Europe and the Middle East until just a few days ago one wonders if he's been able to take a crash course in what he doesn't know; if he did, how useful was it?

From The Washington Note:

"America's Cuba Policy is the "Edsel" of the US Foreign Policy Portfolio" by Steve Clemmons.

I like the use of the Edsel as a metaphor for U.S. Cuban policy!

[ "When I had a chance to pose a question, I pressed Davidow pretty hard on what he tried to avoid.
The exchange between Ambassador Davidow, David Rothkopf, and myself follows below.
What is interesting and disconcerting is that Barack Obama's point guy on this upcoming Summit gave the unreconstructed, neoconservative-friendly, ideologically vapid, 'unchastened by five decades of embargo failure' answer to my question on Cuba.
Has Obama read the brief that his people are preparing for him on Cuba?
Davidow embraced one of the worst single editorials I have read in years in the Washington Post titled "
Coddling Cuba."
And Rothkopf did his part to say that on US-Cuba policy, the American position has no clothes -- and has become completely illegitimate in the eyes of the world and undermines America's own, parochial national interests.
Here is the
exchange in full between Sweig, Davidow, Rothkopf, and myself." ]

Reading the entire exchange is highly recommended.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Left In East Dakota

Anyone else getting the 'read by invitation only' message?

Ivor van Heerden, who pointed fingers in Hurricane Katrina levee failures, failures, fired by LSU

This is the silencing of the voice that has spent a life studying this region in this context, and knows what is going on with the Gulf Coast in general, and coast below New Orleans in particular. This is the silencing of that voice by an institution of higher learning, not because he is wrong, but because he is right. Who does Louisiana State University think it serves by silencing this hurricane and flood expert, recognized by the entire world of specialists in the area of study for his important work that has proved right in every respect?

"Ivor van Heerden, who pointed fingers in Hurricane Katrina levee failures,f ired by LSU"
by Mark Schleifstein (full story at this link):
The Times-Picayune
Thursday April 09, 2009, 10:06 PM

Pull --

"Ivor van Heerden, the outspoken coastal scientist who led the state'sindependent Team Louisiana investigation into Hurricane Katrina leveefailures, has been notified by Louisiana State University that he will be terminated as a research professor in May 2010.

Van Heerden, who is not a tenured professor, also has been stripped of his title as deputy director of the LSU Hurricane Center. Also, engineering professor Marc Levitan has stepped down as the center's director.

University officials say they will reshape the center's research direction in the wake of the moves.Van Heerden will remain director of the LSU Center for the Study of PublicHealth Impacts of Hurricanes, financed by a $3.65 million Louisiana Board of Regents Health Excellence Fund, until his LSU contract ends next year.

LSU officials have refused to address the van Heerden decision, citing the school's policy of not commenting about personnel matters.

"Legally, we're not allowed to comment on any kind of personnel action, "said spokeswoman Kristine Calongne. "We're bound by confidentiality of ouremployees."

Van Heerden said the university would not give him a reason, either. DavidConstant, interim dean of LSU's College of Engineering, told him thedecision "wasn't due to my performance. But he couldn't tell me why, " van Heerden said."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

CANF Attempts To Disguise Itself As Relevant - VERY Long, Sorry

the pull quote, from the press conference with ambassador davidow, re theupcoming trinidad and tobago summit:

"it would be unfortunate if the principal theme of this meeting turned outto be Cuba."

but that's exactly what needs to happen. because there can be noreality-based latin america policy until we have a sane cuba policy.
the big news today seems to be that the cuban american national foundationhas released a white paper outlining their hopes of continuing to seemrelevant in a post-bush world. the ny times article could easily give thewrong impression. though the canf now wants to open up u.s. regs to somedegree, they still want to control who can and can't go to cuba, and withwhat intention. i include the full text of the CANF paper at the bottom ofthis message. it's a more relaxed version of the same old same old. i mean,they call for upgrading radio and TV martí. they want something called"purposeful travel":

"Purposeful travel differs from other types of travel, such as commercialtourism, in that it explicitly seeks to put Cubans in contact with thoseinterested in helping the development of an independent Cuban civil society. . .
meanwhile, H.R. 874 / S 428, the "freedom to travel to cuba act," is stillpending. it completely does away with the travel ban. the very short fulltext is at

this is a good time to let your legislators know you support areasonable cuba policy -- not tinkering with the number of timescuban-americans can visit family members, but a genuinely new policy,beginning with a complete lifting of the travel ban for all of us, with nolitmus test as to whether someone thinks our travel is "purposeful."

thanx to walter lippmann, who did the cursorwork to find several of thesesources. if you want a whole lot of news re cuba, go to his newsgroup:
* * *">

