[News] The small print of Obama’s presidential policy directive on Cuba

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 25 10:30:04 EDT 2016


  The small print of Obama’s presidential policy directive on Cuba

Sergio Alejandro Gómez <http://en.granma.cu/archivo?a=1369> - October 
19, 2016

After decades of secret documents concealing sabotage and 
destabilization plans, Barack Obama’s new presidential policy directive 
on Cuba was publicly unveiled on Friday, October 14.

The U.S. President stated that the document represents a “comprehensive 
and whole-of-government approach” and aims to make the transformations 
of the last two years irreversible.

He added that the directive “promotes transparency by being clear about 
our policy and intentions.”

Meanwhile, his National Security Adviser, Susan E. Rice, went even 
further in recognizing that there were “secret plans for Cuba” in the 
past, but that the U.S. had now decided to make public the executive 
directives concerning relations with the island.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the detail. Through technocratic 
language and the typical neologisms of diplomacy, the text conceals many 
of the contradictions that remain between the two neighbors.

Since the announcements of December 17, 2014, U.S. authorities have said 
on several occasions, and in different ways, that they have changed 
their methods but not their objectives.

“We recognize Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination,” the directive 
signed by Obama notes, after describing the actions of the last half 
century as “an outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests.”

Another paragraph of the document reads, “we are not seeking to impose 
regime change on Cuba; we are, instead, promoting values that we support 
around the world while respecting that it is up to the Cuban people to 
make their own choices about their future.”

However, the speech by Rice at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, 
and the subsequent exchange with the press, made clear in both tone and 
content that the aspirations to promote changes in the political, 
economic and social order chosen by the Cuban people in 1959 have not 

The influential National Security Adviser justified the current change 
of policy, arguing that the United States could not “simply stand back 
and wait for Cuba to change.”

She also said that Washington was interested in the changes that have 
occurred on the island which, according to her, have resulted from the 
rapprochement between the two countries since the restoration of 
diplomatic relations.

Rice added, “we believe that engaging openly and honestly is the best 
way to advance our ideals,” claiming that Washington is “making our 
democracy programs more transparent.”

It is under this label of “democracy programs” that the U.S. veils its 
regime change projects, to which it has allocated millions of dollars 
for decades, without achieving its objectives.

The directive contains almost identical terms in the final indications 
to the various levels of government, especially the United States Agency 
for International Development (USAID), which is in the sights of several 
countries due to its subversive work, and in Cuba was behind operations 
such as the ZunZuneo alternative social networking service, intended to 
create a support base among youth.

“The USAID will co-lead efforts with State to ensure that democracy 
programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other 
similarly situated societies,” the document details, as if the mere fact 
of making such programs transparent, without changing their subversive 
nature, would automatically make them acceptable to Cuba.

Beyond the obscurity in the phrase “other similarly situated societies” 
and assuming that Cuba is not the only country where Washington funnels 
money to try to influence the decisions of sovereign peoples who do not 
respond to its interests, several questions arise: what does making 
these programs “transparent” consist of? Does being “transparent” make 
them less subversive?

Recent examples, such as the case of scholarships for summer courses 
from the World Learning organization, awarded surreptitiously and behind 
the backs of Cuban authorities, are illustrative with regard to the real 
interests of these USAID-subsidized programs in the style of the “Color 

The directive recognizes that these operations affect the process toward 
the normalization of relations, but gives no indication of any intention 
to change, nor modify, other aspects that undermine the ties between the 
two countries: “We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to 
object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, 
Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. presence at the Guantanamo Bay Naval 
Station, and the embargo.”

The text continues, “The United States Government has no intention to 
alter the existing lease treaty and other arrangements related to the 
Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, which enables the United States to enhance 
and preserve regional security,” in reference to one of the essential 
sovereign demands of the Cuban people, regarding the illegally occupied 
territory, without whose solution normal relations are not possible.


“The objective of the new policy is to help the Cuban people to achieve 
a better future for themselves,” the new presidential directive notes. 
However, it is clear that the bulk of changes made by the White House 
since December 17, 2014, are aimed at a very specific sector of the 
Cuban population and not at benefiting the majority.

