Cuba and the United States:
For a less tense relationship
By Dr. Nestor Garc�a Iturbe April 24, 2012
Many people have been promoting the idea of how beneficial it would be if there were a less tense relationship between Cuba and the United States. It is argued that this could be favorable to both countries and what is most important to its citizens and especially for those who were born in one of the two countries and who are residing in the other.
It could be said that the latter would be most interested in the having the current climate improved, accompanied by the freedom to visit relatives or to send any help without being subject to restrictive regulations.
Scholars, scientists, educators and professionals in general, probably would show interest in developing interchanges with their counterparts in the neighboring country. First, it might be interesting to compare the situations and problems of each, and second by the type of cooperation to be established between the two groups.
Something similar could take place between members of other professions, mainly artists and athletes, who surely will be delighted by any exchange, healthy competition, mutual sharing of experiences and any new forms and techniques being developed in each specific field.
Industry and commerce would not be absent from the development of this new relationship. Possibly they would be the first to take advantage of it, with the assurance that both parties would reap large benefits.
On what basis could we begin to build what we have called a less tense relationship between the two countries?
We Cubans believe that the first principle would be mutual respect for sovereignty and self-determination of each. If, for a less tense relationship, we had to wait for Cuba to become a capitalist country or the United States to begin to build socialism, and that the political differences between the two systems should cease to exist, the road would be very, very long indeed.
In a process like this, there should be a political trust on both sides and both should be convinced that one nation is not trying to change the established system in the other. Both sides would have to accept this as something whose parameters and characteristics belong exclusively to those citizens actually living in it.
If we analyze the type of governmental system established in countries with which both the United States and Cuba have diplomatic relations, we can see a practical example of what we are proposing.
Relationships are maintained with capitalist countries, kingdoms, socialist countries, republics with various types of government, communities of states, and so on. Whether at any given time differences over certain situations, through diplomacy and good will, efforts are always made to resolve issues and to maintain an acceptable relationship between the two. This does not necessarily mean they have similar criteria on all matters pertaining to diplomatic relations or at any particular time there cannot become a crisis.
Trying to synthesize the times and events that, in my opinion, have characterized the relationship between Cuba and the United States, we could begin with a time of the greatest hostility, if we consider the situations between the two countries in the 1960's and early 1970's.
In the mid 1970's there began a period where there were some steps looking toward the possibility of a convenient arrangement for both sides. This culminated in the late 1970's and early 1980's and brought with it the signing of some agreements, including on maritime boundaries and economic zones, opening the Interests Sections and migration accords.
The late 80s plus 90s, and we include the early years from running into this century, have been characterized by hostility, with limited progress in some aspects of the situation between the two countries. These include cooperation in the fight against drugs, the sale of food by the United States, a more benevolent approach in the Cuba travel restrictions and remittances, as well as group travel and some other advancement.
Where do we from here?
In my opinion, the first thing now is to promote joint analysis, discussion and, where possible, agreement, on the issues that remain unresolved between the two countries. Although the agreement reached might simply be to agree to disagree, but that would at least define the positions of the two sides and analyze their own, which could be modified in the future to reach mutually-acceptable formulas.
Clearly, we do not have to start from scratch. What works could be analyzed to improve its performance and achieve better results. It might be better to analyze other aspects that would expand the range of issues on which both countries have certain and specific agreement and a level of cooperation, although this would at first be limited.
This would demonstrate the political will of both parties to move towards new frontiers, to expand peaceful coexistence between them, regardless of ideological differences that may exist. All this would be based on the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of the other country.
Oil would be perhaps a good place to start. America is a large consumer of oil, Cuba, in a few months, will become a major producer of petroleum.
Cuba has begun to have some contacts in relation to safety on offshore drilling. Service may be provided by U.S. companies, which will offer an additional possibility in the rapid control of any dangerous situation arising.
Further analysis could include the possibility that U.S. personnel working in these areas, in which U.S. companies drill in Cuba's exclusive economic zone and that the oil produced there could be exported to the United States.
Cuba has no single law that prohibits this. U.S. would have to modify its laws governing the blockade of Cuba. We have already begun to discuss a project relating to this with the U.S. Congress, which, if it were to become law, would give all the necessary freedoms to companies to operate in Cuban waters.
Cuban oil sales to the U.S. would imply that Cuba would keep a few million dollars, which would be used to buy what it would need for developing and maintaining the development of the country, not only food but also medicine, equipment and in some cases complete factories. The reality is that, if the U.S. does not sell to Cuba what it needs, Cuba can purchase in other countries, after selling its oil, with fewer financial constraints.
