Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obama wants to normalize Cuba relationships.. why? Is it the Oil?

The following is wild assed guessing but it strikes me as curious. Cuba recently announced possible oil reserves within their territorial waters, and around the same time Pres. Obama made suggestions to normalize relationships with Cuba. The relationship with Cuba of course has long been problematic, with a long and sordid history that's a strange relic of the war on Communism. There is a kind of sadness related to the poor relationship, that's connected to the families who are torn asunder on the altar of America's forgotten war on Communism.

Following are some links to selected articles related to the discovery of Oil in Cuba as well as the easing of some sanctions against Cuba. The eased restrictions make for a nice story, especially as it gives Cubans in America and Cuba better connection. However it's well understood that with any public action by a government there is an agenda behind the scenes. The public face of the action is rarely the whole story, and there's no reason to assume this action for easing restrictions against Cuba is the entire story.

The articles about Cuba's oil discovery are very troubling. Just because a source of Oil has been found in America's backyard, why is it a given that the Oil will be sold to America? Isn't it Cuba's decision who is the customer of their oil? Isn't it Cuba's decision whether to exploit that oil?

Why should the discovery of oil automatically mean a change in America's embargo of Cuba? The discovery of oil in Cuba isn't going to cause a change in the leadership or government of Cuba. Therefore if the embargo of Cuba has any legitimacy, shouldn't the embargo continue? Yet these articles are plainly saying the discovery of oil in Cuba will be followed by ending America's embargo of Cuba, and the articles say that oil in Cuba will obviously be sold to America.

On the other hand, maybe it has to do with keeping campaign promises: Will Obama's Stance on Cuba Hurt? (By Tim Padgett/Miami Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007, Time Magazine)

How Cuba's Oil Find Could Change the US Embargo (By Tim Padgett Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008, Time Magazine) ...geologists estimated that between 5 billion bbl. and 10 billion bbl. of oil lie beneath the waters off Cuba's northwest coast....Washington's own Cuba time warp got a jolt as well. The oil discovery has renewed debate over whether a crude-thirsty U.S. should loosen its 46-year-old trade embargo against Cuba and let yanqui firms join the drilling, which is taking place fewer than 100 miles off U.S. shores....

Cuba claims massive oil reserves (BBC News Friday, 17 October 2008)

Why Cuba's Dreams of Major Oil Discoveries Might Come True (By Thomas Omestad Posted March 3, 2009, US News) There is a place tantalizingly close to American shores that—but for reasons of politics and foreign policy—could emerge as a welcome new source of oil for U.S. consumers....Cuba...Cuba is one of the biggest wild cards in the Western Hemisphere's energy outlook. It is also the most politically sensitive. The nearly half-century-old U.S. embargo against the Communist country means that American energy companies and consumers cannot partake in Cuba's oil business....A major oil find in Cuban waters could subvert the old logic behind the U.S. embargo of Cuba, a policy that endures in part because it imposes only minor economic costs while meeting the political demands of hard-line Cuban-Americans.

FACT SHEET: REACHING OUT TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE (Whitehouse.gov April 13, 2009)

Today, the Obama administration announced a series of changes in U.S. policy to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. In taking these steps to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families and promote the freer flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, President Obama is working to fulfill the goals he identified both during his presidential campaign and since taking office.

All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects basic human, political and economic rights of all its citizens. President Obama believes these measures will help make that goal a reality.

Cuban American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. Accordingly, President Obama will direct the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to support the Cuban people’s desire for freedom and self-determination by lifting all restrictions on family visits and remittances as well as taking steps that will facilitate greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of information and humanitarian resources directly to the Cuban people. The President is also calling on the Cuban government to reduce the charges it levies on cash remittances sent to the island so family members can be assured they are receiving the support sent to them.

Specifically, the President has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:

  • Lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.
  • Remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.
  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
  • Add certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

REACHING OUT TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE

Supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future and that of their country is in the national interest of the United States. The Obama administration is taking steps to promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.

Lift All Restrictions on Family Visits to Cuba

We will lift all restrictions on family visits to Cuba by authorizing such transactions by a general license, which will strengthen contacts and promote American good will. We will ensure the positive reach of this effort by:

  • Defining family members who may be visited to be persons within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) and to allow individuals who share a common dwelling as a family with an authorized traveler to accompany them;
  • Removing limitations on the frequency of visits;
  • Removing limitations on the duration of a visit;
  • Authorizing expenditure amounts that are the same as non-family travel; and
  • Removing the 44-pound limitation on accompanied baggage.

Remove Restrictions on Remittances

We will remove restrictions on remittances to a person’s family member in Cuba to increase Cubans’ access to resources to help create opportunities for them by:

  • Authorizing remittances to individuals within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) provided that no remittances shall be authorized to currently prohibited members of the Government of Cuba or currently prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party;
  • Removing limits on frequency of remittances;
  • Removing limits on the amount of remittances;
  • Authorizing travelers to carry up to $3,000 in remittances; and
  • Establishing general license for banks and other depository institutions to forward remittances.

Authorize Greater Telecommunications Links with Cuba

We will authorize greater telecommunications links with Cuba to advance people-to-people interaction at no cost to the U.S. government. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba.

  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.
  • Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.

Revise Gift Parcel Regulations

We will expand the scope of humanitarian donations eligible for export through license exceptions by:

  • Restoring clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and soap-making equipment to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
  • Restoring items normally exchanged as gifts by individuals in "usual and reasonable" quantities to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
  • Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors to include any individual;
  • Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donees to include individuals other than Cuban Communist Party officials or Cuban government officials already prohibited from receiving gift parcels, or charitable, educational or religious organizations not administered or controlled by the Cuban government; and
  • Increasing the value limit on non-food items to $800.

External Media