Democratic reforms coming now- loosening of restrictions and economic liberalization
Ted Piccone [Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Foreign Policy] March 18, 2013 Time to Bet on Cubahttp://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/03/18-cuba-piccone¶
Cuba’s efforts to “update” its socialist system through a series of economic reforms just got more complicated. The death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, its principal benefactor, could seriously disrupt what is already a precarious process of maintaining top-down political control while liberalizing elements of the economy. Raúl Castro’s announcement that he will step down in five years and the emergence of younger leaders born after the 1959 revolution add further uncertainty to the island’s future.¶ These new circumstances offer President Obama a rare opportunity to turn the page of history from an outdated Cold War approach to Cuba to a new era of constructive engagement. In his second term in office, he should place a big bet by investing political capital in defrosting relations, an approach that will advance U.S. interests in a stable, prosperous and democratic Cuba.¶ Under Castro, the Cuban government has undertaken important reforms to modernize and liberalize the economy. Cubans are now permitted to buy and sell property, open their own businesses, hire employees and enter into co-ops, with state-owned enterprises on a more equal footing. The updating of the Soviet-style economic system is a gradual and highly controlled process. But the recent legal emergence of formal, small-scale private businesses (cuentapropistas) that can now compete on a more equal footing with state-owned enterprises opens a window into a profound shift in thinking already under way on the island. The reforms also offer new opportunities for U.S. engagement.¶ Castro’s loosening of the apron strings extends beyond the economy. In January, the Cuban government lifted exit controls for most citizens, which is likely to accelerate the process of reconciliation within the Cuban diaspora. It could also result in a swift uptick of Cubans departing for the United States, demanding a reconsideration of U.S. migration policy to manage the increase. The gradual handoff of power to a next generation of more pragmatic party and military leaders who will determine the pace and scope of the reform process is yet further evidence that the Castro generation is looking forward to securing a viable legacy.
Link – Costs Political Capital
Removing the embargo is a political battle that would use up Obama’s capital
Williams 5-3-13 (Carol J. Williams, LA Times foreign correspondent for 25 years, Carol J. Williams traveled to and reported from more than 80 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America., “Political Calculus Keeps Cuba on US Terror List”, http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-cuba-us-terror-list-20130502,0,2494970.story)
There was talk early in Obama’s first term of easing the 51-year-old embargo, and Kerry, though still in the Senate then, wrote a commentary for the Tampa Bay Tribune in 2009 in which he deemed the security threat from Cuba “a faint shadow.” He called then for freer travel between the two countries and an end to the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba “that has manifestly failed for nearly 50 years.” The political clout of the Cuban American community in South Florida and more recently Havana’s refusal to release Gross have kept any warming between the Cold War adversaries at bay. It’s a matter of political priorities and trade-offs, Aramesh said. He noted that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last year exercised her discretion to get the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, or MEK, removed from the government’s list of designated terrorist organizations. That move was motivated by the hopes of some in Congress that the group could be aided and encouraged to eventually challenge the Tehran regime. “It’s a question of how much political cost you want to incur or how much political capital you want to spend,” Aramesh said. “President Obama has decided not to reach out to Cuba, that he has more important foreign policy battles elsewhere.”
The plan saps political capital- the embargo is complex and policy makers are busy
Schoultz 2010 (Lars Schoultz is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “ Benevolent Domination,” Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Cuban Studies, Volume 41, Project Muse).
The best way to begin—but only begin—to explain U.S. policy toward revolutionary Cuba is not with this ideology, but with a frank recognition that senior U.S. officials are extremely busy, all but overwhelmed by an endless array of pressing issues, some of them matters of life and death; it would take both time and political capital to terminate today's complex embargo that has been cobbled together over half a century. Then, after acknowledging the importance of inertia, the next step is to observe that the United States has important interests to protect in Latin America, and the estrangement that began a half century ago was largely a response to the Cuban government's reluctance to address these interests to Washington's satisfaction. Correctly or incorrectly, wisely or unwisely, the United States came to perceive Cuba's revolutionary government as a threat to its interests.
Link - Plan Unpopular
Support collapsing for the embargo now
Ted Piccone [Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Foreign Policy]¶ MEMORANDUM TO THE PRESIDENT | January 17, 2013¶ Opening to Havana¶ http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/01/opening-to-havana
As a result of your actions and changing demographics, families are more readily reuniting across the Florida straits, opening new channels of commerce and communication that are encouraging reconciliation among Cuban-Americans and a more general reframing of how best to support the Cuban people. Cuba’s recent decision to lift exit controls for most Cubans on the island is likely to accelerate this process of reconciliation within the Cuban diaspora, thereby softening support for counterproductive tactics like the embargo. The new travel rules also require a re-think of the outdated U.S. migration policy in order to manage a potential spike in departures from the island to the United States. For example, the team handling your immigration reform bill should be charged with devising proposals to reduce the special privileges afforded Cubans who make it to U.S. soil.
