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Brookings: U.S. Policy Toward a Cuba in Transition

February 26, 2009

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Brookings presents a roadmap of policy alternatives for constructive engagement with Cuba which encourages the Cuban people to pursue a democratic future without trying to impose it on them.

Excerpt: Under the auspices of the Brookings Institution's project "U.S. Policy toward a Cuba in Transition," nineteen distinguished academics, opinion leaders, and diplomats committed themselves to seeking ways to improve our policy so that it would better serve the interests of our country, the Cuban people, and the Hemisphere. Together, over the past eighteen months, we have carried out simulations and discussions on the complex realities of the United States and Cuba. Although we all come from different backgrounds and political orientations, we arrived at the same conclusion.

The goal of U.S. policy toward Cuba should be to support the emergence of a Cuban state where the Cuban people determine the political and economic future of their country through democratic means. A great lesson of democracy is that it cannot be imposed; it must come from within. Our policy should encompass the political, economic and diplomatic tools that are needed to help the Cuban people find the political space that is essential to engage in and direct the politics of their country.

A policy of constructive and critical engagement--while having as a goal evolution to a peaceful and democratic Cuba--does not promise an overnight metamorphosis. It is a process, a pathway with various detours and obstacles that over time arrives at its destination. It will take Cuban cooperation to achieve a real improvement in relations, but we should not publicly link the initiatives to specific actions of the Cuban government. Doing so would give the Cuban hierarchy a veto over our policy. Rather, the United States should act on its assessment of internal developments on the island and how best to advance a democratic Cuba.

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