Later On

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Joe Conason on Obama’s Cuba policy

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Interesting column in Salon by Joe Conason. It begins:

Whenever a Democratic president takes office, hopes arise for a more rational approach to our relationship with Cuba, object of an embargo that has lasted for nearly half a century without improving the behavior of that country’s authoritarian leaders. Such hopes are encouraged by the Obama administration, which has signaled its intention to lift restrictions on travel to the island and cash remittances to family members by Cuban-Americans and — as members of the Organization of American States prepare for their upcoming summit in Trinidad — offered a few tantalizing hints that this tentative new opening is merely a beginning.

Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, the president’s principal adviser in preparing for Trinidad, recently said that he "would not be surprised" if the White House announced the new regulations before the summit opens. He noted that the president is considering Congressional proposals for further opening to the island, may well appoint a special envoy to promote engagement, and could conceivably end U.S. opposition to Cuban membership in the OAS. "We are engaged in a continual evaluation of our policy and how that policy could help result in a change in Cuba that could bring about a democratic society," Davidow said.

Aside from Davidow’s remarks, the most suggestive sign of a new approach to Cuba came last week when federal prosecutors announced a new indictment of Luis Posada Carriles, the notorious exile militant who has long boasted of his role in terror bombings aimed at overturning the Castro regime. The indictment handed up by a grand jury in El Paso, Texas, accused him of deceiving immigration authorities about his role in several terrorist attacks on tourist destinations in Cuba in 1997. Praised by the Cuban government, the new charges against Posada Carriles marked a sharp departure from the coddling he enjoyed when the Bush administration ran the Justice Department.

Relaxing the restrictions imposed by the Bush administration would fulfill a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, whose own policy toward Cuba has changed over time. When he ran for the Senate five years ago, he bluntly favored ending the embargo; as a presidential candidate, he dropped that position and assured Cuban-Americans that he would maintain the embargo while engaging in direct diplomacy with the Cuban government.

While Obama’s shifting position provoked angry blasts from the Republican right and its traditional allies in the exile community during the campaign, he understood that American views of Cuba have been changing gradually for at least a decade, across partisan lines and even in the second and third generations of Cuban-Americans. The question he must eventually face is whether to pursue the logic of his own policy of engagement, leading to the eventual normalization of relations and lifting of the embargo.

Indeed, he will have to …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2009 at 9:01 am

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