President Trump Announces Reversal of Some Cuba Normalization Policies

On June 16 in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, President Donald Trump announced a reversal of some aspects of the Cuba normalization policies that had been instituted by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. With a flourish at the end of his speech, Trump signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba to document the new policy. Back in Washington, D.C. the White House issued a Fact Sheet and a Background Briefing and the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About the New Policy.

An examination of these documents, however, reveals that there is more smoke than fire to the changes. Most of the preexisting normalization policies and actions are not affected, and the changes that were made by executive action can be overturned by federal legislation.

Subsequent posts will review U.S. and Cuban reactions to these changes before providing this blogger’s reactions and recommendations.

National Security Presidential Memorandum[1]

The Memorandum’s purpose in grandiose language is “to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. . . . [to] channel funds toward the Cuban people and away from a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society [and to condemn abuses by the Cuban regime]. . . . [The] Administration will continue to evaluate its policies so as to improve human rights, encourage the rule of law, foster free markets and free enterprise, and promote democracy in Cuba.” (Section 1)

The Memorandum in section 2 then states the Administration’s policy shall be to:

  • “(a) End economic practices that disproportionately benefit the Cuban government or its military, intelligence, or security agencies or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people.
  • (b) Ensure adherence to the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba.
  • (c) Support the economic embargo of Cuba described in [federal statutes] . . . (d) Amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the expansion of internet services, free press, free enterprise, free association, and lawful travel.
  • (e) Not reinstate the ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ policy, which encouraged untold thousands of Cuban nationals to risk their lives to travel unlawfully to the [U.S.].
  • (f) Ensure that engagement between the [U.S.] and Cuba advances the interests of the [U.S.] and the Cuban people. . . . [including] advancing Cuban human rights; encouraging the growth of a Cuban private sector independent of government control; enforcing final orders of removal against Cuban         nationals in the [U.S.]; protecting the national security and public health and safety of the [U.S.], including through proper engagement on criminal cases and working to ensure the return of fugitives from American justice living in Cuba     or being harbored by the Cuban government; supporting [U.S.] agriculture and protecting plant and animal health; advancing the understanding of the [U.S.] regarding scientific and environmental challenges; and facilitating safe civil  aviation.”

The Memorandum in section 3 concludes with detailed directions for implementation.

White House Fact Sheet[2]

The White House Fact Sheet on this policy change stated the following as its objectives: (1) “Enhance compliance with United States law—in particular the provisions that govern the embargo of Cuba and the ban on tourism; (2) Hold the Cuban regime accountable for oppression and human rights abuses ignored under the Obama policy; (3) Further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and those of the Cuban people; and (4) Lay the groundwork for empowering the Cuban people to develop greater economic and political liberty.”

The Fact Sheet then stated the following “Summary of Key Policy Changes:”

  • “The new policy channels economic activities away from the Cuban military monopoly, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), including most travel-related transactions, while allowing American individuals and entities to develop economic ties to the private, small business sector in Cuba. The new policy makes clear that the primary obstacle to the Cuban people’s prosperity and economic freedom is the Cuban military’s practice of controlling virtually every profitable sector of the economy. President Trump’s policy changes will encourage American commerce with free Cuban businesses and pressure the Cuban government to allow the Cuban people to expand the private sector.”
  • “The policy enhances travel restrictions to better enforce the statutory ban on United States tourism to Cuba.  Among other changes, travel for non-academic educational purposes will be limited to group travel.  The self-directed, individual travel permitted by the Obama administration will be prohibited.  Cuban-Americans will be able to continue to visit their family in Cuba and send them remittances.”
  • “The policy reaffirms the United States statutory embargo of Cuba and opposes calls in the United Nations and other international forums for its termination. The policy also mandates regular reporting on Cuba’s progress—if any—toward greater political and economic freedom.”
  • “The policy clarifies that any further improvements in the United States-Cuba relationship will depend entirely on the Cuban government’s willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people, including through promoting the rule of law, respecting human rights, and taking concrete steps to foster political and economic freedoms.”

Significantly this Fact Sheet did not contain actual new regulations to implement the policy changes. Instead, “the Treasury and Commerce Departments [were directed] to begin the process of issuing new regulations within 30 days.  The policy changes will not take effect until those Departments have finalized their new regulations, a process that may take several months.  The Treasury Department has issued Q&As that provide additional detail on the impact of the policy changes on American travelers and businesses.”

White House Background Briefing[3]

The prior day the White House conducted a background briefing on this policy change for journalists.

In addition to presaging the chances noted above, it stated that the new policy was the result of “a full review of U.S. policy toward Cuba [led by the] National Security Council . . . [under the leadership of] General McMaster, [that] engaged in a thorough interagency review process, including more than a dozen working-level meetings, multiple deputies meetings, and principal meetings.  This interagency process included . . . the Treasury Department, the State Department, Commerce Department, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Transportation. . . .”

“Additionally, during this process, the President met with members of Congress who are experts on Cuba policy and have been leaders in formulating Cuba policy, from a legislative perspective, for years.  These members also worked with us hand-in-glove in providing technical guidance and policy suggestions as we continued to formulate the policy and went through multiple drafts.”

“The President and other principals also met with members on both sides of the aisle in this process, and even, additionally, were sharing thoughts with those who have, I think, been advocates — in particular, agricultural trade with Cuba.”

U.S. Treasury Department FAQs[4]

The June 16th FAQs emphasize that the Department’s changes will become effective only upon its issuance of amendments to its Cuban Assets Control Regulation, which are expected in a couple of months.

The upcoming amendments will end individual people-to-people travel. But still permissible will be group people to-people travel: “educational travel not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program that takes place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Travelers utilizing this travel authorization must maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba. An employee, consultant, or agent of the group must accompany each group to ensure that each traveler maintains a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”

“The announced policy changes will not change the authorizations for sending remittances to Cuba.”

Vice President Pence and President Trump’s Speeches Announcing the Change[5]

Trump’s speech was a full-blown condemnation of many Cuban policies and practices and U.S. past and current efforts to change those policies and practices that went far beyond the limited changes previously mentioned. He was introduced by Vice President Pence, who reiterated some of the same rhetorical devices regarding Cuba.