April 9, 2009Exiles Want to Expand U.S.-Cuba RelationsBy DAMIEN CAVE
MIAMI — The leading organization for Cuban exiles here is calling on theWhite House to expand relations with Cuba’s government, and funnel much morepublic and private American money to the Cuban people.
A 14-page proposal from the group, the Cuban American National Foundation,lays out what the document calls “a break from the past” that would “chart anew direction for U.S.-Cuba policy.”
It is the basis of an ongoing discussion with the Obama administration,White House and foundation officials said, and it amounts to the group’smost significant rejection of a national approach to Cuba that it helpedshape and that has been defined by hostility and limited contact with theisland.
Foundation officials described it as an effort to direct attention away fromFidel and Raúl Castro and toward the Cuban people.
“For 50 years we have been trying to change the Cuban government, the Cubanregime,” said the foundation’s president, Francisco J. Hernandez, a veteranof the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. “At the present time, what wehave to do is change the emphasis to the Cuban people — because they aregoing to be the ones who change things in Cuba.”
The proposal stops short of calling for an end to the 47-year-old tradeembargo the United States has imposed on Cuba. Mr. Hernandez said theembargo should remain until the Cuban government gives “more freedom andhuman rights to people.” But he also described it as only “a symbol” and“not something that is that important anymore.”
In a reversal from the group’s founding principles, he said American policyshould focus not on sanctions but on proactive policies that directresources to the island.
In addition to recommending an increase in how much money Cuban-Americanscan send to their relatives in Cuba — which the Obama administration hassaid it plans to enact — it says the 1997 ban on cash aid from the Americangovernment should also be rescinded. It advocates an increase in private aidfor pro-democracy groups and a plan for “permitting Cuban-Americans andothers, under license, to send cash, building materials, agriculturalimplements and provide services to independent, private entrepreneurs.”
The proposal also urges the United States to encourage travel to Cuba forcultural, academic or humanitarian purposes, returning to the standards of1999, before the Bush administration tightened limits.
And it identifies several ways to engage diplomatically. For instance, itsays that semi-annual meetings between Cuban and American officials todiscuss migration from the island, suspended in 2004, should bere-established; and that the White House should remove restrictions limitingthe travel of Cuban Interests Section employees in Washington to within 25miles from their offices, if the Cuban government agrees to remove a similarboundary for American diplomats in Havana.
Robert Pastor, a professor of international relations at AmericanUniversity, said the document was striking for both its new ideas and itsrepudiation of policies that the group once favored.
“It basically says previous efforts have failed — the embargo didn’t work,”said Mr. Pastor, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviserfor Latin America. “That, from the Cuban American National Foundation, is avery significant statement.”
Mr. Pastor said the shift in tone could help the Obama administrationachieve its stated goal of more open relations with Cuba.
Momentum for such a change has been building. In the presidential campaign,aides to Barack Obama called President George W. Bush’s policy toward Cuba a“humanitarian and strategic blunder,” and as president, Mr. Obama recentlyordered a comprehensive review of United States-Cuba policy.
Several members of Congress have also drafted legislation to lift a ban onall travel to Cuba, and this week, a Congressional delegation that metseparately with Raúl and Fidel Castro said the government signaled a desirefor warmer relations.
Mr. Pastor said the foundation seemed willing to become a partner in greaterengagement between the United States and Cuba, but he was skeptical of thegroup’s plan to channel money to the island nation from the federalgovernment or from organizations tied to Cuban exiles.
“The proposal to support civil society in Cuba is theoretically desirablefrom the U.S. perspective but it’s impractical because the Cuban governmentsees it as a new form of regime change,” said Mr. Pastor, who visited theisland in March. “It’s counterproductive because it makes the dissidentsseem like tools of Miami rather than independent patriots.”
At Café Versailles, a restaurant in the Little Havana section of Miami thathas long been a gathering spot for anti-Castro protesters, the proposal wasgreeted with familiar, emotional criticism. As he offered paintings of theCuban countryside for sale from his van in the parking lot, Rodolfo Frometa,64, could not hide his anger.
“I would open the doors to Cuba,” Mr. Frometa shouted, “but it would be withthe use of force to remove the system completely and create a democracy.”
Mr. Frometa said his son, brother and father were all killed by the Castrogovernment. In 1994, he was convicted in Miami on charges that he and anaccomplice tried to buy a Stinger missile to attack Cuba , and he served 41months in prison.
The foundation will also probably face opposition from Florida’s fourCuban-American Republican members of Congress — Senator Mel Martinez andRepresentatives Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Allhave historically opposed engagement with Cuba unless the government meetsstrict conditions. None returned telephone calls or responded to e-mailseeking comment.
Mr. Hernandez, however, said the foundation would not be intimidated by theold guard to which it once belonged.
“We have to adapt,” he said. “And that is what we have done.”
Yolanne Almanzar contributed reporting.
* * * on Wednesday, 04.08.09
Castros tell lawmakers they want talks with U.S.BY LESLEY CLARK
WASHINGTON -- The Castro government is interested in talking to the UnitedStates, a delegation of black members of Congress said Tuesday, returningfrom a five-day trip to Cuba where they met with Raúl and Fidel Castro.
But members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they didn't discusswhether Cuba was prepared to offer any concessions in return.
''We didn't get into any of the details,'' said caucus chairwoman Rep.Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who led the trip. ``We just want to see a dialogue.You don't have to offer anything to talk.''
The group of seven lawmakers, which included six members of theCongressional Black Caucus, spent four hours with Raúl Castro, includingdinner. Three members met separately with Fidel Castro at his home. Theydescribed the aging leader as ``very engaging, very energetic . . . verytalkative.''
The visit marked the first meeting between Raúl Castro and U.S. lawmakerssince he took the helm of the country a year ago and the first with theelder Castro since he took ill in 2006.
''It's time to talk to Cuba,'' Lee said. 'We are convinced, based on themeetings, that the Cubans do want dialogue, they do want talks and they dowant normal relations with the United States of America and I believe it'sin the United States' best interest to do that.''
The visit came as President Barack Obama is expected to soon ease familytravel and remittances restrictions to Cuba and as both chambers of Congressconsider bills that would permit all Americans to travel freely to Cuba.
''This is the dawning of a new day,'' said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.
The members of Congress said they plan to brief Obama and Secretary of StateHillary Clinton on the trip -- and push the administration to go further.
Lee called Obama's plan to lift family restrictions ''a necessary firststep.'' Obama said during the campaign that he does not plan to lift thedecades-old economic embargo against the island and Vice President Joe Bidenreiterated those remarks last month when he traveled to Chile. Supporters ofcurrent U.S. policy say Cuba must make concessions such as scheduling freeelections and releasing political prisoners before the United States makes amove.
But Lee said she hopes to tell the administration ``why we believe a fulllifting of travel restrictions and the embargo makes a heck of a sense andthe moment is now to do it.''
She said she was ``convinced the Cubans want this also . . . We found anopenness and a willingness to engage in all forms of normal relations . . .''
She said the group was not in Cuba to negotiate conditions for engaging.
''But what we're saying is two sovereign nations should be able to talkabout their differences and what they have in common,'' she said, addingthat Raúl Castro told the group, ``everything's on the table. Discussions,dialogue, no preconditions. We'll talk about all the issues that need to beaddressed as long as there is mutual respect.''
Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., said Fidel Castro ''looked directly intoour eyes'' and asked how Cuba could help Obama change U.S-Cuba policy.
She said she was left with the impression that the 82-year-old Fidel wantsto see changes in U.S.-Cuba relations in his lifetime.
Groups that support current U.S. policy had called on the delegation tovisit with black political prisoners on the island, but Rep. Mel Watt,D-N.C., said the group was interested in ''cultivating a discussion to beable to talk about the issues Afro-Cubans are raising.'' The lawmakers didnot meet with any Cuban dissidents.
Rush said Raúl Castro was ''very engaging'' and ``laughed at himself.
''He was a down-to-earth kind man, someone who I would favor as aneighbor,'' Rush said. He said Raúl Castro told the delegation he wouldwelcome U.S. industry, ``He said he'd like to see manufacturing plants.
Lee said Fidel Castro appeared ''very healthy, very clear thinking.''Richardson noted that he had a full head of hair and surprised her when heknew her name and congressional district.
* * *
Posted on Wed, Apr. 08, 2009 U.S. indicts Cuban exile Luis Posada, links him to bombings BY ALFONSO CHARDY
A federal grand jury handed up a new indictment against LuisPosada Carriles, for the first time linking the Cuban exile militant in aU.S. legal proceeding to a series of 1997 tourist-site bombings in Cuba thatkilled an Italian national.
The superseding indictment from the grand jury in El Paso doesnot charge Posada, 81, with planting the bombs or plotting the bombings butwith lying in an immigration court about his role in the attacks at hotels,bars and restaurants in the Havana area. The perjury counts were added tothe previous indictment that accused Posada of lying in his citizenshipapplication about how he got into the United States. Another new charge isobstruction of a U.S. investigation into ``international terrorism.''
The indictment marks the first time since Posada arrived in theUnited States seeking asylum in March 2005 that the government has said hewas involved in the Cuba bombings. A federal grand jury in New Jersey hadbeen investigating Posada's alleged involvement in raising money for thebombing campaign among Cuban exiles in Union City, but no charges have beenhanded up there.
The new charges almost certainly will dismay Posada's supportersin the Cuban exile community who view the exile militant as a hero in thecontinuing struggle against the Cuban regime.
