tv Inside Story Al Jazeera March 19, 2016 2:00am-2:31am EDT
drone, look at the damage and come back. so it does require a rekilling of populations. >> john skelman. thank you for joining us, the >> ♪ ♪ >> at the end of the weekend, the president of the united states makes the geographically small but diplomatically long trim trip to havana. something that an american president hasn't done since calvin coolidge.
obama sees havana, it's the "inside story." welcome to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. for people who have been waiting to see this trip for decades, it's the culmination of a strong desire to get on with writing the final chapters of the cold war story. for people who have noted how little the castro regimes have done to meet the u.s. halfway in return for reopening relations, this is another step down the path of 9 naive you tai. naivete. the administration says it has insisted on meeting with cuban dissidents when the president is
in cuba. and wreath laying at a monument, obama on havana. lucia newman has a preview of the president's visit. >> reporter: it stills looks like the havana of the pre-cold war era. like most visitors president barack obama will likely be thrust back into the 1950s when he sees havana's art deco architecture and cars, before the 1559 revolution still working against all odds. he will tour old havana and perhaps eat one of the scores of
privately new restaurants. nonstate sector in havana. >> part of this magic and new moment is precisely because we have accumulated so many layers of history and beautiful architecture and design. >> reporter: but havana also wears the scars of decades of decay. what president obama won't see is what's on the inside. so many of these house he are absolutely deteriorated because of lack of maintenance and repairs. this one has simply collapsed, in fact it's been condemned, yet there are still families living inside. 74-year-old amaro montez has been living here since he was 12 years old and is finally being moved 50 government. >> there's no water, for toilet.
i cant bathe because it's too contaminated. >> cuban authorities will likely tell obama that the faded paint and buildings are the fault of 50 years of u.s. sanctions. although government neglect is mostly to blame. still the city is a metaphor of a cold war bilateral relationship that is falling apart. a relationship kent frozen in time and which with obama's visit appears to be taking a giant step into the 21st century. lucia newman, al jazeera, havana. >> in recent weeks, the american president has eased restrictions on travel to the communist island, made i.t. easier for cuba to access the international banking system and cubans to work for america american employers. and is it just give give give on the american side and take take
take on the cuban site, john juarez, michael bustamonte and carmen lomalin, former u.s. ambassador to the organization ever american states. carmen, this is the culmination of where the obama years have been heading since the very beginning. he wasn't always so overt about it but this is fruition just before he leaves the white house. is this the right time, the right policy? >> he had to do something before he left his administration. these negotiations and talks have been going on for several years. you just don't all of a sudden pop up with oh i think you know we're going to change policy. it's been very careful, very well thought out. and it has taken a long time but i think president wanted to do something before his term in office ended. >> by changing this relationship with cuba does it change other
american bilaterals in the western hems sphere? >> absolutely. i was at meetings where the work didn't get done because everyone was focused on cuba and their absence from the meetings. it was a sticking point for almost every country in the region. >> has obama exacted enough in return or has the united states been meeting cuba more than halfway? >> i think that's where i would part ways with the administration. i don't think they got many concessions from the cubans. certainly, more travel is good. the banking reform is great. employment opportunities, especially for major league baseball, are going to be major. but i don't feel that there were enough concessions made on the human rights front and the free and fair elections front. >> john suarez, do you think this is a down payment on further cuban actions down the
road, the first show on the american side and there won't be much more unless the cube ans cubans meet us halfway? >> unfortunately this policy began not in 2014 but the first year of the obama administration, when he spoke about extending a hand of friendship to administrations around the world to see if they would meet him halfway. the cuban administration's response was to take alan gross hostage. the united states response is freer sanctions. beginning in 2009-2010, the murder of high profile opposition activists, beginning with orlando zapata zamaya, and in 2011 with the founding leader of the ladies in white, lara
poyan and harold zaparo, nominatenumerous times for the nobel prize and cul killed in wt appears to be a state security operation. we've seen the violence increase post-december 2014. we are carrying for surli avila leon, one of the people who tried to keep a school open and because she got frustrated with official channels went purged from her position in the government and machete attacked in november of 2014. this is a situation that is deteriorating and the administration's nonresponsiveness does not point to a bright future. today marks the 13th anniversary of the cuban black spring. back in 2003 a year after jimmyy carter's visit to cuba, there
was a massive crack down on organizers of the varella project, there was an international campaign of solidarity to see those prisoners of conscience released, and the be ladies in white -- >> before we go to a break i want to hear from michael bustamonte, about whether this is identified a pattern that he's got a basis there for, that america hasn't gotten much in return to its new conciliation towards havana. >> i would have to disagree with that frame of analysis. i think if we've learned anything over the years it's that the cuban government does not respond to that carrot and stick tit-for-tat mentality. the idea of using u.s. policy whether it's the policy of embargo or engagement as an incentive to exact concessions, it doesn't work.
