Carlos Alzugaray Treto

Carlos Alzugaray Treto

Diplomático, educador y ensayista cubano. Analista político independiente. Correo electrónico: [email protected] & [email protected]

Debate between William Clinton and George Bush. Photo: PBS.

Cuba: The Nation, Emigration, and Presidential Campaigns in the United States (1980-2008) (Part Two)

What happened in the U.S. presidential electoral campaign between Sunday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 17 of this year, confirmed some observations that were made in the first installment of this work. First, the Cuba issue came up again in Sunday’s debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. And it appeared in terms that brought back the times of the Cold War. The question that the Colombian-American host, Ilia Calderón, of the Univisión channel asked both contenders was typical of what could be heard in the United States in McCarthyite times . It had nothing to do with the campaign or their position on a foreign policy issue. It was a typical question of what in the United States is called “red baiting” (which could be translated as “anti-communist sensationalism”). A rational response from the candidates was not pursued, but a stirring emotional appeal to certain types of voters: preferably extreme right-wing Cuban-Americans. Senator Sanders responded as he had done a few weeks ago, with an analysis of reality from the perspective of an American liberal who is opposed to the existing socialist systems in the world, but also to right-wing dictatorial...

Reagan vs Carter campaign.

Cuba: The Nation, Emigration, and Presidential Campaigns in the United States (1960-1980) (Part One)

In 2020, two political events that have importance for the Cuban nation could coincide. On the one hand, the government expressed the will to convene the 4th Conference of the Nation and Emigration to be held in Havana this year. If it can be held, it will be the first conclave of this type since the previous one in March 2014, that is, six years ago. Since then until now, much has changed in Cuba and in its emigration, but also in the United States and in bilateral relations. The 2014 conference took place when an incipient thaw between Cuba and the United States  had begun and just eight months before the historic agreement between Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama to initiate a normalization process starting with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, even before the blockade was lifted, as Cuba had rightly insisted. This time it would take place in a completely different bilateral climate. Relations have been substantially deteriorated by the aggressive actions of President Donald Trump and his administration, led by two representatives of the right-wing Cuban-American lobby, Marco Rubio and Mauricio Claver Carone. At this time, not only has the economic, commercial and financial blockade...

Photo: IHOS Plasencia

Donald Trump’s “new” Cuba Policy: More Bark than Bite

Five months into his administration, Donald Trump announced his “new” Cuba policy on 16 June. With his typical tendency to do more histrionics than politics, he did it in Miami, surrounded mostly by Bay of Pigs veterans, many of them septuagenarian and octogenarian Americans of Cuban origin who had served the United States in Vietnam and the dirty wars of Central America in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The tone of his speech and the reactions sounded like the “good old Cold War days.” This “new” policy was supposed to be the result of a profound review of the agreements reached by Cuba and the United States since December 17th 2014. It has resulted in a halfway attempt at reviving a failed 55-year-old policy of using economic sanctions to impose extreme hardships on the Cuban people so that they would rebel and overthrow their government. The purpose of that policy was explained by a State Department document of April 1960 as designed to bring about “hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Cuban government.” Washington has euphemistically called it an “embargo.” The Cuban people call it a “blockade”. The international community, the United Kingdom included, has defined as such because...

Justin Trudeau. Photo: tomada de lifeincalgary.

A new Trudeau in Cuba 40 years later

The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last Tuesday that the young head of government will visit Cuba and Argentina November 14-18, before attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit in Lima, Peru, from the 19th to the 20th. This is the second time that a Canadian prime minister surnamed Trudeau visits our country. In fact, the principal media of Cuba’s northernmost neighbor have underlined the news making reference to the trip by his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, in January 1976. In a context in which Cuba is facing the uncertainty of what President-elect Donald Trump could do with respect to the normalization of relations with the United States – whose vicinity we share -, Justin Trudeau’s arrival highlights that, despite Ottawa being one of Washington’s most important allies, its relations with Havana have been correct, civilized and even friendly, and they have a high degree of continuity. When looking at the intensity and stability of Cuban-Canadian relations, there is no doubt about the independent position that Canada has generally had in the international sphere, demonstrated by several governments of different tendencies. Even under the Conservative Stephen Harper, who preceded Justin Trudeau, a cordial climate prevailed. Without...

And if, after all, Hillary wins?

On Friday October 28, a surprise again shook the U.S. presidential campaign: the revelation by the director of the FBI – a Republican – that an independent investigation had found an undetermined amount of emails by Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton’s principal collaborators, which could be related to the nominee when she was Secretary of State. Thus, just a few days from the elections, the apparently already closed case of the private server that the nominee used in the Department of State flared up again. As on other occasions, it is probably a case of all talk and no action. Despite the tension created among the entire political class, it is probable that it won’t prevent the election, for the first time, of a woman president. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former First Lady of Arkansas and of the United States, former Senator for New York and former Secretary of State, would thus smash that country’s topmost “glass ceiling*.” The nominee will face serious challenges to govern the country after a controversial campaign in which she has exchanged all type of accusations with her opponent, Donald Trump. Actually, despite their confrontations, Clinton and Trump have much in common. Because of...

