The Obama administration is learning that the Castro regime in Cuba is not a “rational” or “trustworthy” partner to deal with, Mauricio Claver-Carone, a leading expert on American-Cuban relations, tells Newsmax.
Claver-Carone also says the pro-democracy movement in Cuba is a “viable alternative” to the Castro regime, and asserts that the Cubans “essentially control” Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela.
Claver-Carone is executive director of Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, which lobbies against lifting the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, and is on the board of directors of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. He is also a former adviser at the U.S. Treasury Department.
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President Obama has offered to seek a “new beginning” in relations with Cuba, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year that the old U.S. policy regarding the island nation had failed. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Claver-Carone was asked for his take on the Obama administration’s policy toward Cuba.
“I think the administration has been learning as it has been going along,” he says.
“Obama has been learning about the intransigence of this regime and the fact that it is really not a reliable or rational partner to deal with.
“I don’t criticize their effort to try to do something different and send a signal that we’re willing to talk, to engage. The problem is, with regimes like Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Burma, these aren’t rational partners. These are people that have very deep anti-American views and therefore are not trustworthy partners.
“An example of how [the administration] has been learning: During the announcement on changing the regulations on family visits and remittances [to Cuba], they said we want to have unlimited remittances. Then they learned as the process went along that the Castro regime would take 30 to 40 percent of every dollar that entered the island.
“A couple of days later the president came out and said one thing the regime could do to show good will would be to eliminate this 30 percent they take off the top. Well, they haven’t done that yet.”
If the Cuban communist regime is beginning to loosen its tight control of the country, it is not in response to U.S. policy but a reaction to a growing anti-government movement in Cuba, Claver-Carone says.
“This is an entrenched military dictatorship. But what is happening in Cuba is that there is a domestic pro-democracy movement, a domestic opposition movement which increasingly is more active, more outspoken.
“The movement is a viable alternative, and it’s out there on a daily basis challenging the regime. That basically is what the regime is reacting to.
“The Castro regime for decades has tried to put out the story that there is no viable opposition in Cuba. Opponents of U.S. policy here in the United States have taken that call and have used it as part of their advocacy and say we have to deal with the Castro regime because there is no alternative. That’s not true. There is a viable alternative.”
Claver-Carone staunchly opposes a unilateral lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba.
“U.S. policy requires that for the United States to have normal trading relations with Cuba, three things have to occur,” he tells Newsmax.
“First, the unconditional release of all political prisoners. Secondly, the recognition of certain fundamental human rights, including freedom of the press, freedom of association. And third, the legalization of the opposition party.
As to whether Obama will lift the embargo, Claver-Carone notes that “he cannot lift sanctions by law until those conditions are met. So he cannot unilaterally do so without Congress.”
He also dismisses claims that the embargo hurts only the Cuban people. “The one barrier to the well-being of the Cuban people is that regime,” he declares.
Asked about the relationship between Cuba and Hugo Chavez’s anti-American regime in Venezuela, Claver-Carone says: “What’s interesting is that all the news is focused on Chavez, Chavez being now the greatest regional menace.
“Hugo Chavez didn’t spring out of nowhere. Chavez was released from jail in Venezuela after a failed coup attempt in the early 1990s. He went to Cuba and he spent years in Cuba until he returned to Venezuela and in 1998 came to power.
“The Cuban government essentially controls the Venezuelan government. All the major sectors, from the military to intelligence to security, are controlled by Cuban operatives.
“It’s not the other way around. It’s Cuban generals, Cuban intelligence experts, et cetera, that are essentially overseeing Hugo Chavez’s operation in Venezuela.”
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