===========================================

[1] White House, National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba (June 16, 2017).

[2] White House, Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy (June 16, 2017).

[3] White House, Background Briefing on the President’s Cuba Policy (June 15, 2017).

[4] U.S. Treasury Dep’t, Frequently Asked Questions on President Trump’s Cuba Announcement (June 16m 2017); U.S. Treasury Dep’t, Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cuba (Jan. 6, 2017).

[5] White House, Remarks by the Vice President on the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba (June 16, 2017); White House, Remarks by President Trump on the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba (June 16, 2017); DeYoung & Wagner, Trump announces revisions to parts of Obama’s Cuba policy, Wash. Post (June 16, 2017); Davis, Trump Reverses Pieces of Obama-Era Engagement with Cuba, N.Y. Times (June 16, 2017); Schwartz, Trump Announces Rollback of Obama’s Cuba Policy, W.S.J. (June 16, 2017).

 

 

U.S. Ends Special Immigration Benefits for Cubans

On January 12, the U.S. announced that it is ending, effectively immediately, the “dry foot” immigration policy for Cubans and the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Policy. Below we will examine these cancelled policies, the U.S. announcement of the policy changes, Cuba’s announcement of the U.S. policy changes and reactions to the changes.

The Cancelled U.S. Policies[1]

The “dry feet” policy has allowed any Cuban who arrived on land (with “dry feet”) at a U.S. point of entry to come into the U.S. and, absent negative factors, qualify for U.S. permanent residency status after one year. This policy originated soon after the early years of the Cuban Revolution before the U.S. in 1967 had ratified the international treaty on refugees and before it had adopted in 1980 a statute implementing that treaty (the Refugee Act of 1980) and when the U.S. assumed that all Cubans arriving in the U.S. were fleeing persecution.

This policy originally included Cubans who were intercepted on the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, in response to the Cuban Government’s legitimate concerns about the personal safety of Cubans attempting to reach the U.S. on unsafe boats, the U.S. (Bill Clinton Administration) and Cuba on September 9, 1994, reached an agreement whereby the U.S. would return to Cuba its nationals who were intercepted at sea, i.e., who had “wet feet.”

The U.S. Cuban Medical Professional Parole Policy, which was adopted on August 11, 2006, allowed “Cuban medical personnel conscripted to study or work in a third country under the direction of the Cuban government to enter the U.S.” It was available to “health-care providers who are sent by the [Cuban government] to work or study in third countries and who . . . are often denied exit permission by the Cuban Government to come to the [U.S.] when they qualify under other established legal channels to migrate from Cuba. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, physical therapists, lab technicians and sports trainers are examples of groups that may qualify for the . . . program.”

U.S. Announcement of the Change[2]

 On January 12 President Obama announced that the U.S. “is ending the so-called “wet-foot/dry foot” policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era.  Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the [U.S.] illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities.  By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.”

The President also said the U.S. is “ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. The [U.S.] and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people.  Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals.”[3]

This termination follows months of negotiations with the Cuban government over the latter’s agreeing to accept returning Cubans.

Nearly simultaneously with the President, Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued a statement: “To the extent permitted by the current laws of our two countries, the [U.S.] will now treat Cuban migrants in a manner consistent with how it treats others; unauthorized migrants can expect to be removed unless they qualify for humanitarian relief under our laws.”  The Department also released a Fact Sheet and the Joint Statement of the two governments about the change. Johnson pointed out that Cuba will take back citizens as long as less than four years have passed between the time the migrant left Cuba and the start of the U.S. deportation proceedings.

These changes do not affect U.S. law regarding “refugees” fleeing persecution in their home countries. Thus, if a Cuban fears “persecution” upon returning to the island, then the individual may apply for asylum in the U.S. as a “refugee” under international and U.S. law if the individual can establish that he or she has a “well-founded fear” of “persecution” in Cuba “due to” his or her “political opinion, race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.” (Statutory words are in quotes.) They may do so in the U.S. or at an U.S. embassy or consulate in another country.[4]

Cuban Announcement of the Change[5]

Welcoming this change, the Cuban Government stated, “After nearly a year of negotiation and encouraged by the restoration of diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, based on mutual respect and political will to strengthen these links and establish new understandings on various issues of common interest, [the two] governments were able to concretize this commitment that should contribute to the normalization of migration relations. . . .”

The U.S. “wet foot-dry foot” policy gave Cubans “preferential and unique treatment not received by citizens of other countries, so it was also an incitement to illegal departures. Its implementation and that of other policies led to migratory crises, kidnapping of ships and aircraft and the commission of crimes, such as trafficking in migrants, trafficking in persons, immigration fraud and the use of violence with a destabilizing extraterritorial impact on other countries of the region [that were] used [for] transit to arrive at American territory.”

This change will meant that the U.S., “consistent with its laws and international norms, shall return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba, consistent with its Laws and international norms, will receive all Cuban citizens, who . . . are detected by the competent authorities of the [U.S.] when they tried to enter or stay irregularly in that country, violating its laws.”

The U.S. “Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals, which was part of the arsenal to deprive the country of doctors, nurses and other professionals of the sector, . . . and an attack against Cuba’s humanitarian and solidarity medical missions in Third World countries that need it so much. This policy prompted Cuban health personnel working in third countries to abandon their missions and emigrate to the [U.S.], becoming a reprehensible practice that damaged Cuba’s international medical cooperation programs.”

It “will also be necessary for the U.S. Congress to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966.”

Unaffected are prior agreements “to prevent illegal departures by sea and to return to Cuba all persons who are intercepted in those acts or who enter the Guantánamo Naval Base. The Government of the United States will continue to guarantee regular migration from Cuba with a minimum of 20,000 people per year.”

“Both governments agreed to apply their migration laws in a non-selective manner and in accordance with their international obligations. They also undertook to prevent risky exits that endanger human life, to prevent irregular migration and to combat violence associated with such manifestations, such as trafficking and trafficking in persons.” In addition, “the parties will promote effective bilateral cooperation to prevent and prosecute those involved in trafficking in persons, as well as crimes associated with migratory movements, which endanger their national security, including the hijacking of aircraft and vessels.”

