Arturo López-Levy

Arturo López-Levy

Profesor de Política y Relaciones Internacionales en Holy Names University. Es Doctor en Estudios Internacionales de la Escuela Josef Korbel de la Universidad de Denver. Estudió maestrías de Asuntos Internacionales en la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York y Economía en la Universidad de Carleton en Ottawa, Canadá. En Cuba se graduó en la Academia Diplomática (ISRI). Es coautor del libro “Raúl Castro and the New Cuba; A Close-up view of Change”, McFarland, 2012. En 2005, ganó el premio “Leonard Marks” de ensayo creativo sobre política exterior de Estados Unidos que otorga la Academia Americana de Diplomacia. Nació en Santa Clara, Cuba. Vive en Berkeley, California.

Cuba and the 2020 U.S. elections

Cuba and the 2020 U.S. elections

The main alternative in the 2020 presidential elections, with respect to Cuba, is summarized in the probability of unlocking the asymmetric conflict with candidate Biden and with more uncertainty in a second term with Trump. Biden can start a virtuous cycle, in which the limited changes he envisions acquire momentum and generate in themselves new liberalizing dynamics in the United States and Cuba, with a feedback for both. Trump is a walking question mark, who―as John Bolton’s memoirs show―does not offer a predictable policy toward the Western Hemisphere, particularly toward Venezuela. If Biden wins Based on U.S. national interests and values, if Biden were to become president, he should restore and deepen Obama’s policy at the end of his term. With four years to implement them, he must dismantle as soon as possible the agitprop machinery in favor of the existing blockade/embargo in Miami, which has only served to stigmatize the Democratic position. If there is a liberal and anti-embargo president, who believes that the isolation policy is counterproductive to the promotion of human rights in Cuba, all posts for appointment on Radio/TV Martí and USAID funds should go to groups with that position. However, it is symptomatic that Biden...

Three ideas on the death of George Floyd and the protests in the United States

Three ideas on the death of George Floyd and the protests in the United States

The events of the past week in the United States, beginning with the death of Afro-American George Floyd by police abuse in Minneapolis, are generating concern and analysis throughout the country, and in the rest of the world. Beyond demanding justice in the Floyd case, the protests express rejection of a system with various levels of citizenry and inequalities regarding their protection and the application of justice. “Stop killing people for being black” and “I can’t breathe!” say some of the signs carried by protesters during a demonstration for the death of George Floyd on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis. Photo: Jim Mone/AP In the midst of so many social network contesters in which Tyrians and Trojans use police violence and that of the protesters to fuel their ideologies, it is convenient to reiterate a set of convictions at the center of the traditions that have made the United States advance, like the great country it is. Those convictions are central to the republican and democratic culture to which it is convenient to return: 1- Discriminatory treatment of minorities as an institutional pattern constitutes a structural injustice that denies the citizen equality enshrined in amendment XIV...

The Cuban government and emigration

The Cuban government and emigration

The Cuban government’s call for a conference in Havana to dialogue with emigrants started with a bad name. Cuban emigration is not a separate entity from the nation. Emigrants are, from their citizen link with the republic where they were born and the passport required to return to their homeland, an inseparable part of the nation. The central question is not how emigration is related to a foreign nation, but to repair injustice, of which the Cuban government is a party; by which they have been deprived of rights that are their own by virtue of the principle of citizen equality. The yardstick to measure the Cuban political system’s relations with the emigrants, in fact, with all its citizens, is the model of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That of “Nation and Emigration” enters without a doubt into the mantra “We are Continuity.” It is “continuing” to stubbornly charge against a policy that must be changed: that of conceiving the emigrant, not based on citizen equality, but as an aggregate outside the nation, with an ambivalent connection. The government, which is dialoguing with the emigrants, grants them, as gifts, rights that assist every Cuban citizen, wherever they live, and...

The example of “Forever Young” and what Orishas has done with “Ojalá”

The example of “Forever Young” and what Orishas has done with “Ojalá”

In 1988 after feeling the separation from his children because of his work, the great British singer Rod Stewart composed the beautiful song “Forever Young.” Before releasing it, a member of his team noted that between the title (two words) and the central issue of love for his children there were important similarities with Bob Dylan’s homonymous song. Noticing these similarities, Stewart had the immediate delicacy of contacting Dylan and discussing the subject. The Dylan and Stewart teams reached an agreement to share the royalties and Stewart donated his share of the profits to a charity. We all win with two great themes. This example of how decent and educated people, cultured and good mannered, resolve the discrepancies in life brings to mind the story of the controversy that the Orishas group’s new song has unleashed, because the theme includes a good part of Silvio Rodríguez's classic “Ojalá.” In his prestigious blog Segunda Cita, the singer-songwriter has described Orishas' action as “parasitism” and “flagrant copyright infringement.” Silvio clarifies that he was not consulted about the inclusion of his text in this song. It is unfortunate that it has been so, that Orishas has not followed the appropriate patterns of behavior,...

