Former diplomats urge Trump to undo 'unlawful' Obama Cuba policy
BY PATRICIA MAZZEI AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
Five former U.S. diplomats with extensive experience in Latin America
sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter this week urging him to
rescind the executive actions signed by President Barack Obama relaxing
sanctions against Cuba and to stop cooperating with Cuban state security.
In the letter, the diplomats — including Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason,
who once headed the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana — ask Trump, in
his first 100 days in office, to undo Obama's "ill-conceived and
unlawful executive orders lifting restrictions on doing business with
the Castro regime."
Furthermore, they write, Trump should withdraw, "as soon as possible
after being sworn in," Obama's order to share intelligence with Cuban
officials — a directive criticized by Republican members of Congress and
which Cason called "ludicrous" in a Tuesday interview with the Miami Herald.
"We want him to take a fresh look" at Cuba policy, Cason said of Trump.
"We gave away too much. Go back, rethink it — not break the entire
relations, but certainly don't give anything [more]."
Trump has pledged to "terminate" the U.S.-Cuba thaw pursued for two
years by Obama unless Raúl Castro's government makes unspecified
concessions. Advocates of more Obama-style engagement have said they're
concerned about how Trump might handle Cuba, especially if he feels
beholden to exiles who helped win him Florida.
In addition to Cason, the letter was signed by Everett Briggs, former
U.S. ambassador to Portugal, Honduras and Panama; Elliott Abrams, former
assistant secretary of state; Jose Sorzano, former U.S. ambassador to
the United Nations; and Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of
state and former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.
The letter criticizes the Obama administration for abstaining last year
from voting against a U.N. resolution condemning the U.S. trade embargo
"It's scandalous," Sorzano told el Nuevo Herald. "The administration
abandoned its constitutional responsibility to defend the law."
Reich told el Nuevo Herald that Trump shouldn't immediately reverse the
Obama administration's work, but rather reexamine all of the outgoing
"Consider keeping what helps the Cuban people directly, but not what
sends money to Cuba's Communist Party, GAESA (the holding company
controlled by the Cuban military) or the armed forces," he said. Among
the policies that should be eliminated, he said, was a regulatory move
that allowed employees of Cuba's interior ministry and members of the
country's Communist Party to receive cash remittances from the U.S.
The letter, organized by the hardline Center for a Free Cuba, is
intended to "remind the president-elect of the promises he made to Cuban
Americans, with the hope that he avoids what happened with Obama, who
promised to focus on Cuba's freedom and later changed his mind," Frank
Calzón, the center's director, told el Nuevo Herald. Calzón is a former
executive director of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation.
He said the letter was sent to Trump through "several" emissaries,
including members of Congress, although he wouldn't name them. Trump's
transition team hasn't named a Cuba point person.
Among the requests made in the letter, which was dated Dec. 22 but not
sent until this week, is that Trump change the person in charge of the
U.S. embassy in Havana. Obama nominated the man running the diplomatic
mission, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, to be ambassador, but the
Republican-controlled Congress has refused to hold a hearing.
"A diplomat who is more in tune with the new administration's world view
— ready to take on the outstanding issues between the two countries
mentioned above and others that will likely arise as a result of this
toughening of U.S.-Cuba policy — should be sent to lead the American
Embassy in Havana as the Chargé d'Affaires," the former diplomats wrote.
"There is no need to name an ambassador pending resolution of several
key matters pertaining to embassy operations."
They specifically criticized allowing the Cuban government to pick and
pay the embassy's local hires.
"The U.S. should insist on strict reciprocity in how its embassy in
Havana and Cuba's in Washington are run, based on international
standards and practices," the letter says.
Cason, a Republican who said he didn't vote for Trump, said he was
disappointed neither Trump nor rival Hillary Clinton emphasized adopting
policies as president "that would be beneficial to the Cuban people."
"We still have to wait and see whether principle trumps profit," Cason
said. "So many of the companies are talking about what's profitable to
them. That's why we hope that there can be a discussion. … Let's hope
that he's open-minded."
Source: Former diplomats urge Trump to undo 'unlawful' Obama Cuba policy
| Miami Herald -