“In keeping with its international obligations and its legislation, the Government of the Republic of Cuba ratifies its commitment to guarantee regular, safe and orderly migration, as well as to fully comply with this new agreement for which the corresponding measures have been taken internally. It will continue to guarantee the right to travel and emigrate to Cuban citizens and to return to the country, in accordance with the requirements of immigration law.”

The Cuban Government also published the Joint Statement of the two governments as had DHS in the U.S.

At a press conference on January 12 Josefina Vidal, the Cuban Foreign Ministry official responsible for relations with the U.S., said that the joint “agreement recognizes the need to facilitate regular migration for the benefit of both countries, to prevent irregular migration and to prevent risky exits that endanger human life and to combat violence associated with this phenomenon and related offenses, such as trafficking in persons and trafficking in persons.”

Vidal was joined by Gustavo Machin, the Deputy Director of the United States Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, who summarized the joint agreement. He added that “Cuba will accept that persons who were included in the list of 2,746 Cuban citizens who migrated by the port of Mariel in 1980 [“the Mariel boat lift”] and were considered ineligible to remain in the [U.S.], . . and [those] who cannot now be returned will be replaced by other persons and returned to Cuba. Cuba will also consider receiving other Cuban citizens who are currently in the [U.S.], who violated [U.S.] laws and whom U.S. authorities have determined cannot remain in its territory.”

 Reactions to the Change[6] 

As to be expected, U.S. congressional response was mixed.

Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem, VT) said, “This is a welcome step in reforming an illogical and discriminatory policy that contrasted starkly with the treatment of deserving refugees from other countries.” Senator Jeff Flake (Rep., AZ) stated that eliminating the policy “is in our national interest. It is a win for taxpayers, border security, and our allies in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a move that brings our Cuba policy into the modern era while allowing the United States to continue its generous approach to those individuals and refugees with a legitimate claim for asylum.”

Representative Kathy Castor (Dem., FL) and co-author of a bill to end the embargo (H.R.-442), https://dwkcommentaries.com/2017/01/12/representatives-emmer-and-castor-introduce-bill-to-end-embargo-of-cuba/ said, ““The end of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy should be followed by congressional action to lift the outdated economic embargo and improve economic conditions for everyday Cubans. . . . I have witnessed how the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy created an uneven playing field for immigrants from other Caribbean nations who are also seeking the opportunity to pursue the American dream.    I have also seen Cubans who try to come here for short term visits to see family members negatively affected by ‘wet foot/dry foot.’  The change in policy today will help ensure that we can have safer and more orderly migration with all of our Caribbean neighbors.”

Senator Marco Rubio (Rep., FL) said that the incoming Trump administration should reverse the part of the executive order ending the medical parole system and that there should be assurances that Cubans “who arrive here to escape political persecution are not summarily returned to the regime [but] . . . are given a fair opportunity to apply for and receive political asylum.”

Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who emigrated from Cuba as a child, decried the elimination of the medical parole programs, calling it a “foolhardy concession to a regime that sends its doctors to foreign nations in a modern-day indentured servitude.”

According the Senator Robert Menendez (Dem., NJ), “Today’s announcement will only serve to tighten the noose the Castro regime continues to have around the neck of its own people.” He added, “The Obama administration seeks to pursue engagement with the Castro regime at the cost of ignoring the present state of torture and oppression, and its systematic curtailment of freedom.”

A positive view of the change was taken by Peter Kornbluh, a co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba,” which recounts the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuban governments that forged the policy of engagement. He said, “The exceptionalism of the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy toward Cuba is a relic of the Cold War, and this decision by the administration is really its final effort to normalize an area of interaction between Cuba and the United States, migration, that is clearly in need of normalization.”

James Williams, the President of Engage Cuba, the leading coalition of private companies and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba, said these changes are “a logical, responsible, and important step towards further normalizing relations with Cuba. The ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy has been an enduring problem that decades of hostility and isolation failed to solve. This change, which has long had strong bipartisan support, would not have been possible without the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.”

Phil Peters, president of the Cuba Research Center, said that the number of Cubans entering the United States is actually much higher because tens of thousands more overstay their visitor visas and still others migrate legally. “This is a favor to Trump because it’s a tough measure to take, but it’s the right measure to take,” Mr. Peters said. “These are economic migrants coming here that, unlike any other nationality, get a big package of government benefits without any justification.”

Kevin Appleby of the Center for Migration Studies of New York praised the specific change, while questioning the broader rules covering asylum. “The good news is that it ensures equal treatment between Cubans and asylum-seekers from other nations,” he said. “The bad news is that our asylum system is broken and does not afford adequate due process and protection to those who need it.”

Support for this change of policy also was voiced by Pedro Freyre, the chair of the international practice group of the Washington, D.C. office of law firm Akerman LLP. He observed, “This partially closes Cuba’s escape valve and will put pressure on Cubans to move forward more rapidly with reforms.” For years, he said, the last resort for Cubans frustrated with the lack of opportunity on the island has been to hire a “lanchero,” or people smuggler and attempt to reach the U.S. “Now they will have to look inward to see what they can do to fix Cuba.” The same opinion was offered by Jorge Mas, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, who welcomed the change and said it would pressure the Cuban government to improve conditions on the island.

Average Cubans and opponents of the island’s communist leaders said they expected pressure for reform to increase with the elimination of a mechanism that siphoned off the island’s most dissatisfied citizens and turned them into sources of remittances supporting relatives who remained on the island. This point was emphasized by Benjamin Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor and a principal negotiator of the rapprochement, saying, “It’s important that Cuba continue to have a young, dynamic population that are clearly serving as agents of change.”

Last year thousands of Cubans who were seeking to reach the U.S. border with Mexico and to come into the U.S. with “dry feet” created major logistical and financial problems for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and to a lesser extent Colombia and Ecuador. This naturally upset the governments of those countries, especially when their citizens were not eligible for these U.S. immigration policies.

Therefore, these governments welcome the U.S. terminating the policies. El Salvador’s foreign ministry said, “There cannot be migrants of different categories.” Honduras said it would wait to see if the flow of Cubans actually declined.