King and queen of Spain in Cuba

King and queen of Spain in Cuba

The celebrations for the 500 years of the foundation of Havana are an ideal reason for the visit to Cuba by the king and queen of Spain. The visit has been negotiated by Cuba and the Spanish governments since the presidency of Adolfo Suárez. The last coordination was carried out by President Pedro Sánchez and his foreign minister, the next European commissioner for foreign relations, Josep Borrell. The plan began to take shape during the presidency of José Zapatero, continued during the government of Mariano Rajoy, with his foreign ministers García Margallo and Alfonso Dantis, beyond the partisan divisions. Now it will finally take place. It turns out that the monarchs’ long-planned trip to the Caribbean will take place precisely on November 11, just one day after the holding of general elections in Spain marked by the uncertainty around which majority can govern. Expectations about the royal visit to the island will be adjusted in hours according to the results of the election day. Spain is a constitutional monarchy. The king does not take sides in domestic matters but the priorities of the government of the day shape his projection of foreign policy as head of state. If the forecasts...

Geopolitics replaces ideology: Russia looks at Cuba

Geopolitics replaces ideology: Russia looks at Cuba

President Miguel Díaz-Canel's visit to Russia is of the greatest relevance to current Cuban foreign policy. The second meeting between the president of Cuba and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is taking place in just one year. Such intensity in bilateral ties was not registered since the time of Cuba's special relations with the Soviet Union. It was with the presidential visit of Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, during the period when Putin was prime minister, that Russian-Cuban relations found the ascending course that has characterized it until today. Without detracting from the importance for relations of the central figure of Putin, who made a second successful visit to Cuba in 2014, when the Cuban debt issue was resolved and bilateral relations were strengthened, it is of relevance to remember the adverse precedent of his first visit in 2000 as a result of which the Lourdes base was closed. At that time, Fidel Castro declared the need to repair the bridges between Moscow and Havana, taking into account the new realities in both countries and the world. As an expression of Cuba’s awareness of the new world balance of power, the then Cuban president emphatically declared that it was not of...

Cuba: Virtues, limits and challenges of the new measures announced

Cuba: Virtues, limits and challenges of the new measures announced

Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa, flanked by several ministers, announced on the Cuban Mesa Redonda TV program that the government will set up a group of state-owned companies with financial and commercial mechanisms to import and sell in convertible foreign currencies products that were frequently imported from abroad by individuals. It is an action of common sense, the same as philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal said that is frequently "the least common of senses." There are many underdeveloped countries in the world, but in almost none is it common to see at airports people loaded with extremely large duffel bags, bringing air conditioners, televisions, toasters, or spare parts for Lada cars from Miami. Those travelers are generally Cuban. Isn't the distance from Russia to Cuba almost the same as from Russia to Miami? How many Lada or Moskvich cars are running in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Panama to justify the stores there selling spare parts for those makes? What the government has noticed and now tries to stop was an open secret. Several academics and officials often commented on this overt flight of foreign currency, without major problems, looking for ways to channel it to make a profit. The...

Bolton’s exit does matter

Bolton’s exit does matter

President Donald Trump once said of John Bolton, his newly fired national security advisor, that he was absolutely a hawk, that if it were for him they would be at war with the entire world. Trump satirized that someone could be more of a hawk than him, enjoying bridling the aggressiveness of his foreign policy advisor. It is no surprise that the president fire officials on Twitter. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has the "historical merit" of being the first cabinet member to be fired in the middle of the Atlantic. Tillerson was on a tour of Africa and on his return flight, he learned that his services to the president were no longer needed. That’s Trump for you. Bolton has said he resigned the previous night, but until the morning of last Tuesday, the ambassador was still hopeful, kneeling and praying. A presentation of Bolton had been announced on the White House site with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin until the precise moment of the fatal twit. The good humor with which the secretaries assumed the journalists' questions about the dismissal illustrated that Ambassador Bolton's departure did not surprise them. Pompeo appeared jubilant,...

