U.S. Airlines ‘Eager’ to Begin Scheduled Service to Cuba

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Five or six major U.S. airlines are “eager” to begin scheduled service to the island, but after a second round of talks between the United States and Cuba on civil aviation matters this week, there’s still no timetable for when such service could begin, a U.S. State Department official said Thursday.

The U.S. and Cuba held talks on civil aviation matters Monday and Tuesday in Havana and had “a good, candid exchange of views,” the official said. The first round of aviation talks was held in Washington in March and it’s possible there will be a third round in coming months.

“U.S. carriers are generally eager” to reach an informal arrangement that would allow scheduled service to begin “as soon as possible,” said the official, who declined to be more specific.

The move is part of the Obama administration’s goal of providing broader travel between the United States and Cuba as the two countries work toward normalizing relations. Diplomatic ties were restored and embassies were reopened on July 20.

The official said that Cuba has made it clear it wants reciprocity — meaning it also would like its airlines to offer scheduled service to the United States.

However, that desire could be complicated by civil judgments in U.S. courts against the Cuban government. Filed by those who claim they or family members have suffered abuses at the hands of the Cuban government, the suits have been piling up — as have the judgments, to the tune of several billion dollars. The plaintiffs have won their cases by default because Cuba has chosen not to defend itself.

If Cuban aircraft fly to the United States, there is a danger the planes could be seized to satisfy judgments. “Yes, that is a theoretical possibility,” said the official. “The topic has come up.”

Once we get the green light to offer regularly scheduled service, we are ready to go.

Martha Pantin, American Airlines spokesperson.

The U.S. negotiators have been careful to make their Cuban counterparts understand there are “executive limitations” in helping on such matters, said the official. “I believe the Cuban side is very clear on what those limitations would be.”

Cuban leader Raúl Castro flew to New York last week to attend the United Nations General Assembly aboard a Cubana de Aviación plane, but it was a charter rather than a regularly scheduled flight.

“Nothing that I’ve heard indicates there’s been a solution to this,” said Washington attorney Robert Muse. “I’ve heard rumors of possible work-arounds, for example, [the Cubans] leasing a plane from a third party. But at the end of the day it seems that plane would also be subject to seizures and attachments.”

While the legality of using third-party aircraft was debated, such planes would likely be grounded, Muse said, delaying and complicating air travel between the two countries. “Miami would be particularly vulnerable to this because the bulk of these lawsuits emanate from Miami-Dade County,” he said.

Another scenario is that the “U.S. government could always file a statement of interest and seek to have the suits vacated,” Muse said. But that, too, could be a long process.

The State Department official said the two sides also discussed aviation safety and security, the U.S. regulatory environment and its impact on Cuban airlines flying to the United States, and the aviation infrastructure in Cuba.

The island currently has 10 international airports. As travel to Cuba increases, the official said, the Cubans are “mindful” of the infrastructure challenges and are working on them.

Meanwhile, several commercial airlines, including JetBlue and American Airlines, have been leasing their planes to U.S. charter companies that fly to Cuba under license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Having a leased JetBlue or American plane on the tarmac in Cuba is like an advance calling card for commercial airlines interested in flights to the island. “They would also like to provide scheduled service themselves,” said the official.

“Once we get the green light to offer regularly scheduled service, we are ready to go,” said Martha Pantin, an AA spokesperson.

American Airlines planes are used on some 22 weekly charter flights to Cuba , surpassing any other carrier, she said. They serve Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Holguín, Havana and Santa Clara from Miami and Tampa, and American plans to begin charter service from Los Angeles to Havana in December.

Working with charter companies, JetBlue also has leased its planes for several Florida-Cuba routes, and it will begin a second flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Havana on Dec. 1.

Reaching an arrangement for scheduled service wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of Cuba charter service, said the official: “In no way are we trying to limit or restrict charters.” The intent, the official said, is to provide more choices to consumers.

