The second point has to do with the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Although the United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, they did agree, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, to establish interests sections. For the past year, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington has not had banking services, as a result of the difficulties that the US sanctions against Cuba create for the providing of such services. This has required the Cuban Interests Section to suspend many of its services to Cuban nationals living in the United States. Since December 17, Cuba has insisted that banking services be provided to the Cuban Interests Section and to the future Cuban embassy. This step also has been taken: the Stonegood Bank has agreed to provide banking services.
The third point concerns the behavior of the members of the US diplomatic mission in a future US embassy in Cuba. The US Interests Section in Havana has engaged systematically in the creation of an “opposition,” in violation of international norms with respect to diplomatic missions, according to which diplomats should not involve themselves in the internal affairs of their host nations. Cuban journalist Cristina Escobar got to the heart of the matter when she asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “Is the administration of Barack Obama committed to a change in the behavior of the functionaries of the future embassy in Havana? Will the programs of regime change, promoted by the present Interests Section, be maintained, or will Cuban laws be respected?” The Press Secretary responded ambiguously, although he did observe that the United States would like to see certain changes in Cuba.
Since December 17, Cuba repeatedly has insisted that the behavior of US diplomats in Cuba should conform to the Vienna conventions of diplomatic and consular relations. The United States negotiating team has affirmed from the outset that the Vienna conventions will serve as the basis for the establishment of diplomatic relations, but it has been ambiguous as to whether or not this implies a change in the comportment of the US diplomatic staff in Cuba.
This point was reiterated by Raúl Castro in his letter to Barack Obama of July 1, 2015:
The Government of Cuba has made the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States with the full exercise of its sovereignty. It is inalterably committed to its ideals of independence and social justice and to solidarity with the just causes of the world. It reaffirms every one of the principles for which our people has shed its blood and taken every risk, headed by the historic Leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.
Cuba is inspired by principles established by the United Nations Charter and International Law, namely, sovereign equality, resolution of conflicts by peaceful means, refraining from recourse to the threat or use of force against the territory or the political independence of any State, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, the promotion of friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equality of rights and of the free determination of peoples, and cooperation in the solution of international problems and in the development and encouragement of respect for human rights and for the fundamental liberties of all. These principles conform to the spirit and the norms established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963, of which both the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America are signatories, and they ought to govern the diplomatic and consular relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America.
Indeed, in his press conference of July 1, Obama implied that the US diplomatic mission in Cuba will continue to interfere in Cuban affairs. He stated that the establishment of diplomatic relations will mean more US diplomats, enabling the US diplomatic mission to increase contact with the Cuban people and to be more extensively involved throughout the island.
Thus we have arrived at the point of the establishment of diplomatic relation and the formal acknowledgement that diplomatic relations should be guided by the Vienna conventions, but we do not know if it means in practice that the United States diplomatic mission will refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Cuba. US diplomatic missions often interfere in the affairs of nations, but they generally do so covertly. They openly violate the Vienna conventions only with respect to those nations that defend their sovereignty in a form that challenges the fundamental structures of the neocolonial world-system and that threatens the interests of the global neocolonial powers. Among such nations are Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. It would not be surprising if the United States in the future were to treat Cuba as it treats these nations, where US diplomatic missions openly involve themselves in their internal affairs, in violation of the Vienna conventions.
The fourth point on which Cuba has insisted since December 17 is that the two nations should proceed toward the normalization of relations and that normalization would require: the elimination of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, which the United States has imposed on Cuba since 1963; the return of the territory of the Guantanamo Naval Base, which the United States has occupied since a 1903 treaty with the neocolonial republic of Cuba; the ceasing of US radio and television transmissions to the island, which are in violation of Cuban and international law; an end to programs that seek regime change in Cuba through subversion and destabilization; and compensation for damage caused by the US blockade.
All of these Cuban requirements for normalization were reiterated in the July 1 Declaration of the Revolutionary Government of Cuba. The declaration also noted that normal relations would have to be constructed on bonds that have not existed between the two countries since the 1898 US military intervention in the Cuban war of independence against Spanish colonialism. The declaration further asserted that “relations ought to be based on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every state to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, without interference in any form; and sovereign equality and reciprocity, which constitute principles of international law that cannot be waived.”
Thus, in the Cuban concept of normalization, Cuban sovereignty would be fully respected. Cuba rejects interference in any form, including financing and supporting an opposition and the use of the media to confuse and manipulate the people, with the intention of promoting destabilization. The United States uses such strategies with respect to Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, and they have been condemned by these nations as violations of international law and their sovereignty.
The US government defends the interests of corporations, and accordingly, it cannot accept the Cuban definition of normalization, not with respect to Cuba, Latin America, nor the nations of the Third World. The true sovereignty of the formerly colonized nations of the world is inconsistent with the structures of the neocolonial world-system and is incompatible with the interests of transnational corporations and the neocolonial powers.
Moreover, the people of the United States are not prepared to understand and accept the Cuban definition of normalization. The people have not yet attained the political maturity to understand that the neocolonial world-system is structurally undemocratic and is not economically, financially, politically or ecologically sustainable. The political culture of the United States is not yet ready for the establishment of normal relations with Cuba in accordance with the Cuban understanding of normalization.
The political debate in the United States with respect to Cuba is between the Right, which wants to maintain the blockade against Cuba; and moderates who want to normalize relations, but in a US sense of normalization, not in the Cuban sense. The moderates are divided among three sectors: first, political actors who want to bring about change in the Cuban political-economic-cultural system through new strategies, many of whom would support interference in the internal affairs of Cuba in accordance with the model developed in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador; secondly, companies who want to do business in Cuba; and thirdly, citizens who want to travel to Cuba. There is a smaller progressive sector that has been opposed to the US blockade because it violates the rights of the Cuban people and international law. In this multifaceted debate and ideological mix, there are few voices in the United States that understand what Cuba really is and what Cuba means to the neocolonized peoples of the world and the future of humanity.
But with the emergence of movements in opposition to the structures of the neocolonial world-system among the neocolonized peoples of the world, there exists the possibility for the rise of a popular movement in the United States that defends the sovereign rights of all nations, recognizing that a more just and democratic world-system is the path to the sustainability of the world-system and to the survival of humanity. Such a popular movement would support normal relations between Cuba and the United States, with normalization understood in the Cuban sense, and not as a new and sophisticated form of imperialism or as an opportunity for profit or tourism.
We the people of the United States must and can arrive at an affirmation of normalization in the Cuban sense as an indispensable guideline for relations among nations, necessary because humanity cannot survive without each nation respecting the sovereignty of all nations. The day will come when the people of the United States recognize the contradiction between the structures of the neocolonial world-system and the principle of the sovereignty of nations, but it has not arrived yet.
Note: Quotations have been translated from Spanish by Charles McKelvey.
Key words: Cuba, US-Cuba, US-Cuba relations, diplomatic relations, normalization, Vienna conventions