Posada could not be reached for comment, but his Miami attorney,Arturo V. Hernandez, said his client is innocent.
''This superseding indictment is under analysis, and once wecomplete that review my client intends to plead not guilty to the additionalcounts,'' Hernandez said in a telephone interview.
The FBI office in Miami had been gathering evidence on thebombing, which killed Italian national Fabio di Celmo at the CopacabanaHotel in Havana.
Agents had traveled to the Cuban capital to investigate Posada'sconnection to the attacks. Agents talked to witnesses to the bombings,reviewed Cuba's forensic evidence and visited the sites where the bombsexploded.
Also, the FBI compiled a document alleging a conspiracyinvolving Posada as mastermind of the bombings. That document claimed Posadahid plastic explosives in shampoo bottles and shoes to be smuggled into Cubaweeks before the Sept. 4, 1997, bombing.
The Cuban government has claimed that one of two Salvadorannationals convicted in Havana of the bombings, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon,placed the bomb that killed the Italian and that Cruz Leon was a Posadaaccomplice.
Cruz Leon is mentioned in Wednesday's superseding indictment. Incount two for perjury, the grand jury said that Posada lied to animmigration judge when asked if he had arranged for Cruz Leon to carryexplosives into Cuba in 1997.
''I have never seen nor met Raul Cruz, and I have not done anyarrangement to send him to another place,'' Posada replied.
The new indictment Wednesday said that Posada's assertion wasfalse because the ``defendant had arranged to send and sent an individualnamed Raul Cruz Leon to Cuba to transport and carry explosives into Cuba tocarry out said bombings in 1997.''
The new indictment also accused Posada of lying when he wasasked in immigration court if he had been involved in the attacks.
''Well, were you involved in soliciting other individuals tocarry out the bombing in, the bombings in Cuba?'' Posada was asked in courtby an immigration trial attorney.
''No,'' he answered.
He was then asked how he could reconcile that denial with theinterview he gave The New York Times in 1998 in which he was quoted asclaiming responsibility for the bombings.
Posada testified that The New York Times probably quoted himaccurately, but that what he said was wrong because his English was poor.
© 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
Trinidad invites Raul Castro to pre-Americas summit visitPublished: Wednesday April 8, 2009
Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister has invited Cuban President Raul Castroto visit his country ahead of a summit there that Cuba is not invited to.Patrick Manning urged Castro to visit whenever "he considers appropriate."
It was unclear if Castro would accept his offer, or if a trip could coincidewith the Summit of the Americas on April 17.
Manning is visiting Cuba and met with Castro behind closed doors Sunday.
State media reported the meeting and the invitation to visit on Monday.
United States President Barack Obama and the leaders of 34 WesternHemisphere countries will attend the summit.
Cuba won't attend.
Manning has said he thinks Cuba will dominate the agenda and there will beagreement on how to incorporate the country back into hemispheric relations.
- AP stories
* * *
Jeffrey S. Davidow. White House Advisor for the Summit of the Americas
Washington, DC
April 6, 2009
MR. AKER: Good afternoon, everyone. It´s our great pleasure and privilegetoday to be able to introduce Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, who is the SpecialAdvisor to President Obama for the Summit of the Americas, which will takeplace later this month in Trinidad and Tobago.
QUESTION: Hi. Do you expect Cuba to be an issue at the summit? Do you notwant it to be an issue? And what will you do to see that it´s not an issue?Are you getting pressure from other countries to bring it up? And do youthink Cuba should be a participant in the summit?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, to answer your first question, no, I do not thinkCuba should be a participant in the summit. This is the fifth summit. Andfrom Miami, you will recall that the summit - the first summit was in 1994and it was a celebration and in a way it continues to be a celebration ofthe profound change in this hemisphere as compared to many periods in thepast when the hemisphere was marked by undemocratic governments.
In 1994 at the first summit, it was a unique - up till that time, a uniquemoment in time because every government represented there had been elected,was democratic. And here we are, 15 years later, and that trend of democracyhas continued. Cuba was not at the first summit. It still remains anundemocratic state. The United States still hopes to see change in Cuba thatat some point will allow Cuba to rejoin the inter-American community. But itwill not be at this summit.
Now, will Cuba be discussed, which was your other question. This is an openmeeting of 34 heads of state. I don´t think one can dictate what is going tobe discussed, particularly in - as I mentioned, there´s one meeting which isa private meeting just of the heads of state. In a way, we believe that itis not - it would be unfortunate if the principal theme of this meetingturned out to be Cuba. As I´ve told you, I think there are a lot of veryimportant issues that warrant discussion, whether it´s the economic issue,social inclusion, the environment, public safety. We would prefer,obviously, to focus on what we have been preparing for, but there is noeffort on our part to try to stifle conversation on any topic.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Cuba. If you just said that the U.S. is looking fordialogue, then why not include Cuba if you want to open better relationshipswith the continent?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, we are obviously interested in having the bestpossible relations with - you know, with countries that you had mentioned,Venezuela and Bolivia, and other countries. Our relationship with Cuba is acomplicated one. It´s a complex one, and I don´t intend to dissect it here.
But the fact of the matter is, is that the United States seeks and wouldlike to see and would hope that others in this hemisphere would like to seea Cuba which affords to its people the same kind of minimal rights whichalmost every other country, indeed every other country that will attend thissummit, does afford to their people as a - as democratic nations.
So I don´t think it makes sense to try to compare Cuba and Venezuela orEcuador or China or what have you. The fact of the matter is, is these havedifferent histories, different backgrounds, different political situations,and we just have to be realistic about that.
May I - I´ll continue - okay, you, sir.
QUESTION: Dan Dombey, Financial Times. Two questions, if I may. First, wouldyou view the President´s longstanding pledge to get rid of the restrictionson family visits to Cuba as just a humanitarian - just a - justifiable onhumanitarian grounds, or is there also an element to which that improvesrelations with the rest of the continent?
And secondly, the President also, of course, on his trip is going to Mexicoahead of the Trinidad summit. Can we expect any more deliverables in termsof the relationship with Mexico, or should we be content with what we´vejust got in the last couple of weeks in terms of -
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, look, I think our policy with Mexico is fairlywell established. The President and the Secretary of State, indeed the wholecabinet, have made it clear that our relationship with Mexico is of thehighest priority. We have programs of support for Mexico, the MeridaInitiative, which are on their way into being implemented. The level ofcooperation between the United States and Mexico is higher than it ever hasbeen in a whole range of issues, but in - particularly in terms of lawenforcement. And Mexico is, as you can see, daily in the newspaper makingvery strong efforts and successful efforts.
On the question of relaxation of some of the restrictions in our policytowards Cuba, the President has said while he was in campaign and has beenrepeated since and the Secretary of State has said that - and the VicePresident most recently in Chile, that we can expect some relaxation andchanges in terms of the restrictions on family remittances and familytravel. And as the Vice President said in Chile when he was down there, thisdoes not include a lifting of the embargo.
Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Yeah, just more broadly on Cuba policy, is the Administrationhopeful that, you know, the changes that have been going on there andchanges in the - you know, the Cuban-American population or organizations -is the Administration hopeful that these can - will help bring about acloser relationship up - perhaps upgrading to an embassy, the interestssections, that kind of thing?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I´m not going to comment on domestic politicshere. The fact of the matter is that for all of the reportage andspeculation about changes in Cuba, the fact remains that the situation inthat country as it relates to the freedom of its own citizens does not seemto have changed with the departure of Fidel Castro from the presidency, atleast the formal departure, and the advent of his brother.
What I think is very important in talking about Cuba is that we should viewCuba in the context of this hemisphere, which, as I said, is a democratichemisphere. Back in the `60s and `70s and `80s when governments in thishemisphere were run by military dictatorships, when there were countrieswith political prisoners with no free press, Cuba, though special, was nottotally unique in terms of human rights. Now, it is clearly the odd man out.As I say, there is no government in --
QUESTION: Are you talking about Cuba under Batista or under Castro?
QUESTION: (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I´m talking about both.
QUESTION: Okay. But so --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: And I´m glad you recognize that there´s not muchdifference. That´s your point.
QUESTION: What - okay, so if that´s the case, and things haven´t changed andyou don´t want to comment on internal politics, why ease the restrictions?Why --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: The President has said, made the point that he wants toallow Cuban Americans to have, as a matter of both moral - a moral matterand the question of elemental justice, to have more contact level --
QUESTION: Does the Administration see that as a way to bring change if moremoney is going in, if there are exchanges --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: The President has said that he thinks that CubanAmericans are the best possible ambassadors --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: -- of this - of our system when they visit that country.
QUESTION: And what about the idea - there are moves afoot on the Hill tolift - to allow all Americans, not just Americans with families in Cuba togo - what is - what´s the Administration´s position on that?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I think that´s an issue still to be debated. But rightnow, what the President is looking at is - and I can say this because Iknow; I´ve read his promise in his May speech while he was a candidate inMiami that there will be lifting of restrictions on the question of - or alessening of the restrictions on remittances and travel.
