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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

At The Foreign Policy Association, New York, Wednesday, January 13, 2010, in the Grupo Santander building Auditorium, there was a meeting with Dr. Julia E. Sweig who wrote the book: “CUBA: WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW.”

Julia Sweig is Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies & Director for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

She has authored several reports on Latin America and American Foreign Policy. Her book “Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground” of 2002 received an award for the best book of the year by an independent scholar from the American Historical Association.

The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Viktor Polgar, Consul General of Hungary in New York City.

Dr. Sweig started out by saying that she was part of the US culture relating to Latin America Рthat educated in Spanish language also lots of Cuban students  and studies about Cuba but nothing in Portuguese or Brazil, implying that in the US Cuba got much too thigh attention then it deserved Рand Brazil much less attention then it deserved. But even so, in effect Cuba was in a dormant state so far as US direct involvement, until the switch from Fidel to Raoul.

The discussion with Cuba was always difficult. Cuba was focusing on history while the US was looking to the future.

2006 – 2007 changes start in Havana and the Miami Cubans find this important – then 2007-2008 Raoul begins to look at domestic issues in Cuba and starts to talk of dirty laundry of the regime. On February 2008 he takes office in a 34 minutes speech – a novelty to who was used to the unending Fidel rhetoric. He skips the gov’t talk to improve the life and says that inefficiency will be removed. He eliminates control of Cubans travel abroad. There seems to be a new government, new people, new ways of doing things – and expectations started to be high. With the changes in the US – President Obama suggested in april 2009 to open a new chapter.

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In Miami, the last decade the Cuban Americans shift from the call for embargo to a people-to-people family oriented approach. This in South Florida more then in New Jersey. Miami is now for the first time ahead of Washington asking for change.

Since 2001 there were exchanges with Cuba, but then they were stopped by the Bush Administration – including the remittances. Then came the war on Iraq and the notion of regime change that ruffled Cuba. All what started before Bush years was now suspicious

President Lula and Spanish PM Zapatero are pushing Washington for change in regard to Cuba. Indeed, in Trinidad the US allowed the return of Cuba to the OAS, and in Congress there is now a bill to remove travel restrictions and to take Cuba of the terrorism lists.

Clearly, the US is not the final decider in Cuba – but it has a role to play in Cuba changing.

Former Congressman John Brandemas said that President Bush restricted Microsoft and Google in regards to Cuba, as Cuba also reacted with restrictions. In effect the same day as this meeting at the FPA, the New York Times had an article about a communications contractor who was arested in Cuba, Alan P. Gross, who was working with local groups to make sure they are capable of using internet communication.

Questions abunded about how long will it take to get to “YES WE CAN.” It was pointed out that $9,000 gets a Congressman’s vote and this is a reason for the bottleneck. The Cuban Americans still hold the game, even though they would like to see change.

The facts are that after the US and Canada, Cuba is third on medical issues in the hemisphere. Cuba helped Chavez consolidate his power and they like him to take out oxygen of Latin America.

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Further, let us recommens CUBA – La Isla Grande, Edited by Martino Fagiuoli, a 2007, Fall River Press, New York, printed in China, an album about Cuba with photos taken in the 1990s. The country seems to be ready to stick it out until the US changes its attitude towards the island.

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