Cubans who had left their homeland and were now trying to reach U.S. soil when the decision was announced lamented the policy change. “It has fallen on us like a bucket of water because were never thought that at this point and with so little time before Obama leaves office that his government would make this horrible decision,” said Eugenia Diaz Hernandez, a 55-year-old Cuban in Panama whose voyage with her daughter and granddaughter had taken her through Guyana, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. “We are adrift.” Another Cuban, Jose Enrique Manreza, who ran a soda warehouse in Havana, is now stranded in Mexico, after selling his house and belongings in Cuba to raise $10,000 for his journey to reach the U.S. “Imagine how I feel, after I spent six days and six nights running through rivers and jungles in the humidity.”

Conclusion

This policy change, in my opinion, was long overdue. I pray and hope that the incoming Trump Administration will not reverse this change.

==========================================

[1] U.S. Dep’t of State, Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program (Jan. 26, 2009)  See generally posts listed in the “Cuba Migration to U.S.” and “Cuban Medical Personnel & U.S.” sections of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: Cuba.

[2] White House, Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes (Jan. 12, 2017); Dep’t Homeland Security, Statement by Secretary Johnson on the Continued Normalization of Our Migration Relationship with Cuba (Jan. 12, 2017); Dep’t Homeland Security, Fact Sheet: Changes to Parole and Expedited Removal Policies Affecting Cuban Nationals (Jan. 12, 2017); Dep’t Homeland Security, Joint Statement [of U.S. and Cuba regarding changes in U.S. immigration policies] (Jan. 12, 2017); Reuters, Obama Administration Ends Special Immigration Policy for Cubans, N.Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2017); Assoc. Press, Obama Ends Visa-Free Path for Cubans Who Make It to U.S. Soil, N.Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2017); Caldwell & Pace (AP), Obama making change to Cuban immigration policy, Wash. Post (Jan. 12, 2017); DeYoung, Obama ending ‘wet-foot, dry foot’ policy allowing Cubans reaching U.S. soil to stay and receive residency, Wash. Post (Jan. 12, 2017); Davis & Robles, Obama Ends Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas, N.Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2017); Lee, Schwartz & Córdoba, U.S. Ends ‘No-Visa’ Era for Cuban Emigrés, W.S. J. (Jan. 12, 2017).

[3] See posts listed in the “Cuban Medical Personnel & U.S.” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries.com—Topical: CUBA.

[4] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Art. I (A); 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(42)See generally the following dwkcommentaries.com blog posts: Refugee and Asylum Law: Modern Era (July 9, 2011); Refugee and Asylum Law: Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (July 10, 2011); Becoming a Pro Bono Asylum Lawyer (May 24, 2011);Teaching the International Human Rights Course (July 1, 2011).

[5] Cuba Foreign Ministry, Declaration of Revolutionary Government (Jan. 12, 2017); Cuba Foreign Ministry, Joint Declaration Cuba-United States (Jan. 12, 2017); Cuba ratifies its commitment to regular, safe and orderly migration, Granma (Jan. 12, 2017); Assoc. Press, Havana Hails End to Special US Immigration Policy for Cubans, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2017).

[6] Flake Statement on Elimination of Wet Foot, Dry Foot Policy (Jan. 12, 2017); Menendez Statement on Latest Cuba Policy Changes (Jan. 12, 2017); Rubio Comments on Obama Administration Changes to Cuba Policy (Jan. 12, 2017);Castor, Statement on Ending “Wet Foot/DryFoot” (Jan. 12, 2017); Engage Cuba Statement on Administration ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Policy Announcement (Jan. 12, 2017);Ben Rhodes: ‘There is bipartisan support’ for Congress to repeal the Adjustment Act, Diario de Cuba (Jan. 13, 2017); Wheaton, Obama’s shift on Cuban immigrants could put Trump in a bind, Politico (Jan. 12, 2017); Reuters, Cubans on Road to U.S. Distraught About Newly Closed Border, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2017).

 

 

 

U.S. and Cuba Fail To Resolve Complaints About U.S. Immigration Policies

On November 30 in Washington, D.C. the United States and Cuba held their biannual migration talks without progress in resolving major disputes over U.S. immigration benefits for certain Cubans. Immediately afterwards Cuba imposed travel restrictions on Cuban medical personnel.

Summary of the Bilateral Talks[1]

The Cuban delegation reiterated its deep concern over the U.S.’ Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot-dry foot” policy. Cuba insisted that this U.S. policy has encouraged illegal, unsafe and disorderly migration and trafficking in migrants and irregular entries into the U.S. from third countries. This happened most recently in Costa Rica and other Central American countries.[2] Cuba insisted that this policy violates the letter and spirit of their Migratory Agreements in force, by which the U.S. undertook to discontinue the practice of admitting Cuban migrants who reached their territory by irregular means, to ensure a safe and orderly legal migration between the two countries.

The U.S., however, continued to assert that it did not intend to make changes in this immigration policy.

The Cuban delegation also reiterated its objections to the U.S. “Parole Program for Cuban Medical Professionals.” Cuba stressed that this was a reprehensible practice aimed at damaging the Cuban international medical mission programs and deprived Cuba and many needy countries of vital human resources. According to Cuba, this U.S. program also Is inconsistent with the countries’ bilateral Migratory Agreements, hinders the normalization of their migratory relations and generates problems to other countries in the region.

Nevertheless the Cuban delegation emphasized that the talks took place in a friendly and professional environment, that other aspects of migratory relations were evaluated, including the implementation of existing agreements, the issuance of visas for immigrants and temporary visitors, the actions of both parties to address illegal people smuggling and document fraud. The two delegations agreed on the positive results that had occurred at the prior bilateral technical meeting on immigration fraud, held in March 2015 in Havana.

The delegation of Cuba conveyed its willingness to continue these talks and invited a U.S. delegation to do so in Havana in the first half of 2016,

The U.S. Department of State spokesperson was much briefer in comments that had been prepared before the talks. She said, “Today the U.S. and Cuba will hold their biannual migration talks . . .  to discuss continuing implementation of the U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords, which provide for the safe, orderly, and legal migration of Cubans to the U.S.”

