[News] The small print of Obama’s presidential policy directive on Cuba
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
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century as “an outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests.”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
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.
*WHICH CUBAN PEOPLE DOES IT AIM TO BENEFIT?*
“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
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
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.
*MEASURES ON THE RIGHT TRACK BUT LIMITED*
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.
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