The Cuba Deal: How Raúl Castro Duped Obama
2/27/2015 @ 2:14PM
GUEST POST WRITTEN BY Néstor T. Carbonell
Mr. Carbonell is an international affairs consultant and author of “And
The Russians Stayed: The Sovietization of Cuba.”
On December 17, following a year and a half of secret negotiations with
the Castro regime, President Obama trumpeted what many have called a
historic breakthrough—a new course to normalize relations with Cuba.
The course, however, is not really new. It was pursued by 10 previous
American presidents who tried to engage Fidel Castro directly or through
intermediaries both during and after the Cold War. The desired
rapprochement failed mainly because the Cuban dictator would not agree
to stop his subversive activities and open up the island, or offer a
modicum of respect for human rights.
What’s new about President’s Obama’s détente is that he is engaging Raúl
Castro—not his ailing brother Fidel—and has not established any
preconditions for normalization.
How different is Raúl from Fidel? He is certainly less charismatic and
verbose than his older brother, but more focused and disciplined. While
Fidel roused and manipulated the masses, Raúl, with Soviet assistance,
quietly bolstered the armed forces and built the totalitarian
infrastructure of the regime. Despite their contrasting physique and
personality, they both share a visceral hatred of the United States,
cold-blooded ruthlessness and mastery of deceit.
Fidel’s duplicity, combined with a fair amount of histrionics, is well
known. He bragged about tricking the Cuban people, who fell for his
promise to restore democracy, and unabashedly proclaimed in December
1961: “I am a Marxist-Leninist and will be one until the last day of my
Fidel also was able to dupe U.S. presidents and senior government
officials into believing that he would be amenable to a fair settlement
of all outstanding disputes. Even David Rockefeller, a strong advocate
of engagement who had a good rapport with Fidel, felt that he could help
strike a deal with him.
Heading an impressive delegation of foreign policy heavyweights,
Rockefeller presented to Fidel Castro in February 2001 a proposal
developed by the Council on Foreign Relations to normalize U.S.
relations with Cuba. After five hours of marathon discussions which
ended at 4AM, Fidel rejected the “half-measures” proposed by the Council
and demanded the unconditional lifting of the U.S. embargo without
acquiescing to any significant economic and political reforms. A
disillusioned Rockefeller wrote in his memoirs: “Castro harangued us
continuously throughout the night…I think there is little possibility
for change while Castro remains in power…”
But that was Fidel Castro. What about with Raúl now calling the shots
and posing as a pragmatist? Even though Raúl had only introduced
non-systemic, revocable reforms to alleviate the appalling living
conditions on the island, Obama thought that he could be lured or tamed
with goodwill gestures and concessions. So shortly after taking office
in 2009, the President relaxed restrictions on travel and remittances to
Cuba and voted in favor of inviting the Cuban regime to rejoin the
Organization of American States, only to be rebuffed by both Castro
Raúl then played the hostage trick on Obama, and it worked. He arrested
Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was distributing computer equipment
to the Jewish community in Havana to gain access to the internet, and
sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Fearing that Gross, in poor health,
might die behind bars in Cuba, the President accepted the swap proposed
by Castro—Gross for three convicted Cuban spies, including one serving a
life sentence in the U.S. for conspiring to commit murder. Trying to
balance out the uneven swap, Castro released several dozen political
prisoners, a bargaining chip he uses when it suits his purpose.
To conduct the secret negotiations, which were broadened beyond the
exchange of prisoners, Castro assigned two of his sharpest KGB-trained
intelligence officers, fluent in English and well versed in diplomacy as
a cover for espionage in the U.S., Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machin.
The deal they were able to extract from the American delegation is so
one-sided in favor of the Castro regime that it could well be called the
Indeed, from a weak position, with Cuba in dire straits and facing the
possible loss of its Venezuelan financial lifeline, Castro got pretty
much what he wanted. And Obama, who surrendered the U.S. leverage of
continued economic pressure on the Cuban regime and support for the
dissident movement, got virtually nothing in return.
The U.S. will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba while repression
continues on the island, and will ship telecommunications technology
with no assurance that censorship will end. In addition, the Castro
regime will receive more dollars from U.S. “purposeful visits,” which
will flow to the owners of the tourist industry in Cuba: the military.
But for Castro, more important than those concessions is the removal of
Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorist states which would open doors to
the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions. His
regime gets this provision despite smuggling 240 tons of heavy weapons
to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, maintaining close links
to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and harboring dozens of fugitive
terrorists and criminals, including one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted
Terrorists, Assata Shakur.
To meet Castro’s ultimate requirement for normalization of relations,
President Obama promised to seek congressional approval for the
unconditional lifting of the U.S. trade embargo. This would open the
floodgates for U.S. investments in bankrupt Cuba, but in a subordinate
position to the only authorized partner—the Cuban government—which
controls the economy, hires and fires the labor force, and pockets 92
cents on every dollar of each worker’s salary. Not quite Deng Xiaoping’s
model of capitalism.
Not content with that, the cagey Raúl Castro surprised the White House
last month with two additional demands that did not surface during the
negotiations: payment by the U.S. to Cuba of reparations for the alleged
damages caused by the embargo (his claim is for $100 billion), and the
return to Cuba of the U.S. Naval Base of Guantanamo. Moreover, he
declared that he will not change his Socialist system—not one iota, he
emphasized. So democracy, human rights and free enterprise are out.
The Cold War may be over but Raúl Castro seems intent on reigniting it.
Last year, he offered Putin an espionage listening post on the island,
and is currently training and equipping Venezuela’s repressive forces in
support of President Maduro’s plan to Cubanize his country.
The only way out of the President’s one-sided deal with Cuba is not to
give the deceitful Cuban ruler a blank check, but to insist on a
step-by-step quid pro quo that would safeguard the interests and
security of the U.S., as well as the long-fought aspirations of
Source: The Cuba Deal: How Raúl Castro Duped Obama –
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