QUESTION: Hi, Farah Stockman with The Boston Globe. Can you give us a senseof whether the President is taking any environmental experts in hisentourage as the Secretary did when she went to China?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I´m sorry, environmental experts?
QUESTION: Yeah. You were saying environment might --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: You know, I think it´s a fair bet that there will bepeople traveling with him who are very knowledgeable about this. But quitefrankly, I haven´t seen the list of people who are traveling with thePresident as yet. I do know that the concern about a green agenda, cleanenergy, cooperation with countries in Latin America on exchange ofinformation and programs and ideas about energy, and also looking forwardtoward the Copenhagen meeting and the questions relating to climate change -these are important.
The whole issue of adaptation, to take one topic in which governments andcountries try to adapt to the impact of climate change, is something which,as you can imagine, is of great significance in the hemisphere, andparticularly in the Caribbean where this meeting is going to be held, whereso many island states are concerned, and I think rightfully - I´m not makinga scientific judgment - about issues relating to climate, sea level,what-have-you. So I think it´s a pretty good bet that the President willhave experts with him, although he´s pretty knowledgeable himself.
Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Scott Wilson from The Washington Post. The President is concludinga trip now where he has had, on several occasions, to defend the Americanrole in the economic crisis. He´s about to - this trip will take him into aregion where the Washington consensus is used as an epithet frequently andwhere the United States is seen as the chief culprit behind the currenteconomic downturn, especially with emerging markets.
How much criticism are you expecting and how far is the President willing togo to take responsibility for the economic downturn in the hemisphere?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I don´t think that it´s a question of thePresident taking responsibility. In fact, the President has said thatthere´s a shared responsibility in the world relating to the economicsituation and a shared commitment and responsibility to find ways toameliorate the impact. I think that is the message that he will take. Ithink the message at the G-20 meeting was directed towards that. Keep inmind, as I said, the G-20 - five of the countries represented at the G-20will also be at the summit - Canada, the United States, Brazil, Mexico andArgentina.
So I don´t think that the President´s interested in getting into the blamegame or the defense game. It is what it is and let´s --
QUESTION: You don´t think he will with President Chavez and PresidentMorales and President Correa there?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I think that our President is totally capable ofpresenting the position of the United States without going to the summit forconfrontation. We´re going to find ways to cooperate more.
Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Jeff Mason with Reuters. Two follow-ups on two issues that havejust been discussed - first on climate change, can you give any more detailson what kind of preparatory work towards Copenhagen might be done at thissummit? Will there be any bilaterals specifically on that issue? Are thereany specific goals you´ll be looking for?
And second, on the issue of Cuba, just broadly, what will the President tellhis fellow participants about the U.S.´s strategic review of thatrelationship?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, on climate change, I would direct you to, youknow, the special negotiator for climate change. I don´t think that weshould expect specific outcomes - negotiating outcomes from this summit.It´s not the time and place, it would seem to me, when you get heads ofstate together. I´m sure that the President will mention it and the desireto cooperate, but that cooperation will be taken care of at other levels andnot at the summit.
In terms of Cuba, I think the President will say that, you know, we areengaged in a continual evaluation of our policy and how that policy couldhelp result in a change in Cuba that would bring about a democratic societythere. I don´t think he´s going to be in any way unwilling to discuss that.As I said, however, there´s a very long agenda of topics that we think arequite important, that other governments think are important, and it would beunfortunate if the conference spent more time on that topic than it wouldhave to.
Why don´t I take just a couple more questions? Well, I´ll keep going and -did I - yes, sir.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Valor Economico from Brazil. The President,during the campaign, he talked a lot about so-called energy partnership forthe Americas, and you didn´t say anything about this.
QUESTION: Did the framework - as the concept of the general framework forthe continent was abandoned because of difficulties that you might face fromseveral countries? Or --
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I don´t think it´s at all - and I´m glad you´veasked that question, because there is a real desire to have an energypartnership for the Americas, particularly focusing on issues of greenenergy. What is also clear is that one size does not fit all, that there aresome countries that are more anxious to work with us, compare notes,exchange information, exchange scientists, compare best practices on certainissues within the energy matrix and less interested on others.
As I mentioned, Brazil has expressed great interest in expanding itscooperation and collaboration with the United States on biofuels. Othercountries are similarly interested. Chile is particularly interested on thequestion of renewables. And I think the partnership will be an openpartnership, open to those governments and indeed nongovernmentalorganizations and others that are interested in working together. So thepartnership concept is very much alive, and I´m glad you asked thatquestion.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ms. Sonia Schott with DPA. Going back to the economicissue, is President Obama going to ask Latin American countries tocontribute more to the financial institutions? And as you say, this is anegotiated or consensus draft. Do you have already a sense of thewillingness of the countries to do so? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Actually, in one sense, I think it´s important - and I´mglad you asked that question - the issues relating to macroeconomic topicsare mentioned in the draft that has been completed. But it is an incompletemessage because it came - it was negotiated prior to the G-20. So I expectto see some kind of some - new summary statement about economics at thesummit. And what countries can do, either domestically or internationally,is something they will have to work out themselves. Though I think we arefinding in many countries in the hemisphere similar concerns and similarintents to act, some stimulus packages in some countries.
So this is a principal topic. I´m sorry, I´m - let me clear my throat. Okay,yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Sao Paolo from Brazil. The government has notappointed many ambassadors to the region, the new ambassadors. Isn´t thatcomplicated at this point?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, appointing ambassadors is always complicated. Ican tell you that I think this government is moving very fast. But you justhave to remember that our system, when it comes to appointing ambassadors,is very slow. Individuals must be selected, they must be vetted, agrémentmust be requested - that is, the permission of the receiving country - theremust be Senate hearings, and then there must be Senate votes.
It is not unusual, especially when political parties change, the White Housechanges, that many ambassadorial posts go unfilled for six months, eightmonths, nine months or more. And these delays are always accompanied byarticles in the press of Latin America saying, what does this mean, whydon´t we have a new ambassador, what is the underlying motivation? And assometimes, very infrequently, happens, the press gets it wrong. (Laughter.)It has nothing to do with sending political messages. It has to do with ourvery convoluted and complicated system. And as somebody who has been throughthis a few times, I can tell you it´s complicated. But it is not a politicalissue. It´s a bureaucratic issue.
MR. AKER: We have time for about two more questions.
QUESTION: Thank you. (inaudible) from Bloomberg News. To what extent do youthink the Colombian trade deal will come up as an issue, and is there any -has there been any shift in President Obama´s opinion on that deal since thecampaign?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I don´t know if this will come up at the summitbecause there are, you know, many bilateral issues that, you know, are ofconcern to one country and the United States and not to other countries.
On Colombia, the Administration has said the following about the tradenegotiations: that it wants to move rapidly in relation to Panama andgetting the Panama trade deal approved by Congress, and it is going to moveahead on the Colombian trade deal as well, and that this will be doneprobably more slowly because there are still some benchmarks that have to bemet.
I call your attention to a statement issued by the U.S. Trade Representativeon President Obama´s trade policy about three weeks ago. And if you missedit, I´m sorry.
QUESTION: I had a quick follow-up. Just when will this draft be released?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: You know, I don´t know. I think it´s still beingsubstantively - the draft of the declaration of the summit. I think it´sbeen done. Now it has to go to a committee, what they call the stylecommittee. (Laughter.) This is not made up of fashion designers. And that isbeing worked on just down the street at the OAS. So I don´t know when it´sphysically going to be available.
I guess that will be our last question, okay? Okay, one, two. All right?
QUESTION: Yeah, to follow up on Cuba again, there´s been a lot ofspeculation that the President may announce some change in Cuban policybefore. Also, last week, there was a letter from Senator Lugar recommendingthat the United States drops its opposition to the entrance of Cuba in theOAS. And my question is whether there is any chance that he follows thisadvice or that he makes any announcement before.
I forgot, my name is Diana Molineaux of Cuba Broadcasting.
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: Well, I´m sorry you forgot your name. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I forgot to say my name, to mention my name. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: First, as I said, the President has made it clear thatwe can expect to see some changes, particularly relating to remittances andfamily travel. When those are actually announced, I cannot tell you.
In terms of Senator Lugar´s letter, I can tell you that Senator Lugar is avery highly respected person. I would not - in saying that, I´m not tryingto give you any hint one way or the other that his ideas will be accepted,but when Senator Lugar offers ideas, you know, people do look at them withserious intent. However, I don´t want you to feel that that presages somechange in our policy because there´s really no way to say that.