I do not think the pragmatism of American business men prevent them from taking this in stride. Nor do I believe that the U.S. government itself, could not find in trade with Cuba some relief from the current economic situation, as this would promote jobs and profits. Washington would not ignore the possibility that their traders are those who sell to Cuba.
Here a snowball begins to form. The more wheel is larger. The problems start to look differently. The community of economic interests may prove vital for other aspects of the situation between the two countries which could be resolved without extraordinary effort.
Hostility would be relegated to the past and no one would like to crack the cake they are eating. The forces opposed to peace and mutual understanding would be at a severe loss. They would try to obstruct it, but it would be difficult to achieve if the climate of understanding progresses.
Is this the right time to start the process I am referring to?
Cuba, for quite some time, and in the statements of its president, Ra�l Castro, has indicated its willingness to analyze and discuss with the United States all that that country wants. Cuba has always stressed that such activity would not be conditioned on complete agreement. It should, however be governed mutual respect, equality, self-determination and sovereignty of each nation.
The United States has made some statements, but in my view, these were characterized precisely by conditioning to perform certain actions on the part of Cuba that has to do with its internal situation, which affects the determination of the country. In summary, these conditionings can be described as a wrong way to approach the problem, if you really want to move forward in improving the situation.
Do not forget that, right now, the United States is on the campaign trail. The current president, Barack Obama is seeking re-election. I would also add to that the economic situation, unemployment, the rebellion of the 99 percent and all the broken promises of the previous election campaign make for a difficult situation with some of the electorate in Florida. This could mean that until after November, nothing will move on Cuba.
We cannot forget that Obama is president because he represents and defends the interests of the ruling class in America. To continue in that position, it is in their interest to have Obama continue representing them and defending them. Hence, the formula of the Congress releasing the oil industry, could be a smart way forward.
The election factor should be at this moment the most important in the development of events. According to what his campaign advisers tell him, we could soon detect that something is moving in this direction, or simply that we will see continued diplomatic inactivity and hostile actions, which means we should expect to wait until November when the election results will determine with whom we talk.
Cuba will always be willing to talk, whatever the name, with the representative and defender of the interests of the ruling class in the United States.
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A less tense relationship (II)
By: DR. N�stor Garc�a Iturbe April 29, 2012.
The opinions and views received from a number of colleagues about the article �A less tense relationship�, have led me to write this one, which maybe seen as a continuation of the first. In the opening paragraphs I will try to pinpoint some aspects that were mentioned in correspondence I�ve received.
That article began asking:
" Many people have been promoting the idea of how beneficial it would be if there were a less tense relationship between Cuba and the United States. It is argued that this could be favorable to both countries and what is most important to its citizens and especially for those who were born in one of the two countries and who are residing in the other.
�It could be said that the latter would be most interested in the having the current climate improved, accompanied by the freedom to visit relatives or to send any help without being subject to restrictive regulations."
This may satisfy those who did not present the problem raised by Cubans residing in the United States. But if not satisfied, we explained that this article refers to diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. The two countries, in dealing with each other, will raise the issues they consider most important and affect or hinder the normal course of these relationships.
What Cuba raises, will be a function of defending the rights and interests of the Cubans living in Cuba and Cubans residing in the United States. United States will defend the rights and interests of its citizens, including those born in Cuba, but who are now Americans who have renounced Cuban citizenship. This probably will include some who are U.S. citizens by birth and by their parents or grandparents of Cuban origin who are Cubans themselves.
Each country, exercising their sovereign rights, defends those of their citizens. I agreed that to that effect will be reflected in the migration accords between the two countries which have been established and modifications and additions made to them.
As some colleagues pointed out, not just oil that might be of interest to the United States. I agree, but it was impossible to mention everything, so here I will reference other possible interests.
Tourism could be of interest. An improvement in relations between the two countries would lead to a tourist trade, which promises to be important. The closeness between the two countries, the years in which this type of activity has been prohibited by the laws of blockade, the cost of a package tour in Cuba, our natural beauty, beaches and climate, as well as economic benefit that this represents for large U.S. tour operators would be the main drivers of this industry.
Some U.S. companies have estimated that tourism in the first year of lifting the ban, could travel to Cuba more than a million and half tourists and that figure would be maintained or increase in subsequent years. There is also an interest in establishing a package tour for people from other countries visiting the United States, within the same trip to visit Cuba and vice versa, which would increase tourism to both countries.
