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Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization process with Cuba

Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization process
with Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Sixteen retired senior military officers are asking the Trump
administration to continue the process of normalization with Cuba for
the sake of U.S. national security and stability in the region.

“The location of Cuba in the Caribbean and proximity to the US make it a
natural and strategically valuable partner on issues of immediate
concern, including terrorism, border control, drug interdiction,
environmental protections, and emergency preparedness,” the retired
officers stated in a letter that was for National Security Adviser Lt.
Gen. H.R. McMaster and made public on Thursday.

The retired officers indicated that ensuring economic stability on the
island was beneficial to the United States for security reasons.

“We acknowledge the current regime must do more to open its political
system and dialogue with the Cuban people. But, if we fail to engage
economically and politically, it is certain that China, Russia, and
other entities whose interests are contrary to the United States’ will
rush into the vacuum,” the letter said. “We have an opportunity now to
shape and fill a strategic void.”

Six of the 16 letter-signers traveled to Havana from March 14-17 at the
invitation of the Cuban government and met with officials from the
Foreign Ministry as well as representatives from the Energy,
Agriculture, Trade, and Foreign Investment ministries. The group also
visited the Port of Mariel and met with 12 Ministry of Interior
officials — a gathering not previously disclosed. The MININT is in
charge of domestic security but also of the Cuban intelligence services.

The Cuban officials provided “a significant hour and a half Power Point
brief on their security concerns and their thoughts on cooperation with
the United States,” Stephen A. Cheney, a retired brigadier general in
the U.S. Marine Corps, said. “A pretty interesting group of active
military folks.

“Some questioned why we did not meet with dissidents, but this was not
the purpose of this trip but to listen to government people, have an
idea of ??how it works and what their concerns are.”

The letter seeks to influence the administration while it is still
reviewing Cuba policy, an exercise spearheaded by the National Security
Council. The Trump administration “must take into account all national
security factors under consideration” and not look at the current policy
“simply as something that Obama did and because Obama did it, you hate
it,” Cheney said.

The main concern from the national-security standpoint, he added, is a
migration crisis if the island’s economy worsens, a possibility that “at
90 miles from our coasts, does not do us any favors.”

“If they feel desperate, they are going to reach out to those we would
rather not want,” added retired Brig. Gen. David McGinnis, in reference
to the growing role of China, Russia, and Iran in the region.

Cheney highlighted the level of cooperation with Cuba on issues like
anti-drug efforts but said that part of the “frustration” of the Cuban
government is that the routine meetings to continue these mechanisms of
cooperation have been canceled by the Trump administration, “not out of
a policy change but because the people are not there.”

Cheney also said the Trump administration could lift trade and financial
restrictions, such as in agriculture, to the benefit of U.S. companies.
“Clearly the embargo has not worked. We have to look for new actions if
we want to increase our security,” said retired Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw.

The trip and the missive were coordinated by the American Security
Project (ASP), a non-partisan organization of which several of the
retired officials who signed the letter are members of — Cheney is its
executive director. According to an ASP statement, the trip was
organized by Scott Gilbert, a member of its board and a lawyer of
contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Cuba for five years and
released on Dec. 17, 2014.

Among those who signed the letter are retired Gen. James T. Hill, who
headed the U.S. Southern Command from 2002-2004 and retired Admiral
Robert Inman, who held senior positions in the intelligence services
under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Several signers of the letter including, McGinnis; retired Major Gen.
Paul Eaton; retired Rear Admirals Jamie Barnett and Michael Smith; and
retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis publicly supported Hillary Clinton
during the presidential campaign.

Source: Retired military officials ask Trump to continue normalization
process with Cuba | Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article145847939.html

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