Published On: Fri, Jun 30th, 2017

US-Cuba policy: ‘The mother of all blunders’

Usa And CubaWASHINGTON - An in-depth analysis prepared by US intelligence and foreign policy experts has concluded that the failed US approach of refusing to engage in a constructive relationship with the government in Havana and the 55-year trade and financial embargo imposed on Cuba has been the “mother of all foreign policy blunders” – something that has cost US taxpayers untold trillions of dollars.

Not only have US business interests been forced to forego years of profitable trade with Cuba, but Washington has been forced to counter the resulting Cuban geo-political meddling around the world, extending from Vietnam, Laos and Angola, to Central and South America and the Caribbean closer to home.

As if determined to prove the accuracy of Winston Churchill’s remark in a 1948 speech to the British parliament (paraphrasing an earlier quote by George Santayana): “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it,” US President Donald Trump, encouraged by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, has indeed ignored history and is thus repeating and perpetuating the mother of all blunders.

According to a senior US intelligence source, the new analysis, which is unlikely to see the public light of day anytime soon, is designed as a history lesson and a warning that, while Trump is unlikely to read or heed it, will remain in the archives ready to be dusted off when the inevitable finger pointing and blame game starts.

Meanwhile, the Trump-Rubio Cuba policy debacle (the Trubio Doctrine) will start to take effect, to the ongoing detriment of US businesses and the individual freedoms of American citizens, while having absolutely no effect on the Cuban government, but at the same time making it harder for ordinary Cuban people to embrace a free market economy.

“Trump’s actions have put relations between the United States and Cuba back into the prison of the past – setting back the prospects for reform inside of Cuba, and ignoring the voices of the Cuban people and a majority of Americans just so that he can reward a small and dwindling political constituency,” said Ben Rhodes writing in The Atlantic.

The Cuban government has withstood the US trade embargo for more than a half century and will not make any political concessions to the US due to economic pressure, Carlos Alzugaray, a retired Cuban diplomat, told Reuters.

"I am concerned it will affect the private sector quite a bit and much more than the Cuban government," he said.

Furthermore, US officials have failed to explain why the administration’s proclaimed human rights concerns led to the new measures in relation to Cuba but played no part when Trump announced tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia – a country where people are beheaded and women can’t drive – and said: “We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live.”

“Can anyone credibly argue that Trump’s Cuba policy is motivated by a commitment to promote human rights around the world?” Rhodes asked.

While Trump did not impose new restrictions on travel to Cuba – something that is constitutionally questionable in any event – he made it more onerous, with ominous language about requiring Americans to document their activities, and warning that their expenditures could be audited, which will have a chilling effect.

Of course, Trump’s warning could be just as empty as his 20-plus unfulfilled threats to sue various people during the US primary and presidential election campaigns alone, not to mention another empty threat to file a “complaint” against fired FBI director, James Comey.

Any reduction in US travel is going to impact Cuban entrepreneurs negatively, including private restaurants, independent taxis, artists and artisans, and operators of private casa particulares (guesthouses), not the purported target – the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), whose hotels will still welcome millions of tourists from a multitude of other countries.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he will step down next February at the end of his second five-year term and his first vice president, 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, is widely tipped to take over. However, there has also been talk of a radical break with the older generation and an embrace of market reforms but Trump's regressive measures could now encourage and reinforce hardliners in Havana.

Trump has also directed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to convene a task force on expanding internet access in Cuba – another policy component that seems to have a tenuous grasp on reality.

“The Secretary of State shall convene a task force… to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba,” the new policy directive said.

It is not unreasonable to ask how the US plans to create expanded internet access in a country that is likely to resist any such overtures – no doubt preferring instead to build on existing relationships with Chinese telecoms companies and more recent interest shown by India.

Since the 1980s, when fiber optic cable become cheaper to manufacture than its copper counterpart, millions of miles of fiber optic cable has been laid in the US and around the world – except in Cuba.

Again, US officials have failed to explain how the Tillerson task force plans to address this fundamental infrastructure deficiency, especially with American-supplied equipment, when the Cuban government doubtless remembers that, some 30 years ago, a blind eye was effectively turned by US authorities to an illegal shipment of IBM computers to Cuba because the hardware had been “bugged” by the CIA in order to spy on Cuban activity, something that to this day is still not widely known or discussed.

In short, the failed US-Cuba policy is still being driven by the old Cuban elite plantocracy, now financing and calling the tune for ‘Little Marco’ Rubio, who were dispossessed in 1959 – not by a communist revolution but by a grassroots uprising against the oppression and abuse of the time perpetrated by the same Cuban elite and enforced by the Batista authoritarian regime.

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