Show Cuba That We Respect a Free Press

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President Obama should insist Cuba admit all U.S. journalists on trip

Anything less makes United States look weak

As President Obama prepares to embark next month on a history-making visit to Cuba, he should consider above all how his visit can bring change to the island. A good place to start: Insist that all U.S. journalists who want to cover the trip be allowed into Cuba.

Freedom of speech was an early casualty of the Cuban Revolution. Ever since, Cuba and its people have been denied freedom of expression. The only version of truth in Cuba is the government’s version. That extends to U.S. journalists who focus on the lack of civil liberties in their reports. They are blacklisted and not allowed to return.

The targets include, in particular, many organs of the Spanish-language news media in the United States, among them our sister newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, upon whom the Cuban government has apparently imposed a permanent, blanket ban. Also on the list are well-known journalists in both English and Spanish like Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, and some of the most prominent figures in the world of Spanish-language broadcasting.

Last year, journalists from El Nuevo Herald, among others, were denied entry to cover Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceremonial reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. That was bad enough. But if Mr. Obama chooses to ignore this offense by consenting to the Cuban government’s restrictions on journalists when he becomes the first occupant of the White House since Calvin Coolidge to visit Cuba, it will surely be taken as a sign of surrender in the struggle to bring more freedom to Cuba.

There is no reason for the White House to acquiesce in this dirty game — and every reason for Mr. Obama to insist on allowing free news coverage.

If Raúl Castro wants the prestige of hosting the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama should make it a point to show that freedom of the press is part of the package. The White House does not get to choose who covers the president, and neither should the Cuban government.

U.S. insistence on lifting the blacklist of U.S. journalists will put Cuba’s rulers on notice that “normalization” imposes obligations on both the United States and Cuba. If Cuba is not willing to accept freedom of the press for its own people at this time, it must at least recognize that the president of the United States has the duty of doing so for U.S. reporters. Mr. Obama can’t be relieved of that duty for the convenience of Mr. Castro.

We get that the Cuban government is afraid of honest reporting, that its leaders fear truth-telling like a vampire fears sunlight. But isn’t the whole purpose of the “normalization” of relations to move the ball forward? Isn’t the goal to take down the barriers to freedom in Cuba?

That is what we believed when we supported Mr. Obama’s decision to renew diplomatic relations. Now Cuba has to put something on the table. It’s a waste of time for the president to make this trip if he is to come back empty-handed or have it devolve into empty gestures and diplomatic rhetoric. He must have something to show for it.

The president’s planned trip has been attacked by critics who say he should avoid visiting a “military dictatorship.” That overlooks a basic point: The policies these same critics enthusiastically endorsed for more than half a century did absolutely nothing to weaken the Castro brothers’ grip on power. It was indeed time for President Obama to try something different. But it’s not too soon to expect the new policy to show concrete results.

Your Editor Asks: Isn’t it better for the Yankee to go home and let Cubans handle the solution?

The State of the Negotiation Process Between Cuba and the United States

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LA HABANA.Just a year and a half after the decision to initiate a process aimed at normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States have announced, should take stock of it, since often the perception of people transiting from the view that everything is solved, even those who claim that almost nothing has been advanced, and the answer does not seem to be in these extremes.

A veces sorprende la rápida evolución que han tenido las negociaciones en ciertos asuntos. Sometimes surprisingly rapid developments that have had negotiations on certain issues. Se restablecieron relaciones diplomáticas, se han concretado acuerdos en diez áreas de interés común y se negocia con buenos augurios en decenas más, lo que demuestra la existencia de una complementariedad determinada por la condición de vecinos y otras exigencias internacionales. Diplomatic relations were restored, have concluded agreements in ten areas of common interest and traded with auspiciousness in dozens more, demonstrating the existence of a certain complementarity provided by neighbors and other international requirements.

Uno de los elementos más llamativos, pasado por alto por muchos analistas, han sido las premisas políticas y la organización bajo las cuales se ha conducido este proceso. One of the most striking elements overlooked by many analysts, have been the political premises and the organization under which this process has been conducted. Ambas partes han reconocido que se negocia en condiciones de igualdad y respeto mutuo, lo cual es particularmente importante para Cuba, y ha sido creada una comisión bilateral que orienta y controla las negociaciones. Both sides recognized that trades in conditions of equality and mutual respect, which is particularly important for Cuba, and created a bilateral commission that guides and controls the negotiations.

