Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality

The next round of US-Cuban discussions is scheduled for January 21 and 22, a week from today, in Havana.

Almost a month ago, Pres. Obama gave his Statement on Cuba Policy Changes,

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests,

thereby implying that the Cuban communist regime had evolved and the U.S. had not.

No matter how you look at it, Cuba is firmly footed in a Cold War time capsule. Jason and Yleem Poblete, writing in the Wall Street Joournal, offer a brief list: They start with espionage,

In May 2003, 14 Cuban diplomats were declared persona non grata by the State Department and expelled from the U.S. for “unofficial activities,” which is diplomatic speak for espionage. One was the first secretary of the Cuban Interests Section, Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera. His wife, Josefina Vidal, also a first secretary and known Cuban intelligence officer, left with her husband. In exchange for her “heroic” exploits on behalf of the Revolution—yes, they still talk this way in Havana—the Castro regime rewarded Vidal by placing her in charge of North American Affairs or the “United States Division” as Cuba’s Foreign Ministry refers to it.

In her capacity as chief anti-American operative, Vidal traveled to the U.S. in May 2014 to meet with State Department officials. Her interlocutor? Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, whom President Obama has chosen to lead a high-ranking delegation to Havana this month for normalization talks.

Indeed, Vidal will most likely head Cuban delegation at the next round of US-Cuban discussions on January 21 and 22 in Havana.

The Pobletes also ask,

Is there a different leadership in Cuba—one that espouses freedom and no longer threatens the U.S. or undermines its interests and objectives? Absolutely not.

Under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 and which could be viewed as also codifying the Eisenhower decision to sever ties with Cuba, the legal criteria for normalization of relations, including the political reward of full diplomatic recognition, have clearly not been met.

That is particularly true in the area of human rights, where the fate of 53 prisoners released remains firmly at the whims of the regime, and where any multinational who employs Cubans pays the government an amount in dollars stipulated by the government, which in turn pays the employee no more than the maximum legal wage (approx. $20 a month) in pesos.

Since Cuba has a long history of defaulting on its debts with foreigners, you may also want to recall what happens to owners of multinationals who did business with Cuba and tried to collect. Most of the businessmen mentioned in my column still remain in jail.

But if you really want a blast from the Cold War past,

Months before President Obama announced on Wednesday that he is seeking to do away with decades of U.S. economic sanctions against the communist regime in Cuba, Russia concluded a security deal with Havana aimed at bolstering intelligence and military ties to the island dictatorship.

The Russia-Cuba agreement was announced May 16 when a memorandum was signed in Moscow establishing a joint working group between Russia’s Security Council and the Cuban Commission for National Security and Defense.

The agreement’s announcement overlapped Vidal’s trip to the U.S. to meet with Jacobsen.

Will the Statement’s aftermath erode Russian influence with Havana? I wouldn’t hold my breath on it – especially not with Putin at the helm.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.