QUESTION: A final - please, sir. About you saying you couldn't say when thechanges would come down, but it is your expectation it would be before thesummit?
AMBASSADOR DAVIDOW: I really cannot say. But I would not be surprised, okay,if it came before the summit. But I do not know. That is - those aredecisions that I am not making and I do not know when it could happen.
But the President has said he´s going to do it, he´s going to make somechanges. The Vice President has repeated that. So they´re going to happen. Ican´t tell you exactly when.
* * *
No stopping Cuba nowRickey SinghWednesday, April 8th 2009
THE majority of delegations from the 34 nations coming to Trinidad andTobago for the Fifth Summit of Americas will be doing so with Cuba very muchon their mind.
A clear understanding is emerging that a discussion on Cuba-USA relationscannot be deferred at this summit as one of the very significant, if not themost politically sensitive issues for Latin America and the Caribbean.
If up to this past weekend President Barack Obama's senior advisers werestill of a differing persuasion, then they need to update themselves andlisten carefully to the governments of the hemisphere, including that ofhost Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
With no malice towards the USA, but known for their solidarity with Cubaagainst America's unprecedented 47-year-old trade and economic blockade ofthat Caribbean country, the overwhelming majority of OAS members are simplyanxious to avoid unnecessary skirmishes over a lingering problem thatcarries a bitter reminder of the worse features of America's 20th centuryhegemonic politics.
Had the advisers and strategists of the President, whose promised "politicsof change'' continues to stir imaginations, had given some thought to apolite letter from Caricom to Obama before his inauguration last January,they would have been alerted to Caricom's current mood.
As a group of small and developing nations that form the single largest blocof members within the OAS, Caricom-which was primarily responsible in the1970s for breaking the US isolation of Cuba, regards America's punitiveembargo against that country as the last cold war political issue of the20th century.
As articulated by Caricom this problem reveals a "fracture in thehemispheric family'' that requires, as Obama has been informed,"unconditional dialogue'' between Washington and Havana.
But as rising voices have been proclaiming within recent weeks, theexclusion of Cuba from the OAS cannot any longer be sustained. No officialresponse is known to have been received from Obama to the Caricom letter.
Nevertheless, Caricom shares the view that Cuba's readmission to the OAS,which the Obama administration could begin to talk about at the summit, willbegin the healing process of the "fracture'' that had occurred back in 1962.
The veteran Republican Senator of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee,Richard Lugar- about whom Obama had favourably written before his electionas President-has found it necessary to send a message to the 44th Presidentthat it was time to come to terms with normalisation of US-Cuba relations.
In his letter of March 30 Lugar told Obama: "At the Summit of the Americasyou will be confronted with growing momentum within the region in favour ofreincorporating Cuba as a member of the OAS....
"Cuban inclusion in the OAS,'' said Lugar, "presents challenges to theintegrity of the organisation and its commitment to promote and defenddemocracy and human rights, as codified in the Inter-American DemocraticCharter and the American Convention on Human Rights...''
President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are destined tohear of this and more from Caricom and Latin American leaders, starting withthe summit's host, Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Caricom's currentchairman Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize, during the formal openingsession on April 17 when Obama will make his much-awaited address.
Other speakers at plenary sessions the following day, April 18, tounderscore the necessity of ending the US embargo against Cuba and itsreturn to the OAS, will include Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua's DanielOrtega, Guyana's Bharrat Jagdeo, St Vincent and the Grenadines' RalphGonsalves as well as Jamaica's Bruce Golding and Dominica's RooseveltSkerrit.
The legendary Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has called on delegations at thesummit to ensure firm support for an end to the exclusion of Cuba andtermination of the US embargo.
In a regular column he writes for Granma, Castro ridiculed what he deemed"inadmissible concepts'' in the draft text of the "Summit Declaration''. Hewas given a copy by Nicaragua's President Ortega who paid him a visit. Hesaid the summit would be a "trial by fire'' for the Caribbean-Latin Americaregion.
Just this past Monday, Caribbean economist Norman Girvan, recently awardedwith an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Havana, noted that,"Fidel Castro will be the unseen guest'' at the Fifth Summit for which "heis evidently a player'', to follow information coming out of varioushemispheric capitals, among them Havana, Santiago de Chile, La Paz, Boliviaand Caracas.
* * *
JUST RELEASED CANF WHITE PAPER: A New Course for U.S.-Cubapolicy: Advancing People Driven Change By CANF Apr 9, 2009 - 12:33:22 AM
A New Course for U.S.-Cuba policy:
Since the end of the Cold War our policy toward Cuba hasremained static, reactive and focused on responding to developmentsfollowing the demise of Fidel Castro. That policy, in our opinion, doesnot advance or promote the best interests of the United States or of theCuban people; it relegates the U.S.’s role to that of passive observerrather than active supporter of the process of democratization for one ofour closest hemispheric neighbors.
The recommendations listed herein chart a new direction forU.S.-Cuba policy, one that is guided by a deep understanding of the Cubanpeople, the impact of five decades of totalitarian rule, and a firm beliefthat the tides of change are swept in by the grass roots efforts of commonpeople who have acquired confidence in their abilities and feel empowered intheir responsibilities. Our recommendations are a break from the pastbecause they seek to adapt to the realities of the present, which require ameasured and incremental path that allows for adjustments along the waybased on empirical evidence and evolving dynamics on the ground in Cuba.
That path is not one that can be assumed or applied solely bythe United States. It requires Cuba’s present rulers, or their successors,to understand that irrespective of changes to U.S. policy, the incorporationof grassroots reforms demanded by the Cuban people, are absolutely essentialto the nation’s future prosperity and stability.
As President Obama stated at the CANF Cuban Independence DayLuncheon on May 23, 2008, “after decades pressing for top-down reform, weneed an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from thebottom up.” The Cuban American National Foundation stands ready tocontribute our best effort in support of a new U.S.-Cuba policy thatadvances the interests and security of the United States and helps the Cubanpeople in their quest for democracy and prosperity.
Jorge Mas Santos Chairman
A New Course for U.S.-Cuba Policy
I. Overview and Summary Recommendations
Over the course of half a century, United States foreign policytowards Castro’s Cuba has evolved through four distinct phases. From 1959until about 1964, U.S. policy was centered on regime change. Early on, theAdministration of President John F. Kennedy was focused on the removal ofFidel Castro from power and to this end, provided U.S. support for the Bayof Pigs invasion and later approved a series of covert actions underOperation Mongoose, directed at destabilizing the regime. [1] However,increasing tensions with the Soviet Union and the aftermath of the CubanMissile Crisis, caused Kennedy to drastically shift course, agreeing underthe “Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact” to cease any interference in Cuba’s internalaffairs and pull out U.S. missiles from Turkey in exchange for an agreementthat the Soviet Union discontinue nuclear arms shipments to Cuba. [2] Thepact brought an end to the policy of regime change and as a result a policyof containment was instituted which remained in place until the presidencyof Jimmy Carter in the late 1970’s.
President Carter quickly embarked on a policy of rapprochementtowards Cuba, an effort which complemented his attempt at extending a newkind of détente with the Soviet Union and its allies. He held a beliefthat direct dialogue with the Cuban leadership would achieve desiredchanges—namely Cuba’s withdrawal from military involvement in Africa as asurrogate of the USSR. In a Presidential Directive signed by Cartershortly after he took office, he stated explicitly the new goal of U.S.foreign policy toward Cuba: “I have concluded that we should attempt toachieve normalization of our relations with Cuba.” [3] Carter’s attemptat rapprochement with Cuba culminated in the opening of diplomatic InterestsSections in the capitals of both nations.
Yet despite his extensive efforts to reach out to Cuba’sleadership, and through direct engagement curb Cuban foreign intervention,inevitably those efforts proved fruitless as Cuba, in turn, increased itspresence and military cooperation with the Soviet Union in various countriesin Africa including Angola and Zaire. In 1978, after Cuba sent 16,000troops to support the communist Ethiopian government in the Ogaden Waragainst Somalia, [4] then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance formallyannounced the Administration was turning away from trying to normalizerelations with Cuba because of Cuba’s additional actions in the Africancontinent and later its support for communist insurgent groups in LatinAmerican countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. [5]
Subsequent administrations have limited U.S.-Cuba policy tolittle beyond posturing for domestic electoral purposes or periodicallyresponding to Castro’s continuing efforts to undermine U.S. internationalobjectives. Although President Ronald Reagan signed Radio Marti intoexistence and invaded Grenada where Cuban troops were stationed, hisadministration’s efforts were mainly punctuated by a return to thecontainment strategy of the Cold War. During President Bill Clinton’stenure, there was an attempt to increase people-to-people contact as avehicle to influence democratic change in Cuba, yet executive action underthat administration was overwhelmingly characterized by cautious reaction tolegislative initiatives and unforeseen international events. The 1994Cuban rafter crisis and resulting wet foot-dry foot policy and the 1996Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down led to the signing of the Helms-Burtonbill, which codified significant portions of Cuba policy, such as the U.S.economic embargo, into U.S. law.
