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Cuba has been left out for too long

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  • Walter Lippmann
    (Lord Moynihan is shadow minister for sport, a former minister in the Thatcher government and chairman of the UK Cuba Initiative. As a Conservative, he opposes
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
      (Lord Moynihan is shadow minister for sport,
      a former minister in the Thatcher government
      and chairman of the UK Cuba Initiative. As a
      Conservative, he opposes the Blair policy of
      falling in step behind US anti-Cuba moves as
      ineffective. While he is not a supporter of the
      Cuban Revolution, he nevertheless opposes
      the blockade and wants to maintain and to
      increase trade and other contacts with Cuba. )

      Cuba has been left out for too long

      Britain and Europe must break with 40 years of failed US

      Colin Moynihan
      Tuesday July 1, 2003
      The Guardian

      The past few months have seen a sharp escalation of tension
      in relations between Cuba and the US. But unlike in the
      past, this time the EU has jumped firmly on to the
      anti-Havana bandwagon. While the situation has yet to reach
      crisis point, it is certainly serious. In the House of Lords
      debate on Cuba last week, the British government was
      uncompromising in its attitude.

      The question is how best to integrate Cuba, the only
      socialist state in the Americas, into the western
      hemisphere. Should it be through isolation and coercion, or
      through dialogue and mutually agreed incentives? In May, I
      led a British trade delegation to Havana, as someone who
      believes that constructive engagement and expanded trade are
      the best ways to encourage change and to bolster civil

      Earlier that month, Cuba arrested more than 70 opposition
      activists. This brought long prison sentences for most and
      the execution of three ferry hijackers. The severity of the
      government's crack-down, and the human rights issues it
      raised, provoked widespread international condemnation,
      risking repercussions from the outside world, not least from
      its mighty neighbour.

      That new low point in US-Cuba relations has been mirrored on
      this side of the Atlantic, with the EU downgrading
      diplomatic contacts and postponing Cuba's application to
      join the Cotonou convention, the treaty on trade and aid
      between Europe and 77 developing nations.

      Britain has been at the forefront of orchestrating this new
      EU approach. The reaction of many in government has been
      predictable - a default to the tendency to shadow America's
      unreasonable lead and to turn this country's back on

      While the present situation is a serious setback, I believe
      there is an alternative. Engagement and dialogue wherever
      possible has always been the British approach to achieving
      foreign affairs goals and encouraging improved standards, or
      else we would not have diplomatic missions in North Korea,
      Sudan, Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, even China, to name but a few.

      Tough messages are easier to send and more likely to be
      heeded within the context of a relationship based on mutual
      respect and cooperation than one based on exclusion and
      distrust. For over four decades, the US embargo against Cuba
      has failed to deliver any of its goals. It is proof, if
      proof were needed, that isolation is not the road to reform.

      It is time for a radical new approach. Britain should be in
      the vanguard of encouraging dialogue with Cuba. Increased
      cooperation through business activity offers us the
      opportunity to encourage Cuba to take its relationship with
      Britain and the EU more seriously.

      There is a sense in many countries that the present Cuban
      government is in its twilight years and it is only a matter
      of biding time. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic
      need to rid themselves of the misguided notion that Cuba
      policy is locked in a holding pattern until Fidel Castro is
      no more, at which time the Cuban people will rise up as one
      and embrace American culture and influence. It is naive in
      the extreme to think that in the post-Castro era, Cuba will
      effectively become the 51st state of the US. Yet that is
      precisely what many in the US administration and indeed, on
      this side of the Atlantic, appear to believe.

      In fact, the very opposite is likely to happen. Cuban
      history is marked by a strong and deep-rooted desire for
      independence, and in the post-Castro era, resistance to US
      influence and the drug and money-laundering culture which
      has infected so many Latin and Caribbean nations, is likely
      to strengthen. Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who
      determine its future and British, European and US policy
      must be formulated in view of this reality.

      It would be of great benefit to the British-Cuban
      relationship if policymakers in London now spent time
      studying the Cuban psyche, rather than viewing the situation
      through the unfocused binoculars of American wishful
      thinking - as unquestionably some in the government, with
      their strong adherence to the neo-conservative wing of the
      US administration, are inclined to do. We must avoid the
      danger of borrowing the blunt instrument of America's
      political sledgehammer to drive home our message, when the
      skilful use of subtler means would cause far less damage and
      achieve far better results.

      This is a critical time for Cuba. A knee-jerk tendency to
      shadow US policy threatens to seal up the window of
      opportunity, just at the very time when Cuba is beginning to
      recognise the need for further economic reform and a stable
      political transition to a younger leadership.

      ยท Lord Moynihan is shadow minister for sport, a former
      minister in the Thatcher government and chairman of the UK
      Cuba Initiative. cubainitiative@...
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