Among the results the United States seeks in the long term with the 
transformation of its policy toward Cuba is “the development of a 
private sector that provides greater economic opportunities for the 
Cuban people.”

The text continues, “While the embargo remains in place, our role will 
be to pursue policies that enable authorized U.S. private sector 
engagement with Cuba's emerging private sector and with state-owned 
enterprises that provide goods and services to the Cuban people.”

The Cuban economic model, whose updating process has been submitted to 
popular consultation on several occasions, recognizes the non-state 
sector as a source of employment and a complement to the economic 
development of the country. However, the social ownership of the basic 
means of production and the socialist state enterprise are key to the 
present and the prosperous and sustainable future to which we aspire on 
the island.

In its conceptualization of the Cuban people, the U.S. directive ignores 
the three of every four Cubans who work in the public sector and are not 
beneficiaries of current transformations.

Although undoubtedly the persistence of the blockade is the main 
obstacle to trade and the normalization of economic relations, the 
intention to prioritize the private over the public sector (which 
constitutes the majority in Cuba) for political purposes and to create 
divisions within the country is also clear.

The directive contradicts itself on stating, in the section entitled 
“Strategic Landscape”, that Cuba has “important economic potential 
rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment 
in areas like education and health care.”

For over half a century, private capital has not entered a Cuban school 
or hospital, but Washington does not hesitate to recognize both sectors 
as strategic strongholds for the country’s future.


The latest round of measures from the departments of Commerce and the 
Treasury, which accompanied the publication of the directive, are on the 
same track as the previous ones, again with a very limited, selective 
and intentional scope.

While imports of Cuban pharmaceutical and biotechnology products to the 
United States are approved for the first time — for the benefit no doubt 
of its own population which will now be able to access treatments like 
Heberprot-P for diabetic foot ulcers — the restriction remains on 
creating joint ventures in this sector for the development and marketing 
of such products.

The opening in this area is evidence of the broad executive powers of 
the U.S. president to substantially modify aspects of the blockade, 
which continues to restrict exports of the vast majority of Cuban 
products to the neighboring country, the largest market in the world.

Most measures are aimed at expanding transactions already authorized in 
previous packages, demonstrating their limited scope.

The ban on U.S. investment in Cuba remains, except in the 
telecommunications sector, which was approved in early 2015.

There is no new news to help dispel international doubts regarding the 
financial persecution to which Cuba is subjected and whose intimidating 
effects still prevent cash deposits or payments to third parties in U.S. 

The fact remains that, despite the call on Congress to lift the 
blockade, the bulk of this aggressive U.S. policy remains standing; 
resulting in billions in losses for the country. Its effects even 
inhibit the implementation of the measures approved by the Obama 

The President of the United States is far from having exhausted his 
executive powers to make possible the effective implementation of the 
measures adopted thus far and decisively contribute to dismantling the 

Still, the historic steps of the last 22 months can not be disregarded. 
Diplomatic relations were reestablished and embassies reopened in both 
countries. Six U.S Cabinet secretaries have visited Havana and four 
Cuban ministers have traveled to the United States. Obama became the 
first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.

A Bilateral Commission was established to discuss priority issues and 
agreements on environmental protection; marine sanctuaries; public 
health and biomedical research; agriculture; the fight against drug 
trafficking; security of travelers and commerce; civil aviation; mail; 
and hydrography have been signed. Talks on cooperation in law 
enforcement, regulatory and economic issues and claims, among others, 
have been launched.

The list of progress between two countries that just two years ago 
lacked an elementary diplomatic link is considerable. But a long road 
remains ahead to achieve a civilized relationship between neighboring 
nations not only separated by 90 miles of sea, but by two centuries of 
convulsive bilateral history.

Beyond a directive drafted as if there were no problems between the two 
countries, and which could generate false expectations, the present time 
demands real political will to carry out the necessary changes and set 
aside both the carrot and the stick.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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