The U.S. spokesperson added, “The U.S. “will be proposing . . . a discussions on how both governments can contribute to combating smuggling organizations that take advantage of Cuban migrants. Additionally, we are looking for solutions to the challenge if migrants do not have a valid asylum claim or other legal basis to remain in a country. We recognize that governments have the sovereign right to return them to their home country. Any and all returns should be carried out safely and with dignity.”

New Cuban Exit-Restrictions on Cuban Medical Professionals[3]

After the talks in Washington had been concluded and the U.S. continued refusal to change its Cuban medical professional parole program, the Cuban government in Havana announced that effective December 7 Cuban health professionals in specialties that have been drained by large-scale emigration in recent years will now be required to obtain permission from Cuba’s Health Ministry officials in order to leave the country.

These specialties included anesthesiology, cardiology, pediatrics, neurosurgery, nephrology, obstetrics, gynaecology, orthopaedics, traumatology and neonatology. In reviewing applications for exit visas in these specialties, the Ministry will analyze the proposed dates of travel, the coverage of the individuals’ practice in their absence and guaranteeing the accessibility, quality, continuity and stable functioning of Cuban health services

Conclusion

I agree that special immigration benefits for Cubans arriving on land in the U.S. should be eliminated as soon as possible.[4] Although I am a retired attorney, I have not attempted to determine whether the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this or whether it requires Congress to pass a bill on this subject, but I plan to conduct at least a preliminary legal analysis of this issue for a future post. (I would appreciate comments on this issue by those with more knowledge of the issues.)

I also agree that the U.S. should abolish the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program as discussed in prior posts.[5] Again I have not attempted to determine whether the Obama Administration on its own by executive order or changes in regulations could do this or whether it requires Congress to pass a bill to do this. (I also would appreciate comments on this issue by those with more knowledge of the issues.)

I originally was baffled by the U.S.’ continued assertions that there would be no changes in U.S. immigration policies regarding Cuba because those policies, in my opinion, are so illogical and inappropriate for countries with normal relations. Now I suspect that those assertions were based upon the Administration’s assessment of the difficulty (or impossibility) in obtaining Congressional approval of any necessary legislative changes on these issues and the Administration’s belief or hope that such assertions would discourage Cubans from immediately accelerating their plans or desire to leave Cuba for the U.S.

As a result, I am disappointed that the U.S. has not changed these policies.

==============================================

[1] Migration talks between Cuba and the United States, Granma (Nov. 30, 2015); Press Release issued by the Cuban Delegation to the Round of Migration Talks between Cuba and the United States. Washington, November 30, 2015; U.S. State Dep’t, Daily Press Briefing (Nov. 30, 2015); Whitefield, Despite talks, U.S.-Cuba migration impasse continues, Miami Herald (Nov. 30, 2015).

[2] Cubans in Central America Provide Cuba with an Opportunity To Reiterate Its Objections to U.S. immigration Policies (Nov. 20, 2015); Update on Cuban Migrants in Central America (Nov. 27, 2015).

[3] Assoc. Press, Cuba Imposes Travel Permit for Doctors to Limit Brain Drain, N.Y. Times (Dec. 1, 2015); Declaration of the Revolutionary Government, Granma (Nov. 30, 2015). The Cuban Government’s Declaration also reiterated its complaints about the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act and the dry feet/wet feet policy.

[4] E.g., Results of U.S.-Cuba Discussions After Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana (Aug. 18, 2015).

[5] E.g., New York Times Calls for End of U.S. Program for Special Immigration Relief for Cuban Medical Personnel ( Nov. 23, 2014).

Results of U.S.-Cuba Discussions After Ceremonial Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana

John Kerry & Bruno Rodriguez
John Kerry & Bruno Rodriguez

After the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana on August 14, 2015, Cuba and the U.S. held closed-door discussions. Here is what was disclosed about those discussions at a joint press conference at the city’s Hotel Nacional by Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriquez and from other sources.[1]

Guarded Optimism. Repeating his earlier remarks at the Embassy, Kerry said this was an historic moment as the two countries continued to engage in a cooperative way to address the many issues that had accumulated over the last 50 years. Rodriguez said essentially the same thing.

Empowerment of People. According to Kerry, normalization “will contribute to greater empowerment of . . . the Cuban people to be able to plug into the global economy, to be able to trade more, to be able to move and travel and enjoy the fruits of their labor, to be able to raise the standards of living, and therefore improve their lives.” It will “also help [U.S.] citizens . . . , including students, the private sector to be able to learn more about this country, to be able to establish friendships and connections that will last, hopefully, for a lifetime.”

Improved U.S. Relations with Western Hemisphere. Kerry said normalization “will also remove a source of irritation and division within the hemisphere.” At April’s Summit of the Americas, many countries said “how happy they are that finally the [U.S.] and Cuba are going to move to renew their relationship, because all of them were supportive of and encouraging us to take that kind of step.”

U.S. Embargo (Blockade) Issues. Rodriguez re-emphasized Cuba’s demands for the U.S. to end its embargo (blockade) of the island and for the U.S. to pay compensation for the alleged damages to the Cuban economy caused by that measure. Kerry agreed on the need to end the embargo and emphasized President Obama’s request for Congress to do just that.

According to Reuters and the Associated Press, this issue came up again at a meeting that evening with Cuban dissidents at the official Havana residence of the charge d’affaires. Kerry then said, “the U.S. Congress was unlikely to ever lift a punishing economic embargo on Cuba unless the Communist government improved its human rights [or civil liberties] record.” The AP quoted Kerry as saying, “There is no way Congress will lift the embargo if we are not making progress on issues of conscience.”

After there had been a report of those comments, Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s lead negotiator in negotiations with the U.S., told Reuters, “Decisions on internal matters are not negotiable and will never be put on the negotiating agenda in conversations with the United States. Cuba will never do absolutely anything, not move one millimeter, to try to [obtain the end of the embargo (blockade).]”

U.S. Claims for Expropriated Property. Rodriguez said, “Cuban laws have foreseen the [need for] compensation to owners whose properties were nationalized in the 1960s. And all the owners were compensated in due time with exception of American citizens due to the circumstances . . . in the bilateral relations. I reiterate that the Cuban laws include the possibility to pay compensations.”

