CubaNews / February 2003
By Larry Luxner
A bipartisan advisory group, which in-cludes prominent members of Miami’s exile community, issued a report Jan. 23 asking the Bush administration, Congress and the President Fidel Castro to begin a “negotiated normalization” process.
The Cuba Policy Advisory Group is sponsored by the Center for National Policy, a Washington-based think tank that says it’s “committed to identifying national issues that require action for common purpose.”
While stopping short of demanding a total end to the U.S. embargo, CNP did recommend a few specific steps the United States should initiate immediately. Among them:
* remove the current limit on remittances that can be sent legally to people in Cuba.
* streamline or eliminate licensing and reporting requirements, shipping restrictions and other bureaucratic regulations in order to make it easier for Americans to sell food and medicines to Cuba, and expand the types of products that may be sold to include clothing and other consumer goods.
* legalize private, but not public, financing for such commercial transactions.
* appoint a bipartisan task force of former senior government officials and experts to review all Cuba-related laws and frame options for negotiated normalization.
* facilitate professional and student ex-changes in the fields of science and medicine, and expand bilateral cooperation on im-migration, drug interdiction, counterterrorism, crime and environmental protection.
“Despite the diverse perspectives of our members, we agree that principled engagement should replace isolation as the core of U.S. policy toward Cuba,” said James R. Jones, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and chairman of the Cuba Policy Advisory Group.
“Our national interest and security require that we begin a dialogue with Cuba.” CNP’s 20-page report, entitled U.S.-Cuba Relations: Time for a New Approach, criticizes what it calls a shift in 2002 to a more restrictive policy on travel licensing for U.S. citizens and U.S. entry to Cuban citizens.
“Both of these steps go in the wrong direction,” says the report, which can be downloaded as a PDF file from the CNP website at http://www.cnponline.org.
“They reduce the exchange of ideas between Americans and Cubans and undermine the goal of greater openness on the island.”
In addition to eliminating travel restrictions for U.S. citizens going to Cuba, CNP asked for a loosening of restrictions on Cubans wishing to travel on short-term visas to the United States, including senior Cuban government officials, and the removal of Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations sponsoring terrorism.
The report also urged the Castro government to lift certain restrictions on the ability of Cuban citizens to travel freely.
Maureen Steinbruner, president of CNP, told CubaNews she hopes that the more her organization’s report is publicized, the more it’s likely to gain acceptance in Congress.
“We’re hoping that ultimately it will provide a path forward that both the U.S. and Cuban governments can sign on to,” Steinbruner said. “It’s not going to make anyone 100% happy, but the [current] all-or-nothing approach is not in anybody’s interests.”
CNP says its advisory group worked for a year and a half on this project, and that many group members personally visited Cuba before finalizing the report. Besides Jones, members include Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, Max Castro, Alberto R. Coll, Carlos M. de la Cruz, Mathea Falco, William Frenzel, Harriet Fulbright, Mimi Haas, Peter Magowan, Elizabeth Newhouse, Ann W. Richards, Carlos Saladrigas, Alexander F. Watson, Thomas Wenski and John C. Whitehead.
Details: Maureen Steinbruner, President, CNP, One Massachusetts Ave., Suite #333, Washington, DC 20001. Tel: (202) 682-1800. E-mail: email@example.com.