- Congressman: McAuliffe victory means gun control a winning message
- Clinton aide admits soliciting disgraced D.C. fundraiser; says actions were legal
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- Obama goes shopping at Gap as minimum-wage thanks
- N.J. woman charged after client dies from black-market butt injections
- CIA chief Brennan ‘determined’ to speak out more this year
- Reset? What reset? U.S.-Russia ties at worst since Cold War
- 9/11 terror recruiter released in Syrian prisoner swap
- D.C. elections board gives green light to marijuana legalization initiative
- Elephants can tell difference between human languages: study
Private talks hint at change in U.S.-Cuba relationship
The State Department has quietly been holding talks with a small but diverse cadre of Cuban natives in Washington — including democracy activists offering insider views of the communist island’s politics — that analysts say could send shock waves through the long-standing debate about what a future U.S. policy toward Cuba should look like.
Obama administration officials are mum on the closed-door meetings, including one held at Foggy Bottom last week with renowned Cuban hunger-striker Guillermo Farinas, who came bearing a somewhat paradoxical message: Most pro-democracy activists now operating in Cuba, which has been a Communist dictatorship and a U.S. enemy for more than a half-century, oppose lifting the long-standing U.S. embargo on trade with their nation.
Such realities may not surprise close Cuba watchers, who say U.S. officials have known for years that ending the embargo might unleash a flow of badly needed foreign cash to the government of President Raul Castro — enhancing its ability to crush the island’s fragile pro-democracy movement.
But activists like Mr. Farinas are now being allowed to inject their views directly into the heart of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, ironically because he and other dissidents have been allowed to take advantage of January’s historic lifting by the Castro government of a decades-old ban on travel abroad.
“The activists are feeling with their blood and bones the repression of the Cuban security apparatus,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington.
U.S. policymakers “now get to actually see it and feel it firsthand from the protagonists themselves,” he said. “That’s extraordinary and it’s very helpful.”
The impact such visits are having on the Obama administration, however, is a subject of debate.
Mr. Farinas’ visit occurred in the shadow of headlines from a landmark meeting last month between U.S. and Cuban officials, who talked about possibly re-establishing direct mail service between the two nations. The two nations plan to meet July 17 to talk about regulating migration.
Together, the negotiations have some in Washington wondering whether the Obama administration is looking to break the stalemate that has defined U.S. relations with Havana since Cuban leader Fidel Castro agreed to house Soviet ballistic missiles in 1961.
Mr. Castro, 86, stepped down in 2008, and the top post is now held by his 82-year-old brother, who has allowed such incremental reforms as the easing of the ban on his citizens’ travel. Raul Castro has said that he will step down when his five-year term ends in 2018.
But Cuba remains on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, and sources close to the Obama administration told The Washington Times that ongoing frustration with Havana’s detention of American Alan Gross is likely to prevent the kind of wide-scale redefinition of policy some thought would come during Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Washington wants the release of Mr. Gross, a subcontractor who was arrested in 2009 while working for a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program. Cuban authorities accused him of illegally delivering satellite phones to individuals in the nation’s Jewish community and gave him a 15-year prison sentence.
His detention served only to amplify back-channel tensions with Havana. The Castro government has for its part long complained about U.S. treatment of the “Cuban Five” — a group of Cuban intelligence officers convicted in Miami in 2001 of conspiracy to spy on U.S. military installations, Cuban exiles and anti-Castro politicians.
The recent move toward re-establishing direct mail with the U.S. and the upcoming talks on migration might seem insignificant within the context of such tensions.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
- CIA chief Brennan 'determined' to speak out more this year
- Brennan: Russia 'absolutely' could invade eastern Ukraine
- Al Qaeda to launch English-language Web magazine 'Resurgence'
- Namibia official defends safari auctions of rhinos,saying funds aid conservation
- U.S. urges direct talks between Russia, new Ukraine government
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
An America drowning in red ink is the land of the free no more
- Inside the Beltway: A new interest in Rahm Emanuel for 2016?
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- David Jolly wins in Florida, GOP keeps swing district seat
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to 'man up' in horse carriage fight
- House Democrats trying to force unemployment insurance vote
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Florida lawmakers move to wipe corrupt 'Boss Hogg' town from map
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again