Under the Administration of George W. Bush, Cuba policy wasdefined by the desire to placate perceived domestic political interests,leading to the enactment of policies that lacked strategic thought orbenefit and that ignored Cuba’s increasingly influential role in LatinAmerica and its active support for anti-American leadership in the region.Following the mass crackdown on the democratic opposition in Cuba in 2003,rather than increase direct aid to Cuba’s opposition groups to counter theregime’s attempt to obliterate their efforts, the Bush Administrationinstead enacted regulations which had the converse effect of cutting offvital Cuban-American remittances and the flow of support and humanitarianaid made possible by their remittances and travel to the island-nation.The Bush Administration often took to the bully pulpit to criticize theCuban regime; however, its actions were not consistent with the rhetoric.Instead, the establishment of entities such as the Commission on Assistancefor a Free Cuba [6] and government positions like that of a Cuba TransitionCoordinator, which were ill-defined and directed, became “achievements” itcould point to on Cuba policy though in reality they were merely symbolicgestures with no meaningful effect on precipitating democratic changeon-island.
This brings us to the present. With an ailing figurehead, acadre of aging hard-liners thwarting any movement toward significant reform,and a mounting sense of desperation among a Cuban population increasinglyunable to meet its basic needs, the results of the long term absence of aforward-looking U.S.-Cuba policy may soon become painfully obvious. Ratherthan the peaceful democratic transition we all desire, events may thrust theCuban people into chaos thereby forcing the United States to take unilateralactions, at the very least in securing its own borders. It is thereforecritical that President Obama’s Administration adopt a policy that avoidsthis scenario by assisting the Cuban people in laying the groundwork for apeaceful transition to democracy via support for the development of a strongand vibrant independent civil society in Cuba.
Both President Obama and Vice-President Biden have made itabundantly clear that there will not be any unilateral lifting of theembargo absent significant moves on the part of the Castro regime towardsfreedom and democracy for the Cuban people. The Cuban American NationalFoundation concurs with the Obama Administration’s position. Tounilaterally lift the embargo without any significant evidence ofirrevocable change in Cuba would be tantamount to sentencing the Cubanpeople to the continuation of the deprivation of economic, civil and humanfreedoms they have endured for the past five decades, and would continue tonegatively affect the long term strategic interests of the United States inthe region. A change in course can only be achieved by bolstering theresolve of the Cuban people so that they may achieve the prosperity, socialand political stability that the Castro regime is incapable of delivering.
Nevertheless, the Castro government will not unilaterally andfreely initiate a path toward democratic rule. It has had ample opportunityto voluntarily make such changes over fifty years of unbridled power; asFrederick Douglass so wisely said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.It never did and it never will.” External and, more importantly, internalfactors are critical in creating that demand for change. The Cuban people,supported by U.S. policy, must be empowered to speak out, organize, andpeacefully enact democratic change. The Cuban American National Foundationbelieves that the President has the authority and prerogative to initiatethe necessary changes in U.S.-Cuba policy within the parameters provided bycurrent statutes.
To that effect, the Cuban American National Foundationrecommends that the President pursue a proactive U.S.-Cuba policy that: (i)increases support for the development of Cuban civil society, (ii) increasespeople-to-people exchanges, (iii) improves communication to advance freedomof information, and (iv) engages in targeted bilateral and multilateraldiplomatic efforts.
II. Objectives for a New U.S.-Cuba Policy
United States-Cuba policy should focus on (1) advancing U.S.interests and security in the region and (2) empowering the Cuban people intheir quest for democracy and prosperity. These two objectives areintricately intertwined and one cannot be individually accomplished withoutthe other.
The United States has direct national and security interests inpromoting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. The resurgence ofanti-American forces in the hemisphere that view Cuba as their ideologicalparadigm has led to increased tensions between the United States and severalof its Latin American counterparts. Most evident is that of the growingtensions between the U.S. and Venezuela and Hugo Chavez’s increasingcollaboration with rogue nations like Iran that are potential threats toU.S. national security and the overall security of the region. [7]
In addition, a stable and democratic Cuba will avoid a possiblechaotic mass exodus of refugees that could cause significant disruptions inaffected U.S. communities, and will promote lawful and controlled migrationbetween the two nations. Further, a stable, democratic and prosperous Cubawill create the benefit of a regional partner in promoting democraticvalues, the rule of law, international human rights, and global prosperity.Both countries would have enhanced opportunities to cooperatively addresscommon threats such as drug trafficking, international terrorism, organizedcrime, human smuggling, and environmental degradation. Such benefits andinterests have not and will not be attained by maintaining the status quo.
To proactively and creatively support the Cuban people in theirquest for democracy and prosperity, U.S.-Cuba policy must empower the Cubanpeople by encouraging independence from the State, self-sufficiency, andentrepreneurship. A vibrant civil society is the cornerstone to anysuccessful democracy [8] and is certainly a precursor to a peaceful andlasting democratic transition. By shifting U.S. focus onto the Cubanpeople, our commitment to them will match the robust and direct supportpreviously extended to people suffering under repressive regimes, such asthose in Eastern Europe, South Africa, Chile, and other countries wheredemocratic change was achieved from the ground up.
The Cuban American National Foundation recommends the followingpolicies, which can all be implemented by Executive action, to chart acourse for U.S.-Cuba policy that promotes the best interests of both theUnited States and the Cuban people:
III. Recommendations
(i) Increase Support for the Development of Cuban CivilSociety
It is a well established fact that Vaclav Havel’s Charter 77 inCzechoslovakia and labor union movements like Solidarity in Poland gave riseto the creation of independent civil society groups which eventually mountedsuccessful challenges to their respective authoritarian regimes. In anEastern Europe under communism, these independent civil society groups builtislands of independent thought and action; they created popular movementsthat were well organized and became effective purveyors of truth andinformation to the general population. Their success was largely a resultof their brave and determined efforts and a confluence of both internal andexternal political factors; yet without the determined support of nationslike the United States, their triumph may have been delayed. The Cubandissident movement has proven to possess the same determination, courage andskill as their Eastern European counterparts; they only lack the effective,direct, and coordinated support the Europeans received.
In 2004, following the passing of President Ronald Reagan,former Polish President, Solidarity leader and Nobel Prize Winner LechWalesa recognized the critical importance of that support when he wrote:“When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland tookhim so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be saidoften enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, untilcommunism fell in 1989.” [9]
The United States has an extensive history of supporting theforces of democracy abroad. It did so in the 1980’s in Eastern Europe togreat success. It was likewise critical in the late 1990’s and early 2000 insupporting efforts to topple Slobodan Miloševiæ by infusing oppositiongroups such as the student movement Otpor and the Democratic Opposition ofSerbia with significant direct aid. U.S. government assistance to thesegroups increased from $10 million in 1999 to $31 million in 2000, the yearMiloševiæ was ousted. [10] Much of these funds were distributed by theUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office ofTransition Initiatives (OTI), and in great part, were in the form of directcash assistance. [11]
Today, USAID-based assistance for democracy promotion in Cuba iscrippled by several factors, the most critical being a banning of cash aidor remittances to opposition groups on island. In 1997, a mid-levelClinton Administration official arbitrarily imposed a ban on cash aidclaiming he was fearful the funds might be used to try to assassinate FidelCastro. [12] The obviously flawed thinking that led to this department-levelpolicy has gone unchallenged through the last two presidentialadministrations, even though Administration officials have recognized thecounterproductive nature of such a policy. Roger Noriega, formerUndersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere during President Bush’sfirst term and later U.S. ambassador to the OAS stated that the policy: ‘created a ridiculous situation where we were spending ten times the cost ofshipping to send in materials that could be bought on the market (in Cuba)if we just gave cash and got a receipt.’ [13] Yet the policy remained, andan extensive report published by CANF in 2008 [14], uncovered that over 80%of the grant monies destined for Cuba democracy promotion, ended up beingspent in Miami, Washington, D.C. and internationally by U.S. based NGO’srather than on the intended recipients of such aid—Cuba’s civil societygroups.
Not only do independent civil society groups create pressure fordemocratic change; studies on transitions from authoritarianism to democracyhave demonstrated that the strength and viability of an enduring democratictransition is directly linked to the overall success of civil societygroups. First, once a democratic transition begins to take place, civilsociety organizations are critical in representing mass interests andaffecting government decision-making. Secondly, these organizations act asimportant conduits for the interpretation of information controlled anddisseminated by the new government to the general populace and at the sametime exerting some influence over the public. And finally, they are criticalactors in helping to implement the decisions, policy and directives of agovernment embarking on a democratic process. [15]
Cuba ’s independent civil society and opposition groups, as wellas the Cuban populace in general, are in dire need of our support in orderto continue to build a parallel society and institutions that are criticalto pressing for democratic change and for ensuring an enduring democratictransition. To that effect we recommend the following:
Lift restrictions on Cuban-American familyremittances.
Rationale: The implementation of additional restrictions onCuban-American remittances by the Bush Administration in 2004 contradictsour stated policy of ‘support for the Cuban people’. Cuban-Americans arein the best position to assess the needs of Cubans on the island and canmost efficiently direct essential remittances to them. Not only will sucha policy provide increased humanitarian aid but it will also permit theCuban people to become more independent from the State in meeting basicneeds and in creating and developing civil society. An increase in thelevel of remittances is critical at this juncture due to the impact of lastseason’s hurricanes and the dire humanitarian situation on the ground inCuba.
