In a recently declassified State Department document secured via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a State Department Congressional briefer offers a small glimpse at early Clinton administration efforts to implement and enforce the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD or Helms-Burton).
Keep in mind that President Bill Clinton signed Helms-Burton in March 1996. This private Congressional briefing appears to have taken place in June, just a few months after Clinton signed the measure into law. I’ll publish the document in the near future and while it is heavily redacted, it makes for interesting reading.
Here is a flavor of what the State Department official told the Congress. The Helms-Burton law is,
[s]tarting to discourage foreign investors and this will likely dampen prospects for economic growth [emphasis added]
This particular comment is sure to give political heartburn to current advocates of Cuba engagement:
It is more important now than ever before to maintain concerted international pressure to bring about a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba. The European Union is maintaining a firm position that it will negotiate a cooperation agreement only if the Cuban government launches a process of fundamental political and economic change. They are maintaining this position despite our profound differences over the Helms-Burton law. We will be looking for ways to expand efforts to press Castro. [emphasis added]
A little more copy from the Congressional briefing:
Our Cuba policy positions us to exert maximum pressure for a peaceful democratic transition on the island while protecting our legitimate national security interests … [i]n order to send the strongest possible message to Castro, the elites around him, and our allies [emphasis added]
In a few days I’ll post additional information from the document, including a few specific steps that the Clinton Administration took to defend American interests with regards to Cuba, especially property rights. Yes, you read right. The (Bill) Clinton State Department moved quickly to warn Europeans, Canadians, and other foreign nationals that, among other things, trafficking in stolen properties that used to belong to Americans, and others, is a crime. The current occupant of the White House is not even trying. Nor did, to our knowledge,Secretary of State (Hillary) Clinton.
“Jason,” you may be asking yourself, “It was 1996. It is ancient history, why are you bothering us with this now?” A lot of reasons, primarily because U.S. law has not been amended with respect to the property issue or the policy of support of the Cuban people and economic pressure on the regime.
Where there is a will there is way. If President Clinton and his foreign policy team made the effort to enforce U.S. laws and prevent unlawful trafficking on confiscated lands, so should this crowd. The United States does plenty of political, economic, and military favors for our Canadian and European allies. Cuba is not a heavy lift. It is not an important economy or otherwise lucrative market. At least not yet. Canada, the E.U., and Cuba’s other trading partners should reciprocate on this small, albeit important matter for the United States.
President Obama, and the legions of Washington, DC-based special interest groups, think tanks, lawyers and lobbyists that support him, are not interested in enforcing sanctions, advancing U.S. interests, or even helping the people of Cuba. In some cases, the President is clearly violating U.S. law and may be encouraging persons subject to U.S. law to do the same. In fact a few of regulations issued this year are out of harmony with statutory grant of authority. Congress needs reign them all in.
More to come.