Link – Plan Partisan
Plan is a contentious issue – history and the pro-embargo lobby
Guzman 5-8-13 (Sandra Guzmán is an award winning journalist, blogger, media consultant, and author of, "The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina's Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family & La Vida." “Jay-Z and Beyoncé's trip to Cuba isn't the problem, the embargo is”, http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/07/opinion/guzman-beyonce-jay-z-cuba)
It's 2013 and we need to debate Cuban policy earnestly. Members of Congress must stop the cowardice around the issue and stop humoring the delusions of passionate folks stuck in the 1960s for political votes and favor. The pro-embargo folks are ignoring the policy's epic failure and fail to recognize that U.S. policy has played into the hands of the Castro brothers, who have sinisterly used it to make the case to their people that if Cuba is starving and the island economy can't grow, it's because of this U.S. policy. In 1995, I won an Emmy for producing a show that explored the Cuban embargo. What was special about the program, "Embargo Contra Cuba," was that it gave an opportunity for the many different opinions in the Cuban debate to be heard. The voices of everyday Cuban families caught in the quagmire of policies that make their family members the "enemy" were allowed to surface. These are the folks -- cubanos to the core -- who will tell you, if they had a mic and a safe forum, that the current U.S. policy is stupid. We hardly hear from these normal cubanos and for that matter, other average Americans on this issue. That void is tragic. Cuba policy is steeped in dysfunction on both sides. Last week, the State Department denied Fidel Castro's niece Mariela Castro a visa to travel to Philadelphia to receive an award for her gay activism, no reason given. A State Department official said visa applications are confidential. Fifty-one years into the policy, another Castro is in power and the island is still communist. The U.S. still trades with communist China despite its human rights violations. The U.S. still trades with communist Vietnam. We, the hip-hop generation, see right through the political hypocrisy and we want change.
Link – Unpopular with GOP
Plan sparks massive political battle with GOP
DAMIEN CAVE [foreign correspondent for The New York Times, he covers Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.¶ From 2008 to 2010 he served as the Times’ Miami bureau chief, writing on a range of topics] ¶ November 19, 2012¶ Easing of Restraints in Cuba Renews Debate on U.S. Embargo¶ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/world/americas/changes-in-cuba-create-support-for-easing-embargo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
And Cuba has a long history of tossing ice on warming relations. The latest example is the jailing of Alan Gross, a State Department contractor who has spent nearly three years behind bars for distributing satellite telephone equipment to Jewish groups in Havana.¶ In Washington, Mr. Gross is seen as the main impediment to an easing of the embargo, but there are also limits to what the president could do without Congressional action. The 1992 Cuban Democracy Act conditioned the waiving of sanctions on the introduction of democratic changes inside Cuba. The 1996 Helms-Burton Act also requires that the embargo remain until Cuba has a transitional or democratically elected government. Obama administration officials say they have not given up, and could move if the president decides to act on his own. Officials say that under the Treasury Department’s licensing and regulation-writing authority, there is room for significant modification. Following the legal logic of Mr. Obama’s changes in 2009, further expansions in travel are possible along with new allowances for investment or imports and exports, especially if narrowly applied to Cuban businesses.¶ Even these adjustments — which could also include travel for all Americans and looser rules for ships engaged in trade with Cuba, according to a legal analysis commissioned by the Cuba Study Group — would probably mean a fierce political fight. The handful of Cuban-Americans in Congress for whom the embargo is sacred oppose looser rules.¶ When asked about Cuban entrepreneurs who are seeking more American support, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who is chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, proposed an even tighter embargo.