Lift the 2004 restrictions limiting certain items fromhumanitarian aid parcels and increase the weight limit of such parcels
Rationale: In 2004, the Bush Administration restrictedpersonal hygiene items, seeds, fishing equipment, and soap-making equipmentfrom allowable humanitarian gift parcel items. Gift parcels were alsolimited to a maximum of 4 pounds per parcel per month sent through theUnited States Postal Service (USPS). The real effect of these measures hasbeen to deprive Cuban-Americans the ability to send basic needs items totheir family members in Cuba. The humanitarian crisis on the ground inCuba today in the wake of last season’s hurricanes makes the reversal ofthese additional restrictions all the more critical at this stage.
Permit direct cash aid —Change USAID-Cuba’s internalpolicy of banning cash aid to independent civil society groups, dissidents,and the families of political prisoners in Cuba.
Rationale: The internal ban imposed in 1997 has remained and isperhaps the greatest obstacle to delivering efficient and substantivesupport to Cuba’s opposition and independent civil society groups.Eliminating this ban would allow Cuban groups to receive direct aid in amuch more expeditious manner and would also curtail the instances of abuseand misappropriation of funding that has been alleged with some U.S.-basedNGOs receiving USAID grants.
Impose a Cost-Share requirement for U.S.-basedNGOs —USAID should implement and enforce a cost-share requirement for allU.S.-based non-profits seeking to obtain funding for Cuba democracyprograms.
Rationale: Many of USAID’s recipient organizations, themajority of which are located in Miami, have relied almost exclusively ongovernment grants either through USAID or NED for their existence. Thishas created a situation where many grantees spend the majority of thegovernment funds on salaries and overhead costs here in the United Statesand use very little in direct support of Cuban groups. (For moreinformation, please refer to CANF report on Findings and Recommendations forUSAID Cuba programs). [16] Imposing this requirement would ensure that themaximum amount of U.S. funds are going to support the efforts of thoseworking for change on the island.
Allow sub-granting to Cuba-based Independent CivilSociety Organizations —USAID should allow and encourage sub-granting toindependent civil society groups in Cuba by USAID-Cuba granteeorganizations.
Rationale : The process of sub-granting to independent groupsin Cuba will truly help build organic NGOs in Cuba—a vital part ofestablishing a functioning civil society that can take on the grass rootsresponsibilities of a democratic transition. It also provides for a moreeffective system of support delivery that would allow opposition or civilsociety groups to grow and carry out their programs.
Require USAID-Cuba grantees to spend at least 70% ofthe funds in programs directed to aid Cuban Civil Society.
Rationale: A minimum of 70% of government funding received bygrantee recipients should be dedicated to direct aid to the Cuban people.While some of the funding may be directed to salary, overhead costs, etc.,the bulk of these types of expenses should be obtained mainly throughnon-governmental sources, thereby guaranteeing that the maximum amount ofpublic funds are destined for the intended recipients of USAID’s program.
Promote the development and growth of microenterprisesin Cuba by permitting private micro-loans.
Rationale: The growth of Cuba’s independent economic sector isvital to the growth of an independent civil society as a whole and iscritical to preparing and training Cubans for a post-Castro, democratic era.Permitting Cuban-Americans and others, under license, to send cash, buildingmaterials, agricultural implements and provide services to independent,private entrepreneurs not affiliated with the regime for the establishmentof micro-enterprises, such as artisans and family-owned small businesses,and the building and repair of private family residences affected by lastseason’s hurricanes would have an indelible and immediate impact on thegrowth of Cuba’s independent economic sector and civil society as a whole.
Permit the increase of private aid to pro-democracygroups .
We recommend that the following current regulations be amendedto read as follows:
-CFR § 515.570(d)(1) be amended to allow general licensing ofunlimited remittances from non-governmental organizations and individualssubject to U.S. jurisdiction to members of pro-democracy groups as well asindividual family members of Cuban political prisoners;
Rationale: In addition to providing U.S. governmentassistance to pro-democracy groups in Cuba, private citizens, organizationsinterested in supporting independent civil society groups and the familiesof political prisoners can and should play a very valuable role in effectingchange in Cuba.
(ii) Increase People-To-People Exchanges
During the Carter and Clinton Administrations, people-to-peopleexchanges to Cuba were expanded, though for very different strategicreasons. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter announced the opening of generallicense travel to Cuba as a sign of rapprochement. That policy wasreversed under the Reagan Administration and restrictions remained in placeuntil 1995 when President Bill Clinton announced a new policy to “engage theCuban people and promote the free flow of ideas.” [17] In 1999, followingthe visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba, President Clinton further expandedpeople-to-people exchanges creating categories of travel licensing thatincluded cultural and academic exchanges and announced the easing ofrestrictions governing cash remittances to the island. [18] That policy wasallowed to stand for the most part until 2004 when the Bush Administrationsignificantly scaled back the Clinton era measures, eliminating categoriesof licensed travel and restricting Cuban-American family visits andremittances. In 2004, the Bush Administration further restrictedCuban-American humanitarian gift parcels, prohibiting the inclusion of suchitems as toothpaste, soap, and clothing.
For the past five years, our policy, in practice, has runcontrary to the stated goal of “support for the Cuban people.” Rather thanopening up avenues for the delivery of aid and information, we have managedto make it increasingly more difficult to get help to even those bravedissidents who risk their lives. A prime example of this is therestriction placed on limiting the types of aid allowed to be sent in giftparcels to the Cuban people. The Bush Administration explained theirrationale for the policy stating that the purpose in limiting “such parcelsdecrease the burden on the Cuban regime to provide for the basic needs ofits people.” [19] This statement not only incorrectly assumes the Cubangovernment is concerned about providing basic needs for its people but worseyet, instead of urging and assisting Cubans in becoming independent of theState, it has the reverse effect of having Cubans turn back to the State astheir sole provider and source for basic goods and necessities.
Communist regimes have frequently used the deprivation of foodand basic necessities as a way to control the masses. Maxim Litvinov, Sovietdiplomat under Lenin’s regime, was well known for utilizing the line“Gentlemen, food is a weapon.” [20] The Soviets were not the only ones toeffectively use the deprivation of food and goods as a weapon. We haveseen many examples throughout history, including the Serbian regime underMilosevic, the Iraqi regime under Sadaam Hussein, the North Korean regimeunder Kim Jong-Il, and the Cuban regime under the reign of Fidel and RaulCastro.
In Cuba, the black market for goods and services has becomeincreasingly important. Following last season’s hurricanes, the regime’sinability to provide enough to meet even the most basic demands has becomemuch more evident. U.S. policy should then allow for direct support to theCuban people with the purpose of assisting Cubans in meeting their mostbasic needs and equally as important, helping to break their dependency onthe State.
Purposeful travel to Cuba is also an important element intransferring news and information as well as providing a means with which todeliver direct aid and support. Purposeful travel differs from other typesof travel, such as commercial tourism, in that it explicitly seeks to putCubans in contact with those interested in helping the development of anindependent Cuban civil society and encourages the type of exchange that isboth mutually beneficial and free of State control and manipulation.
Lift restrictions on Cuban-American familyand humanitarian travel.
Rationale: The implementation of additional restrictions onCuban-American travel by the Bush Administration in 2004 has beencounterproductive to our stated policy of ‘support for the Cuban people’.These measures have limited the ability for Cuban-American family members todeliver humanitarian aid and to act as important conduits for objective newsand information to the island. Now, more than ever, we need to provideeffective vehicles of support and communication—Cuban-Americans areundoubtedly our greatest ambassadors of freedom to the Cuban people. Webelieve, however, that it is important to ensure that safeguards are inplace to limit the abuse by individuals who may utilize the accessibility offrequent travel to Cuba for illicit purposes that circumvent U.S. law.
Promote and enhance travel toCuba programs under the following licensing categories: Support for theCuban People, Humanitarian Support, Academic Study, and Cultural Exchange.Promote travel by U.S.-based NGOs, student organizations and individualsfocused on democracy-building to travel to Cuba under specific license ofthe Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Rationale : Encouraging and increasingly purposefulpeople-to-people exchanges promote the ability to exchange information in away that is beneficial to the development of Cuba’s independent civilsociety. The ability for American institutions to travel to Cuba toprovide support and training are critical in laying the groundwork for acivil society that is equipped to take on the responsibilities of an openand democratic system.
(iii) Improve Communication to Advance Freedom of Information
Western broadcasts into the former Eastern European bloc weresignificant in helping to deliver a message of hope and solidarity. Theyprovided a vehicle for objective news and information to those living underthe cloak of communist censorship. Radio Free Europe (RFE) was perhaps oneof the most successful examples of how the free flow of news and informationcan have an indelible impact on supporting a transition to democracy. RFEbegan transmissions in the 1950’s from a transmitter near Frankfurt, Germanyand later from Munich to five Soviet satellite states: Poland,Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. [21] RFE’s programmingcontent focused on issues that pointed out the clear contradictions ofcommunist practices with the exercise of individual freedoms. The discussionof topics ranged from the negative experiences of farmers with agriculturalcollectivization and the persecution of those attempting to exercise theirright to practice a religion of their choosing to the government’srestrictions over reading material and suppression of culture. [22]
