Cuban-U.S. Negotiations Will Fail

Normalizing Relations Has No Chance
      Roberta Jacobson, America's very capable Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, made history yesterday when she landed in Havana. She is the highest U. S. delegate to go to Cuba for serious diplomatic discussions in decades. Her trip is so historic that top American journalists -- such as NBC anchor Brian Williams -- hosted their programs from the island. Sadly, Ms. Jacobson's courageously hopeful mission on behalf of President Barack Obama is doomed to fail and will end up as yet another waste of time and money in yet another sincere but hopeless effort to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries.
       Alex Lee, Roberta Jacobson's top assistant, actually did much of the talking on behalf of the U. S. in yesterday's first round of diplomatic talks in Havana. That's Mr. Lee in the center above. At the end of the day he spoke highly of "the production and collaborative nature of today's discussions." But a later quotation Mr. Lee made to reporters was far more telling because it was a statement that reveals why these heralded discussions will be fruitless. Mr. Lee said: "The policy locally known as Wet Foot/Dry Foot very much remains in effect." You may re-read that sentence, because it was the highlight of Wednesday's round of U.S.-Cuban diplomacy.  And as long as the U. S. is not willing to budge on that issue, there is zero chance that Cuba will seriously consider normalizing relations with its superpower neighbor.
      Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, is second from the right in the above photo at Wednesday's crucial diplomatic session in Havana. Like Mr. Lee, her initial statement summarizing the meeting was diplomatic: "Cuba aspires to have a normal relationship with the United States, in the broader sense but also in the area of migration." When pressed by reporters to expand on that sentence, she was not as diplomatic. She said: "U. S. programs designed to hurt Cuba by enticing our baseball players, our ballet stars, our doctors, and others of our best-trained talent is reprehensible. Rich and powerful countries like the U. S. should cooperate with smaller countries to mutually benefit everyone. It is no secret to anyone that the U. S. brain-drain and talent-drain from Cuba is designed purely to hurt Cuba. It also entices and endangers lives, creating a gravy train for human traffickers and other despicable criminals. U. S. laws relative to Cuba, such as Wet Foot/Dry Foot, are enacted and enforced to benefit a few powerful but unsavory characters while hurting Cubans on the island and everyone else. Such laws also mock the U. S. democracy, but superpower status can make them facts of life, decade after decade. We are here to discuss such things, but not to be mistreated and not to be disrespected because we are an island and our enemies, while very few on the international scale, happen to have the support of the world's biggest treasury and the world's strongest military. Cuba has moral right on its side regarding its sovereignty. Cuba has the world on its side regarding its sovereignty. Cuba hopes it will also, someday, have the U. S. democracy on its side."
  Any sane, rational, unbiased person on the planet desires a normalization of relations between the U. S. and Cuba. Although Cuba is a mere island, its larger-than-life impact on the international stage, far out of proportion to its size and wealth, is based purely on the failed, greedy, and cruel relationship it has with the United States, whose incomparable world influence is based on its unmatched military and economic power. Democracy lovers around the world, and the most patriotic Americans, are {or should be} ashamed that the world's greatest democracy maintains a Cuban policy that mocks both democracy and decency. Yes, Cuba's government since 1959 leaves a lot to be desired, but so did the U. S.-backed dictatorship that preceded it and, based on that historical example, so would a U.S.-backed government that succeeds it. Thus, Cubans on the island should chart the course Cuba will take -- not self-serving revengeful Cubans hiding behind the skirts of the world's richest and strongest nation, and not a foreign country in a region that has fought so hard to defeat imperialism. But the current status of U.S.-Cuban Relations will not be markedly altered by the heralded and historic diplomatic sessions now taking place in Cuba. That's because normalizing relations between the two neighbors, while benefiting the vast majority of people, would mitigate against the interests of a few who have the wherewithal, thanks to a right-wing cabal in the U. S. Congress, to maintain a policy that most Cubans, most Americans, most Cuban-Americans, and most people around the world abhor. In a saner, better world, Americans would be expected to admit that America's Cuban policy is undemocratic.
Alex Lee, USA: 
"The policy known as Wet Foot/Dry Foot very much remains in place." 
Josefina Vidal, Cuba:
"This is reprehensible."
     In his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President Barack Obama received universal praise when he described America's Cuban policy with this sentence: "When you do something that doesn't work for 50 years, it's time to try something different." The next day President Obama sent a diplomatic delegation to Havana led by Roberta Jacobson and Alex Lee. Except for providing a big show for visiting journalists, they may as well have stayed home. The prime anti-Cuban salvo aimed at Cuba's Josefina Vidal was: "The policy locally known as Wet Foot, Dry Foot very much remains in effect." That's both a no-brainer and a no-starter as far as Ms. Vidal is concerned. It appears that Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Lee purposely sabotaged this week's diplomacy in Cuba because they well knew Vidal's firm position on such anti-Cuban tactics as Wet Foot/Dry Foot and the noxious USAID-funded efforts to stir up dissent on the island. Since December 17th, President Obama's announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba have garnered far too many headlines. A ten-foot snowstorm will blanket Havana before Josefina Vidal will agree to what Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Lee proposed yesterday. But thanks anyway, President Obama. At least your announced plans sounded sane and brave, which in itself was briefly refreshing.
     This Reuters photo shows a calm, collected, and confident Josefina Vidal representing Cuba in yesterday's first day of diplomatic discussions with the United States in Havana. Most unbiased U. S. journalists seeking pertinent information relating to Cuba depend on Ms. Vidal. In June the Washington Post sent a staff to Havana for a long interview with Ms. Vidal. She stunned them with comments such as: "The U. S. is facing the risk of becoming irrelevant in the future of Cuba." Coming from the highly respected Ms. Vidal, the Post subsequently has written many articles referencing that quotation. The huge article in today's Washington Post about yesterday's diplomatic overture in Havana was written by renowned journalists Karen DeYoung and Nick Miroff. They called Josefina Vidal "A powerful, up-and-coming figure in the Cuban hierarchy." She is indeed powerful already and there are many Cubans, including Fidel Castro, who hope she will one day be the leader of Cuba. As I have documented in this space, five years ago Fidel Castro personally told Ms. Vidal, "You are the closest thing to Celia Sanchez that Cuba will ever have. You will have my support if you ever want to be the next leader of Cuba." She replied, wiping away a tear, "That is not my plan or desire, but I will never stop fighting for Cuba. Your words alone are the greatest honor I have ever received or will ever receive. Thank you."
     This Getty Images photo shows Josefina Vidal yesterday in Havana standing between Cuban and American flags. She said, "Geography has made us neighbors. Diplomacy should make us friends. We were not meant to be enemies, now or ever."
      As Cuba's top diplomat and minister on all things related to the United States of America, Josefina Vidal is very much at ease negotiating or answering questions.
        Today in Havana Cuba's Josefina Vidal and America's Roberta Jacobson will discuss opening important embassies in the two capitals of Havana and Washington.

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