Por demás, en ellas han intervenido una gran variedad de instituciones estatales, las cuales establecen sus relaciones específicas, lo que facilita la comunicación a escala instrumental y el diálogo entre los funcionarios especializados, un antídoto contra los estorbos que generalmente crea la burocracia a otros niveles. For others, they have involved a wide variety of state institutions, which establish their specific relationships, facilitating communication instrumental scale and dialogue between specialized officials, an antidote against the hindrances that usually creates bureaucracy at other levels .

Presentes también en las negociaciones, hay temas que reflejan las disputas existentes, cuya solución es mucho más compleja, debido a que definen la naturaleza de las relaciones posibles. Also present at the negotiations, there are issues that reflect existing disputes, the solution is much more complex, because they define the nature of possible relationships.

Algunas son de carácter sistémico y tienen que ver con diferencias antagónicas que difícilmente encontrarán solución en el futuro predecible. Some are systemic and have to do with conflicting differences hardly find solution in the foreseeable future. No obstante, existen otros que pudieran resolverse, si existe la voluntad de las partes y coyunturas que faciliten los acuerdos. However, there are others that could be solved, if the will of the parties and to facilitate joint agreements.

En este caso está el tema de las exigencias de compensaciones mutuas. Here is the issue of the demands of trade-offs. Este asunto tiene antecedentes en muchas partes del mundo y generalmente se han encontrado fórmulas para satisfacer los reclamos de los contendientes. This issue has a history in many parts of the world and generally found ways to satisfy the claims of the contenders. En el caso de Cuba y Estados Unidos, llegado el momento oportuno, no hay razones para pensar que esto no sea posible. In the case of Cuba and the United States, the time is right, there is no reason to believe that this is not possible.

La mayor parte de los analistas consideran que los días del bloqueo están contados, aunque nadie puede asegurar cuándo y cómo tendrá lugar su eliminación. Most analysts believe that the days are numbered lock, but no one can say when and how disposal will take place. Incluso ambas partes coinciden en la necesidad de finalizar con esta política y lo que se discute es el alcance de las medidas ejecutivas que pudiera tomar el gobierno de Obama para restarle eficacia y facilitar el avance del proceso, a pesar de los obstáculos que representa. Even the two sides agree on the need to end this policy and what is at issue is the scope of executive measures that could make the Obama administration to be less effective and facilitate advancement of the process, despite the obstacles it represents.

De cualquier manera, incluso aunque estas medidas ejecutivas se extiendan y algunas enmiendas congresionales puedan disminuir su valor práctico, mientras exista esta política, amparada por las leyes que la regulan, resultará imposible hablar de una relación normal entre dos naciones soberanas. Either way, even if those executive measures should be extended and some congressional amendments may hinder its practical value, as long as this policy, protected by the laws that regulate it, it will be impossible to speak of a normal relationship between two sovereign nations.

El gobierno de Estados Unidos ha manifestado su negativa a discutir el cierre de la Base Naval instalada en el territorio cubano de Guantánamo e incluso han aparecido propuestas de enmiendas en el Congreso que pretenden blindar esta posición, complicando aún más el asunto. The US government has expressed its refusal to discuss the closure of the Naval Base installed in the Cuban territory of Guantanamo and have even appeared proposed amendments in Congress that seek to shield this position, further complicating the matter.

Ni siquiera el discurso político norteamericano hace énfasis en el tratado bilateral a perpetuidad que la ampara hace más de un siglo, debido a su falta de legitimidad política y legal de cara al orden internacional y las violaciones de que ha sido objeto. Even the American political discourse emphasizes the bilateral treaty in perpetuity that covers more than a century, due to its lack of political and legal legitimacy facing the international order and the violations has been. El argumento entonces se reduce al “interés nacional” de Estados Unidos, una posición que ni siquiera tiene fundamento en las necesidades de su defensa, toda vez que en diferentes momentos los militares norteamericanos han dicho que se trata de una base obsoleta para tales fines. The argument then is reduced to the “national interest” of the United States, a position that is not even based on the needs of their defense, since at different times of the US military have said that this is an obsolete for such purposes base.

