[Marxism] COHA: "Could a Slight Thaw in U.S.-Cuba Relations be in the Offing?"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 1 16:10:45 MST 2005

(As the Beach Boys used to sing, "Wouldn't it be nice?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

COHA Opinion

Could a Slight Thaw in U.S.-Cuba Relations be in the Offing?


In an almost unprecedented move on October 28, Cuba publicly agreed
to allow three USAID officials to visit the island to assess the
recent heavy damage inflicted by Hurricane Wilma. While Cuba’s Fidel
Castro has asserted that this action in no way constitutes an
acceptance of U.S. foreign aid by the fiercely proud Havana regime,
it nevertheless might suggest that Washington could be seeing the
first fruits of its rare move to a more constructive Latin America

Although it most likely will turn out to be illusory, the tiny
softening of relations between Havana and Washington could have been
spurred by several long overdue personnel moves within the State
Department. The appointment of Thomas Shannon to succeed widely
reviled ideologue Roger Noriega as Assistant Secretary of State for
Western Hemispheric Affairs, and the earlier resignation of the
controversial White House Latin American advisor Otto Reich, marked
the end of the reign of the hard-line anti-Castro duo, and may signal
a possible inauguration of a more rational strategy of regional
engagement, even though longtime Cuba basher Caleb McCarry has been
appointed Cuba Transition Coordinator.

The replacement of James Cason as head of the U.S. Interests Section
in Havana with Michael Parmly eliminated another anti-Cuban militant
whose tell-tale opportunism and venomous tactics, along with those of
Noriega and Reich, had help bring disrepute to the Bush
administration’s Latin American diplomacy. Indeed, it was Parmly’s
“respectful” letter that helped persuade Castro’s recent change of
heart, and it is unlikely that the letter would have been ever sent
without Shannon’s imprimatur.

Renewing even low-level, businesslike ties could have an impact. 
Such a détente could in turn increase pragmatic collaboration in such
fields as drug interdiction, medical issues, immigration and
fisheries. Recently, former DEA Director Asa Hutchinson mildly
complained that there is no cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba in
regards to anti-narcotics efforts owing to “the lack of formal
channels and relations between the two nations,” and other DEA
officials note that “our international presence is not in Cuba, and
this is just the policy of this country.” Yet Havana has indicated an
openness to cooperation in this area, as Cuban anti-drug officials
have observed that there is “a mutual responsibility in the fight
against drugs – it doesn’t matter if the problem is with the
producing or consuming countries.” The DEA’s position suggests that
if up to this point Cuba’s offers of cooperation were rejected on
political rather than logistical grounds, perhaps the reestablishment
of an even minimal cross-strait engagement could lead to enhanced

With the Summit of the Americas (which will take place November 4-5
in Mar del Plata, Argentina) fast approaching, it is of the highest
importance that the U.S. rehabilitate its regional diplomatic cachet,
since it is no secret that up to now the Bush White House’s Latin
American policy has achieved a level of rejection and repudiation
that has been unrivaled since the period when Elliot Abrams grossly
mishandled regional affairs during the Reagan administration and then
perjured himself before a congressional committee.

This new possible thaw in the U.S.-Cuban standoff indicates that if
such a change in course is occurring, it is because the
administration may have taken an inventory of how destructive its
current regional policy is to authentic U.S. hemispheric issues.
Washington has in the past allowed the Miami rightwing exile
community to exercise a virtual veto power over U.S.-Cuba relations,
granting its front groups access to at least $60 million in public
funds, despite the negligible results they have achieved. Breaking
that linkage will be necessary if any fundamental shift to a rational
policy of advancing well thought-out U.S. national interest is to
take place. A recent Latinobarómetro survey suggests that Latin
America may be receptive to a U.S. overture calling for warmer
relations, if Washington indicates a genuine change of strategy, a
change of tactics, and a change of heart.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Michael

November 1, 2005

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an
independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and
information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor
as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and
policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at
www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202)
223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email coha at coha.org.

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COHA Opinion 05.25

Word Count: 650

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