Link – Unpopular with Pro Embargo Lobby
Pro embargo lobby is crazy powerful, plan sparks massive controversy- they have economic incentive to keep the embargo in place
SAUL LANDAU and NELSON P. VALDES¶ [Saul Landau, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Pomona,Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico]¶ JANUARY 29, 2013¶ A Boon for Cuban-American Entrepreneurs¶ The Economics of the Cuban Embargo¶ http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/29/the-economics-of-the-cuban-embargo/
Cuban Americans particularly from south Florida now export goods and remittances to relatives and friends while importing profits from sales made to fellow Cubans in Cuba, giving them an advantage denied to the rest of the country.¶ Washington pundits attribute superhuman strength to the anti-Castro lobby; thus no President would attempt to lift the trade and travel embargoes on the island. Yet, Cuban Americans trade with and travel to Cuba freely on a daily basis. The “embargo” applies to everyone except Cuban Americans.¶ This growing international trade, disguised as sending goods to needy family members in Cuba, now includes filling the hulls on 10 or more daily charter flights from US cities to Cuba. Cuban Americans send goods, often with “mules,” to provide family members in Cuba, needing supplies for their businesses. The “mules” return with cash, derived from sales of these goods. Some of the new Cuban stores and restaurants supplied by Miami-based Cubans make substantial profits, some of which get spent in Cuba, and ends up in Cuba’s central bank.¶ Miami, the United States’ poorest large city, derives income because it provides jobs involved in buying and selling the goods sent to Cuba. Jobs also arise from routine tasks created around the daily charter flights to and from Cuba, and the fees collected from take offs and landings. Add to this, the work for accountants, book-keepers and others.¶ Some unemployed Cuban Americans get jobs as mules transporting the goods and money from one country to the other. Miami banks also benefit.¶ In Cuba, this trade also creates jobs and wealth. Mercedes runs a paladar [private restaurant]in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, “because we draw tourists who like good food, which I serve at my paladar.”¶ Some paladar customers flew to Havana from Miami. These Cuban Americans come to visit relatives and maybe check on their new investments in Havana family-run businesses. “Relatives in Florida supply me with food I can’t get easily in Cuba,” Mercedes said, “like some spices, and packaged goods. I send them money for these products. They make a profit, and so do I. The government makes money from taxes I pay, and jobs grow in Cuba’s tourist industry.”¶ US-based charter flights have full hulls, even those with few passengers. One charter flight company manager told us: “Passengers don’t matter that much. The hull is totally full.”¶ Much of the Cuba trade flows through the Miami International Airport, meaning capital moves from the US to Cuba; most of the luggage contents, however, remain in Cuba. The boon to Miami airport services means jobs, fees and taxes, which remain as capital in south Florida. The goods purchased in south Florida by Cubans (relatives, mules, etc) benefit local businesses.¶ This trade multiplies jobs throughout the area — as well as it does for Cuba: In Miami sales emanate from stores and lead to jobs in transportation, parking, hotel facilities, restaurants, and luggage-handling. Count the businesses providing services to the people traveling to Cuba and sending goods there. Don’t omit the expanded police force, and extra officials required in immigration, and customs; nor fail to consider jobs servicing air planes, and their jetways, and additional personnel needed for landings and take offs, and extra jobs in airport administration and maintenance created by expanded travel. Think of Miami’s increased tax revenues.¶ South Florida represents a Cuban settler state within the United States. It counters its interests against those of the dominant society, with the society’s ignorant acquiescence. The Miami-based Cuban Americans and their Cuba-based families have used US-Cuba policy, the embargo representing the power of the nation for their own self-interest, and in order to attain a comparative advantage vis a vis the rest of the American population.¶ Since 1960, commitment to overthrow of the Cuban government has functioned as US foreign policy on Cuba, a policy now controlled informally by south Florida Cuban-Americans. The Cuban American ethnic enclave assumed the political power needed to turn south Florida into an autonomous Cuban settler state inside US boundaries, so that the embargo does not get applied to the Cuban American enclave. The enclave barons use the embargo to secure, for themselves, a protection of the Cuba trade monopoly. This challenges stated US national interests.¶ Camouflaged by ubiquitous anti-Castro rhetoric, the Cuban American entrepreneurs have manufactured a lucrative business with the island, regulated by the very government they pretend to hate. The rightwing congressional representatives pretend to fight for every law to punish the “Castro regime” while in practice turn a dead eye to the growing trade that helps Florida’s and Cuba’s economy. Preserve the embargo, but make an exception for Cuban Americans.¶ By recognizing the facts about this trade, the White House might become inspired to lift the embargo – a move to benefit all Americans. US government revenue would grow from opening trade and travel with Cuba. In the process we might also regain a missing piece of US sovereignty!
