Back to the past with U.S.-Cuba re­la­tions

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - — Mi­ami Her­ald

Are the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new stricter rules on travel and trade with Cuba a re­turn to the past? The Cold War days. Likely. Is that a shame? Well, yes and no.

The new reg­u­la­tions an­nounced last week can­cel any di­rect U.S. fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions with 180 en­ti­ties tied to the Cuban mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity ser­vices. We can’t ar­gue with the sound­ness of that move. It’s pos­si­ble this cor­rec­tion of the flow of money from the U.S. to the Cas­tro regime was needed.

In Cuba, for the most part, the gov­ern­ment owns ev­ery­thing. Money goes into its pock­ets — not the peo­ple’s. It’s naive to think oth­er­wise.

Many of the en­ti­ties U.S. com­pa­nies no longer can strike new deals with come un­der the um­brella of Cuba’s mil­i­tary con­glom­er­ate GAESA. They in­clude ho­tels, mari­nas, tourism agen­cies, in­dus­tries, stores and bev­er­age man­u­fac­tur­ers.

No doubt, rea­sons for the tight­en­ing of rules in­clude Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s will­ing­ness to un­der­mine one of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s crown­ing ac­com­plish­ments — the eas­ing of re­la­tions with Cuba frozen for more than 50 years.

But an­other rea­son is this: Is it pos­si­ble that in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rush to “get this done” be­fore Obama’s pres­i­dency ended cer­tain things were let go — for now, hop­ing they would work them­selves out with the Cuban gov­ern­ment?

Well, two years later, the rep­re­hen­si­ble sonic at­tacks on scores of U.S. diplo­matic per­son­nel liv­ing on the is­land is un­ac­cept­able — re­gard­less of whether the Cuban gov­ern­ment car­ried out the at­tack or not. It oc­curred on their soil.

So, this all im­por­tant is­sue — a re-ex­am­i­na­tion of where the money in­jected into the is­land’s econ­omy from the U.S. flows — is in or­der.

From the start, th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions with Cuba were tricky. In Jan­uary 2015, Roberta Ja­cob­son, the top U.S. ne­go­tia­tor at nor­mal­iza­tion talks with Cuba, sat down with the Mi­ami Her­ald Ed­i­to­rial Board on her way back to Washington. At the time, Ja­cob­son said she was op­ti­mistic, but didn’t want to raise ex­pec­ta­tions too high, given the at­ti­tude of the Cuban del­e­ga­tion.

“I don’t want to build peo­ple’s hopes too high around a process, which will take a long time but is the true nor­mal­iza­tion of re­la­tions and change,” she said.

Two years is ob­vi­ously not long enough. Cuban of­fi­cials said last week the new U.S. rules will harm the Cuban econ­omy and its state and pri­vate sec­tors. But the change also will chan­nel eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity away from the mil­i­tary.

And wasn’t that the whole idea of the eas­ing re­la­tions? So that the in­ter­ac­tion would some­how bring change for the Cuban peo­ple?

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