February 25, 2015
Six Issues the U.S. Should Not Concede to Cuba During Normalization Talks
By Ana Quintana
The U.S. and Cuba will hold the second round of normalization talks on
February 27 in Washington, DC. This follows the U.S.’s attempt in late
January to negotiate the terms of reestablishing diplomatic relations
with the Castro regime. In those talks in Havana, Cuban officials made
it clear that the regime will not change its political or economic
system, despite the Obama Administration’s many overtures. The regime
also demanded an end to the embargo and removal of Cuba from the U.S.
list of State Sponsors of Terrorism before restoration of diplomatic
relations. Later in January at a summit of Latin American countries,
Cuban leader Raul Castro reiterated these points, conditioning further
openings with the U.S. on the lifting of the U.S. embargo, the return of
Guantánamo Bay naval base, and compensation for “human and economic
damage” incurred as a result of the U.S. embargo.
In the midst of so many foreign policy disasters, the Obama
Administration is eager to finalize this deal. The Administration
prematurely set a deadline of April, presumably in time for Cuba’s
undeserving participation at the seventh Summit of the Americas. This
will be Cuba’s first participation in the meeting of hemispheric
leaders, despite its violation of the summit’s principle tenants of
democracy and free trade. By April, the Administration has declared that
both countries will have reciprocal embassies and that Cuba will be well
on its way off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. In the meantime,
the Cuban government has put significant hurdles in the way.
Six Key Issues
Heading into the talks, the U.S. should not waiver on six issues:
1. Guantánamo Bay. The U.S. should make no compromises on the Guantánamo
Bay naval base or agree to restitution to the Cuban government for its
use. The Cuban government is well aware of the President’s dangerous
intentions to shut down operations at the naval base. They are also
aware of the Administration’s desire to finalize the normalization
process. Via the Platt amendment, the U.S. government entered into a
perpetual agreement to lease Guantánamo Bay from the Cuban government.
The President does not have the authority to frustrate or impede this
existing law without congressional approval.
2. Cuba’s democratic opposition and human rights activists. The U.S.
should continue to support Cuba’s democratic opposition and independent
human rights activists. The Cuban government strongly opposes
Washington’s support for dissidents and is raising it as an obstacle to
the President’s much-wanted embassy in Havana. Most recently, Cuban
diplomats urged the U.S. not only to stop funding of independent groups,
but also to mandate the Cuban government’s role in selecting which
organizations receive funding. The U.S. needs to make sure that U.S.
policy continues to support civil society groups on the island that
uphold U.S. values and are unaffiliated with the Castro regime and its
3. The State Sponsors of Terrorism list. The U.S. should not agree to
remove Cuba prematurely from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Removing Cuba from the list would ignore both the Cuban government’s
inherently malicious nature and the utility of terrorist designations.
For more than three decades, the Castro regime has directly supported
terrorist organizations as designated by the U.S. government. Recent
activities include Havana’s violations of U.N. Security Council (UNSC)
resolutions, its leadership role in directing Venezuela’s military and
intelligence, and its steadfast support and intimate relationship with
countries such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea. Removing Cuba from the
list would also remove restrictions that preclude Cuba from receiving
preferential foreign aid and trade benefits. The U.S. cannot ignore the
implications of removing an undeserving regime from this list.
4. U.S. exports and investment. The U.S. should reject policies that
support financing for U.S. exports and investments in business ventures
on the island that are owned or managed by the Cuban government,
military, or Communist Party. Business interests have been leading the
movement against the Cuban embargo, and the President’s new policy has
emboldened them. Recently, the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba was
launched. Backed by large corporations such as Cargill, the coalition is
lobbying to end the embargo in order to receive U.S. taxpayer subsidies
for exports to Cuba. Business interests should not be allowed to dictate
foreign policy. The regime routinely defaults on foreign loans and is
guilty of the largest uncompensated theft of U.S. assets in recorded
history, valued at $8 billion. Negotiators should also recognize that
the Cuban military owns and operates about 80 percent of the Cuban
economy and that expanding trade relations would overwhelmingly benefit
the regime, not the Cuban people.
5. The LIBERTAD Act. The U.S. should evaluate future overtures on the
principles enshrined in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity
(LIBERTAD) Act. The President’s new Cuba policy has violated the
standards of existing U.S. law by not requiring the Cuban government to
modify its behavior one iota in exchange for a loosening of
restrictions. According to the LIBERTAD Act, the Cuban embargo cannot be
repealed until Cuba demonstrates that it will hold free and fair
elections, free all political prisoners, and guarantee free speech and
workers’ rights. Regrettably, the Administration’s new Cuba policy is
systematically chipping away at the embargo.
6. Reject any agreement that is tantamount to compensation for the
U.S.’s embargo against Cuba. The U.S. embargo was implemented to protect
U.S. businesses following the Castro regime’s illegal seizure of U.S.
assets, which are valued at $8 billion. This is still regarded as the
largest uncompensated seizure of U.S. assets by a foreign government in
U.S. history. The President’s negotiators should not overlook or concede
the more than 8,000 active property claims on the Department of
Justice’s Certified Claimant List.
The Obama Administration naively believes that granting the Castro
regime every item on its never-ending wish list will lead to improved
relations. Maximizing pressure, not unilateral concessions, is the only
way to pave the way toward a democratic and free Cuba.
—Ana Quintana is a Research Associate for Latin America in the Douglas
and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and
Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.
Source: Six Issues U.S. Should Not Concede to Cuba During Normalization