Photo: Getty Image

Donald Trump has to lose, but, if he wins?

The second debate of this year’s U.S. presidential electoral campaign on the night of October 9 once again demonstrated – as if it was necessary – that Donald Trump’s possibilities of victory cannot be so easily underestimated. The day before the debate, a great deal of the principal U.S. media had been sure that the New York magnate would not have a way out of the most recent scandal caused by his misogynist and sexist manifestations, revealed in a 2005 recording, especially because of the negative impact it had among the politicians and traditional leaders of his Party. However, to the deep satisfaction of his followers, far from being daunted, Trump pounced on Hillary Clinton, even threatening to jail her if he got to be president. Although Clinton played a better role than he in the debate, Trump achieved an important objective: to put a stop to his campaign’s bleeding and forcing the chairman of the Party National Committee to point out that he will continue being backed. Dan Balz, one of the most experienced and prestigious U.S. political analysts, in his comment almost immediately after the debate, published in his Washington Post column, pointed out that once again Trump...

Photo: Alain L. Gutierrez

John Kerry in Cuba: the diplomacy of being neighbors

When John Kerry visited Havana this past Aug. 14 for the official flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy, he became the highest-ranking dignitary to do so since Richard Nixon came to the Cuban capital in 1955. While framed in the usual media blitz that surrounds these types of events, Aug. 14th held unquestionable significance. If we look at the past, we see that before the Revolution, Cuba was not a regular stop for U.S. secretaries of state or other high-ranking officials from that neighboring country. Bilateral relations were overseen not by someone of John Kerry’s rank but by subordinates, surely because of our country’s quasi-colonial status. The most recent such visits recorded were in 1940, when Cordell Hull came to attend a regional foreign ministers’ meeting, and in 1945, when Edward Stettinius visited, a trip recounted in an article published online by OnCuba. Some have tried to confer these visits with an imaginary pro-democratic connotation, claiming that both indicated “U.S. support for Cuban democracy.” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. From a Cuban perspective, the most important aspect of Kerry’s visit was that contrary to what had been the case in the past, the U.S. government put its...

Cuba-US: Brief analysis of new regulations

One day shy of a month from December 17, 2014 (17D), the Departments of Treasury and Commerce of the United States issued new regulations that apply to a set of mutual economic activities in several areas: travel, remittances, finance, telecommunications, trade and transport. This step also came a week before the start of talks for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries to be held in Havana on January 21 and 22. Again, many observers were surprised by the speed and extent of measures taken, made public on January 16 to take effect the next day. With this, the US side unilaterally complied with the decision of President Obama about "taking steps to increase travel, trade and the flow of information to and from Cuba." The new regulations affect limitedly some sanctions that are integral of the US blockade against Cuba and allow activities that have been banned for over 50 years. To understand the dimension of these initiatives it is worth remembering some key milestones in the history of the economic, commercial and financial sanctions that Washington imposed on the Cuban people since 1962, with the aim of producing "hunger, desperation and overthrow of government ". ...

Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announce the start of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States / Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez.

Cuba and USA: From the incipient melting to radical turn (II)

In the long history of relations between Cuba and the United States, the agreements reached between Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama are unprecedented neither in form nor in content, nor even in their magnitude. It was something symptomatic of the new phase being experienced those negotiations to culminate with two novel facts: the telephone conversation between them on December 16th and the simultaneity of television speeches the following day. It is as if the two presidents would like to demonstrate to their respective nations and the entire world public opinion their express wish to leave behind the disagreements that had separated their governments since January 3, 1961, where Washington broke the existing diplomatic relations. Their effects will be felt in the coming years not only in terms of Cuban-American bilateral ties, but rather in the domestic situations of both countries, the hemispheric and possibly globally relations. We have moved from the incipient melting which we mentioned in our previous work to a radical shift in relationships. The first to mean is the diplomatic negotiation itself. It was a negotiation that, despite occurring between two nearby and asymmetric antagonists, whose conflict has festered over the years, led to a result...

Podríamos encontrarnos ante los umbrales de lo que pudiera eventualmente convertirse en un proceso hacia la normalización de relaciones. Pero no deben minimizarse los grandes obstáculos / Foto: Tomado de EFE.

US policy toward Cuba: an incipient thawing

Many scholars of the conflict between Cuba and the United States have expressed the opinion that a thaw in relations between the two neighbors can only be possible in the second term of any president in the northern nation. In the recent book by Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande about the hidden story of negotiations between Havana and Washington, Fidel Castro is quoted stating this to a group of retired US ambassadors in 1994, during Bill Clinton’s second year in the White House. Around the same time the Republican Party achieved a landslide victory in the midterm elections, as it happened in the past elections of November 4th. One might add that a thawing process as such has always been more likely with a Democrat than with a Republican president. Since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, only 4 presidents were re-elected: Republicans Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton. None of the first three made the slightest effort to improve or normalize relations with Cuba in their second terms. Clinton, who privately disagreed with blockade, had an ambiguous rec6ord, largely motivated by circumstances created by himself. His positive gestures toward the island include the...

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