UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

No new year greetings from Obama for Cuba‏

Former US Under Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs Thomas Shannon has finally been allowed to be voted ambassador for Brazil after republican US senator George LeMieux lifted a ban on the voting process in exchange for reassurances that Washington would promote democracy in countries like Cuba and Honduras.
With this confirmation, the Obama administration has clearly signalled it will continue to carry out the Bush policy of overthrow of the Cuban government by any means.

All those who have been pushing Obama to break with the past and start to normalise relations with Cuba are disappointed, yet again . Shannon has been a very vocal critic of President Chavez, who now finds Shannon on his southern flank along with William Brownfield in Colombia on the northern side. According to Brownfield, “by any measurable criteria… Colombia today is a better country than it was ten years ago.” Senator George LeMieux (R-Fla.) lifted a "hold" on his nomination in exchange for State Department assurances on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Honduras. So what did he get – in terms of Cuba – for releasing his "hold" on Shannon? An undated letter to the senator from Shannon's successor at State, Arturo Valenzuela, describes the concessions.

1. "The State Department will continue to encourage all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to apply for [fiscal year] 2009 projects. Every NGO will receive equal and fair treatment in the screening process. [...] we will keep you and your staff fully apprised [...] and consult closely with you on the nature and objectives of U.S. democracy programs in Cuba."

2. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana (USINT) "will continue to include members of the dissident community in its major events. A broad cross-section of human rights defenders, dissidents, former political prisoners, independent librarians, independent writers and artists, and civil rights activists [...] will continue to be invited to events hosted by the USINT [...] and will continue to be standard guests for such occasions. [...] "Whenever a senior U.S. government official travels to Havana, USINT [...] will continue to do its utmost to ensure that members of the dissident community have an opportunity to interact meaningfully with that official."

3. "With respect to Title IV sanctions, we also affirm that the Department continues to enforce these sanctions." [Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act bars entry into the United States to senior officials or major stock holders, and their families, of companies that do business in Cuba on property expropriated from American citizens.] ..

With thanks to Renato Pérez Pizarro and Lesley Clark