Socialist Cuba is worried, as it should be. After decades of progressive hardline rule, the island is an economic and political basket case. Faced with an alleged transfer of power from a dictator to another, the situation for the hardliners is especially dire. Things must be horrible in Havana for the Cuban Foreign Minister to request a same-day meeting with Secretary of State Tillerson. That is, well, odd. Admittedly out of character for the Havana progressives. An act of desperation? Possibly. Read on.
The only newspaper allowed in Cuba, the Communist Party mouthpiece, Granma, reports with its vintage socialist editorial flair that the meeting was “respectful.” As if it would be anything but? The Communist Party also says that Cuba’s foreign minister assured Secretary Tillerson that Cuba had nothing to do with injuries sustained by more than 20 U.S. government personnel, that it abides by the Vienna Convention, and that it has cooperated and will continue to assist.
The Communist Party of Cuba has caused more damage to the people of Cuba than Hurricane Irma, or any natural disaster ever could. And the likely reason why this trip even happened is that Cuban progressives in Cuba, and those who support them in the United States, are extremely anxious about two things: the Americans closing the embassy and the new sanctions regulations under review by the Trump administration. It is a matter of regime survival.
In a few months, Cuba will supposedly be led by someone other than a Castro. The socialist elites are scrambling. There will be winners, but many more losers. A vital supplier of petroleum, Venezuela, is in shambles. Many other pet projects of the socialist experiment are also on life support such as Cuban medical diplomacy, more aptly called, indentured service to the state. Hurricane Irma was the last thing a communist need it right now.
When I first inked a blog piece on August 26 about the alleged sonic attacks on U.S. government personnel in Cuba, I wrote: “…[t]emporarily shutting down Post Havana until the safety of U.S. government personnel can be assured will send a strong message to the Cuban government to get its act together and, possibly, serve as an opportunity to bring Cuba to the negotiating table,” so that the Trump administration could continue to re-orient U.S. policy toward Cuba. That was before President Trump’s excellent speech at the United Nations.
The combination of President Trump’s refocus of U.S. policy toward Cuba early in his administration, the review of Cuba policy, the rejection of the Obama approach, the ongoing regulatory review, Cuba’s failure to keep U.S. government personnel safe, and President’s Trump U.N. speech has accomplished the equivalent of shuttering Post Havana. I also think the pressure on Venezuela is starting to overwhelm Venezuela’s Havana masters.
Fidel Castro’s ashes must be bursting to get out of the rock in Santiago. The tyrant and murderer was a master public relations guru; especially when it came to relations with Uncle Sam. The last thing Fidel would’ve done was dispatch a ministry secretary to grovel, yes, grovel to the Americans to please keep the embassy opened. But that is what Cuba did yesterday. After decades of studying Latin American politics, especially Cuba’s long march that started in 1959, I cannot recall such a spectacle. I doubt we will again.
The Trump administration seems to be doing its part to get the bottom of the matter; it’s time the Congress did the same with robust oversight hearings to help the administration figure out what happened to U.S. government personnel in Cuba. And, more importantly, why the Obama administration said nothing about the matter to the incoming new team.
Do I think the Cubans were involved in the targeting, an “attack” or other purpose, of U.S. government personnel? Undoubtedly, yes. Cuba knew or should’ve known. Everything is monitored in Cuba, mainly when certain foreigners are concerned such as Americans, Canadians, and a few others. But there seems to be much more to this story, and it will take a lot more time to decipher. And, at the end of this process, what indeed happened may need to remain unknown for quite some time. Where other see strength, I see weakness and fear from this regime (see the embedded video below).
I still believe the embassy should be temporarily closed, or its staff significantly reduced, until the safety of all Americans can be reasonably assured. Why reasonably? Because Cuba remains a totalitarian police state and there will always be dangers for Americans on Cuban soil so long as these people control the government. The Trump administration can use this opportunity to keep put U.S. interests first, such as advising Cuba that meddling in Venezuela is a terrible idea. In other words, get back to the U.S. statutory transition roadmap that the Obama administration ignored and, sometimes, violated.