Randy Pestana: “President Trump felt it necessary to bring in the hardline Cuba republicans to his side”

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt

In this dossier we include the voice of Randy Pestana, Analyst and Adjunct Professor of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University (FIU), where he also serves as an academic liaison with the United States Southern Command. Mr. Pestana has published on organized crime, drug trafficking, democratic institutions and the rule of law, and foreign policy in the United States. He is currently a PhD candidate at FIU. In Mr. Pestana’s view, hard-line Cuban Americans will continue to control the bilateral relationship on the part of the United States. However, President Trump is likely to appreciate value in maintaining relationships, even for commercial purposes.

What is your analysis of the conditions in which the United States has taken these measures? Do you think they are appropriate?

The US government’s rollback [if you can call it that] of relations with Cuba is standard protocol with changing of the executive. President Trump felt it necessary to bring in the hardline Cuba republicans (Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz Balart) to his side in a sort of negotiation if you will. “I will help you with this if you help me on critical issues such as healthcare, immigration, etc.” The rollbacks, however, are simply amendments to President Obama’s openings that make travel to Cuba more difficult and attempt to limit funding getting back to the Castro regime through military owned hotels, restaurants, etc.  If referring to the expulsion of Cuban diplomats from Washington, DC due to the sonic attacks, then it was a necessary move. It is the responsibility of the host-country to protect diplomats from other countries. Whether Cuba engaged in these attacks are irrelevant. As I like to paraphrase from the movie Casino, “either you were in on it or too stupid to know it was going.” Either way, they must be held responsible.

What could be the consequences of the current state of affairs for the several non-state actors in both countries?

The consequences for non-state actors with regard to the current state of relations are in the context of economics and immigration. For those living in poverty, the opening of relations presents an opportunity for increased work. For those in the tourism or agriculture industry, it also presents an opportunity for economic gain. It is necessary to point out, however, that unless the Castro regime and by extension, the military remains in control of most economic activity, it is unlikely that it trickles down to those living in poverty in any substantive way. With regard to immigration, it will be interesting to see how opening of relations limits migration to the US. President Trump is yet to roll back the executive order of President Obama ending the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Will this remain or will favorable immigration status be given back to Cubans? I think the former is more likely than the latter.

Do you believe that the political will of both governments exists to overcome this obstacle, or is it the beginning of the deterioration (again) of the bilateral relationship?

I think the political will is there more so for the Cuban leadership due to the economic state of the island.  President Trump seems to let the Cuban Republicans really control that aspect of international relations while he is focused on Syria and North Korea. I think depending on what comes out of the sonic attacks on US diplomats and visitors; it can easily revert back to limited communication. But seeing at President Trump is a businessman, I think he sees value in maintaining relations, if even for agricultural and tourist purposes.

How would this conflict impact the new Cuban government that should assume in 2018, and vice versa?

I think it is necessary to point out that while Raul Castro will step down as President, he will not step down as the head of the armed forces or as head of the Communist Party. These key roles are in a sense more important that who is President. The question will be how will the infighting from the Ministry of Interior who lost most of their power to the armed forces and those loyalists to the Castro regime interact in the decision making process? Ultimately, though, the Castro faction and the armed forces will remain in control in 20187 and beyond. I think they need the US due to proximity (and proximity equals more access to US tourism and agriculture) and it is generally the pragmatic move to make without true partners in the region (especially with Venezuela collapsing). The US side is the big unknown given President Trump’s tendency to change his mind given the topic and context by which it is discussed.


La “guerra de los decibeles”: hablan los expertos

William M. LeoGrande: “La verdadera motivación de estas duras sanciones es la oposición del gobierno Trump a la política del presidente Barack Obama de normalizar las relaciones con Cuba”

William M. LeoGrande: “The real motivation for such harsh sanctions is the Trump administration’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s policy of normalizing relations with Cuba”

Domingo Amuchástegui: “Lo que buscan es el colapso económico, político y social en Cuba”

Carlos Alzugaray: “La Administración Trump estaba buscando la excusa para tomar medidas agresivas que redujeran a cero los intercambios diplomáticos”.

Richard Feinberg y Harold Trinkunas: “La hostilidad hacia Cuba perjudica a los intereses de Estados Unidos”

Michael J. Bustamante: “Me cuesta trabajo entender la expulsión de los diplomáticos cubanos”

Geoff Thale: “El tamaño del recorte del personal diplomático se parece mucho a una medida de castigo, no a una de seguridad”

Geoff Thale: “The size of the personnel cut looks a lot like a punitive measure, not a safety one”

Michael Camilleri: “Ha ocurrido un deterioro significativo en las relaciones bilaterales y parece probable que permanezca durante toda la Administración Trump”

Michael Camilleri: “A significant deterioration in bilateral relations has occurred and appears likely to last for the duration of the Trump Administration”

Sarah Stephens: “Los de línea dura en Estados Unidos tendrán un problema entre manos si tratan de arrastrar las relaciones bilaterales hacia la Guerra Fría”.

Sarah Stephens: “I think the hardliners in the U.S. will have a fight on their hands if they try to drag U.S.-Cuba relations back into the era of the Cold War”.

Paul W. Hare: “Rusia, China, Irán y otros estarán consolidando sus relaciones con Cuba, mientras Estados Unidos vuelve a su papel de adversario”

Paul W. Hare: “Russia, China, Iran and others will be eagerly consolidating their relations as the US returns to its role of adversary”

Randy Pestana: “El presidente Trump sintió la necesidad de traer a los republicanos cubanos de “línea dura” a su lado”

Arturo López-Levy: “Raúl Castro caminó “la milla extra” para no ser responsable por dinámicas de ruptura”

Emily Mendrala: “La forma en que se llevaron a cabo las expulsiones de los diplomáticos cubanos sugiere la presencia de influencia política por parte de los que se oponen a un mayor compromiso entre personas y empresas de Estados Unidos y Cuba”.

Emily Mendrala: “The manner in which the expulsions were carried out suggests political influence from those who oppose increased engagement between U.S. and Cuban people and businesses”.

Ted Henken: “Me parece muy precipitada y agresiva la medida de obligar a la Embajada de Cuba en Washington a reducir sustancialmente su presencia diplomática en Estados Unidos”.

Sobre los autores
Randy Pestana 1 Artículo escrito
Randy Pestana es analista y profesor adjunto del Instituto de Políticas Públicas de la Universidad Internacional de la Florida (FIU), donde también sirve como enlace académico con el Comando Sur de los Estados Unidos. El Sr. Pestana ha publicado...
Luis Carlos Battista 36 Artículos escritos
La Habana (1988). Licenciado en Derecho por la Universidad de La Habana y en Relaciones Internacionales por Florida International University (FIU). Ha publicado sobre las relaciones exteriores de Cuba y Estados Unidos en espacios como OnCuba Magazine...

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