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.
VER EN ESTE DOSSIER
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”.