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Engagement, not sanctions, required with Cuba – Winnipeg Free Press


For no matter motive, Cuba by no means appears to be removed from the political radar display of each the U.S. and Canada. In mid-November, representatives of Democratic Areas, a Canadian-Cuban human rights group, known as for Ottawa to impose punitive sanctions on members of the Cuban authorities.

The purpose was to punish the federal government of Miguel Díaz-Canel for the July 11, 2021 harsh crackdown on Cuban protesters and anti-government demonstrators. In a letter to International Affairs Canada, the group acknowledged plainly: “America has used its Magnitsky laws to impose quite a lot of focused sanctions on Cuban officers and entities with accountability for the human rights violations within the aftermath of the July 11 protests. Canada ought to do the identical and impose focused sanctions.”

I’m not satisfied the sanctions concept will make any distinction in any respect. And I critically query the timing of such a reflexive transfer.

In early August, a lethal fireplace at an oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba’s largest port for importing crude oil and diesel (largely used to generate electrical energy), was severely broken. That was adopted by rotating electrical blackouts in different elements of the nation.

To its credit score, the U.S. Company for Worldwide Improvement (USAID) despatched roughly 100 units of private protecting tools (PPE) — similar to fire-resistant pants, helmets, gloves and coats — to help Cuban firefighters looking for to quell the blaze in Matanzas.

Given the animosity of U.S.-Cuba relations below the Trump administration, this PPE (together with technical firefighting help from the U.S. Environmental Safety Company) was thought to be a constructive, and in some methods unprecedented, humanitarian gesture.

Certainly, USAID just isn’t sometimes considered in a constructive gentle on the island — notably its extremely questionable work on “democracy-promotion” applications in Cuba. However it seems this time the U.S. authorities was responding favourably to a selected request from Havana.

Seven weeks later, Class 3-strength Hurricane Ian inflicted vital hurt on the western area of Cuba (damaging some 100,000 houses). A minimum of two individuals have been killed, 1000’s within the Pinar del Río province have been evacuated, and heavy flooding devastated many elements of Cuba’s essential agricultural sector.

Shortly thereafter, USAID as soon as once more stepped up and supplied to supply Cuba with US$2 million in humanitarian help (to be channelled by worldwide support organizations engaged on the island). As Cuba’s international minister, Bruno Rodríguez, famous:

“We recognize humanitarian help provide made by the U.S. This materials contribution that’s price US$2 million, channelled by the Worldwide Federation of Purple Cross, will add to our restoration efforts in help of the victims of the ravages attributable to Hurricane Ian.”

Up to now, the Cuban authorities nearly all the time politely rejected any humanitarian help from the U.S. However the sharp change in tune was indicative that Cuba is in dire financial straits in the meanwhile — and it wants all the surface humanitarian support that it could safe.

To make certain, meals and pharmaceutical shortages, electrical blackouts and rising costs and supply-chain points have all contributed to a precarious scenario in Cuba as we speak.

Of explicit political significance to the Biden White Home is the thorny subject of unprecedented Cuban migration. Roughly 220,000 Cubans have been encountered by U.S. Customs and Border Safety and Coast Guard authorities, at both the U.S.-Mexican border or at sea, within the fiscal 12 months 2022 (a 471 per cent enhance over 2021).

That has created a significant electoral headache for Biden as he eyes a second presidential time period in 2024.

Throughout the first two weeks of November, high-ranking U.S. officers travelled to Havana to fulfill with their Cuban counterparts. There was a laundry record of points on the bilateral agenda: migration (together with the Cuban Household Reunification Parole program restarted in August), consular and visa companies, human rights and “political prisoners.”

A lot of the bilateral bother stems from U.S. diplomatic experiences of so-called “Havana Syndrome” (or concussion-like or mind trauma accidents) in 2016, when Washington shuttered its consular/visa companies on the U.S. embassy in Havana in late 2017.

The 2 nations have now come to agree that U.S. visa processing in Havana (relatively than in Guyana) must be able to resume. That, in flip, would facilitate the authorized migration of some 20,000 Cubans to the U.S. yearly.

In return, the Díaz-Canel authorities has agreed to just accept an unspecified variety of Cuban migrants despatched again to the island from the U.S. by way of deportation flights.

Clearly, U.S. President Joe Biden (and Barack Obama earlier than him) acknowledges that deteriorating circumstances on the island should not in the most effective pursuits of the U.S. (or Canada). Accordingly, they each got here to the conclusion partaking the Cubans throughout a large swath of issue-areas is best than punishing and isolating them — one thing successive Canadian governments have embraced for the reason that early Nineteen Sixties.

So however what our mates in Democratic Areas are advocating, now could be undoubtedly not the time to reverse that observe.

Peter McKenna is professor of political science on the College of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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