We’ve hit the ceiling with the prices

We’ve hit the ceiling with the prices

The drunkenness began symptomatically with the national beer sold in private establishments. A bad start. If it is a question of the Cuban economy, most of the price caps adopted by the government, especially those that don’t correspond to basic need products or services, lack rationality. It is a short-term measure, with no positive long-term impact on the solution of any problem, of production or distribution. Even if in the short term it controls price increases with a repressed inflation dynamic, it will probably aggravate the path required to resolve the supply deficit. What is the logic behind citizen welfare for which the government spends political capital, human resources or simply regulates to procure access to beer for this or another consumer? If we talk about a new economic model in which the market increases its role, and the government is the main and only wholesale producer of beer today, which amounts to an almost monopoly, why cap the price of a product that isn’t essential to the food basket? The end of the beer shortage depends on the government companies themselves producing more or that there is a change in structure that gives access to other producers. That is...

Jaime Ortega: changing the circumstances

Jaime Ortega: changing the circumstances

Thirty-six was his number as a recruit in UMAP. Jaime Ortega spent eight months there after returning from his theological studies in Montreal and beginning his life as a priest in Matanzas, his hometown. He refused to bear resentment and hatred toward that injustice, for which the revolutionary government was responsible. Jaime Ortega reemerged by reaffirming his faith and decision to serve the reconciliation of Cubans. Among the many anecdotes that he repeated in his office I remember a very special one. Jaime told how at UMAP he had become friends with the other recruits, helping them to communicate with their family, giving spiritual support to those to whom he could, something that allowed him to understand his destiny there as a divine mission. He always emphasized the role that individual will and temperament play in defining circumstances. One thing is what the context imposes and another is how everyone processes it, if they decide not to stop being who they are. In UMAP and later, Jaime Ortega was what he decided to be since he was nineteen: a priest. "I am myself and my circumstance," he liked to repeat that famous phrase of Ortega y Gasset, to then clarify...

“All those women are from Cuba”

“All those women are from Cuba”

"All those women were from Cuba. They separated them. They were in a cell without water. From that cell, a woman told us that she had been told that they could drink the toilet water. They told us how the authorities cleaned everything up in a hurry before we arrived at the facility. They told us that the policy that they could bathe just once every two weeks was almost official." These were the words of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in an interview with the magazine Mother Jones about her visit to several facilities of the immigration authorities on the border between Mexico and Texas, in the United States. The congresswoman from the Bronx-Queens in New York denounced in this way what she described as an unworthy treatment of American democracy towards immigrants from several Latin American countries, mostly from the North Central American triangle who knocked on the door of the country to ask for refuge in the face of problems in their countries of origin. It was a timely coincidence that those women interviewed by the delegation of sixteen congresspersons chaired by Joaquin Castro (D-TX) were Cuban because it’s not often that Cuban migrants are mentioned, in those same conditions...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Trump, Cuba and the 2020 elections: a neoconservative policy for Florida

Since his presidential inauguration in January 2017, Trump refused to deepen the periodic talks inherited from the Obama administration. Washington avoided working with Cuba in the solution of the diplomatic impasse of the alleged sonic attacks. Trump opted for using these incidents to reduce the diplomatic staff in both embassies, generating breaches of the 1994-1995 migration agreements on the granting of at least 20,000 visas annually. For electoral reasons, or perhaps his relationship with the Republican caucus in Congress, Trump has handed over to Senator Marco Rubio the Cuba policy. The effects of this decision were immediately noted in at least three dimensions: Without a minimum exploration of goodwill contacts, it is difficult to elucidate where Cuba and the United States could reach agreements, what issues are difficult, and on which an approach could be focused. Communication with Cuba privileges supporters of the immediate dismantling of the Cuban government as interlocutors, compromising any credibility of independence in a Cuban opposition, reluctant in most cases to express itself clearly against undue intervention in the internal affairs of their country. The talks about Cuba with third international actors, such as Latin America, Canada and the European Union, places the issue at a...

Diptych detail: “and meanwhile, the people in the middle.” Photo: courtesy of Michel Mirabal.

