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Should U.S. normalize relations with Cuba?

Should U.S. normalize relations with Cuba?
February 5, 2015
Moderated by Rick Badie

On Dec. 17, President Barack Obama announced a historic Cuban thaw: The
U.S. would resume full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time
in more than 50 years. Today, a Georgia congressman hails the Cuba-U.S.
deal, citing the expansion of Georgia imports to the island and gains of
U.S. influence in the region. Meanwhile, a U.S. representative from
South Florida calls the initiative a threat to national security that
must be thwarted.

New course for Cuba

By David Scott

President Barack Obama recently set a new course by opening relations
with Cuba. The changes will allow more travel for Americans to Cuba and
allow Americans to bring back more goods from their visit.
Cuban-Americans also will be able to send more money back to relatives.
In addition, businesses will be able to have easier financing for trade.

While full diplomatic relations are not restored, these changes will
make it easier for Georgians to conduct business in the Cuban
marketplace. Georgia businesses have new opportunities, such as poultry
exports and tourist flights from the airport. Cuba is only 621 miles
from the Port of Savannah. It imports roughly 80 percent of its food and
products from as far away as New Zealand.

Even with the embargo, the United States has been Cuba’s fifth-largest
trading partner since 2007. This was boosted in part by President George
W. Bush’s decision in 2003 to authorize exports of U.S. agricultural
products to the island. However, no export assistance or credit
guarantees were made available. Exporters were denied access to U.S.
private commercial financing, and all transactions had to be conducted
in cash in advance or with financing from businesses in third
countries.A 2009 study by the U.S. International Trade Commission found
that without financing restrictions for agriculture exports to Cuba,
trade would have increased from 38 percent to as much as 64 percent.
Among U.S. agricultural products that could have benefited most were
wheat, rice, beef, pork, processed foods and fish. Now that such
restrictions are set to be eased, Georgia agriculture is poised to grow.

Agriculture employs roughly one of six Georgians. It contributes roughly
$72.5 billion annually to our state’s $786.5 billion economy.

Georgia leads the United States in the production of peanuts, pecans,
watermelon and broilers and is a top producer of peaches and
blueberries. Each day, the state’s poultry industry creates roughly 29
million pounds of chicken, 6.3 million table eggs and 5.5 million
hatching eggs. This industry has the most potential to grow, since Cuba
already is Georgia’s sixth-largest poultry export market.

Beyond the dollar impact an expansion of Georgia’s goods into Cuba would
bring, we must also recognize that renewed ties between the United
States and Cuba would increase our standing and influence in the region
and the world. An influx of American travelers and increased trade will
further expose the Cuban people to free enterprise and American ideals.
The regime will not change overnight, but that has not stopped the U.S.
from being a strong trading partner with China and Vietnam. President
Raúl Castro can no longer blame the embargo for all of Cuba’s ills.

We need to move beyond the Cold War mentality so we can focus on
terrorism and other modern threats. Governments antagonistic to U.S.
interests have long used Cuba as a foreign policy tool in America’s
backyard. With the Russian and Venezuelan economies faltering, Cuba will
need to find a new economic partner. What better way to push Putin away
from the Caribbean than to bring Cuba into our orbit?

With greater inter-American cooperation and trade comes greater access
to our culture of democracy and values. We must shine our light on
places where human rights need improvement. We must stand with our
Georgia businesses and farmers to ensure they are in as advantageous a
position as possible on the global stage. Now is the time to turn the
page on the United States’ foreign policy with Cuba.

David Scott, a Democrat, is U.S. representative for Georgia’s 13th
Congressional District.

Cuba shifts harms national security

By Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

President Barack Obama’s sudden and surprising announcement to upend the
United States’ long-standing foreign policy toward Cuba was as imprudent
as it was imbalanced.

That the White House failed to consult members of Congress who represent
large Cuban-American constituencies underscores the fact the president
knew there would be strong and vocal opposition to his radical policy
shift. Yet, as is the case with his approach to the Iran nuclear
negotiations, he has once again chosen unilateral executive action
rather than a deliberative process, giving further credence to the
sentiment that this is indeed an imperial presidency.

The Castro brothers are using the Iran playbook. They are using the
president’s naivete to force concessions from the United States in
exchange for cosmetic and easily reversible changes that, at best, won’t
bring real reforms to Cuba. What the Obama administration should have
pushed for is real and tangible democratic reforms, the release of all
political prisoners, and free, fair and transparent elections.

Instead, Obama capitulated to the Castros’ demands, released three
convicted Cuban spies – one of whom was also convicted of attempted
murder and directly linked to the cold-blooded murder of three American
citizens and one U.S. resident. The status quo on the island remains.

The president traded convicted spies and terrorists for a man who was
wrongfully imprisoned by the Castro regime, thus implying some kind of
moral equivalence between him and the spies. Just like with the Taliban
5 swap, the president is establishing a dangerous precedent that the
United States does in fact negotiate with terrorists, putting a target
on every American’s back and jeopardizing our national security.

In addition, the administration touted the Castro regime’s promise to
release 53 political prisoners as a major coup for diplomacy, but never
bothered to read the fine print. The list included individuals who had
been released as far back as a year ago, people whose time in jail was
already set to expire, and others who were merely put out on parole.But
the most audacious part is several of these political prisoners have
already been rearrested, while hundreds more have been arrested or
detained in the intervening weeks. This has implications around the
world, especially as we strive to make respect for human rights
universal. Now, when Obama lectures about human rights, his words fall
flat and only erode America’s credibility, and that is seen not only by
our allies, but our enemies who would seek to exploit our
vulnerabilities. So instead of being credible, trusted or feared, the
world sees America as feeble and unwilling to support its allies.

Congress and the American public must stand opposed to this shift in
policy toward Cuba, and on the side of the 11 million Cubans languishing
under the Castro regime. And we must remain vigilant as the president
uses his normalization efforts with Cuba as a test case for establishing
diplomatic relations with another U.S.-designated state sponsor of
terrorism, Iran. The administration hasn’t met an evil dictator it
doesn’t want to appease, and the president consistently undercuts our
position as the world’s sole superpower.

There are very real and very dangerous threats to our national security,
perhaps more so now than ever. We cannot afford to have an executive who
projects the idea that the U.S no longer possesses the courage to defend
our ideals and principles, or that we will stand up for human rights
only when it is politically expedient or convenient. That is not what
America stands for; but by going down this road with the Castro regime,
that is where we are headed.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairs the Subcommittee on the
Middle East and North Africa and is a member of the Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence.

Source: Should U.S. normalize relations with Cuba? | Atlanta Forward
Blog –
http://atlantaforward.blog.ajc.com/2015/02/05/should-u-s-normalize-relations-with-cuba/

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