Looking for 'the 53' and lifting the embargo

As President Obama proposed to provide free tuition for community colleges, the "Cuba thaw" is getting colder by the second.

First, "the 53" are still in Cuba.   We are happy to see that The Washington Post is reminding everyone about it:

"IN ANNOUNCING the normalization of relations with Cuba last month, President Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change. In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees — or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.     

Now it’s becoming clear that Mr. Obama chose not to make even that half-step a condition for the broad relaxation of travel and economic restrictions he is granting to Havana along with the normalization of relations.

As of Wednesday, three weeks after the U.S.-Cuba accord, Cuban human rights activists had reported only five released prisoners. On Thursday, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted that the number had risen to 26.

Meanwhile, however, the State Department was emphasizing that steps toward normalization — including the highest-level visit by a U.S. official to Cuba in a half-century — will go forward this month whether the promised prisoner release is completed or not.     

The administration’s priority, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week, is the “direct dialogue” Mr. Obama believes will lead to better conditions in Cuba. “We’re not waiting to make progress on the other components,” she said."

Late yesterday afternoon, activists in Cuba announced that 38 dissidents had been released. But the government warned them they would go back to prison if they continued their activism. 

On another front, the media has not done a good job of explaining just how difficult it will be to lift the embargo, as Professor Jaime Suchlicki wrote:

"Finally, dismantling the embargo is a complex and slow process.

The maze of laws, regulations and issues surrounding the Helms-Burton Law will require time, effort and significant finesse.    

For example, the issue of the Castro government's confiscation of U. S. and Cuban properties must be resolved before any real normalization. A cadre of sophisticated American and Cuban-American lawyers await the moment to collect on the judgments rendered by U. S. Courts against the government of Cuba and/or to file new law suits to garnish the proceeds of any trade with Cuba and investments on the island. The issue of property confiscations is one of many thorny issues that need to be resolved before any real normalization."

To my knowledge, the issue of confiscated properties and investments was not discussed between Raul Castro and President Obama.   At least, neither one mentioned it in their "thaw" announcements.

So here is a suggestion for the beach lovers and baseball fans:

1) Plan your 2015 vacations elsewhere because Cuba is still closed for the time being; and,

2) There won't be any flood of Cuban baseball players anytime soon, unless they defect or leave the island in a boat like so many others have.

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.

As President Obama proposed to provide free tuition for community colleges, the "Cuba thaw" is getting colder by the second.

First, "the 53" are still in Cuba.   We are happy to see that The Washington Post is reminding everyone about it:

"IN ANNOUNCING the normalization of relations with Cuba last month, President Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change. In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees — or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.     

Now it’s becoming clear that Mr. Obama chose not to make even that half-step a condition for the broad relaxation of travel and economic restrictions he is granting to Havana along with the normalization of relations.

As of Wednesday, three weeks after the U.S.-Cuba accord, Cuban human rights activists had reported only five released prisoners. On Thursday, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted that the number had risen to 26.

Meanwhile, however, the State Department was emphasizing that steps toward normalization — including the highest-level visit by a U.S. official to Cuba in a half-century — will go forward this month whether the promised prisoner release is completed or not.     

The administration’s priority, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week, is the “direct dialogue” Mr. Obama believes will lead to better conditions in Cuba. “We’re not waiting to make progress on the other components,” she said."

Late yesterday afternoon, activists in Cuba announced that 38 dissidents had been released. But the government warned them they would go back to prison if they continued their activism. 

On another front, the media has not done a good job of explaining just how difficult it will be to lift the embargo, as Professor Jaime Suchlicki wrote:

"Finally, dismantling the embargo is a complex and slow process.

The maze of laws, regulations and issues surrounding the Helms-Burton Law will require time, effort and significant finesse.    

For example, the issue of the Castro government's confiscation of U. S. and Cuban properties must be resolved before any real normalization. A cadre of sophisticated American and Cuban-American lawyers await the moment to collect on the judgments rendered by U. S. Courts against the government of Cuba and/or to file new law suits to garnish the proceeds of any trade with Cuba and investments on the island. The issue of property confiscations is one of many thorny issues that need to be resolved before any real normalization."

To my knowledge, the issue of confiscated properties and investments was not discussed between Raul Castro and President Obama.   At least, neither one mentioned it in their "thaw" announcements.

So here is a suggestion for the beach lovers and baseball fans:

1) Plan your 2015 vacations elsewhere because Cuba is still closed for the time being; and,

2) There won't be any flood of Cuban baseball players anytime soon, unless they defect or leave the island in a boat like so many others have.

P. S. You can hear CANTO TALK here & follow me on Twitter @ scantojr.