Cuba-U.S.: States of opinion, will and absurdity

In his latest article in Progreso Weekly, “Behind the Atlantic Council’s Cuba survey,” Jesús Arboleya, in addition to taking a historic overview of the institution in order to show that it is one of the U.S. power elites’ most prestigious means of political consultation, emphasizes that this particular survey distances itself from the usual purposes of reference and points to a reality that must change the political “behavior” toward the island.


The author states that “As it studies U.S. public opinion, the Atlantic Council survey has a peculiarity that distinguishes it from its other projects: it does not attempt to ‘educate’ policy makers in a specific problem but to influence their behavior regarding that problem.”

And he ends by stating: “Any moderately informed observer can see that what’s happening implies qualitative changes in the debate over Cuba and that we’re in the presence of a concerted action by important groups of power that are interested in at least reevaluating policy toward Cuba and updating it to the new circumstances.”

In contemporary politology, it is common to generate states of opinion before making important decisions. For several months now, numerous voices have expressed the need to change the types of rapprochement to Cuba and the policies that must be used.

Ever since President Obama himself said that “we have to be creative. And we have to be thoughtful. And we have to continue to update our policies [toward Cuba],” entrepreneurs, researchers and the Atlantic Council itself have manifested, in a direct manner, the need to change the policy and open a path for talks with the Cuban government.

However, these intentions do not materialize visibly in the government’s policy toward the island. The State Department itself, with respect to the growing international and domestic rejection of the embargo, recently stated that it defends the embargo against Cuba because it is “an important tool to spur change on the island.”

On the other hand, the directives on what to do (and not to do) with regard to Cuba proposed by the Capitol Hill Cubans continue without variation since 2009 and are fundamental to understand how the agents of power manifest themselves and why certain conducts are assumed.

This document incites to a policy of total change, exhorts readers not to trust in the Cuban government’s willingness to change and its reforms, and it drafts a totally meddlesome strategy of regime change that ignores, in each and every one of its postulates, the will of the Cuban people.

Explicitly, it celebrates the economic sanctions as an element to stimulate changes and the support to the domestic dissidence as economic and technological. And while it posits that the trips by academicians, intellectuals and artists are a good tool for ideological penetration, it stresses that “the trips to the island and unlimited remittances by Cuban-Americans should not be permitted.”

The Cuban government has stated its willingness to dialogue on the basis of mutual respect. President Obama has spoken of the need to review policies. Sectors of the Cuban-American business community, with remarkable influence, have expressed their desire to participate and invest in Cuba.

The Atlantic Council demonstrates that a broad majority of North Americans sees the policy that rules relations with their small neighbor as outdated and prehistoric. The European Union is sitting down to converse with Cuba in search of a new policy that will attract it to the island, leaving behind the radicalism of the “Common Position.”

So what are they waiting for?

Before the growing state of favorable opinion toward Cuba rises a wall of impossibilities. The State Department maintains that the embargo is a weapon for change — which places the official policy in an evident position of favoring a regime change — maintains Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism and takes no visible steps toward the objective demanded by most citizens.

The cases of the Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States and the U.S. contractor Alan Gross have become a motive of confrontation between the two governments. Not even the fact that Fernando González will soon be released after serving his sentence in full foretells the possibility of achieving a solution medium-term.

Or maybe it does. Sometimes, silence is good news, and the Cuban press, normally apologetic and self-congratulatory, maintains a suspicious silence over Fernando’s impending release.

Let us also remember that Secretary of State John Kerry said that “we are currently engaged in some discussions regarding that, which I’m not at liberty to go into in any kind of detail.”

On the other hand, the island has had to suspend its consular services at its Interests Office in Washington due, above all, to the fact that the banks face innumerable regulations, imposed by Cuba’s inclusion on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism and by the Helms-Burton Law. The only way out of this situation is to remove Cuba from a list where it doesn’t belong and to encourage full and fluid relations between the two governments.

Paradoxically, in the face of the growing state of favorable opinion, a certain schizophrenic behavior is evident. We cannot believe that the government of the United States is ignoring an entity like the Atlantic Council, and we find it incomprehensible that it maintains a policy of open hostility and a strategy of regime change, as well as meddlesome conditions for a dialogue.

U.S. attitude toward Cuba seems to be imbued with absurdity, rather than good intentions. To generate favorable states of opinion is not sufficient to revert the tendency to negate any Cuban proposal. It is essential that the U.S. government take steps that permit an understanding and diplomatic flow that will lead to a normalization between two countries that perforce have common interests.

Policy is like an iceberg. The visible tip is always the minimal expression of what is hidden. Let us hope that the incongruous policy expressed by the media does not mean that the hold that an anti-Cuban right maintains on U.S.-Cuba relations will be permanent. Let us hope that the state of favorable opinion is the huge occult mass that brings — although with many reservations — some hope to a panorama badly eroded by spurious interests.

Jorge de Armas is a political analyst for Cuban-Americans for Engagement (CAFE).

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