This point was reiterated later that day by Cuban diplomat, Josefina Vidal, who said that Cuba is willing to discuss the 5,913 claims from Americans whose properties were nationalized after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. A Cuban law, however, links negotiations on property claims to Cuba’s own claims for damages caused by the embargo and other U.S. aggressions.

Guantanamo Bay Issues. Rodriguez reiterated Cuba’s request or demand for the U.S. to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. Kerry, however, said, “Now, at the moment, there is no current discussion or plan to change the arrangement with respect to Guantanamo, but I can’t tell you what will happen over the years in the future.”

Josefina Vidal stated that she receives the annual U.S. $4,085 rental checks for Guantanamo Bay, which Cuba refuses.to cash because it sees the U.S. occupation of Guantanamo as illegal. Instead each of the checks is stored in Cuban archives “like a historical document.”

Migration issues. According to Kerry, the U.S. supports “safe, legal, orderly migration from Cuba to the [U.S.]” and “full implementation of the existing migration accords with Cuba.” But the U.S. currently has “no plans whatsoever to alter the current migration policy, including the Cuban Adjustment Act, and we have no plans to change the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy.”

Rodríguez responded: “migration waves of people escaping from poverty and military conflicts are well known. Fortunately this does not happen in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.” But we have “serious concerns about the migration processes from [Central American] countries affecting hundreds [of thousands] of small children [fleeing to the U.S.]”

Rodriguez continued, “Migration relations between the U.S. and Cuba . . . should not be politicized. They should be totally normal.” We agree to encourage the “safe and orderly migration between both countries. We also agree on the risks, the dangers, and the need to establish an international and bilateral cooperation against trafficking in persons [and related transnational organized crime].” Cuba also believes “the migration accords in force between the U.S. and Cuba should be strictly respected and that any policy or any practical action which is not in accordance with the spirit and language of the accords should be abolished.” [2] We believe that the freedom of travel is also a fundamental human right.”

U.S. Human Rights Problems. Rodriguez opened his comments at the press conference with complaints of U.S. human rights transgressions — from police shootings of black men to mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base on Cuba that the government says must be returned. “Cuba isn’t a place where there’s racial discrimination, police brutality or deaths resulting from those problems,” Rodriguez said. “The territory where torture occurs and people are held in legal limbo isn’t under Cuban jurisdiction.”

U.S. Presidential Election of 2016. Kerry said he could not imagine “another president, Republican or Democrat, just throwing [the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and steps towards normalization] out the window.” In addition, Kerry thought “that people understand that over 54 years, we had a policy that was isolating us, not changing the world.”

Steering Committee. The two countries have established a steering committee or commission to address the many outstanding issues. This body will meet in Havana for the first time in the first or second week of September.

This body will follow three tracks. The first will encompass areas in which rapid progress is expected, such as cooperation on naval matters, climate change and the environment. The second will tackle more complex topics like the establishment of direct airline flights and U.S. telecommunications deals with Cuba. The last will take on the toughest problems, including the embargo, human rights and each country’s desire to have fugitives returned by the other.

Conclusion

The steering committee’s first tier of issues (the easiest ones) apparently will include agreements for civil aviation landing rights for each country’s airlines, direct mail, environmental protection and battling drug trafficking. (Indeed on August 17 the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama Administration was pushing for the airliner deal by the end of this year.[3])

The third tier of issues (the most difficult) apparently will include ending the U.S. embargo (blockade), which is an issue for the U.S. Congress, not for negotiations with Cuba; U.S. compensation to Cuba for alleged damages to its economy from the embargo (blockade); Cuba’s compensation to U.S. interests for expropriation of their property in Cuba; the future status of Guantanamo Bay; and extradition of fugitives from one country to the other.[4]

I agree that the most difficult set of issues to be resolved by bilateral negotiations are those just mentioned. Indeed, as an outsider, I think they will be impossible to resolve by such negotiations.

On the other hand, I think that the way to resolve these issues is direct and simple in concept: submit these disputes to an impartial third party. There are various ways this could be done. I have suggested that the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands be chosen by the two countries to resolve these disputes: it has been in existence since the late 19th century and has an existing set of rules for such proceedings, which will be lengthy and complicated.

=============================================================

[1] State Dep’t, Press Availability With Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez Parrilla (Aug. 14, 2015); Reuters, Kerry Says Next U.S. President Likely to Uphold New Cuba Policy, N.Y. Times (Aug. 14, 2015); Reuters, Cuba Says Won’t Move ‘One Millimeter’ to Placate Enemies in U.S., N.Y. Times (Aug. 14, 2015); Assoc. Press, A Festive Flag-Raising, Then Tough Talk on US-Cuba Relations, N.Y. Times (Aug. 15, 2015);Reuters, Cuba’s Top Diplomat for U.S. Sees Long Road for Normal Ties, N.Y. Times (Aug. 16, 2015); Cuban Foreign Minister receives John Kerry (+Photos), Granma (Aug. 14, 2015); John Kerry: We are determined to move forward, Granma (Aug. 14, 2015); Cuba and U.S. discuss next steps in developing relations, Granma (Aug. 14, 2015); Cuba and the United States: Some questions about the future, Granma (Aug. 14, 2015); In joint press conference Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and John Kerry, Granma (Aug. 15, 2015).

[2] One of the criticized U.S. immigration policies is the dry foot/wet foot program whereby a Cuban who lands on U.S. land is eligible for special U.S. immigration status while one apprehended at sea is not.. Another is the U.S.’ Cuban medical personnel parole program.

[3] Schwartz, Nicas & Lee, Obama Administration Pushes for Deal to Start Flights to Cuba by Year’s End, W.S.J. (Aug. 17, 2015); Reuters, White House, Cuba Work to Resume Scheduled Commercial Flights, WSJ, N.Y. times (Aug. 17, 2015).

[4] Previous posts have discussed Cuba’s claim for damages from the embargo (blockade); the U.S. claims for compensation for expropriated property; the Cuban lease of Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. and whether Cuba has a legal right to terminate the lease; extradition of fugitives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba’s Reactions to U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation

Determining the overall reactions of Cubans to the December 17th announcement of their country’s embarking on a path of reconciliation with the U.S. is difficult for anyone, much less a non-Cuban living in Minnesota. Nevertheless, I will attempt to do so based upon generally available information filtered through my having been to Cuba on three church mission trips over the past 12 years, my listening to others from my church who have been on other such trips, my talking with Cubans on the island and in the U.S. and following carefully the news on this subject during these years. My analysis also endeavors to put myself in the shoes of Cubans in this historical moment.

