Ambassador Paul W. Hare was a British diplomat for 30 years and served as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Cuba from 2001-04. He now teaches at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. Ambassador Hare is a Fellow of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has been designated a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. His novel, “Moncada – A Cuban Story”, set in modern Cuba, was published in May 2010 and his book “Making Diplomacy Work; Intelligent Innovation for the Modern World.’ was published in early 2015. He served on the Brookings Institution core group on Cuba and wrote papers on Cuba published by Brookings.
What is your analysis of the conditions in which the US government has taken these measures? Do you think these measures are appropriate?
The Trump Administration has been struggling to reconcile The President’s vision of the world of independent sovereign states which respect each other’s culture and systems of government -see his UN speech last month- and his concept that some states are evil and others good. Trump has said he wants to do what’s in America’s interest and does not want to be president of the Globe. It’s a vision that is outdated because in a multipolar world, states need to cooperate on key global issues.
Where does that leave Cuba? The Obama measures, according to polls, have the overwhelming support of the US people, and at least 70% of Cuban Americans. Neither of the two Cuban American advisers to President Trump -Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz Balart- was born in Cuba or has ever visited the island. So, it’s hard to see the rationale of what Trump wants on Cuba policy other than to prove Obama wrong. We still await what Trump plans long-term.
Trump realizes that most of the Miami/Florida electors who supported him did not do so on Cuba policy but on issues like healthcare and jobs. But he wants to give enough signs of disapproval to show that Cuba is behaving badly because that’s what Rubio and Diaz Balart want for their congressional support. On the issue of the diplomats who have been physically harmed I think there is a genuine mystery because I suspect some of the Cuban government’s newly installed surveillance equipment unexpectedly caused the harm. The equipment was removed before the FBI arrived but the Cuban government would not, for obvious reasons, admit their mistake. The travel warning seems to me a deliberate method of targeting American visits to Cuba to harm tourism
What could be the consequences of the current state of relations for different non-state actors in both countries?
American businesses -in communications, food, agricultural equipment- and the travel industry will be dismayed at losing out on what were growing opportunities in Cuba even when the embargo was still in place. Ordinary US tourists will also be bemused by a ‘travel warning’ for health reasons. Cubans who think differently from the government as economists, journalists, and cuentapropistas may now be branded as favoring the Yanqui approach of regime hostility. Trump may have given the government an excuse for another crackdown. Already Raul has signaled that economic reforms are now largely on hold.
Will both countries get over it? It’s hard to see Trump being ready to change track. He sees Venezuela as a serious security issue for the region and see Cuban hands all over the economic catastrophe and repression there. It’s inconsistent with his UN principles but he has found an issue where major players like Mexico and Colombia also have tried to mediate change in Venezuela.
How would this conflict influence the new Cuban government to assume in 2018, and vice versa?
The new Cuban leadership next year – if they stick to the timetable – will be nervous about the succession to the Castros. Raul and the younger Castros will still be on the scene but the Cuban government will sooner or later have to face the brave new world of decision making without them. So, from Spring 2018 one can expect the battle for ideas to begin over issues like the size of the private sector, the role of the military and whether the Chinese model of stimulating the growth of a wealthy middle class can be implemented on an accelerated timetable. Whatever happens the United States is now poorly placed to influence this debate and to enlist Cuba in efforts to save Venezuela from civil war.
There could hardly be a worse time for the United States to be off the diplomatic field of play. Obama did not open up diplomatic options with Cuba because he liked the Cuban regime. He did so because over 50 years of embargo had not worked and he wanted to try a policy which would offer greater engagement with ordinary Cubans. Now the Trump administration is signaling it wants the Cuban regime to bow under pressure and stop behaving badly. Trump is proving Fidel Castro right when he said he never trusted American motives in the Obama opening. Now the ‘do as I say or else’ approach to American Cuba policy is back. Russia, China, Iran and others will be eagerly consolidating their relations as the US returns to its role of adversary.
Trump’s penchant for diplomatic soundbites hardly bodes well for anything which might be a carefully crafted diplomatic strategy toward Cuba. The rest of the world will try to pick up the pieces to try to help Cuba transition to a more open and tolerant society which respects the wishes of Cubans to build their lives independent of the government. Just when there seemed to be a chance in 2017 that the Cuban people could count on American diplomacy which would be engaging with their interests, Trump has gone against his own professed principles of non-interference. ‘Rocket Man’ has shown Trump’s liking for 1970s songs. His Cuba policy harks backs to the same era.
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”.