Human rights as a fig leaf

Donald Trump’s speech in Miami rejecting the rapprochement with Cuba not only displayed his lack of information about the island but also the flaws of some arguments used in the liberal press to defend Barack Obama’s policy. By accepting the debate terms, from the total condemnation of the Cuban Revolution by the anti-normalization right wing, the liberal position for starters gives three of its most forceful reasons against the embargo/blockade: the moral, the legal and the historic. Christopher Sabatini’s opinion commentary “Trump’s Imminent Cuba Problem” and “U.S.-Cuba Policy Change Advocates: This Is Your Ally?” together with “A Cynical Reversal on Cuba” by The New York Times editorial board are typical examples. They reject an intensification of the embargo, but attribute to the U.S. Cuba policy and the sanctions advocates a moral authority for their opposition to the Cuban government, which is not justified by the conflict’s history, or its position toward human rights as international legal norms. A THIRD ROAD WHICH ISN’T ONE Sabatini says that “the argument that embargo toughness is equal to human rights and political change is seriously and morally flawed on a number of levels, historical and logical.” However, the “middle ground” he proposes and his...

Donald Trump poses after an interview for Bloomberg Television in Trump Tower, New York. Photo: John Taggart / Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Trump’s message: history and politics

President Donald Trump’s message to the Cuban public using the anniversary of May 20 expresses his administration’s lack of creativity and improvisation regarding the island. In an act of supreme irony, some official muttered on behalf of the White House four phrases about human rights for Cuba while the U.S. president was traveling to kiss the rings of the Saudi monarchy in the heart of the Middle East. Women there are forbidden to drive cars. The short message serves to postpone the announced reassessment of the Cuba policy in line with the scarce allusions to the island and the very little priority given to bilateral relations in the months after the presidential inauguration. Each day that goes by reinforces the vision of a new post-Obama normalcy in Cuba-U.S. relations. A substantial part of the changes made by the Obama-John Kerry team arrived to stay. Compared to what occurred in times of the Bush administration, the pro-isolation and hostility toward Cuba lobby lawmakers have not dared to ask for a restoration of the travel restrictions. It must be recalled that in their discourse, especially of Senator Marco Rubio, the control of trips had to start by restricting the Cuban American community,...

Photo: The White House

One year since Obama’s trip to Cuba

On several occasions, Barack Obama expressed a vision about the U.S. presidency as a relay race. The efficiency of his work in the White House implied the responsibility of handing over the baton to his successor in a better situation than the one he inherited from President Bush in 2009. From that perspective, the historic trip of the then U.S. president to Cuba a year ago yesterday was a resounding success. The United States and Cuba are now in a better situation to advance national interests and values, managing their conflicts in a more constructive way. The official U.S. vision about Cuba, expressed in the presidential directive of October 2016, is much more realistic, and better understands its priorities, opportunities and challenges than at any time in the history of bilateral relations after 1959. THE TRIP’S LEGACY After the rapprochement in Cuba-U.S. relations with the December 17, 2014 agreement, President Obama’s trip to Cuba endeavored to speed up the negotiations between the two countries and to make irreversible the change of Cuba’s image in the U.S. and of the U.S. in Cuba. The trip to Havana was, in itself, a symbol and a new message for the Cuban and U.S....

Cuba-U.S. Relations in Trump’s Era: Reserved Forecast

Cuba-U.S. Relations in Trump’s Era: Reserved Forecast

Forecasting President-elect Donald Trump’s Cuba policy is a difficult exercise since the New York millionaire has been inconsistent in his positions and explanations about the process of rapprochement begun by presidents Obama and Raúl Castro. Judging by his statements, Trump aims to break away from the liberal globalizing consensus that has dominated the great U.S. strategy since the end of World War II. However, few U.S. presidents structure their foreign policy based on the rhetoric of the electoral campaigns. Structural realities Whatever President Trump’s decision on Cuba is, realities exist that will not change: 1) The majority of U.S. citizens, Cubans and the Cuban-American community support the dialogue and exchange processes with Cuba. The ties woven between Cuba and Miami have today reached a critical mass that guarantees a rejection in Florida of any policy aiming to separate the two principal communities from the Cuban nation. 2) The international community rejects the U.S. embargo/blockade on Cuba and today is more disposed than ever to challenge the sanctions by promoting Cuba’s integration into the world economy and the western hemisphere. The U.S. president is not omnipotent and does not have the ability to force a rupture of those positions of dialogue...

Photo: Getty Image

Second Presidential Debate: Did the Political Dynamics Change?

Did the second presidential debate change the dominating tendencies in the election campaign in the U.S.? In order to answer this question some explanations are necessary. The first is that the effects of the debates depend a great deal on the context that surrounds them. The debate is not just the 90-120 minutes in front of the cameras but also the expectation generated about the performance of the nominees before they come face to face and also the stage of explanations, making points and distortions that it gives rise to. In practice, the policy and impact of the debates covers a greater range of participants than just Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In terms of context, the debate took place after nominee Trump’s unfortunate performance in the first debate, which tends to be decisive in the creation of first impressions about the rival nominee, a role that in this season better fits the New York millionaire. Before the second debate, Trump was hard hit by the revelations about his behavior and opinions about the treatment of women, inappropriate for someone who does not aspire to be the sultan of a harem but rather the president of a republic. It’s not...

