|Source:||US Interests Section Havana|
|Destination:||P 011705Z AUG 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3576
C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000614
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/30/2018
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KPAO, CU
SUBJECT: HAVANA: INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE WAY FORWARD
REF: A. HAVANA 0597
B. STATE 69190
Classified By: Chief of Mission, Jonathan D. Farrar, for Reasons 1.4 (b)
1. (C/NF) Following are some early impressions and requests
from the COM's first two weeks on the ground.
2. (C/NF) Connecting with the Cuban people is extremely
important, and extremely challenging.
- The GOC focuses intensely on isolating USINT from Cuban
society. The USINT building is isolated by the GOC police
guards. There are no idle passers-by: only Cubans with
appointments are able to approach the building. Only the
most intrepid Cuban could catch a glimpse of the USINT
- Even the most committed leaders of the opposition can be
intimidated by the guard presence. Following a DVC at USINT
last week, one of the bedrocks of the opposition declined to
accept office supplies from USINT's human rights officer
until the "Cambio" bag in which they had been placed was
itself put into a plain plastic bag to carry out.
- The geographic travel limits are debilitating for outreach
efforts, and are getting tighter. The recent transfer of an
Amcit prisoner from Holguin means that Matanzas, a two hour
drive away, is the furthest point for future consular visits.
Reaching Out, and Reaching Back
3. (C/NF) The challenge for us at USINT is to find new ways
to reach out beyond the confines of the USINT building, and
to reach back to Washington for information from programs
that originate there. We must build our support for the
democratic opposition while finding new ways to reach out to
the broad spectrum of Cuban society.
4. (C/NF) Reaching Out in Cuba:
- More PD activities that appeal to Cuban youth, many of
whom are restless and dissatisfied with their prospects.
More DVCs with a youth focus, especially at venues other than
USINT, e.g., COM and other residences, connecting Cubans to
their counterparts in U.S. colleges and universities. USINT
will look for ways to leverage interest here in the Internet
and in learning English.
- Take full advantage of the limited opportunities for
travel outside Havana. The Coast Guard repatriates migrants
at Cabanas on a weekly or twice weekly basis. There are less
frequent opportunities through counternarcotics events and
prison visits. For the upcoming prison visit to Matanzas, we
have added in a notice (which we expect to be refused) that
we will monitor repatriated Cubans in Matanzas.
- Use GOC policy changes to our advantage. We will look
into electronic and other items we may procure locally rather
than exacerbating the backlogs in the unclassified pouch. As
access to computers increases here, we also will seek
Washington's assistance in providing means to work around
- More monitoring visits to Cubans repatriated to Havana.
These visits are done without advance notice, and can be done
throughout the province.
- Pursue suggestions from the NED and others for initial
contacts within Cuban academia. This likely will be tough
sledding. We face some of the same barriers in rebuilding
cultural contacts, given our limited prospects for cultural
- Religious and humanitarian organizations. There is a
wealth of opportunity among the different religious
denominations, and humanitarian organizations.
- Third country outreach. If the EU is serious about a
dialogue with Cuba on human rights, we will be serious about
consulting with them and others on complementary efforts to
promote human rights.
- Surveying our visa applicants, who are our best available
proxy for Cuban society, on which PD efforts resonate and
which do not. What are their sources of information, and
what would be of interest to them?
5. (C/NF) Reaching Back to DC:
- DRL already is working to provide to USINT information
from quarterly reports by grantees. We are particularly
interested in information on activities outside of Havana.
Unclassified reports from grantees will be shifted to the
class side before being sent to USINT. We request that USAID
set up a similar mechanism.
- USINT will reach out to U.S. human rights organizations,
many of whom travel regularly to Cuba and have contacts that
we do not. Assistance from DRL or others who have a heads-up
on such visits would be appreciated.
- We ask that OFAC include language in its licenses for
humanitarian, religious, and other organization visits to
encourage visitors to contact USINT. A heads-up on such
potential travel would be appreciated, and USINT can take it
- As we support the democratic opposition here, we will look
to Washington programs to increase support as well. We
welcome the imminent launch of DRL's FY-07 grant to fund
human rights and democracy activities on the ground here.
USINT will forward this week several initial nominations for
DRL's Human Rights Defenders Fund to support activists who
are under constant GOC pressure.
- As we implement the Department's new guidelines on courier
activities by USINT personnel (reftels), we look for
Washington's help to ease inevitable bumps along the way by
facilitating OFAC licenses where necessary. Our goal is to
avoid unintended cutoffs of worthy, ongoing activities. We
also will work with Washington to prioritize PD materials
sent to us via the pouch.
6. (C/NF) Contacts with the GOC:
- We will be testing the GOC in the weeks and months ahead
on its willingness to engage on issues that impact USINT's
- Via dip note, we have requested a courtesy call by the COM
on MINREX. We await a response. COM made note of this in
his July 29, off-the-record initial gathering with the press
- USINT informed the GOC of the COM's participation in last
week's Coast Guard repatriation, and the upcoming meeting
between the incoming and outgoing Coast Guard representatives
and the GOC Ministry of Interior Border Guards and
Counternarcotics officials. USINT's Coast Guard
representative has the most extensive contact with GOC
officials of anyone in the mission.
7. (C/NF) With the lifting of the Congressional hold on FY-08
democracy programs, now is the time to increase our
activities across the board to engage the people of Cuba.
USINT COM and the entire USINT staff look forward to working
with Washington to meet this challenge in the weeks and