this policy is about in my view if not anything else taking the united states out of the game as the perennial boogie man. be and raising issues of human rights and things of concern, that's going to do the best for cuban terms. >> now quickly there is still some method to this on the american side, getting a foot inside the door, what, as the beginning of an unraveling of the relationship as it's gone over the past 50 years? >> i think objective here it seems to me is to sort of change the nature of the conversation. you know the united states has tried for five decades, a policy of isolation with the intent of exact, provoking the kinds of changes that we would like the see. that hasn't worked and i don't think united states can only be voice for those changes. as the ambassador was saying a
moment ago, u.s. policy was a boogie man not only for international politics but for the hemisphere. to get the united states on a face of other latin american countries the way they deem with cuba, perhaps creating a scenario where other countries can have a broader conversation with cuba about the political and economic situations some people would like to see. i would reiterate this is a conversation that's happening already in cuba, the opposition part of it but a wide gamut of civil society activists, who don't identify with their government. what i would like to see is that conversation have the right to flourish as it needs to. >> president obama in havana, >> i can neither confirm nor deny that there's a "dark prison". >> they don't want anyone to know what is going on inside.
>> you're watching "inside story" i'm ray suarez. for the first time in a long time, the president of the united states is visiting cuba. it is a trip that will, in its people to people, official and serious moments, earn both scorn and praise. michael bustamante, ambassador and john suarez is still with me. john, the policy is going forward, the visit is going forward, there your perch what is the best course of action from now on? there's a cuban flag flietion on
16th street jusflying on16th sts from where we are in washington, d.c. >> the president who makes the argument over the last 50 years or 55 years there was a static policy on cuba. that's not the case. in the carter administration 198 75 to 1980, the marielle crisis, and the clinton administration they attempted to normalize the relations, and this is at a time when the clinton administration was having joint military actions continuing to the present date. that ended another immigration crisis and also opened up trade. he shook hands with fidel castro. what's interesting under obama's watch we're talking about american interests beginning in
1972 when saw trade continue, from 185 million in 2002, under president obama that trade crashed. that trade went from 780 million high to $180 million. and in january of this year the president has opened up the possibility of financing for nonagriculture nonpharmaceutical sales. what i can see is american taxpayers see in the future, a negative balance, and one of the reasons latin america is so hostile to u.s. policy the only country getting paid was the united states, to the tune of $5.2 billion. meanwhile the rest of the world was providing billions in trade to the cuban government that wasn't getting recompensed. >> michael
bustamante, you didn't answer my question but brought up another fact. the united states demanded recompense because there was no international recourse to the international credit markets for cuba. does john have a point when he says the easer terms may very well not benefit the united states? >> that's to be seen. i mean the history of trade relations that have been able to exist in the sort of holes in the embargo that have already been in place has had its ups and downs. john absolutely right, that trade in agriculture has come down a significant degree from the high point a number of years ago. frankly i'm sort of in a sense less interested in what u.s. corporations are going to achieve in cuba. if you allow u.s. corporations to act or interact on the same way other international corporation does, they will fail and lose their money.
so that if nothing else helps shine a light on the deficiencies in the cuba's own economic model and that i think also gets to the point i made before. this is about again, having the united states not be the only actor that is attempting to sort of are bring the hammer down. let's get ourselves out of the game, let's interact in the same way that everyone else does in the world and when cuba has the same set of economic problems the focus of the conversation no longer going to be on u.s. aggression, it is thek that has to happen within cuba. >> ambassador, is this a longer game? are we sometimes looking for quick turn arounds when we didn't expect them in china after many years of cold war lack of relations, we didn't expect them in vietnam in the two decades where we reopened relations after nearly two he decades of lack of contact. >> oh absolutely. this is a long term process and it is also a very slow process.
as i mentioned, i know these talks, these negotiations have been going on for several years tackling one issue at a time. a lot still has to be discussed. definitely on top of the agenda it should be human rights, free and fair elections, the right of a civil society to gather, freedom of information, all of the human rights enshrined in international instruments. but it is going to take time. >> do you make those things a precondition for other things, normalized trade, postand telecommunications? >> i would. >> you would put human rights first? >> absolutely, absolutely. i've had the opportunity to speak with some of the is damas of blanco and it makes you think, the direction, why wasn't human rights a precondition? >> it is perhaps with the president not even wheels up from washington, too soon to assess the value, the propriety
of a reopening to cube? are there still years of events to play out that will eventually tell the story? it's where we will pick it up when we return, stay with us it's "inside story." >> al jazeera america brings you independent reporting without spin. >> not everybody is asking the questions you're asking me today. >> we give you more perspectives >> the separatists took control a few days ago. >> and a global view. >> now everybody in this country can hear them. >> getting the story first-hand. >> they have travelled for weeks, sometimes months. >> what's your message then? >> we need help now. >> you're watching al jazeera america.
