U.S.-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century: A Follow-on Chairman's Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations
By Cochaired By Bernard W. Aronson and William D. Rogers.
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2001, 92 pp.
The Elián González affair showed how intractable and irrational the whole U.S.-Cuban relationship has become, how piecemeal measures intended to improve Cuban-American relations often worsen the situation, and how much U.S. policy toward Cuba has become captive to interest-group pressure. This Council on Foreign Relations report is a classic example of the tinkering approach. Incorporating both conservative and liberal views, it calls for increased dialogue and recommends that issues such as outstanding U.S. property claims be addressed now. It is further hamstrung by the fact that it accepted as a baseline the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which sustained and tightened the long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba. It could not therefore confront the central issue of sanctions -- the major obstacle to a healthy future U.S.-Cuban relationship and a fool-proof propaganda weapon for Fidel Castro. Yet even with this debilitating concession to Congress' extraterritorial pretensions and Cuban-American political clout, the report is burdened with objections from its members and observers. Most notable is the strenuous dissent by Jesse Helms' spokesperson, Marc Thiessen, who argues that it does not go far enough in isolating the Castro regime. The irony, of course, is that current policy does not substantially cut off what really keeps Castro afloat economically -- the remittances from the very Cuban exiles whose representatives in Congress diligently block liberalization of U.S. policy. And U.S.-Cuban immigration agreements further aid Castro by helping remove from Cuba precisely those most willing to oppose him. Facing a contentious issue where courageous leadership has been conspicuously lacking, this report is yet another lost opportunity to shake current policy out of its festering rut.