Cuba-US Relations: Diplomatic Ties Emerge, Mired In Suspicion

The article was originally published at MintPressNews.com.

Feelings of anticipation and a sense of foreboding are both attending Cuba and the United States’s progress on plans to re-establish full diplomatic relations. The negotiations, which started in mid-2013, were announced publicly on Dec. 17, 2014, when the three remaining “Cuban 5” were released in exchange for USAID subcontractor Alan Gross and a still unidentified U.S. spy.

The official re-establishment of relations is slated for Monday, according to an exchange of letters between Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Speaking from the White House earlier this month, Obama said: “The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can — and will — change.”

Meanwhile, in his letter to Obama, Raul wrote: “Cuba is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments.”

A statement issued by the Revolutionary Government of Cuba on July 8 insists that diplomatic relations with the U.S. will be realized through the reaffirmation of “each and every one of the principles for which our people have shed their blood and run every risk under the leadership of the historical Leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.”

In addition to the U.S. returning the Guantanamo Bay naval base to Cuba and ending the blockade, the normalization of relations, according to the statement, will also depend upon Obama’s willingness to end subversive and destabilization programs, as well as compensate the Cuban population “for all the human and economic damages caused by United States policies.” (more…)

Coups, Massacres And Contras: The Legacy Of Washington’s New Point Man In Latin America

Mark Feierstein, former associate administrator for USAID and Washinton’s new point man on Latin America, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Feierstein’s legacy of covert regime change has many Latin American leaders questioning Washington’s intents.

Despite shifts on Cuba and Venezuela, the Obama administration’s appointment of a man who’s been involved in the overthrow of leftist governments since the 1980s, to head the White House’s top agency on Latin American affairs shows little may have really changed.

By Sean Nevins

The Obama administration announced in December that it would immediately re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, a policy shift that ended 54 years of isolation. In another move that was diametrically opposed to this policy shift, it then imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in March.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, argues that Obama realized his administration made a mistake implementing the sanctions, and so attempted to back-pedal by stating: “We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government.”

Weisbrot added: “And then he did something that no U.S. president has done since 1999, when Hugo Chávez was president-elect of Venezuela: he met with Venezuela’s head of state. This was arguably as important for hemispheric relations as his meeting with Raúl Castro.”

But with the appointment of Feierstein, Weisbrot told MintPress News that he believes U.S. policy toward Latin America may not have changed at all.

“Feierstein’s been involved in campaigns against left governments since the U.S.-backed war against the Sandinistas in the 1980s,” Weisbrot told MintPress, adding that he can’t understand why nobody has reported on Feierstein’s appointment yet.

Indeed, a quick review of Feierstein’s track record in Latin America reveals that the new senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council has played an integral role in facilitating destabilization of South American countries since the 1980s.

Feierstein will replace Ricardo Zúñiga, who negotiated the Cuba deal, along with deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes.

Massacre in Bolivia

In 2010, Feierstein was appointed assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This caused considerable friction between Bolivia and the U.S. because Feierstein acted as a campaign consultant to former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997; 2002-2003). Sánchez de Lozada, who is also known as “Goni,” is infamous in Bolivia because 64 people were allegedly killed under his orders for opposing the liberalization of the country’s gas resources during the notorious “Black October” incident. He currently faces charges of genocide in Bolivia, but has fled to the United States.

In 2006, Feierstein expressed no regret to getting Sánchez de Lozada elected. He said: “You know, we are proud of the role that we played in electing Goni.”

Coup in Paraguay

Feierstein was assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID in 2012, when the country’s opposition legislature executed a coup d’etat against leftist President Fernando Lugo, allegedly for mishandling the violent eviction of peasant farmers in the Curuguaty region. (more…)