i'm ray suarez. we're talking about the president's coming trip to cuba on the program, are my guests are still with me and michael, whether we do look at the long game as the ambassador was talking about just before the break, what's an acceptable set of outcomes for what the administration is doing right now? what has to be upper most in the state department's mind as we move ahead? >> right. well i think certainly, the state department's thinking about and the white house is thinking about the next ten months, right? their goal is to solidify this new policy of engagement to such a degree that it becomes very, very difficult to roll it back. some of the bigger goals in terms of the kind of political system that the united states might like to see in cuba those are not going to be achievable in ten months. we are looking at a much longer horizon absolutely. so i think over the next ten months what the white house and state department are going to be
focused on are really solidifying some of the business ties and to encourage if at all possible to encourage the cuban government to open up its own economy. those reforms have been significant bud also limited. it is difficult to use carrot and stick to exact concessions on economic matters in cuba but the state department is going to look at the upcoming congress of the communist party in april as potentially a moment when there's going to be some movement on the economic front. >> john suarez is is michael are correct, whether he says taking the united states out of play for cuba's woe a significant thing given history of the last 60 years? >> i think it's mistaken because first off the statement that business investors are going to true. president obama had a meeting in the white house, a meeting with the export import bank.
the idea there if you invest and you lose your investment the taxpayers bail you out. that's why they're pushing through congress credits. the idea that the united states is going to be removed from the occasion isn't the case. the united states has been with others investing in cuba since 2000 but the people they have been veferg with are with the cuba an government not the everyday cuban. >> you say the united states is not going to be removed from the woes, if you talk to the cubans in the street or in the government or on the island they blame their problems on el broceo, they say it's because of economic warfare against the united states and you say this will not take this off the table? >> hold on. there have been carefully done polls that the average person blaming the embargo for the problems in cuba is not true, one. two by the united states -- >> i've spoken to people on the street of havana that the
reasons they can't get various medicines, the clothes they want, they know friends who have relative in the unite s in the united states and have access to american currency can get certain things but if they don't have those relatives they can't have them. it's nonsense the to think that cubans don't think the blockade is at least somewhat responsible for their woes. >> you are basing things on anecdotal evidence, there have been studies to demonstrate that it doesn't have that kind of repercussion. that's what i'm basing it on. but going further what i'm saying is this, the united states isn't removing itself from the equation. it's a paradox. for years, the united states was propping up right wing dictatorships in latin america, and we may be propping you a left wing dictatorship. the relationship is between
american corporation is and the cuban dictatorship not between the american people. since december of 2014 when they didn't receive dissidents at the u.s. embassy opening, when they threatened rosa paez at the embassy, because they were afraid of upsetting the are ambassador, even though she was properly credited, the interest of the chamber of commerce and the ag lobby and a lot of cubans understand that. and when you have a meeting at the white house with quote unquote elected leaders, and they don't have democrat or republican who are critical of this policy. >> let me turn to the ambassador at this point. you were suggesting that perhaps when raul castro dies -- >> when fidel dies. >> when fidel disease?
>> i don't think they'll make any changes until the old man is gone. his elder brother recently passed away, so they last a very long time. >> yes but there we have also lived through three different generations of people standing in line behind the old plan. it's hard to know who's next. are you encouraged by who's in the leadership cadres now? >> not at all, not at all. it's going to be tough. i think that's why american presence of regular normal americans is i i have very valuable to showcase. i think we are the best ambassadors for democracy and for our way of life and for our value system and the more information you have going into the island it could oant hem. it could spur some of the change that we need, and access to communications, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. i'm very encouraged by the fact that the president is actually giving a speech, to the cuban people, and he's also meeting with some of the dissidents and other members of civil society. that's a start.
as we said earlier, it's not going to happen overnight. >> and it is going to be broadcast to all the cuban people with the agreement of the government so it will be interesting to see how it's received and what the reaction is. i want to thank my guests, john suarez, human rights activist. michael bustamante. and carmen lomaline. thanks to you all. on monday thomas frank joins us, frank accuses the democrats of abandoning working class americans. until then, i'm ray suarez, thanks for watching. good night.
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