Cuba-USA: 2015 was a good start

Cuba-USA: 2015 was a good start

The first year of the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba has raised both significant challenges and opportunities for the bilateral link, with important achievements and advances. On January 16th, 2015 the White House circulated exceptions to the embargo’s politics in terms of trips and trade with the emerging Cuban non-state sector. Four days later, in his address to Congress, in front of the cameras of the nation, President Obama asked for an end to the embargo. With the process of rapprochement, the U.S. managed to deactivate the diplomatic bomb that would have been a Summit of the Americas without Cuba. The prophets of an Armageddon in Miami if the government followed this path of reconciliation have been proven wrong. The majority of the North American and Cuban-American population have defended the move. Against a backdrop of the reduced economic clout of its Latin American partners (Brazil and Venezuela) thanks to the fall in prices of primary materials in the global market, Cuba experienced a 2015 of economic growth. This is attributable, in part, to a 70% growth in U.S. journeys to Cuba. In addition, various Cuban negotiations with important international players such as...

Photo: AFP / Joe Raedle

U.S. and Cuba Swap Embassies

The governments of United States and Cuba are opening embassies this week in Havana and Washington. This is a major watershed in the road to full normalization of relations between the two states and the two societies. This is also a major win for democracy because the two governments are following the feelings of overwhelming majorities of their peoples. The steps taken by Presidents Obama and Castro give voice to strong trends in both societies in favor of peaceful and constructive U.S.-Cuba relations. Let’s get history straight. The U.S.-Cuba opening of December 17 is not the product ofa few “Johnny-come-lately” businessmen and lobbyists. It was the victory of the Cuban people’s nationalist resistance against five decades of an embargo that still is counterproductive, immoral, and illegal according to international law. Since the times of President Kennedy, but particularly since the last year of the Johnson administration, every bright mind in the State Department considered the embargo a harmful burden to U.S. values and interests in the world. In 1996, the lawyers of the State Department warned Secretary Warren Christopher that the passing of the Helms-Burton would be damaging to U.S relations with its allies, its standing in international law, and...

Unión Europea

An opportunity to relaunch the EU-Cuba relations

This week Cuba and the European Union held the second round of talks to reset their relations. The previous period was marked by Cuba’s rejection and American disrespect for the 1996 European Common Position. That measure was a failed European attempt to define the terms of a triangular relationship that has at its other vertices the USA, in the logic of the great powers, and Cuba as an underdeveloped country, with a special historical, cultural and economic relationship with Europe. Despite the optimal position as a pivot in a ménage à trois, where cordial relations converge from two opponent vertices, Europe has never decisively influenced the triangular Havana-Brussels-Washington relationship. Eighteen years of European common position on Cuba confirmed that the limited engagement and symbolic sanctions policy after 2003 reduced European influence in Cuban adaptation to a post-Cold War world. Cuba diversified its foreign relations, to lessen the weight of Europe and Canada as uncomfortable trading and investment partners in the nineties. Havana emphasized strategic affiliations with Venezuela, China and Russia lately. The rise of the Latin American left gave Cuba more space in the developing world through the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77. Cuba led the Community of...

First, do not harm

There is a medical motto that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would do well to adopt: "First, do not harm." It seems reluctant to understand it in the Cuban case. From the Bush Administration to date, the agency belonging to the Department of State has spent hundreds of millions of dollars following a destructive conception of what it calls "promotion of democracy and civil society in Cuba." Under this section, subcontractors and agency officials have implemented an interventionist model that has nothing to do with the empowerment of Cuban civil society and the promotion of human rights: the Helms-Burton Act. The bill, sponsored by late Senator Helms, who had the democratic credentials of a member of a "whites only" club, ignores any U.S. obligation under international law. Obsessed since 1959 to oust Fidel Castro, the authors of the law chained the U.S. policy toward the entire Cuban nation to that goal. As explained by former senior CIA analyst for Latin America Fulton Armstrong, under the Bush administration destabilizing missions against the Cuban government, which previously fell under the rule of the intelligence agencies, were transferred to the USAID. The USAID tried to employ new methods to reach the...

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