Assessment: Cuba is published by PRIMA-News in Moscow in
cooperation with the Institute for
Democracy in Eastern Europe, based
in Washington, D.C.
No Changes in
The effectiveness of the U.S.
trade sanctions against Cuba
has been debated for quite a long time. To be
more exact, since the day the embargo was introduced in 1962. Cuban
vehemently opposed the measure, and so did their Socialist allies and
international movements reared by the Soviet
well as American and European leftists, and those in Europe who don’t quite
belong to the leftist camp. In
47 years of economic sanctions, so many swords were crossed over Cuba
and so many heated arguments were heard that it
seems absolutely impossible to say anything new on this subject.
Hence, Indiana Senator
Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations
shared nothing new, saying, according to Reuters, on February 23 that
the new U.S. administration should rethink its attitude
toward Cuba. “We must
recognise the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the
regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests,” Lugar said in the
introduction to a report written by staff who work for the committee’s
said U.S. policy toward Cuba is a source of tension with many
other countries and keeps the United States from influencing or understanding Cuba. “The U.S. is left as a powerless bystander,
watching events unfold at a distance,” said Reuters citing the document.
to Reuters, the report stopped
short of recommending an end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba,
President Obama to “seize the initiative” by attempting gradual
However, Lugar didn’t make it very
clear what does engagement with the current communist regime in Cuba
mean at this stage. Does it mean lifting the
embargo, or encouraging Obama and Castro
to visit each other in Havana and Washington, or will it go further by sharing experience
in state activity. The United States even might hand over the military prison at Guantánamo Bay to Cuba as a goodwill gesture. Surely, Cuban dissidents would find
it a much
better place to be than Combinado del Este prison near Havana or
Boniato prison in Santiago
de Cuba. Wouldn’t it be a
really generous humanitarian
gesture, giving the U.S.
government an opportunity to influence Cuba’s
domestic policy good and proper?
I can’t say whether
folks in the great State of Indiana will be surprised to know that Senator Lugar
-- the man they voted for in U.S. Senate election in 2008 – doesn’t
give a damn
about human rights, although I can say I am not. To understand my
let’s travel back in time to events in April 1979.
It was the time when a group
of American senators, including Richard
Lugar, came to the Soviet Union on an official
visit. The delegation was led by Senator Joseph Biden, who – for better
worse – has now become vice-president. The talks focused on the SALT II
and reducing the bulk of U.S.
weapons deployed in Europe. As it always happens, part of the agenda was
discussed behind the curtain. The off-record details of the talks
many years later when a memo written by Vadim Zagladin, the then deputy
the CPSU Central Committee’s International Department who received the
delegation, was obtained and brought into the open.
“On the Basic
Contents of Talks with the U.S.
Senators” is dated April 19-20, 1979.
4 of this archival document reads:
It should also be
noted that, this time, the
delegation did not officially raise the issue of human rights during
negotiations. Biden said they did not want 'to spoil the atmosphere
problems which are bound to cause distrust in our relations.' However,
the breaks between the sessions the senators passed to us several
concerning these or those 'refuseniks'.
Unofficially, Biden and Lugar said that, in the
end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem
or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they
for 'human rights'. They must prove to their voters that they are
fulfilling their wishes'. In other words, the collocutors directly
that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely do not
the fate of most so-called dissidents.
same conversation, Biden asked us to ensure that senators' appeals on
issues are not left unanswered – even if we just reply that the letter
received but we cannot do anything. According to
Biden, letters of
this kind – if they are not addressed to the highest representatives of
Soviet state –
sometimes remain unanswered.
Of course, one can say
Zagladin was lying, playing down the importance of the human rights
Soviet-American relations, but it’s rather unlikely as he was not the
negotiator in those talks and would have hardly dared to risk his job
his Kremlin bosses. Most likely, Zagladin gave a truthful account of
episode, and some U.S. senators have always considered and still use human rights
as a political
bargaining chip. And Sen. Richard Lugar’s present mindset regarding
communist Cuba serves as yet another proof of that fact.
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