Link- Unpopular with Anti-Castro Lobby
Anti-Castro lobby gets Congress to push back against the plan
LARRY BIRNS [COHA-Council of Hemispheric Affairs- DIRECTOR]AND FREDERICK B. MILLS[COHA SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW ]¶ Best Time for U.S.– Cuba Rapprochement Is Now¶ –JANUARY 30, 2013¶ http://www.coha.org/best-time-for-u-s-cuba-rapprochement-is-now/
The Obama Administration should be prepared to take, in quick progression, three important initial steps to trigger a speedy rapprochement with Cuba: immediately phase out the embargo, free the Cuban five, and remove Havana from the spurious State Department roster of nations purportedly sponsoring terrorism. These measures should be seen as indispensable if Washington is to ever mount a credible regional policy of mutual respect among nations and adjust to the increased ideological diversity and independence of the Latin American and Caribbean regions. Washington’s path towards an urgently needed rehabilitation of its hemispheric policy ought to also include consideration of Cuba’s own pressing national interests. A thaw in US—Cuba relations would enhance existing security cooperation between the countries, amplify trade and commercial ties, and guarantee new opportunities for citizens of both nations to build bridges of friendship and cooperation. For this to happen, the Obama Administration would have to muster the audacity to resist the anti-Castro lobby and their hardline allies in Congress, whose Cuba bashing has no limits. Nevertheless, it is time to replace belligerency with détente. This essay argues that the embargo against Cuba is blatantly counterproductive, immoral, and anachronistic. If the initial purpose of this measure was to punish Havana for expropriating U.S. property and to bring about fundamental political and economic reforms, Washington has had more than 50 years to see that the status quo is flawed. Over the years, invasion, embargo, and covert psychological operations against Cuba have only served to reinforce a ‘circle the wagons’ mentality in Havana. The island also has been subject to a relentless barrage of propaganda and terrorist assaults organized by militant anti-Castro zealots to advance their cause. These attacks include the 1997 bombing of three hotels in Havana which resulted in the death of Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo, and the deadly 1976 downing of a Cuban civilian jet. Rather than succumbing to pressure, all of these incidents have given the majority of Cuban nationals good reason to raise defensive barricades in the face of repeated threats to the survival of their homeland. Besides being counter-productive, there are also strong moral arguments for ending the embargo. From a utilitarian point of view, the policy is objectionable because it has brought about needless suffering without convincing evidence of praiseworthy results. One illustration of this is what happened during what Havana calls the “special period in time of peace.” This refers to the economic crisis, hydrocarbon energy shortages, and food insecurity that followed the collapse of Soviet Bloc (1989 – 1991) which was Cuba’s main trading partner and the source of vital subsidies. The embargo took an especially harsh toll during the special period. According to a 1997 report Denial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the Embargo on Health and Nutrition in Cuba by The American Association for World Health: “the U.S. embargo of Cuba has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens.” The report also observed that “the U.S. embargo has caused a significant rise in suffering-and even deaths-in Cuba.” The special period, including a serious food shortage in 1993, did not lead to the country’s surrender, but to the decisive restructuring of the agricultural sector, a number of economic reforms, and the diversification of trade. A more recent report by Human Rights Watch also points to the needless suffering caused by the embargo: “The United States’ economic embargo on Cuba, in place for more than half a century, continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on Cubans, and has failed to improve human rights in the country.” (2012 Report on Cuba) The embargo, then, has harmed those whom it purportedly meant to benefit–the average Cuban. A benevolent foreign policy towards Cuba would collaterally seek to benefit the Cuban people, not bring hunger, hardship, and in some cases death to an innocent civilian population. Since it is unlikely that the majority of Cubans would willingly impose such adversity on themselves or their kith and kin for over fifty years, such a punitive and coercive measure fails another important test of moral acceptability. In addition to being counter-productive and immoral, U.S. policy towards Havana is also anachronistic. During the excesses of the cold war, the U.S. sought to use harsh and unforgiving measures to isolate Cuba from its neighbors in order to limit the influence of the Cuban revolution on a variety of insurgencies being waged in the region. That narrative did not sufficiently recognize the homegrown causes of insurgency in the hemisphere. Some argue that it inadvertently drove Cuba further into the Soviet camp. Ironically, at the present juncture of world history, the embargo is in some ways isolating the U.S. rather than Cuba. Washington is often viewed as implementing a regional policy that is defenseless and without a compass. At the last Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in April 2012, member states, with the exception of Washington, made it clear that they unanimously want Cuba to participate in the next plenary meeting or the gathering will be shut down. There are new regional organizations, such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), that now include Cuba and exclude the U.S. Not even America’s closest allies support the embargo. Instead, over the years, leaders in NATO and the OECD member nations have visited Cuba and, in some cases, allocated lines of credit to the regime. So it was no surprise that in