This analysis focuses first on the actions of the leaders of the Cuban government and  then on the reactions of the Cuban people.

The Cuban Government

First, the Cuban government over 18 months conducted secret negotiations with the U.S. government to achieve the breakthrough on December 17th when President Raûl Castro announced this important development to the Cuban people.

At that time Castro said, “We need to learn to live together in a civilized way, with our differences,” He also exulted in the release of the three Cuban agents from U.S. prison, saying it was  a cause of “enormous joy for their families and all of our people.” He praised President Obama with these words””This decision by President Obama deserves respect and recognition by our people.”

Subsequently President Raûl Castro has made other statements reiterating his government’s commitment to the process of reconciliation while also emphasizing some of the difficulties in achieving complete normalization.

  • In his December 20th speech to Cuba’s National Assembly, President Castro said, “The Cuban people are grateful [for Mr. Obama’s decision] to remove the obstacles to our relations.” He also stated, “”In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours.”
  • At the January 28th CELAC conference in Costa Rica, President Castro stated, “The reestablishment of diplomatic relations is the beginning of a process of . . . normalization of  bilateral relations, but this will not be possible as long as the [U.S. embargo or] blockade exists, or as long as the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base is not returned, or radio and television broadcasts which violate international norms continue, or just compensation is not provided our people for the human and economic damage that they have suffered.” In essence, he said, “Cuba and the United States must learn the art of civilized co-existence, based on respect for the differences which exist between both governments and cooperation on issues of common interest. . . . [In doing so Cuba will not ] renounce its ideals of independence and social justice, or abandon a single one of our principles, nor cede a millimeter in the defense of our national sovereignty.” Raul Castro continued, “If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States makes no sense.”

Raúl’s brother, Fidel Castro, belatedly voiced his guarded approval. On January 27th, Fidel said,“I do not trust the politics of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this is not, in any way, a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts. Any peaceful or negotiated solution to the problems between the United States and the peoples or any people of Latin America that doesn’t imply force or the use of force should be treated in accordance with international norms and principles. We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries.” His brother, Fidel said, had “taken the relevant steps in line with the prerogatives and authorities awarded to him by the National Assembly and the Cuban Communist Party.”

Moreover, the Cuban government has fulfilled its obligations under the accord with the U.S. to release from its jails and prisons Alan Gross, a U.S. spy and 53 Cuban dissidents.

In addition, Cuba hosted a visit of a delegation of U.S. Senators and Representatives led by Senator Leahy and the January 21-22 diplomatic conference in Havana to discuss additional steps of normalization. Although no significant agreements were reached on specific issues, both governments spoke of the spirit of respect and cooperation that was present in those sessions. The diplomatic conference was discussed in posts before and after the sessions.

The day before this conference, a senior official from Cuba’s foreign ministry told reporters that it was “unfair” to keep Cuba on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and that Cuba “cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations” while Cuba remains on that list.”

After the conference, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, said, “One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in. Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.” She also objected to allowing U.S. diplomats on the island to have liberty to go anywhere until they conducted themselves with total respect for Cuban laws. The last point was in response to the U.S. insistence that its diplomats in Havana have the unrestricted ability to travel within the country and to meet with whomever it wants, including Cuban dissidents. Vidal re-emphasized this position in an extensive February 2nd interview in Granma, Cuba’s only newspaper. 

The Cuban People [2]

As there are no national public opinion polls in Cuba, assessing such opinion relies on a melange of sources.

Immediately after the December 17th announcement of the detente, Granma reported that the Cuban people were “overjoyed to the two great events of the day, year and century: the return to the country of three Cuban heroes who were previously incarcerated in U.S. prisons, and the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.”

The day after the announcement a Western journalist reported that “many Cubans expressed hope . . .  that it will mean greater access to jobs and the creature comforts taken for granted elsewhere, and lift a struggling socialist economy where staples like meat, cooking oil and toilet paper are often hard to come by. That yearning, however, was tempered with anxiety. Some fear a cultural onslaught, or that crime and drugs, both rare in Cuba, will become common along with visitors from the United States. There is also concern that the country will become just another Caribbean destination.”

Another western journalist, William Neuman, this last Christmas made a 17-hour car trip around the island and observed that in his “conversations with Cubans about the lifting of parts of the American embargo and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, what they talked about most was that they hoped it would breathe life into the economy and eventually lead to a better standard of living.”

In early January an Associated Press journalist interviewed 10 of the 53 Cuban dissidents who were released from jail or prison by the Cuban government as part of the December 17th announcement, and eight of them “expressed confidence the decrease in tensions with the U.S. will improve life in Cuba and make their activism easier. Only one had a negative view of the deal.”

More recently, on January 23rd in Havana U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson hosted a meeting in Havana of certain Cuban dissidents, as discussed in a prior post. Some of those in attendance were opposed to the detente while others supported it. (The Cuban government was very unhappy over this meeting.)

On February 3rd a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing about the detente. Four of the witnesses were the following Cuban dissidents. 