En cualquier caso, todo indica que continuará siendo un tema de fricción entre los dos países, aunque históricamente Cuba ha evitado que constituya una excusa para agudizar las tensiones y en estos momentos existe un clima de convivencia, que incluye contactos regulares entre los militares de ambas partes. In any case, everything indicates that continue to be an issue of friction between the two countries, although historically Cuba has prevented constitute an excuse to increase tensions and now a climate of coexistence, including regular contacts between the military of both exists parts.

Los llamados “programas para la promoción de la democracia”, forman parte de la política exterior estadounidense y constituyen motivo de contradicción con muchos países, dado que, cuando no son el resultado de acuerdos bilaterales, resultan violatorios de las soberanías nacionales. Called “programs for the promotion of democracy”, part of the US foreign policy and constitute grounds of contradiction with many countries, since when are not the result of bilateral agreements, are in violation of national sovereignty.

En el caso de Cuba han tenido el objetivo declarado de estimular y financiar a la oposición externa e interna y en ellos se invierten no menos de veinte millones de dólares anuales, con el paradójico resultado de que en muchas ocasiones sirven para financiar a los grupos que se oponen a la política de Obama hacia Cuba, con muy escasa capacidad de convocatoria interna. In the case of Cuba have had the stated aim of encouraging and financing the external and internal opposition and in them no less than twenty million dollars a year are reversed, with the paradoxical result that often serve to finance the target groups that they oppose Obama’s policy towards Cuba, with very limited capacity internal call.

Difícilmente Estados Unidos renuncie a una práctica que considera le viene dada por derecho hegemónico en el mundo y forma parte de sus objetivos estratégicos hacia Cuba. United States hardly give up a practice that considers it is given by hegemonic law in the world and is part of its strategic objectives toward Cuba. No obstante, de continuar el proceso hacia la normalización de las relaciones, pudiera tornarse menos específica y agresiva, más respetuosa, al menos desde el punto de vista formal, de la soberanía cubana, con lo cual no se resuelve el problema, pero se amplían los rangos de negociación respecto a este asunto. However, to continue the process towards normalization of relations, could become less specific and aggressive, more respectful, at least from a formal point of view, of Cuban sovereignty, so that the problem is not resolved, but expand trading ranges on this issue.

El problema migratorio tiene tal importancia para ambos países, que durante muchos años fue el único tema de negociación entre las partes. The immigration issue is of such importance for both countries, which for many years was the only subject of negotiation between the parties. En la actualidad, las conversaciones bilaterales se desarrollan de manera normal y existe un alto nivel de cumplimiento de los acuerdos firmados en 1994, por lo que al parecer, hasta ahora, ambos países están satisfechos con lo pactado. At present, the bilateral talks develop normally and there is a high level of compliance with the agreements signed in 1994, so it seems, so far, both countries are satisfied with the agreement.

El problema principal es la aplicación de la interpretación pie seco/pie mojado para la aceptación de inmigrantes ilegales que pisan suelo norteamericano. The main problem is the application of dry foot / wet foot interpretation for acceptance of illegal immigrants who tread American soil. Tal política se aplica solo a los migrantes cubanos, responde a una decisión ejecutiva que no tiene fuerza legal e implica más problemas para Estados Unidos que para Cuba, toda vez que muchas de las estas personas abandonan legalmente el país. This policy applies only to Cuban migrants, responds to an executive decision which has no legal force and involves more problems for the United States than for Cuba, since many of these people leave the country legally. Es de esperar que entonces que más temprano que tarde se suspenda esta práctica, aunque ello, por sí solo, no eliminaría el problema de la migración ilegal y se requeriría de otro tipo de negociaciones para enfrentarlo. Then hopefully sooner rather than later that this practice be discontinued, although that, in itself, would not eliminate the problem of illegal migration and other it would require negotiations to address it.