Radio Free Europe boasted a huge audience throughout the Easternbloc particularly in Poland where RFE played a critical role in “bringingdown at least three party leaders and was instrumental in sustaining theSolidarity trade union when it was forced underground by martial law. DuringNicolai Ceausescu's time, RFE was Romania's most popular source of news”[23]. The impact of Radio Free Europe in Hungary was documented in a 2006study by A. Ross Johnson, a Hoover Institute Fellow and former director ofRFE: “Many Hungarians have testified to the positive role played by RadioFree Europe (RFE) for over 40 years in helping Hungary return to thecommunity of free nations”. What’s more, Prime Minister Antal wrote to RadioFree Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in June 1990: "Radio Free Europe has …given us the gift of truth about our own country and the world at large, andhas done so at a time when telling the truth was counted as a crime againstthe state.” [24]
In 1989, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa remarked that freeradio transmissions to Poland, including those of the Voice of America (VOA)and Radio Free Europe, that the role they played in Poland’s struggle forfreedom "cannot even be described. Would there be earth without the sun?"[25] In a 2002 interview, he again recalled the importance of thebroadcasts and the drain of resources it caused Poland’s communist regime toactively block and censor access. “ To control the free flow ofinformation, the Communists would have to increase the secret police by afactor of four. It would be a huge effort for police to control the channelsyou get on TV or the phone numbers you are allowed to dial. So technologyhelped end communism by bringing (in) information from the outside.” [26]
Radio and television transmissions to Cuba can be similarlysuccessful in helping to support a transition to democracy. Radio Martiwas established by President Reagan in 1983 at the urging of thisinstitution’s founder and former Chairman, Jorge Mas Canosa, and begantransmitting a signal to Cuba in 1985. The purpose was to emulate the workof RFE and VOA in the communist bloc by providing a source of news andinformation to the Cuban people. In 1990, Television Marti made its debut.The television station has never been able to transmit to a wide audiencebecause the Cuban regime expends extensive resources in blocking its signalwhile the U.S. has failed to counter by employing technological advances intrying to overcome the jamming.
Radio and television transmissions to Cuba have a critical roleto play in helping to precipitate democratic change. Yet through successiveAdministrations, a lack of proper oversight has allowed the Office of CubaBroadcasting to veer off course. The General Accounting Office (GAO)recently documented some of the serious flaws that have led listenershipratings in Cuba to drop from a once impressive 70% to today’s dismal 3%figure. [27] Prominent Cuban dissidents who represent an umbrella groupcalled the “Agenda for a Transition” recently documented their owncomplaints regarding the content of programming and the quality ofleadership at the Marti’s. Dissident Vladimiro Roca stated that RadioMarti devotes over 80 percent of its programming to Miami issues and doesn’tunderstand that its mission is to break the government’s informationmonopoly about news in Cuba. [28]
In order to restore OCB and help it implement its mission ofserving as a conduit for objective news and information on Cuba and theworld to the Cuban people, we recommend:
Upgrade Radio and TelevisionMarti . As the recent GAO Report explains, change at Radio and TV Marti isneeded. These critical communication tools must return to their originalpurpose of disseminating truthful and balanced information and promotingdemocratic ideals to the people of Cuba. To that end, we recommend theestablishment of an independent panel of experts to examine four specificissues: (1) the restructuring of the administration at the Office of CubaBroadcasting, (2) the redesign of programming in order to increase theaudience’s knowledge of current events taking place within Cuba itself andfocus their attention on the peaceful democratic activities of dissidentsand opposition groups, (3) a technological overhaul to ensure that radio andtelevision signals reach their target audience, overcoming the regime’sattempts to block transmissions, and (4) explore the possibility ofenhancing the mission of Radio and TV Marti programming to reach audiencesthroughout the Western hemisphere.
Rationale : Few things are more empowering than information.Just as Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, with the direct support of theUnited States, played a key role in delivering freedom to Eastern Europe,Radio and TV Marti are essential to achieve freedom in Cuba. According toOCB reports, at one point nearly 70% of the Cuban population tuned in toRadio Marti. However, for the last several years the audience has beendiminishing due to programming and management deficiencies. Now is the timeto act to save and improve this immensely valuable tool in promotingdemocracy.
Telecommunications upgrades -The U.S. government should allow for the improvement, upgrading, andinstallation of telecommunications equipment that will facilitate increasedtelephone traffic between the United States and Cuba.
Rationale: Currently, calls to Cuba are subject to some of thehighest international rates. We need to extend and improve all methods ofdirect communication that undermine Cuban regime-imposed censorship and thatexpose Cubans to news and information from abroad.
(iv) Apply Targeted Bilateral and Multilateral DiplomaticEfforts Reestablish semi-annualmigration talks .
Rationale : In 2004, the Bush Administration suspendedsemi-annual migration talks with the Cuban regime. The migration talksallowed for an opportunity to broach a wide range of issues that went beyondthe discussion of visa allocation. The limited contact that has existedsince then has been counterproductive in several ways. It has negativelyimpacted our ability to influence events; however limited that influencemight be, it has closed down one of the few formal conduits of informationthat existed, and it has sent the wrong message to the internationalcommunity.
Remove restrictions on CUBINTtravel within the United States, contingent upon the Cuban government doingthe same with USINT personnel inside Cuba.
Rationale: In 2004, the Bush Administration imposedrestrictions on the travel of CUBINT and Cuba U.N. Mission personnel to a25-mile radius surrounding their respective offices. The Cuban regimereciprocated by limiting USINT personnel movements to a 25-mile radiusaround USINT in Havana. The unintended consequence of this action has beenthat it has severely impacted the ability of USINT personnel to engage withthe Cuban people, particularly those in the democratic opposition outside ofthe capital. Their interaction with members of the Cuban opposition andwith the Cuban population as a whole is limited to those residing in Havana.This has resulted in the inability to provide adequate analysis of thesituation on the ground.
Identify and open channels ofcommunication with reform-minded individuals or groups in the military andgovernment ranks
Rationale: In order to provide a powerful incentive toreformers within the regime to push for change, i.e. Government officialsand members of the Cuban military who have not participated in crimesagainst the Cuban people, they must understand that the United Statesencourages their participation in a post-transition government. Such aclear message of support and friendship from the U.S. government willundoubtedly assist in strengthening any existing attempts at reform andpromoting the emergence of new efforts.
Encourage, and developinternational cooperation in support of Cuban civil society.
Rationale: Multilateral efforts by the international communitywill serve as additional sources of support to the Cuban people in buildinga civil society. Such cooperative international efforts resulted insuccessful peaceful transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe, SouthAfrica, and Chile.
[1] Dominguez, Jorge I. "The Cuban Missile Crisis (Or, What was'Cuban' about U.S. Decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis .DiplomaticHistory: The Journal of the Society for Historians of Foreign Relations,Vol. 24, No. 2, (Spring 2000): 305-15.)
[2] Letter from Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy,Moscow, October 27, 1962.
[3] Presidential Directive, NSC-6, March 15, 1977
[4] George, Edward in: The Cuban Intervention in Angola,1965-1991, Frank Cass, London, New York, 2005
[5] Foreign Policy Magazine, Spring 1982, Letters to theEditor, Miles R. R. Frechette Office of Cuban Affairs Department of State
[6] White House transcript of President’s remarks establishingCommission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, , October 10, 2003
[7] CNN, April 10, 2008, U.S. terror report cites Venezuela,Iran
[8] International Peace Academy, April 2005, Civil Society andDemocratic Transitions in the DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, Mashood Issaka andBatabiha Bushoki
[9] The Wall Street Journal, Friday, June 11, 2004, RememberingReagan,
[10] Template Revolutions: Marketing U.S. Regime Change inEastern Europe Gerald Sussman and Sascha Krader
Portland State University
[11] New York Times, September 20, 2000, Steven Erlanger,Milosevic, Trailing in Polls, Rails Against NATO
[12] The Miami Herald, Corral, Oscar, Is U.S. Aid ReachingCastro Foes? November 15, 2006
[13] Ibid.
[14] The Cuban American National Foundation, March 2008,Findings and Recommendations on the Most Effective Use of USAID-CUBA FundsAuthorized by Section 109(a)of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity(Helms-Burton) Act of 1996
[15] Civil Society and the Democratic Transition in Spain,Kerstin Hamann; Perspectives on Political Science, Vol. 27, 1998
[16] Findings and Recommendations on the Most Effective Use ofUSAID-CUBA Funds Authorized by
Section 109(a) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity(Helms-Burton) Act of 1996, March 2008, The Cuban American NationalFoundation
[17] Federal Registe r, October 20, 1995, pp. 54194-54198
[18] White house Press Office, January 5, 1999
[19] Federal Register / Vol. 69, No. 119 / Tuesday, June 22,2004, pp. 34565-34567
[20] Hoover Archives, Food as a Weapon, Bertrand M. Patenaude
[21] Radio Free Europe: mission accomplished , December 2003,The Weekly Standard, Arch Puddington
[22] Ibid.
[23] Radio Free Europe: mission accomplished , December 2003,The Weekly Standard, Arch Puddington
[24] Setting the Record Straight: Radio Free Europe and the1956 Hungarian Revolution, History and Public Policy Program OccasionalPaper #3, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, October 2006A.Ross Johnson, October 24 2006,
[25] The Washington Examiner, August 17, 2008, Editorial:Don't stop U.S. broadcasts to Russia and Georgia
[26] Wired News, June 19, 2002, Lech Walesa: Tech FreedomFighter, Julia Scheeres
[27] Broadcasting to Cuba: Actions Are Needed to ImproveStrategy and Operations GAO-09-127 January 22, 2009
[28] Knight Center for Journalism, CUBA/USA, Dissident GroupsBoycott Radio/TV Marti for Placing Miami Over Cuba, January 21, 2009