  • Berta Soler, President of Cuban Ladies in White, testified about the continued arrests and harassment of dissidents by the Cuban government.
  • Mrs. Miriam Levia, a human rights advocate and independent journalist, testified, “While many dissidents and opponents support the new approach of the American Administration in the relations with the Cuban government, others do not. Nevertheless, the objective is the same: defense of human rights, democratic values, and friendship and assistance to the Cuban people. Likewise in the opposition and dissidence, we all seek the wellbeing and progress of the Cuban people and our country.” She added, “Reestablishing relations will grant a better environment for the American diplomats in Cuba, their contacts with the Cuban population and the civil society, and their ability to access a direct channel to the national officials, among other issues. Normalizing the 56 years long estrangement will take a long time. But there is now a unique opportunity to assist the Cuban people and it must not be wasted. . . .The American policy towards the Cuban government has disserved it for 56 years, so it must be changed. The embargo must be lifted for the benefit of our peoples and nations.”
  • Manuel Cuesta Morúa, representing the Progressive Arc and Coordinator of New Country, testified, “Do not believe that the change in U.S. policy will bring us freedom, which would be the best outcome. The freedom of Cuba is exclusively a matter for Cubans. But believe me, that new policy will give us better options for us to obtain it by ourselves.”
  • Rosa Maria Paya, a member of Christian Liberation Movement and Daughter of Slain Dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardińas, testified,  ““Your government must move forward and extend a hand to the people and government of Cuba, but with the request that the hands of Cuban citizens not be tied. Otherwise, the opening will only be for the Cuban government, and will be another episode of an international spectacle full of hypocrisy. A spectacle that reinforces oppression, and plunges the Cuban people deeper into the lie and total defenselessness, seriously damaging the desire of Cubans for the inevitable changes to be achieved peacefully. The pursuit of friendship between the United States of America and Cuba is inseparable from the pursuit of liberty. We want to be free and be friends.” God bless and protect our peoples.”

This January David Adams of Reuters reported that “most Cubans firmly oppose U.S. policies and the long economic embargo . . .  but admire U.S. culture. Many have relatives living in the United States, Cuban teenagers listen more to rap and hip hop than to home-grown son and salsa, and baseball is the country’s most popular sport.”  Adams cites three examples:

  • Miguel Barnet, a poet and anthropologist and a member of Cuba’s powerful Council of State,  “fondly recalls his teenage years in the 1950s, attending one of Havana’s elite private schools, singing in the Episcopal church choir and performing in American musicals.‘I love North American culture, I was shaped by it.’”
  • The official historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal, added, “We never burned an American flag in Cuba. We Cubans don’t have our hands soaked in American blood. There is no anti-American hatred here.”
  • Camilo Martinez, the operator of a small Havana bed and breakfast, said, “Everyone wants to see what the future will bring. They can taste the consumer benefits in the future. No one can stop this. Everyone wants to work with people in the United States, we all have friends and relatives there …. Everyone can see the future: McDonald’s, Home Depot, Walmart.”

A first-time visitor to Cuba reported in January  that If you ask [Cubans] about politics, the response often starts with a deep breath or shrug. Cubans are mostly interested in economic improvement, one invariably hears, and an intangible ‘normal’ in their lives.”

Another measure of the Cuban people’s desperate economic conditions and their reactions to the detente was a post-December 17th surge in the number of U.S. Coast Guard interdictions of Cubans attempting to reach the U.S. illegally in rafts. They apparently were motivated in part by fear that the detente would mean an end to the U.S. “wet foot/dry foot” immigration policy allowing Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain in the country.

Conclusion

The Cuban government clearly has concluded that an accord with the U.S. was in Cuba’s national interest. It potentially reduces, if not eliminates, a feared hostile U.S. intervention. It should lead to increased U.S. investment in Cuba and increased U.S. tourism, all benefiting the Cuban economy and the economic lives of many of its citizens. Such positive impacts will be enhanced by the anticipated abolition of the U.S. embargo or blockade of the island. These considerations for Cuba presumably were enhanced by the increasing economic troubles, if not possible  implosion, of Venezuela, which has been a major Cuban benefactor.

On the other hand, the Cuban government has recognized, as has the U.S., that there are many difficult problems that have accumulated over the last 50-plus years that must be addressed, but will not be easy to resolve.

I concur in the observations of the previously mentioned journalists that most Cubans have warm feelings toward the American people and culture and are hopeful that the accord will result in improvements in their daily lives.

=========================================

[1] Reuters, Cuba’s Castro Hails New Era of Living Together with U.S., N.Y. Times (Dec. 18, 2014); Cave, Raúl Castro Thanks U.S., but Reaffirms Communist Rule in Cuba, N.Y. Times (Dec. 20, 2014);  Reuters, Cuba Says U.S.Must Respect Its Communist System, N.Y. Times (Dec. 20, 2014); Assoc. Press, Cuba Digs in Heels on Concessions as Part of Better US Ties, N.Y. Times (Jan. 25, 2015); Burnett, Fidel Castro Shares Views on Warming of Relations, N.Y. Times (Jan. 27, 2015); President Raúl Castro speaks to third CELAC Summit in Costa Rica, Granma (Jan. 29, 2015); Assoc. Press, Raul Castro: US Must Return Guantanamo for Normal Relations, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2015); Reuters, Raul Castro Warns U.S. Against Meddling in Cuba’s Affairs, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2015), Escobar, The blockade has not ended, Granma (Feb. 2, 2015) (extensive interview of Josefina Vidal); Reuters, Cuba Sounds Warning Ahead of Next Round of U.S. Talks, N.Y. Times (Feb. 3, 2015); Reuters, Exclusive–U.S. Pressing Cuba to Restore Diplomatic Ties before April: Officials, N.Y.Times (Feb. 6, 2015).

[2] Assoc. Press, Hope and Some Fear in Cuba Amid Thaw with US, N.Y. Times (Dec. 18, 2014); Hernandez, Cuba overjoyed, Granma (Dec. 18, 2014); Assoc. Press, Coast Guard Reports Surge in Cubans Trying to Reach Florida, N.Y. Times (Jan. 5, 2015); Neuman, Cuban Road Trip: Reporter’s Notebook, N. Y. Times (Jan. 7, 2015); Assoc. Press, Freed Cuban Dissidents Praise Detente, Pledge Push for Change, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2015); Adams, Cubans Look Fondly to U.S. as Talks to Resume Relations Start, N.Y. Times (Jan.21, 2015); Assoc. Press, For First-Time Visitor, Havana Is Charming-And Complicated, N.Y. Times (Jan. 24, 2015); DeYoung, As normalization talks begin, Cubans begin anticipating challenges to come, Wash. Post (Jan. 24, 2015); Miroff, Fear of immigration policy change triggers new wave of Cuban migrants, Wash. Post (Jan. 27, 2015); U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Hearing: Understanding the Impact of U.S. Policy changes on Human Rights and Democracy in Cuba (Feb. 3, 2015).