Vinculado con esto está la aplicación de la Ley de Ajuste de 1966, la cual ha devenido la sombrilla política que justifica la excepcionalidad con que son tratados los inmigrantes cubanos en Estados Unidos. Linked to this is the application of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which has become the political umbrella which justifies the exceptionality that are treated Cuban immigrants in the United States.

En realidad, mirado en términos estrictamente legales, la Ley de Ajuste no constituye un problema “migratorio” para Cuba, ya que no fue diseñada para aceptar el ingreso de los inmigrantes, sino para resolver su estatus legal, una vez establecidos en Estados Unidos. Actually, looked in strictly legal terms, the Cuban Adjustment Act is not a problem “migratory” for Cuba, as it was not designed to accept the entry of immigrants, but to solve their legal status, once established in the United States.

Por otro lado, sus consecuencias han sido tan contradictorias, que ahora es la extrema derecha cubanoamericana la que plantea su revisión, toda vez que favorece la inserción política de los nuevos inmigrantes, la mayoría de los cuales hoy votan en su contra. On the other hand, its consequences have been so contradictory, which is now the Cuban-American extreme right which raises its review, all while favoring political integration of new immigrants, most of whom now vote against him.

Lo justo sería que, más que abolirla o mantener su exclusividad respecto a los cubanos, la Ley de Ajuste se aplicara a todos los inmigrantes legales en Estados Unidos, dado que ha demostrado ser más humanitaria y efectiva para facilitar el asentamiento de estas personas, en condiciones que benefician a toda la sociedad norteamericana. It would be fair that rather than abolish or maintain their exclusivity regarding the Cuban Adjustment Act to all legal immigrants were applied in the United States, since it has proved more humane and effective to facilitate the settlement of these people, conditions that benefit the entire US society.

Sin embargo, quizás sería mucho pedir dentro del clima xenófobo que hoy impera respecto al problema migratorio en ese país y otras partes del mundo, por lo que el futuro más probable es que se eliminen los privilegios que actualmente disfrutan los cubanos y tengan que pasar por las vicisitudes que caracterizan el tratamiento a la mayoría del resto, sin importar cuál sea el estado de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. However, it might be a tall order in the xenophobic climate that prevails today regarding the immigration problem in this country and elsewhere in the world, so the most likely future is that the privileges currently enjoyed by Cubans are eliminated and have to go through the vicissitudes that characterize the treatment to most of the rest, no matter what the state of relations between Cuba and the United States.

De cara al futuro, será muy difícil para cualquiera que resulte electo presidente de Estados Unidos desconocer lo que se ha avanzado en el campo de las relaciones con Cuba, los beneficios concretos que ha reportado a ambos países y la existencia de un consenso bastante extendido a favor de la continuidad de este proceso, aunque tampoco podemos asegurar su irreversibilidad, debido a la infinidad de variables que pueden incidir en su destino. Looking ahead, it will be very difficult for anyone who is elected US president to ignore what has been achieved in the field of relations with Cuba, the concrete benefits that reported to both countries and the existence of a consensus rather extended to for the continuation of this process, although we can not guarantee its irreversibility, due to the myriad of variables that can affect their destiny.

En verdad, vivimos en un mundo donde prevalece la incertidumbre, y esa es otra característica del llamado “proceso hacia la normalización de relaciones” entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Indeed, we live in a world where uncertainty prevails, and that is another feature called “process towards normalization of relations” between Cuba and the United States.

The author is a political analyst based in Havana

Your Editor Explains: Arboleya represents a voice among Cuban journalists in the island.

Obama Administration Encourages U.S. Businesses to Forge Cuba Links

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Here are five facts about the relationship between the United States and Cuba

Nearly a year into President Barack Obama’s thawing of relations with Cuba, the administration is urging American companies to move quickly into the island nation in the hope of making the shift irreversible.

Diplomatic relations have been restored and embassies reopened, but the U.S. embargo remains in place and American-Cuban business ties are still limited. Congress isn’t expected to pass legislation lifting the embargo before Mr. Obama leaves office.

