Former Envoy Stresses Ties with Cuba

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 20, 2005 | Go to article overview

Former Envoy Stresses Ties with Cuba


Byline: Benjamin P. Tyree, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

United States policy on Cuba should return to a course once followed by former Presidents Bush and Clinton, according to a recent past U.S. envoy to Cuba.

Vicki Huddleston, former chief of mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, talked with reporters at a breakfast hosted by Lexington Institute's Philip Peters last Wednesday. She said the policy of more open contacts fostered by former President Bush, the current president's father, "helped the Cuban people materially and improved Cuban behavior abroad." She said, "This is basically the policy that worked in Eastern Europe. So why not in Cuba as well?"

When the more open policy was in effect, she said, "Cuba withdrew forces from Africa and did not interfere in Central American electoral processes," such as the election lost by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Mrs. Huddleston was deputy and then director of the State Department's Cuban affairs office from 1989-1993 during the elder Mr. Bush's term in the White House.

She said "contact with the Cuban people is essential" and American policy should return to "supporting private groups, helping churches and other people-to-people contacts." In this way, "the U.S. can help foster civic culture in Cuba," she said.

"Casualties of the current policy of tightened sanctions include the Cuban artists," she said. In previous administrations, painters, writers and musicians - often guided by a muse at odds with Marxist dogma - not only flourished on the island but traveled outside.

For starters, she says the travel ban "should be lifted but the best we can expect is to return to the policies in effect during the later half of President Clinton's second term and the first 18 months of George W. Bush's first term." An easing should be "guided by political realities rather than going the whole nine yards" of a full opening. Under the former policy, Cuban-Americans had the freedom to travel to the island. At present, they are limited to one trip every three years. Other visits are limited and restricted to those licensed to travel there for special purposes. Polling consistently shows the tightened policy is widely unpopular in the Cuban-American community.

Cuba has rejected administration talk of a quid-pro-quo relaxation of U.S. restrictions in return for Cuban domestic political reforms as "another Platt Amendment." Mrs. Huddleston agreed "It is a Platt Amendment," referring to a U.S. law officially dropped in the mid-1930s that previously allowed direct U.S. intervention in Cuba's internal affairs.

"There is a real risk to U.S. security if nearby Caribbean nations like Cuba and Haiti are allowed to become failed states," Mrs. …

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