This is change we can believe in. The comprehensive diplomatic and economic reforms announced on Wednesday, December 17, by President Barack Obama will have a greater impact on the Cuban people, and our policy goals in the small island nation, than the policies we've tried over the last five decades, says Americas Quarterly senior editor and AS/COA director of policy Alana Tummino. Read her December 18 editorial for U.S. News & World Report below.
It’s what you don’t expect to wake up to on a mild December morning: Alan Gross has boarded a plane home from Havana, and President Barack Obama is slated to give remarks that would finally restore normalized relations with Cuba.
Change you can believe in? I’ll say amen to that.
The release of Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor (on the first day of Hanukkah, no less), is a long-awaited and welcome return, signaling one of the more important shifts in U.S. and Cuba policy in more than 50 years.
If Obama had only announced the release of Gross, that would have been enough. But he went further.
If Latin American heads of state want to shame the United States into changing its Cuba policy, then Washington should insist that its allies and the summit’s host, Panama, also invite Cuban dissidents and human rights activists, says Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief and AS/COA Senior Director of Policy Christopher Sabatini. Read his December 16 article in Foreign Policy below.
Four months before the next Summit of the Americas takes place in Panama, talk of who will be invited has already overshadowed the agenda of the biannual event. Part of this is because, quite frankly, the official agenda has never made much news in the summit’s 20-year history. But the current debate over the invite list has served to bring a long-overdue focus on the most controversial country in the region: Cuba.
At the last summit, in 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia, all the Latin American and Caribbean heads of state voted to invite Cuba to the next gathering. The vote, which was opposed by both the United States and Canada, was clearly intended to embarrass Washington and force a change in its 53-year-old failed policy of imposing an economic embargo on Cuba in an effort to improve the human rights situation there.
But far from providing yet another opportunity for the rest of the region to embarrass the gringos, the April summit, where 83-year-old Raúl Castro will join 34 elected heads of state, may finally make the 20-year-old gathering interesting. In fact, it might even make the summit useful. If played correctly, the United States can both leverage this moment for its own legitimate concerns for democracy in Cuba and support its allies in the region.
If Latin American heads of state want to shame the United States into changing its Cuba policy, then Washington should insist that its allies and the summit’s host, Panama, also invite Cuban dissidents and human rights activists.
As global oil prices fall, the Venezuelan government must decide between devaluing the country's currency, cutting costs—including the state’s generous gasoline subsidy, or relying on Chinese support to keep the country's economy afloat, says Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief and AS/COA Senior Director of Policy Christopher Sabatini. Read his December 14 editorial in CNN Money below.
View an interview with AQ’s Christopher Sabatini below.
Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas and founder and editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, was interviewed on CNN International this Tuesday about the effect of cheap global oil prices on Venezuela’s already fragile economy.
The interview, moderated by CNN reporter Maggie Lake, focused on the further deteriorating economic situation in Venezuela as a result the downturn in oil prices following OPEC’s decision last week not to alter its production ceiling as well as possible implications for state policy and President Nicolas Maduro’s political future.
New Americas Quarterly Released: Cuba and Colombia
What does the future hold for Cuba and Colombia? The Fall 2014 issue of Americas Quarterly, released on November 5, explores the promising but difficult roads ahead for two Latin American countries potentially on the verge of historic change. Will the Colombian government’s progress in forging a negotiated peace with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) bring a just and sustainable end to the country’s deadly 50-year-old armed conflict? What major challenges must Cuba overcome to jump-start its economy and improve life on the island—and how can the U.S. facilitate this process?
In this issue, Juanita León examines the legal and political obstacles that Colombia faces in its quest to secure a lasting peace, Marcela Prieto dispels common misperceptions about the peace process, and Rodrigo Uprimny and Nelson Camilo Sánchez discuss how to best achieve justice for victims of the decades-long violence. Meanwhile, journalists Jenny Manrique and Ramón Campos Iriarte interview the FARC’s delegates in Havana and ELN guerrillas in Chocó, and Alejandro Eder explains how disarmed ex-combatants are being re-integrated into Colombian society.
In our section on Cuba, Carmelo Mesa-Lago describes the political resistance and red tape that must be resolved to ensure that Cuba’s recent economic reforms are successful. Robert Muse lays out a roadmap for improving U.S.-Cuba relations, and Richard Feinberg argues that the U.S. must rethink its policy toward the island well before next year’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. AS/COA CEO and President Susan Segal finds inspiration and promise in the island’s pioneering entrepreneurs, and Alana Tummino and Allie Fleder take a trip across the island to meet with Cuban cuentapropistas to document their successes and struggles.
AQ also looks at the surge of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, as Sam Quinones urges politicians in Washington to take quick action to resolve the humanitarian crisis. Eduardo Guerrero and Alejandro Hope debate the merits of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s security policy, and Daniel H. Levine asks whether Latin America’s first pope, Francis I, will change the future of Catholicism in the region.
View an interview with AQ’s Christopher Sabatini below
Christopher Sabatini, Senior Director of Policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas and founder and editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, was interviewed by the International Development Bank as part of the its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative. Following the launch of AQ’s Winter 2014 issue, Our Cities, Our Future, Sabatini comments on the challenges and opportunities that cities face in the 21st century to become more inclusive and sustainable.
What are the main challenges that cities are facing today?
Energized with confidence after nearly ten years of consistent economic growth, Panama envisions itself as becoming the Singapore of the Western hemisphere. In an article recently published online by World Politics Review Chris Sabatini and Rebecca Bintrim see an optimistic future for the country despite deep-seeded corruption, new regional shipping competition, China’s economic slowdown, and difficulties in upgrading US port facilities. Though a difficult task, Panama can get expansion right, they argue, if President Juan Carlos Varela capitalizes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), re-invests financial gains into social programs and lays the foundation for a judicial system that is sufficiently strong and independent to end the crippling legacy of corruption.
On Sunday, The New York Times published an editorial urging the Obama administration to dismantle the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Given the shifting domestic attitudes and policies towards U.S.-Cuba relations and the changing economic climate on the island, Obama now has a unique opportunity to re-engage with Cuba, thus ending more than half a century’s worth of hostilities. In The Times’ “Room for Debate,” Christopher Sabatini makes a case for the political expediency of liberalizing elements of the embargo on Cuba to allow for social and commercial exchange.
Last week, reports surfaced that the bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations agreed to support Venezuela’s bid for a rotating seat on the UN Security Council. Christopher Sabatini explains why the country is far from an appropriate choice, and questions the region’s support of Venezuela in the face of its failure to meet the basic conditions for membership.
By Christopher Sabatini
In recent years, Latin American countries have come together to form multilateral organizations like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008 and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011. Christopher Sabatini questions the effectiveness of these organizations, examining their role in the Venezuelan elections and comparing them to the Pacific Alliance, a two-year-old economic bloc that includes Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico.
By Christopher Sabatini
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.