Time to Revisit Our Cuba Policies

Yesterday Fareed Zakaria reported on Cuba’s new found petroleum reserves – estimated from 5 billion to 20 billion barrels – and our inability to profit, or even benefit, due to our long-standing embargo.

Predictably, there’s a global scramble for Havana. A Chinese-constructed drilling rig is owned by an Italian oil company and is on its way to Cuban waters. Spain’s Repsol, Norway’s Statoil and India’s ONGC will use the 53,000 ton rig to explore for oil. Petro giants from Brazil, Venezuela, Malaysia and Vietnam are also swooping in.

Of course, we can’t partake because we don’t trade with Cuba. But what about at least making sure there are some safety procedures that are followed that would protect the American coastline? You see at 5,500 feet below sea level, these oil rigs off Cuba will go even deeper than the Deepwater Horizon rig that blew up on our coast last year, and the coast of Florida, remember, is just 60 miles away from Cuban waters.

This embargo of course stems from our national security strategy of containing Communism and it’s influence in the Western Hemisphere. It was passed 52 years ago. Fast forward to today, and that same policy is preventing us from both profiting from Cuba’s oil wealth and even consulting and lending expertise in the event of a disaster – or to help prevent one.

Zakaria says,

But the antique policies remain – antique and failed policies. They were designed, you recall, to force regime change in Cuba. Well, the Castros have thrived for five decades, using American hostility as a badge of Cuban nationalism. All the embargo has done is to weaken the Cuban people, keep them impoverished and cut them off from the world.

Cuba has an Internet penetration rate of just 14 percent. So only one out of seven people can use YouTube. Only one out of 20 Cubans has a mobile phone. And now we will stand silently and watch as other countries drill for oil, reap the benefits and endanger our coastline. But, hey, we’re making sure that Cuban communism stays contained.

It is past due to revisit our Cuba policies, and not just our trade embargo. Why exactly is Cuba designated as a state sponsor of terror? Keep in mind that designation is only given to four countries in the world: Syria (since 1979), Cuba (1982), Iran (1984) , and Sudan (1993). Countries are designated as such when they have been “determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” In fact, the State Department “Country Reports on Terrorism 2010” confuses as much as it explains.

The Government of Cuba maintained a public stance against terrorism and terrorist financing in 2010, but there was no evidence that it had severed ties with elements from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and recent media reports indicate some current and former members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) continue to reside in Cuba. Available information suggested that the Cuban government maintained limited contact with FARC members, but there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support. In March, the Cuban government allowed Spanish Police to travel to Cuba to confirm the presence of suspected ETA members.

If limited contact with the FARC is sufficient to earn this designation, then certainly Venezuela and Ecuador deserve to join Cuba.

Cuba continued to denounce U.S. counterterrorism efforts throughout the world, portraying them as a pretext to extend U.S. influence and power.

Add to the list, well, just about everyone.

Cuba has been used as a transit point by third-country nationals looking to enter illegally into the United State. The Government of Cuba is aware of the border integrity and transnational security concerns posed by such transit and investigated third country migrant smuggling and related criminal activities. In November, the government allowed representatives of the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a series of airport security visits throughout the island.

Mexico, with its two-thousand-mile shared border with the U.S. is the largest transit point of third-country nationals, both legal and illegal. Furthermore, Cuba IS cooperating with the TSA investigations.

Cuba did not pass new counterterrorism legislation in 2010. The Cuban government continued to aggressively pursue persons suspected of terrorist acts in Cuba… Cuba did not sponsor counterterrorism initiatives or participate in regional or global operations against terrorists in 2010.

It is hard to determine if the DOS is making the case for the designation or not. If this is their case, the designation – and the embargo – should go.

As a point of comparison, this is part of the department’s report on Iran.

Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2010. Iran’s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy.

In 2010, Iran remained the principal supporter of groups implacably opposed to the Middle East Peace Process. The Qods Force, the external operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is the regime’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad. Iran provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has assisted Hizballah in rearming, in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of Hizballah fighters at camps in Iran.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Latin America

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