November of 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly (188 – 3), for the 21st year in a row, against the US embargo. Finally, while a slim majority of Cuban Americans still favor the measure, changing demographics are eroding and outdating this support. As famed Cuban Researcher, Wayne Smith, the director of the Latin America Rights & Security: Cuba Project, at the Center for International Policy, points out, “There are now many more new young Cuban Americans who support a more sensible approach to Cuba” (Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2012). Despite the basic intransigence of US policy towards Cuba, in recent years, important changes have been introduced by Havana: state control over the economy has been diminished; most travel restrictions affecting both Americans and Cubans on the island have been lifted; and the “group of 75” Cuban dissidents detained in 2003 have been freed. Washington has all but ignored these positive changes by Havana, but when it comes to interacting with old foes such as those of Myanmar, North Korea, and Somalia, somehow constructive dialogue is the order of the day. One reason for this inconsistency is the continued opposition by the anti-Castro lobby to a change of course by Washington. The anti-Castro lobby and their allies in the US Congress argue that the reforms coming out of Havana are too little too late and that political repression continues unabated. They continue to see the embargo as a tool for coercing either more dramatic reforms or regime change. It is true that the reformist tendency in Cuba does not include a qualitative move from a one party system to political pluralism. Lamentably, Cuba reportedly continues to use temporary detentions and the occasional jailing of non-violent dissidents to limit the parameters of political debate and total freedom of association. The authors agree that no non-violent Cuban dissident should be intimidated, detained or jailed. But continuing to maliciously turn the screws on Havana has never provided an incentive for more democracy in any sense of the word nor has it created a political opening into which Cuba, with confidence, could enter. The easing of tensions between Washington and Havana is more likely to contribute to the evolution of a more democratic form of socialism on the island, the early stages of which we may presently be witnessing. In any casethe precise form of such change inevitably should and will be decided in Cuba, not in Washington or Miami. To further moves towards rapprochement with Cuba, the U.S. State Department should remove the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is an invention to depict Havana as a state sponsor of terrorism, a charge only levied by the State Department under pressure from Hill hardliners. As researcher Kevin Edmunds, quite properly points out: “This position is highly problematic, as the United States has actively engaged in over 50 years of economic and covert destabilization in Cuba, going so far as blindly protecting wanted terrorists such as Luis Posada Carilles and Orlando Bosch, both former CIA agents accused of dozens of terrorist attacks in Cuba and the United States ” (Nov. 15, 2012, Kevin Edmonds blog). It was precisely the propensity of some anti-Castro extremists to plan terrorist attacks against Cuba that urgently motivated the infiltration of such groups by the Cuban five as well as the close monitoring of these organizations by the FBI. Another gesture of good will would be for the White House to grant clemency to the Cuban five: Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez. They are Cuban nationals who were convicted in a Miami court in 2001 and subsequently sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to double life, mostly on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Despite requests for a change of venue out of Miami, which at first was granted and later denied, the trial took place in a politically charged Miami atmosphere that arguably tainted the proceedings and compromised justice. Supporters maintain that the Cuban five had infiltrated extremist anti-Castro organizations in order to prevent terrorist attacks against Cuba and did not pose any security threat to the United States. It would be an important humanitarian gesture to let them go home. Perhaps such a gesture might facilitate reciprocity on the part of Cuban authorities when it comes to American engineer Alan Gross who is presently being detained in a Cuban jail. There would probably be a political price to pay by the Obama administration for taking steps towards reconciliation with Havana, but if Obama’s election to a second term means that there is to be a progressive dividend, surely such a dividend ought to include a change in US policy towards the island. Mirabile dictu, the Administration can build on the small steps it has already taken. Since 2009, Washington has lifted some of the restrictions on travel between the US and Cuba and now allows Cuban Americans to send remittances to relatives on the island. The Cuba Reconciliation Act (HR 214) introduced by Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY) on January 4, 2013, and sitting in a number of congressional committees, would repeal the harsh terms of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, both of which toughened the embargo during the special period in Cuba. The Cuba Reconciliation Act, however, is unlikely to get much traction, especially with ultra-hardliner Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee, and her counterpart, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who is about to lead the Senate Foreign Relations Body. Some of the anti-Castro Cuban American community would likely view any of the three measures advocated here as a capitulation to the Castro brothers. But as we have argued, a pro-democracy and humanist position is not in any way undermined, but might in fact be advanced by détente. An end to the embargo has been long overdue, and the judgment of history may very well be that it ought never to have been started.