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Steve Clemons and Lawrence Wilkerson in Financial Times | 'A Family Business'

February 26, 2008 |

'A Family Business' (Finanical Times Analysis Online)

To the generation of Cuban exiles that has spent almost half a century dreaming of the day Fidel Castro left power, last week came as a cruel disappointment.

While the legendary revolutionary leader finally stepped down as head of state, the communist government he set up maintains its grip on a calm and stable Cuba. With no sign of a fundamental policy shift in Havana, Washington is also continuing the economic embargo introduced by John F. Kennedy. ...

“I don’t believe this administration, with its tin ear, is going to be productive in any way,” says Col Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State department, speaking about Mr Castro’s resignation. “But I do believe this might spark the two Democratic [presidential] candidates and perhaps the Republican candidate to begin a policy review,” he adds, saying that such a move could lead to the end of restrictions on visiting the country and an easing of the embargo.

Steven Clemons, a foreign policy expert at the Washington-based New America Foundation, says loosening trade and travel restrictions with Cuba would be the most effective and low-cost means for the next US president to signal a new way of engaging with the world. He expects little resistance to a policy change among the broader US population as fear of communism fades. “The contradiction between trading with China and Vietnam on the one hand and maintaining the embargo with Cuba on the other is becoming more difficult to sustain,” he says. ...

“People are having to choose between returning for their mother’s funeral or their father’s funeral because, if both die within three years of each other, they cannot attend both,” says Mr Clemons.