The message from the administration during a trip by executives to Havana this week: Seize on the momentum of the past year to forge links with Cuba.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry are working on lifting the embargo,” said David Thorne, a senior adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, at a meeting with Cuban officials and American executives at the Cuban Ministry of Commerce and Trade in Havana this week. “But in the meantime, we have the opportunity to change the regulations…to be able to encourage the lifting of this embargo.”

From left: MBF Healthcare Chairman Mike Fernandez, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and Myron Brilliant and Jodi Bond, both of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The four attended the U.S.-Cuba Business Council board meeting last week in Havana. PHOTO: IAN WAGREICH/U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
From left: MBF Healthcare Chairman Mike Fernandez, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and Myron Brilliant and Jodi Bond, both of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The four attended the U.S.-Cuba Business Council board meeting last week in Havana. PHOTO: IAN WAGREICH/U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Carlos Gutierrez, the former George W. Bush administration commerce secretary who this year dropped his longtime support of the embargo, is urging other Republicans to back the thaw, and was in Havana as part of a delegation led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We need two or three or four or five important deals…to show that there’s momentum, to show that this is for real,” said Mr. Gutierrez, a Cuban-American who chairs Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategy firm.

Business executives are starting to take up the cause and are urging the administration to further loosen regulations.

“There’s genuine enthusiasm,” said Bill Lane, senior director of global government and corporate affairs at Caterpillar Inc. CAT 0.75 % who is on the board of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council. “The baby boomers want to travel to Cuba, the business community wants to sell to Cuba and the agricultural community is exceedingly anxious to do more business. Now’s the time to open up markets, not to close markets.”

Many Republicans, however, oppose the warming relations, citing human rights concerns. Marco Rubio, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has threatened to end diplomatic relations with Cuba if elected.

Regulatory changes by the Obama administration this year allow U.S. firms to make some deals with the Cuban government, particularly in telecommunications and agriculture. But officials and executives say they fear the window will close if U.S. companies don’t act.

Jodi Bond, a vice president of the pro-normalization Chamber of Commerce and head of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council, said many businesses want the embargo lifted.

“Universally, business people in Miami and all across the United States want a renewed relationship with Cuba, and the economic relationship is the key to transforming that,” she said.

The Chamber of Commerce group included more than 60 representatives from 32 companies such as Boeing Co. , Amway, Sprint Corp., American Airlines Group, Caterpillar, Morgan Stanley and others. It was the largest U.S. business group to travel to the island at least since the 1959 revolution.

A main destination was the annual Havana International Fair, the first since last year’s normalization move and an event that Cuban organizers said was the biggest ever. Besides the Chamber group, dozens of other U.S. executives traveled to Havana.

In a sign of the changes under way, this year’s fair was seen as a must-attend event for the U.S. companies, said two longtime Cuba consultants. The mezzanine cafe of the upscale Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, where many of the Americans in town stayed, was filled during the week with high-profile encounters and meetings over Cuban coffee or, at later hours, mojitos and cigars. The U.S. embassy hosted several events this week for the Americans in town trying to take stock of opportunities.

Despite the fanfare, challenges remain for U.S. companies because of the embargo and Cuba’s own laws.

Cuba has a dual-currency system, which officials here have pledged to unify. Foreign companies can’t hire their own staff and face steep taxes to import basic goods for their businesses, such as cars. All imports must go through the Cuban government. Additionally, some of the activities the new U.S. regulations allow U.S. companies to do aren’t yet permitted by the Cuban government, and making deals there can take several years.

Cuban officials here told business representatives this week that they welcome U.S. investment but cautioned against efforts to try to change Cuba’s economic system.

Besides the embargo, the U.S. and Cuba are opening talks on a variety of issues of varying complexity. They have prioritized reaching a civil aviation agreement, now expected in 2016.

“We are doing all that we can to enable a civil aviation agreement,” said Howard Kass, vice president of regulatory affairs at American Airlines, adding that to foster economic changes and spur business, “We need air service.” The airline company’s planes currently are used for 22 charter flights a week to Cuba.

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