PRESS RELEASE & LETTER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP

January 4, 2017

Contact:  Frank Calzon 202-427-3875

Former U.S. ambassadors ask President-Elect Trump to stop U.S. intelligence COOPERATION with Cuban spy agencies

Just a few days before another anniversary of the coming to power of the Castro revolution on January 1st, several former American ambassadors called on President-elect Donald Trump to “withdraw, as soon as possible after being sworn in, President Barack Obama’s order to U.S. intelligence to begin cooperating with Cuban state security.”  

The letter by five former diplomats with decades of experience in US-Latin American relations says that “within the first 100 days” of Mr. Trump’s administration he should rescind “President Obama’s ill-conceived and unlawful executive orders lifting restrictions on doing business with the Castro regime.” The letter was signed by former assistant secretaries for Latin America, Elliott Abrams and Otto J. Reich; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Jose S. Sorzano; and Everett E. Briggs, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Honduras and Panama. A former Chief of the U.S. Mission in Havana and former U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, James C. Cason also signed. They said that “American policy toward Cuba and elsewhere should be consistent with U.S. law.” 

The diplomats told Mr. Trump that “President Obama’s friendly gestures toward General Raul Castro and his statements indicating the United States does not seek regime change, that change would take years, and advising the Cubans to remain patient, has resulted in a substantial increase of Cuban men, women and children fleeing the island trying to reach the United States.”

“Hostility toward the U.S. on the part of the Castro regime is unabated. Accepting its legitimacy and reopening our embassy in Havana were undertaken without resolving any of a long list of outstanding issues, including restitution of billions of dollars of private property stolen by the regime; the return of scores of wanted felons given asylum in Cuba, including one on the FBI’s most-wanted list; ending Cuba’s illicit military ties with North Korea; curtailing Cuba’s outreach to Iran and its current attempts to reestablish a close military-intelligence relationship with Russia; and ending its support for anti-American governments in Latin America,” they said.

They point out that “The large increase of food stuffs needed by the upsurge of tourists traveling to the island has reduced significantly the amount of food available for the Cuban people,” [This situation was reported by The New York Times on December 8, 2016 “Cuba’s Surge in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents’ Plates”.]

As is the case with every new administration there will be a reappraisal of foreign policy. They said that “The regime should no longer be allowed to select, and act as paymaster for the US Embassy’s local hires. This allows the regime to siphon off a major part of the employees’ wages, and has serious security implications as well.” 

Personnel is policy. “Mr. Obama has nominated the caretaker head of the U.S. embassy in Havana to be Ambassador to Cuba. A diplomat who is more in tune with the new administration’s world view– ready to take on the outstanding issues between the two countries mentioned above and others that will likely arise as a result of this toughening of U.S.-Cuba policy– should be sent to lead the American Embassy in Havana as the Charge d’Affaires,” they added.        


Dear President-Elect Trump:

Consistent with your campaign promise to make a course correction on relations with Cuba, we would like to offer you some specific suggestions on how your administration may wish to proceed, once in office.

We are writing to request that you withdraw, as soon as possible after being sworn in, President Barack Obama’s order to U.S. intelligence to begin cooperating with Cuban state security.

Furthermore, President Obama’s ill-conceived and unlawful executive orders lifting restrictions on doing business with the Castro regime should be included among the other measures that your administration plans to rescind within the first 100 days. American policy toward Cuba and elsewhere should be consistent with U.S. law.

The Embargo

Instead of easing the lot of the Cuban people, Obama’s violation of the terms of the embargo – established by Congress and signed into law – has had the effect of giving a new economic lease on life to the regime, emboldening it to curtail, not expand, private economic activity on the island while increasing its repression of the dissident movement. The large increase of food stuffs needed by the upsurge of tourists traveling to the island has reduced significantly the amount of food available for the Cuban people. In addition, President Obama’s friendly gestures toward General Raul Castro and his statements indicating the United States does not seek regime change, that change would take years, and advising the Cubans to remain patient, have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of Cuban men, women and children fleeing the island trying to reach the United States.

The terms of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 should be enforced, starting immediately. Tourism, purchases of Cuban goods, and partnering with government entities should be prohibited, in accordance with current U.S. law.

The Conduct of Diplomatic Relations

Hostility toward the U.S. on the part of the Castro regime is unabated. Accepting its legitimacy and reopening our embassy in Havana were undertaken without resolving any of a long list of outstanding issues, including restitution of billions of dollars of private property stolen by the regime; the return of scores of wanted felons given asylum in Cuba, including one on the FBI’s most-wanted list; ending Cuba’s illicit military ties with North Korea; curtailing Cuba’s outreach to Iran and its current attempts to reestablish a close military/intelligence relationship with Russia; and ending its support for anti-American governments in Latin America.

The Obama administration has sought to appease the Cuban regime by removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and for the most part ceasing any contacts with the democratic opposition.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations apologized to the world body for our country’s supposed use of democracy promotion and human rights in the past as a“pretext” to meddle in the affairs of other countries. This year, for the first time, the United States abstained on a perennial Cuban resolution at the UN condemning the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, saying the administration did not support this law.

All of this should be reversed, starting with instructing U.S. representatives to international bodies to defend U.S. law, as they are sworn to do.

Mr. Obama has nominated the caretaker head of the U.S. embassy in Havana to be ambassador to Cuba. A diplomat who is more in tune with the new administration’s worldview– ready to take on the outstanding issues between the two countries mentioned above and others that will likely arise as a result of this toughening of U.S.-Cuba policy– should be sent to lead the American Embassy in Havana as the Charge d’Affaires.

There is no need to name an ambassador pending resolution of several key matters pertaining to embassy operations. The regime should no longer be allowed to select, and act as paymaster for, the embassy’s local hires. This allows the regime to siphon off a major part of the employees’ wages, and has serious security implications as well.

The U.S. should insist on strict reciprocity in how its embassy in Havana and Cuba’s in Washington are run, based on international standards and practices.

Mr. President-elect, we wish you the best in the historic journey as President of the United States of America you are about to begin.

Sincerely,

James C. Cason, former Chief of U.S. Mission, Havana, Cuba, former U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay. Retired Foreign Service Officer. President, Center for a Free Cuba 

Everett E. Briggs, Former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Honduras and Panama.  Former director of Office of Hemispheric Affairs, National Security Council. Retired Foreign Service Officer. 

Elliott Abrams, Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, and for Inter-American Affairs, Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. 

Jose S. Sorzano, Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Latin America, National Security Council, The White House. 

Otto J. Reich, Former Assistant Secretary State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela.