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|Celebrate Sixth Anniversary of Normalization Announcement|
Cuba/US People to People Partnership December 8, 2020
Join a zoom update on travel to Cuba during the Biden-Harris Administration Celebrate the sixth anniversary of the announcement of US-Cuba diplomatic relations Thursday, December 17, 5 p.m. ET for further information and a registration link, click here Speakers · Professor William LeoGrande, American University · Tom Popper, Founder, Insight Cuba · Rita McNiff, Founder, Like a Cuban · Collin Laverty, Founder, Cuba Educational Trave · John McAuliff, Moderator, Cuba/US People to People Partnership
Not so long ago… A moment of silence for victims of terrorism in Europe united American and Cuban leaders at the March 2016 exhibition baseball game in Havana. (NY Daily News story and photos here.)
Holiday Greetings For everyone in the world, it has been a challenging year. For victims of Covid-19, it was a tragedy. For people whose livelihood depended on travel or international educational exchange, it has been a disaster. Those of us with friends and family in Cuba are aware of the devastating economic impact from the loss of foreign visitor revenue and shortages of imported food and consumer goods. The next six weeks will be difficult, not least because of the surge of illness and the limits on family celebrations of the holidays in both countries. But the future looks better. Covid vaccines will save many lives and allow large scale travel to resume by late spring or the summer. The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promises the return of rational governance and problem solving. Cuba is making hard decisions for essential economic reform, including unification of currencies and opportunity for small and medium businesses. If the Biden-Harris Administration carries out promises made during the campaign (reported here), we can expect as rapid a return to Obama level travel to Cuba as Covid-19 permits.
Our zoom program on December 17th will provide the latest information available from policy specialists and practitioners. However, we cannot take this for granted, see below. Warm wishes for the best holiday you can manage.
— John McAuliff
Undo Trump’s Damage Build Back Better An Appeal to the Biden-Harris Transition Team
Within days of the Biden-Harris victory, the push back on Cuba policy started. An anonymous “top” foreign policy adviser to Biden was reported to have said the Democrat would “reverse the decisions that are separating families, limitations on family travel and remittances” but “we can’t turn back the clock to January 2017.” An often cited but overrated economic expert wrote that for reasons of domestic politics, relations “will not soon return to the United States-Republic of Cuba bilateral commercial, economic, and political landscape that existed prior to 20 January 2017”. He predicted continued restrictions on remittances and harsh limits on travel by non Cuban-Americans as well as prohibitions on cruises and American use of state owned hotels and restaurants. Fortunately an Op Ed in the New York Times by Robert Malley, President of the International Crisis Group and a highly regarded Biden adviser, counseled that restoring Obama’s policy on Cuba was low lying fruit to be harvested quickly. Suffice to say there are interest groups that want to convince Biden-Harris to delay doing anything and to use restoration of Obama’s policies as new leverage for regime change because of the economic hardships Cuba faces. A full account of the ongoing conflict can be read by clicking here. My goal now is to focus on what all of us can do to encourage the Biden-Harris transition to fulfill its pledges to quickly restore Obama’s Cuba policies. They must follow the lead of substantial majorities of Americans, including Cuban Americans (poll data here). Failure to do so can bring a backlash of disappointment from their own supporters. Delay in undoing Trump’s egregious damage will make it harder for them to build back better in a timely way. It will undermine going beyond Obama to legislatively end all travel and agricultural sales restrictions. As importantly postponement will frustrate pro-reform opinion in Cuba and damage livelihoods in the re-emerging private sector. The Biden-Harris team will notice if you reach out personally to Transition members or through someone who can reach out directly to them. (See the list here.) They will notice if we generate a big audience for the zoom program on December 17th. They will notice if we get hundreds or of endorsements from travel industry and educational exchange professionals, independent travelers and policy experts on our Appeal for Action. Please add your name and business or organization. Click here to sign our Appeal to Biden-Harris
photo of the Malecon by Norlys Pérez Padrón
New Wrinkles on the Havana Syndrome A clear obstacle to reestablishing fully functioning embassies and consulates in Havana and Washington are the mysterious maladies that afflicted intelligence and diplomatic personnel in the US and Canadian embassies four years ago. Neither government has been particularly forthcoming. The Trump Administration fled the scene of the crime, completely surrendering to its perpetrator. It provided limited evidence to the Cubans, enabling them to dismiss the charges as phony or psychosomatic. It appeared that neither side wanted to find out what really happened or who was responsible. The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) finally produced a scientific assessment that the State Department tried to hide for four months. It was “leaked” to NBC and to the New York Times. The full report can be downloaded here or read on-line here. The conclusion that was acknowledged as only “the most plausible mechanism” alleged that “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy” was responsible but did not identify the source. The State Department acknowledged that “each possible cause remains speculative”. A more credible study produced by Dalhousie University in Canada more than a year ago identified chemical neurotoxins as the cause of similar health problems faced by Canadian staff in Havana. It can be read here but was dismissed by NAS on pages 20-23. The Canadians speculated that the source was over application of insecticide. An alternative theory is topical application in homes and hotel rooms where symptoms were experienced. New Resources Dr. Jill Biden’s Cultural Exchange Visit to Camague and Havana on a White House Video “‘In difficult times’: the tango of normalization” by Rafael Hernandez, Editor of Temas, originally published in On Cuba, reposted here “Science and economic development in Cuba” by Ricardo Torres in Progreso Weekly “Biden Tells Ortega & Maduro Not to Get Their Hopes Up”, a dialog about Cuba between Circles Robinson, editor of Havana Times and John McAuliff “Biden Won. What Now for U.S.-Cuba Relations?” A perceptive newsletter compiled by the Cuba Study Group “How Cuban Americans in Miami View U.S. Policies Toward Cuba” The 2020 Cuba Poll by Florida International University “USAID targets Cuban tourism” report by Tracey Easton for the Cuba Money Project “The War on Cuba Documentary Tells the Story of the U.S. Embargo” an interview by Julia Thomas for NACLA. Link to Episode 3 on Cuba’s international medical teams is here. Concert for Cuba produced by HothouseGlobal, a three hour tribute to Cuba’s medical assistance during Covid with multiple musicians and messages of appreciation from a solidarity perspective
We post previously listed resources here Ares poster of President Obama’s arrival in Havana. A perfect holiday gift. Only 3 copies available until travel to Havana is possible. Donate $100 to support our work with Cuba. To obtain, donate here and send your shipping address here.