United States might be interested in using the Cuban Zone to establish different industries. This would be of great economic benefit, as in Cuba it would be possible to manufacture articles now manufactured in distant countries like South Korea, Taiwan and others, which thus have a higher cost of transportation to bring their products to the United States.
The manufacture of these products in Cuba would ensure a skilled workforce and a lower cost than the U.S., possibly similar to the cost they pay in other countries. They could have stores in Cuba, which will reduce the cost of storage and ensuring that in a few days the product could be located in the United States.
Having warehouses in Cuba would help them make those products easily available to the Cuban market, offering items to customers previously available, before the break in US-Cuban relations. The geographical position of Cuba in the middle of the Caribbean, also provides a strategic distribution point for Central and South America, which would help reduce transportation costs.
Other items relating to trade, could also receive a substantial boost that would benefit both countries. In some cases it would be necessary to solve problems of trademarks and patents, as many Cuban products are registered in the U.S. and the owners of such trademarks and patents are businesses or residents of that country. However, I consider that a commercial arrangement with these could quickly open the doors to Cuban products that are in that situation.
In this case I am referring, among others, Cuban tobacco products, which are highly regarded and consistently praised in the United States. On one occasion, the U.S. company owns in the country of a tobacco brand produced in Cuba has stated that it would generate the same income if he gave it exclusive distribution rights for five years. All tobacco products would be purchased in Cuba and for would retain Cuban state-owned trademarks. Itams which could also be included in an agreement, without any additional compensation, transfer to Cuba of property and lands were nationalized.
Cuban rum would be another high-demand product due to its outstanding quality. In this we have closed the doors to protect other rums, mainly manufactured in Puerto Rico, although they have a good class, they are not ours.
As the United States, the Cuban market would be an important customer for the products of its manufacturing industry. Also eligible to export to Cuba would be buses, cars, trains, equipment of all kinds, clothing, shoes, food, beverages and other articles. Not excluded would be the possibility that at some time Cuba would interested in increasing its light industry with the acquisition of factories from the U.S. . In order to trade this could be extensive and of great benefit to both parties.
If we analyze scientific exchanged, where there are already some contacts between the U.S. and Cuba, through some informal and other institutions, we can say that it would have a significant rise of great benefit to both parties.
In the field of medicine both countries are conducting research of recognized scientific level. Ecological and environmental would be an important field for developing cooperation to help improve the knowledge and actions that could take place in both countries. Controlling pests and diseases could be another area of cooperation between the two, so close geographically and with a series of similar crops, this surely be of great benefit to both. In other fields of science similar results can be obtained to establish an institutional exchange to ensure both regularity and continuity.
Cuba�s agricultural products were used by the U.S. canning industry which preferred them for their quality, low cost and proximity. Today, Cuba purchases U.S. agricultural products, but the number and amount of these could be increased. At the same time, taking into consideration the Cuban government's plans to achieve the provision of the island�s needs based on national production. In summary, also in the field of agriculture there could be an exchange scientific, trade and cooperation that would be of great importance.
We could continue to argue over such fields as sports, education, arts and others, which would be beyond the scope of this article and would not have the same goals.
As previously stated, we are exploring the benefits that both countries may gain from a less tense relationship. Again there is one of the paragraphs from the first article with a specific idea which I want to repeat here:
"We believe that the first principle would be mutual respect for sovereignty and self-determination of each. If \ we had to wait for Cuba to become a capitalist country or the United States begins to build socialism, that the political differences between the two systems cease to exist, the road to a less tense relationship would be infinitely long. "
Clearly to be reckoned with is the existence of forces that do not want in any change in the climate between the U.S. and Cuba, as this would affect their personal interests and way of life. Some would have to find another source of income and others could not continue their campaign against all those who promote an understanding between both countries. About that hope was expressed in the preceding article.
"Hostility would be relegated to the past and no one would like to crack the cake where you're eating. The forces opposed to peace and mutual understanding would be a severe loss, they would try to overcome, but it would be difficult to achieve if the climate of understanding progresses. "
The willingness of Cuba to discuss any of these issues has been repeatedly expressed by our President, Raul Castro. The current electoral climate in the United States suggests that this joint analysis cannot be carried out pending the outcome of the US presidential elections and the choice of a president-elect, since whoever decides to start walking the path that will lead to a less tense relationship.